The Weekly Pulse: Mr. Coogan’s Groove Tube Update

Hi”¦I’m Steve Coogan.

You might remember me from such other columns as “Coogan Comments on the Cinema,” “Mr. Coogan’s Groove Tube Update,” and Mr. Coogan’s TV Q & A.”

(R.I.P. Phil Hartman”¦)

* * * * *

Wow”¦it’s been a long time since I’ve actually sat down and done this. A couple of weeks off in June led to an indefinite hiatus in July and August while I took two intense summer classes. Then, factoring in now infamous “411mania/Inside Pulse Split” and the delayed launch of the TV Pulse, and it means I haven’t written a column in more than two months.

Well, it’s glad to be back at the keyboard again. You’ll be seeing a lot of me here at Inside Pulse. Let’s review, shall we:

* The Weekly Pulse: Mr. Coogan’s Friday Groove Tube Update — First, it was on the weekend, then it was on Monday, then it disappeared, now it’s back, but on Friday. I’m like a network sitcom trying to find a home on a particular day to get the best ratings. Seriously though, the Groove Tube Update is back and will operate as the TV Pulse’s weekly recap (or “weekly pulse”) of all content in the TV Zone and all the important news in the industry in the previous seven days. And as usual, I’ll add my two cents in every time I report what I see in the news. I know you’re psyched”¦

* Mr. Coogan’s Television Confessions — In addition to pumping out the Weekly Pulse/Groove Tube Update every Friday, I’ll be back every Monday with some sort of television column. I’m not 100 percent sure what I’ll be babbling about, but I can guarantee it will be television related, if that helps at all”¦I know the first set of “Confessions” columns will be the two-part miniseries: “My Top 25 Television Characters in the Last 25 Years” I worked on so diligently this week. I also hope to revive the “Mr. Coogan’s TV Q & A” column I briefly established earlier this year. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine.

* Monthly Features and other extracurricular activities — Here in the TV Pulse we are going to do our best to put out some kick-ass monthly features looking at something television related whether it’s a network profile, a series of show reviews, or an TV related issue we feel like talking about. If it doesn’t debut this month, it will certainly debut in October. Also, you’ll probably see me do some show reviews as time allows”¦if time allows.

* Movies”¦baby “¦ — On a personal note, I’ll also be editing and contributing for the Movies Pulse, which will be launched later on this Fall. Stay tuned for that!

As for the format of this column, it will be fairly simple. The “Opening Credits” will be the area where I’ll link (or “pimp” if you prefer that term) the other writers within the TV Pulse and possibly what else is being written on the Inside Pulse as a whole, depending on the week.

From there, I’ll review the TV news (and my opinions) of the week in a section simply titled “TV News.” That section will end with the newly created “The rest of the news”¦in 500 words or less”¦” I think that one’s easy to figure out.

Finally, I’ll end with the “Closing Credits” which will be under the Jeopardy category “Potpourri” meaning it could be anything I want in any style I want and varying in length. No matter what I do though, I hope it will be profound.

So, since there’s no other content to link to right now, I’ll skip the “Opening Credits” and go right to the”¦

TV NEWS

SAT analogy: Oil is to Bobby Knight as Water is to the”¦…the sitcom genre!

The Hollywood Reporter and Zap2it.com are reporting that Paramount Television is currently developing a sitcom for former Indiana University and current Texas Tech University men’s basketball coach, Bobby Knight. Yes, that’s right”¦a SITUATION COMEDY. CBS is the intended network destination for the series and will be executive produced by Lindy DeKoven.

The report also stated that Knight will be working as a consultant for the new series, which basically means any derogatory content geared at the volatile coach will be stricken (or possibly choked out) from the show.

I have a hard time understanding the thought process of television executives sometimes. Why should a guy who’s widely known through out sports as a supreme jerk have a sitcom based on his life and times? Not only does he not deserve it, but it doesn’t seem like compelling television to me. Sure, CBS is doing “Listen Up,” which will be based on ESPN personality/Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheise’s life. However, Kornheiser is largely harmless and is actually funny in a senile, crazy old codger kind of way.

