Mr. Coogans Weekend Groove Tube Update 01.12.04

So, I am watching HBO’s 14th viewing of the season premieres of “Sex in the City” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (amazingly, but certainly not tragically, I missed the previous 13).

I saw Carrie sleep with the Russian and Samantha have some awkward and bad sex with her ex-boyfriend, Richard while her current boyfriend, Smith wait in the hotel lobby for her. I watched Miranda have an awkward exchange with Blair Underwood, and Charlotte try to make her life less pointless by helping the blind.

I found the show to be entertaining and progressing storylines pretty decently

Then, I saw the first part of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” which featured a dinner conversation between Larry and his wife Cheryl (played by Cheryl Hines) about a deal the two made ten years previously. According to the deal, if the marriage lasted ten years, Cheryl would allow Larry to have one sexual encounter with a woman outside their marriage. Cheryl didn’t think Larry could pull it off, but gave him three months to “do the deed.”

This led Larry (and Cheryl) to a karaoke bar, (Apparently, Larry loves karaoke. Who knew?). Larry met Jeff (his friend and agent, Jeff Greene, played by Jeff Garlin) at the bar, which led to the following exchange:

Jeff: You know married men everywhere, that’s their dream that their wife says ‘Yeah, go ahead ‘

Larry: (referring to Mel Brooks singing karaoke on stage) What’s Mel doing here?

Jeff: Frank’s been in two of his movies. You didn’t know that?

Larry: Ohhhh .

Jeff: They’re old friends

Jeff: This is great You got PERMISSION!

Larry: She actually CHALLENGED ME to do it!

Jeff: Well, DAMN IT MAN! DO IT!

I found this exchange notable for a couple of different reasons. First, Larry and his buddy are actually talking about this arrangement (I’d say it morphs into a bet though ) Larry made with his wife. It allows the audience to consider the significance of such an arrangement. It sets up a weird, but potentially humorous to unfold since Larry has three months to try and find a woman he can (and wants to) have sex with. Has this been done in situation comedy before?

Second, and even funnier, sandwiched in between the comments about Larry’s arrangement, the two briefly discuss the fact that comedy legend Mel Brooks is doing karaoke at a cheesy Los Angeles karaoke club. I laughed out loud at this primarily because I would have never thought Mel Brooks would be the type to pour his heart into karaoke. However, I also found it hilarious that while a comedy legend is on stage singing, Jeff and Larry barely mention this fact that would seem strange to over a billion people that were ever encountered with this same situation.

So, basically, a strange situation is unfolding while the two characters were talking about an even stranger situation unfolded between one of the characters and his wife. That’s some complex comedy.

Wow It’s not TV, it’s HBO

Opening Credits: Zalman King, Steve Buscemi, Jason Bateman, Wayne Brady, and GSN?

I wonder if the viewing public knew they were watching Donald Trump and not “Must See TV.”

Amazingly, NBC’s new reality Donald Trump-led reality series, “The Apprentice,” managed to secure more than 18.5 million viewers for its premiere on January 8th. Even more impressively is that NBC’s Research department concluded that more than 27 million people tuned in for at least part of the new reality competition. Sure, that may be biased, but I am sure it’s not a GROSS exaggeration.

I am not sure what the appeal was. Was it good timeslot placement? Was it the fact that “Handsome” Donald Trump is involved? Was it the appeal of yet another reality series competition? Maybe it was this little bit of information that leaked out this week:

Apparently, Kristi Frank, one of the 16 contestants did a guest spot on the Showtime soft-core porn series “Zalman King’s Red Shoe Diaries.” If you’ve ever seen a “SKINemax” (i.e. a late night movie on the Cinemax cable network), then you probably know what these shows were about. They are ridiculous stories that usually end up in a beautiful woman completely naked and simulating sexual intercourse with some equally good looking man with an overdone jazz/classical music piece (heavy on the saxaphone) playing in the background.

Amazingly, NBC completely overlooked Kristi’s “acting career” when discussing why she would be a good contestant for this reality competition where the ultimate prize is working for multi-millionaire businessman, Donald Trump.

