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


Why are Janet Jackson’s breast and Saving Private Ryan connected? Sadly, I have to answer that”¦

Look/Listen at/to this”¦

** A public service just in case you were looking to learn how to play dead.

** Yes you heard correctly. Jim Belushi IS suing “Catwoman.”

** If you’re a fan of Scrubs, you’ll get a kick out of what happens when you call 816-CALL-TURK (Yes, that’s 8 numbers”¦leave the “K” off). Seriously”¦do it. I did it and so should you.

THE OPENING CREDITS: Lots of new IP TV stuff to talk about”¦

** I talked about how obnoxious My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss was. Man”¦that show is terrible.

** This is the week the former Survivor contestants come to Inside Pulse TV with a VENGENANCE! Lex shares his thoughts on the big male/female merger. Jake is back and talks about Rory’s elimination. And the title of Helen’s column: “Gender is thicker than water.” And there you have it”¦

** Nick Warnock and I should be friends. We’d be best friends if our opinions about contestants on The Apprentice were the determining factor in making good friends. After all, he’s dead on with what he said about Ivana:

Ivana – Try as I might I can not understand why you are still on my television. Honestly, even if Raj had hired a wrecking crew, knocked the entire house to the ground and erected a large golden statue of himself in the empty lot, I still would have fired you. Unfortunately it is not my choice, so you’re still here contributing nothing and making nasty comments for one more week. Congratulations.

A golden statue! HA!

** Cheri Vision provides one hell of an The Amazing Race preview. Let’s see how this show stacks up during the normal fall season instead of the summer when it doesn’t stand much competition.

** Sarah Quigley’s back and her quote of the week:

I found it kind of funny that Trump was wearing a bow tie when he fired Raj. Maybe he’ll show up in a halter top to give Sandy the boot.

Part funny, part scary.

We get a double dose this week as she talks about The Apprentice and Survivor. Read up brothers and sisters”¦

** Mark Polishuk is back with a force as he talks about the hard divorce he’s likely to go through with The West Wing, some of his favorite television seasons, and Survivor.

** Ms. Didey is back summing up some of the shows she’s been watching lately and that includes the PILOT of Dead Like Me. I got into it pretty late”¦I didn’t realize George was so”¦lazy”¦I guess.

** “The Cable Guy” Brian McLoone is back with another good cable column and he covers everything from HBO and Showtime to the SciFi Channel and AMC. Well done.

** Bob Reiss answers questions in his mail bag from John Ashcroft, Michael Moore and Les Moonves?? Really?

** Mike Lawrence’s another IP TV guy that has a pretty good gig. He gets to review/recap The Simpsons AND South Park.


Are you kidding me?!?!?!?!

I am lucky enough to have ABC’s airing of Steven Spielberg’s graphically accurate World War II film Saving Private Ryan on in the in the background right now as I write this column. As TV Guide’s Michael Ausiello summed up, I’m one of the lucky 65 percent of the television viewing public to have that luxury:

Janet Jackson’s right breast strikes again! At least 19 ABC affiliates (representing 35 percent of the country) are refusing to carry tonight’s unedited broadcast of Saving Private Ryan in light of the FCC’s recent crackdown on indecency. The network has aired Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated World War II epic twice before without incident. Damn that nipple!

This is so ridiculous on so many levels. This is the third time in the last four years that ABC has aired this particular movie on this particular holiday (Veteran’s Day in the United States) unaired without any problems.

But when a pop sta’s breast flies out during a choreographed halftime show at the Super Bowl (nine months ago), we now have to rethink everything we put on TV, including a war movie?

Is Saving Private Ryan remarkably graphic? Yes. Could it be disturbing for a good portion of the general public? Absolutely”¦

But not only is the violence realistic, it’s also necessary to the point of the movie and the point of how graphic it can be to the human race. Even more frustrating is the fact that the goons working for the FCC are letting their mighty power be felt while this country is actually at war itself. Sure the enemy is different and the weaponry has been updated considerably but the point is still there: even though celebrity actors like Tom Hanks, Matt Damon and Edward Burns are in it, Saving Private Ryan is still an accurate depiction of wartime violence and during wartime in this country, people need to be MORE aware of the damage that we, as humans, inflict upon each other, not LESS.

