Monday, October 31, 2005

There's a First (and Last) Time for Everything in Broadcasting

Did you ever wonder when ESPN first aired? Ever consider when your fave local station broadcast its first signal? Have you thought lately about the first lesbian or gay kiss? (No, not your's. The first one on US TV.) How about the day the first NBC series drew less than a 3.0 rating?

I've been compiling famous firsts and lasts in US broadcast history. Just like everything else on this blog, this list is a work in progress. The list currently has 610 items with a verified date and another 1925 items for which I'm still verifying dates. I'll continue to add new items too.

You can find this new feature in the near right sidebar under "On This Date."

Friday, October 28, 2005

One Channel at a Time

Today I read about The Horror Channel, which is having a sneak peek presentation at midnight on 27 October 2005 before its premiere on 5 November 2005.

That was news enough for me, but I was shocked to learn that it's going to share space with The Men's Channel. Was I asleep for a while? How come I've never heard of The Men's Channel before? I can find newspapers refs to The Men's Channel as far back as 12 March 2001. That's over four years ago. And I never heard of it? Granted, I don't subscribe to the Dish Network, and I'm not a huge AOL fan. But still. Is that the best The Horror Channel could do?

Since I never heard of the Men's Channel, it made me wonder about other channels I've never heard of. I could've looked at TV listings, but I wanted to find obscure channels. I quickly clicked over to the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) and searched the trademark archives.

Here is a short list of the lesser known—but more interesting—channels that filed documents with the USPTO. Some of these hit the airwaves. Others never got off the ground. And the rest are just beginning their journey.
  • A.D.D. TV
  • alpha Mom TV
  • Bark TV
  • The Biker Channel
  • Cosmopolitan TV (Yes. Cosmopolitan, the magazine.)
  • Cool TV
  • The Disaster Channel
  • Dyke TV
  • Einstein Channel
  • Farmer's Almanac TV
  • Hype TV: Hot Young People's Entertainment Television
  • JC-TV: Jesus Christ TV
  • Ripe TV
  • Shower Channel
  • Taxidermy TV

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Second Mouse Gets the Expertise

I've become impatient. I want everyone to have a remote that gives them the same control as a computer mouse.

Using arrow keys to navigate? That's just not good enough. You're restricted to selecting options in a menu. You should be able to use your remote to move a cursor anywhere you want on your TV screen.

Why?, of course.

No, it doesn't exist yet. And I have no inside scoop about Amazon's product pipeline. All I have is my own conjecture.


How many times has this happened to you? You're watching something on TV and you want to know who is portraying one of the characters. You go to, but you can't remember the character's name either. Complete frustration. You resign yourself to clicking links for every performer, looking at headshots, and eventually finding what you seek.

Shouldn't this process be simpler?

Imagine if the video feed has imdb hyperlinks for every performer. So far, so easy.

Now let's take it one step further. Imagine that you can access the hyperlinks by using your remote—your second mouse—to click on the body or face of any on-screen character. After you click, the performer's page appears on your computer (or your TV screen). You just can't get any easier than that. No more frustration.

How much would you pay for something like that? Don't answer yet, there's more.

Why not use the hyperlinks in reverse? For each entry on a performer's imdb page, you'll have the option to view video. That's not very special. But there are hyperlinks. Before you view the video, you'll have the option of viewing the entire video or just the scenes in which the performer appears.

This reverse feature will rule searches for late-night musical guest appearances. There will be no better way to see and hear your fave group on ''Letterman'' and then ''SNL'' and, finally, ''Conan.'' All from one place.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

If the Name Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

Take a look at tonight's schedule on ABC. You can watch the 'Trick or Treat Me Right' ep of "George Lopez" and 'Halloween' on "Freddie."

Can you believe that 36 different series had an ep named 'Halloween' or 'The Halloween Show?' That's pretty popular, but it's not good enough to crack the top ten. It's not even the most popular holiday!

I'm sure you can guess the #1 most popular ep name since all series have one thing in common—they all have pilot episodes.

Here are the top 10 most popular ep titles:
# of SeriesEpisode Name (Variations Included)
795  Pilot (The Pilot)
89  Reunion (The Reunion)
77  The Wedding (Wedding, The Wedding Show)
63  Homecoming (The Homecoming)
59  The Legacy (Legacy)
55  The Gift (Gift)
53  The Witness (Witness)
52  My Brother's Keeper (Brother's Keeper)
51  The Hero (Hero)
44  Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving Show, The Thanksgiving Show)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Build a Better Jackpot and the World Will Beat a Path to Your Net

Today I was searching for Daytime Emmy Award data for the trivialTV Awards database, and the gameshow categories reminded me of some research I did this past summer.

