Dancing with the Stars
This could be another one of those "Who knew?" TV summers.
Ballroom dancing? Evander Holyfield? Seinfeld's J. Peterman? Trista Sutter! It's an unlikely mix that helped make Dancing with the Stars last week's No. 1 show, with 15 million viewers. It also led the competition in viewers 18 to 49.
If you've missed it, here's the premise: Each week a celebrity (and that term is used loosely) performs with a professional ballroom dancer who has helped train them in the rumba, cha-cha and other steps that haven't been seen on the networks since the advent of color TV. Then viewers and a panel of experts judge the pairs and award the winners a trophy. That's right, a trophy.
Dancing with the Stars has given ABC its best summer ratings for an original episode of an entertainment show since Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was still on fire in 2000. Despite its unlikely format, the show has been a huge hit in the U.K. (as S
Looks like the man behind all three CSIs, Without a Trace, Cold Case and The Amazing Race wants an even bigger piece of the prime-time pie. Movie producer turned TV-hitmaker Jerry Bruckheimer has five pilots vying for space on the fall schedule.
A military drama called The E-Ring
shines as the Bruckheimer series most likely to get picked up. Starring Law & Order
alum Benjamin Bratt
and Dennis Hopper
, the NBC pilot goes inside the Pentagon the way The West Wing
went behind the scenes of the White House.
"It's a formula that can be updated for these tenser times of insecurity over homeland security," says John Rash of ad agency Campbell Mithun, who's had a sneak peek at The E-Ring.
CBS is considering American Crime, a drama about a prosecutor who's also a new mom (Jennifer Finnigan could star if NBC cancels her sitcom, Committed).
When longtime Nightline anchor Ted Koppel announced last week that he'll leave ABC News in December, there was heavy speculation that it meant the end of his late night news program. While ABC News execs plan to revamp Nightline, the thinking is that Disney won't be able to resist the temptation to bring in more advertising dollars with a late-night entertainment show. But Koppel — who has every reason to be skeptical of company promises since Nightline's near-death experience a few years ago — believes the show will still be on the air two years from now.
"I do," he told the Biz last week. "I think that it's not as easy as people think to create an entirely new broadcast that has any kind of legs. I'm old enough and have been around ABC long enough to remember how many times the network tried to put on a program at 11:30 at night that failed. When you finally have a broadcast that's survived for 25 years, I think you need to expend all the energy
Pity the struggling young actor. The competition this year for a big break on network TV is stiffer than ever, as pilots angling for spots in the fall lineup have enough familiar faces to pack an I Love the '90s (or even the '80s) marathon on VH1.Lara Flynn Boyle
, Kristin Davis
, David Boreanaz
, Brooke Shields
, Peri Gilpin
, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
, Fred Savage
, Don Johnson
, Benjamin Bratt
and Dylan McDermott
are among the dozens of prime-time favorites cast in prospective shows that network execs hope will turn into the next Desperate Housewives
And they're being joined by other stars better known for their work outside of TV — including Chris O'Donnell, Dennis Hopper, Ellen Burstyn, Tom Berenger and Aidan Quinn.
Networks desperate for a rat
Crime is paying for 48 Hours Mystery.
After fighting each year for a spot on the prime-time schedule, the long-running newsmagazine is looking more secure since it's been turned into what could be called CSI: CBS News.
The show still has its single-topic format, but gone are the long-winded intros by a CBS anchor, so viewers now get right into the story.
The changes have resulted in decent ratings and a different kind of show for CBS News. While 60 Minutes wouldn't touch the Laci Peterson murder case — which has offered up endless fodder for lurid supermarket tabloid covers — 48 Hours Mystery dove right in.
But the show is at its best when it takes a Law & Order-esque look at less high-profile whodunits drawn from real life, such as the murder of a Williamsport, Penn., woman by her surgeon husband.
This week's episode (Saturday at 10 pm/ET on CBS) features the grisly tale of an una
Just call them Endangered Series — those unlucky shows whose declining ratings are killing their chances of survival. Is your favorite on the list? Here's a rundown of the programs that might get the ax to make room for next season's new shows.NBCThe West Wing
has chosen Jimmy Smits
and Alan Alda
as candidates for a post-Bartlet White House, and NBC has reelected Wing
for a seventh term, but only after Warner Bros. reportedly offered to halve
the show's hefty license fee. Ad-buying executive Tim Spengler
believes the political drama's appeal to upscale viewers, which makes it valuable to advertisers, convinced NBC to finance another fictional presidential campaign.
Other shows in NBC's danger zone: Third Watch,
There's a good reason you aren't flipping away from ABC. And we're not just talking about Desperate Housewives or Lost. This season, ABC executives have changed the way they schedule commercials during their shows, using a little trick to keep you from changing the channel.
Typically, one-hour dramas start with a short scene, run the opening titles and then cut to a commercial. But now ABC's shows start with a complete "act" to get viewers fully hooked before they bring in the first ad. That's why the Alias season premiere ran a full 20 minutes before the credits rolled.
ABC's shows also have action after the last set of commercials, so there are no breaks between programs (when viewers reach for their remotes most). ABC executives who have looked at minute-by-minute Nielsen ratings say they've seen a "pretty dramatic" improvement. So expect NBC and CBS to follow suit.
It's hard to imagine that Nancy Grace has ever met a defendant she didn't think was guilty. Fair and balanced she's not, and the prosecutor-turned-Court TV legal commentator (and victims' rights advocate) freely admits it.
"I've never pretended that I do not have an opinion," she says. "And people who pretend they don't are deceiving you." Now Grace is expanding her pulpit, with a book this spring (Objection!, written with TV Guide contributor Diane Clehane) and, starting Feb. 21, her own nightly show on CNN Headline News.
After successfully filling in for Larry King the past few years, Grace will lead a new lineup of programs aimed at bringing appointment viewers to CNN's ratings-deprived sister channel. Though she promises the series will include opposing views, she cautions, "Can I help it if they're wrong? No, I can't."
The third installment of the CSI franchise has gotten off to a strong start, cleaning up in the ratings against NBC's long-running warhorse Law & Order on Wednesday nights (10 pm/ET). But CBS isn't content to rest on those laurels. CSI: NY producers have been given a mandate to lighten up the look of their show and tell stories that are unique to the Big Apple.
Early episodes looked like they were shot in the sewer system and had a generic feel to them. "We need to bring Melina [Kanakaredes] and Gary [Sinise] into the light so our audience can get to know them," says CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler. "And we want this CSI to tell stories that can only be told in New York, which has many faces. There is the darker underbelly downtown. But there is also Central Park. New York's a vibrant, bright, colorful, multicultural place."
Changes will be noticeable this week, with an episode set at a Westminstere
Chris Matthews has never seen a political convention he didn't like. (Even though there hasn't been a surprise presidential candidate since 1952, when the Democrats picked Adlai Stevenson.) The motormouthed host of MSNBC's Hardball, who's anchoring the channel's coverage of the Democrats' gathering in Boston, recently told us why the floor fights and roll calls still matter.
TV Guide Online: What are the chances of any real drama when the Democrats meet to nominate Sen. John Kerry?
Chris Matthews: I would like to think the Democrats will debate the Iraq war and take a position that is stark. Somebody is going to raise their hand and say, "Let's debate this. We want an antiwar plank." That could be hot.
TVGO: Any tips for Kerry's acceptance speech?
Matthews: He has to make people feel good about voting for him. Nobody has a personal feel for the guy yet. He's got to tell a couple of jokes. He has to break the ice. Because people do