Mr. Coogans Weekend Groove Tube Update 01.24.04

If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d like to start off this week’s column with a little bit of a commentary.

This week, my friend from Minnesota and TV and pop culture fanatic, Stacy, sent me a link to an article written by Andrew Glassman of The Hollywood Reporter and reposted several times over on sites like MSNBC.com.

The article was about all of these new shows that simply repackage older wonders of pop culture from the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s into shows like “I love the 80s” and “Pop Up Video.”

Glassman quoted two different “Thompsons” on the issue.

Woody Thompson, a producer for VH-1’s “Pop-Up Video” calls these type of shows “TV Crack,” obviously referring to how addictive they can be when they are on the screen. In addition, Thompson believes they are good business, as he will also be producing “Pop-Up Culture,” a show similar to “Pop-Up Video” but without the videos, instead showing other forms of popular culture like television shows with random boxes that appear on the screen through out the segment.

While Woody Thompson thinks it’s great, Syracuse University’s resident television and popular culture guru, Dr. Robert Thompson disagrees with the value of these shows stating:

We are clear-cutting the pop cultural past a lot faster than we are reforesting it. Now we’re getting to the point where some of the most distinctive and memorable culture is repackaged culture.”

Essentially, he thinks that in the future instead of looking back fondly at shows like “Happy Days” or “Growing Pains,” we will be looking back at shows like “I love the 80s” that merely reminisce of a previous pop culture generation. What will our contributions be from the first part of the 21st Century?

I don’t wish to get too preachy, but Dr. Thompson has a good point. We should do our best to add to and enrich the pop culture landscape now and not dilute it with memories of past decades. Whether that means being more creative and contributing with writing, music, or cinematography or even consuming some of that alternative media outside of what VH-1 spoon feeds us, it’s worth trying and thinking about.

Remember .reminiscing is OK, just make sure you return to 2004 when you’re done. It’s not bad here! Really!

And now, back to your regularly scheduled Groove Tube column

Opening Credits: “American Idol,” Donald Trump, Denis Leary, Howard Stern, Jesse Palmer, and “Captain Kangaroo”

“American Idol” returns with a BANG (and Trump feels the wrath )

Well, it’s official. “American Idol” isn’t losing any steam. In fact, it’s gaining enough steam to power a 10-ton locomotive up a steep hill.

This past week, Fox broadcasted the first three episodes of “American Idol” third season. The first several episodes primarily show the famous judges, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul weeding through thousands of “Idol” wannabes in various large, metropolitan cities across the United States. Simon, Randy, and even Paula shoot down most contestants and that’s funny. The wannabes think they have talent and are offended when they are told when they don’t. That’s pretty funny too. It’s also interesting to see who makes the cut but it’s largely inconsequential since more than 100 people go to Hollywood for the next round of cuts. It’s pretty hard to latch onto a favorite performer.

Nonetheless, as Zap2it noted, if Fox executives were even the slightest bit worried about whether or not “Idol” would continue to be relevant and garner a large viewing audience, they can throw that throw that worry out the window and sit back and enjoy.

Amazingly, the first three episodes of the show averaged more than 28 million viewers per night (aired Monday, 1/19 Wednesday, 1/21) showing the public is not only tolerant of the talent show/singing contest/search for a new pop culture icon, but it is still welcoming the show and its stars with open arms.

Obviously, this is relevant for the Fox network because it provides ratings gold for the second half of the 2003-04 season and it’s relevant for the people associated with “American Idol” because it basically allows Simon, Randy, and Paula to decide if they want to keep doing this another year or two. However, “Idol’s” success is relevant for two other reasons:

1. “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance’s” Success – Thanks to the best lead-in possible, Fox’s newest reality show (reviewed later in this column) secured more than 19 million viewers, the most for a network series premiere in over a year. I don’t see it very likely that the show will maintain those numbers for its run seeing as it is being moved to its own slot on, but it got off to a great start thanks to the success of “American Idol.”

