It has been awhile. But after three consecutive summers at the famous Beverly Hilton Hotel in sunny Los Angeles, this year’s location for the slimmed down two-week Television Critics Association (TCA) Summer Press Tour is picturesque Pasadena at the re-christened Langham Huntington Hotel & Spa (formerly The Ritz-Carlton). Anyone who has stayed there knows how luxurious it is. A dressed-up burger and fries would probably set you back thirty some-odd bucks. A steak…fuggetaboutit! But, in today’s economy, the over-indulgence of yesteryear is likely to be replaced by a more subdued network presence at the TCA. As for Pasadena in August, better have a portable fan handy!
For those of you who don’t know what the Press Tour is, it is a bi-annual (winter and summer) gathering of about 200 critics across the country who arrive en masse for a series of panels and discussions featuring the talent and behind-the-scenes forces of all of the new and some of the returning series. Ten years ago I was one of the few (if not the first) person blogging from the event. Now, the glut of laptops cluttering the ballroom is truly maddening (and, no doubt, distracting to the people speaking on the panels). The majority of people in attendance type away at rapid speed as the panelists speak, trying to top one another. But as I always say, The Press Tour is a truly valuable tool that I personally hope continues years into the future.
As always, I will devote The Programming Insider for the remainder of this week and next mainly to the Summer Tour, with the real scoop on what looks hot, what looks mediocre, and what is expected to fade to oblivion sooner than the networks would like to admit. You can also listen to my daily commentary via PIPodcast at www.marcberman.tv or head to Mediaweek.com for the daily tidbits and on-air coverage from my colleague Alan Frutkin and myself. Today and tomorrow is cable only; next week I delve into the real meat of the tour, broadcast television, beginning with CBS.
As a reminder, all regular sections of The Programming Insider -- Prime-Time Metered Market Ratings, Ratings Box, TV Tidbits and TV Trivia Time -- will return on Monday, August 17. On that note, let’s get started…LIVE FROM THE SUMMER TELEVISION CRITICS ASSOCIATION PRESS TOUR IN PASADENA, CA it’s the Programming Insider. On the Wednesday agenda: MTV, History Channel, National Geographic Channel, ESPN, Starz, BBC America and a screening on HBO.
FX has ordered 13 episodes of a new scripted drama called Lawman, featuring Timothy Olyphant (Damages) as a modern day 19th century law enforcer covering the town he grew up in. It premieres in spring 2010.
-The President Endorses Lopez Tonight:
Critics were buzzing on day one of the Summer Press tour about a promo for George Lopez’ upcoming late night talk show, Lopez Tonight, on TBS featuring President Barack Obama. The comedian worked on the Obama campaign and the President returned the favor. But will Obama make an appearance on the talker, which debuts in November? Stay tuned.
-SYTYCD and Glee Get Early Premiere Date:
Fox will not be presenting at the Summer Press Tour until Aug. 6. But the network has announced that the first fall edition of reality/competition So You Think You Dan Dance and the new musical drama Glee will launch on Wednesday, Sept. 9 (instead of the previously announced Sept. 16).
Yes, I said I would not be covering ratings at the Summer Press Tour. But there will be some exceptions, including the series-premiere of Fox reality/competition More to Love. More to Love kicked-off on Tuesday, July 28 with a lackluster 4.01 million viewers and a 1.9 rating/6 share among adults 18-49 at 9 p.m., according to the final national results from Nielsen Media Research. Comparably, that placed third in the time period behind America’s Got Talent on NBC (Viewers: 13.24 million; A18-49: 3.5/10) and Big Brother on CBS (Viewers: 6.07 million; A18-49: 2.1/ 6). And retention out of lead-in Hell’s Kitchen (Viewers: 7.04 million; A18-49: 3.4/11) was a very disappointing 57 percent in total viewers and 56 percent in the demo.
-Speaking of Big Brother:
Well, I caught the tail-end of the Tuesday telecast right after the AMC party and…guess what?...Ronnie is still very much alive and well. After all these years of watching, I was completely fooled!
-G4 Announces American Ninja Warrior:
G4, the cable net targeted to young males, will introduce a new series called American Ninja Warrior, which will hold tryouts to find the top 10 American Ninja warrior competitors from across the country. After narrowing the field down, the contestants will head to Japan to tackle a difficult obstacle course. It premieres this fall.