Meanwhile, Knight belittles people on a regular basis, whether they are the student athletes playing for him, members of the media, or even the Texas Tech University President. This is funny? While we’re at it, let’s make a night of sitcoms devoted to jerks in sports. After Knight’s show, the eye will show a sitcom following the zany antics of the Kobe Bryant rape trial, starting with that fateful night in the Eagle County, CO hotel! After that, the new show “No, I won’t SHUT UP!” based on Terrell Owens’ mouth will come on. Finally, right before another part of the “C.S.I.” franchise, we can all laugh out loud at a series inspired by baseball super agent Scott Boras getting his clients millions of dollars more than they deserve causing bleacher seats at Fenway Park to go over the $50 mark. Sounds terrific, doesn’t it? No.

“ER” will go to real time”¦with Ray Liotta

One of the stories reported by several television news outlets, including TVGuide.com and Zap2it.com, on Thursday is that not only is “ER” reverting to a formula it hasn’t used since 1997, but it’s going to so with Ray Liotta (Goodfellas, Narc) as a high profile guest star.

As part of a November sweeps stunt, one episode will be filmed in real time and focus on 44 crucial minutes of the treatment of an alcoholic, played by Liotta,. His character comes into County General Hospital hallucinating and suffering from withdrawal symptoms. Apparently, the 44 minutes of the episode will determine whether he lives or dies due to his wildly self-destructive past.

This will be the first time that “ER” will do an episode in real time since 1997, when the cast did a live episode for the 1997-98 season premiere. At that time, they did the show once for east coast and central time zone viewers and performed it a second time for the west coast viewers. However, this season’s sweeps episode won’t be filmed live, just in real time.

Meanwhile, this will be Liotta’s first television appearance since the HBO movie Point of Origin and a guest spot on the recently canceled NBC series, Just Shoot Me, both in 2002.

It’s an interesting development, but there’s two points that strike me as odd. First, television executives often release this type of information to the media weeks, or in some cases like this one, months before the show is set to air. Sure, it gets reported by the entertainment media, but is it really worth getting excited about now? This is especially true considering “ER” will air 4-7 episodes before this particular sweeps stunt will actually air.

Second, as much as I support innovation and trying different things in television, I don’t quite understand why the writers and producers would suspend ongoing storylines with established characters during sweeps, which largely appears to be the case. In addition to the sweeps months containing the most episodes involving natural disasters, they also have a great deal of storyline development involving the main characters and what directions their lives are going in. Considering sweeps month usually leads into three weeks of repeats, abandoning those stories with the recognized characters seems strange to me and probably frustrating to viewers. It could end up being more annoying and maddening than beneficial.

Mr. Hughley? Ms. Sedaris? Mr. Black? Mr. Rome? The “Late Late Show” Producers will see you now.

I have to admit this. When I first heard Craig Kilborn was leaving his cushy position as the host of CBS’ “Late Late Show” after five years, I was very surprised. After all, he isn’t very funny (funny enough to be on “Sportscenter” but not funny enough for him to call himself a comedian), isn’t all that talented, and, from what I have heard, has had a reputation of not treating his celebrity guests with the utmost of respect. Yet, he continued to have a nice, steady job hosting a late night “comedy” talk show on CBS. I think a lot of us would kill for that job. Yet, he decided he wasn’t going to renew his contract and was leaving the show.

So, an Andy Kaufman-esque conspiracy popped into my head. I figured”¦maybe this is a “work.” Maybe he’s just trying to draw attention to himself and the show to gain any edge he can over the infinitely better “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” So, he worked with CBS to orchestrate this grand plan announcing his departure from the show only to tell the audience “Gotcha! I’m staying put!” It seemed to make sense to me considering Kilborn is a bit of a boob and would probably love the attention.

