Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Who should replace Larry King?

Occasionally, I'm asked why the "Larry King" lineups don't appear on my site. It's the same reason I don't list "Charlie Rose" or any of the morning shows ("Today," "GMA," etc.): if a big, breaking story happens, those programs dump their previously scheduled guests in favor of newsmakers and pundits. Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel will never deep-six Taylor Lautner or Cameron Diaz in order to talk about the latest roll call on Capitol Hill.

The weird genius of "Larry King Live" is that the host has to tackle hard news topics and fluff. He has to discuss the Elena Kagen hearings with pundits, and then talk with Lady Gaga. I don't think King did it very well -- I mean, this is a guy who bragged that he never read the books written by his guests and prepares as little as possible for his show. Still, "Live" has been on the air since 1985, which is a pretty remarkable run.

Now, everyone is wondering who should replace King when "Live" goes off the air this fall. Some of the contenders:

Ryan Seacrest: King's pick, and someone who's already proven he can interview entertainment figures, but it remains to be seen how he'd do with, say, Vladimir Putin.

Joy Behar: She has her own show on CNN sister station HLN, so she might be ready to move up.

Tavis Smiley: Has a PBS show, but he's guest hosted for King and might want the wider exposure he'd get in prime time.

Katie Couric: Seems like a natural choice, but she's reportedly taken herself out of contention.

Piers Morgan: The "Celebrity Apprentice" winner and "America's Got Talent" judge could follow in the footsteps of fellow Brit newsman Martin Bashir ("Nightline").

Anderson Cooper: Already a familiar face on CNN, and he's winning this poll by a landslide.

Will you miss Larry? Who should replace him, and can they help revitalize the channel's sagging ratings?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Emmy Nominations: Which five talk shows should get the nod?

Next week, on July 8, the Emmy nominations will be announced at an ungodly hour of the morning in L.A., in time to make it onto the early shows on the East Coast. Here are the five shows that were nominated in 2009 in the category of Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series:

"Late Show With David Letterman," CBS
"Real Time With Bill Maher," HBO
"Saturday Night Live," NBC
"The Colbert Report," Comedy Central
"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," Comedy Central

"TDS" won, as it has every year since 2003. The Emmy folks don't particularly care about spreading the wealth -- "The Amazing Race" has won the Outstanding Reality-Competition Emmy every year since 2003 as well. Setting aside the seemingly inevitable victory of Jon Stewart & company, who do you think should be nominated in 2010? Here are my picks:

"The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien," NBC
"The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson," CBS
"Jimmy Kimmel Live," ABC
"The Colbert Report," Comedy Central
"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," Comedy Central

Despite the fact that I have endless respect for Dave, and his forthright handling of his extortion scandal may impress voters, it pains me to say that I think his best work is behind him -- and I say this as someone who has watched literally thousands of hours of Letterman shows. I realize a lot of people disagree. "Saturday Night Live" deserved the nomination in 2009 because of their often-hilarious election coverage, but the most recent season was lackluster. I will admit that I don't have HBO and have only seen clips of "Real Time," so I may not be giving it a fair shake.

I think Emmy voters, who have ignored Jay Leno in this category since 2003, will find it irresistible to tweak NBC by nominating O'Brien, and he deserves it for the hilarious run of shows at the end of his brief tenure at "Tonight." Craig Ferguson is fresh and original and deserves recognition by Emmy voters. Jimmy Kimmel, who, like Ferguson, has never been nominated, is the most underrated host in late night, as well as one of the hardest-working -- his ABC prime time specials and viral videos (his latest one, with pop sensation Drake, has gotten close to 300,000 views on YouTube) have made many skeptics give him a second look; the Emmy voters should, too.

As for the two Comedy Central shows, I will cop to having watched every single episode of "The Daily Show" since Jon Stewart took the reins in 1999, so I can't say it's not deserving of its accolades. Some nights I think "Colbert" is funnier, mostly by virtue of its willingness to be goofy -- check out Monday's piece on doomsday bunkers. "TDS" is sharper and more serious about critiquing the news media, which is probably why it keeps winning. Calling out "Fox & Friends" and Rick Sanchez has more gravitas than making puppets yodel.

