The Kennedys has finally found a home. The Hollywood Reporter says the miniseries will debut on ReelzChannel,a cable movie network that's available in about 60 million American homes. The miniseries, starring Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes, has been searching for a venue the past three weeks after the History Channel folded in the face of Kennedy family pressure and decided not to show it.
With Charlie Sheen in rehab, and Two And A Half Men out of production, CBS has some big gaps in its schedule. The network just announced it has ordered two episodes apiece of Mike And Molly and Rules Of Engagement to help fill the empty time slots.
I've had a lot of email over the years from viewers who wondered why CBS never disciplined Sheen for his regular adventures with hookers and/or mind-altering substances. The answer is that he always came to work, and CBS didn't care (much, anyway) about any image problems. Particularly since they more or less matched up with the image of his party-boy character on the series.
But that may change. The Hollywood Reporter says Sheen has jeopardized $250 million in syndication fees and countless millions more in ad revenue by going off the rails. That's the kind of thing that will get your named linked with Lindsay Lohan's not in gossip columns but corporate accounting offices.
Programming note: The Two And A Half Men episode scheduled next week -- one of only two remaining in the can -- is titled Three Hookers And A Philly Cheesesteak. Heh-heh.
The lastest scheme to resurrect The Kennedys miniseries, reports Deadline Hollywood , is to air it on stations belonging to Tribune Broadcasting. (Good news for South Florida: They include WSFL-CW 39, as well as channels in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Philadelphia and other big markets.) Tribune, in turn, might sell the series to stations in cities where it doesn't own anything.) All this is said to be contingent on permission from the History Channel, which even though it refused to air the show under pressure from the Kennedy family, retains veto rights on where it can air.
Television and the Internet are merging with such whiplash speed that viewers for a while will have trouble keeping track of all the little technological boxes on top of their sets, much less the countless thousands of shows they can watch, entertainment executives told a TV producers' convention Tuesday in Miami Beach.
"With more and more content out there, it becomes hard and harder to find,'' said Nick Buzzell, a producer at NBTV Studios, which makes shows for TV and the Internet. "With all this digital technology, there's still consumer confusion. . . . [And] if the consumer is confused, none of it's going to work.''
Buzzell was speaking at one of several panels on the convergence of TV and the Internet held on the second day of the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) meeting at the Fontainebleau Hotel.
With a plethora of devices from video-game consoles to DVD players now able to liberate the Internet from computers and carry it onto television sets and an increasing number of companies that provide movies, TV shows and original content via broadband rather than broadcast, viewers are headed for uncharted territory, the executives agreed.
"The explosion of online video has just begun,'' said Ted Sarandos, who acquires movies and TV shows for Netflix. Read my full story in Wednesday's Miami Herald.
``I feel better about broadcasting today than I have in a long time,'' Zucker -- who leaves his post as president and chief executive officer of NBC Universal on Friday -- told an audience at the National Association of Television Program Executives convention that kicked off Monday in North Miami.
Zucker, who grew up in Miami Beach during the 1980s before leaving first for Harvard and then a 24-year career at NBC, has warned repeatedly that new digital technology is siphoning off broadcast television's audience and eroding its advertising revenue. He coined the catchphrase ``digital dimes for analog dollars'' to describe the industry's declining revenues, and even predicted a few years ago that declining income would soon force broadcast networks to abandon their affiliate stations and ship their programs to viewers directly via the Internet.
But he said Monday that changes in broadcast TV's business model over the past six years have brought an infusion of healing cash. Read my full story in Tuesday's Miami Herald.
It won't be the most colossal sale made this week at the Fontainebleau. But it surely tells you everything you need to know about this week's convention of the National Association of Television Program Executives, where 5,000 members of the boob-tube-ousie are gathering to wheel and deal TV shows.
"I'm not going to tell you the name of the country,'' says Stephen J. Davis, president of Hasbro Studios, which makes family and children's shows such as The Transformers. ``But my head of sales came bursting into my office. `This is great! They want to buy everything we have! And they want to pay $55 an episode!'
