When Steve Harvey talks about stand up comedy, he can sound like a physicist. "My job is to draw an instant reaction and measure that reaction and that act upon that action again," he says after a recent taping of his daytime talk show at the NBC Tower in Chicago. "That's what stand up is. I have to make an observation that makes 85 percent of that room laugh every eight to 12 seconds for an hour an a half to be successful and make money at this. I figured that out."
Not so long ago, the annual arrival of American Idol on the primetime schedule sent executives at ABC, CBS and NBC running for cover. The ratings dominance of Fox's singing competition crushed all comers and earned it the TV-industry moniker "Death Star."
This year, the execs have come out from under their desks. Idol is no longer the most watched primetime show — in recent weeks, thanks to NBC's The Voice, it hasn't even ranked as the most watched singing show. "The Death Star is now more like a water gun," says one former NBC executive.
Julie Scardina, Jay Leno
NBC announced on April 3 that Jay Leno will once again hand over the reins of NBC's Tonight Show — which he began hosting in 1992 — this time to Late Night's Jimmy Fallon. Leno says that after he signs off in February 2014, you'll find him in his garage. But it's more likely the car enthusiast will be back in front of a camera than under the hood of a classic Chevy.
One industry insider who knows Leno says two cable networks have already approached the comic about launching a new show after he leaves NBC. By that time, Leno will be 64 — considered over the hill for the 18- to 49-year-old viewers advertisers seek in late night. But in the wider TV landscape, where octogenarians such as Barbara Walters and Regis Philbin still hold jobs, he's practically a youngster.
Fox News Channel anchor Shepard Smith's reports on the government's failed response to Hurricane Katrina were a career-defining moment back in 2005. And he's still getting his boots muddy on behalf of natural disaster victims. On Monday he's taking his shows Studio B (3/2c) and The Fox Report (7/6c) to Seaside Heights, N.J., where Hurricane Sandy damaged 60 percent of the homes. Both programs will assess the cleanup and rebuilding efforts six months after the storm. The Biz checked in with the Holly Springs, Mississippi, native before he left and learned about his love for the Brooklyn Nets, his disdain for Twitter and why you'll never see him become a commentator.
Despite what you may have read, not everybody hates Matt Lauer.
So says Today executive producer Don Nash, who recently sat in on a focus group of female morning-show viewers. When they were asked what would make them stop watching the NBC program, "every one of them said, 'If Matt Lauer were to leave,'" Nash says. "Their opinions didn't square with what we had been reading in the papers and on websites."
Hardly a day passes at ABC News without a report from David Muir. From his popular "Made In America" segments to on-the-scene reporting from Cairo's Tahrir Square and the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, the 39-year-old journalist keeps getting more airtime. He's added 20/20 to his weekend evening news anchor duties and is considered the odds-on favorite by many in the TV news business to succeed Diane Sawyer at World News. Time to get to know him better.
In today's increasingly niche media landscape, CNN's Jake Tapper is happy to be a generalist. Starting Monday, the former ABC News White House correspondent anchors a new daily program, The Lead With Jake Tapper, which he promises will be a smart, wide-ranging look at the world. You can expect some of the usual suspects from the Beltway to appear on the Washington-based show. But Tapper also plans to mix in some big names from pop culture and television. Stephen Colbert, Shonda Rhimes, the cast of Mad Men, Jimmy Kimmel, Game of Thrones executive producer David Benioff are all lined up for the first month. The Lead will be closely watched by the TV news industry, as it's the first new CNN show since Jeff Zucker took the helm as president. The Biz recently caught up with Tapper to get a preview.
Seth MacFarlane and William Shatner
So what did I really think?
Yes, I was the byline on the faux Oscars review William Shatner showed to host Seth MacFarlane in the opening number on Sunday's telecast ("Seth MacFarlane Worst Oscar Host Ever").
I didn't know it was coming. I was watching the show at home with my wife. Staring at the byline, it took a few seconds to absorb that it was being seen by an audience of one billion viewers — a nice jump over the 12.8 million people who see each issue of TV Guide Magazine. After my name appeared a second time, every electronic device in our apartment was ringing, buzzing, pinging or vibrating...
Robin Roberts, who made an emotional return to her co-anchor chair at ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday, is taking it one day at a time. "My doctor is saying the test is tomorrow," Roberts said in an interview at ABC's Times Square studio after her first show back. "When I wake up am I going to want to come in and go to work?"
For reality-TV fans, the revelation that not every aspect of a show is legit is like learning there's no Santa Claus. They move on and enjoy the presents.
But the curtain on "reality" is getting pulled back more and more. Last spring, HGTV acknowledged that the home viewings on House Hunters are done for the cameras after buyers have already chosen their properties. In his recent wrongful-dismissal suit, former Storage Wars star David Hester charged producers with planting valuable items in the bins up for...