But apparently we’ve taken a stand here in the United States and that it’s more important to shield our children and grandparents from a breast and a grizzly but realistic depiction of wartime violence than to let them see the truth.

Then again, I could be too liberal for my own good. What the hell do I know? Ugh.

Ratings news

I’m usually not all that at great reporting and analyzing ratings numbers primarily because despite all the different kinds of potential stories the data breeds, it’s all still quite boring. However, considering shows are cancelled and renewed based on these figures and they provide a tremendous amount of fodder for entertainment journalists and critics, I probably should pay more attention to them. I will do my best to start doing so and here’s my first honest effort. Since the last week brought some interesting numbers to look at, I think this is a good time to start.

** Why did Fox move The O.C.? – That might be considered a rhetorical question that leads into a long, nasty, tirade about how dumb Fox is. In part, it could be. After all, the network moved the show to Thursday nights when it SURELY would have done better ratings on another night of the week”¦probably any other night of the week. Instead, executives decided to enact the risky strategy of putting the show opposite CBS’ Survivor and CSI and NBC’s Joey, Will & Grace and The Apprentice. So, after the second season premiere, how did the show do?

Well, to steal a bad pun, The O.C. did OK.

The first episode of the new season did a 5.5 rating and attracted just under 8.5 million viewers in its first week. Considering in total number of viewers, it still fell below what CBS and NBC did in that timeslot, people might consider that the move to be a failure, especially since the premiere performed worse than the last episode of the first season.

But as notes The O.C. did a 3.8 rating among adults 18-49, becoming Fox’s best Thursday showing since New York Undercover in 1998. The popular prime-time soap won its hour among viewers 12-34 and was also tops among teens and men 18-34. Also, it was second among viewers 18-34, beating NBC’s new programming in that demo for the first time since 1994.

So, while the night was primarily dormant and dead for Fox previously now has provided some fairly viable competition to NBC and CBS. Fox will probably never outdo the two behemoths since the other networks provide products that people of all ages and demographics will flock to. The network probably knows that too. Nonetheless, the network has woken up and people’s TiVos are going to be working in overdrive on Thursday nights.

** Arrested Development is doing BETTER – According to and data from Nielsen, the Emmy winning show’s second season premiere about a formerly wealthy and wildly dysfunctional Orange County family set series highs in total viewers (just over eight million) and adults 18-49 (4.0 rating) for a regularly scheduled episode with Sunday’s (Nov. 7) premiere. (“Regularly scheduled” is a key term because the show did attract 9.6 million viewers in a special airing after American Idol earlier this year.)

Considering only an average of just over six million people tuned in for the show in its first season, that’s a 23 percent jump up for the critically acclaimed series, certainly a positive sign for Fox. It looks like The Simpsons has finally found an appropriate friend to share the Sunday night 8 p.m. timeslot with.

** Fox strikes out big with latest reality offerings – There’s no way to sugar coat it, The Rebel Billionaire and My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss performed terribly in their debut episodes this past week. The two-hour premiere of The Rebel Billionaire, the series starring Virgin founder Richard Branson making a group of 16 contestants go through a series of tasks that are part Road Rules and part The Apprentice with the ultimate prize being Branson essentially naming his successor at the company, only secured a 3.3 total rating for the whole two hours and it finished fifth out of networks trailing CBS, NBC, ABC, and even a new episode of The Gilmore Girls on the WB in the 8 p.m hour. That number only improved slightly in the second hour when it managed to finish ahead of One Tree Hill on the WB and UPN.

Meanwhile, the premiere of My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss on Sunday did even worse than The Rebel Billionaire securing only a 2.9 rating, fourth out of five networks (UPN doesn’t air original content on Sundays) and way below content on ABC (Desperate Housewives), NBC (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) and CBS (The Dallas reunion special). Apparently the network thought the reality hoax show would be a quick ratings fix (like My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancéwas at the time it aired) for a timeslot it generally hasn’t done well with recently. Instead, it flopped miserably. It looks like Fox is going to have to focus its attention from what to do with Thursday nights to what it should do after The Simpsons and Arrested Development air.

