October 27, 2014
August 20, 2014
Working the Engels’ Nielsen viewership on NBC first dipped below two million on July 31, 2014; the viewing figures are consistent with Working the Engels’ Canadian performance on Global, as the show suffered through similarly weak ratings above the 49th parallel. NBC cancels Working the Engels after five episodes; the show was preempted August 14, 2014 by the eighth-season finale of Last Comic Standing.
As Working the Engels’ future hinged on its NBC performance after the weak Global run, this is about as cut-and-dried a cancellation as one gets in Canadian television. Regardless of Working the Engels’ perceived quality, relatively few viewers watched the show in the two countries where its performance most mattered. This doesn’t end Shaw Media and NBCUniversal’s co-development partnership – Variety’s Shelli Weinstein mentions Halfire Entertainment police procedural Rope, with Rookie Blue and Flashpoint executive producer Tassie Cameron attached to the project.
As a result of Working the Engels’ NBC cancellation, Welcome to Sweden airs two episodes on NBC August 21, 2014, assuming Working the Engels’ Thursday timeslot for the time being.
August 5, 2014
Five Canadian shows compete for viewers in this summer silly season. The viewing averages for the five Canadian shows – if you want to be pedantic, four Canadian shows, and a co-production led by CBS Television Studios – are as follows:
12. Rookie Blue, ABC (6,665,000; original airing on Global)
49. Working the Engels, NBC (2,389,000; original airing on Global)
59. Beauty and the Beast, The CW (1,280,000; Canadian airing on Showcase)
61. Seed, The CW (497,000; original airing on City)
62. Backpackers, The CW (471,000; repackaged form of CTV Extend online series)
Rookie Blue is a durable workhorse for both Global and ABC. It’s the sixth-highest-rated scripted show on American network television this summer, and ABC’s highest-rated summer scripted show. There’s no news on Rookie Blue’s future beyond its current 22-episode order, as the order is split into two separate seasons.
With sixty-three episodes in the can, and eleven more to air in 2015, Rookie Blue can afford to go into reruns. ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee mentioned that ABC might want to wind Rookie Blue up. If ABC wants to end its association with Rookie Blue, it will be a financial and/or aesthetic decision; the ratings for the fifth season were great in Canada, and the most consistently high since Rookie Blue’s first season on Global. Airing episodes a month ahead of ABC worked in Global’s favour. Rookie Blue knows its audience, and retains that audience.
Working the Engels is in direct competition with Rookie Blue, Fox’s Gang Related, and Big Brother in America. As the worst-performing new show on NBC’s summer 2014 schedule, coupled with its anemic Global performance earlier this year, Working the Engels’ future is based on whether NBC and/or Shaw Media want to bite the financial bullet for a second season. Its lead-in, Welcome to Sweden, was recently renewed by NBC for a second season, so Working the Engels has a chance.
Beauty and the Beast has already been renewed by The CW for a third season; this is just a burnoff of new episodes after The CW pulled Beauty and the Beast off its schedule in March 2014. Given BatB’s soft ratings in its second season on The CW, it’s lucky to get a third. BatB is only listed here due to Take 5 Productions and Whizbang Films’ involvement with the show; with this and Reign, Take 5 and Whizbang have a respectable presence on The CW.
Seed and Backpackers were both mercy-killed by The CW after two low-rated episodes. Even though The CW is not an American program service on par with the Big Four (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox), Seed and Backpackers’ numbers would be mediocre performances on Canada’s Big Four (CBC, CTV, Global, City). Even CBC’s 18 to Life was given three weeks on The CW, and The CW aired two episodes of that sitcom per week.
Backpackers is a “digital series” (read: broadcast-ready webseries) that hasn’t aired on Canadian television in a half-hour form. It got to play on an American broadcast program service; that’s something “traditional” sitcoms like Mr. D and Spun Out can’t currently say. At the same time, Seed and Backpackers shat the bed ratings-wise. Even for acquisitions, Backpackers shedding 240,000 viewers in a week means Backpackers won’t get to the six shows meant for broadcast first-run.
Rogers Media’s involvement with Mr. D, coupled with the announcement of Bruce McCulloch’s Young Drunk Punk, means Seed might not make it to a third season. It’s up to Rogers Media to renew Seed for a third season, but after its disastrous run on The CW, I don’t think it will happen.
January 15, 2010
XIII: The Conspiracy is based on the Franco-Belgian comic book series about an amnesiac searching for his past. The miniseries centres around a conspiracy theory tied to the assassination of the President of the United States, Sally Sheridan (Mimi Kuzyk.) XIII refers to a tattoo, the only thing identifying Dorff’s character.
