Stephen Battaglio

Bob Schieffer: Is the End Near?

Bob Schieffer by John Paul Filo/CBS

Once the presidential election campaign heats up, Sunday-morning public affairs shows such as Face the Nation are must-views for political junkies. But this time around we'll also be watching a victory lap for CBS News' chief Washington correspondent and Face moderator Bob Schieffer, who expects the 2008 campaign to be the last he'll cover for the network he's called home for more than 30 years. The Biz recently caught Schieffer's country band Honky Tonk Confidential in New York and we're happy to report he has a music career to fall back on. He shared his thoughts about 2008 and I hate to even say this, but will this really be your last presidential cycle?Bob Schieffer: It probably is. I've always left that as something of a question mark. I'm going to stay for sure through the inauguration. Quite frankly, I don't know what I'm going to do after that. I'll have some sort of relationship with CBS. But I think Inauguration Day is probably going to be my last in th... read more

Tom Brokaw Turns On and Tunes In 1968

Tom Brokaw by Scott Gries/History Channel

You didn't need reality TV in 1968. The evening news provided one cataclysmic unscripted event after another, as assassinations, riots and the Vietnam War kept viewers transfixed every night. Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw was working at KNBC in Los Angeles at the time. His new History Channel special 1968 With Tom Brokaw, (debuting Dec. 9 at 9 pm/ET) combines his own reflections with compelling interviews of witnesses and participants of the era. Brokaw, also on the bestseller list these days with Boom! Voices of the Sixties, told The Biz why what happened in that tumultuous year still matters Why is 1968 the hot year right now?Tom Brokaw: So much of who we are now was formed in that year. The FDR coalition became unraveled. The Republican Party reorganized itself in a way that allowed it to win six of the next eight Presidential elections. You had the rise of the modern conservative movement, which had a profound effect on American politics. You have an enorm... read more

2007 versus 1988: Television Will Be Struck Harder This Time

Jay Leno by Paul Drinkwater/NBC

The strike by the Writers Guild of America is just two weeks old and there's already been a lot of fretting about what fans will do when first-run episodes of their favorite shows run out. So what will happen if, despite the recent agreement to resume talks on Nov. 26, it goes on for 22 weeks like the last work stoppage in 1988?According to Shari Ann Brill, a senior vice president at the ad-buying firm Carat, this strike is going to hurt a whole lot more. "Television as a medium will survive this, but the days of powerful rule by the broadcasters over audiences and advertisers could suffer a crippling blow from a prolonged disruption," she says.The 1988 strike, she noted, occurred in early March. This was before the official TV season included the May sweeps, so most series had completed production for the season. Even though there was no end in sight for the work stoppage, the networks went ahead and presented a new fall schedule for the 1988-89 season and sold time on it to advert... read more

Peter Jennings' "Dedication" Remembered in New Book

Peter Jennings and Kayce Freed by Jemal Countess/

It's been more than two years since ABC News anchor Peter Jennings succumbed to lung cancer. Yet his presence in TV news was so powerful, it's hard not to expect him to show up when a big story breaks. Within two days after Jennings died on August 7, 2005, the news division that he dominated went to work interviewing his friends and colleagues. Those voices have been collected in a new book from PublicAffairs called Peter Jennings: A Reporter's Life. It brings back memories of Jennings' warmth, dedication and even his ability to stress out coworkers with his intensity. Kayce Freed Jennings is now a partner in the Documentary Group, which evolved out of her late husband's production company. She recently shared her thoughts about Jennings with the It's been more than two years since you lost Peter. I think people want to know how you've been doing.Freed Jennings: My life is good. He left me with a lot of good things. He's still with me all the time. I hope and assume... read more

Live from New York, It's NBC Newsman Brian Williams

Brian Williams courtesy NBC

If you've ever seen NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams on a late-night talk show, you already know he can be a very funny guy. But does he have the comedy chops for Saturday Night Live? We'll find out on Nov. 3, when he's scheduled to become the first active news anchor to ever host. (NBC News veteran Edwin Newman was retired when he was a host in the mid-'80s.) Williams insists the news still comes first — he won't start SNL rehearsals until after he's finished moderating the Democratic presidential candidates' debate in Philadelphia on Tuesday night. But The Biz hears that a digital short starring Williams has already been shot. We asked him a few questions about his upcoming So what would Edward R. Murrow say if he knew you were hosting a comedy show?Brian Williams: It all has to be taken in context. Saturday Night Live has been an American institution for three decades. It's been the center of the Zeitgeist and trends and has contributed innumerable exp... read more

Which Stars Are Backing Which Presidential Contenders?

