Stephen Battaglio

The New TV Season: Burning Questions Answered!

Kate Walsh by Eric Ogden/ABC

The 2007-08 season is starting soon and there are many questions looming. After consulting a few network insiders, The Biz is going to try to answer a few of the big ones.Will Private Practice be the next Joey?Ah, the much maligned spin-off. The answer is no. The audience still has a lot of goodwill towards Grey's Anatomy. ABC has surrounded it on Wednesday with two of its strongest pilots, Pushing Daisies and Dirty Sexy Money. It has a solid night, with Private Practice as a presold tent pole to hold it up. But expect the veteran cast on PP to attract an older audience than the Grey's mother ship.Will the recent controversy over Kid Nation help or hurt the show?Help — but only for the first week. "The publicity is not about the show, it's about the making of the show, not about the content," said one exec at a competing network. "Viewers are not going to stay around for three or four weeks just to see if CBS has been doing something unethical." That being said, network researc... read more

TV News Reporters Remember the Death of Diana

Princess Diana courtesy NBC

August 31 will mark 10 years since Princess Diana of Wales died in a high-speed car crash in Paris. For weeks it was a major saga that consumed television news. Here's how some of the journalists who covered it remember the shocking tragedy.Piers Morgan of America's Got Talent who was then the editor of England’s Daily Mirror: I went out to dinner on the night she died. I got a call about 1 am U.K. time saying her car had been in an accident and that Dodi Fayed was hurt and Diana was OK. Then I got a call saying Dodi was dead. By then I realized this was a huge international news story. So I went to my office at the Daily Mirror, we marshalled our team, and by 3:30 or 4 am we had 200 journalists in the newsroom. At 4 am I got a call from one of our journalists who was with British royal secretary Robin Cook, who had heard from the French ambassador that Diana was dead. I remember sitting back in my chair feeling a mixture of emotions. On a professional level, I thought this was... read more

Christiane Amanpour Reports on CNN's New Doc Series

Christiane Amanpour courtesy CNN

CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour has been reporting from overseas hot spots since 1989, so she knows firsthand about God's Warriors, the subject of her three-part documentary series airing Aug. 21 to 23 at 9 pm/ET. Over six hours, Amanpour dissects the recent history of the fundamentalist elements of three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — and how they want to transform society to fit their beliefs. The Biz recently talked with Amanpour about her willingness to dig deep into serious issues and go against the tabloid tide that's been pulling at cable Cable news has changed a lot over the last 15 years, but you're still able to go out and do serious long-form pieces. Who drives that? Do you have to push to get them done? When we think of cable news, we're not thinking about this kind of material anymore.Christiane Amanpour: I agree that it has changed an awful lot since Ted Turner created it. I think there is some... read more

Shepard Smith Promises a "New and Better" Fox Report

courtesy FNC

Shepard Smith’s fast-paced nightly program The Fox Report has been the most-watched cable news show at 7 pm since October 2001. But when the program celebrates its eighth anniversary in September, there’ll be a new set, new graphics and, Smith says, a whole new approach to delivering the day’s events. But, wait, didn’t we hear something about reinventing the evening news when Katie Couric was hired by CBS last year? The Biz talked with Smith about why he’s forging ahead with an overhaul to his program — and why you won’t see him moderate a presidential-candidates debate anytime Why relaunch the program? Your ratings are good, and visually it’s always looked cutting-edge.Shepard Smith: It was when we first rolled it out. The goal is to always be able to communicate in a new and better way. There are certain kinds of stories that have never really worked well with television, stories that are just so visually deficient. We’... read more

i-Caught Gets the Story Behind Viral Videos

i-Caught by Donna Svennevik/ABC

Back in 1990 when video cameras hit critical mass among consumers, ABC launched America's Funniest Home Videos, making every embarrassing moment that occurred in front of a camcorder fodder for entertainment. It's still on the air. Now ABC News is exploiting the newest generation of video technology with a limited summer series called i-Caught, which premieres Tuesday, Aug. 7, at 10 pm. Each week, host Bill Weir will be getting the story behind the most talked-about user-generated clips on the Internet that go into heavy rotation on cable news after they've sufficiently distracted the nation's labor force. ABC has even set up a YouTube-esque site at where you can sample some clips and even upload your own. The Biz got Weir to log off long enough to talk about his new So has the ABC News legal department cleared the use of i-Caught with Apple? Bill Weir: I raised that exact point. But no. Everything is cool. I guess they can't trademark a l... read more