Chances are, while that revelation may keep Quakers, the Amish, and people born before 1940 away from such “trash,” the overall audience won’t be hurt to see if the soft-core porn star can work for big, bad business man Unfortunately for her, she’ll always be known as the “soft-core porn star” though. It may help, it may hurt .What can you do?

HBO makes more news with guest star announcements.

As if we all needed to tune into the highly regarded HBO programs, “The Sopranos” and “Six Feet Under.” Well, it looks like viewers will be inundated with quality as both will include high profile guest appearances when their new seasons begin.

First, Steve Buscemi will become a series regular on “The Sopranos” as Tony Soprano’s (James Gandolfini) cousin (on his mother’s side), Tony Blundetto. As Zap2it reported it, they also questioned the family resemblance. I’m sure those details will be worked out later. When you can get Steve Buscemi, you take him and ask questions later In addition, Buscemi will also go back and direct at least one episode. He’s already earned an Emmy nomination for his direction of the “Pine Barrens” episode of the HBO show.

Meanwhile, in addition to landing movie veteran Mena Suvari for a storyline this upcoming season, the show has secured television and movie veteran Veronica Cartwright and even more importantly, the recently rejuvenated Ellen DeGeneres for guest appearances. It isn’t clear what roles the two women will play, but it is confirmed they will take part.

By the way, these three will join the regular cast AND already confirmed appearances by other high profile actors including Kathy Bates, Joanna Cassidy, Patricia Clarkson, Ben Foster, Justina Muchado, Rainn Wilson and Justin Theroux.

AND HBO believes (according to Zap2it) that there will be more guest appearances that the show simply hasn’t announced yet. Sounds like it will be an orgy of high quality and/or high profile stars. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee success of course, but considering the writing has been outstanding already, that likely won’t change despite the actors involved.

“Arrested Development” makes news twice .

First and foremost any time the British take AN AMERICAN MADE show and air it for their viewers, everyone should stop what they are doing and run to their couch to watch, or at least to their TiVO to make sure they record it so they can see what it’s all about later.

Yes, it’s true instead of the Americans taking a British programming or reworking and repackaging something that worked on “the other side of the pond,” the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) actually likes an American program enough to add it to their programming schedule. The show: Fox’s little known, yet critically acclaimed, new documentary style sit-com, “Arrested Development.”

According to the British publication, The Guardian, it will be broadcast, starting in the fall, on BBC 2 and BBC 4, the digital arts channel (as a companion show to HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”).

Hey Fox .if you haven’t already noticed, PEOPLE LIKE THIS SHOW!

Also, it appears the British (and us Yanks’ too ) will have the privilege of seeing beautiful movie star, Heather Graham, on the show in the other interesting bit of news regarding the show for the week.

According to Zap2it, she will play George Michael’s ethics teacher (George Michael is played by Michael Cera and is the son of Jason Bateman’s character, Michael). George Michael will develop a serious crush on the teacher, and so will Bateman’s character, Michael. He will for Graham’s character right away and ask her out. The obvious dilemma that arises will be how dad breaks the news to his son that he will be going out with the object of his son’s affections

Honestly now, when you woke up today, did you think you’d ever see Heather Graham and Jason Bateman be intimate on screen? It’s like if a big movie star like Demi Moore ever got together with a TV star like Ashton wait never mind

Brady, Edward looking for work I wonder which one will rebound quicker

It was reported in various news outlets this week that both “Crossing Over with John Edward” (Universal) and “The Wayne Brady Show” (Buena Vista, a Disney company) were canceled by their respected companies responsible for syndication.

Edward’s show dealt primarily with getting studio audience members to “cross over” and “talk to” friends and family members that have, at some point, passed away. It proved mildly successful while on the Sci-Fi Channel but didn’t capture much of an audience in daytime syndication (Why am I not surprised?)

Meanwhile, in yet another example where ratings, as opposed to talent, is the name of the game, Wayne Brady’s talk show, “The Wayne Brady Show” was canceled due to terrible (terrible being 1.0 or so) ratings. Brady’s show was a little bit too family friendly for its own good, as some of the hokey segments and ridiculously bright colored studio showed. However, it’s evident he is a spectacular entertainer who has the ability to sing, dance, and make a crowd laugh with the best of them, as his work on Drew Carey’s American version of “Whose line is it anyway?” has illustrated.

