January 11, 2011
Fox renews 'Raising Hope'
'Tis the season for early renewals. Fox has just renewed its lunkheads-with-a-baby sitcom Raising Hope for another season, following on the heels of ABC's Monday burst of renewals.
FX's 'Lights Out' is no sucker-punch
Fun with arithmetic – count the movies body-snatched by this plot: An aging, slightly punch-drunk fighter burns through his money in retirement, shames himself working as a debt-collecting goon and contemplates one last big-money match though it could cost him his wife and what’s left of his mind.
Even if you don’t count the 300-odd Rocky sequels, the list is as long as Mike Tyson’s rap sheet: The Champ, On the Waterfront, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Kid Galahad, Raging Bull … But if FX’s new boxing drama, Lights Out, sometimes seems awfully familiar, it’s nevertheless an extraordinarily watchable piece of work. Read my full review in Tuesday's Miami Herald.
January 10, 2011
ABC renews 'Cougar Town' and 'Private Practice'
A couple of ABC shows thought by some to be in a spot of trouble have just been renewed for next season. Courteney Cox's Cougar Town and Grey's Anatomy spinoff Private Practice were picked up for the 2011-2012 reason, along four shows on more solid footing: Modern Family, The Middle, Grey's Anatomy and Castle.
January 09, 2011
Screen Gems: Television the week of January 9
Lights Out (10 p.m. Tuesday, FX) -- This gritty new drama stars Holt McCallany (CSI: Miami) as Patrick Leary, a retired heavyweight boxer whose financial misfortunes may force him back into the ring. His fiercest opponent: his wife (Catherine McCormack), whose threat to leave him five years earlier led to his retirement.
Antiques Roadshow (8 p.m. Sunday, WPBT-PBS 2) -– The 15th season of these tales of buried treasure in your garage opens with some episodes shot in Miami Beach. Writhe in agony as your neighbor’s butt-ugly vase turns out to be a Qing Dynasty masterpiece worth $80 gajillion!
Californication (9 p.m. Sunday, Showtime) –- When last we saw the lovably philandering, drunken, coke-headed ex-writer Hank Moody (David Duchovney), he was in jail for slugging a cop. As the show’s fourth season opens, he’s hitting on his defense attorney (Carla Gugino). There are a few funnier sitcoms on TV, but certainly none is filthier.
The Cape (9 p.m. NBC ) –- David Lyons (ER) stars as a down-and-out cop who decides to become a superhero, apparently a field with serious manpower shortages. Produced by Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun, former network programming chiefs who’ve probably lowered the IQ of the U.S. viewing population by a hundred points and are gunning for more.
Episodes (9:30 p.m. Sunday, Showtime) -- Two British comedy writers come to Hollywood to remake their sophisticated hit show for U.S. television ... only to discover that their lead character has been changed from an erudite headmaster to a hockey coach, and their Shakespearean lead actor has been replaced by Friends’ Matt LeBlanc. This new sitcom is a veritable festival of national character assassination.
The Game (10 p.m. Tuesday) -– Canceled and left for dead 10 months ago by The CW, this sitcom about a rowdy pro football player (Pooch Hall) and his no-nonsense wife (Tia Mowry Hardict) has been revived by BET. In its fourth season, Hardict’s character -– a former medical student -– is trying to become a reality TV star.
Onion SportsDome (10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Comedy Central) –- The press release on this satirical sportscast -- “a 30-minute rundown of the finest in sports news, analysis, scores, highlights, rumor-mongering and petty personal attacks” -- pretty much says it all.
Martin Luther King Jr.: Footprints Through Florida (7:30 p.m. Thursday, WLRN-PBS 17) -– Tracking the civil-rights leader’s campaigns in Florida.
Note: Days and times for PBS shows are for the Miami area, and may differ elsewhere.
Let me program your TiVo! Just click on my best bets for the week at www.tivo.com/guruguide.
January 06, 2011
NPR, running scared, dumps an executive
NPR, running scared from the let's-defund-public-broadcasting stirred up by its firing of analyst Juan Williams three months ago, offered up a couple of sacrificial lambs Thursday. Ellen Weiss (below right), the senior vice president for news who dumped Williams, resigned. And CEO Vivian Schiller lost her annual bonus. (Insert laugh track here from NPR commentators if they were reporting that BP or some other corporate Leviathan was "punishing" an executive by withholding a bonus.)
Those moves were accompanied by a blathery statement from NPR's board of directors that admitted no wrongdoing but portentously announced the formation of various committees and ethics policies. At the same time, another statement -- signed by Schiller -- praised Weiss as her body hurtled overboard: "Ellen exemplifies journalistic professionalism and integrity." Translation: With the Republicans taking over the House, we had to do something, and Ellen drew the short straw."
Williams -- who also worked as a contributor to Fox News at the same time he was on NPR -- was fired after he appeared on Bill O'Reilly's shows and said that Muslims pose a civil rights/national security dilemma for the United States. "I'm not a bigot," Williams said. "You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."
NPR, already suffering a collective near-stroke over the fact that one of its people was appearing on Fox News, dumped him almost immediately. "Our reporters, our hosts and our new analysts should not be injecting their own views about a controversial issue as part of their story," Schiller said at the time. Curiously, that policy did not seem to cover Nina Totenberg when she appeared on ABC and said that Sen. Jesse Helms should worry that a retributive God might give him AIDS.
