Mr. Coogans (belated) Monday Groove Tube Update 05.24.04

Two items of business to get out of the way first:

1. As I mentioned in last week’s Groove Tube Update, I’ve started a “spin off” column entitled “Mr. Coogan’s TV Q & A” where I answer (serious) questions from 411 readers about the television industry. Please feel free to continue to send questions and I will answer them when I can. However, I will say that as of now, I have enough research to do to fill up two columns, so it may take me a little while to address your question(s) in the column. To those that did ask a question, I’m researching the answers to your questions and will answer them in the form of a fresh column as soon as possible. Also, THANK YOU very much for coming to me with your queries. I’ll do my best to take care of business.

2. This past week was one of the busiest of the year for those working in network television as the annual “upfronts” took place. This is when the six major broadcast networks (or the three major networks plus ABC, the WB, and UPN depending on your vantage point) unveil their fall schedules for all to see with the idea that each network will show off their new shows or their old shows with new timeslots and, hopefully, sell a boat load of advertising time to sponsors as they see what new shows are coming up the pike.

While there are a load of intriguing new shows airing this fall (and beyond) and some interesting trends in the television industry, I’m going to save all that analysis for the next column I write when I’m not traveling and have more time to look at the new offerings and also explain at least part of the reason why the upfronts bother me.

In the mean time, an abbreviated, Groove Tube Update…

Hey “Angel” fans .THIS is why the WB pulled the plug on the show

While at the “Upfronts” in New York City last week, E! Entertainment Television’s star TV gossip columnist/reporter/critic Kristin Veitch actually got some one-on-one face time with the WB’s President Jordan Levin and asked him point blank why “Angel,” a show insanely popular with its hardcore, faithful fans, was tossed aside in favor of sketch shows led by comedians Jeff Foxworthy and Drew Carey.

According to Veitch’s May 21st column, Levin had this to say when faced with the extremely difficult question:

“The big problem with Angel is it didn’t repeat well. It wasn’t growing its audience, but it was a show we loved. We adored that show. It was a really hard decision. Joss Whedon came to me in February and said, ‘If you don’t think the show is going to come back, I’d rather know it now, so I can end it appropriately.’ When we looked at our schedule, with “Charmed,” “7th Heaven,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Angel” and “Smallville,” we realized we had a lot of veteran series. And one of the challenges of any schedule is to let your veterans retire so you can make room for the rookies, like “Jack and Bobby” and “The Mountain.” It’s a balancing act, and it’s not fun. That was a sad day.

So, there it is whether you like it or not, that’s probably as honest as a network executive is going to be about the cancellation of a popular television show. Two things stuck out at me in regards Levin’s statement. The first is pretty obvious and says a lot about the WB when compared to its big brother networks like NBC, CBS, and Fox:

The big problem with Angel is it didn’t repeat well. It wasn’t growing its audience, but it was a show we loved.

Considering “Angel” appealed to such a small audience (the type that likes well-written dramas, I presume ), it was imperative that this small dedicated audience try to attract more people to tune into the show and grow from there. Unfortunately, that never seemed to happen. Instead, the same small, devoted audience would tune in to watch the new episodes faithfully and blow off the repeats causing ultra-low ratings that weren’t being viewed by any new people. This isn’t to say that “it’s the audience’s fault Angel didn’t get huge ratings” but the point is without new people trying the show, it was destined to get canceled prematurely without the numbers to back it up.

The WB NEEDS to air repeats of their shows, because unlike the other four major networks, they don’t have the luxury to constantly debut brand new shows in place of repeats of the more popular shows. The network can’t afford to debut new series four times over a 12-month period. They pretty much need to rely on the traditional television season to add new programs to the prime-time schedule. If repeats of certain shows on the WB can’t garner a definite number of viewers, it hurts the network as a whole, where as NBC or Fox can simply debut new shows or in Fox’s case air another “American Idol” special like “American Idol: Simon’s colonoscopy” and still attract more than 10 million viewers.