"And we're going to do it, even though what they're paying us won't cover the cost of shipping the shows. Because you want to get a toehold in that market.''
From $55-a-show blue-plate specials to staggering intercontinental deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars, practically everything you've ever seen on television plus much more that you haven't is on sale at the three-day NATPE convention that kicks off Monday.
Though NATPE also includes educational sessions, professional seminars and just-plain-stargazing interludes with people such as Regis Philbin and Sabado Gigante's Don Francisco, the convention has less to do with art than with the art of the deal. NATPE is the television industry's most bustling international marketplace. Producers, network executives and TV-station bosses from all over the world will be schmoozing and selling shows. And as with that Hasbro deal that Davis hopes to seal here, no market is too small.
"We have meetings each half hour, all over the hotel,'' says Marta Sacasa, vice president of a Nicaraguan station, who expects to take a dozen or so shows home with her to the smallest TV market in Central America. "We have meetings at breakfast, meetings at lunch, meetings at dinner, meetings over drinks. And then there are the random meetings in corridors, which might be the most important of them all.'' Read my full story on NATPE wheeling and dealing in Monday's Miami Herald.
With heroic disdain for cheap reality shows and tawdry sexcoms, a big television network schedules a dramatic miniseries that takes a critical look at a popular presidency. Rapacious corporate interests intervene, pressuring the network to cancel it. What happens next?
Well, if the popular president is named Reagan, then America's political progressives revolt against censorship, insisting that the marketplace of ideas can't be ravaged by megacorporate leviathans. Another network steps up -- the series airs! The First Amendment triumphs!
But if the popular president is named Kennedy, the story ends differently. Very differently. Suppression of political criticism becomes corporate good citizenship. Other networks sniff that the show just isn't right for them. And progressives triumphantly take to the Internet to brag about their role in ideological repression: ``We Won! Thanks to you The History Channel has canceled The Kennedys miniseries!''
The Kennedys reportedly is harshly critical of the political dynasty, taking a tough look at the way patriarch Joe Kennedy used his bootlegging wealth to buy influence as well as the compulsive womanizing of his presidential son, John. I say ``reportedly'' because we haven't seen it and perhaps never will.
The show -- developed by Joel Surnow, who produced the hit series 24 -- with a heavy-hitter cast led by Katie Holmes and Greg Kinnear was canceled by The History Channel this month before a single one of its eight episodes aired. Not because it was crummy: The History Channel admitted in a statement on the cancellation that "the film is produced and acted with the highest quality.'' The problem, the network said, was that "this dramatic interpretation is not a fit for the History brand.
If you're wondering why a TV network would sink $25 million into a show, reviewing scripts and daily shooting for 13 months before deciding that it's "not a fit,'' let me suggest a couple of reasons.... Read my full op-ed column in Tuesday's Miami Herald.
A federal judge has thrown out the most sweeping claims of a lawsuit by the owners of South Florida's WSVN-Fox 7 that could have remapped the television industry, ruling that TV ratings giant Nielsen is not an illegal monopoly.
U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck ruled Thursday that while some of Nielsen's practices might be anti-competitive, WSVN's owner Sunbeam Television failed to prove that the Nielsen Company was blocking any "willing and able competitor'' from the TV-ratings business.
Huck's summary judgment dismissing accusations that Nielsen violated federal and state laws strips Sunbeam's 2009 lawsuit of the potential to trigger revolutionary changes in the television business. The two companies are still submitting arguments on other counts in the lawsuit that accuse Nielsen of breach of contract and deceptive business practices.
Sunbeam officials said they will appeal the dismissal of the anti-trust portion of the lawsuit.
Nielsen's ratings, which measure TV audiences and determine how much advertisers pay for commercials, are the bedrock of the industry, affecting nearly every business decision and most of the creative ones, too. Sunbeam's lawsuit sent shockwaves throughout the industry when it was filed in Miami in April 2009.
The suit was triggered by Nielsen's decision to change the way it counts television audiences. Instead of asking viewers to write down the names of programs they watched in little paper diaries, the company equipped sample homes with so-called people meters: set-top boxes that recorded what channel was being viewed, with each household member clicking buttons to register who was actually watching.
