The Biz


On the Bubble
The early word on what the networks will renew next season

Kevin James, The King of Queens

This week the networks began meeting with ad-agency execs to talk about what's in development for the 2006-07 season. That means it's time for producers of current shows with less-than-robust ratings to start worrying about getting picked up for next season. Here's what industry insiders are telling the Biz.

ABC: The network's comedies are having a tough year in the ratings, but you can't cancel all of them. Rodney, Hope & Faith, Crumbs and Less than Perfect aren't likely to make the cut. According to Jim, George Lopez and Freddie have a chance of returning. Since ABC has two more hours to program in the fall now that football has moved to NBC, shows that would otherwise be doomed have a chance. We're talking Invasion and Commander in Chief. Their survival depends on the strength of the network's new-program development.

CBS: Another season of The King of Queens depends on whether the n read more

Big Head of State Conan O'Brien visits his doppelgänger, the president of Finland

Conan O'Brien

Conan O'Brien's popularity in Finland is no joke. The host of NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien has milked his popularity in the Nordic country for laughs, but on his March 10 show, you'll see how it's more than a bizarre comedy routine. Throngs of fans and the local press followed O'Brien's every move during his visit to Finland last month. He even had a meeting with Finnish president Tarja Halonen, who gained cache with young voters because she resembles their favorite late-night star. O'Brien recently talked with the Biz about his long, strange trip.

TVGuide.com: Judging from what we saw on TV news here, it looked like a pretty wild ride.
Conan O' Brien:
You know those fantasy camps where you can go and kind of be a New York Yankee for a weekend? This was a fantasy camp for someone who wanted to experience this kind of whirlwind. We've been kidding around a lot on the show, but we weren't really prepared. There was a press con read more

Having a Ball
Bad news for Bush means great news for Matthews' ratings

Chris Matthews, Hardball

Maybe it's just a coincidence: As President Bush's approval ratings are tanking, Chris Matthews' ratings are surging. Compared to a year ago, the February audiences for his MSNBC show, Hardball, doubled at 5 pm/ET, and the repeat at 7 was up significantly as well. If that's too early for you, Hardball is getting a special repeat airing at 11 pm the week of March 6. Soon the show will be hitting the road to cover the major 2006 races in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The president's misfortunes mean there's a strong chance the House could end up back in the control of the Democrats, making it a compelling year for political junkies. But when it comes to politics, every year is compelling to Matthews, who recently spoke with the Biz.

TVGuide.com: It's been said that President Bush likes the sport of politics — that's what gets his blood pumping. Do you think he cares about low approval ratings or what people think about him now that read more

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.

TVGuide.com: 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.

TVGuide.com: 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.

TVGuide.com: That was some opening night.
Andrea Wong:
We're optimistic. I love the show, and I'm glad that people are responding to it.

TVGuide.com: It looked to me like you've made some changes since the first one.
Wong:
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.

TVGuide.com: 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

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