Am I unfairly ignoring Bill Maher? Is Jimmy Fallon ready for an Emmy nomination? Is "SNL" relevant in non-presidential election years? Anyone want to stick up for George Lopez? Post your comments and suggestions.

"The Kilborn File" debuts, and reaction is... mixed!

Last night, Craig Kilborn's comeback vehicle "The Kilborn File" had its first airing in the six cities where it's getting a test run. Not living in one of the chosen markets, I checked in on Twitter to see what the real-time reaction was. Most people weren't actually talking about the content of the show, they were simply pissed off that Craiggers was running in place of "Simpsons" repeats. "Look out, Fox 5 (NYC) execs. You've made enemies," tweeted "Simpsonology." "FredBrooklyn" raged, "What genius at Fox decided to replace The Simpsons with this Greg Kilborn shit during dinner time?" And then there was this, from "IRollNY": "Craig Kilborn can eat a dick for taking The Simpsons time slot."

On this blog, one anonymous commenter was happy with the premiere: "The show was genius. He did his own introduction, but no 'Play that Funky Music' and no goofy voice when he said his name. It was like he never left. I think Christine Lakin is a waste though (she only had a 2 second bit which was not funny). Are you going to be adding his guest lineups to the website?" Answer: yes, I will try to get 'em, if the program makes it past its six-week tryout and expands into other markets.

What about the critics? Gawker's Anderson Evans was thrilled, calling it "a fast paced, testosterone filled, half hour of quips... What makes 'The Kilborn File' such a success isn't so much its interesting time slot (weeknights at 7pm ET), it's the formula itself. The show is everything 'The View' isn't: it's fast, it's irreverent, it's all done with a masculine point and a wink, and it couldn't have come at a better time. The original host of 'The Daily Show' hasn't changed his ways in his six year absence. He's as fast paced as he was on 'SportsCenter,' and as charming as he was on 'The Daily Show.' Even at his most sarcastic, you've got to love this guy."

The AV Club's Scott Von Doviak offered the opposing point of view, grading the premiere a "D." "The good news is that if Fox decides to pass on 'The Kilborn Files,' it will always have a home on public cable access. Coming to us from a broom closet-sized set in Hollywood, in front of a nonexistent yet strangely audible audience (hello, laugh track), the half-hour show begins with little fanfare as Kilborn takes a seat behind the desk to deliver his opening monologue. As he lobs topical jokes about Al Gore visiting massage parlors and the 11-hour marathon match at Wimbledon ('Tantric tennis!'), it quickly becomes clear that his trademark smarminess and self-infatuation are intact, albeit in greatly diminished form. Yes, hard as it is to believe, Kilborn is even blander now than in his heyday. (Also, his voice has taken on an unpleasant, strained Muppet-like quality that soon becomes grating.)... I [began] to suspect Kilborn has no intention of coming out of his early retirement at all. The whole thing seems like it was thrown together during happy hour."

I checked a bunch of other TV critics' web sites and Twitter feeds, but apparently they're choosing to ignore Kilborn... or wait for a few more episodes to air before giving their opinions. The low-key rollout, combined with a less glamorous time slot, has apparently placed "The Kilborn File" far off most critics' radar.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Craig Kilborn's "Kilborn File" begins on Monday; will you watch?

photoFox has put up a web site for Craig Kilborn's new show, "The Kilborn File," and named a couple of guests: Jeff Foxworthy and "Family Guy" auteur Seth MacFarlane, whose name (as of Friday afternoon) is misspelled "Seth McFarland" in a headline on the site. The home page features a couple of sample gags. The first one: "Joran Van Der Sloot has confessed to the murder of a female companion in Peru. He told police that he killed the girl because she touched his personal computer. For his sake I hope he's not as sensitive about his soap." Ha ha! A reference to a horrific murder and prison rape in a single joke? Kilby's back, baby!