** Poor Hank Azaria”¦ – summed it up best when they began their article about the ratings of Hank Azaria’s new Showtime series, Huff.

Despite a star studded cast and despite some of the year’s warmest critical notices and despite the most aggressive promotional campaign in the network’s history and despite so much network confidence that it was renewed for a second season months before its first episode aired”¦

Yup, despite all that fanfare for the show, it ended up performing poorly, even by pay cable standards, by only attracting 456,000 viewers. In comparison, lesbian drama The L Word secured 936,000 viewers when it premiered earlier this year, while the lauded Ronald Reagan biopic, The Reagans, drew 1.2 million viewers. Either way, it’s not all that encouraging when the network put THAT much effort into promoting the new show only for such small audience to tune in”¦

** Looks like we’re all Desperate for some Housewives – Meanwhile, as millions of people were driven away from Fox at 9 p.m. more and more people appear to be heading toward Desperate Housewives which according to Nielsen data on attracted it’s highest ratings to date with a 15.2, more than 4 ½ rating points better than CBS’s Dallas reunion and about 7 ½ higher than NBC’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

Gee”¦I wonder what the biggest show of the new season is.

HBO in trouble?

HBO has been able to brand itself on its critically celebrated original series such as The Sopranos, Sex and the City and Six Feet Under. Well, we said good bye to Sex earlier this year and it’s already been announced that the sixth season of The Sopranos (set to air in 2006) will be its last. Now, this week Alan Ball, the creator of Six Feet Under has announced that the upcoming fifth season will be its last.

In a statement Ball said:

Working on Six Feet Under has been enormously fulfilling creatively, but if the show is about anything, it’s about the fact that everything comes to an end”¦I’ll always be grateful to HBO for allowing and encouraging us to tell the story we set out to tell in a challenging and uncompromising way.

Now what does HBO do? This isn’t to say that they don’t have any quality programming left on the network because Deadwood, Carnivale, The Wire and to a lesser degree Entourage are all remarkably compelling series. The problem is that while these series are appreciated by critics, they aren’t appreciated as much as those that are ending their runs. It’s hard for HBO to build their new identity around a western, a quirky period piece set in the Dust Bowl era and a complicated crime drama that takes place in Baltimore.

Of course, the network isn’t done developing series, but as states the two others in development now are Big Love, a series about a Utah polygamist, and the period epic Rome. Again, not highly marketable shows like The O.C. is.

Will HBO try to heavily market the returning series? Maybe the new ones? Either way, it will be a challenging proposition for the network to maintain not only its respect from the critics but from the demanding viewing public as well.

Everyone else is talking about this so I will cave to peer pressure.

According to multiple sources, including the AP, TV Guide and, thanks to a new pact between the U.S. production company 20th Century Fox TV and Vodaphone, a spin-off series to the Fox hit 24 specifically designed for the cell phone called 24: Conspiracy will premiere on British cell phones in January 2005.

Every episode will be 60 seconds in length and will also end with a cliffhanger. And in case you need another reason to switch over the best wireless phone provider on the market, reports say that plans are underway to distribute 24: Conspiracy through Verizon Wireless in the United States in 2005.

But in case you were wondering, none of the 24‘s stars will actually appear on any of the (WARNING! Potential new buzzword coming up!) “mobisodes.” Instead, there will be an entirely new cast that’s hasn’t yet been set.

Ohhhh”¦.What the hell? I don’t know how something like this will take to the consumer market, but it could catch on in small doses if these cell phone only “mobisodes” are as well produced as possible, actually are as interesting as 60 seconds of dialogue can be, and the market doesn’t become flooded with them, it just may work”¦

Then again, I remember five or six years ago when entertainment designed and produced specifically for the Internet from Web sites like was the big thing. Adam Adam Sandler was involved; Trey Parker and Matt Stone from South Park fame had some stuff all ready to go. But”¦the market for it wasn’t there. People like to listen to music, play games and even read and laugh at their computer, but not necessarily watch TV or movies. The same thing applies to cell phones. People like to play games on them (in moderation) and obviously talk for long periods of time on them, but are they desperate to watch movies or TV shows on them? That could be stretching a bit”¦

It should be an interesting experiment anyway”¦

The rest of the news in 500 words or less”¦GO AHEAD! COUNT!