I was curious about how much cash the best gameshow contestants won, and that search led me to a list of cumulative winnings at That site provides a great list, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for.

I wanted to know who held the record for largest cash winnings from a single championship run on a gameshow at any given time in history. We know Ken Jennings was the largest cash winner when he finished his "Jeopardy" domination, but who held the record before him? And who held the record before that? And before that? I took this line of questioning as far back as I could. And here's what I found.

Announced Cash WinningsDateContestant Information
$2,522,700  11/30/2004Ken Jennings
$2,180,000  4/10/2001Kevin Olmstead
("Who Wants to Be a Millionaire")
$1,765,000  2/16/2000Lt. David Legler
("Twenty One")
$1,120,000  2/2/2000Rahim Oberholzer
("Twenty One")
$1,000,000  11/19/1999John Carpenter
("Who Wants to Be a Millionaire")
$500,000  1/1986Connie & Steve Rutenbar, each
("$1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime")
$220,500  7/7/1958Elfrida Von Nardroff
("Twenty One")
$192,000  4/16/1957Robert Strom
("The $64,000 Question")
$152,000  4/7/1957Teddy Nadler
("The $64,000 Challenge")
$129,000  3/11/1957Charles Van Doren
("Twenty One")
$100,000  12/10/1955Ethel Park Richardson
("The Big Surprise")
$64,000  9/13/1955Capt. Richard McCutchen
("The $64,000 Question")
$32,000  7/19/1955Catherine Kreitzer
("The $64,000 Question")
$16,000  6/21/1955Redmond O'Hanlon
("The $64,000 Question")
$8,870  9/6/1950Capt. Kenneth Bowen
("Break the Bank")
$7,635  6/18/1949
("Spin the Picture")

I want to make a few comments about the table.
  • It's possible that someone is missing from the table between Redmond O'Hanlon and Capt. Kenneth Bowen. Brooks and Marsh's Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows mentions that "correct identification could be worth a $15,000 jackpot" on "Sing It Again." "Sing It Again" aired from 9/2/1950 - 6/23/1951. Right between these two winners. Does anybody know if someone won the jackpot on "Sing It Again?" And if someone won, does anybody know who and when?
  • Does anybody know the name of the person who won (and the date) for the $7,635 cash prize on "Spin the Picture?" Brooks and Marsh's Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows states "the first jackpot winner, who identified a 'spinning picture' of composer Richard Rodgers, took home a cool $7,635."

I also want to briefly describe why I compiled the list the way I did and the implications. I focused on:
  • "Announced" winnings because there is some doubt as to how much contestants actually received during the Quiz Show scandals. There are also some questions about installment payments versus a single payment (and the time-value of money). And finally there is some uncertainty whether all intallments were actually paid.
  • cash winnings so that I didn't have to worry about placing a dollar value on merchandise. By including only cash, Thom McKee ("Tic Tac Dough," 1980) falls from the list since is winnings ($312,700) included cash and merchandise, including multiple cars.
  • a single championship run so that I didn't need to be concerned with cumulative winnings. It was difficult enough, at times, to find reliable information about a single show. This choice affects a few contestants who appeared on both "The $64,000 Question" and "The $64,000 Challenge."

Monday, October 24, 2005

The More Awards the Merrier

Notice anything new?

Look up. No, not that far. Just below my blog description.

That's right. You can now search a large part of my Awards database with one click of a button. After you select a series and press the 'Find Awards For' button, search results are displayed in a pop-up window.

I was going to slow play this feature. Tease you this week and then slowly unveil more of the database over then next three weeks. I decided to go all-in instead.


The trivialTV Awards database is still a work in progress.
  • It includes TV awards conferred by more than 130 organizations, but I'll continue to add more. If you know of awards that aren't listed, such as the Cable Ace Awards, send me an e-mail.
  • Data is missing for some years for some awards. I keep careful track of missing data for each and every award and will fill in these gaps. If you notice any missing data, such as the 1974-2002 Daytime Emmy Awards, send me an e-mail.
  • As with any new database, there are bound to be some errors. I'm only human, but I've cross-checked as much as possible. If you find mistakes or notice anything odd, please e-mail me. (For instance, this week I need to fix series, such as ''Survivor'' and ''The Daily Show,'' that have more than one show title so that you can see all awards.)

Don't see your favorite series listed? That means the show doesn't appear in the trivialTV Awards database yet.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Everybody Hates Schwag

OK. I know that ''Everybody Hates Chris'' is a big hit for UPN, but I think they're going a little bit overboard.