Number two: "Shania Twain is not only looking great, but she's rumored to be dating her former best friend's ex-husband. Way to take lemons and make them into lemonade. Seriously, I hear Shania makes great lemonade."

I didn't find anything funnier in the rest of the clips, but I look forward to reading the reviews once the show has begun airing in the six markets where it will be receiving a test run. Incidentally, Craig will be paired with a female sidekick, Christine Lakin, according to the New York Daily News. As a young actress, Lakin appeared on the sitcom "Step by Step"; since then, she's had small roles in several movies and TV shows, though bad movie aficionados may remember her for playing "the nottie" in the critically derided Paris Hilton vehicle "The Hottie and the Nottie."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Late Night Ratings of the Future; Chris Rock Disses Late Night TV on "Howard Stern"

Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly predicted yesterday at a "State of the Industry" luncheon that ratings for Conan O'Brien's TBS show will be low. "The decimal will be on the left side of the number, not the right side," said Reilly, quoted on "I worked in cable. The decimal will be on the left... [if O'Brien had wound up at Fox], there would have been an enormous amount of pressure that the decimal was on the right side."

New York magazine blogger Josef Adalian points out that ratings below a 1.0 in the 18-49 demographic are likely in the future for all of the late night talk shows. "For the past two weeks, both Jay Leno and David Letterman have been averaging below a 1.0 in the 18 to 49 demo," writes Adalian. "Last week, Jay earned a 0.9 to Dave's 0.8; two weeks ago, both shows were at a 0.9."

While those numbers may be affected by lighter summer ratings and the NBA playoffs, "during the May [2010] sweeps, without the excitement of a sextortion scandal or Cocogate, Dave managed only a 0.9, and Leno was just barely above a 1.0" -- barely a stone's throw from "The Daily Show" and "Adult Swim"'s 0.8 ratings in the demo.

Meanwhile, links to a rant by Chris Rock about the late night wars. Appearing on "The Howard Stern Show," a very uncensored Rock gave his thoughts on Conan, George Lopez, Jay Leno and late night TV in general:

"Conan was screwed by his management and his agent. When I play Madison Square Garden, you can't book another comedian three days before me. You can't book anybody for f---in' 40 days on either side. You think when Billy Joel plays the Garden, they book Elton John? So because Conan was awarded this job, he didn't compete to get his job, the people around him don't even have that mentality. The moment they said Leno's going to 10 they're supposed to go, 'Are you f---in' crazy?' His people are supposed to do that. Conan's people are so not in show business. That was the dumbest thing I ever heard in my life... Is Conan not f---ing over George Lopez? There is no such thing as 'The Tonight Show.' It's just f---in' 11:30 at NBC. That's all it is.

"I'll go even further. There's no such thing as late night television. All these shows are at five o'clock in the f---in' afternoon. Who gives a f--- when you put 'em on? None of these guys are goin' at f---in' 12:30. It's bulls---!"

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jimmy Kimmel's DIY show

Viewers who tuned in last night expecting a new episode of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" instead got a 10-day-old rerun featuring Bradley Cooper, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian and Taio Cruz. What happened to the promised brand-new show?

Turns out the "JKL" studios suffered a power outage. According to a report in USA Today, "the lights went out Monday night about an hour before [the show] was set to begin taping at its Hollywood studio... the outage shut down the control room, broadcast transmission center and tape operations area." The resourceful Kimmel "grabbed his laptop and recorded the entire show with his computer's webcam."

Tune in tonight at 12:05 AM (or 11:05 PM, depending on your time zone) to find out what the heck a network talk show recorded on a laptop webcam looks like! The guests -- Seth Rogen, "Wipeout" host John Henson, and singer Dierks Bentley -- were apparently happy to go with the flow.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bill Carter's New Book: He's "still working on it," but it'll be out in September

photoBill Carter, New York Times TV writer and the guy who pretty much owned the Conangate saga, is busy working on a book about the battle for late night. The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy will be published on Sept. 16, 2010, according to, which already has the cover up on its site, along with a blurb from the publisher: "Bill Carter offers a detailed behind-the-scenes account of the events of the unforgettable 2009/2010 late-night season as all of its players--performers, producers, agents, and network executives--maneuvered to find footing amid the shifting tectonic plates of television culture."

