Category: TV

Failing Upward, Ever Upward

There are no second acts in American life, unless you are Jeff Zucker, in which case your catastrophic firebombing of a major television network can be followed up with a job running a beleaguered news operation.

Jeff Zucker, the man who brought you “The Jay Leno Show,” the man who took NBC from the No. 1 network on television to the No. 4 broadcast network (there are only four), the man who infamously bungled handing over “The Tonight Show” to Conan O’Brien (and then bungled it again, and then bungled it yet again for good measure), the man who pinned his success on to “To Catch A Predator” and “The Apprentice” and “Joey,” is going to take over CNN. For a news network in search of an identity and a direction, this…is not very good news.

Cast Away

Lindelof, on the other hand? He describes his response to those huge premiere ratings as “Terror, depression, anxiety, anxiety attacks. I’m not exaggerating. Everybody who was around me at the time knows I pretty much wanted to die, and knowing that wasn’t going to happen unless I took matters into my hands, I just wanted to quit. But there was literally no one to quit to.”

— This excerpt from “The Revolution Was Televised,” the new book from Alan Sepinwall, looks at the oft-discussed origins of “Lost.” Most of this isn’t new, but it’s still interesting to hear how the show came together (though the series did obviously end as a massive, grating disappointment, story-wise).

Actor Leaving Television Show

Here’s something to be thankful for today: Chevy Chase is leaving “Community,” according to news that seeped out the day before Thanksgiving, when people likely wouldn’t be paying much attention. The reason we should be thankful for this is that we’re finally (hopefully?) going to be spared more stories about how much he hates working on the show and how much other people hate him and yes, it’s a small thing, it’s really the littlest of little things, but since it’s Thanksgiving we will just choose to be thankful for this minute thing.

Also, viewers won’t even notice much of anything for a good long while, because he has already filmed most of the episodes in the show’s delayed, abbreviated fourth season. And since the “Community” premiere has already been postponed, and since the show has terrible ratings, and since NBC only ordered a 13-episode season, and since NBC has made it clear they are moving away from the network’s low-rated (but great) comedies of the last several years, it is generally accepted that the series probably won’t make it beyond the fourth season. So, this basically means that Chevy Chase is leaving the show a few episodes before the show presumably comes to an end.

So that’s your holiday “Community” update. Happy Thanksgiving!

Lena Dunham astutely sums up some of the “Girls” backlash

People are ultimately threatened by young people taking positions of power. But there’s also this feeling of I could do that, too. People don’t feel rabidly jealous of Larry David or Salman Rushdie because they don’t think, I could do that. And with what I’ve done, I think a lot of people think, I could do that in my sleep. If I’d just met one person along my path, I would have that TV show.

— Lena Dunham seems like she has a pretty good idea about why so many people freaked out when “Girls” premiered. (And she has already cogently and thoughtfully addressed the other, larger criticism of the show: that it presented a very, very, very, very white world.)

And it’s true! A lot of the backlash did seem to stem from this notion that Dunham bumped into Judd Apatow and then got this show made, and since she and her costars had famous/successful parents, basically nobody worked for what they earned. I touched on this in my review of the pilot. (I never wrote a follow-up review or anything, but: I did wind up liking the show more and more as the season progressed.)

Dunham was born into privilege, she is young and she is a woman, so she is going to be the target of a different type of scorn than was directed at, say, Mark Zuckerberg. (Very different, apples and oranges, etc., I know, but: young man, very successful, got a few breaks and was ultimately criticized only when his actions [see: Saverin, Eduardo] warranted it, rather than for his enterprise as a whole.) If Lena Dunham didn’t meet Judd Apatow, she might not have a TV show, but she would definitely still be making movies and producing her art somewhere.

Talented people to host meaningless, empty awards show

All awards shows are inherently meaningless affairs, but the Golden Globes stand out for being particularly vacuous, pointless and fraudulent. (Also, this.) Still, if they’re going to have the damn thing, and if they’re going to put it on television, and if it’s going to have some weird (and wholly unearned) impact on the Oscar race, at least Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will be hosting the show.

NBC gets out of the Dane Cook business

I realize that NBC is still, in spite of its fledgling successes this season, a television network with a lot of problems. It is also a television network that infamously mistreats some of its best shows (see: delaying “Community” time and time again, postponing the premiere of “Parks and Recreation”). But! Since 2006, NBC has aired the best comedies on network television. Its status as a force for good in the world of televised comedies is something that is easy to overlook when it keeps yanking around “Community” and airing episodes of “The New Normal.”

So it’s nice to have a reminder that NBC occasionally looks out for you, the discerning viewer. Case in point: NBC was going to air a midseason comedy starring Dane Cook, and now NBC isn’t going to do that anymore. Four of the show’s six episodes were already filmed, and in a weird twist for this sort of thing, the network pulled the plug and reportedly won’t bother airing those episodes. Generally, a network will at least burn off the episodes of shows it has no interest in, as we saw with the likable-but-doomed “Bent” last year.

(We offer our blog apologies to the people who counted on this show for work, of course.)

Saturday Night’s Alright (For Streaming Things Online)

Do you have plans for Saturday night? If you have nothing scheduled, and if you want to stay in and watch something streaming live on the Internet, you’re in luck! Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly are going to do that thing where they debate at George Washington University (read more about it here). You can watch that for $5, if you are so inclined.

Or! Jay-Z is performing the eighth and final show in his concert series at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. That will be streaming at YouTube for free. (Because Jay-Z is Jay-Z, and he can’t sneeze without it tying into a business venture or marketing opportunity, it will be airing on his YouTube channel.)

The “Cheers” Oral History

When they came in and [pitched the show], you could feel the room shudder. “What kind of show would be in a bar? How do we handle all the alcohol?” But the Charles brothers very clearly said, “This isn’t about the place. This is about a family; it just happens not to be a group of brothers and sisters.”

I have mentioned before how I really enjoy oral histories. They’re great! Just the best. So obviously I enjoyed GQ‘s oral history of “Cheers,” considered by many to be one of the four greatest sitcoms in television history (the list also includes “Seinfeld,” “The Simpsons” and, yes, “Arrested Development,” and I realize the problems inherent in focusing on shows from the last three decades, and I also realize the issue of “Arrested Development” running for just three seasons, and I candidly admit that both “All in the Family” and “I Love Lucy” should be judged relative to the eras in which they aired, but — but! — these things are all subjective).

Also! I believe the version GQ posted online is actually longer than the one that appeared in the print edition, which means it has lots of additional material, which is quite nice.