Mr. Coogans Monday Groove Tube Update 04.26.04

Do you ever have one of those weeks where a boat load of other commitments get in the way of activities you normally take part in religiously? Well, I have to say that for me, I’m faced with that problem this week and it relates to this column. While I hate “apologizing” for “not putting forth my best effort” and churning out one of my “usual” columns (loads of TV news, analysis, and opinion pieces), I do feel a bit obligated to let my loyal readership know that I’m abandoning my usual format this week and am just going to address a few different topics in the world of television before wrapping things up and getting to other projects that need to be wrapped up (or at least started ).

The “American Idol” fiasco

It’s a fairly dramatic headline, but to some people what happened on last week’s (April 21st) “American Idol” results show really was a fiasco mixed in with some tragedy and utter shock. After the Tuesday (April 20th) performance show where the seven remaining contestants sang Barry Manilow’s arrangements, it appeared to be evident that the end of the road was near for either John Stevens, the 16-year-old “crooner” who sings like Frank Sinatra without a fully developed Adam’s Apple and looks like the offspring of Cate Blanchett’s and Larry Bird’s genetic material or the very cute but very generic National Anthem singing Dixie chick, Diana DeGarmo.

However, during the Wednesday results show, the season’s first truly shocking and dramatic moment unfolded. In order to prolong the drama as much as possible, host/moderator/pretty boy, Ryan Seacrest took the six of the seven finalists and put them in two different groups. The “three divas,” Fantasia Barrino, Latoya London, and Jennifer Hudson were in one group. Meanwhile, Stevens, DeGarmo, and Hawaiian teenager, Jasmine Trias were in the other group. This was while energetic, Luther Vandross wannabe, George Huff was left hanging. Since “American Idol” always calls out the bottom three for the final segment, Seacrest left poor George hanging before the commercial break. When they returned from break, Ryan instructed George to stand with Group “B” led by John Stevens because THAT group was safe for the week. That means the “three divas” were the ones that received the fewest votes and were in danger of being eliminated. Naturally, everyone was in shock considering the three women have consistently performed exceptionally and exhibited a good enough stage presence to show they could possibly do it full-time. The judges (Simon, Paula, and Randy) pointed this out from the very beginning and once the announcement was made, they appeared to be disgusted that some real talent was being voted off the show, while John Stevens, dubbed by Simon as “not good enough” to be in the competition continues to move on. After it was deemed the Latoya was safe, it came down to Jennifer and Fantasia with Jennifer being sent packing.

Fans across the nation in support of Jennifer Hudson have demanded a recount because they felt she really didn’t deserve to be sent home this early in the competition. In addition, the plot thickens further because apparently, 15,000 people in the Chicago, IL area (Jennifer’s hometown), including her mom and sister who were ready to support their diva lost power the night of the voting and could not cast their electronic ballot. There are some people that believe if those in the area that lost power had the opportunity to vote, they could have significantly increased the number of votes for Jennifer therefore keeping her around at least another week. Is that accurate? I really don’t know since there’s no way of knowing how many of the people lost power would have voted for Jennifer and how many times they would have cast their ballot. Although, I view that line of reasoning as an excuse for a series of inconsistent performances instead of a valid excuse for being eliminated.

Now, the question that people are begging to have answered is “Why was Jennifer eliminated?” Or even more simply, “What did Jennifer do wrong? I think David Bloomberg of Reality News Online answers that question beautifully and offers several different, but valid, points to his arguments. My interpretation of his ideas in brief summary is it came down to two points that are pretty closely related: 1) She wasn’t consistent in her performances. 2) She wasn’t memorable. Attacking #2 first, David points out that during the round of 32, she did not secure support initially being forced to enter the Top 12 in the wild card round instead of getting voted in like some of the other contestants. In fact, when David asked a group of women at his house visiting his wife what he thought of the bottom 3 of the latest results show, they remembered Fantasia and Latoya but not Jennifer. Why would this be? That’s where #1 comes into play. While it’s evident she is a talented singer and DESERVED to be taking part in the competition, it took her several tries before she really belted out some quality performances that vaulted her into “contender” status. That could be due in part to poor song choices, but I think she also had a couple of shaky performances in the beginning as well. By that time, she didn’t attract the “fan base” that Fantasia and, to a lesser degree, Latoya (the other two of the “three divas) did and it led her to several instances where she was in the bottom three in the finals before eventually being eliminated last week.