ABC Exec Calls New NBC Prez "Stupid"

ABC entertainment president Stephen McPherson says his counterpart at NBC, Ben Silverman, was either "clueless or stupid" in his remarks about hiring Isaiah Washington for a role on Bionic Woman.Silverman, in one of his first acts as the new co-chairman of NBC's entertainment division, swooped up Washington for a six-episode stint on his network's new series after ABC decided not to keep the actor on Grey's Anatomy. ABC's decision was largely based on Washington's on-set use of a homophobic slur towards cast member T.R. Knight last October, which he repeated in front of the press at the Golden Globe Awards.Silverman told reporters at his July 16 session with the Television Critics Association that he had begun talking with Washington "before he became available" and said he was shocked when ABC decided to let him go. "When he told me he was available I was like, 'You are? Wait, I don't understand. What do you mean? You're a huge star on a hit television show.'" he said. "I don't qui... read more

Fox Press Tour
Ex-NBC Prez Kevin Reilly discusses his new job

Kevin Reilly

Never before has a network exec gone from worst to first in such a short time. When the Television Critics Association last saw Kevin Reilly, he was the entertainment president at the fourth-place NBC. On Sunday, he made his debut as the new chief for Fox, the ratings leader in the advertiser-coveted audience of 18- to 49-year-old viewers. After being pushed aside at NBC for Ben Silverman, Reilly was quickly recruited by Fox's Peter Liguori, who has yet to develop a big hit since joining the network two years ago.

Liguori was upped to chairman after convincing his bosses to bring Reilly in. The two execs, who once formed the team that put cable network FX on the map, looked ready to burst into a chorus of "Reunited" when they met with reporters. "I have an unbelievable amount of respect for him professionally," Reilly said of Liguori. "He's a great guy. We've maintained a personal friendship and really not in that Hollywood way where everybody's friends. It's genuine."
read more

CBS Press Tour The net tries for "daring and different" with Kid Nation, Viva Laughlin and Swingtown

Kid Nation

When the promos for CBS' new fall reality show Kid Nation come on, you can't look away. Forty kids. No adult supervision. Watch how they build their own civilization in a ghost town in New Mexico. You immediately want to know: Which one is going to be Piggy from Lord of the Flies?

But when pressed by reporters at the Television Critics Association — stirred by a report in Television Week that the kids were performing on camera for 14 hours a day, making their own meals and missing school days — the show's executive producer Tom Forman was forced to repeat a far less provocative message: "I don't know that it was different than what goes on at an Eagle Scout camp," he said. As reporter questions chipped away at the show's artifice, Forman noted that there was a large "adult safety net" on the set... er, in the town, wh read more

NBC Press Tour Day 1
New exec Ben Silverman gets thumbs up

Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff, NBC

It was fair to wonder why NBC put Kevin Reilly in the executive ejector seat just after signing him to a new multi-year contract. After seeing the debut performance of his replacement, Ben Silverman, at the Television Critics Association press tour, we're not wondering anymore.

Instead of doing a rope-a-dope with reporters because he's only been in the job a month, Silverman came out with guns blazing, firing off one programming announcement after another. He even made a deal with legendary sitcom producer Norman Lear. That's red meat for the TCA, since many of its members love TV the way it used to be.

He's even ignored the mandate NBC chief read more

Still a Fresh P.O.V. The PBS documentary series turns 20 but keeps breaking new ground

P.O.V.: Revolution '67

Unscripted shows are a staple of the TV landscape. But no reality series has ever packed as provocative a punch as public television's documentary showcase P.O.V., which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer. Its 1991 presentation of Tongues Untied, a groundbreaking film about gay life in the black community, was condemned on the Senate floor and stations that carried the show received bomb threats. Farmingville, a film about the murder of two undocumented Mexican day laborers in a Long Island town, aired just after President Bush proposed his guest-worker program in 2004 and helped stir the recent immigration debate. The series has also brought the work of filmmaking mavericks Michael Moore and the read more

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