Despite the fact that the book is already available for pre-order, though (only $17.79!), Carter is still toiling away on the manuscript, according to "I’m doing my best," Carter told the site's Julie Miller about making the fall release date. "I’m working on it, but to get it out that fast will be tough. I’m working pretty steadily on it."

As for what Leno's takeover of "The Tonight Show" after his prime time show flopped indicates about the comedian's character, Carter says, "I’m going to examine the details in that without making a decision one way or the other. I’ll let the story tell itself and people can draw their own conclusions."

Jon Stewart: May the Force be with him

Talk about nerdvana: Celebrity "Star Wars" fan Jon Stewart will be taking a break from "The Daily Show" to interview George Lucas at Star Wars Celebration V. The event will be held in Orlando, FL from Aug. 12-15. According to the web site:

The hour-long, candid conversation will spark a discourse sure to shed light on the storied history of the Star Wars Saga — from its past to its future, with insider insights about the many steps along the way. A self-proclaimed lover of Lucas’ “galaxy far, far away,” Stewart brings a fan sensibility to the interview, aiming to focus on areas of interest to the many diverse and devoted groups that have helped Star Wars endure for more than thirty years. In addition to the dialogue between Lucas and Stewart, fan questions can be submitted, too!
Lucas appeared as a guest on "TDS" back in January to promote the book George Lucas' Blockbusting.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Daily Show" outtakes: What if the U.S.-England match hadn't ended in a tie?

Listeners to John Oliver's wonderful weekly podcast, "The Bugle," know that he prerecorded three segments with Jon Stewart before leaving for South Africa to report on the World Cup: one in which the U.S. beat England, one in which England was victorious, and one in which the game ended in a draw. Of course, the outcome was a 1-1 tie so the latter clip was used, but fortunately, "The Daily Show" has made the other two available as online exclusives. See what might have been, below.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Alternate World Cup Outcome - US Beats England
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Alternate World Cup Outcome - England Beats US
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Craig Ferguson: Live every week like it's Shark Week

Discovery Channel enthusiast Craig Ferguson will be hosting Shark Week this year! The "Late Late Show" host's "favorite holiday" is celebrating its 23rd anniversary this August, and on his Twitter feed, he described himself as "slightly incontinent with excitement."

Watched Jaws on cable," Ferguson tweeted. "Mistake. Hosting Shark Week now seems foolhardy. Sharks unaffected by sarcasm & self loathing. My only weapons."

Brian the shark puppet delivers the "very exciting news," below:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Late Night Ratings: Is NBC panicking over Fallon's numbers?

A reader sent along a link to the New York Post story about NBC's worries over Jimmy Fallon's ratings, which took "a 20 percent fall from May 2009." According to the Post, the network "is trying to boost Fallon's audience by booking appearances on his show by NBC and CNBC personalities, including Brian Williams, Rachel Maddow and Meredith Vieira," and even "dragging him out of bed in the morning to do the 'Today' show to promote his own show."

It smelled like a non-story to me when I first read it yesterday -- after all, an NBC source pointed out that in May 2009, Jay Leno was racking up huge numbers in his "farewell" to "The Tonight Show" and providing Fallon with a stronger lead-in -- and this astute piece by Christopher Rosen agrees that it's not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. Plus, "while Fallon trails both Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Kimmel in total viewers, he's beating them in the coveted 18-49 demographic."

My guess is that NBC doesn't want to ignite another late night war. Fallon taking over from Leno when he finally decides to vacate the "Tonight Show" throne is far from a done deal, but I suspect he'll be staying put at 12:35 for at least the next few years.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

John Oliver to cover World Cup for "The Daily Show"

photoDo you have World Cup fever? Perhaps it takes a foreigner -- in this case, "Daily Show" correspondent John Oliver -- to really get Americans stirred up about the quadrennial competition.

