Monday, July 05, 2010

A Classic TV Movie....More Problems for Jay Leno and NBC...and There's Some Good TV to Be Found on Basic Cable

Can you read this?

I think my fingers have gotten a little chubbier after all that I have to eat this fourth of July weekend and the extra chub might affect my typing skills – so bear with me if a few words are spelled wrong.  The food this Fourth of July weekend was pretty much delicious – with the exception of some food that I sampled on a trip up north Friday and I have to give credit to Marty and her youngest son Bill, who pretty much has become the family’s “Grill Master Extraordinaire”!

But enough about food and the fourth – let’s talk some TV and there is a lot on TV to talk about. 

“Duel” anyone?

The fine arts and entertainment channel Ovation (DirecTV Channel 274/Dish Network Channel 157) has been highlighting the work of some film directors a little ahead of their time with a series called “American Revolutionaries: The Directors”.  One of the directors featured in this series is Stephen Spielberg and the movie that they’re showing is the classic made-for-TV movie that he directed for ABC named “Duel” starring Dennis Weaver (who many people may still remember as Chester on the old CBS western “Gunsmoke”). 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the movie “Duel” – it’s the story of a salesman (Dennis Weaver) who decides to take the scenic route to his next appointment, but little did he know that he was going to be terrorized by a faceless driver in a huge semi-truck that has the words “flammable” printed in big block letters on the back and side of the truck.  It doesn’t matter of Dennis Weaver is in front or in back of this semi – he’s pushed and terrorized the whole time.  You never see the face of the driver in the truck throughout the whole film – but you don’t have to – because every time that you see this truck you know things are going to get a little ugly for Weaver. 

According to the people hosting this show -- this low budget TV movie was all that Spielberg needed to kick start his career – because the first film that he got to direct after “Duel” was aired was “Jaws” and everyone remembers how that movie scared people at the beaches the summer that it was released.

Another director that they’re highlighting in this series is Mel Brooks – who wrote (with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder) and directed one of my favorite movies of all time “Blazing Saddles”.  I actually seen this movie in a theater some ten times and laughed just as hard the tenth time that I did the first time that I saw this film.  Unfortunately, this series on Ovation won’t be showing “Blazing Saddles”, but will be airing another Brooks’s classic “The Producers”…is everybody ready for “Springtime for Hitler”?

NBC: More Problems than Hits

Remember last summer when NBC tried to convince us that come September we would all be turning to NBC for Jay Leno at 10?  NBC told producers and program suppliers that instead of those expensive prime-time drama programs – they were going to cut cost with running Leno five nights a week at ten with a fresh new show every night.  Leno at 10 was probably the biggest programming bomb in NBC history next to “Pink Lady and Jeff” and “Super Train”.  Leno bombing at 10pm brought about another programming blunder – when NBC thought they would send Jay Leno back to 11:35 and in turn – take “The Tonight Show” away from Conan O’Brien, who had only been hosting the show for seven months. 

One of the reasons that they gave Conan his walking papers was because his ratings were smaller than what Leno got when he did “The Tonight Show”.  NBC probably thought that they would put Leno back at 11:35 and everything would be ok – it would be like the whole “Leno at 10” fiasco was some soap opera dream sequence that never happened in real life.  Well…it happened….and here’s the kicker to the story:  Jay Leno’s ratings at 11:35 are actually worse than what Conan was getting for NBC and Conan was attracting a younger audience that what Jay does…oh well.  It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of audience Conan is going to pull in when he premieres this November on basic cable TBS.

More problems for NBC

One of the shows that NBC was hoping would be a big ratings draw for them come September is a new show called “Love Bites”.  The show, similar in format to the old TV show “Love American Style”, is having a few problems getting off the ground.  The woman who wrote the pilot, and who was once one of the top writers on “Sex and the City”, has left the show and one of the stars of the show – Becki Newton (who suppose to be a virgin on the show) has gotten pregnant.  So, instead of a September premiere – NBC is pushing back production on the show and they’re hoping to have “Love Bites” in shape for a January premiere.

With an hour hole to fill in the prime time schedule – NBC has turned to “The Donald” for a new season of “The Apprentice”.  Unlike the past few seasons that have featured celebrities – sixteen people are going to fight to become Donald Trump’s Apprentice and these people are combination of people who have either lost their jobs or are recent college graduates, who have had a hard time getting noticed in today’s job market.

Good TV is Easy to Find This Summer on Basic Cable

Traditional over the air television is in deep trouble – especially when basic cable channels are beating them at their own game.  When a basic cable channel like TV Land can attract broadcast network size audience with a mediocre sitcom like “Hot in Cleveland” – something is really wrong.

Last week, FX aired the first episode of the new comedy “Louie” starring comedian Louis C.K. and it’s probably one of the funniest shows on television today.  The premise of the show is nothing unusual – it’s basically the same thing that Jerry Seinfeld did on NBC – but Louis C.K.’s comedy has more bite than a shark at feeding time.  Where Jerry Seinfeld could be a little “cute” with things like the girl with the name that sounded like a…you know what….or give new meaning to the phrase “master of your own domain” – Louis C.K. comes out and tells it like it is.  Catch “Louie” Tuesday nights at 11pm on FX.

Fans of Dennis Leary and “Rescue Me”….the show is back on FX Tuesday nights at 10pm.  This is the last season for the show – so you don’t want to miss one episode to see how Tommy fares this season with his libido and battles with the bottle.  (Note:  Dennis Leary has signed with FX to do a new series after the completion of “Rescue Me”).

Jason Lee (of “My Name Is Earl” fame) is back as a Memphis cop who loves Elvis on the new TNT show “Memphis Blues” – Tuesdays at 10pm on TNT.  I caught the premiere episode of the show last week and it shows some promise – and if you watch closely – you’ll see some of Jason’s old cast mates from Earl pop up in the show.

Last, but not least, fans of Kyra Sedgwick and “The Closer” – the new season returns to TNT – Monday, July 12.  Expect some big changes to happen to Brenda and her job with the Los Angeles police department – let’s hope that budget cuts don’t split up her team of detectives.

Well, my stomach has settled down from all of the fourth of July goodies that I have consumed….so, I think I’ll find the remote control and set back and enjoy a show or two….and until the next time…remember – it’s only TV.

No comments: