Wednesday, January 05, 2005

NEWS FROM THE LAND OF TV: TUCKER CARLSON BOLTS AND OTHER HAPPENINGS

TVNewser has broken the story that Tucker Carlson has officially bolted CNN. His contract has expired and CNN could not or would not offer him his own show. So it's sayonara, CNN. Carlson is expected to get his own show on MSNBC.

In other news CNN is reportedly (TVNewser again) on the verge of dropping Crossfire. Say what?!! Why the heck does CNN insist on getting rid of its good shows? Maybe CNN wants to get rid of their own viewers and send them over to Fox News. I say KEEP Crossfire, but get rid of James Carville and Paul Begala, and gas the studio audience while you're at it! Bring Buchanan and Press back! But don't cancel the whole freaking show! Man, what are those people at CNN going to try and do next: boot out Larry King?

CRAIG FERGUSON DEBUTS

This is the first week for Craig Ferguson at the Late Late Show and I think it's too early to tell how he's doing. I watched the first show and to be honest I really didn't get into it, thought it was a bit dull. But I didn't get into Conan O'Brien's first show, either, or for that matter, Craig Kilborn's. I guess my reaction was of the "OK, good, this won't bomb like Chevy Chase" variety, but I wasn't blown away. I think it's too soon to draw any conclusions. Apparently the folks at CBS and people like Dave Letterman are really high on this Scottish guy Ferguson. He looks like he's got a lot of talent. But hosting a late night talk show is a really different kettle of fish. I mean, look at Dennis Miller, he had a late night talk show and he couldn't even make it work.

Some first shows are enough to render a verdict right away: I remember when I watched the first Tonight Show with Jay Leno as the host, and this was the week after the emotional farewell to Johnny Carson---- actually, weeks and weeks of emotional farewells. So on comes Jay with his boring assortment of standard Hollywood hotshot guests, Billy Crystal and the like, trying to hawk their latest movies , and I thought to myself, "man, this show is an INSULT to NBC!" The soul of the Carson Tonight show was down the drain: Carnac, "stump the band!" and all those animals they used to bring in to the show, all consigned to the history books. The Tonight Show was turned from something special into a show like the rest of them. Admittedly, that was the reason why it survived under Leno, but I defected right then and there on the opening night of the new era. My reason for tuning in was up in smoke.

As it turned out, my instincts were correct. Leno's show initially WAS garbage: in fact, there was all kinds of behind the scenes turmoil involving Leno's maniacal manager that I won't get into. You can read about it in Bill Carter's book The Late Shift, about all the behind the scenes stuff that went on. Eventually, the manager got the boot and the show eventually improved, but it was too late to get me back as a viewer. So sometimes you can tell whether or not a show is rubbish on the opening night. I say the verdict is still out on Craig Ferguson. I dunno whether middle America will accept that Scottish accent of his, and his show is a work in progress, but he IS funny. At least this show has a HOST now, it was getting embarrassing for a while.

DYNASTY TRIBUTE MOVIE AIRED THIS WEEK

I should mention I saw that Dynasty movie this week, the one where they did the behind the scenes look at the rise and fall of that show. You know, looking back on that show, it's incredible that this show became such a hit. No wonder it was called a "guilty pleasure": it was really ridiculous television with the catfights, and babies getting kidnapped all the time, and the Moldavians coming in to kill the entire cast etc. I admit it, I was one of the millions sucked into watching that show, and I eventually was one of the millions who eventually turned on the show and said "this is unwatchable! What garbage!"

Now I look back on it and I'm embarrassed that I even tuned into one episode. Really, this show was really, really bad, but we were sucked in to the show so we had to keep watching, even though it was a ridiculous show. Keep in mind those were the early days of cable TV, no TSN or MuchMusic, even. If there were decent alternatives on the tube, there's no way I would have watched that ridiculous, embarrassing show.

In the movie they had scenes featuring this blue-collar family from middle America tuning into Dynasty and getting their reactions, and it was after the infamous Moldavian Massacre that this middle American family totally bolted and declared "this show sucks!" (The Moldavian Massacre was the show where the entire cast was shot by Moldavians. The next season, the whole cast re-emerged mostly alive and well.) They said in the movie that the people who did Dynasty lost respect for their audience, and that's exactly what happened. I think they took their audience for granted, and thought they would be gullible enough to put up with any crappy storyline they came up with. Anyway, it was fun watching the movie and it awfully satisfying when it got to the scene when the show was cancelled, because you were pulling for this show to be pulled.

Finally, WHO'S YOUR DADDY tanked in its time slot on Monday. Next Tuesday Richard Branson picks his CEO, finally on the Rebel Billionaire (yawn). And The Apprentice 3 comes back on the 20th.

That's my TV rant for this week.


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