However, I was all wrong. Kilborn had his big send off last week with several high profile guests, including Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn. Meanwhile, CBS and the production company responsible for the show, Worldwide Pants (David Letterman’s baby), are going to start peddling out guest hosts in an attempt to find someone worthy of taking the network’s 12:35 a.m. timeslot.

It’s already been announced that four celebrities will be pulling guest host duties when the show comes back from summer reruns on September 20th. Those four are (in no particular order):

* Amy Sedaris — Probably most famous for anchoring Comedy Central’s cult classic series, “Strangers with Candy,” she also had recurring guest spots on “Sex and the City” and “Monk.” Most notably, she also guest starred on another Worldwide Pants production, “Ed” before its cancellation and is believed to be a favorite of David Letterman.

* Michael Ian Black — Black is another “Ed” veteran, though he had a regular part on the show. Now, he’s probably best known now for wryly (and dryly) commenting on every possible inane piece of popular culture discussed in the VH-1 “I Love the”¦” series over the last two years. I’m not sure if his brand of comedy would be good for a late night talk show and I’m not sure he could effectively adapt to the kind of controlled comedic debauchery a late night talk show usually provides.

* D.L. Hughley — One of the Kings of Comedy, Hughley is widely known as being an outstanding stand-up comedian. He’s also had parts in several movies over the last decade and a TV series that started out on ABC and moved over to UPN before being canceled in 2002. Without sounding racially intolerant, I do wonder if the late night talk show crowd is ready to let an African-American entertain them with his brand of humor. Look at the other guys on the air now; it’s not like the networks are intensely focused on appealing to an audience of varying races here.

* Jim Rome — This one is puzzling to me. Rome is generally liked in the sports media community, primarily because he’s a no nonsense kind of guy and his audience seems to like that. His radio program is syndicated to more than 200 radio stations in the country and he’s back on ESPN television with his own weekly talk show, “Rome is Burning.” I don’t know if that will carry over to the entertainment community though. His audience now appreciates the fact he doesn’t shy away from issues and asks the tough questions of his interview subjects, but would he try to do the same thing to celebrities. I can only picture him interviewing J-Lo and in that deep, raspy voice saying “C’mon J-Lo”¦you gotta give me something here”¦a comment about your ass, your marriage to Marc Anthony”¦C’MON!” It just doesn’t seem to fit.

Looking at the four set to guest host, it appears Sedaris is the best choice not only because Letterman likes her, but because her personality and sense of humor seem like they would fit best on a talk show. However, these aren’t “finalists” by any means. It appears the network is willing to take their time finding a replacement, perhaps even waiting the months and months it took “The View” to hire Elizabeth Hasselbeck. I guess since they had very little time to prepare for this mess, they are using the time to appropriately interview different candidates. I feel like they’re interviewing a Vice-President of Northeast Sales, not a talk show host.

Fox stoops to a new low”¦again”¦

I don’t know what it is, but part of me always thought the intense competitions between the broadcast networks to get ratings were at least somewhat civil. Sure, networks “borrow” other the others’ ideas after seeing one succeed (hence the new “Apprentice” like shows built around billionaires Mark Cuban and Richard Branson). However, I don’t recall any situation where one network simply showed complete and utter disdain for several network ideas the way Fox has. First, they rushed “The Next Great Champ” into production which is a mirror image of the Mark Burnett show “The Contender” that’s set to debut in January. Then, they copied ABC’s “Wife Swap” with “Trading Spouses: meet your new mommy.” That’s just plain dirty.