Hollywood has been generously giving to candidates making a 2008 run for the White House — and some of those contributions are coming from your favorite TV stars. The Biz recently took the data filed with the Federal Election Commission to find out where they stand before the presidential primary season begins.Senator Barack Obama has been neck and neck with Democratic nomination rival Senator Hillary Clinton in showbiz fundraising, but he's got a longer list of TV actors who've opened their checkbooks for his bid. The list includes Ellen Pompeo (Grey's Anatomy), Zack Braff (Scrubs), Melina Kanakaredes (CSI: NY), Adrian Pasdar (Heroes), Adam Arkin (Life), Rob Morrow (Numbers), Dennis Haysbert (The Unit), Isaiah Washington (Bionic Woman), Tate Donovan (Damages), Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) and Will Forte (Saturday Night Live). Chris Rock, Tyra Banks and Oprah Winfrey are also in the Obama camp along with writer-producers J.J. Abrams, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Steven Bochco, Chuck ... read more

Chris Matthews' New Book: A Political How-to

Chris Matthews by Lisa Berg/NBC

Chris Matthews recently celebrated his 10th year as the host of MSNBC's Hardball, and he spent a few decades in politics before that tenure. He's distilled his observations into a new Random House book, Life's a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation and Success. Ah, but can politics teach you how to handle Daily Show host Jon Stewart when he calls your book "sad," as he did when Matthews recently appeared to get a plug? Matthews tells The Biz how he survived what he called "the worst interview I've ever had in my life." What made you think your experience in politics would make a good advice book?Chris Matthews: It's what I know. You write what you know. I've spent 36 years watching politicians, and I've learned the traits that work with people. The absence of those traits usually suggests the failure of a career. I'm talking about people who get elected time and time again and succeed in American politics: Generally they have a set ... read more

Post Mortem: The WB and UPN

Sarah Michelle Gellar by Richard Cartwright/FOX

It seems like a more innocent time, when a haircut could rock an entire network. But that's what happened when Felicity star Keri Russell's trademark curly locks were shorn during a summer hiatus in 1999. The early WB fave was never the same after that follicle debacle. Susanne Daniels, who was the creative executive behind many of the network's early successes, and Variety deputy editor Cynthia Littleton have recounted the wild ride of the short-lived six network era in Season Finale: The Unexpected Rise and Fall of the WB and UPN (Harper Books). When reading the story, it's hard to believe two over-the-air broadcast networks were launched only a dozen years before we made a habit out of watching TV on our computers. Both UPN and the WB (which merged to become the CW last year) were born out of their studio-owners' fear that once the government allowed the established networks to produce their own series, they would be shut out of prime time. That never happened. But the youth-orie... read more

Can Back to You Save Multi-camera Comedy?

Back to You by Sam Jones/Fox

A time-period-winning 9.5 million viewers watched Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton return to prime time Wednesday in their new Fox sitcom, Back to You. Most of them surely tuned in to see two stars from two of their favorite shows, Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond. But the industry insiders are watching carefully for another reason: They’re curious as to whether the series about two over-the-hill local TV news anchors with a past can prove that the multi-camera comedy has a future. Steve Levitan, executive producer, writer and creator of the show with partner Christopher Lloyd, offered his thoughts to The Biz about meeting the challenge. Do you feel the future of the multi-camera sitcom is riding on this show?Steve Levitan: I hate the thought of that. We have enough pressure trying to do a funny show. But some people are saying it, and it does start to weigh on you. I’m not sure that’s fair. The No. 1 comedy on TV is a multi-camera show in Two and a ... read more

Summer's Ratings: Final Analysis

Jon Tenney, Kyra Sedgwick and JK Simmons by Andrew Eccles/TNT

Judging from the press cable networks were able to get this summer, you'd think the broadcast networks went out of business. TNT's The Closer set a ratings record for a scripted cable drama and helped launch a new hit in Saving Grace. Lifetime's Army Wives and FX's Damages scored strong numbers and good reviews for their networks. Even movie channel AMC was able to establish an appointment show with Mad Men. And, oh yeah, there was a little movie on the Disney Channel called High School Musical 2. But the ratings for this past summer are not out of line with what's gone on in past years. Every summer broadcast-network audiences drop off substantially from what they draw during the TV season, while cable sees a spike. But the influx of originals on cable should have been an added ratings boon this summer, right? Yes, the broadcast networks were off 13 percent from last summer among the advertiser-coveted audience of viewers ages 18 to 49 (exclude sports and the decline was 9 percent)... read more

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