Edward will probably fade into oblivion, but what will be next for Wayne Brady? While a sitcom could be (and probably is) a possibility, I say he should try to get a meeting with Lorne Michaels so he can work on “Saturday Night “

Sure, Michaels generally doesn’t take on already established comics onto his show, but I still think it could be a good fit since A) Brady is funny and B) Brady can sing (a talent that could prove to be invaluable since a number of “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) segments are musically oriented).

Also, Brady may not want to become part of an ensemble cast with a series of other comedians, but at the same time, he’d be able to sink his comedic teeth into what the accomplished “SNL” writers would put together for him and he’d be able to establish once and for all the fact that he is funny and talented

Either way, I am interested to see what his next move will be.

Day Late, Dollar Short Ashton

Ashton Kutcher’s production company, Katalyst, is going forward with a pilot that is being considered by MTV for the upcoming season.

The problem is this particular pilot is remarkably similar to a project another network has already taken on.

According to various news sources, Kutcher and his company produce “My New Best Friend,” a show where contestants attempt to persuade their friends and family that a new person in their lives is their new best friend. All of this is going on while the new “friend” is acting inappropriately and obnoxiously.

While the original idea stems from a British series of the same name, it isn’t original here in the United States either. Fox is doing something eerily similar with its new reality show, “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancee” where a woman must try to convince her family that she is in love with a big-boned, loud-mouthed, doofus.

Then again, the people that watch MTV are usually different from those who watch Fox (except on nights when “The O.C.” is on), so maybe I am the only one noticing the striking similarities in concepts.

The series has to be picked up by MTV first anyway. We’ll see if the network entrusts Ashton again, the same way it did with “Punk’d.”

This is what happens when your network only has two successful shows

the announcements of their 2004 debuts months before they are scheduled is probably the biggest news the network will make all month.

The FX network (Fox’s attempt at an entertainment cable network) has announced that the widely popular cop show set in Los Angeles “The Shield” will return for its third season on March 7th and the edgy, but acclaimed show about the risky lives of two Miami plastic surgeons, “Nip/Tuck” will return for more fun on June 22nd.

The network has certainly struck gold with these two particular shows and should definitely hold onto them for dear life as long as possible. Especially since the network’s newest creation is the reality show “ToddTV,” a creation similar to the 1999 Ron Howard directed movie, Edtv. The subject of the show, Todd, will not only have his every movement recorded on camera, but the viewing audience will vote on how to live his life, what ways to go, even what to wear in some cases. Without many viewers, this is a train wreck in waiting.

Shows like this make “The Shield” and “Nip/Tuck” all the more important. Note to FX executives: your network is developing a reputation for edgy, ethics compromising programs (which are always intriguing if done right), stick to that and fill out the weekly schedule nicely.

No, no, no .we’re now “GSN” thank you very much

Zap2it reports that starting March 7th, The Game Show Network will cease to exist, instead going strictly by its’ high profile initials, GSN. In the article, Rich Cronin, President and CEO of GSN, states that the name change goes hand in hand with an expansion of the network’s focus under the heading “the network for games.”

That essentially means that while the bulk of the programming will still revolve around game shows, old and new, the network is seeking to expand its programming base with reality-show competitions, video games and casino gaming. This includes a new show exclusive to GSN titled the “World Series of Blackjack” where the network chronicles a tournament of some of the planet’s top blackjack players. Chances are, they won’t hit on 16 when the dealer is showing a 6 himself

It is interesting to see the network expand its focus similar to the way TLC (formerly the Learning Channel) has with its various shows that could be construed as educational depending on the point-of-view, but are really more designed strictly for entertainment. Also, VH-1 has expanded its programming to more than just music, focusing on the more generally cryptic term, “pop culture.” Whether that means music, movies, or television, VH-1 covers it all now. Now, GSN is more than game shows from the 1970s and 1980s, it’s anything involving gaming.