According to a Comedy Central press release, Oliver and "TDS" producer Tim Greenberg will be reporting from  Johannesburg, South Africa for a multi-part series entitled "World Cup 2010: Into Africa." "In the first piece, which airs tomorrow [June 10], Oliver embeds with the U.S. Soccer team as they train for their highly-anticipated game against England. Future segments will see Oliver sitting down with the acting South African ambassador, taking a look at the first 'African' World Cup, examining the current state of race relations and, finally, celebrating the true spirit of the game.

"'As a little boy, my only dream was to one day play for England in the World Cup. It seems that the closest I will ever get to that dream is to go to the World Cup and make fun of it,' said Oliver. 'If these pieces result in anything less than soccer becoming the number one sport in America, I will deem them a total failure.'"

"TDS" is famous for virtually sending its correspondents all over the world via green screen, which makes it a bit of a surprise when one of them actually turns up in a real foreign locale. Jason Jones traveled to Iran in 2009, while former correspondent Rob Riggle reported from China in 2008 and Iraq in 2007.

Photo: Justin Chabot

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Did TBS "overpay" for Conan?

A report today indicates that TBS, which recently signed a deal with Conan O'Brien to take over its 11 PM time slot, is asking for network-sized bucks from potential advertisers.

"They are trying to get NBC's late-night [rate] for Conan," one cable executive told the New York Post. "They are being very aggressive with that."

A source told the Post that TBS "is asking for rates that are 20 percent to 25 percent higher than typical rates for late-night," adding, "It's insanity... [O'Brien] is a high-priced property that they clearly overpaid for."

Despite the fact that popular cable channels would like to achieve parity with the four major broadcast networks, advertisers are still willing to pay more to place their spots on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC.

"They're not going to get [the higher rates]," an ad buyer said. "They have been posturing and trying to position it for months."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Late Night Roundup: Conan's dance battle with Colbert & Stewart; Sam Bee on NPR

A few items of note:

The lucky Conan O'Brien fans who attended his "Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television" tour stop at Radio City Music Hall got to see the redhead do battle with Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, a flashback to the goofy segments they did during the writer's strike a couple years ago. One attendee captured the whole thing on camera and posted it on YouTube. Colbert mocks Conan for having left New York -- "I heard you slinked back into town! I love New York too, Conan. I love it enough to have stayed! I didn't go running off to Sodom and Zsa Zsa Gabor-a. What's that smell? You reek of cocoa butter!" Conan: "You don't even live in New York, you idiot. You live in New Jersey!" There's only one way to settle their differences: with a dance-off, and after Stephen is "injured," Stewart steps in to battle in his place.

A couple of late night stars will be appearing on NPR today. Samantha Bee will be promoting her new book, I Know I Am, But What Are You?, on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, while erstwhile "Tonight Show" bandleader Kevin Eubanks is due to appear on Talk of the Nation around 11:40 AM (Pacific)/2:40 PM (Eastern). If you miss the shows on the radio, you can listen to the archived broadcasts on their respective web sites: Fresh Air / Talk of the Nation.

Last week, "Jimmy Kimmel Live" won a Silver Clio award -- kind of the Oscars of the advertising world -- for an ad the show produced in partnership with Warner Bros., "Guillermo the Informant." A parody of the 2009 film "The Informant!," it featured Kimmel's sidekick Guillermo battling it out with Matt Damon. According to the press release: "As part of their nightly program, 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' generates original integrated creative content by pairing the show's writing and production forces with many of the world's most recognizable companies." For "original integrated creative content," read: ads. Of course, some of them are pretty darned clever. I'll watch anything featuring Guillermo's chihuahuas, Pepe and Paco, who were prominently featured in last week's promotional spots for a dog park contest sponsored by Beneful.