Mr. Coogans Weekend Groove Tube Update 04.05.04

OPENING CREDITS: Quotes of the week

I love crossovers

During the most recent episode of “Will & Grace,” Jack (Sean Hayes) finds himself in the market for a new “straight woman” friend since Karen (Megan Mullally) will be marrying Lyle Finster (John Cleese) and she informed him that they couldn’t spend time together anymore. After settling on somebody, Karen comes back to snap up Jack’s heart and friendship again. Well, Jack has to break the bad news and in doing so borrowed a billionaire’s famous phrase

“You’re fired “

Classy

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Seth Cohen always good for a laugh

Seth Cohen (Adam Brody), one of the main characters on Fox’s prime time soap opera, “The O.C.”, is always good for some quality one-liners especially this one after finding out Marissa’s mom, Julie, is hooking up with Marissa’s ex-boyfriend, Luke.

“Maybe they just go to the motel and spoon and watch Charlie Rose.”

I know that’s what I do with my girlfriend

(Thanks to Zap2it‘s TV Gal column for the quality quote )

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Looks like Entertainment Weekly‘s Josh Wolk was thinking the same thing as me

If you saw the most recent episode of the San Diego season of “The Real World,” you probably noticed that the cast must have taken a high school English class and learned what “symbolism” is. Josh Wolk certainly noticed and he couldn’t help but talk about it.

“Okay, fess up: who taught the ‘Real World’ housemates the word ‘symbolism’? They spent the entire (March 30th) episode using their new favorite term to describe how the snake and the mouse were like Frankie and Robin. They used it like an 8-year-old would use a new bike. Through sheer repetition, they got me believing Frankie and Robin were a snake and mouse, but had they repeated that Frankie was like a sweatband and Robin was like a pack of Bubble Yum this many times, I would have been indoctrinated into repeating that, too.”

Frankie is a sweatband .Robin is a pack of Bubble Yum Got it

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TV HEADLINES: “The Simpsons,” Seinfeld, Seth McFarlane and his little show, and Jessica Simpson’s husband

Is “The Simpsons” in trouble?

In an era where scripted television shows lasting more than five years is about as rare as a witty monologue coming out of Jessica Simpson’s mouth, that makes the successful 15-year run of Fox’s “The Simpsons” even more remarkable. Yet, it could all be history in the coming months if the network and its studio don’t renegotiate the contracts of the six actors who provide all the voices to the key characters.

According to Lloyd Grove, the new gossip columnist for the New York Daily News, and several other sources, Dan Castellaneta (who voices Homer, Krusty the Clown and others), Julie Kavner (Marge and others), Hank Azaria (Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum and others), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (Lisa) and Harry Shearer (Montgomery Burns, Ned Flanders and others) have joined in a united front to demand a huge raise from the network. This is remarkably similar to the way the cast of “Friends” previously stood together and vowed that none of them would go on the show without equal, but substantial, raises. It could also be argued that the voice providers for “The Simpsons” have as much power as the cast of “Friends” because just as it would be impossible to replace all the “Friends” actors because of their unique talents and remarkable familiarity with the viewers. Insanely faithful fans of the show would probably go berserk if executives and producers attempted to air new episodes without the people that bring the characters to life with those voices that have been part of the show for so long.

Grove addresses an interesting point when he notes that Fox has (conservatively) earned hundreds of millions of dollars from the show whether it’s in new shows, bloated syndication deals, DVD sales, or other knick-knack merchandise like shirts, coffee mugs, and dolls that attach to car windows and moon fellow travelers. The six actors merely want “their share” of the profits, which they believe isn’t being met. Currently, they make less than $1 million per season. They are interested in approximately an 800% raise each to $8 million per season. It sounds a bit ludicrous since very few people can negotiate 800% raises, but considering the money Fox makes from “The Simpsons,” is it really that outrageous?

Whether it seems ridiculous or not, Fox needs to fix this problem quickly because “The Simpsons” won’t really work if all of the characters are voiced by different people. Also, the advertising “upfronts” are coming up next month. This significant event in the television industry is where networks release their Fall 2004-05 prime-time schedules and, from there, most of the television advertising of the year is purchased in a swap meet of sorts. If Fox can’t guarantee the network staple will anchor Sunday nights as it has for the last 15 years, that could really hurt the network where it hurts the most: in the wallet.