XIII: The Conspiracy first aired on France’s Canal+ in October 2008. In Canada, XIII: The Conspiracy aired on Showcase and Mystery TV. I’m not even sure if Canwest aired XIII: The Conspiracy on Global. XIII: The Conspiracy was announced for Global, but that was in the days when E! existed and Canwest wasn’t yet a crumbling media entity.
Considering Jay Firestone’s Prodigy Pictures helped produce the series, this is CanCon, albeit of the co-pro variety. XIII: The Conspiracy isn’t bad, but it felt at the time like NBC’s belated attempt to cash in on the success of Fox’s 24.
A XIII: The Conspiracy regular series has been announced, although there’s not much information about the series beyond that. If anyone knows more about XIII: The Conspiracy, please comment on this blog entry. I won’t be convinced the series exists until XIII: The Conspiracy has a cable channel or network behind it.
June 2, 2009
What amazes me is that NBC bought the show for its summer schedule. I’m not saying Canadian television is superior to American television – for every Slings and Arrows there are five to ten Gutter Ball Alleys. The Listener was bought by NBC due both to the WGA writer’s strike and its abandonment of the traditional development process.
The Canadian shows floated on American networks aren’t the best, either – Flashpoint is workmanlike and entertaining, but it’s a cop procedural in a sea of cop procedurals. The Listener seems more suited for a SciFi (I’m sorry, SyFy) airing than a summer slot on NBC. Of course, NBC’s prime-time ratings are almost the lowest they’ve ever been, so any edge, I guess.
Toby Logan (Craig Olejnik) is the central protagonist of the series. The first episode sets up Logan’s world – his coming to terms with his mind-reading, his relationship with mentor Dr. Ray Mercer (Colm Feore), his personal life and day job as a paramedic. The Listener establishes its premise, gives the viewer a few characters to love/hate and fucks around for an hour.
It’s standard dramatic sci-fi television, Early Edition with mindreading taking the place of a magic newspaper. I also get a Millennium vibe from Logan’s mind-pictures. The Listener could have easily debuted in 1996, so well-worn is its premise.
The second episode, which NBC decided to pair with the first on the same night, strengthens Logan’s relationship with Detective Charlene “Charlie” Marks (Lisa Marcos), a tough cop who can’t discern how someone like Logan is able to anticipate events better than she can. Small spoiler: someone falls from a large height in both episodes. The Listener is the very definition of cookie cutter.
Aside from Dr. Mercer and fellow paramedic Osman Bey (Ennis Esmer), The Listener‘s characters aren’t very interesting. Feore and Esmer do what they can with their material, as they are the only two convincing actors on the show. Olejnik isn’t horrible as the lead character, but he’s too slight to focus on week after week. He’s only there as The Listener‘s main himbo.
NBC is placing a lot of faith in The Listener since it recently gave the show a two-hour block to debut in. Despite this, I wonder about The Listener‘s success. Either NBC’s hoping for The Listener to become a summer hit or it’s burning the show off like flash paper.
CTV has joined in the rescheduling madness, so I’m leaning towards the former scenario. Hell, I’m hoping The Listener hits big. I just wish The Listener was a less generic, more interesting show, but that’s the American prime-time bran tub for you.
January 10, 2009
The age-old question: is a half-hour consumer affairs show funnier than an hour of television pranks? We’ll find out – right now!
CBC News: Marketplace
Hosts: Wendy Mesley and Erica Johnson
Mike Holmes appears on Marketplace, as he does these days whenever Marketplace talks about housing. The show travels to Hamilton, Ontario, where an estimated one out of six houses are built in violation of building permit regulations.
The story focuses on Hamilton builder Brett Wright and his Londonderry Residential Group. Eighteen houses on a single street were built by his company before permits were issued.
This is a typical Marketplace story, and quite a strong one to start off the season. House-based episodes generally make for good television and this episode is no exception.
Erica Johnson’s short item is somewhat pointless. Someone can buy a ticket from Ticketmaster and resell it at TicketsNow, which was bought by Ticketmaster in 2008. Ticketmaster profits from surcharges and TicketsNow collects a fifteen percent commission.
The piece is two solid minutes of “well, duh.” Ticketmaster knows there’s money to be made from online scalping. It’s a no-brainer in the free market. That doesn’t make Ticketmaster’s double-dipping right, but since when do businesses have to be ethical?
Marketplace bigs itself up a bit too much this episode, but I’m glad the show’s in a timeslot where CBC affiliates can’t preempt it. Marketplace is a fairly strong show at this point in its history – good hosts, solid reporting, keeps itself current. Scheduling Marketplace after The Rick Mercer Report is stupid, but at least this show is in better shape than the fifth estate.
