Saturday, October 28, 2006

The O.C. - Oct. 28, 2006




Passing The Torch

Producers are promising a reinvented and rebooted version of The O.C. this season. That’s just as well. The old gang was getting a little stale.

By Eric Kohanik

There’s a lot that has gone on since the last time we checkedin on the gang at The O.C.

And, gosh, you can’t help but feel sorry for some of them.

Take that fish-out-of-water former bad boy, Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie), for instance. When last we saw poor Ryan, he was rushing to the aid of his beloved Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton), who was involved in a horrifying – and, it turns out, fatal – car mishap.

Gosh, and all this after all the joy and laughter of everyone having just graduated from Harbor high school.


Time does march on, though. And as the fourth season of The O.C. opens this week, the joys and sorrows of their journey through high school are becoming a fading memory for the crowd of young adults.

And so, it’s time for some retooling.

The O.C. has actually gone through an interesting journey. The series premiered on Aug. 5, 2003, and immediately became one of that year’s hottest hits.

That heat cooled down pretty fast, though, with the show gradually sagging in popularity as it got bogged down with a growing number of characters and soapy subplots.

But that’s all going to change this season, promises executive producer Josh Schwartz. His creative team has been busy refocusing the series on its core ensemble.

“I believe our fans will find this focus on our core characters and their relationships really satisfying,” Schwartz declared in a media release trumpeting the show’s return. “The show has been reinvented; rebooted. Personally, it feels like The O.C. is back.”

Translation: the fans were finding the old gang was getting kind of stale.

As the “reinvented” and “rebooted” season opens, Sandy and Kirsten Cohen (Peter Gallagher, Canada’s Kelly Rowan), seem happier than ever. As for Marissa’s mom, Julie(Melinda Clarke) – well, she’s not so happy.

Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson) is now a student at Brown University in Rhode Island, where she has turned into a loopy tree-hugger, thanks to a mentor named Ché (Everwood grad Chris Pratt, who will stick around for a few episodes).

As for Seth Cohen (Adam Brody), he has become a lonely guy, working at a comic-book store, watching golf with Dr. Neil Roberts (Michael Nouri) and hanging out with the Newpsies.


Anyway, there’s some other retooling in store. It’s clear that a torch is being passed.

Autumn Reeser (as Taylor) and Willa Holland (as Marissa’s sister, Kaitlin) are now series regulars. And watch for pop star Chris Brown to show up this season as a band geek who befriends Kaitlin at Harbor.

Will romance follow suit for them?

Hey…this is The O.C., after all.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The World Series - Oct. 21, 2006




Playing hardball

Sports playoffs always wreak havoc with TV schedules. But the annual baseball break also gives networks a chance for other kinds of gameplay.

By Eric Kohanik

Baseball playoffs finally settle into World Series mode this week. And that’s a significant moment– not just for baseball, but forthe TV season in general.

In many ways, sports playoffs are always areal pain in the neck for those of us in the TV business. Playoffs tend to wreak all sorts of havoc with network schedules and individual TV series.

Every spring, for instance, hockey playoffs wipe out CBC’s entire primetime schedule for almost two months (something CTV really ought to consider should it actually attempt to snag Hockey Night in Canada next year).

Baseball playoffs have a different sort of impact on the TV landscape in the fall. They tend to ruin any sort of momentum that new shows have struggled to build up in their first few weeks of existence.

That’s why Fox – the network that owns American TV rights to baseball playoffs and the World Series – launched its new season earlier than everyone else again this year. It rolled out the return of Prison Break, alongwith the premieres of such high-profile newcomers as Justice and Vanished, way back in August. The move was supposed to crank up enough story momentum and viewer interest in those shows to help them survive the ritual of being benched for baseball’sfinal onslaught.

It’s a strategy Fox used with Prison Break last year, and it worked well enough to try it again this time around.

In Canada, meanwhile, the impact of baseball playoffs and the World Series is a little different. Television rights here belong to Rogers Sportsnet, an all-sports cable outlet that would probably rely on televising tiddlywinks tournaments if it didn’t have baseball.

But baseball playoffs still affect Canadian broadcast networks such as Global and CTV, which are generally addicted to having American shows from networks like Fox on their primetime schedules. They have to scramble a little to fill in any gaps caused by the annual “baseball break.”

Fortunately, the scramble starts to subside this week, with such Fox series as Prison Break, Standoff and Happy Hour gettingback in the groove with new episodes. By month’s end, things everywhere will be back to normal. Or, at least as normal as things can get in the TV world.

The baseball break also gives all networks a chance for some other key gameplay. It’s the time when American networks assess how their new shows are doing and deteRmine what schedule tinkering needs to bedone to improve things.

If there are cancellations to be made, this is often the time for those to surface. In fact, CBS’s Smith has already bitten the dust, while NBC’s Kidnapped moves to Saturdays and will end after its 13-week run.

Watch for a slew of casualties to come.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Knights Of Prosperity - Oct. 14, 2006



What's in a name?