Grove also says that Fox is not used to being told “no” and isn’t use to hold outs like this. While that may be the case, I believe that in the end, everything will work out and the cast will get the big, fat raise like they desire. After all, do you think the network will ever have a show this successful again? I certainly can’t see “American Idol: Season 16” in the future, can you?

Seinfeld’s coming back???

In a two-part interview aired this week on the syndicated entertainment news/celebrity gossip program, “Extra,” mega-successful comedian and former sitcom star, Jerry Seinfeld very briefly talked about the fact that he’s in talks with NBC to bring another scripted show to the airwaves in the near future. However, according to New York Daily News television critic, Richard Huff, Seinfeld quickly stopped himself and said “Oh, I can’t talk about that yet.”

In the interview, Huff noted that Seinfeld also mentioned that he’s always finding new material simply living at home, watching his wife (Jessica Sklar) and two kids “do the insane things they do” and writing about it. Huff thinks that these comments signify that he may be interested in doing a family comedy as opposed to revisiting his adult geared comedy “that’s about nothing.” I think he has a fair point. Though, there’s no doubt in my mind that if Seinfeld decides to create (and probably star in) any sort of family comedy, it will be done his way and that likely means it will be against the norm of what typical family comedy is.

Seinfeld has an extraordinary knack to take the little things in life, the things we constantly take for granted and turn them into absurd events that we, as people, should not only laugh at, but almost be ashamed of too. Then while working with “Seinfeld” co-creator, Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), they would take those little things in life like a little white lie, a facial expression, or a perceived notion of being polite, mix them together and tell crazy, yet brilliant and funny, stories that really didn’t stem from anything when “Seinfeld” was at its peak in the 1990s.

The question is: Could something like this work with a family comedy? If Seinfeld and David got together again, I think it certainly could be a hit for the peacock. The mere presence of Seinfeld on the screen and David’s name in the writing credits could attract millions of viewers. Whether or not it could be sustained over a period of time would probably depend on if the writing remains funny and if it differs at least somewhat from the original show. After all, a family comedy that completely mirrors the old sitcom may not fly with the faithful viewing audience.

Either way, I’m interested to see if anything from Mr. Seinfeld comes to fruition.

It’s official “Family Guy” is BACK!

Several months ago, I addressed, at length, the possible return of Fox’s cult sitcom hit “Family Guy.” There was a lot of scuttlebutt surrounding the show’s future and all signs pointed to a brand new season being produced. However, there was never an actual announcement about the number of episodes in the season, when they would air, and most importantly, if the whole story was true.

Well, as reported by multiple news outlets, including Zap2it, everything is confirmed. New episodes of “Family Guy” will be appearing in the spring of 2005, more than three years after its’ last original episode aired (the last episode aired in February 2002).

You don’t believe me? Maybe Gary Newman President of 20th Century Fox TV (the company that produces the series) can convince you. He said in a recent Zap2it article:

This is incredibly exciting for everyone at Fox. The overwhelming response to ‘Family Guy’ this past year is a real tribute to Seth’s vision and talent. … We’re thrilled for Seth, we’re thrilled for his fans, and to be honest we’re thrilled for our teenage kids who threatened to emancipate themselves if we didn’t figure out a way to bring the show back.

The one piece of business that HASN’T been taken care of is figuring out exactly where the new episodes will air. It appears that the Cartoon Network will be airing the new episodes regardless of what the Fox executives decide to do with the show. The network has first refusal to air the new episodes, which basically means if they don’t want the new installments (and I’m not sure why they wouldn’t ), Cartoon Network would air all the new episodes exclusively. As it is, the repeats outdraw original episodes of Leno, Letterman, Kimmel, and Kilborn during late night television in the hard-to-reach 18-24 male demographic. I am sure the cable network is frothing at the mouth with the prospect of airing new episodes.