Howie Do It
Host: Howie Mandel
Wow, I am amazed at the show’s set. It literally looks like a set from the late 1980s. The entire show feels like it came from the 1980s. Wait, that’s not true – the theme song is from the mid-1990s. There is not one thing on this show that’s new aside from a drummer, and he’s completely unnecessary to Howie Do It.
I honestly wasn’t expecting much from Howie Do It, but I didn’t know it was going to be as bad as it is. Mandel wears glasses and a David Duchovny wig and that’s supposed to make him a whole different person, but doesn’t bother disguising his voice after the first prank. Mandel even uses a leaf blower and garden hose in tandem at one point. Howie Wowie, what a gasser.
I know Howie Do It is short-run programming while NBC “fixes” (ha!) Deal or No Deal, but is NBC this bereft of ideas? Wait, NBC doesn’t order pilots anymore and ceded weeknights at 10:00-11:00 PM to Jay Leno, so yes.
I’ll be amazed if Howie Do It lasts the full six weeks it’s been slotted for on NBC. Say hello to reruns of Most Outrageous Moments in a few weeks. Howie Get Cancelled.
Funnier Show: Marketplace!
January 5, 2009
I’m more receptive to Canadian television than a lot of people. Sometimes a Canadian show will have a horrible premise, like Life’s a Zoo.tv‘s “animals + reality show parody = fun.” I honestly thought that show would die on its ass, yet Life’s a Zoo.tv is actually decent. It’s a weaker stop-motion Drawn Together, but what the hell, I like Dr. D.
Consequently, I want to like Testees. I like South Park and Kenny vs. Spenny, two shows Kenny Hotz has had his finger in. Testees is tepid by comparison. It’s a well-worn buddy comedy without the Odd Couple-meets-reality-television dynamic that makes Kenny vs. Spenny funny. The greatest conflict in Testees is between Testico and the human guinea pigs, and that takes up two minutes of a half-hour show.
It’s hard to predict which new and returning shows will keep my interest this year. Here’s to hoping that one of these shows will meet my personal hype.
Hotbox | The Comedy Network actually teased this show late in 2008, with Pat Thornton in an owl costume wishing viewers a Merry Christmas. This was followed by random clips of the show and some “eerie” static.
Thornton is the creator of The Owl and the Man, a series of YouTube-ready shorts depicting the differences between a man and an owl. Hotbox will likely follow that tradition of absurdist humour. The show seems like Robot Chicken with proper wraparounds.
I don’t know whether or not Hotbox will be good. Thornton created and writes for the show, yet I find The Owl and the Man just okay. There have been better and worse things on The Comedy Network.
I hope Hotbox meets TV Funhouse-level standards, but it’s a tall order to be as funny as Robert Smigel. At the very least, Hotbox must be funnier than Comedy Inc. Static is funnier and far more highbrow than Comedy Inc.
The Jon Dore Television Show‘s second season | I’ve been watching some YouTube clips of the show’s first season. The new season premieres January 21, 2009 on The Comedy Network.
I wasn’t impressed by The Jon Dore Television Show at first glance. After watching this clip, my fears were allayed. I have no idea why The Comedy Network buries this show in post-South Park timeslots, but at least Jon Dore survived Canadian Idol. I guess this show did deserve its Gemini nominations last year. Neat!
Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town | Whether this airs in 2009 or early 2010 doesn’t matter. It’s Kids in the Hall. KitH is taking a page from shows like League of Gentlemen with Death Comes to Town, and a job lot of people want to see this. I want to see it. You want to see it, even if you hate Kids in the Hall with a passion. I know you!
I have reservations about Death Comes to Town. My taste for Bruce McCulloch will never wane, but Scott Thompson has annoyed me with his post-Kids work. Shows like My Fabulous Gay Wedding have underlined the fact that Thompson is gay, but where is his funny? He even threatened to ruin The Larry Sanders Show at one point, but no one can make Hank Kingsley unfunny.
Dave Foley has starred in subpar work post-Kids, like his Christmas special and NewsRadio. I’ll give Mark McKinney credit for producing Less Than Kind, but that doesn’t excuse his two mediocre seasons on Saturday Night Live. As for Kevin McDonald, he was in Zeroman and the Lilo & Stitch cartoon. ‘Nuff said.
The hype factor also works against Death Comes to Town. I remember being excited at the announcement of Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon. I was met with “Ren and Stimpy are gay” subtext and the beatdown of Mr. Horse. The new Ren & Stimpy‘s awfulness killed my respect for John Kricfalusi.