2. NBC’s Prime Time Lineup – It’s amazing to think one show could completely alter about 30% of ANOTHER network’s prime time schedule, but that is precisely what “American Idol” has done to NBC. The Peacock initially put its new reality series, the Donald Trump led, “The Apprentice” on Thursday nights for two weeks and planned to move it to make room for its normal comedy lineup from 8-10:00 PM (EST) with “ER” rounding out the night from 10-11:00 PM. However, the one night “The Apprentice” was moved to Wednesdays, opposite “Idol” on its regular night, it was trounced in the ratings and also lost about seven million viewers it had on Thursday nights. So, to counter, NBC has rearranged its lineup as follows for the near future:

Tuesdays

8:00 PM (EST) “Whoopi”
8:30 “Happy Family” (both shows rearranging their timeslots again)
9:00 “Frasier”
9:30 “Scrubs” (previously on at 8:30 on Thursdays)
10:00 “Law & Order: SVU”

Thursdays

8:00 PM (EST) “Friends”
8:30 “Will & Grace” (previously on at 9:00 on Thursdays)
9:00 “The Apprentice”
10:00 “ER”

Meanwhile, “The Tracy Morgan Show” essentially gets put in a car and dropped off in the middle of the desert as it moves to Saturday nights (from Tuesdays) and one of my favorites, “Good Morning, Miami” still remains on the shelf postponing its return to the Thursday, 9:30 slot it vacated when “Coupling” bombed unmercifully.

According to Zap2it, NBC’s Head of Scheduling, Mitch Metcalf, said the following in a statement:

Two of the hottest shows on television right now are ‘The Apprentice’ and ‘American Idol.’ We think it’s a disservice to viewers to have them squaring off against each other. We consider these moves a ‘win-win’ for NBC and the audience.

While he has a point, he’s basically saying “We’re scared to death of ‘American Idol’ and will likely putting mostly junk in whatever timeslot the show ends up in.”

See what one little successful show can do to the primetime schedule of a whole other network? Pretty interesting really

NBC says WHOOPS We got a little carried away

According to Zap2it, NBC has admitted they got a little carried away with their promos crowning “Friends” as the best comedy in the history of the network. The article on the site stated that since TV critics and people affiliated with “Frasier” hemmed and hawed about the apparent honor it supposedly bestowed on “Friends,” the network has removed those promos and will nor run them anymore.

NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks told the Associated Press:

They were just trying to hype it. It ran once and it won’t run again.”

Meanwhile, fans of “Seinfeld,” “Cheers,” “The Cosby Show,” and “Frasier” have let out a long sigh of relief that those promos won’t be seen again…

TV is better when Denis Leary is on it

According to various sources, including Reuters and TV Barn, FX has ordered 13 episodes of a new drama (which will probably be close to a dramedy) entitled “Rescue Me.” The show will star accomplished comic and actor Denis Leary as he plays Tommy Gavin, a firefighter who is trying to hide his fear of his job post-9/11 while recovering from his recent divorce.

In the article, when Leary talks about his character, he says that Tommy is:

a really conflicted, funny and screwed-up character, which to me is always the most fun guy to play.

So, while the show will be a drama, it appears Leary will have ample opportunity to flex the comedic muscles he’s developed over the years, which is certainly good for the show.

While it may seem a bit ironic to include humor in such a show that tells stories in such a stressful environment, it’s actually pretty normal according to the actor. In a Reuters/Hollywood Reporter story, he said:

There is a lot of humor in the fire department. Even after 9-11, these guys get by with their sense of humor. I thought it was an interesting dynamic to have to deal with that amount of grief and that (post-Sept. 11) circumstance and at the same time go to work every day and fight fires going in there with the sensibility that it could be your last day at work.

I like the possibility of this show, A LOT. The main character sounds quirky enough where viewers could respect his plight and grow to like him. Leary sounds like a good choice to play the lead, especially since it won’t always be straight drama all the time. However, when it needs to be intense, Leary has the kind of personality that can easily slip into a more dramatic mode.

The subject matter also is quite unique as it not only deals with firefighters alone (NBC’s “Third Watch” has storylines revolving around cops and paramedics as well), but in addition, captures their reaction to life as a fire fighter in New York City after September 11th. FX has already struck gold with “The Shield” and “Nip/Tuck.” I think it’s quite possible; they could be a lock to get third solid show to their arsenal.

Two shows that WERE chugging along end up heading to the graveyard

Sometimes, it just isn’t working anymore and even though it might be hard to say good-bye, it’s probably necessary.

That’s what CBS and Fox were up against this week as the former sends network staple “Becker” off into syndication heaven after six seasons, while the latter says “farewell” to the formerly popular “Boston Public,” finishing its fourth.

