Wednesday, March 03, 2010

It's Only TV -- But Pleeeezzzeeee

Executive Producer Jerry Seinfeld and Wedding Ref Tom Papa)

Bad TV Alert: The Marriage Ref

What do you get when you cross a reality TV show with a game show that’s played for laughs? It’s “The Marriage Ref”, if you were to believe NBC, the network that tried to convince you that Jay Leno at 10 five nights a week was the place to go for comedy.

The debut episode of “The Marriage Ref” (executive produced by comedian Jerry Seinfield) premiered on Sunday after the Olympics closing ceremonies and got some pretty decent numbers in the overnight ratings, only being beaten out by “Undercover Boss” on CBS. The real test of whether this show has any staying power will come on Thursday night when it airs in its regularly scheduled time slot – 10 o’clock (you remember that time don’t you from when Jay inhabited it).

Will “The Wedding Ref” continue to get ratings once it’s away from the Olympics lead-in? Probably not – only because this show is like a flaming turd in a bag that some kid put on your front porch and knocked on your door to see you stamp the thing out with your feet. Hosted by comedian Tom Papa (who’s jokes sound like they written for Seinfeld instead of him) – the show features three guest starts who decide some weird martial issue for laughs. Throw into this mix a real NBC News reporter reading fact points about the issue the celebrity guests are deciding on (which shows you how far NBC News has sunk allowing their reporters be a hired gun on an entertainment program) and there’s Marv Albert with replays (ala the “bloopers”) of the best lines that the contestants had during their argument portion of the show.

One of the reasons Conan O’Brien had such bad ratings during his “Tonight Show” period was because of his prime lead-in show (Leno) dragged down the ratings of the local news – I wonder how Jay is going to like this disaster – known as the “Wedding Ref” as his lead-in? I'll predict right now that NBC will throw in another “Law and Order” repeat in this time slot before “The Wedding Ref” can complete a full 13-week run and if they don't it's because they don't want to piss off Seinfeld.

Dancing With…..

When it comes to television – I am proud to say that I have never watched one episode of the hit ABC reality dance show, “Dancing With The Stars”. Oh, I’m fully aware of some of their past contestants from Jerry Springer to Marie and Donny Osmond, and everyone in between from, their farewell dance appearances on other shows like Jimmy Kimmel, The View and Ellen, but I have never watched an episode of the show.

I find it incredible that the announcement of the “stars” (c’mon are these people really stars – I don’t see a Meryl Streep or Clint Eastwood in the bunch) gets as much publicity as the announcements of such things as the Oscars. Have we lowered our television standards that much to make this show out to be more than it is?

Who is one of the stars that will be on this season of “Dancing With the Stars”? None other than reality star Kate Gosselin herself – minus the ex and the eight kids. Yup, we the enabling television nation – via ABC – will be giving Kate Gosselin another refill on her expired “fifteen minutes of fame” card. You can just about bet your last dollar that someone like “The Insider” or “Entertainment Tonight” will do a piece on whether or not Jon Gosselin is watching his ex dance on the show and we’ll definitely see a segment or two on how her kids are cheering her on as she rehearses her dance moves in Pennsylvania (which was one of the demands that ABC met to get her to do the show so that she can be close to her kids).

There’s No Good News For Local News

When it comes to budget cuts – Detroit television has been able to avoid any real high profile cuts for a long time. Oh, you could see things on the air that looked a little strange – like Channel 4 sending one of their traffic reporters (who they hired in a on-air talent search) out to cover breaking news stories – stuff like that would not have happened two or three years ago – but with the budgets getting leaner in the news room things like that are happening now.

The budget ax has fallen in Detroit at Channel 7 and although it may have surprised a lot of Detroit television viewers – there’s one man who’s happy – and that’s Detroit’s former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Because of the economy and budget cuts made at Broadcast House in Southfield, Michigan – the investigative reporter who made Kwame’s life miserable – Steve Wilson has been let go by the station.

Steve Wilson wasn’t some pretty boy reporter that television news directors put on the screen to laugh and joke with the weatherman or sports guy. Steve Wilson was a hard news reporter who wasn’t afraid to confront a politician if he knew they were lying and he had the facts to back up what he said. Steve Wilson was not the kind of reporter that will read some press release and try to pass it off as news; and the sad thing is – there aren’t too many reporters like him in Detroit or elsewhere in this country.

What happens when reporters like Steve Wilson are let go? Wilson’s hard-hitting news pieces will be substituted with more pre-packaged fluff pieces from the network and other news sources (such as CNN). Instead of Steve Wilson uncovering corruption in city government – you’ll see a pre-packed news story on “Apples – “Will An Apple A Day Really Keep The Doctor Away” or “New Breakthrough in The Benefits of Baking Soda”.

According to a posting on the internet – Steve Wilson is trying to set up a non-profit investigative reporting unit. No one knows where his investigative pieces will show up and what form they’ll be in – let’s just hope that he can figure out a way to keep on doing those investigative pieces that will keep our politicians honest.

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