Personally, after this, I’d be immensely surprised if Fox didn’t hop on the “Family Guy” bandwagon again. This is the same network that tried out the dopey reality game show “Playing it Straight” before pulling it this week. Why not give “Family Guy” another chance? I think if the network was smart, they would nestle it in nicely at 8:30 Sunday nights right after “The Simpsons” (assuming they work out the financial issues ) and right before “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Arrested Development.” Fox calls its Sunday lineup “LOL Sunday.” A “Family Guy” return to that night would certainly cement that title as accurate for the network.

Ashton’s a funny guy!!

Oh, the irony Ashton Kutcher is really deep, isn’t he? As multiple news sources reported this week, Kutcher’s successful MTV celebrity prank show, “Punk’d” actually WILL BE coming back for a third season that is set to debut April 25th. In January, Kutcher told the Associated Press the following about his future projects and why he wouldn’t have time for the prank show:

Let’s put it this way I’m getting ready to start shooting two movies, I’m still working on “That ’70s Show,” I’m producing two other shows for MTV and creating a one-hour drama pilot for Fox … I don’t have the time.

There was some speculation that Kutcher was “punk’ing” the general public but when the story went away without much more controversy, it was accepted as fact and we all tried to cope with the loss of seeing the star’s cocky, dopey, dirty mug on our television screen mercilessly ridiculing the celebrities he was playing jokes on.

Well, turns out that he did “punk” everyone after all as MTV announced on April 1st that the popular show actually WOULD return for an all-new season. So, not only did he “punk” everyone successfully, the truth came out on the one day of the year where jokes and pranks are pulled and half-truths, and boldfaced lies are told with such regularity, that it’s almost expected. I don’t want to feed his ego, but well done Ashton .well done

Meanwhile, I’ve heard this question recently and I think it’s worth posing: Is Ashton Kutcher a better producer than an actor? The obvious flip answer would be “Of course, he’s a better producer he can’t act for shit.” However, if we look at the question a little deeper and consider that he has already produced a hit show for MTV (a fairly difficult task if it’s independent of “TRL,” Jessica Simpson, or “The Real World”), has two more shows brewing with MTV and possibly a drama deal with Fox, could this guy actually have a knack for being a great television producer like Aaron Spelling (“Dynasty,” “Beverly Hills, 90210,” and “7th Heaven” for example) or Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner (“The Cosby Show” and “Roseanne”)? Obviously, the jury is still out on whether or not this young pup has the chops to create television success on a regular basis and with a little more tact and intelligence. However, I’ll ask this: Would you rather see The Butterfly Effect or a “Punk’d” marathon? I know what I’m choosing

Isn’t ONE “The Practice” spin off enough???

According to several sources including the New York Post‘s Michael Starr, ABC is considering a SECOND spin off from the wildly successful legal drama, “The Practice.” In addition to the second legal drama that will star James Spader, the alphabet is in talks to bring Camryn Manheim and the character she plays, Eleanor Frutt, back for a half-hour sitcom. Apparently, the story will revolve around Eleanor moving back to her hometown and reconnecting with her sisters.

You’re kidding, right?

If ABC was interested in putting together a comedy using current characters on “The Practice,” they should have had James Spader star IN THAT show instead of another legal drama. Spader’s character, Alan Shore, is obviously a nut job, but he’s proven he can be funny too.

In all the time “The Practice” has even been on the air, I’ve barely even seen Eleanor smile, let alone get into any “wacky” situations that could make an audience laugh. Even when the character had a baby, usually a happy time in a woman’s life, that process was mired with depression and sadness when the sperm donator decided he wanted custody of the kid. Unbelievable

This, of course, isn’t meant to diminish the acting ability of Ms. Manheim. I’m sure she has the ability to make a comic turn. However, I’d be perfectly content if “The Practice” went off the air and Eleanor continued to live in her parallel universe as an intense, emotional, dreary life After all, I don’t expect David Schwimmer to reprise his role as “Ross Gellar” from “Friends” in an adventure series devoted to the wonders of paleontology. I don’t want to see the cast of “Scrubs” move to Chicago and take over for half the cast on “ER” and I don’t want to see a comedy spin off from a successful legal drama like “The Practice.”

