The Biz

Grey's Choice
The drama's success creates a scheduling dilemma for ABC

Patrick Dempsey, Grey's Anatomy

When the networks set their new fall schedules in May, here is the question insiders will be buzzing about: What will ABC do with its Sunday night?

In the last two weeks, Grey's Anatomy has been the most potent show on the ABC schedule. The post-Super Bowl airing of the show started at a decent hour and exposed the hospital drama to a stunning 37.9 million viewers. The plot about the patient with an unexploded bazooka shell embedded in his chest turned out to be a craftily constructed cliff-hanger (something the competing networks didn't see coming). The conclusion on Feb. 12 drew another 25.4 million, nearly two million more than that night's Desperate Housewives — the first time Grey's built on its Housewives lead-in.

After looking at those numbers, it seems unlikely that Grey's Anatomy will be back next fall on Sundays at 10 pm/ET, where its huge audience leads in to weekend local news. It's time for ABC to break up the Desperate Hous read more

Successful Guy Seth MacFarlane takes advantage of his hit status with a new comedy

Peter Griffin, Family Guy

As Peter Griffin would put it, life has been freakin' sweet for Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. The animated Griffins of Quahog, R.I., are hitting ratings highs Sunday nights on Fox, often beating ABC's Desperate Housewives among male viewers ages 18 to 34. Past episodes are still big draws on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block. The box sets of the first three seasons all rank among the top DVD sellers. His second series, American Dad, has become a hit as well. So what's next? MacFarlane has signed on as executive producer of Becoming Glenn, a sitcom pilot that Fox will consider for its fall lineup. The show, which revolves around a 35-year-old slacker, was actually written and shot three years ago, and e read more

Forget CW!
We suggest a catchier network name steeped in TV history

Jackie Gleason, The Honeymooners

We all know that CW is a terrible name for the new network that will combine programming from WB and UPN. There have even been reports that co-owners CBS and Time Warner could change it before next season.

That's why the Biz is here to help. Before they pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to a branding consultant, they should try this: the DuMont Network.

As readers who've spent hours in the bathroom with The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows already know, DuMont was the original "fourth network" that was in business from 1948 to 1956. With no radio network from which to draw for talent or shows, DuMont was the first TV network to create its own stars (just like WB was doing in happier times). It was where Jackie Gleason did his first Honeymooners skit. It introduced America to the comic genius of Ernie Kovacs. Such a heritage would play great with the many nostalgia-loving TV critics out there. 

read more

Brit in the White House The Fox News anchor on the state of the State of the Union address

Brit Hume, Fox News

On Tuesday (Jan. 31), prime-time entertainment will take a break for President Bush's State of the Union address. Brit Hume, the Washington, D.C., managing editor for Fox News has sat through a couple dozen of these speeches, and he'll be there with his team from Special Report (the program broadcast-network newspeople have been known to take a peak at before their own evening shows go on the air). Hume talked to The Biz about what he expects that night and why he insists on catering his coverage to people who are actually interested in the news. So what should we look for when we watch on Tuesday?
Brit Hume:
The tradition of it is that the president tries to lay out some themes for the year. As important as that is, you try to lay out an agenda and try to develop a little momentum for it. Given the kind of year that the president has had, will he try to do anything different to move the needle a read more

Bob's Your Uncle
The search for a CBS Evening News anchor continues

Bob Schieffer, CBS

If you already work for CBS News, don't count on getting the CBS Evening News anchor job.

CBS News president Sean McManus told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour Wednesday that insiders at the network are not high on his list. Of course, it's been widely reported that the network wants to pursue Katie Couric, coanchor of NBC's Today, whose contract is up in May. But even if she decides to stay put at NBC, McManus said he's more likely to go with an outsider for the anchor job.

"That's probably the case," he said.

Why? "I'm not sure we have anyone who has the qualifications that the anchor should have," he says. "Part of that may be that there hasn't been quite enough emphasis on developing the next anchor." While there are many capable correspondents and substitute anchors at CBS, McManus added, none have the kind of high profile that would make them an obvious choice for the viewers.