Sure, a rose by any other name may still smell as sweet. But sometimes,even a bunch of title changes can’t keep a lousy TV show from stinking up the place.

By Eric Kohanik

Sometimes, a title can make or break a TV show.

A title has to reach out and grab a viewer’s attention – and hang onto it.

A lot of shows have one-word titles: Survivor, Supernanny, Vanished, Jericho and Kidnapped are examples.

Of course, it helps if that single word also has only one syllable: Friends, Cheers, Cops, House, Bones, Shark and Lost.

Sometimes, a one-word title is accompanied by “The” – The Office, The Unit, The Apprentice, The Bachelor, The Sopranos – presumably to distinguish the show from others around it.

Sometimes, titles use acronyms – letters that form a single word but stand for many more: ER, CSI, NCIS and M*A*S*H.

And sometimes, the acronyms are paired with “The” – like The O.C. – creating a double whammy.

Sometimes, titles use numbers to stand out: 60 Minutes, 24, 20/20, 30 Rock, Nanny 911 – and even the wacky Numb3rs.

And, sometimes, titles just rely on simple clichés: Without a Trace and Close to Home are a couple of examples of current shows that took that route.

Producers and TV networks spend a lot of energy coming with the right titles. Sometimes, the original ends up getting tweaked: Seinfeld started out as The Seinfeld Chronicles, for instance. And, this season, Justice started out as American Crime, the title of the show within the show.

Perhaps the wildest title exercise this season stems from The Knights of Prosperity. It’s a horrible new comedy series that casts Ottawa native Donal Logue as a schlubby, middle-aged janitor who recruits a group of losers to rob Mick Jagger’s luxury apartment in order to finance their individual dreams.

Jagger’s guest stint is the only good thing inthe pilot episode, which tends to come offmore like a cheesy made-for-cable movie.

The series was originally pitched to ABC assomething called Let’s Rob Jeff Goldblum. When Goldblum didn’t materialize but Jagger showed interest, the title was changed to Let’s Rob Mick Jagger.

Then, after someone realized that title would limit things – after all, what would happen after they robbed him? – the title was changed to Let’s Rob…, leaving the dooropen for others to be robbed in the future.

Ultimately, it became The Knights of Prosperity, which is what the would-be thieves end up calling themselves. But even when executive producer Rob Burnett was promoting the show to the press in Los Angeles back in July, he still wasn’t sure about it.

“If anyone has suggestions for a title, we’reopen to them,” Burnett quipped before providing a more serious explanation. “We felt The Knights of Prosperity was, at least forus, the best way to market this.”

The title stinks – but then, so does the show. Maybe Burnett is onto something.

Sometimes, no amount of title-changing can make a bad show good.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

30 Rock / Twenty Good Years - Oct. 7, 2006





Laughing matters

Comedy styles can be as different as night and day. For proof, check out a couple of newcomers in this week’s TV lineup.

By Eric Kohanik

It has often been said that comedy is a funny thing.

Not “ha-ha” funny. We’re talking funny in an “unusual” sense.

The business of TV comedy is like that these days. In fact, American comedy series are in the midst of an interesting transition.

It used to be that most, if not all, American sitcoms used a standard format of production. That format involves multiple cameras that simultaneously film a show as it is being played out in front of a studio audience.

The format was actually pioneered by Desi Arnaz on I Love Lucy in the 1950s. It has remained basically unchanged ever since.

There have been a few variations. All in theFamily and its spinoffs were shot on videotape rather than film. But most other sitcoms – everything from Happy Days and Cheers to Seinfeld and Friends – basically used the multi-camera film format.

In recent seasons, TV comedies have been switching to a single-camera production format. It’s the same way that most movies are made – one camera films a scene from one angle and then the entire scene is repeated as the camera is set up to film the action again and again from various other angles.

Several comedies – Get Smart, M*A*S*H and Sports Night, to name but a few – used that format in the past, but American networks would often insist on adding canned laughter to the shows, basically because they thought television audiences weren’t smart enough to know where the funny stuff was.

That’s all changing now. Thanks to the success of such shows as The Office, My Name Is Earl and Everybody Hates Chris, most of today’s best new comedy series are forgoing studio audiences and laugh tracks, deeming them as dated relics of the past.

The two styles of TV comedy can be as different as night and day. And, interestingly, NBC gives viewers a bit of a lesson in both of them this week, thanks to back-to-back premieres of two new series on Wednesday night.

First up, 30 Rock is a wry, single-camera comedy that spins its fictional stories around what goes on behind the scenes at a TV show. Saturday Night Live graduate Tina Fey tops a good cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski.

By contrast, Twenty Good Years is a much broader sitcom that stages the bulk of its action in front of a studio audience. The series casts Jeffrey Tambor and the always-larger-than-life John Lithgow as two lifelong pals who are hit by a midlife crisis and, as a result, set out to make the most of the 20 good years they have left.

The two shows are substantially different in appearance, tone and substance. And both have pros and cons to the way they do what they do.

Together, though, they offer TV buffs a great chance to see what a funny thing television comedy really is.