Mr. TV: Swept Away

If you’re looking for a programming stunt this week, which happens to be the second full week of the November sweeps period, I have one for you. CBS’ CSI, CSI: Miami and CSI: NY are joining forces for a three-episode crossover featuring Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Ray Langston as he travels to Miami, then New York and back to Las Vegas after a severed leg found in the Everglades is discovered to belong to a girl who recently went missing in Sin City.

While I recognize the need to stunt, particularly in a franchise losing steam, why not send Marg Helgenberger over instead of “jump the shark” cast member Fishburne, who has not been a positive influence on the ratings since joining CSI last season? Fishburne is like the “Cousin Oliver” of CSI!—in other words, someone added to a veteran series, like Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch, right at the time viewers flee.

If CBS really wanted to make the CSI franchise special, it would have shipped over former star William Petersen instead. He must need a paycheck by now, don’t you think?

As I’ve written many times in the past, I miss the overindulgence of yesteryear when the networks would go to any length to attract an audience in the key sweep periods—November, February and May. Today, what you get during the sweeps is basically what you see every week. Maybe it’s time for the networks to officially abandon these months where ad rates were once determined. Sadly, it seems like only yesterday when whole families gathered ’round the TV for miniseries like Rich Man, Poor Man or North and South; meaty made-for movies like The Burning Bed or Consenting Adults; and specials galore.

Now, one of the programming highlights of note in November is former The Waltons star Michael Learned guest-starring on CBS’ Cold Case. Mama Walton involved in a murder?? Grandma would have a hissy fit!

If you head to late night this week, cable net TBS is premiering Lopez Tonight, a new celebrity-driven Monday-Thursday talk show hosted by comedian and former sitcom star George Lopez. Opening night guests will include Ellen DeGeneres, Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria Parker and NBA great Kobe Bryant, and there will be no shortage of stars stopping by for an early visit. The show is generating some buzz in the biz, since Lopez is TV’s first Latino talk-show host.

While I am all for a Latino or anyone of any ethnic group hosting a show (come to think of it, I’d like the chance myself!), I don’t think the success, or failure, of Lopez Tonight rides on the host’s cultural ties. It’s more about whether he has what it takes to do the job. What immediately concerns me about this show was the lack of interest in daytime syndication when Warner Bros. was out pitching Lopez last year. Instead of something new and exciting for late night, Lopez Tonight feels more like a way to milk some financial mileage out of a deal whose first execution didn’t pan out.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Lopez and I happen to think his recent ABC sitcom wasn’t half bad. But if Lopez Tonight happens to click, it’s because Lopez the man has what it takes to succeed.

And anyway, my first destination for late night talk (when I’m able to stay up) is The Mo’Nique Show on BET. Dave and Conan don’t interest me.

Now if you’re a fan of science fiction, and have some snow on the roof, you might recall a strange 1968 series called The Prisoner with Patrick McGoohan as a government agent who is imprisoned in a bizarre community. Although it only lasted one season (17 episodes in total), it developed a cult following over the years. Well, AMC has remade it into a three-night, six-hour miniseries with Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellen. Since The Prisoner totally confused me the first time around, I won’t be watching—I’d rather be baffled by the upcoming final season of ABC’s Lost. But if you feel the need to watch something that probably won’t make a whole lot of sense, part one of The Prisoner debuts this Sunday at 8 p.m.

Since AMC is airing a miniseries, it must know this is a sweeps period. Too bad the broadcast networks seem to have forgotten.