I'm sure you're waiting with bated breath for your ''Everybody Hates Chris'' snow globe. How 'bout ''Everybody Hates Chris'' cocktail shakers? You think I'm making this stuff up? As you know, I'm not nearly that creative.

Paramount Pictures Corp. filed multiple trademark applications for their critically-acclaimed skein. It all started late September, when they filed an app for television series. That makes perfect sense. Then it just snowballed this month. So far Paramount filed seven separate trademark apps in October for the following items:
  • Apparel, namely Baseball Caps, Sweatshirts, Golf Shirts, Costumes

  • Furniture, Non-Metal Key Fobs, Key Chains, Novelty License Plates, Snow Globes

  • Duffel Bags, Book Bags, Fanny Packs, Coin Purses, Umbrellas, Wallets

  • Paper goods and printer matter, namely Books, Calendars, Comic Books, Pens, Trading Cards, Magazines, Greeting Cards, Bumper Stickers, Decals

  • Jewelry, Watches, Clocks

  • Videocassettes, DVDs, Decorative Refrigerator Magnets, Sunglasses, Mousepads

  • Housewares, namely Coffee Mugs, Shot Glasses, Drinking Flasks, Cocktail Shakers, Lunch Pails

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Proof Is in the Mashing

DJ Danger Mouse created "The Grey Album" by mashing Jay-Z's "The Black Album" with the Beatles' "White Album." He took two very different records and mixed their tracks to create something new and original.

Songs are relatively simple to mash since you only have to worry about audio. Plus songs are only three minutes long compared to 20 (or 40) minutes for a TV ep. I reckon that TV mashing might start by mixing animation with live-action. Take one character from an animated show and overlay that character on the live action. The first TV mash-ups might look a lot like "Roger Rabbit."

Right now DJ Levitan might be out there creating "Sammy, Just Shoot the Bunny" with Mark Bender and his brown-nosing assistant, Sammy French.

Has anybody seen an extended TV mash-up?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

His Sorry Repeats Itself

Maybe you were one of the four million people who watched ''All of Us'' on UPN this past Monday. OK. Maybe not. But that means you missed an episode called ''Divorce Means Never Having to Say I'm Sorry.''

There must be a lot of sorry people on TV. (Take that however you want.) TV writers use ep titles to immortalize this simple request for forgiveness. Of the 40 or so ep titles containing "sorry," here are a few of the more interesting ones:

  • Being Fired Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry (''Almost Perfect,'' 3/11/1996)
  • I'm Sorry I Told You My Wife Was Dead (''Coach,'' 4/26/1989)
  • Love Is Having to Say You're Sorry (''9 to 5'')
  • Love Means Constantly Having to Say You're Sorry (''Doogie Howser, M.D.,'' 1/27/1993)
  • Somebody Has to Say They're Sorry (''Rhoda,'' 1/23/1977)
  • Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word (''Dave’s World,'' 12/5/1994)
  • Suing Means Saying You're Sorry (''Room 222,'' 2/4/1972)
  • Yule Be Sorry (''Joe’s Life,'' 12/15/1993)
  • Tuesday, October 18, 2005

    When Your Only Tool Is a TV Camera, Every Premise Looks Like a TV Show

    According to the futon critic, NBC has signed a deal with Aaron Sorkin for a series that is tentatively titled "Studio 7 on the Sunset Strip."
    The project, which Sorkin wrote on spec, is described as a "Sports Night"-esque look at the lives of those that work on a long-running "Saturday Night Live"-esque sketch-comedy show based in Los Angeles. (source: the futon critic)
    As if we don't see enough TV by just watching the tube. Now we get to watch more TV shows about TV shows. And yes, there are even TV shows about TV shows about TV shows. But we won't dive that deep into the shark-ridden waters of reality and talk TV.

    What's our fascination with "The Making of..." and "Behind the Scenes of..." anyways? We want to feel part of the process. We all want to feel like we know something that we weren't supposed to know. Or that we'll know some trivial fact that makes us seemingly a little more hip at the next party.

    Is this a recent trend? Not really. Back in the 1950s, some of us watched "Behind the Scenes at Disneyland with Fess Parker." In the 1980s, we watched TV specials about "The Making of Superman" and "The Making of Supergirl." During the 1990s, we watched "The Making of Jurassic Park" and Behind the Scenes of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Walker, Texas Ranger" and "Beverly Hills, 90210." And in the early 2000s, we watched "The Making of Fear Factor" and "The Making of The Passion of the Christ."

    "Studio 7 on the Sunset Strip" will not be the only series about TV shows. Can you match each of these scripted TV series with their on-air counterparts?