I don’t want to see Kids in the Hall suffer the same fate as John K. As soon as Dave Foley says “you’re the pitcher, I’m the catcher” to Scott Thompson, off goes the television.
Simply put, the five Kids in the Hall castmembers need each other. Together, they are a force for comedic good. It’s hard to say whether the comeback will be as funny as the original KitH, but CBC’s comedy lineup needs more than uneven political humour, Rick Mercer doing his best Shelagh Rogers impression and Being Erica.
Durham County‘s second season | I actually see this show making inroads on American television, since Flashpoint has introduced Americans to Hugh Dillon.
I’m not saying Durham County will pick up fans disenchanted by Dexter‘s third season, but what the hell. NBC bought Howie Do It, and that’s just Howie Mandel hosting a Candid Camera derivative. Slings and Arrows has an American fanbase two-and-a-half years after its death. Who the hell knows which shows will become popular in the fifteen-thousand-channel world?
Howie Do It | It debuts on Global and NBC this Friday. It probably won’t be any good, but who knows? Howie Mandel has the power to survive this show if it stiffs. This is an age where people have a new appreciation for Bob Saget and David Duchovny.
I haven’t written this show off in my mind like I have The Animated Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie. Dave Coulier as Bob? Take off, eh.
December 21, 2008
Fred Silverman was a huge part of CBS’ early-1970s “relevant programming” push. At ABC he destroyed CBS’ claim to network supremacy with escapist fare. As an independent producer, he appealed to seniors with Matlock, the Perry Mason films and Diagnosis Murder. NBC is his only tangible career low, Supertrain being the white whale that almost ate the peacock network*.
Supertrain was based on the notion that cloning The Love Boat – a show Silverman helped champion at ABC – would be enough of a concept to hang a series on. His career highs were the result of exploiting niches, yet he didn’t do that while at NBC.
In fact, NBC seemed to be throwing anything on the air that would attract an audience. In 1978-79, NBC was banking on Grandpa Goes to Washington, Dick Clark’s Live Wednesday and two nights of The Big Event. The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Rockford Files, Saturday Night Live and a few other programs held the network together with glue and toilet paper. NBC is not that badly run today.
Make or Break TV goes through the obvious Supertrain talking points in entertaining fashion. The interviewees don’t sound exciting on paper – writer Brad Radnitz, actor Joey Aresco, producer Curtis Spinner, plus executives Robert Singer and Joseph Stern. They all give entertaining behind-the-scenes stories, which stuns the hell out of me.
The interviewees paint Dan Curtis as a bit of an asshole here. He was a control freak, which allowed him to make a small fortune off Dark Shadows and contributed to his success. He was a big reason why Supertrain failed – his mystery plots didn’t mesh with Fred Silverman’s ideal of a Love Boat clone, and it’s not like he was paying attention to Supertrain‘s runaway budget.
All the same, it’s hard to install Curtis as the reason for the show’s failure. Supertrain was the very definition of “polished turd.” The show was rushed onto the production schedule before anyone knew the form the show was going to take. In addition, the show was placed in the unfathomable position of “saving” NBC. Since when does one show negate hours upon hours of crap?
Make or Break TV implies that Supertrain was the reason Fred Silverman resigned from NBC in 1981, which is simplistic at best. Supertrain was just one of the many high-profile bombs NBC dropped during Silverman’s tenure, including Hello, Larry, Pink Lady and Jeff, The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo/Lobo, Mrs. Columbo/Kate Columbo/Kate Loves a Mystery and The Big Show. Even when Grant Tinker and Brandon Tartikoff began to rebuild the network in 1981, NBC still greenlighted bombs like Manimal and Mr. Smith.
This is the best episode of Make or Break TV, which is bittersweet as the show likely won’t receive a second season. Make Believe Media’s Lynn Booth admitted as much in an e-mail she sent me. Hopefully Make or Break TV will receive a DVD set, but I’m not expecting it. At least the show finished its run, which is more than I can say for My Own Worst Enemy and the new Knight Rider.
As a special bonus, here’s ten minutes of Express to Terror, the “film version” of Supertrain. Prism Entertainment put this video out in the late 1980s. It looks great on one’s shelf next to Desert Warrior, Almost Human and Curse of the Living Corpse.
*Bizarrely, the official NBC logo didn’t feature a peacock until the fall of 1979, when Fred Silverman slapped a peacock onto the Big N logo of 1975. Incidentally, the Big N reportedly cost $600,000 to develop.
Silverman based NBC’s 1979-80 fall campaign around the peacock. Thanks to campaigns like “Proud as a Peacock,” the American boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics and shows like Pink Lady and Jeff, NBC almost went bankrupt. Go figure.