As far as I am concerned, I am actually pleased that Jennifer was eliminated primarily because she seemed fake to me. Some say she was “cocky” in the way she acted because she was often pleased with her performances. If that was actually the case, I don’t necessarily think that was a problem. What bothered me the most about her was that she appeared to be cocky, ACTED humble and did a poor job in the process. She always knew she was good and that isn’t bad, especially since Fantasia (who I like more) has been very brazen and communicated very clearly that she thought she was great and that she was having a good time. The difference between Jennifer and Fantasia (at least in this regard) is that Jennifer appeared to take on a similar confident take and then make it seem like she was blessed, she really didn’t know how she got there, and she was so lucky and fortunate. I certainly don’t have a problem if a contestant is confident or humble, but when someone ACTS like he/she has one trait when he/she obviously has the other, and does a poor job in the process, I get really annoyed. That was the case with Jennifer, so, as far as I’m concerned, she can back to Chicago and piss and moan about her plight all she wants.

PS: Fantasia should have been bounced, not Jennifer ed.

Year-round new television programming you better start getting used to it!

In what I believe is a revolutionary change in the television industry, the broadcast networks have started to become resigned to following their cable network competitors and offer year-round NEW programming, including the summer. I’ll admit that the change isn’t completely new to the networks as it has been going on for more than ten years, most prominently appearing during the infamous “Brenda and Donna spend the summer in Paris while Dylan and Kelly fall in love back home” season on Fox’s “Beverly Hills, 90210.” In addition, CBS is broadcasting a fifth season of their moderate reality hit, “Big Brother” while NBC goes for a second round with “Last Comic Standing” and “For Love or Money.”

However, Fox did something completely different last week and announced the premieres of six new shows (several of which having repeat airings during the week), and that the new schedule will be revamped to fit in the new shows coming on and to bump off those that will not return until the fall. This will essentially ensure that Fox will not only be pumping out new programs with new episodes for the traditional “beginning” and “middle” of the seasons (September/October and January respectively ), but also at the “end” of the season as well. This will eliminate the customary television season and instead mimic what HBO and its sister cable network, FX have been doing with their original programming season. While this type of move isn’t brand new, Fox’s commitment to launching this many new shows and completely revamping its schedule in the process is significant when looking at the way the television industry works. For decades, the television season always went from September to May with the summer off and nothing but repeats on. During the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, this was perfectly acceptable because television watchers didn’t have several hundred other viewing options like they do now thanks to digital cable and satellite services like DirectTV. However, at this point in time, the broadcast networks need to do all they can to keep viewers interested instead of flipping to MTV, VH-1, ESPN, or HBO, playing video games, popping in their favorite DVD they purchased inexpensively at the large electronic store chain, or maybe even enjoying the summer sun, though that probably happens rarely anyway.

Fox Entertainment Chief, Gail Berman was quoted in an April 19th USA Today article as saying:

This is a pretty revolutionary thing. We are really announcing a year-round schedule that starts in June.

Indeed considering the network is obliterating the system that’s largely been in place for more than four decades in favor of what the young pups at the crazy cable networks are doing, I’d say it’s revolutionary indeed.

The new shows that will debut on the Fox network in June are:

**“North Shore” (Mondays at 8:00, encore Fridays at 8:00) An ensemble drama telling stories about the guests and staffers at a Hawaiian resort hotel.

**“The Casino” (Mondays at 9:00, encore Thursdays at 9:00) Another Mark Burnett produced reality show that will follow the massive project of rebuilding the legendary Las Vegas casino, The Golden Nugget.