    TV SeriesOn-Air TV Series
    1."Murphy Brown"a."Wake Up, Providence"
    2."The Sinbad Show"b."Ticket to Ride"
    3."The Two of Us"c."Sweetknuckle Junction"
    4."Life with Bonnie"d."Tool Time"
    5."Greg the Bunny"e."Morning Chicago"
    6."On the Air"f."F.Y.I."
    7."A Fine Romance"g."The Lester Guy Show"
    8."Home Improvement"h."It's Science Time"
    9."Doctor, Doctor"i."Breakfast with Charlie"
    10."The Tom Show"j."Mid-Morning Manhattan"


    Monday, October 17, 2005

    TV Power Ratings, Part Deux

    After that three-week special presentation of TV Shorties, we now return to our regularly scheduled program.

    If you think back about four weeks ago, I posted TV Power Ratings, Part One. The purpose of Part One was simple—rate the importance of a program to its network during the week it aired. I call this number the show's Relative Network Rating.

    But that's only the first contribution to a show's overall Power Rating. What else do we need to consider?

    Think back ten years ago when "The Single Guy" was consistently rated as one of the top ten shows every week. It was highly rated, but was it powerful? Hardly. It was tucked nicely between "Friends" and "Seinfeld," and attracted far fewer households. Plus it was part of Must-See TV. Only the most-watched network night at the time. Put all of this together and what do you find? "The Single Guy" had a relatively low overall Power Rating. A low Power Rating indicates that the show won't attract much of an audience if it moves out of a cushy timeslot into a less desirable timeslot. (This notion was confirmed in late March 1997 when "The Single Guy" moved to Wednesdays at 8:30PM. The show was rated #7 for its last week on Thursdays and #62 for its first week on Wednesdays.)

    After thinking about this example, the second contribution is quite clear—compare each program to the lead-in and lead-out programs. That's really not a revelation. TV experts like Marc Berman frequently compare ratings of a program to the ratings of preceding and succeeding shows.

    I'm going to make this comparison even simpler by comparing every show to the highest-rated show of the evening on the same network. I define a show's Hold Rating as
    Hold Rating = ([Show Rating]/[High Rating] - 1)*5.

    The [High Rating] is, of course, the rating for the highest-rated show on the same network and the same night. I subtract "1" so that the quantity is always a negative number—the Hold Rating should penalize shows for not being able to hold an audience. I multiply the difference by "5" so that the range of the Hold Rating is similar to the range of the Relative Network Rating.

    I then compute the Power Rating by adding the two quantities together,
    Power Rating = Relative Network Rating + Hold Rating,
    for every airing.

    Finally, I calculate the Total Power Rating by taking the average value of all airings,
    Total Power Rating = Average(Power Rating).

    If a show has a high Total Power Rating, that series is quite valuable to its network. Likewise, if a series has a low Total Power Rating, a network is very likely to cancel (or not renew) that series.

    You can look in the near right column for this new feature. This week I present the series with the top 10 and bottom 10 Total Power Ratings in 2004-2005. I'll add Total Power Ratings for other years, including the current year in the coming weeks.

    Friday, October 14, 2005

    Don't Count the Actors, Make the Actors Count

    Did you hear the rumor about Malcolm David Kelley leaving "Lost" because he was homesick? Maybe you also heard that if he left, the producers would have recast Walt's role with a new actor. According to TV Guide's Michael Ausiello, we don't have to worry yet.

    This recasting possibility made me think about other TV characters played by multiple actors. ''The Aldrich Family'' and ''Big Town'' immediately came to mind since these series used five different performers to play the roles of Henry Aldrich and Lorelei Kilbourne, respectively. Of course ''Bewitched'' had one of the more famous cast changes when Dick Sargent replaced Dick York as the new Darrin Stephens.

    Match each actress (left column) with her replacement (right column). For a few bonus points, name the TV character played by the pair. There's a twist though. One of the actresses in the left column played two different TV roles for which she was replaced.

    ActressReplacement Actress
    1.Barbara Bel Geddesa.Karen Cellini
    2.Dixie Carterb.Sarah Chalke
    3.Meg Fosterc.Sharon Gless
    4.Lecy Goransond.Janet Louise Johnson
    5.Cloris Leachmane.Stepfanie Kramer
    6.Diane Markofff.June Lockhart
    7.Pamela Sue Marting.Mary Ann Mobley
    8.Catherine Oxenbergh.Donna Reed
    i.Emma Samms


    Thursday, October 13, 2005

    A Nod Is as Good as a Wink to a Robot

    I was at the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge this past Saturday. If you're not familiar with the 2005DGC, 23 vehicles started a 133-mile across the desert. Four vehicles finished the course in less than 7.5 hours.

