NBC has obtained a video of Steven Slater's escape down the emergency chute of a Jet Blue airliner at Kennedy Airport. Keep your eye on the front of the plane, to your left.
With disaster comes opportunity. But anybody wondering if Miami homeboy Rick Sanchez might be the beneficiary of the plummeting primetime ratings at CNN should stop: It's not going to happen. Sanchez's afternoon show expanded into the 8 p.m. time slot last month when Campbell Brown left the air after chalking up some remarkably awful Nielsen results. But Sanchez's numbers have been even worse.
He's averaging well under half a million viewers at 8 p.m. and just 133,000 in the target 25-to-54 age demographic, both numbers 40 percent lower than Campbell's performance during the same dates last year. Sanchez's tiny numbers were a major factor in CNN finishing in fifth place among news networks in the demos on Monday night, lagging behind not only Fox News, MSNBC and CNN's corporate cousin, but CNBC -- a business-news channel that loses almost its entire audience at night.
It wouldn't have been fair to expect much in the way of ratings for Sanchez's evening show, which a stop-gap measure with little promotion that's just filling the time until CNN can get its new Crossfire-ish program with Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer up and running this fall. But these Death Valley ratings -- coupled with the fact that his afternoon Nielsen's aren't all that hot, either -- virtually ensure that Sanchez won't get a look if CNN decides to pull the plug on any of its other primetime shows.
UPDATE: Collectors of Rick Sanchez lore will enjoy this bit, from his days at MSNBC.
David L. Wolper, a Hollywood producer of astounding breadth, died Tuesday at his home in Beverly Hills. Wolper's best-known projects were dramas from age of the blockbuster TV miniseries, including Roots(and all its subsequent sequels and spinoffs), The Thorn Birds and North And South. But he also produced documentaries on a startling array of subjects, from bugs (The Hellstrom Chronicles, which won an Oscar in 1971) to Nazis (TV's The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich) to oceans (the series The Undersea World Of Jacques Cousteau). His 1959 TV special The Race For Space, which he sold to a syndicate of 104 stations after the networks turned it down, was television's first big independently produced documentary.
Wolper coupled an inexhaustible interest in the world around him with fabulous story-telling ability. As a little kid, I watched his documentary series Hollywood And The Starsevery week, transfixed by the yarns he spun about people like Natalie Wood and Elizabeth Taylor. At age 9, my own movie-going was mostly restricted to pictures that had horses and flying lead. But Wolper's show was too fascinating to turn away from even when I had no idea who the actors and directors were that he was talking about. I don't know that we'll see his like again.
Life is full of agonizing choices. When we go home tonight, crack open a brew and kick back after a long day, what should we watch? The new Comcast channels praising the immortal wisdom of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Debbie Wasserman Schultz? Or the new YouTube channel extolling the multiple virtues of Kim Jong-il? Well, I guess that's what TiVo was invented for.
Could this be the future of local news? The website TVNewsCheck.com reports that Tribune Broadcasting is looking at the prototype of an anchorless newscast that sounds more like a Jon Stewart video mashup than something you'd actually watch to get the news:
In one story, the narrator refers to terrorists as "bozos." In another, a clip of fictional boxer Ivan Drago from Rocky IV is mixed into a story about the West getting tough with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. There are even clips from cartoon shows like Ren and Stimpyand animations from the JibJab website
Before you get too excited -- or enraged -- you need to know that the guy behind this is Lee Abrams, Tribune's "chief innovation officer,'' who has zero background in either television or journalism. He's a radio guy who thinks TV news can be reinvented as a morning-zoo show. His last big project was the dizzying Morning Show that WSFL-CW 39 canceled last week because nobody was watching it.
"I can tell we have the makings of a winner that can be influential at our other stations," Abrams told his staffers in a memo when The Morning Showdebuted 16 months ago. "This show is SO south Florida, you can't simply recreate it, but it CAN serve as a model of breaking away, blowing up the playbook, creating a wonderful internal vibe (more like a killer radio station in 1975 than a TV station), and AFDI. [AFDI is hip radio-speak for Actually Fornicating Do It]. I'm impressed and excited about where this can go. In a year...look out!" As in, the anvil is heading for your skull.
After nearly 50 years of civil-rights legislation, where do we stand? Ask my friend Eric Deggans, the television critic at the St. Petersburg Times. When Eric, who is black, returned home from a trip last week, he found a message on his phone from an irate reader suggesting he get a TV show titled A Coon With A View. ``Post-racial America my foot,'' Eric wearily noted on his Facebook page.
I have a feeling that the two couples whose lawsuit resulted in a ruling last weekend striking down California's ban on gay marriages will soon know exactly how Eric feels.For that matter, so will federal Judge Vaughn Walker, who issued the ruling.
Despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, this case had little to do with governmental discrimination against gays. The ban on gay marriage approved by California voters in 2008 had no effect on the state's domestic-partners law -- and Walker's own decision acknowledged that ``domestic partnerships offer same-sex couples almost all of the rights and responsibilities associated with marriage.''
What the lawsuit was really about, as the couples testified over and over during the trial, was social acceptance and emotional affirmation -- matters beyond the scope of any judicial ruling, no matter how legally sweeping and humanitarianly intended.
Sandy Stier, who runs a child-welfare agency, and Kristin Perry, a county health-services worker, already have a domestic partnership, not to mention four children. But Stier believes that marriage would not only include them ``in the social fabric'' but also be a way to tell ``our friends, our family, our society, our community, our parents . . . and each other, that this is a lifetime commitment.''
I'm fine with Stier and Perry having a wedding. I don't see how it undermines the institution of marriage or adversely affects the rest of us in any way. But if having four kids didn't convince their friends and family that they're serious about one another, I can't imagine that a fill-in-the-blanks form from the state of California is going to do it, either. Nor will it guarantee a lifetime commitment, as heterosexual marriages -- currently failing at rate of something over 40 percent -- certainly attest. Read my full op-ed column in Tuesday's Miami Herald.