***Quick Hits***

*** “The Sopranos” and “Friends” have a connection! – It was announced this week that Drea de Matteo, currently guest starring as an FBI mole on HBO’s mob drama, “The Sopranos,” will be joining the cast of NBC’s “Friends” spin-off “Joey.” De Matteo will play Joey’s (Matt LeBlanc reprising his role as Joey Tribbiani) hairdresser sister as they live in Los Angeles while Joey pursues his acting career further.

Best known for her recent performances as mob informant and love interest for Christopher (Michael Imperioli) on “The Sopranos,” de Matteo has enjoyed some very interesting and gripping scenes that are not only vital to the plot development, but have required her to dig deep and provide some valuable acting. She’s been forced to realize what it may be like to be an informant for the government and against the supposed love of her life.

Despite the dramatic turn on the HBO show, she’ll essentially be doing a 180, moving from probably the most intense drama on television to one of the lightest comedies. Not only will she be able to sink her teeth into a brand new part, it will also be on one of the most highly anticipated sitcoms with the greatest expectations on television. While actors and actresses move from show to show all the time, I do find it interesting that this little known actress will be taking part in two potentially huge franchises Don’t you?

*** Nick Lachey to play a supporting character again – Already forced to play second fiddle to his beautiful, quirky, and more successful musical wife, Jessica Simpson, singer/recent “newlywed,” Nick Lachey will play a supporting role on the new ABC comedy “Hot Mamma.” In the show, Lachey will play a struggling actor who acts as an “errand boy” (in exchange for free board) to wedding planner/single mom played by the wildly beautiful Gina Gershon.

Normally, I don’t like to write about all of the pilot casting news in these columns because there is so much of it and there is no guarantee that these shows make it onto the networks’ fall schedules. However, I couldn’t pass this one up What is Mr. Lachey thinking? It’s apparent he is seeking to separate himself from his wife and do his own projects and I respect that. C’mon though He’ll be acting as a supporting character in a cast where the main characters are women. How is that any different from his life at home with Jessica when the cameras are on? If he wants to separate himself from his wife, why not hold out for HIS OWN series? All I know is every time I see the show, I’ll be thinking of Jessica and isn’t he trying to avoid that? Oh well his loss

*** Looks like it will just be “Will” for a while – Is it me or is one of the following two things likely? 1) Either Debra Messing’s (Grace Adler on NBC’s “Will & Grace”) belly has grown since the sixth week of her pregnancy. Or 2) Debra Messing has been pregnant for close to 11 months. I just feel like she’s been pregnant FOREVER…

That leads to the news that Messing has been ordered by her doctors to stay off her feet for the remainder of her pregnancy according to multiple sources including TVGuide.com and Zap2it. Apparently, she isn’t ill or in any danger, the order is primarily precautionary. Nonetheless, this is significant because Messing and her character, Grace, will be missing the final four episodes of the season, including (SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD .) Karen’s (Megan Mullally) season ending wedding to Lyle Finster (Guest Star: John Cleese). Apparently, Grace will be written out of those episodes and the explanation will be that she has fallen ill and unable to attend any events surrounding the ceremony.

***But I LIKE Briscoe!!! – According to E! Online, Jerry Orbach will be leaving NBC’s original “Law & Order” at the end of this season. Orbach, who plays the funny, sarcastic, yet tough, detective, Lenny Briscoe, has the distinction of having the longest tenure with the show, an impressive 12 of the 14 years the show has been on the air.

Unfortunately, the show will lose one of its best cast members, but there is a strong possibility that Orbach will resurface on the 4th edition of “Law & Order” franchise, titled “Trial by Jury.” The newest show will be a “modern day ‘Perry Mason'” and focus on the trial aspect of the criminal justice system according to the E! Online article. The casting hasn’t been confirmed yet and it is unclear how Orbach will reprise the Detective Briscoe character in the show, especially since it’s a show that will focus on trials instead of criminal capture. I hope he isn’t going too far away I like him too much.

