Walter Cronkite brought us the evening news for decades; we watched in awe. Uncle Walter packaged stories of import that made tens of millions stop, sit, lean forward, and grab it in. There was never a doubt that Cronkite was in charge.
These days we have Brian Williams presenting segments that are for the most part neatly packaged promos with a tie-in to Universal and Comcast. NBC's daddy has a huge portfolio of lower-rated cable networks that Comcast feels must be showcased on the network news. These include the Weather Channel, NBC Sports Net, USA Network, Cloo, and even a new African American storytelling site (theGrio), all of which are mentioned in more than half of what's covered in News With Brian Williams (not including the previews of NBC's Dateline).
Where a sacred shroud of church and state existed during Cronkite's day -- entertainment programming knew nothing about the news division and vice versa -- has gone by the wayside thanks to new-fashioned desperation in the form of memos from the TV gods.
Williams keeps losing his cred as he brings on "experts" from various Comcast holdings -- see yesterday's letter to the Justice Department about Comcast by Sen. Franken -- and hypes the latest Universal movie in segments, wincing all the while. Like most wage earners Williams must believe he's imminently replaceable and the hardworking chap can still see skid marks where Tom Brokaw was pushed out. He probably thinks they can wind up a new anchor via the hype machine called "NBC."
Yes, network advertisers are mentioned in the news all the time. (It's comical when a sanctimonious reporters act as though that never happens.) But corporate entities make news and many of the giants are solvent enough to run ads too. As for the giggly morning shows, these have been promoting primetime programming with gusto between stories about menopause since J. Fred Muggs -- the chimp -- hosted Today in the '50s.
But a well-preserved, ultimately brief, news show has a duty not to produce three segments about USA Network's airing a 50th anniversary telecast of To Kill A Mockingbird; or do nightly storm stories right after its parent buys the Weather Channel; or hype meaningless sports hours to help low-rated NBC Sports Network. These aren't reasons to use 22 measly minutes allotted for informational programming.
And Williams is no innocent. He joyfully previews news-free interviews coming up on his own Rock Center With Brian Williams, NBC's "Dateline Lite" that keeps getting new time slots searching for viewers. NBC self-promo Gone Wild is so out of control that last month Weekend Evening News host Lester Holt ran five minutes of a commencement address he gave at Pepperdine U!
If the network news producers act like weaselly pegs in oversized conglomerated wheels while the bosses dictate all movements then it's soon going to be hard to tell what is news from what is a commercial for Comcast.
Watching actual ads on the evening news (i.e., must-pee pills for erectile dysfunction or overactive bladders) prove there isn't a lot of demand to advertise. So cancel the evening news, already, and produce 30 minutes of promos of shows on Comcast properties rather than pretending 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. is news. This new show is exactly what E! Entertainment Television -- NBC's closest sister -- does with ease.
Comcast owns or co-owns more than 25 networks and sites -- iVillage, A&E, History, Oxygen, Golf Channel and DailyCandy to start -- and many were smart investments. But ripping apart the proud peacock when NBC News has better ratings than its weak nighttime lineup is sure to lessen Comcast's value. What's bad for viewers is bad for shareholders.
It's likely "creatives" like Williams and Holt have built enough goodwill within NBC to ignore the baser objectives of their bosses. I remember how, after Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus talked to the media about her new show Watching Ellie. She said she refused to allow network executives on the set. The quick-witted star snorted: "As if any notes from the network has ever helped a show."
The wunderkind responds to criticism in an interview with NPR, saying: "Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting."
The Romans enjoyed their gladiators as their society crumbled. Has America come to that?
When the biggest film of the year is about teenagers killing each other for the enjoyment of the masses, and when kids around the world massacre each other daily online in video games such as Warcraft, perhaps it is time for the world's most idealistic and moral movement, the environmental movement, to give in. Meet Pete Bethune and his "holy warriors."
Backed by a slick media presentation, Pete Bethune and his heavily armed mercenaries seem intent on changing the face of a historically peaceful movement. This "eco-hero," who first lost his ship on TV, then became a media darling when his foolishness won him time in a Japanese prison is now packing heat. Is this our next gun-toting hero?
Have we finally gone mad as a society? Just because the man looks good in a wetsuit, has tattoos, and a high "TV-Q" doesn't mean it's okay.
I have been in the eco-business for more than 30 years, and have been on the front lines with activists from around the world, as evident in my latest film, Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist. Violence against humans is and was never condoned. Anyone who has been with the movement knows the responsibility to always keep the moral high ground. Difficult as it might be, those of us involved want to win the war, and the only way to do that is to not become "them" in the game of us and them. "Them" kills, whales, dolphins, and humans, whether directly or indirectly. From what I see, Pete Bethune is becoming "them."
I have no real opinion of Captain Pete Bethune other than what is evident in his own press. I have never served with him, and I wasn't involved in the Ady Gil controversy. I have been to Antarctica as a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) officer, but I was not there when Pete lost his ship.
I only know the facts: Pete's ship was rammed by a Japanese whaler, and suffered enough damage that it was lost. No one was injured as the captain and crew were on deck waving and taunting the approaching whaler. Why a ship that went 40+ knots was sitting dead in the water during a confrontation initiated by Captain Bethune is a question to be argued, and I don't really care what the excuses may be.
What I care about is how Bethune's "glorious record" allows this man to speak for the environmental movement and deems him an expert in the field. How is he morally allowed to pose for photo ops and threaten "bad guys" with automatic weapons on behalf of individuals like me? The reason is, because the media loves him. He'll make great TV!
What this is saying to the world is: To hell with the environment. TV means dollars so get out the way.