The time has to be filled somehow, right?

Quick Hits

— Last summer, I wrote a column for Matthew Michaels’s moodspins.com about the mildly popular NBC reality/game show “Last Comic Standing.” Despite the fact that Host/Executive Producer, Jay Mohr, was relegated to playing the straight man, and it was obvious the comics were on the best behavior (avoiding four-letter words and all), it was a wildly entertaining program, especially to those people who enjoy stand-up comedy.

Well, it appears the production for season two is underway according to Zap2it as several talent executives will begin the dirty task of traveling to cities across the United States and trying to find that “diamond in the rough.” Starting January 13th (and going until the end of the month), those who know best will be trying to find comics at least good enough to take part in a semi-final type competition before the finals are aired NBC later this year.

It’s great to see that NBC is giving this show another chance. After all, it’s one of the few reality shows I enjoy

— It appears “Project Greenlight” isn’t dead after all. HBO has relinquished rights to the show and Bravo has secured them. The network will likely air the show beginning sometime in 2005. According to Zap2it, part of the reason HBO was leery about bringing the show back had to do with the questionable return of Chris Moore, an explosive, often confrontational personality who produced both previous “Greenlight” movies, Stolen Summer and The Battle of Shaker Heights.

Moore will be back but he likely won’t be as active in the movie making process as he was in the previous seasons, focusing more on picking the contest winners with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, co-creators of the show.

— Speaking of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, The New York Post reported that while filming in New York City, Jerry Seinfeld showed up on set and Larry David quickly reworked the storyline arc of the show (already centered on David’s character doing a tour with Mel Brooks’s renowned Broadway show, The Producers) to include a quick cameo by Seinfeld.

It’s not definite when this particular show will air, but it has been confirmed that David and Seinfeld will share the screen together for the first time ever. David was a key component to the success of NBC’s “Seinfeld” being a writer for the show’s first seven seasons (the show lasted nine), but he never appeared on screen. Meanwhile, David has launched his critically acclaimed HBO improvised sit-com and Seinfeld has not been a part of the show until now.

— In my last column, I mentioned the penchant of “Scrubs” producers to secure outstanding guest spots from accomplished stars/actors (Tara Reid is noticeable anyway ). Looks like they have struck again as they have secured legendary sit-com star and former teen heartthrob, Michael J. Fox, for a two-episode arc on the show. Fox will play a surgeon with obsessive-compulsive disorder. While that may a problem for most people, this character will (supposedly) be able to use it to his advantage.

It has not been specified when the episodes will be filmed or will air.

Closing Credits: You need a Reality Check!

It could be argued that the television industry doesn’t really have a pre-determined beginning, middle, and end of seasons anymore. After all, the networks have started to air new, cheaper original programming while avoiding airing many repeats of our favorite shows because of the cost associated with them.

In addition, networks often air seasons with varying lengths at varying times. The last “season” of “Sex in the City” is a scant eight episodes. The same applied to the last season of another HBO series, “Oz.” Meanwhile, FX has increased their order of season two of “Nip/Tuck” to 16, up from 13, which will start during the summer. Instead of ordering full seasons or half seasons, networks order what they think what will make the most sense financially. Sure, it makes sense when balancing the checkbooks, but it makes it hard to follow when seasons start and when they end, especially when repeats are included in the mix as well.

While the above statements may be true, the reality is the broadcast networks generally do follow some sort of schedule when it comes to their main shows. The new shows and seasons of returning shows debut in September or early October, take hiatuses during the holiday season, and return in January with more new shows, and then end for the year in May during sweeps month.

Low and behold, we’ve come to January 2004 and the mid-season TV previews are coming out. January (and to a lesser degree, February) are going to see the debut of many new shows, while several others return for the first time during the 2003-04 season.

Whether we find it intriguing or we are indignant about it, reality shows are still of intense interest to a large amount of the viewing public. Whether it’s the end of “Joe Millionaire” and everyone is eager to know the women’s response, or the it’s the winner of another season of “Survivor,” or even if it’s to see the reaction of the subject of “The Joe Schmo Show,” there is a big time payoff to these reality shows. These shows may have a short shelf life for the most (see the most recent “Joe Millionaire” and “The Bachelor” as examples of that theory), but as long as the ideas are being developed, the networks will have a chance to tell a good story and broadcast a highly rated show.