CBS kicking “Becker” to the curb isn’t a huge surprise. It always did well enough in the ratings to get renewed from one season to the next, but it’s hardly the memorable show like its network counterpart, “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Danson also noted in a story on Zap2it that he pretty much saw it coming after the show wasn’t picked up at the beginning of last summer and picked up later instead.

Fox’s situation with “Boston Public” is probably a little more tenuous. The network hasn’t officially “canceled” the show to this point, but it has suspended production and yanked it from the February sweeps schedule, likely signaling the end of its run.

This particular (likely) cancellation is a bit harder to take. The writers and producers, led by David E. Kelley, told some stories that were not only interesting and worth tuning for, but poignant and relevant as well. However, Kelley was forced to deal with a cast with high turnover and a damaging move to the Friday night schedule where its’ audience was reduced to under five million viewers per episode. That simply won’t get it done on network TV.

Even worse, “Boston Public” fell short of the 100-episode requirement for syndication, so the show will likely get sent off to purgatory never to be seen again.

For viewers of the show, let’s keep our fingers crossed that another network becomes the show’s “knight in shining armor.” After all, wouldn’t it be a nice Sunday night show on the NBC lineup? Or perhaps it would fit nicely right before “Alias” on ABC’s Sunday night lineup. Even better, it could slide in perfectly on Wednesday nights instead of “Celebrity Mole.” I like the possibilities if it gets a chance

“The Bachelor” scores a touchdown

According to multiple sources, including TV Barn.com, National Football League (NFL) Quarterback, Jesse Palmer has been chosen to be the next “Bachelor” and he will have his choice of 25 beautiful women as the “competition” dictates. The show is set to debut in April, steering clear of Palmer’s official NFL commitments.

Palmer, now free to sign with any NFL team, most recently played for the New York Giants and acted primarily as a second string back-up player to the first string quarterback, Kerry Collins. However, due to an injury to Collins, Palmer stepped in and played the last three games of the Giants’ unsuccessful 2003 season.

In a dreadfully canned statement, “The Bachelor” creator Mike Fleiss stated:

To have an NFL quarterback as a Bachelor is a real coup. “If you lined up all the greatest bachelors who have ever applied to be on the show, Jesse would definitely be our No. 1 draft pick.

This news strikes my fancy for two reasons:

1. After the last installment of this series with Bob Guiney as “The Bachelor” didn’t fare so well in the ratings, I was surprised ABC was that supportive of bringing the show back for an additional run this season. However, with the continued strong numbers of “The Bachelorette,” perhaps it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise.

2. While the statement was dumb, Mr. Fleiss had a good point about Palmer being a “No. 1 draft pick.” Shows like “The Bachelor” and its counterpart, “The Bachelorette” aren’t exactly male friendly. If the writers and producers can do anything to change that, like throwing a fairly prominent NFL player into the mix to see what he does and how he reacts to the spotlight and the affections of 25 women, then it’s definitely a score for the alphabet network.

On the next “ABC News Special” Howard Stern will interview

According to the New York Post and the man himself on his national syndicated radio show, Howard Stern has signed a deal with ABC to host a primetime news special featuring interviews with other celebrities.

It isn’t clear who will be on the show or even when it will air, but shock-jock Stern confirmed the deal and publicly fantasized about who he would like to interview (Saddam Hussein because of all the sex as part of his regime, Charles Manson, David Letterman, and Kathy Lee Gifford to name a few ).

He also said on his show that he demanded to become part of the ABC News staff, but the network refused because it was afraid of the backlash of current prominent news personalities (and the whole news department).

I think this is a terrific move from an entertainment standpoint. I’m pretty tired of Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer leading these interviews that are either snoozefests or obnoxious, obvious, overbearing attempts to “uncover the truth” about a celebrity’s life. Stern will provide some pizzazz and some entertaining interviews to the viewing audience that’s great.

However, the network has to be concerned about Howard taking an “ABC NEWS Special” and turning into something not in the same area code as terms like informative and respectful. Nonetheless, the deal is signed, so it will be fun to see the sparks fly.

Quick Hits

RIP Captain Kangaroo Bob Keeshan, the kind hearted, warm, thoughtful man who enriched children’s television for more than decades passed away this week at his home in Vermont after battling a long illness. He was 76.

Keeshan is best known to the American public as the man who played “Captain Kangaroo” for more than 30 years first on CBS until its cancellation in 1984, then for several more seasons on PBS.