People love to view train wrecks, and Pete Bethune and his buddies are a giant engine heading downhill. You can bet the same folks that bring you shows glorifying the killing of near extinct species and other "dangerous catch-type" shows, are the ones Pete is pitching.
I understand that if it "bleeds it leads" in the news, and I know people watch me on Whale Wars hoping to see me get whacked, but let's remember: REALITY TELEVISION is two words and half is true. It's definitely television. On the other hand, Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist is the real deal and explains the media's positive involvement in the eco-business from the start, and how we got the cause on the map. But, we are now going too far, as humans tend to do.
Pete and his buddies should leave the weapons to the authorities with the training and responsibility to use them. If they still insist on playing navy seals then they should do TV... fictional TV, you know, the James Bond type. Let's leave the eco business to those with the passion and courage of their convictions, those who are smart enough to realize that it is the ECO-business, not the EGO-business.
For those catching Animal Planet's Whale Wars: Viking Shores, imagine who would be more successful: Pete Bethune and his warriors blasting ashore in his war canoe killing whalers in his path, or Sea Shepherd's Deborah Bassett with her logic, persistence and charm?
I'm sure TV would go with Pete, but I hope we as humans are better than that.
I can't help but quote Pogo when I say, "I am afraid we have met the enemy and he (the enemy) is us."
Season 14 Performance 8: Would you believe that having three people dance at the same time would lead to many, many double entendres? If not, you've never watched this show.
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UPDATE: Oprah gave Zaslav a shout-out on Twitter on Tuesday, writing, "I'd like to thank David Zaslav, my partner at Discovery who keeps speaking up for me with his unwavering support of @OWNtv." She also thanked best friend Gayle King for her support. "She knows all the ways she's stood in the gap, been supportive, spoken up for me," Oprah wrote. "Thanks Gayle friend."
ORIGINAL STORY: Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav said that he expects the Oprah Winfrey Network to break even in 2013.
He announced the calculation during the company's earnings call on Tuesday, according to Broadcasting & Cable. Discovery co-owns OWN with Oprah.
Zaslav said that "we expect to achieve cash-flow breakeven in the second half of 2013," and that the company anticipates that funding for OWN in 2012 will be less than in 2011.
His assessment comes after recent reports of OWN's whooping financial losses. Bloomberg Businessweek reported that the network may have lost $330 million since its inception in 2008.
However, OWN has gotten good news recently. Oprah's Next Chapter, which features the daytime queen interviewing newsmakers outside of the studio, delivered record ratings for the network after debuting in January. The show has also landed major exclusive interviews, including Oprah's sit-down with Whitney Houston's daughter.
Indeed, Zaslav touted the network's recent uptick in ratings on Tuesday. He cited Oprah's growing appearances on the channel, the cancellation of poorly performing shows and new cable distribution agreements as reasons "we remain confident in the growth potential of this network."
Maurice Sendak, who died at 83 today, has been called the Picasso of children's literature, and godfather to generations of readers. He won nearly every major prize for children's literature plus the National Medal of Arts. And no wonder. Just look at these titles: In the Night Kitchen; Higglety Pigglety Pop; Outside Over There; Chicken Soup With Rice; and of course, the most loved and famous of all, Where the Wild Things Are.
Our own tattered copy is a Moyers family keepsake. We read it to our children when it was first published forty years ago. We've read it to our grandchildren in the last decade and we fully expect that one day they will be reading it to their grandkids, too. But let me share a Sendak secret with you: A seven-year-old hearing this story couldn't have more fun than a 70-year-old reading it.
In our candid 2004 conversation, Sendak revealed some of the early childhood memories and surprisingly dark influences behind his work. Shaped by immigrant parents and the tragedy of the Holocaust, Sendak provided frank insight into his complicated psyche, and a rare window into the soul of an acclaimed artist. He also discussed how he shaped the character of Max, the mischievous lead in his blockbuster book, and what he might have been like as an adult:
"People often say, 'What happens to Max?' It's such a coy question that I always say, 'Well, he's in therapy forever. He has to wear a straitjacket when he's with his therapist.'"
Moyers & Companyairs weekly on public television. See past shows and enjoy new features at BillMoyers.com.
Enjoy this look back at the man behind some of the most magical literature ever conceived.
Live Final Performances: Christina brings her germs and bitchface to the table as the finalists perform three times.
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When rumors circulated earlier this year that Darren Criss had declined an offer to host "The X Factor," the "Glee" star sat back and soaked up the media attention.
The heat was on as the stars battled it out for Trio Week. For week eight contestants had to learn and perform two routines, which would end in double eliminations. And with the pressures some of t...
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NBC has added two new shows to its 2012-2013 slate. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the White House comedy "1600 Penn" has gotten a series order of 13 episodes.
The series was created by and co-stars "Book Of Mormon" Broadway star Josh Gad and stars Bill Pullman as the POTUS and Jenna Elfman as the First Lady and stepmother to the president's children. The Peacock network is getting a lot of "Book Or Mormon" talent: Andrew Rannells, the lead in the play, is starring in Ryan Murphy's "The New Normal," which was also just picked up.
Additionally, the network has ordered 13 episodes of "Animal Practice," a comedy revolving around a veterinarian (played by "Weeds" star Justin Kirk) who loves animals, but hates their owners.
"1600 Penn" and "Animal Practice" have been added to NBC's already intriguing list of new shows including comedies "The New Normal," "Save Me" and "Go On," as well as the J.J. Abrams/Eric Kripke drama following a family as they attempt to reunite in a post-apocalyptic world.