Taking that even further, Fox has also announced that they will be doing yet another version essentially copying “The Bachelor/Bachelorette” franchise. However, instead of picking out a virtual unknown, they are going to play with C-List celebrity, Ivana Trump being the “Bachelorette.” The show’s title: “Ivana Young Man.” Good God”¦And in another twist that’s either deplorable, hilarious, or both, Ivana is going to get to pick from the same pool of men that “The Bachlorettes” do: 20-somethings. It appears Fox is going to position Ivana as a knowledgeable, intelligent, experienced woman who also happens to be lonely and can only have the urge satisfied with a man that’s at least 20 years younger than her (according to IMDB.com, she’s 55 now) and as old as her oldest son (who’s 26 now). Wow.

Fox has some outstanding programming. We all love “The Simpsons,” “Arrested Development,” “That 70s Show,” and “The O.C.” but with the amount of rubbish the network produces, it gets harder and harder to support their body of work as a whole. I hope they and Ivana live happily ever after”¦The network is certainly young, just like she likes’em I guess.

I guess I should talk about the Olympics”¦even though I don’t want to”¦

In recapping the ratings NBC saw for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, a report from Zap2it.com said the following:

The 2004 Olympics will wind up as the most-watched Games staged outside the United States. NBC says that 203 million “total, unduplicated viewers” — meaning those who tuned in for at least a few minutes — watched the Olympics, up from 185 million four years ago.

The previous high for a non-U.S. Games came in 1988, when 194 million people watched the Seoul Olympics.

Prime-time coverage on NBC will also finish ahead of 2000. The network averaged 24.6 million viewers per night for the 17 days in, up 14 percent from the 21.5 million viewers for the Sydney Olympics. The Games averaged a 15.0 household rating/26 share, improving on the 13.8/24 the 2000 Olympics delivered.

I wasn’t exactly sure how this happened, considering the events really weren’t any more exciting that past Olympic Games, especially with the dreadful tape delays that had to be incurred. However, NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol had a good point when he stated that the “multiple platform strategy” helped the cause. Basically, NBC took all its properties, including the recently acquired Bravo and USA to go along with CNBC and MSNBC and did almost wall-to-wall Olympic coverage. Since viewers had at least three to five options of sports to choose from, they were bound to tune in to a sport they enjoyed or were interested in. Thinking about it, it was kind of like the disastrous “Triple Cast” attempted for the Barcelona games in 1992, except no additional charges appeared on the cable bill sent home. Smart plan.

There’s something else that struck me about the Olympics and its insane popularity. Besides the fact that there still isn’t that much interesting on TV during the summer (especially against the Olympics), I’ve noticed that people who generally aren’t all that interested in sports in general like the Olympics. People like the rags-to-riches stories, the “one shining moment” opportunity that these athletes see, and I think NBC does a good job of telling stories of these largely unknown athletes in the form of those famous video packages that tug at the heart strings. Plus, since they only come around every four years, people might feel some degree of obligation. Hell, if you don’t see them now, you might never see them again because you could DIE! Anyway”¦

Then there is the real sports nut. These are the guys that only watched the Olympics when the Men’s basketball team was playing. Otherwise, they kept on following the Major League Baseball season and the National Football League preseason dutifully as they prepared for their fantasy drafts and their favorite team to make a run at the Vince Lombardi trophy. In turn, ESPN remained loyal to their hardcore, sports nut audiences. The all sports network certainly didn’t skimp on the Olympic coverage, but the events in Athens rarely led off “Sportscenter” or any ESPN Radio program. Instead, it was a lot more of the “Who’s hot in baseball?” or the “Who’s going to do well this season in football?” talk.

Is that strategy right? I don’t know. Is it wrong? I don’t know that either. I just know it seems pretty accurate to me and I’m sure the same thing will happen in two years when the Winter Olympics are on and I have to fight with my girlfriend over the remote control when she wants to watch figure skating and I’ll want to watch just about anything else.

Anyway, I do congratulate all the Olympic athletes who accomplished so much in representing their countries. Just please don’t be offended”¦I was more interested in the Red Sox and Patriots than what you were doing in Athens.