-Joan Rivers at TCA:
The one and only Joan Rivers, who is the subject of my next Mr. Television column, was front and center at the TV Land session hyping her upcoming non-scripted series, How’d You Get So Rich?, which debuts on Wednesday, Aug. 5 at 10 p.m. ET. Here are the best of the mountain of zingers from Ms. Rivers:
“I wish this was a room full of plastic surgeons because you have not seen my arms.”
“I’m still in this business at age 197 and am still relevant.”
“I had a grandmother that came to this country with 13 children and no husband. Slut!”
“We produced six episodes of How’d We Get So Rich? But 127 have been ordered.”
“Annie Douche…I don’t like her. I would not have liked her is she played f***ing bingo!”
“I think it is brilliant NBC is putting Jay Leno at 10 p.m. Now, people can get bored and go to bed earlier. Nice for the Midwest…the crops will get greener.”
-Coming Up at History Channel:
History Channel was at TCA for a packed session featuring Matt Damon and Marisa Tomei, two of the actors participating in documentary The People Speak, which focuses on the Americans who are credited with changing the course of history. Others featured in the two-hour special, which is scheduled in fourth quarter 2009, includes Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Veder. Also upcoming at History Channel are new series Nostradamous Effect (premieres Wednesday, Sept. 9, 9 p.m. ET), Mysteryquest (Wednesday, Sept. 16, 10 p.m. ET) and WWII in HD (4Q 2009); and specials Manson (Monday, Sept. 7, 9 p.m. ET), which delves into the murder of Sharon Tate, Holy Grail in America (Sunday, Sept. 20, 8 p.m. ET), and Day After Disaster (Sunday, Sept. 27, 8 p.m.), which focuses on disaster planning.
Premiering on History Channel in 2010 is 12-part series America: The Story of Us, which will connect the key people, events and locations who helped shape American history.
-More Cake Boss:
TLC has ordered a second season of docu-series Cake Boss, which centers on a family-run Italian bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey, and is averaging 2.3 million viewers in its first season to-date. Eighteen new episodes have been ordered for the upcoming sophomore season, which kicks-off this fall.
-Crash Beefs Up Cast for Season Two:
The sophomore season of scripted Starz drama Crash, which opens on Friday, Sept. 18 at 10 p.m. ET, will feature the additions of Keith Carradine, Valerie Perrine and Eric Roberts. Carradine will play a legendary 60s rock musician, Perrine an aging knockout (sounds like perfect casting!) and Julia’s brother a billionaire entrepreneur who plans to give Los Angeles a new professional football team.
-Starz Announces Spartacus: Blood and Sand:
Spartacus: Blood and Sand, the next original scripted series from Starz, will debut on Friday, January 22 at 10 p.m. ET. The hour-long drama, which is being shot on location in New Zealand, will feature Andy Whitfield as gladiator war hero Spartacus. Lucy Lawless (a.k.a. Xena) co-stars.
-Diane Keaton to Headline HBO Comedy:
Academy Award winner Diane Keaton will head to the small screen as star of an untitled HBO sitcom about a radical feminist who plans to start a sexually explicit magazine targeted to women. The half-hour project is expected to air in 2010.
-New Cable Series Premiere Dates:
Here is a listing of the debut dates for the upcoming new series from today’s cable portion of the tour:
How’d You Get So Rich? (TV Land): Wednesday, Aug. 5, 10 p.m. ET – comedy/reality
Make My Day (TV Land): Wednesday, Aug. 5, 10:30 p.m. ET – hidden camera
Glenn Martin, DDS (Nick at Night): Monday, Aug. 17, 8 p.m. ET – animated sitcom
Gone to Far (MTV): Monday, Oct. 5, 10 p.m. ET – reality
The Jeff Dunham Show (Comedy Central): Thursday, Oct. 22 (time TBD) – comedy/reality
The Buried Life (MTV): December 2009 (time TBD) – reality/adventure
-Updated Off-Net Clearances for Old Christine, Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm:
This is not TCA related, but…Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution has now cleared sitcoms The New Adventures of Old Christine, Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm in off-network syndication in approximately 93 percent of the country for a fall 2010 launch. Represented broadcast groups include ACME Television, Barrington, Belo, CBS Television Stations, ComCorp, Cordillera Broadcasting, Entravision, Freedom Broadcasting, Gray Television, LIN TV, New Age, Newport Television, Quincy, Roberts Broadcasting, Schurz Communications, Smith Broadcasting, Titan, Tribune Broadcasting, Weigl Broadcasting and White Knight Broadcasting.
Repeats The New Adventures of Old Christine will also air on Lifetime Television beginning in fall 2010, and Entourage on Spike TV effective in January 2010.