The networks are still cashing on this phenomenon with some new shows and the reappearance some of the public’s favorites. In all, there will be more than 15 new reality shows hitting the airwaves this winter. Here are the ten most prominent in my opinion (NOTE: this is NOT a countdown, it’s just a numbered list):

1. “The Apprentice” (NBC) – The comment I enjoy making about this show the most is that this proves that reality TV isn’t just for idiots and poor people trying to make it big. In this case, 16 highly qualified competitors are vying for the ultimate prize: a high paying job working directly for a man who’s made millions of dollars with his various business ventures: Donald Trump. Who needs resumes, the human resources department, and monster.com when applicants can take part in various demeaning tasks for the dream job.

I say this show proves reality television programming isn’t for idiots because the competitors include successful real estate executives, a political appointee to the Clinton Presidency team, and several people with advanced college degrees (including one with a Harvard MBA and one with an M.D.). Yet, all 16 of these intelligent people were willing to sell lemonade on the streets of New York City like in the debut episode Unbelievable.

2. The Real World: San Diego (MTV) – This show has a special place in my heart. As the show enters season 14, I think I have seen every episode of every season since the crazy Miami cast warmed our hearts with yelling, screaming, and other assorted venomous filled adventures. The current cast includes Brad (22, male, outside of Chicago, broke up with his girlfriend in episode one), Cameran (19, female, Anderson, SC, hates “Yankees”), Frankie (21, female, Kansas City, MO, has cystic fibrosis and a boyfriend she’s madly in love with at home), Jacquese (19, male, Paterson, NJ, only African-American cast member, seems like a nice guy, but very little personality), Jamie (20, female, San Francisco, only Asian-American cast member, seems like a nice girl, but very little personality), Randy (24, male, Boston, token cast member from Boston, the producers probably assume he’ll drink a lot, cause trouble, and yell without pronouncing his r’s), and Robin (22, female, Tampa Bay, FL, has the busty, beautiful body of Amaya from “The Real World: Hawaii” but without any of the emotional baggage, unfortunately, that means not much of the personality either).

There are two storylines worth paying attention to when watching this season:

a) For the first time (that I can recall), there are two separate incidents where cast members are arrested and taken away in handcuffs. How the producers are able to tell this part of the story will be interesting.

b) If you’ve been following the news reports, you’ll recall that an alleged rape took place in the house as one of the cast members’ friends (repeat: NOT one of the cast members) reportedly raped a girl partying at the house in the bathroom, one of the few places in the house where cameras are not located. Will the producers incorporate this into the show? Considering the press the incident has received, they’d be fools to not at least acknowledge that something happened. However, if the season preview (the highlight reel run at the end of episode one) is any indication, there is a good chance it won’t be mentioned at all. Let’s hope staffers don’t think the viewing public is that ignorant.

Other than these storylines, so far, there isn’t much to latch onto when watching this particular season. No one stands out as a particularly interesting or endearing person, although I am waiting with great anticipation for Cameran, the southern belle who hates “Yankees” (people who live in the above the Mason-Dixon line in the U.S.), to start talking about “The War of Northern Aggression” and be dead serious about it.

3. “American Idol” (Fox) – Simon, Randy, and Paula are back critiquing hopeful and potential singing superstars as thousands of wannabe’s vie for one record contract. The storyline worth paying the most attention to is whether or not the show can continue to be one of television’s most popular programs. If so, it really could be one of reality television genre’s best shows ever.

4. “Survivor: All Stars” (CBS) – Speaking of one of the reality television genre’s best shows ever, Executive Producer, Mark Burnett tries to outdo himself yet again by bringing back some of the top competitors from the previous “Survivor” installments to compete for the title of Ultimate Survivor (I don’t know if the winner will be called that, but it seems to make sense ). Supposedly, this will include all new twists to keep the competitors on their toes (and viewers glued to the set). I am not an avid watcher of this show, but something like this reminds me of what an professional league All-Star game would be like if it actually mattered and would be more than just an exhibition.