** We’ll see more of Veronica and Kevin. Don’t worry! – Despite only averaging 2.65 and 3.77 million viewers per episode respectively, Veronica Mars and Kevin Hill will be around the entire season as UPN has ordered full season packages for the shows. The bottom line is the timeslots are doing better than they have and they have received enough critical acclaim where it’s worth it to keep them on for the immediate future.

** WARNING! Boston Red Sox mention coming up! – Watching HBO’s documentary, The Curse of the Bambino was nothing short of disheartening and depressing. Well, now it’s woefully out of date. The solution? Update it with the 2004 World Series Champion edition of the team and show how it was a long time coming”¦

Solution: produce Reverse the Curse of the Bambino and preferably as soon as possible since pitchers and catchers report in right around three months. It will debut Dec. 10 and be aired approximately 648 times after that.

** An example of a statement that isn’t a surprise: Nicky Hilton had her marriage to Todd Meister annulled in Las Vegas.

You mean a 21-year-old celebrity debutant with all the money in the world made a dumb mistake when it came to marriage? Who would’ve thunk it? And so we’re clear, Nicky Hilton is a TV star only in her frequent appearances on Extra and Entertainment Tonight. Seriously though, they might as well develop a spin-off series called HILTONtainment Tonight.

** An example of a statement that is a mild surprise: An NBC comedy pilot is going to be developed for Dennis Hopper.

I find this mildly surprising primarily because I figured Dennis Hopper would have better things to do than star in an NBC comedy pilot. But the network has ordered a script that will be written by Chris Alberghini and Mike Chessler (Murphy Brown and The Nanny) and star Hopper who has become a new father again. He will live with his adult daughter and her husband on the show.

** An example of a statement that is a complete surprise: David Letterman appeared on a talk show that wasn’t his own his week.

Yep”¦It’s hard to imagine Letterman on TV in any other way than his own CBS late night show, but he actually made a Nov. 8 appearance on Live with Regis and Kelly. He was pissy he had to be up so early (he generally tapes later in the afternoon), but since Regis Philbin has been Letterman’s Late Show a reported 83 times since he started at CBS in 1993, I guess it’s fair that Letterman return the favor at least once”¦especially during sweeps.

THE CLOSING CREDITS: How do we pay attention to TV plot lines?

As what seems to be the norm when I write the last part of these columns lately, a discussion I had in a class I’m taking at Syracuse University is the catalyst to my babbling.

On Nov. 3, during a class discussion after viewing three separate episodes of 1987’s Frank’s Place I thought of television storytelling. One of the things that stuck out to me about this discussion the most was the instructo’s (show writer Richard Dubin) curiosity about why the students in the class didn’t necessarily pick up on the central, albeit very general themes, in the show.

Instead, everyone asked very specific questions about little plot points and what they perceived to be potential “holes” in the writing wondering why this wasn’t done or why something else didn’t happen.

I’m not sure why people, especially people in this class, were/are conditioned to look at storytelling that way, but that seems to be the case. Whether it’s the critic inside of them or as someone that has taken TV production and writing classes before, it seems to make people feel “smarter” or “more important” if they can identify what they believe are holes in the storytelling.

But that seems to happen everywhere. When critics (and journalists) write about a show, they rarely tackle general themes that show up in a series, they talk about specific plot points from the past, “spoilers” (upcoming plot points that haven’t been aired yet), or simply “how the show is” in terms of whether it’s “good” or “bad” for one reason or another. As I said, nit picking specific plot points may not be simply part of the class that we’re in, but something that we, as television watchers in general, seem to do anyway.

Why is that? And are the general themes more important than the specific plot points?

Hey”¦just trying to stretch your mind a little bit here”¦

Have a good weekend”¦

— Coogan