**“The Jury” (Tuesdays at 9:00, encore Fridays at 9:00) According to The Washington Post‘s Lisa de Moraes:

‘The Jury,’ from Barry Levinson (Rain Man) and Tom Fontana (“Homicide: Life on the Street” and “Oz”), focuses on a jury trying to answer the questions posed by a trial. Facts of the case are shown to viewers in flashbacks; a final flashback after the verdict shows what really happened and whether the jurors made the right call.

**“Method and Red” (Wednesdays at 9:30) In this UPN-esque show that probably isn’t too far from reality, Method Man and Redman star as rappers who move to a gated community.

**“Quintuplets” (Wednesdays at 8:30, encore Sundays at 8:30) Andy Richter gets another chance with Fox as he stars in a comedy as a father with five 15-year-old teenage girls.

**“The Simple Life 2” (Wednesdays at 9:00) Clueless what normal life is like best friends, Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie, return for a second season of “The Simple Life.” However, instead of sending the girls to another small town in the middle of nowhere in the deep south, producers give them an RV and they travel to various “fun” places around the country. Do you think they’ll stay in hostels and do their own laundry at a laundromat too?

So, according to an updated schedule posted in a story on Zap2it, this is what the Fox summer primetime lineup will look like (and the dates the changes will be effective by) including those shows that will have episodes repeated during the summer:

Monday (beginning June 14)

8 p.m. “North Shore”
9 p.m. “The Casino”

Tuesday (beginning June 22)

8 p.m. “The Bernie Mac Show”
8:30 p.m. “Method & Red” encore (“Bernie Mac” June 8 and 15 only)
9 p.m. “The Jury”

Wednesday (beginning June 16)

8 p.m. “That ’70s Show” (“The Simple Life 2” June 16 only)
8:30 p.m. “Quintuplets”
9 p.m. “The Simple Life 2”
9:30 p.m. “Method & Red”

Thursday (beginning June 17)

8 p.m. “Totally Outrageous Behavior”
8:30 p.m. “World’s Craziest Videos”
9 p.m. “The Casino” encore

Friday (beginning June 18)

8 p.m. “North Shore” encore
9 p.m. “The Jury” encore (starts June 11)

Saturday (continuing)

8 p.m. “Cops”
8:30 p.m. “Cops”
9 p.m. “America’s Most Wanted”

Sunday (beginning June 20)

7 p.m. “Oliver Beene” (starting June 6)
7:30 p.m. “King of the Hill”
8 p.m. “The Simpsons”
8:30 p.m. “Quintuplets” encore
9 p.m. “Malcolm in the Middle”
9:30 p.m. “Arrested Development”

It looks a lot different without “American Idol” and “The O.C” and with the frequent show encores, doesn’t it? Welcome to the new television industry

Eric Thank you for the multiple pimps but I must disagree

Eric S., one of 411mania’s most popular columnists, has done me the great favor of “pimping” me multiple times in his Tuesday wrestling column over the last several weeks. So, I want to kiss his ass first by saying “Thank you” for providing a link to my columns. I seem to get more reader reaction when my name (and link) appears in your weekly wrestling piece.

Also, I wanted to address the latest comments he made in his latest Tuesday wrestling column (April 20th). At that time he said:

Coogan doesn’t touch on the main fact of why the first Joe Schmo Show was successful, namely that the audience (and the cast and crew) fell in love with Matt Gould to an almost Rupert-like level. The two contestants will have a hard time matching that. Also, there’s a great acid test over what the “public reaction” might be to Omarosa in the real world. I do follow alt.gossip.celebrities in order to keep up in between A List updates, and the sheer number of threads about Omarosa on there, which still continue even after the show’s done, show that there are a whole lot of people out there who have a very, very negative opinion of her.