    You're not impressed? What if I told you that the vehicles drove themselves. That's right. No human drivers. No remote control. Nothing. Teams provided course coordinates for the vehicles at the Start Line and pressed 'Go.' After that, the bots drove themselves. Completely autonomous. That's a serious "Look ma, no hands!" moment.

    The military will first develop autonomous vehicles to transport supplies during war. Why risk the safety of drivers in hostile places like Iraq?

    Once that happens, the media options are limitless. Can you imagine the applications for television?

    Yes, robotic cameras are already used in the TV industry, but these cameras work via remote control or by tracking a pre-defined signal. Can you imagine a camera in the field that not only moves by itself but calculates the best place to move all on its own?

    If you live in SoCal, you often see camera crews and field reporters head into the throes of wildfires during our annual fire season. Now imagine dropping an autonomous camera robot at a safe distance from the flames and let the camera decide for itself what video to capture. Not only will you see better up-close video, TV personnel are better protected.

    Don't think crew safety is important when covering wildfires? Just ask Chuck Henry. I think he might have a story to share.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005

    Killing Two Pop Refs with One Title

    Take a look at tonight's TV schedule. You can watch the ''Still Beauty and the Geek'' episode of ''Still Standing'' on CBS.

    I love ep titles like this. A pop culture reference about something that originally paid homage to a classic. Two degrees of separation. Two cultural refs for the price of one.

    TV writers love classic stories, and Beauty and the Beast is no exception. More than 60 TV ep titles allude to B&tB. Here's a sample of some of the more clever ones:

  • Beauty and the Beasty Boy (''Suddenly Susan,'' 11/14/1996)
  • Beauty and the Beef (''Benson,'' 2/3/1984)
  • Beauty and the Bleats (''Sheep in the Big City,'' 3/10/2002)
  • Beauty and the Brass (''Private Benjamin,'' 2/15/1982)
  • Beauty and the Breast (''L.A. Law,'' 5/7/1992)
  • Beauty and the Least (''The New Phil Silvers Show,'' 1/11/1964)
  • Beauty and the Obese (''Stripperella,'' 6/26/2003 & 10/2/2003)
  • Beauty and the Pest (''Newhart,'' 1/15/1990)
  • Beauty and the Screech (''Saved by the Bell,'' 10/21/1989)
  • Booty and the Beast (''Donkey Kong Country,'' 9/13/1998)
  • Cutie and the Beast (''Animaniacs,'' 9/7/1996)
  • Judy and the Beast (''Dream On,'' 7/20/1994)
  • Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    Burn-Off Is the Thief of Time

    If you've been watching TV Shorty Watch in the near-right column or paying attention to TV news, you already know that NBC cancelled ''Inconceivable.'' But according to some news reports,
    It's not clear how many installments of "Inconceivable's" initial 13-episode commitment were shot or if they will be burned off at a later date.
    Ahh, the classic carrot. The burn-off. Tell the viewers that the show is gone now and that production has stopped, but keep the door open to show the remaining eps some time later. You never know what summer schedule holes might appear.

    Are networks really telling the truth? Do they bring back shows after putting them on the shelf very early? Or is it just false hope?

    Let's find out. I looked for primetime network TV series that networks pulled from the airwaves early (after the 1st, 2nd or 3rd airing) and then showed new eps sometime later during primetime. Here's the list of TV series in the last 20 years that had a break like this that lasted at least 100 days.
      287 days: ''McKenna'' (ABC, 1994)
      263 days: ''Love & Money'' (CBS, 1999)
      261 days: ''Mercy Point'' (UPN, 1998)
      261 days: ''Mission Hill'' (WB, 1999)
      194 days: ''Million Dollar Mysteries'' (Fox, 2000)
      186 days: ''Melba'' (CBS, 1986)
      175 days: ''Coast to Coast'' (CBS, 1997)
      141 days: ''The Family'' (ABC, 2003)
      127 days: ''The Great Defender'' (Fox, 1995)
      125 days: ''Blaine'' (NBC, 1983)
      124 days: ''EZ Streets'' (CBS, 1996)
      115 days: ''Push'' (ABC, 1998)
      111 days: ''A League of Their Own'' (CBS, 1993)
      109 days: ''Under One Roof'' (UPN, 2002)
      108 days: ''All Souls'' (UPN, 2001)

    Just a few notes:
  • Series like ''Strange World'' (ABC, 1999) that had a break of 1081 days before showing the next new ep on a different network (SciFi) are not included.
  • I removed series, such as ''Aliens in the Family'' (ABC, 1996), from the list. The series started in ABC primetime and moved to ABC Saturday mornings 127 days later. Series must reappear in primetime network TV on the same network.
  • Not all series are cancelled when they take an extended break. Sometimes networks show a sneak peek episode, like ''Down and Out in Beverly Hills'' (Fox, 1987) and ''American Dad'' (Fox, 2005), and wait weeks before airing another new ep. After showing special preview eps, Fox waited 90 and 84 days, respectively, to show ep #2 for these two series.
  • Monday, October 10, 2005

    One and Done

    Can I have a drum roll please?