5. “The Bachelorette” (ABC) – Meredith Phillips, one of the ladies big, bad, “Bachelor” Bob Guiney shunned in the latest edition of “The Bachelor” will be back as the object of 25 successful hunks’ affection. I am not quite sure why, but the first “Bachelorette” featuring another “Bachelor” castoff, Trista Rehn, was wildly successful. I don’t know if it was the prospect of Trista making out with lots of dudes (and therefore being called a slut), or the idea of a woman what a man had done twice previously, or the obvious chemistry that existed between Trista and the eventual winner, Ryan. Whatever it was, it worked and ABC is hoping that Meredith can bring that same type of magic to the alphabet network. We’ll see

6. “Average Joe: Hawaii” (NBC) – Here is one of those reality shows that probably has a dreadfully short shelf life considering the concept and they way it is destroyed as the show progresses. The idea is to recruit a group of guys who are more personality driven than looks driven and allow them to try and secure the love of one beautiful woman. Ha ha, the joke is on the beautiful woman. Great concept!

Uh oh there’s more coming.

Then, the competition changes when the really attractive guys are introduced to the competition and then the beautiful woman has to choose between the ugly, nice, probably smart, guys or the attractive guys who may, or may not, know how to read. At this point, the tables are turned and the beautiful woman is back in control when she gets to choose between the pretty boys and the more personality driven men. Supposedly, this is supposed to be a hard choice, but something tells me looks will probably prevail in the end. The woman probably won’t marry the winner anyway

7. “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance” (Fox) – Kind of like Spike TV’s “The Joe Schmo Show” in that a woman thinks she’s on a reality show with another reality contestant attempting to get her family to give her their “blessing” to marry her plus-sized, loud boyfriend with very little couth. Well, she’s on the show, but he and his family are all actors there to pull a fast one on her. “Joe Schmo” had a great payoff. Will the same apply to this new offering?

8. “Todd TV” (FX) – Todd Santos, a thirty year-old bartender with no direction in his life allows his life to be recorded by television cameras while audience polls will tell him what direction his life should go. As I said before, with the exception of the audience participation angle, this looks remarkably similar to the Ron Howard movie, Edtv. The concept has the potential to be captivating, but if no one watches, it will fall on its face with a great THUD.

9. The Surreal Life (WB) – “This is the story of six former/wannabe celebrities living in a house ” Hardy har har har Seriously though, I am looking forward to the first time Vanilla Ice gets mad and breaks furniture, Erik Estrada relives the “good ole’ days” from his days on “Chips,” Tammy Faye Messner (formerly Baker) cries and her massacre runs, Traci Bingham puts a bathing suit on and runs by the pool, Ron Jeremy either has sex with someone or at least whips out his Johnson, and Trishelle Canatella (“The Real World: Las Vegas”) gets wasted and cries about how much her life sucks.

Should be great fun for the WB

10. Celebrity Mole: Yucatan (ABC) – ABC brings back “The Mole” reality series/elimination game show. Don’t ask me to explain the rules or how people get eliminated but I do know that every episode, producers pick a “mole” that attempts to sabotage each game and the players are supposed to identify who that person is. The game isn’t as interesting as the interaction between the “celebrities,” which include: Mark Curry (“Mr. Cooper”), Amanda Lewis (former MTV VJ), Angie Everhart (model), Keshia Knight Pulliam (“The Cosby Show’s” Rudy Huxtable all grown up), Stephen Baldwin (duh he’s a BALDWIN!), Corbin Bernsen (“L.A. Law” and Major League – how sad is it that his best credits come before 1992?), Tracey Gold (“Growing Pains” and a bunch of cheesy made-for-TV movies), and of course, Dennis Rodman (basketball player and resident freak).

Wow that’s quite a bit to take in. That’s so much “reality” that I am not sure how I am supposed to live my own life. I better stop here before I start thinking cameras will follow me around and record my interactions with Dennis Rodman and Trishelle in a hot tub while Ron Jeremy watches.

Until next time

Enjoy the show!

— Coogan