Also, many people don’t know before he got his own show, in the late 1940s and 1950s, the very early days of television, Keeshan also played Clarabell the clown on the very popular children’s show, “The Howdy Doody Show.”

Whether he was a clown or the “Captain,” he still brought joy and happiness to several generations of children and he will be missed sorely.

Seth Cohen movie star? Something like that – Filmstew.com and TV Guide.com reported that Adam Brody, the young man who plays the sarcastic, yet lovable, Seth Cohen on Fox’s surprise hit, “The O.C.,” has been cast in Doug Liman’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith, a film starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as a bored married couple who are surprised to discover they are both assassins hired to kill each other.

Brody will play Hector, a young man kidnapped early in the film only to reappear later in an “unexpected twist.”

It appears he’s going to have a pretty prominent role in the film. I bet he’s just psyched to work with Brad and Angelina. ( I know I’d be )

Thank God “Man vs. Beast: Part II” Looks like ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser is going to get his wish. He’s yelped continuously on his national radio show and his television offering, “Pardon the Interruption” about how great of a concept and show this is. Now. Fox is bringing back another special.

The show, slated for February 20, will bring to the airwaves another series of competitions between human beings and animals because we all are eager to know “Who can jump a longer distance? An Olympic athlete or a cheetah?” Considering the first special that aired in January of 2003 secured 9.2 million viewers opposite “The West Wing” and “The Bachelorette,” it almost seemed like a no-brainer to give it another shot to see how it does. I’m just not sure I’ll be watching

CBS did alright this season According to TV Guide.com, last week, “Two and a Half Men” received an early vote of confidence from CBS in the form of a second season pick-up. In addition, the site also reported that renewals were also issued to fellow first year hits “Joan of Arcadia,” “Cold Case,” and “Navy NCIS.” That isn’t much of a surprise considering all those programs have scored in the ratings. CBS is lucky to have so many survivors from the 2003-04 season.

— To find out about what “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and American Wedding cutie Alyson Hannigan will be doing for NBC in the near future, click here .

— Finally, believe it or not, I think we’ve found a reason to watch UPN’s “America’s Next Top Model.” One word: ORGY!

A quick word about “Carmen & Dave”

This week, MTV debuted their newest “Let’s follow the lives of a musician and person or people associated with a musician” reality series, “Carmen & Dave.” This time, the show’s viewers will receive the “pleasure” of tailing the famous buxom babe, Carmen Electra and her beau of three years, Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction as they finalize their wedding plans.

Now, while it’s certainly hard to fault MTV for going in this direction since “The Osbournes” and “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica” have been so wildly popular, successful in the ratings, and provider of many more opportunities to the people associated with the productions. However, the beauty of “The Osbournes” and “Newlyweds” is that they capture the stars in those shows in their natural habitat, at their homes, as they work, as they travel or whatever the situation dictates. Even though the participants or stars know the cameras are there and appear (at least from what I can see as a viewer) to live their lives and do their things as normal as possible. Then, from there, the hi-jinks ensue and yearbook quotes are captured. They get the footage and the producers do what they see fit with it.

Well, unfortunately, it appears producers of “Carmen & Dave” have given the stars of their show a little bit more control and they end up playing to the camera and looking pretty obnoxious in the process.

I just get the feeling that when MTV approached these two about this opportunity, the exchange between Carmen and Dave went something like this:

Carmen: C’mon Dave We’d earn a boat load of money and gets loads of media exposure, which will be good for my .I mean, OUR careers.

Dave: Do we have to do this? I’m not really into it.

Carmen: DAMN IT! Yes, we HAVE TO do this. If you don’t, you’re cut off if you know what I mean.

Dave: Fine.

Carmen: Good. I’m glad we got that cleared up. Besides, you will learn to like it

So, the show involves direct contact with cameras in the form of interviews, including an annoying, played up sequence where the two lovebirds debate when exactly they had sex for the first time. Also, Carmen, and a lesser degree Dave, narrate certain events like the day they had the picture taken for their wedding invitations made. They decided to pose naked in a morgue scene exemplifying the “‘Til Death Do Us Part” part of the wedding vows. Dave explained it was part of their personality. I’ll have to take his word for it since I don’t know him, but it still sounds like a dopey stunt to me.