    Here's the list that everybody's been waiting for: One & Done. Which series did the networks pick up, intend to air at least four eps in primetime, and then shelve after the first ep?

    Here's the ultimate shorty list:
  • ''Co-ed Fever'' (CBS, 1979)
  • ''Dot Comedy'' (ABC, 2000)
  • ''Lawless'' (Fox, 1997)
  • ''Public Morals'' (CBS, 1996)
  • ''South of Sunset'' (CBS, 1993)
  • ''Turn On'' (ABC, 1969)
  • ''Who's Whose'' (CBS, 1951)
  • ''The Will'' (CBS, 2005)
  • ''You're in the Picture'' (CBS, 1961)

    The list does not include:
  • busted pilots.
  • series that networks picked up and produced, but never aired (see comments for more series).
  • skeins, like ''The Guys Next Door'' (1990, NBC), that showed a sneak peek ep in primetime before settling into other (Saturday morning) timeslots.
  • shows, like ''Good Morning, Miss Bliss'' (1988, Disney), that aired a pilot on network primetime (NBC, 7/11/1987) and then were picked up for a non-network run (Disney, 1988-1989).

    Just one more note:
  • ''Juarez'' (ABC, 1988): ABC halted production before any eps aired but after two eps were completed. ABC then burned off one of these two completed eps on May 28, 1988. Since ABC obviously had no intention of airing more than three eps, I don't include ''Juarez'' on the list.
  • Friday, October 07, 2005

    The Network That Lives by the Series Shall Die by the Series

    Yes, Major League Baseball's (MLB's) World Series can spark a ratings boost, but, in the past, networks blamed the Series for putting many new shows on permanent hiatus.

    Fact or fiction?

    It's tough showing the World Series (and playoffs) while building audiences for new shows at the same time. Just look at ''Kitchen Confidential'' this year. Fox puts the show on a planned break so they can show MLB playoffs, and many people start rumors that the show is in immediate danger of being cancelled. Just amazing.

    Put yourself in charge of Fox. What do you do? Do you start series before the official TV season, get viewers hooked early and then give them a break to forget why they're hooked? Or do you delay the start of the TV season until after the World Series and hope that viewers haven't already picked new shows on other networks to fill their precious leisure time?

    You're really between a rock and a hard place. Yes, there are shows, like ''Prison Break,'' that draw an audience early and will likely maintain that audience when the show returns. But there's also a reason why Fox is airing two eps of ''Prison Break'' this Monday. They'll try anything to maintain viewer interest.

    OK, how tough is it really?

    From 1991-2004, the network showing the World Series is almost 50% more likely than other networks to not order additional episodes for new Fall series. If you look at all series that premiered in August, September or October from 1991-2004, you will find that:
    • 79 series premiered on nets showing the World Series and 48 of these series (61%) didn't air a 14th episode.
    • 371 series debuted on nets not showing the World Series and 159 of these series (43%) didn't make it past the 13th episode.

    That's only part of the truth though. The World Series has little effect on whether a show is picked up for a second season:
    • 79 series premiered on nets showing the World Series and 19 of these series (24%) saw a second season.
    • 371 series debuted on nets not showing the World Series and 183 of these series (31%) aired an additional season.

    So what's the real story?

    The net that shows the Series finds ways to promote its fav shows and renews these series for a second season at approximately the same rate as the other nets. But if the World Series net doesn't think a show has legs (see ''Head Cases''), it's going to yank that series from the airwaves faster than other nets. Why the quick trigger finger? MLB playoffs take up airtime and there just isn't enough time available for these short-lived shows.

    Now you know why ''Sex, Love & Secrets'' is still on the air. If UPN was showing the World Series instead of Fox, ''SL&S'' would already be in the TV graveyard. But UPN has to air something--why not recover some sunk costs and burn off the remaining ''SL&S'' eps.

    Thursday, October 06, 2005

    LCDs and OLEDs and E-Ink, Oh My!