Touching on Spike TV’s “The Joe Schmo Show” first, his contention is that “Joe Schmo” was successful primarily BECAUSE of Matt Gould and that dopey, lovable personality he displayed and everyone fell in love with. I didn’t really touch on that because I don’t necessarily think THAT is the reason why the show ended up being one of the network’s most successful original shows. Now, that isn’t to say that the “likability” of the “characters” (I’ll use that term loosely since I’m talking about a reality show here ) isn’t important because in many cases, it is. After all, Fox’s cable network, FX, came up with a reality concept similar to the Ron Howard movie EdTV called “Todd TV” as the main character “Todd” not only had his whole life taped, but the direction of his life was determined by viewer polls and random tasks developed by viewers and filtered by producers. Unfortunately for FX, the ratings were putrid, even by cable standards. One of the main reasons given for the utter failure of the show is that the main character was completely unlikable. Some critics noted that he was cocky. I also thought that not only was he cocky, but he was boring and unentertaining. Shows like that really require that the audience “get behind” the main character(s). If that doesn’t happen, chances are, the show will fall flat on its face.

However, that isn’t necessarily the case with all shows, especially “Joe Schmo.” I firmly believe that people watched “Joe Schmo” for the same reason people tuned in to watch “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé” during its run on Fox. The latter show involved a young woman, Randi Coy, trying to convince her parents and family that she had met a large dopey, dolt on a reality television show and the wedding would be aired on a national Fox broadcast. Not only was she trying to fool her family, but the big dolt and the show’s producers were trying to fool her AND her family as he was an actor, not really that obnoxious. People watched that show because of the FORMAT and the pay off at the end. That was a popular show because the viewing audience wanted to see if the production staff could fool Randi and her family. Since they were able to do so, the ultimate payoff came at the end when the “husband to be” came clean and told everyone of the situation fooling everyone not already in on the joke. I believe the appeal to “Joe Schmo” is exactly the same. People tune in to see the questions “Will he realize he’s been duped?” and “What will happen when he finally does realize he’s been duped?” answered, not primarily because Matt Gould was a nice guy.

Also, I think that people watch some television to root against villains just as much as they root for the heroes. When I watched “The Apprentice,” at first, I rooted against the women to lose the tasks they were taking part in because they got cocky. After that, I specifically rooted against Omarosa because (during filming) she was such a bitch and made everyone’s lives miserable from the very beginning. I didn’t attach myself to one particular “favorite competitor,” but I did root against the ones I hated.

Speaking of Omarosa, I think Eric got me when I used the vague term “public reaction” to openly wonder about her potential future successes (or lack thereof). In reading news stories about it, it’s evident she is the evil villain and is hated nationally by the public. This much is painfully obvious. Anyone that goes to a TV/”The Apprentice” message board on the Internet, the hateful messages geared towards her will likely be numbered in the hundreds. However, what I am more interested in seeing is how she does PROFESSIONALLY thanks to her “performances” on the show. Not only did she come off as incompetent in the final task pretty much doing Kwame in, but she came off as lazy, conniving, and filled with excuses on the shows before Donald Trump “fired” her. Apparently, that isn’t going to make as much of a difference as one might believe. According to a story in The Washington Post published two weeks ago, not only will she be OK, but she said getting fired was “lucrative.” She has read for a television pilot (her own talk show) and is in negotiations on a book deal and potentially could design her own line of business clothing. In addition, she recently accepted a guest role on the NBC soap opera, “Passions.” So, while she may not be well-liked, she’s maintained some sort of popularity that makes her an attractive commodity of sorts. It looks like she’ll do OK after all.

More reader reaction about the Wrestling Channel

The reader reaction keeps coming in regards to my proposed idea of a new wrestling channel a couple of weeks back.

Friend and former “professional colleague” of mine, Bill McDermott, apparently caught my column and offered this explanation in an email to me:

Hey Steve,

Just wanted to let you know Vince McMahon is going to be starting an all wrestling channel soon with footage from WWE, WCW, ECW and the AWA. Just wanted to give you a heads up I looked it up on Google .

(Go Yankees!)