Since the WB hasn’t had the financial success of the other networks (primarily because it continually lags behind in the ratings), it’s difficult to put up the money for additional series that will continually get low ratings and not be even in the same area code as profitable.

Also, consider this quote from the WB’s Jordan Levin in Veitch’s column:

We adored that show. It was a really hard decision. (“Angel” creator) Joss Whedon came to me in February and said, ‘If you don’t think the show is going to come back, I’d rather know it now, so I can end it appropriately.’

That really is a sign of respect that network executives had for “Angel” and its creators. In the world of network television where the cliché question “What have you done for me lately?” doesn’t even begin to describe exactly why television shows get canceled, often with little, if any, warning. Maybe it has something to do with the cost of the show, not wanting to deal with actors or production staff, or the obvious reason, putrid ratings. Jordan Levin could have simply canceled the show and pushed up the debut of “American Idol” knock off/huge practical joke, “The WB’s Superstar USA” instead. However, Levin and his executives knew that despite the low ratings, “Angel” meant a lot to many people and the network allowed Whedon to wrap the show on his terms despite it being obvious the show was not going to be renewed for a sixth season.

Obviously, that “sign of respect” brings little consolation to committed and, now, upset “Angel” fans as the series hits reruns just as other high profile offerings like “Friends” and “Frasier” did this month. However, Veitch did try to offer “Angel” and fans of the WB some sort of solace by complimenting two new dramas the network is getting behind:

For the record, though, and I know you Angel fans might not be ready to hear this, but “Jack and Bobby” (a modern story very loosely based on the life of John and Robert F. Kennedy) and “The Mountain” (Basically, “The O.C.” on a mountain instead of on the beach) look phenomenal. Should you ever have the strength to watch the WB again.

Then again, according to Zap2it‘s Rick Porter, the Buffy franchise may not be dead after all. Porter said:

He’s talking with Dark Horse Comics about reviving the “Buffy” comic-book series and making that a place where the show’s mythology lives on. He’s also had a few discussions — although nothing more than that — about a TV movie or another spin off, which he says he’d only do if a cogent idea comes to him and he can assemble enough of the cast and crew to execute it properly. “I’d rather stop now than do anything by halves,” he says.

He also says, though, that “I just don’t believe that the Buffyverse is dead.”

A reality show that could have some harsh reality accompany it

Last week, saw the fifth season finale of ABC’s “The Bachelor” and New York Giants Quarterback, Jesse Palmer, choosing 22-year-old California law student, Jessica over Tara, the 23-year-old general contractor from Oklahoma. The two hour season finale featured all sorts of (stomach) twists and turns that started with Jesse taking both of his remaining ladies to Peyton Manning country, Indianapolis, IN, to meet his family, and in a bit of a surprise also have dinner with Jenny “The Spy” and her husband, Nick.

The evenings with Jesse’s family offered little of substance considering the split decision on who his parents liked more. Mom loved Jessica and Dad thought she may have been too young to take real life seriously. Meanwhile, Dad loved Tara thinking she was charming, open, and more affectionate than Jessica and Mom was put off by the fact that Tara was engaged once before and that her dad greeted Jesse with a shotgun. And for those wondering Jesse’s younger brother, Billy, a football player at Notre Dame himself, thought Jessica was the hotter of the two.

Before that, Jesse’s double dates with Jenny and Nick seemed to attract stronger opinions from Jenny anyway. Nick refused to offer any strong opinions on either woman for fear that he makes strong comments about one woman and Jesse picking the other creating awkward moments in the future. This cemented Nick’s status of either being a supreme wuss or one of the smartest, most diplomatic friends in the history of the male gender. I suppose that depends on your view.

In the meantime, Jenny offered slightly stronger opinions saying that she liked Tara all along, though she saw Jesse and Jessica as the stronger “couple” as opposed to Jesse and Tara. However, Jenny also turns the awkward switch on “high” when she tells Jesse that she wishes to remain close friends with Tara NO MATTER who she picks. After that, to show that there really are no boundaries amongst close friends, since Jenny already made things pretty awkward, she suggested that when Jesse and his lady love have sex for the first time, Jenny should be there to give pointers. Ugh.