CLOSING CREDITS: Is “Dream Job” a good thing for ESPN? I’m still not sure

Last Sunday, ESPN’s newest attempt to branch out from strictly sports related programming, “Dream Job” ended with University of Missouri journalism student, Mike Hall, winning the one year contract to be an on air broadcast talent. Hall won the competition after being one of more than 10,000 people who answered the initial casting call and being the “last man standing” after the field was narrowed down to 12 finalists who were eliminated one or two at a time for the last six weeks.

With Hall’s victory, he was awarded a brand new Mazda 3 automobile and, after answering a series of easy trivia questions during a “Sportscenter” segment, a handsome annual salary of $95,000. Not bad for a journalism major just finishing up his Bachelor’s Degree.

It could be argued that Hall was not the only winner of the “Dream Job” competition. After all, Mark Shapiro, ESPN’s Executive Vice-President of Original Programming was quoted in a Los Angeles Daily News article saying that the “buzz and the ratings were beyond our expectations” (the two-hour finale averaged more than one million viewers, a rating boom for the all sports network). Shapiro also stated that they plan on doing a “Dream Job II” but didn’t say the next contest would necessarily award a position as a “Sportscenter” anchor, but perhaps a play-by-play role instead.

So, here we are ESPN is happy, the viewing public seems to be pretty happy since more people tuned into the all sports network during that timeslot, and Mike Hall is probably still walking on the clouds as he finishes his degree in Missouri. So, everything is great and worked out wonderfully, right?

I’m still not sure

There were some outstanding aspects about the show that I could really appreciate and respect. However, the show is far from perfect and leads me to believe that problems could arise down the line if the network continues with this glorified talent contest

But the good first

If there is one thing I can’t stand about “American Idol” it is the absolute triviality of the show and the treatment of its talent. When I say that, I refer to two separate issues that make the show less about the music making process and more about putting on the best, (and the tackiest) show possible. First, I get extraordinarily annoyed at the fact that the judges, Simon, Paula, Randy rarely offer any real constructive feedback to the people on stage singing their hearts out. Randy often makes dopey comments trying to sound like a witty, happening music executive attempting to infuse some ebonics into his speech when he says things like “It was aiiight, but I just wasn’t feelin’ it tonight.” What the hell does that mean? Then boy toy Ryan Seacrest asks what that is supposed to mean and what he can do to perform better and Randy will say something like “Well, he’s just gotta sing better dog.” How is that constructive to the contestant trying to be a professional singer? Then, after Paula offers some fluffy comments that don’t mean much, Simon usually says something completely demeaning after the singer gave a performance that most of the audience liked just to show he seems to know that the “it” factor is. None of the comments are helpful and very few of them are constructive in any way. This angers me.

Second, the “American Idol” producers seem to pay very little respect to the singing and “creating” process. When a competitor is about to go on stage, a video package is usually run showing approximately 3.5 seconds of real preparation time as he/she works with a vocal coach of some kind. The producers don’t pay any respect to the work and preparation it takes for the different competitors to try and become a successful singer. Instead, they focus on the performances themselves on a bright stage and ask the audience, 28 million viewers strong, to vote for their favorite performer. That’s a pretty difficult task considering everyone generally sounds the same and there were very few valuable comments to separate them.

I’m discussing “American Idol’s” weaknesses at length because I firmly believe that while the highly rated Fox talent contest fails in the area that points out “what a star is” and “how a star is born,” “Dream Job” picks up the slack and really shows what it takes to be a successful “Sportscenter” anchor and ESPN journalist. From the very beginning, the “Dream Job” judges (“PTI’s” Tony Kornhesier, “Cold Pizza’s” Kit Hoover, the NFL’s Washington Redskins player LaVar Arrington, and the network’s Vice-President for hiring on air talent, Al Jaffe) and show host, Stuart Scott, were very clear in what they were looking for in a successful, “Sportscenter” anchor. They expected the contestants to get the athletes’ names and facts right, tell a good story through the writing and producing, which included offering something that the viewer (probably) didn’t know before, inject some passion into their efforts, and while humor is respected, it needs to be injected properly and at a minimum.

