Love him or hate him, Geraldo Rivera has always been impossible to ignore. He made his first big splash in 1971 on New York City's WABC, with a groundbreaking exposé of wretched conditions at Willowbrook, a Staten Island school for the mentally ill, and he hasn't been far from the spotlight since. As an investigative newsmagazine journalist, daytime talk-show host or cable-news anchor, he's never been afraid to take risks. So it's no surprise he's taken up the daunting task of anchoring a syndicated daily half-hour news show for Fox — Geraldo at Large, starting Oct. 31 (check listings). The Biz recently talked with him about the upcoming project.
TV Guide.com: You were in a secure spot at Fox News Channel, the No. 1 cable news network. You had a weekend show and were being dispatched to the big story when necessary....
Rivera: It wasn't just a secure spot — it was the No. 1-rated cable news program on
Walker, Texas Ranger
You can catch old episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger 55 times a week on Hallmark Channel and USA Network. (I'm not kidding. Do a search in the listings.) But apparently that isn't enough. The CBS Sunday Movie scored its highest ratings of the season last weekend when Chuck Norris brought Walker back to the network with Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial by Fire.
But this latest ratings kick doesn't solve a long-term dilemma for the franchise. The CBS Sunday Movie is down 16 percent compared to last season (although the decline is much smaller with 18-to-49-year-olds, only 4 percent), and it is the last weekly original-movie franchise in prime time. As the rest of CBS' current schedule gets more solid each week — it has won in total viewers for the first four weeks of the TV season and was No. 1 last week among 18-to-49-year-olds — network honchos have to be thinking about putting series p
My Name Is Earl
The state of returning comedies has not been pretty in the new TV season. Consider the year-to-year decline in these shows:
— ABC's According to Jim, which moved from 9 pm to 8 pm on Tuesdays, is off 26 percent compared to the first three weeks of last year. Its 8:30 companion, Rodney, has dropped 22 percent.
— CBS' Two and a Half Men has had an uphill battle trying to the big shoes of Everybody Loves Raymond. The network is down 20 percent in the time period from a year ago.
— As for NBC's much-maligned Joey? Ugh. It's off 46 percent compared to last year and has taken the Must-See TV network to new lows on Thursday nights.
But before this turns into another "Is the sitcom dead?" column, let's look at the bright side: Last week N
Commander in Chief
Can ABC be stopped?
Two weeks into the 2005-06 prime-time season the Alphabet network has taken a commanding ratings lead among viewers aged 18 to 49, the group advertisers covet most. The network's hot new shows from last season, Desperate Housewives and Lost, are even hotter this year. And while none of its new shows look like they'll be breakout hits, they at least show the potential to improve the network's performance on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.
Of course, the race for No. 1 in the prized demo will tighten once Fox's American Idol rolls in again come January. But here's how each of the networks has performed so far and what they'll need to do to improve.
ABC: With two consecutive weekly wins among viewers aged 18 to 49, the network is off to its best start since the 1994-95 season.
During the 41 years Ted Koppel and Peter Jennings worked together at ABC News, Koppel knew where each one stood in the universe.
"He was known as the handsome one, and I was known as the smart one," Koppel said at a memorial service for Jennings held Tuesday at Carnegie Hall. "Over the course of the decades he was still known as the handsome one, and also as being very, very smart. I still was known as being the smart one."
Viewers knew Jennings as the confident, sophisticated and authoritative anchor of ABC World News Tonight. But at the service to celebrate his life — which ended Aug. 7 after a battle with lung cancer — he was most remembered as a devoted father who truly cared about the human condition.
Koppel recalled walking with Jennings in Manhattan's Upper West Side and being stopped by a homeless man who asked for money. "Peter stayed and talked to the man for about 10 minutes," he said. "He asked about his life and he listened." For year
Everybody Loves Raymond
On Monday CBS aired its last rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond. Last year Friends and Frasier left NBC. In the new TV season that starts next week, Will & Grace will be heading into the prime-time sunset, and we'll all wonder what happened to the network sitcom.
According to a new study from media ad-buying firm Magna Global, people are watching more comedy on TV than ever. In the 1994-95 season, a TV household watched an average of 4.14 hours of sitcoms per week. This past TV season, that average was up to 4.58 hours, but compared to 20 years ago, the bulk of that viewing is now on cable. Viewers are spending an average of 2.19 hours a week watching comedy on cable and less than an hour per week on the broadcast networks. They're also spending more ti
Just six years ago Jonathan Shapiro was working as an assistant to the lieutenant governor of California and thinking about running for statewide office. But he underwent a major career shift after he wrote a script for The Practice and was hired by producer David E. Kelley. On Sept. 19, Shapiro's own creation, Just Legal, will premiere on WB. Based on Shapiro's family experiences, the show stars Jay Baruchel as an 18-year-old prodigy who passes the California bar exam but can't get a job with a decent law firm. He gets his break when he's hired by an ambulance chaser with an alcohol problem (Don Johnson). The Biz recently spoke with Shapiro about his new show and about how TV may have saved him from a life of unsuccessful political fundraising.
TVGuide.com: Before you got into television, you were counting on having a career in politics.
Jonathan Shapiro: I planned my entire life to run for office. I was a speechwriter fo
Seeing Bill Hemmer in the anchor chair during Fox News Channel's coverage of Hurricane Katrina might have been a jarring experience for viewers who watched him on CNN for the last 10 years.
Hemmer left CNN earlier this year after a stint as anchor of American Morning, and because he wanted to stay in New York City, he joined Fox News instead of taking a reassignment as CNN White House correspondent. The Biz caught up with him to talk about how Mother Nature forced him to hit the ground running on his first week at Fox and his other activities since leaving the morning grind at CNN.
TVGuide.com: You weren't supposed to show up on Fox News Channel until Monday, but you were on Sunday night. When did you find out that you were going on?
Bill Hemmer: I got a call early Sunday morning to move up the debut by a day. I was more than happy to. Stories like these are what we do.
TVGuide.com: When you were working at CNN, what did you thi
UPN thinks everybody is going to love Everybody Hates Chris. In the weeks leading up to the show's Sept. 22 premiere, it will be hard to avoid it.
The show created by Chris Rock and based on his childhood years is getting the biggest promotional blitz in the history of UPN. You'll see the usual stuff — ads that run before movies in theaters and on DVDs, posters on every New York City bus and tons of radio ads. But UPN thinks Rock's show deserves extra-special treatment.
Starting in September, the entire pilot episode will be shown on American Airline flights that carry CBS programming. That amounts to 4 million captive viewers. George Schweitzer, marketing chief for CBS and UPN, says no new show has ever been given that kind of exposure before its premiere.
UPN has also sent "street teams," outfitted in Chris T-shirts, to urban centers to distribute up to 1 million DVD copies of the pilot. They were at the X Games earlier this month and are
America said goodbye to ABC World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings in a big way last week. The program topped NBC Nightly News in the weekly ratings for the first time since July 2004. The Aug. 8 edition, anchored by Good Morning America's Charles Gibson the day after Jennings' death, was watched by 10.5 million viewers. Only the top five prime-time shows had higher ratings last week. (On Monday, the first day World News Tonight aired without Jennings' name in the title, NBC regained the ratings lead.)
The official line at ABC News is that it