Oddly enough, read more

Dancing on Air
ABC's summer hit looks like a mid-season success story, too

Edyta Sliwinska and George Hamilton, Dancing with the Stars

When we saw the ratings for the Dancing with the Stars dance-off in September, we thought America's summer love affair with ballroom dancing was history. We were wrong. A bigger, better Dancing came back on Jan. 5, attracting 17.5 million viewers and a healthy chunk of the 18-to-49-year-olds whom advertisers love. We talked to Andrea Wong, who oversees reality programming for ABC, about the surprise hit of the summer, which now looks like it will be a mid-season ratings game-changer for ABC. That was some opening night.
Andrea Wong:
We're optimistic. I love the show, and I'm glad that people are responding to it. It looked to me like you've made some changes since the first one.
The No. read more

Two for the Show ABC World News Tonight re-creates the two-anchor formula

Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff, ABC News

This week Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff made their debut as coanchors of ABC World News Tonight, becoming the permanent successors to the late Peter Jennings. The pairing has some longtime TV writers recalling the rough road of past evening-news-anchor twosomes, such as Harry Reasoner and Barbara Walters, and Dan Rather and Connie Chung. But executive producer Jonathan Banner told the Biz that his duo won't just be equally dividing 22 minutes of news every night. Here he shares his thoughts about the past year and what's ahead for WNT. Are you tired of the comparisons to other news-anchor duos?
Jonathan Banner:
I don't think they're appropriate. In almost every other occurrence, the coanchor was brought in under very different circumstances. The idea of taking two people and having them anchor a broadcast and do the work of two people on that broadcast is something d read more

ABC's and D's
How do the nets fare in their midterm report cards?

Jason Lee, My Name Is Earl

We're 13 weeks into the 2005-06 TV season, so it's report-card time at the Biz. Based on the ratings, here's how each of the broadcast networks is doing so far:

CBS: Not only the most-watched network, but it's also No. 1 in the advertiser-coveted category of viewers 18 to 49 years old. Friday night has been rebuilt with Ghost Whisperer, Close to Home and Numbers. Criminal Minds is a solid hit, despite going up against ABC's Lost on Wednesday. The departure of Everybody Loves Raymond from Monday has hurt a bit, and read more

All the President's Sharpies Brian Williams wound down his momentous year with a White House exclusi

Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News

This week, TV Guide salutes those who had a big year in 2005, and in the news business, nobody was bigger than Brian Williams. In December 2004, he took over NBC Nightly News from Tom Brokaw, marking the first change in a network news anchor chair in more than 20 years. By the end of his first year, the unexpected departures of CBS' Dan Rather and ABC's Peter Jennings gave Williams seniority in the post. Not only did he hold on to the ratings lead he inherited from Brokaw, but he also distinguished himself with his reporting in South Asia after the tsunami and during and after Hurricane Katrina. Williams isn't ashamed to call himself a traditionalist when it comes to TV news. But on Dec. 12, he gave viewers a glimpse of how anchors will operate in the future. An extended version of his exclusive interview with President Bush for NBC Nightly News was shown as an hourlong special on MSNBC and made available online through While read more

The Secret of Eye's Success Just how is CBS breaking ratings records this season?

Pauley Perrette and Michael Bellisario, NCIS

For the second year in a row, ABC has the most talked-about shows: Desperate Housewives, Lost and Grey's Anatomy. But guess what? CBS has been No. 1 in viewers every week. It's the first time since 1988 that a network has opened with 11 consecutive weekly ratings wins. CBS has been on ABC's tail in the race for advertiser-coveted viewers in the 18-to-49 age group, too. (They were tied for first place during November sweeps). One CBS show after another has been scoring all-time highs this season. The Biz talked with Kelly Kahl, senior executive vice president of programming operations for CBS, to get some insight on why the Eye has it this year. You have two shows that are in their third season and scoring their best ratings ever. How do you explain that?
Kelly Kahl:
[Yes,] Cold Case and NCIS. I think some shows benefit from simply being on. It's a highly fragmented TV audience, and it takes time, read more

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