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NBC's The Playboy Club: the first time Utah tv programming execs and Gloria Steinem have shared a revulsion. (ewwwww)

I have sampled the new season, and so far, it’s not pretty.

On Fox, I like X Factor, but am not finding it compelling enough to “must see.” Fringe is still brilliant and thrilling appointment viewing — in my house, but not enough others.

On NBC, what were they thinkin’ with their tacky  Playboy Club drama in primetime?  This  Mad Men clone doesn’t begin to shake a tail feather.

And ABC? The best thing about their clone, Pan Am,  was the hilarious impressions of the pilots by Dana Carvey filling as guest host of Regis and Kelly.  Craning his neck backwards, he showed how the Pan Am actors in the cockpit have to play to the camera.

On CBS, Charlie Sheen’s (character’s) funeral on “Two and a Half Men” scored big, as apparently did its newest star,  the freshly single Ashton Kutcher, which might stem the aging of their audience.

At 92, Andy Rooney just  left 60 Minutes, but now rumors are swirling that 69-year-old Charlie Rose will be the new anchor of The Early Show.  It’s not so much his age I’m noting, (as a former senior executive producer of the show.) As a student of the art of the interview, I can promise that Charlie Rose won’t be finished his first ever-so-thoughtful-and-complex sentence when his competitors are on their third news story of the morning. Read the rest of this entry »

Farewell to Andy Rooney: It's Complicated

I, for one, will miss Andy Rooney who, at 92, is closing out a 47-year career at CBS News during which time he walked the halls with other broadcast giants such as Edward R. Murrow, Fred Friendly, Walter Cronkite, Don Hewitt, Mike Wallace and more.

He also worked along side quite a few “non-giants” (we all know the list) and  once had his pay suspended after writing a letter to then CEO Laurence Tisch to complain that CBS News  ”has been turned into primarily a business enterprise and the moral enterprise has been lost.”

Back in March 1987, Tisch had cut more than 215 jobs and  the Writer’s Guild tried to protect their members and, at the time, was five weeks into a strike.  In a gesture of solidarity, Andy Rooney refused to appear on “60 Minutes” and was suspended without pay. His weekly salary then was reported to be  about $7700.

Sunday night, the crumpled Mr. Rooney is signing off 60 Minutes, with his 1,097th commentary and that is nothing short of remarkable. And while most weeks of his 33-year career at 60 minutes he offered a dose of humanity at the end of the broadcast,  he occasionally spewed speech that would wound. Read the rest of this entry »


Gardasil®: worthy of a presidential debate

Has broadcast news been consciously or subconsciously bullied, compromised by the large amount of ad dollars pharmaceutical companies have pumped into their shrinking flagship programs?

Or was it just too hard to resist focusing on another Michele Bachmann gaffe instead of the most important thing she, or just about anyone has had to say in the Republican campaign for president: that government should not mandate vaccinating our daughters with the controversial drug, Gardasil®.


Read the rest of this entry »


Anderson Cooper's new set: the couch undermines the intimacy

Yesterday  the first shot was heard around the new talk show world as Warner Brothers officially entered the high risk/high reward battle to replace Oprah.

Even the queen of the talk placed a stake in the outcome when  she launched  her own heir apparent,  Dr. Oz,  under her Harpo banner.

Katie Couric  follows next year as will Ricki Lake, Bethenny Frankel and I’m sure many more.

The first kid on this scary new block turns out to be Anderson Cooper who, as bravely as he has waded into snake-infested flood waters, has now stepped into the fierce competition of syndicated talk. Read the rest of this entry »


WTTG-TV reporter Tucker Barnes "immersed himself" in toxic sea foam as part of his storm coverage.

Here they come, all the critics mocking the news coverage of Hurricane Irene, the storm that seems to have made some cynics think it was all about politics and Nielsen ratings.

I for one am grateful for every member of a”team coverage,” well, perhaps with the exception of the Fox reporter who announced, “It doesn’t taste great,” after “immersing himself” in sea foam, a polite term for bacteria-laden sewage pouring onto the coast line, presumably a result of the storm.

I think the critics may still not know how to navigate the new world when 100 channels and even more websites all  cover an important story.  Add Twitter to that and you have something that feels like the decibel of hysteria, but that’s a quantity issue, not a quality one.


That’s just one indictment from my pal Howie Kurtz who I agree with more often than not. But today, even in hindsight, I can’t agree cable news or the nets put the story “on steroids” or that their reporters gave “Category 5 performances.” Read the rest of this entry »


The U.S. Treasury did not default.  Gabby Giffords returned to Capitol Hill and rallied her House colleagues on the importance of unity. And it looks like our grandchildren will be paying off our nation’s debt. Good news breaking all around  (at least for many of us who have been supporting adult children and have no problem learning they may one day have to do the same.)