NPR has always been more of a political cult than a news organization, and I don't think Thursday's announcement changes anything. It doesn't sound like Williams does, either. He was particularly underwhelmed by the statement praising Weiss. "If they want to be Pravda and issue propaganda like that, fine, but I think everybody knows the real story here,” he said on Fox News. Check out his full response.
January 05, 2011
Bubba the Love Sponge leaves XM Sirius
Bubba the Love Sponge has left XM Sirius satellite radio. He tells the Hollywood Reporter that he quit after XM Sirius tried to cut his salary from $1 million a year to $200,000 when his contract expired. It's part of a general round of cost-cutting at XM Sirius as the company tries to get out from under the competitive, high-priced deals that its two component networks -- XM and Sirius -- made before they merged in 2008. The real trimming will begin when some of the company's sports contracts (particularly baseball and the NFL) come up for renewal.
January 04, 2011
Merry political moments of 2010
History will likely record 2010 as the year Americans finally comprehended Obama math: 7.6 percent unemployment plus $787 billion stimulus equals 9.8 percent unemployment. Or, to express it in different mathematical terms, minus-63 seats in the House and minus-6 in the Senate.
But, being a glass-half-full kind of guy, I'll prefer to remember 2010 as the year governments around the world struck out in creative new directions in use of taxpayer dollars. Nothing symbolized the innovative capacity of the state like the way local governments in Great Britain used money from an $805 million program to help the elderly and the disabled, buying them lap dances from strippers and flying them to Amsterdam for visits with hookers.
Other great moments in governance and politics during 2010:
THE NEWEST FRONT IN THE WAR ON DRUGS: The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse gave $1.44 million in federal funds to a project estimating the number of gay hookers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Not that the study is just about dry statistics: "Formative ethnography will be used to describe the settings, venues and overall social milieu in which male sex work is being situated,'' says the abstract for the project grant.
THAT'S GROUCHO MARX, NOT KARL: The German Communist Party gave away pens to school children -- that, when clicked, lit up with porn pictures. We were tricked by a crafty capitalist merchant, the party explained when newspapers got wind of the story. Read my full op-ed salute to American politics in 2010 in Tuesday's Miami Herald.
January 03, 2011
John Roberts jumps to Fox News
John Roberts hasn't been having a great time on CNN's American Morning. So guess what? He's defected to Fox News. Roberts, who spent four years at CNN and 14 before that with CBS, was named one of Fox News' senior national correspondents on Monday. He's married to CNN daytime anchor Kyra Phillips, who's expecting twins -- presumably to be propped in front of separate TV sets where they can improve the demos of both mom's and dad's employers.
January 02, 2011
'Hokie'? Is that Latin for 'Loser'?
You Virginia Tech fans with infirm hearts and nervous stomachs, stop reading this right now. I’m about to mention two words that strike terror into the Hokie heart, that freeze the blood in your veins:
No, not the guy who wrote the Constitution — though your linebackers probably couldn’t cover him, either. James Madison University, the nerdy little school whose greatest athletic achievements were in small-college women’s field hockey until it waltzed into Blacksburg earlier this fall and stuffed your football team.
James Madison, which folded in the face of big-time gridiron powers like Delaware and Towson, but crushed your Great Pretender talk of a national title. James Madison, where the closest thing to a star athlete in school history is the guy who co-invented Gatorade!
You couldn’t beat James Madison, and you think you’re going to beat Stanford? Sorry, Hokies... Read the rest of my trash-talk about the Orange Bowl in Sunday's Miami Herald.
Oh, and if you're interested, here's a piece from a fool, err, guy who disagrees with me.
The world's most dangerous band is in town!
There is nothing wrong with your computer. Do not attempt to adjust the blog. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. And if we want to make it all about the Orange Bowl instead of television for the next couple of days, we damn well will....
Yeah, yeah, you think that if Miami survived Al Capone, Hurricane Andrew and Scarface, it will have no trouble with a mere college marching band. But you don't know these guys. They're the most banned band of all time.
Notre Dame kicked them off its campus forever. Oregon -- not the university, but the entire state -- put a bounty on them. In Arkansas, they dropped their pants not just during a halftime show, but a nationally televised halftime show.
Their performances have enraged Irish, Mormons, Catholics and even Ann Landers, who once wrote an entire advice column demanding that Stanford suspend them. O.J. Simpson no doubt had something much more stern in mind after they played She's Not There on the courthouse steps during his trial. (To be fair, that was quite mild compared to their halftime show the next time Stanford's football team played Simpson's alma mater, the University of Southern California. It included awhite van covered with bloody handprints driving around the field.)
And a lot of their own school's fans wanted to collectively strangle them after they poured onto the field during the final seconds of a 1982 game against arch-rival University of California. Cal took advantage of the chaos to run a kickoff around, through and ultimately over the band members for a game-winning touchdown.
"They do some marginally tasteless things,'' says Donald Kennedy, a Stanford environmental-science professor who spent a considerable chunk of his 12 years as the university's president apologizing for various band atrocities. ``But every once in a while, they also made me crack up on the floor laughing. . . . On balance, I think their, ummm, contrasting style will be of interest in the Orange Bowl.'' Read my full story on Stanford's outlaw band in Sunday's Miami Herald.