    I was reading an article about how campers want to take their media, including TV, with them into nature. And that article prodded me to think a little bit more about portable video products. The ideal video product for campers:
    • is lightweight,
    • is small when packed away but still has a large screen when used,
    • has long play time.
    You can think about a lightweight screen that you roll up and transport in a poster tube. Just unfurl the display and you're ready to watch video. This not-so-new concept would be the ultimate product for many uses though. Not just camping.

    What type of display is best-suited for such a product? A Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) Display or electronic ink (e-ink) display? I'm betting on OLED displays.

    (+/-)read why

    Wednesday, October 05, 2005

    What Was the Question?

    If you look at tomorrow night's CBS lineup, you might notice a Shakespearean touch to ''Survivor.'' Tomorrow's ep is called To Betray or Not To Betray. And that's not the first ''Survivor'' homage to The Bard's most famous quote. To Quit or Not to Quit aired two years ago.

    As you can imagine, TV writers worship Bill and they especially adore Hamlet. Nearly 100 ep titles riff off the first line of his soliloquy. ''Bewitched'' has four eps that pay homage to Hamlet's words:
    • To Go or Not to Go, That Is the Question
    • To Trick or Treat or Not to Trick or Treat
    • To Twitch or Not to Twitch
    • TV or Not TV
    TV or Not TV seemed clever when I first saw it and TV scribes must agree. More than 20 series have an ep with this exact title!

    What are some of the more clever ep titles that honor Hamlet? Here's a small sampling.
  • 4B or Not 4B (''NYPD Blue,'' 9/28/1993)
  • Doobie or Not Doobie (''What's Happening!!,'' 1/28/1978, 2/4/1978)
  • P.C. or Not P.C. (''Bob,'' 10/30/1992)
  • T.A. or Not T.A. (''Smart Guy,'' 11/1/1998)
  • To Bee or Not to Bee (''The Mask: The Animated Series,'' 9/27/1996)
  • To Bleat or Not to Bleat (''Sheep in the Big City,'' 11/24/2000)
  • To Bowl or Not to Bowl (''The Odd Couple,'' 9/19/1974)
  • To Bris or Not to Bris (''Rude Awakening,'' 7/17/1999)
  • To DNA or Not to DNA (''For the People,'' 8/11/2002)
  • To Hock or Not to Hock (''How to Marry a Millionaire,'' 10/28/1957)
  • To Plea or Not to Plea (''Rachel Gunn, R.N.,'' 7/12/1992)
  • To Re-enlist or Not to Re-enlist (''Gomer Pyle, USMC,'' 2/15/1967)
  • To Ski or Not to Ski (''Oh Madeline,'' 11/22/1983)
  • Toby or Not Toby (''Dream On,'' 10/6/1991)
  • Toupee or Not Toupee (''Shaky Ground,'' 5/9/1993)
  • Tuesday, October 04, 2005

    Every Colon Has a Silver Line

    This coming Sunday you can watch a new TV movie, ''The Hunt for the BTK Killer,'' on CBS. If this movie had premiered ten years ago, it probably would've been called ''Wichita's BTK Terror: The Dennis Rader Story.''

    In the mid '90s it seemed like every TV movie title was colon-ized. Today? Not so much. From the beginning of 1992 through the end of 1995 more than 40 TV movies followed the basic form, ''_____: The [insert person's name] Story.'' In the past four years? One. A 2002 CBS two-part movie, ''Master Spy: The Robert Hanssen Story.''

    I actually miss colon-ized TV movie titles. They probe the American pop psyche, creating an odd confluence of sensational news items and celeb biodramas.

    Fill in the blank for titles of celeb biodramas of the '90s (left column) with the celeb's name (right column):
    Movie TitleCeleb
    1.On Thin Ice: The ____ Storya.Annette Funicello
    2.Reason for Living: The ____ Storyb.Jill Ireland
    3.Love and Betrayal: The ____ Storyc.Bruce Lee
    4.A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: The ____ Storyd.Dennis Rodman
    5.Never Say Never: The ____ Storye.Mia Farrow
    6.A Brother's Promise: The ____ Storyf.Tai Babilonia
    7.Dragon: The ____ Storyg.Dan Jansen
    8.Never Give Up: The ____ Storyh.Alan Freed
    9.Bad As I Wanna Be: The ____ Storyi.Jimmy V
    10.Mr. Rock 'N' Roll: The ____ Storyj.Deidre Hall


    Monday, October 03, 2005

    Three and Free

    Last Monday I listed TV series that were Two and Through. Today? Three and Free.

    On a typical Sunday evening--exactly 53 years ago from last night--something unexpected happened. A series premiered during the Fall TV season, and NBC yanked that skein from the airwaves after only 3 eps. ''Doc Corkle'' premiered on 10/5/1952 and quickly became the first Fall TV Shorty.