After meeting with friends and family, Jesse returned to Los Angeles with both women to go shopping for engagement rings (speaking of the awkward switch being turned on “high” ). Both women show a keen eye for diamonds and state that they like a massive 3.5 carat rock. Jesse, at least acting like more than a pretty boy, picks that ring and charges it to ABC.

Jesse gets one more opportunity to go on individual dates with each woman, but neither is very telling as “The Bachelor” does a good job of not showing his cards leaving both women questioning what will happen. Jessica even gets upset with Jesse when he informs her that he hadn’t officially decided who he is going to choose in the final rose ceremony.

Finally, the end of the season finale comes and both women are intensely nervous, Tara especially is having a difficult time as she’s having a hard time keeping her most recent meal in her system. Ironically, as Tara’s stomach is turning inside out, Jesse is inside the glorious “The Bachelor” mansion telling Jessica that he is in love with her and wants to be with her. Interestingly, instead of giving Jessica the ring and proposing, Jesse slows things down and gives her a one-way first class plane ticket from California to New York City so they can be together. That’s a hell of a lot better symbol of being together than giving the “winner” a “promise ring” (Bob Guiney I’m talking to you. We’re not in 9th grade here What were you THINKING??).

After Jesse officially makes his decision, Jessica moves inside the mansion and watches Jesse “let down” Tara from a window above inspiring a creepy feeling reminiscent of Norman Bates’ mother. However, in the end, it’s Tara that looks like the psycho when the apprehension and nervousness she was feeling turned into rage as she yelled at Jesse and accused him of essentially leading her on. It’s good to see she took it so well. Actually, Jesse is probably happy that he didn’t wake up the next morning with Tara’s cowboy daddy thrusting the barrel of a shotgun down his throat.

Despite the tense moments, the show ends with Jesse and Jessica living happily ever after and getting ready to live their lives in the New York City area while Jesse continues his career with the New York Giants.

But is that move to New York going to be necessary?

According to New York City’s Daily News, Palmer could be in danger of losing his job with the New York Giants and forced to scramble and find employment elsewhere in another NFL town. As of now, it appears the team will be starting rookie #1 pick Eli Manning next year with a yet-to-be signed experienced veteran quarterback backing up possibly splitting time with the new rookie. In the mean time, Palmer will be competing to be the third (and last) quarterback on the roster with rookie free agent Jared Lorenzen, NFL Europe import, Ryan Van Dyke and highly sought after waiver pick-up, Kurt Kittner and “The Bachelor” is at a decided disadvantage because he makes the most money of the four. It’s safe to say, the team would rather spend that money and pay someone who isn’t a third string quarterback.

That’s where the real life drama begins

If the Giants end up letting Palmer go, will he get picked up by another NFL team? After all, he isn’t exactly widely regarded throughout the league for his playing ability. If he does get waived, and get picked up by another team, will his new lady love, Jessica, go with him? She’s started law school and from what’s been said publicly, appears to have every intention to finish and put that degree to good use. What if he has to take his “talents” to Canada and play in the clearly talent inferior, Canadian Football League (Sorry guys, but we all know it’s true )? Palmer was born in Canada and likes it there fine, but would Jessica want to leave the sunny California to live there? The real life drama here is FAR MORE intriguing than what “The Bachelor” producers put together (except for Tara vomiting all over the place and yelling incessantly that was gold ). I’m surprised ESPN or ABC hasn’t already gone after the couple to at least get a two-part special or even a full-fledged series following the two around. Wouldn’t it be comedic gold for “The Bachelor” host, Chris Harrison to interview Palmer as he talks about his NFL failures and exactly what he and Jessica are going to do next? All this after he was so sure he was staying, he gave Jessica a one-way ticket to the city where he thinks he’s going to be playing? I’m sure the word “amazing” wouldn’t come up in that conversation.

I’m going to go and giggle as I think about the possibilities

Until next time,

Enjoy the show!

— Coogan