The Yankees suck (How ‘bout that Red Sox sweep this past weekend?!?!) but thanks for the email Bill. That certainly prompted me to look into the issue more.

I also got this thoughtful email from Brian McLoone who shed a lot of light on the subject and really prompted me to research the topic. He wrote:

Hey man, love the column and as a fellow TV nut am much appreciative of the work you put into it.

Anyway I didn’t write just to stroke your ego but to let you in on another wrestling channel. I would have written last week but I was sure you were going to get flooded with e mails regarding this. I have good news as there is another wrestling channel (much like what you proposed) in the works for the WWE. Here’s the link for it: www.wwe247.com, there’s no word when it will be out but my guess is it will probably be out come September.

Also there going to use the entirety of there vast library including WWE, WCW, ECW, AWA, Jim Crockett promotions and Smokey Mountain footage. But that’s not even the best part in all this, what’s truly great is it will be an On Demand channel. Which means much like now if you want to watch a movie on HBO or Showtime anytime you want with this wrestling channel you can watch whatever event you want. Let’s say you love WCW PPVs from 98 but hate Bill Goldberg, well you can just fast forward through his match. There going to have 20+ hours of wrestling on each month which is a good amount and each week they will replace 5 hours of it to keep it fresh on a weekly basis. All in all this wrestling channel sounds great and I’m sure as hell excited about it.

Well, keep up the good work. I’m really enjoying the column.

Thanks very much for the email and all the kind words Brian. I appreciate it. This email in particular caused me to look in the 411mania news archives and see if we ever reported on the subject. Turns out, we did report on that in the form of the corporate press release posted on the site on March 24th.

Here’s the gist of it if you’re not interested in clicking over:

*** The WWE is interested in expanding the services it offers by taking the vast library of other federation’s televised programming (most prominently, WCW and ECW) and creating an “on-demand” video service with cable and satellite providers. This will allow those interested in paying a fee for a certain event can view and even record it if they so choose.

*** Vince and Linda will make up to 20 hours of different content available per month, breaking it down to approximately four or five hours per week. As the release states, “The content includes the best of past cable, broadcast, Pay-Per-View and home videos from WWE and other leading promoters.”

*** The company launched an entirely separate arm of the company and hired accomplished entertainment industry veteran, Tom Barreca to head up this new effort.

*** As of this time there isn’t a date in which the WWE on-demand service is set to debut (Brian ventured a guess of this coming September, but I don’t think it will be ready that soon). However, if you want to learn more about the service in the mean time, a website has been set up at this address: www.wwe24-7.com.

While this and the U.K. wrestling channel I discussed last week) are very interesting entities, I still don’t think my idea has really been brought to fruition the way I envisioned it. If anything, the on-demand service probably cements that my idea probably won’t come to pass, especially if it’s successful the way it’s been discussed. I don’t really like the idea of being forced to pay additional money per event that the WWE wishes to rebroadcast. In addition, if they have more than 75,000 hours of programming at their disposal, why would they only air 20 per month? If my math is correct, that means it would take the company more than 300 YEARS to show every hour of content they have access to in “the vault.” Couldn’t they at least provide more choices for the viewer? Even 30-40 hours per month would be a marked improvement over just 20, especially considering the WWE has a lot of talented people that could re-edit some of this material and turn it into a “brand new” show with “different content” (see “The Monday Night Wars” as a good example of that).

Instead of providing the on-demand service, I would much rather see Mr. Barreca head up the effort to get a brand new wrestling channel together on basic cable. After all, between paying for cable to watch Spike TV, buying pay-per-views, and being loyal enough to purchase assorted merchandise and tickets to live events, who wants to pay even more money to relive the glory days? We already have TV Land and I don’t pay extra for that. So, if the service does launch soon, just don’t take advantage of it. Perhaps the powers that be will see the error in their ways and realize that we only have so much disposable income to enjoy their product. Chances are, they won’t. But we can dream, can’t we?

In the mean time

Enjoy the show!! (Especially if you’re not paying extra for it )

— Coogan