If the contestants didn’t have a decent stage presence, didn’t offer adequate, clever writing, took the humor too far (an issue that some critics believe has already happened to some degree) or potentially damaged the credibility of the network with mispronunciations or incorrect facts, then the judges would let everyone know about it. While the judges didn’t tell the audience who they think should be considered the “best” and the “worst,” they were very up front about what they were looking for and even made sure to give helpful, constructive advice instead of saying “It was aiiight ” Since the audience voted and played a part in contestants being eliminated (like “American Idol”), it became helpful to see exactly what the judges were looking for in the next “Sportscenter” anchor. In fact, it was one of the most positive attributes of the show. To some degree, it really did evolve into an internship/extended job interview, especially since the tasks became more difficult each week. The viewers really got the feel of how difficult it really is to man the desk. Also, from a voyeuristic point of view, it was intriguing to see who would perform poorly and not make the cut.

Speaking of the extended job interview, that also reminds me of the not so good aspects of the program

When I think of “Dream Job” and I listen to accomplished sports broadcast journalists, it reminds me a lot of everyone’s favorite MTV/WWE reality show, “Tough Enough.” I think we all remember the three seasons of “finding the next WWE superstars.” In fact, several current superstars like Maven, and more prominently, Nidia and Miss Jackie, all got their start thanks to being victorious on the “Tough Enough” show. However, it was widely reported in various wrestling circles that the more experienced wrestlers who had been in the business wrestling in high school gyms and for small federations at the local Elks hall for just enough money to get a tank of gas for the car and a can of beans for the ride home were angry. After all, many of them busted their asses for years before they got noticed by Vince McMahon and his cast of talent evaluators. However, the “Tough Enough” contestants stepped right into a WWE contract after training with some solid superstars for just a couple of months.

Well, in many cases, sportscasters are in the same boat. If you’ve seen Howard Stern’s Private Parts, you’ll remember he toiled at a tiny radio station before moving onto stations in Hartford, CT, Detroit, and Washington D.C. before landing for good in New York City. Sportscasters often face a similar reality, moving from small market to small market before eventually making it big after struggling for many years.

Look at Mike Hall though Not only does he get to bypass the years of struggling in markets like Missoula, Montana, but he won a new car and a salary (remember the $95,000) higher than many of the old timers who have spent years struggling. The bottom line is that contests like this undermine the field of journalism. Sports reporters often hone their craft and essentially learn on the job locally for several years before making it to the national network. However, with “Dream Job,” it doesn’t matter if the competition winner has any relevant experience, it just matters that he/she beats out 10,000 other people who don’t have any relevant experience.

Some may argue that “experience” may not make much of a difference. If Hall has the talent and desire to succeed, then it shouldn’t matter how he got his start, it should just matter that he’s good enough to be a journalist. That’s a fair statement, but I have two points to counter that. First, what if you were a successful advertising executive who’s primed for a promotion and a raise for a job well done, but that job goes to someone who won a dopey reality show contest? The person has no experience. Yet, he is your boss and making $35,000 more than you. I believe that would be demeaning and inappropriate and I bet you, as the advertising guy, would be pretty ticked off by it. Come to think of it, “The Apprentice” has a pretty lousy concept too, doesn’t it? Either way, it’s degrading to those who have worked hard and deserve a chance to shine. Second, Mike Hall may have the talent and desire, but so do the guys like Brian Kenny and Michael Kim who toil on the low rated ESPN News. Why aren’t they getting a chance and a big raise? To be honest, I’d be pissed if I were one of those two dignified professionals. There is a lot of potential to create a hostile environment the same way on the “campus of Bristol (CT) University” it does might in the wrestling locker room.

So, is “Dream Job” a good thing or a bad thing? Personally, I think the jury is still out. Then again, if I were ESPN Executive, Mark Shapiro, and I saw good ratings and a lot of buzz surrounding the show, it would strictly be a good thing and everyone else who works there and not happy about it can pretty much go to hell. While that may be true, I just hope even the idea of what contests like this do to the field of journalism stays in the popular culture and media lexicon It really is something to consider.

In the mean time, baseball’s opening day is right around the corner, so I’ll tell you to

Enjoy the game(s)!

— Coogan