Will checkbook journalism go the way of Joe Camel?

Ever an optimist, I am a great believer in our flawed institutions and the flawed people who run them.  After all, during my lifetime I’ve seen the most radical reforms. Among my favorites:  big Tobacco brought to its knees, forced to pay $368 billion in health-related damages and retire Joe Camel. That was right up there with the break up of the Bell Telephone monopoly and the fall of communism.  

In the realm of  anything is possible,  it now appears Ben Sherwood is saving ABC News — if not its ratings, at least its integrity.  Swimming fiercely against the current, the new ABC News boss has announced the end of the scandalous practice of writing large checks for competitive news interviews under the guise of “licensing fees” for photos or video. See? If you wait (or live) long enough, the things you care about the most will turn out okay. Read the rest of this entry »

Some people have all the luck and Dominique Strauss-Kahn is one of them.  He’s had good political fortune.  He married a billionairess. Now, it turns out, the 32-year-old housekeeper, who accused him of raping her on the job in the Sofitel Hotel, looks like a terrible witness.  In fact, if you listen to all the current cable chatter, you’d think she could be the one heading to jail. Read the rest of this entry »

He Called the President WHAT!?

I heard it myself.  Today, MSNBC’s senior political analyst, Mark Halperin said President Barack Obama “acted like kind of a dick yesterday” while discussing politics on “Morning Joe.”.

Joe Scarborough seemed genuinely in a panic over Halperin’s language, as he scrunched his face and barked instructions to his control room, “Delay that. Delay that. What are you doing? I can’t believe … I was joking. Don’t do that. Did we delay that? Did that work?”

(Scarborough earned his seven-second delay button, along with a knuckle rap from his bosses, back on November 10, 2008 when he dropped an F-bomb, live on the show. )

Mika Doesn’t Like the “D” Word

As soon as this morning’s “d” word was uttered, Mika Brzezinski recoiled in a full body cringe: her left arm went over her stomach, she turned her head away from Halperin and buried her face in her right hand, all within a split second moment of embarrassment and revulsion. Read the rest of this entry »


This week, ABC News sent out an exciting  press release on the growing success of GMA, contents of which TVNewser ran online today: 

Meanwhile,  #2 “Good Morning America” is attracting its largest audience in four years. The ABC show is still more than 600K Total Viewers behind “Today” but had its smallest Total Viewer gap with the NBC show in four years.

The averages for the week of June 13:

  • Total Viewers: NBC: 5.15M / ABC: 4.53M / CBS: 2.21M
  • A25-54 viewers: NBC: 2.30M / ABC: 1.64M / CBS: 824K

Finally, so it seems,  the Today Show is being challenged after 809 weeks at #1.  And this isn’t the first signal from one of the TV industry’s most visited websites:

TV Newser on  June 6th:  Meanwhile, the No. 2 morning show, ABC’s “Good Morning America,” had its best overall sweeps in five years and best May sweep since 2005, posting the smallest Total Viewer gap with “Today” (780K) in 4 years.

TVNewser’s report for the week of May 30th:  Year over year, “Today” and “GMA” both experienced growth, with “GMA” up the most, +10%. “GMA” is seeing its largest total viewer audience in four years.

But is it really? In a business that has more dirty tricks than a Donald Segretti pizza party, there is a new sleight of hand in the morning show ratings war.

Since the end of April, ABC’s Good Morning America has moved its last network commercial higher up into the broadcast.  To cut through the inside baseball, this stunt officially allows them to report an earlier end to the show, shaving off as many as 15  (lower-rated) minutes when the audience is usually in decline. Without those lower-rated minutes, the  average rating of the show, calculated by the Nielsen company, is obviously going to be higher.  Read the rest of this entry »


Who Loves 'Ya, Baby? You do!

Well, if this batch of TMZ pictures isn’t the end of the road for NY Rep. Anthony Weiner, we’ll have to re-write the House Rules, the Articles of Impeachment and maybe the U.S. Constitution to offer us  justice, domestic tranquility, and a common defense against exposure to any more narcissistic, self-possessed, self-absorbed, self-snapped photos of Anthony Weiner.   I don’t know which tweet repulses me more: the original  photo of his nipples or of the newest release where the naked congressman is seen using his penis as a towel hook in front of a mirror in the gym in the House of Representatives. If ever there was proof that all men are not created equal, it is an elected official who worships  his own body as if  it had served as Michelango’s model for the statue of David.   Read the rest of this entry »