The stars being more involved in the storytelling wouldn’t be that bad. However,the problem is that Carmen and, to a lesser degree, Dave spend a great deal of time acting annoying, playing up for the camera, and basically creating an audition tape several hours long showing producers and Hollywood executives that they have good camera presence and should be considered for future projects.

That one aspect alone makes this new MTV offering irritating and frustrating to watch.

The debut episode did secure 3.3 million viewers though, likely a winner according to cable television standings. I guess the challenge will be to see if it can be maintained or if the rest of the audience gets as annoyed as I did

Closing Credits: He’s big, fat, and definitely obnoxious but the show is OK, I guess

Fox debuted its new reality uh phenomenon? sensation? spectacle? Why don’t we just call it high rated show and move on.

After all, it’s difficult to classify a reality show as a phenomenon or a sensation when the end result is a lot of betrayal and hurt feelings. However, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the debut of the show garnered close to 20 million viewers and a heaping amount of media coverage to boot .

Whether we like it or not, “My Big, Fat Obnoxious, Fiance” has made his appearance and he isn’t going away.

I think one question needs to be answered before we go any further: What’s the big deal?

Well, this offering from Fox follows two distinctly different, yet interwoven storylines that come together on one magical wedding day.

First, Randi Coy, a cute, innocent, 23-year old first grade teacher from Scottsdale, AZ, must convince her family and close friends that she met a “big, fat, obnoxious” guy named “Steve” on a reality show entitled “Whirlwind Wedding” and has fallen madly in love and plans getting married just several weeks after first meeting.

Of course, the way the guy looks and acts, he comes off as a cross between Bluto (John Belushi) from Animal House and Tommy Callahan (Chris Farley) from the first half-hour of Tommy Boy. So, Randi knows she is going to have a large amount of difficulty trying to convince her hard-to-please family and friends that this dolt is really the man of her dreams. If she can do that, she and “Steve” can do the same with his family will win $500,000 each, half of which her parents and family get and the other half she keeps for herself.

The second intriguing storyline involved here is that “Steve” and his family that will be introduced later on are all just actors in on the plot to make this as hard and painful as possible on Randi and her family. So, since “Steve” is in on the joke, Randi and her family will actually win $1 million, not $500,000. Of course, the actors will make it as hard as possible for Randi to win the contest and the money.

The ending of the first episode is a clear-cut example of the misery Randi will experience during this process. While she is giving an interview to the producers in her bedroom, “Steve” is running around the mansion they are staying in just wearing his bathing suit, (apparently) drunk while holding a champagne bottle before he collapses into the outside hot tub. In the mean time, she starts out with a mortified look on her face, which quickly turns to sadness accompanied with mascara filled tears.

Let the fun begin

So, this show has elements of a lot of already existing reality shows mixed in. The fact a wedding is involved reminds of “The Bachelor.” Considering there are actors pulling a fast one on the contestants, there’s a dash of “The Joe Schmo Show.” Also, since the joke will eventually be revealed, it could be argued that there’s some sort of “Punk’d” and/or “Candid Camera” hybrid involved here. Finally, since one of the storylines Randi getting her friends and family to play along without getting mad and boycotting the wedding, it could be concluded that there’s an element of the new MTV show “Boiling Points” here as well. It’s just on a grander scale though “Boiling Points: 3 days and get through the wedding; Prize: $1 million).

There is certainly a lot going on here. At face value, “My Big, Fat Obnoxious, Fiance” is a great show with two interesting reality-esque storylines unfolding in a way that hasn’t been done before. Throw in some dramatic, albeit slightly campy, editing and it gets the attention of the audience. However, the grumpy critics have brought up a good point by asking this question:

Has this gone too far?

After all, it’s one thing for Randi to be involved since she was dumb enough to sign up for the potential perils of a reality TV show. Also, it’s another thing to fool someone on “Punk’d,” “Candid Camera” or “Boiling Points” for a short period of time (usually no more than an hour or so) before uncovering the joke.

However, this mean joke puts Randi’s friends and family through an emotional roller coaster over a fairly long period of time and leads up all the way second Randi and “Steve” get married. Randi may have asked for it, but the people close to her didn’t. In that regard, it comes off as a mean, nasty, ridiculous attempt at drama mixed with humor.

If the audience is willing to either forget or accept that as the show goes forward (and I suspect many will), then definitely tune in. If not, well, you probably have 100 or 150 other channels to choose from.

Either way

Enjoy the show!

— Coogan