    It's not easy finding these shows though. Many times networks show a series of three specials, such as ''The Great American Celebrity Spelling Bee'' (Fox, 2004). They're specials, not series, and aren't included.

    Sometimes a network announces that it will air a series only three times, such as ''The Colin Quinn Show'' (NBC, 2002) and ''The $25 Million Hoax'' (NBC, 2004). This is not a recent practice either. NBC aired all three eps of ''The Law'' (NBC, 1975) and ''McNaughton's Daughter'' (NBC, 1976)--both series were based on TV movies and these limited series filled small holes in NBC's Spring schedules. I don't include these series since they completed their full network runs.

    Miniseries, like ''Awakening Land'' (NBC 1978) and ''Chiefs'' (CBS, 1983), were shown in three parts. These miniseries are excluded as well since they also finished their network runs.

    Without further adieu, here is the list of TV series that networks aired only three times even though they planned a longer run when the first ep aired:
  • ''Angel Street'' (CBS, 1992)
  • ''As If'' (UPN, 2002)
  • ''Beyond Westworld'' (CBS, 1980)
  • ''Brats of the Lost Nebula'' (WB, 1998)
  • ''Built to Last'' (NBC, 1997)
  • ''The Chamber'' (Fox, 2002)
  • ''The Court'' (ABC, 2002)
  • ''Daddy's Girl'' (CBS, 1994)
  • ''Doc Corkle'' (NBC, 1952)
  • ''E.A.R.T.H. Force'' (CBS, 1990)
  • ''E.S.P.'' (ABC, 1958)
  • ''First Years'' (NBC, 2001)
  • ''Fish Police'' (CBS, 1992)
  • ''Flatbush'' (CBS, 1979)
  • ''Forbidden Secrets'' (Pax, 2001)
  • ''Harsh Realm'' (Fox, 1999)
  • ''Hold It Please'' (CBS, 1949)
  • ''Jokebook'' (NBC, 1982)
  • ''The Legend of Calamity Jane'' (WB, 1997)
  • ''Let's Make a Deal'' (NBC, 2003)
  • ''Life...and Stuff'' (CBS, 1997)
  • ''The Martin Short Show'' (NBC, 1994)
  • ''Meet the Marks'' (Fox, 2002)
  • ''My Guide to Becoming a Rock Star'' (WB, 2002)
  • ''NBC Sports Spot'' (NBC, 1958)
  • ''On the Air'' (ABC, 1992)
  • ''Once a Hero'' (ABC, 1987)
  • ''100 Grand'' (ABC, 1963)
  • ''Over the Top'' (ABC, 1997)
  • ''Palace Guard'' (CBS, 1991)
  • ''Playing It Straight'' (Fox, 2004)
  • ''Power Play'' (UPN, 1999)
  • ''Profiles from the Front Line'' (ABC, 2003)
  • ''Push'' (ABC, 1998)
  • ''Queens Supreme'' (CBS, 2003)
  • ''Rendezvous'' (ABC, 1952)
  • ''The Roller Girls'' (NBC, 1978)
  • ''Say What?'' (CBS, 1992)
  • ''Scorch'' (CBS, 1992)
  • ''She Spies'' (NBC, 2002)
  • ''Significant Others'' (Fox, 1998)
  • ''The Stones'' (CBS, 2004)
  • ''Strange World'' (ABC, 1999)
  • ''Stressed Eric'' (NBC, 1998)
  • ''Struck by Lightning'' (CBS, 1979)
  • ''Studio 5-B'' (ABC, 1989)
  • ''Sunday Best'' (NBC, 1991)
  • ''Talk to Me'' (ABC, 2000)
  • ''Tall Hopes'' (CBS, 1993)
  • ''Trial and Error'' (CBS, 1988)
  • ''The Trouble with Larry'' (CBS, 1993)
  • ''Wasteland'' (ABC, 1999)
  • ''What Happened'' (NBC, 1952)
  • ''Your Big Moment'' (Dumont, 1953)

    Some notes about a few of these series:
  • ''Brats of the Lost Nebula'' is the only Saturday morning series of which I'm aware that couldn't make it off The TV Shorty List.
  • ''Power Play'' and ''Stressed Eric'' originally aired in Canada and the UK, respectively. Both series later aired on US primetime TV, and US networks banished them after only three eps.
  • ''She Spies'' was destined for Syndication from the beginning, but NBC tried something unique. NBC wanted to air four eps of ''She Spies'' during primetime so that more viewers would sample the show. The idea was a ratings failure, and NBC stopped the four-episode trial after only three eps.