When the people meters were introduced in South Florida in October 2008, they produced wildly different results than the paper diaries had. Cable-network ratings soared and broadcast-channel ratings plummeted. WSVN's numbers dropped by nearly half in some time slots.
Sunbeam's lawsuit called the new ratings results "obviously -- and dramatically -- defective," costing it $1 million a month in advertising revenue. "As a result of its monopoly, Nielsen is able to charge supracompetive prices for poor quality services," the lawsuit said.
But Huck's 23-page ruling said that Sunbeam didn't offer any evidence that there's a better way to compile TV ratings than with people meters -- or, "more importantly, that such ratings would benefit Sunbeam."
And while some Nielsen business practices, including the timing of its contracts with TV stations, might discourage competition, Huck ruled, Sunbeam failed to show that any other company was interested in providing local TV ratings.
"Though there is evidence of exclusionary contracting practices'' by Nielsen, the judge wrote, "Sunbeam has not established the existence of a ‘willing and able' competitor," as required by anti-trust law.
A federal judge has tossed out the major counts in a lawsuit by Sunbeam Television -- which owns Miami's WSVN-Fox 7 -- seeking to have the Nielsen television ratings company declared an illegal monopoly. U.S. District Court Judge Paul C. Huck dismissed all state and federal anti-trust claims against Nielsen, ruling that there was no evidence the company had excluded any "will and able" from the market. More detail a little later.
When broadcast television draws its last raspy breath on some date that's much sooner than you think, the obituaries will note that 2010 was the year the death watch began. Scarcely a day went by without some brawl about the comparative merits of Hulu, CBS.com, Google TV, Netflix, Apple TV --all platforms delivering TV programs via broadband rather than the airwaves. Meanwhile, watching those shows on a cellphone or computer -- once an indelible sign of marginalized nerddom -- broke into the mainstream.
And at television stations all over the nation, general managers itchily, twitchily pondered a future where networks deliver their products directly to viewers via the Internet, leaving broadcast stations without either a product to sell or an audience to buy.
It didn't help that broadcast television is still suffering fallout from the disastrous four-month strike by writers during the winter of 2007-2008. Virtually no breakout shows have emerged since then, while older hits like Law & Order and Lost have stumbled to their graves.
For all that, there were plenty of bright spots for viewers. The year's Top Five:
1. Dexter (Showtime): When it debuted in 2006, it was harder to say which seemed less likely: that Dextercould make a sociopathic serial killer into a sympathetic character, or that the premise of a serial killer who killed only other serial killers could be stretched beyond a single season. But the show has done both brilliantly. This season, with Julia Stiles joining the cast as the bloodthirsty love interest of Michael C. Hall, was the most thrillingly creepy yet.
2. The Walking Dead (AMC): Zombie movies! Zombie books! Zombie video games! Shuffling braineaters have conquered American culture so completely that even Sears put up a website hawking smart (but reasonably priced!) zombie wear. But oddly, zombie domination had not extended to TV until The Walking Dead -- a grisly, harrowing tale of life in a post-zombie-apocalyptic world -- debuted at Halloween. It shattered basic-cable ratings records like -- well, like zombies breaking open bones in search of marrow.
3. The Good Wife (CBS): This drama about a political wife left to pick up the pieces after her husband is caught in a sex-and-corruption scandal could have been a chick-flick nightmare. Instead, it is consistently the most engrossing series on broadcast TV. And the failure of star Juliana Margulies to win an Emmy will go down as a blunder epic even for Hollywood's most moronic awards.
4. Boardwalk Empire (HBO): Think of this epic, darkly told tale of how Prohibition spawned organized crime as Sopranos: The Roots.
5. The Pacific (HBO): A loving but anguished tribute to the men who fought on the bloody island hellholes that comprised World War II's Pacific theater. Filled with gore and madness, The Pacific reveals the awful truth behind a soldier's letter home: "There are things that men can do to one another that are sobering to the soul."