The rest of the news”¦in 500 words or less”¦

This section of the TV Weekly Pulse is pretty self-explanatory. I’ll take the next several hundred words, but no more than 500, to briefly talk about some of the other interesting television news stories from the week. Believe me, when I say 500, I mean 500. If I go over, I’ll start cutting”¦

OK”¦the news starts”¦”¦here:

** McGrath seeks an “Extra” job — TVGuide.com reported on Thursday that Sugar Ray “front man” Mark McGrath is going to be taking another full-time gig: hosting the entertainment news magazine “Extra” with Dayna Devon when the series returns September 13th. You have to admit that he’s cooler than Billy Bush! I’m just wondering why a rocker would want a job like that”¦Doesn’t it seem strange to you?

** Bye Sharona”¦I’ll miss you — In a somewhat surprising move, Bitty Schram, Adrian Monk’s beautiful, yet feisty nurse/sidekick, Sharona Fleming, on USA’s “Monk” will be leaving the show midway through its third season. The show is on hiatus now and will return with seven new episodes early next year, but without Schram. All parties involved say the split was amicable, but it really may have been about the actress’ salary (surprise”¦surprise”¦). And if you’re interested ladies, it appears that the producers are looking to cast a “young widow who works as a bartender.”

** That’s so T.G.I.F. — In what’s probably a smart move for ABC, the network has signed a development deal with tween sensation and former cutie from “The Cosby Show” Raven-Symone. Now 19, she has filmed more than 60 episodes of her Disney Channel show, “That’s So Raven.” It sounds to me she’d be a perfect fit for the family friendly “T.G.I.F.” Friday lineup of sitcoms and I’d bet that’s where she ends up. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t bet since I’m a poor college student”¦

** Jimmy Smits = Going Pretty Good right now — How many television actors have development deals waiting for them after they finish work on another series? Well, Jimmy Smits is in that category after signing a development deal with ABC that will allow him to develop and star in his own series for the alphabet. However, for now, he has more work to do: He’ll be joining the cast of “The West Wing” as a Congressman from the Houston, Tex. area with Presidential aspirations. There are rumblings his character may take over for President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) this season. Imagine that”¦being President AND having a development deal with a major broadcast network”¦

** NBC should take “Pride” in their ratings this week — Likely helped by the network’s mammoth promotional campaign, NBC’s new CGI comedy “Father of the Pride” overcame tepid reviews and secured 11 million viewers for its inaugural broadcast on Tuesday night. Not only did it win its timeslot but it built an audience from the low rated third (abbreviated) season of “Last Comic Standing.”

** In other NBC new show ratings news”¦ — “Hawaii,” NBC’s new cop show set in Hawaii”¦duh”¦triumphed over brutal reviews and won its time slot Wednesday with 10.4 million people tuning in. Something tells me, that’s the best it’s going to do”¦

**Finally, if you’re interested, you can meet the new cast of “The Apprentice” (which starts September 9th) “¦ here“¦and the new cast of “America’s Next Top Model” (September 22nd)”¦ here“¦

The Closing Credits

If you’re not watching the Trio network, start. If you don’t have the Trio network, get it. If you love retro television and other assorted random pieces of popular culture, then you’ll love the channel. Believe me”¦

Check out Trio’s Web site “¦First, as part of their “Brilliant But Canceled” series, they are showing old episodes of “Kolchak: The Night Stalker,” “EZ Streets,” and “Deadline,” an old mystery series starring Oliver Platt.

ALSO”¦the network has created its first original television comedy series, a 6-part “mockumentary” entitled “Pilot Season” starring established talents Sarah Silverman, David Cross and Andy Dick. The story: based on a follow up to the 1997 movie Who’s the Caboose?, a talent agent making one last comeback tries to get the hottest commodity in the television pilot season, despite the fact he hates television. The bottom line: the show makes fun of the show making progress, something that Hollywood honchos probably don’t want to talk about too much”¦I’m interested.

Are you?

Thanks for reading! I hope you come back for more next week!

— Coogan

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