Friday, November 19, 2010

The Netjumper's Curse

When first Medium’s star, Patricia Arquette, and then its executive producer, Glenn Gordon Caron, confirmed this week that CBS has indeed cancelled the Friday night drama, it was one more example of what I like to call “The Netjumper’s Curse.”

After spending its first five years over on the Peacock network, Arquette’s character, psychic Allison Dubois, had hoped to foresee a long and profitable future at the Eye, whose in-house studio also produces the show; alas, after one full season and this second, abbreviated 13-ep year, it’s all over.

The pattern is nothing new, because for almost as long as there have been TV networks, there have been TV shows which have jumped among them. So while one of the medium’s earliest hits, The Goldbergs, may have premiered in 1949 on CBS, after a couple of seasons, Gertrude Berg’s title character Molly was waving “Yoo hoo” out of a window at NBC, and later at the era’s third network, Dumont.

It may seem that Father Knows Best that a series can find new life just by switching networks, as Robert Young’s wholesome ‘50s sitcom did three times in the course of its run, landing on CBS twice. And My Three Sons played for so long – on both ABC and CBS – that the show eventually had to augment its aging cast with an extra kid named Ernie, just to keep the title making sense.

But since then, the benefits of “netjumping” have become much less clear. Many shows swapping spots on the dial have managed to eke out only one more year before succumbing to the TV fates. Looking back, some, like ABC’s long-running TGIF sitcoms Family Matters and Step By Step, had probably already run out of steam before making that one last leap. Even a network-leaping Wonder Woman couldn’t conquer that one indomitable small screen foe: early cancellation.

In TV’s most recent, and most famous case of successful netjumping, in 1996 JAG motored on over after just one season on NBC to CBS, where, with a change in cast and story focus, it dominated the ratings for nine more years. Since then, we’ve had Scrubs die on the operating table in its sole season on ABC, and who can forget the middling post-jump success of Grounded for Life? (Answer: everyone.) That’s not to say that I want to discourage networks from salvaging each other’s unappreciated treasures. Let’s just hope we don’t have to worry about it, because here’s hoping that AMC will finally nut up and renew Mad Men. And in the meanwhile, let’s pour ourselves a good, stiff drink.

Monday, November 15, 2010

NBC Gives Early Renewal for 30 Rock for 2011-12 season.

...And on the heels of its midseason schedule announcement, NBC also sent out a press release announcing the early renewal of 30 Rock for next season, which will be the show's sixth.

Undoubtedly, this is good news for Tina Fey and company, who must be worried that their show is now being sent off to an unproven 10 PM time slot, a rarity for broadcast TV. So never fear -- even if the 10-11 PM comedy experience proves a bust, NBC is telling us that Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy will live on.

Here's the announcement:


UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – November 15, 2010 – NBC has picked up its Emmy Award-winning comedy “30 Rock” (Thursdays, 10-10:30 p.m. ET) for another season through 2011-12, it was announced today by Angela Bromstad, President, Primetime Entertainment, NBC and Universal Media Studios.

We are happy to confirm the pickup of ’30 Rock’ for another season,” said Bromstad. “It continues to be a bold, hilarious, sophisticated comedy that has become a classic in its own time.”

The pickup comes as “30 Rock” also celebrates its 100th episode this season.

"30 Rock" has averaged a 3.1 rating, 9 share in adults 18-49 and 6.6 million viewers overall in "most current" averages for the season through November 7. It's one of the most upscale and most time-shifted comedies on the schedule, tying for the #2 most upscale shows among all primetime series on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox or CW in its concentration of adults 18-49 living in homes with $100,000-plus incomes (46 percent above average), and tying for the #3 biggest time-shifting increase among half-hour comedies when going from "live plus same day" to "live plus seven day" ratings (plus 27 percent). Airing this fall in the Thursday 8:30 p.m. ET slot, "30 Rock" is building on its adult 18-49 lead-in by 25 percent in "live plus same day" ratings and has also improved the time period versus year-ago results by 25 percent.

Multiple award-winning comedy series “30 Rock” is told through the comedic voice of Emmy and two-time Golden Globe winner Tina Fey as variety show producer Liz Lemon, and features Emmy and three-time Golden Globe winner Alec Baldwin as top network executive Jack Donaghy and Emmy nominee Tracy Morgan as Tracy Jordan, the unpredictable star of Lemon’s hit variety show, “TGS with Tracy Jordan.” Lemon constantly has her hands full, juggling corporate interference from Donaghy and off-the-handle star antics from Jordan, all while attempting to salvage her own personal life.

Also rounding out the cast are two-time Emmy nominee Jane Krakowski as Jenna Maroney, the co-star of “TGS”; Scott Adsit as the variety show’s producer Pete Hornberger; Emmy nominee Jack McBrayer as Kenneth, the over-eager and effortlessly endearing NBC page; Judah Friedlander as Frank, the sardonic slacker on the writing staff; and Keith Powell as Toofer, the sophisticated yet sarcastic, Harvard-alum writer.

Nominated for 15 Emmy nominations (plus one for an interactive Emmy) in 2010, “30 Rock” won its third-straight Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series and tied the record for most comedy Emmys in a single season in 2009. “30 Rock” has also won a Golden Globe for Best Television Series, a Screen Actor’s Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an ensemble in a Comedy Series, three Producers Guild’s Danny Thomas Producer of the Year Awards in Comedy Episodic Television, three Writers Guild Awards for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series and two WGA Awards for Episodic Comedy and a Television Critics Association for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy.

“30 Rock” is from Broadway Video and Little Stranger, Inc. in association with Universal Media Studios. The executive producers are Lorne Michaels (“Saturday Night Live”), Fey, Marci Klein (“Saturday Night Live”), David Miner (“Human Giant”), Robert Carlock (“Friends”), Jeff Richmond ("Baby Mama") and John Riggi ("Will & Grace).

BREAKING NEWS: NBC announces mid-season schedule

In Breaking News, NBC just announced today its midseason schedule, beginning in January 2011. For those many callers who've asked me on Sirius OutQ's The Frank DeCaro Show whether Parks & Recreation would be returning, take note of the revised Thursday schedule below.

Thursday's moves represent a risky strategy for NBC; scheduling six back-to-back comedies to fill up prime time is a move no network has attempted (outside of Fox's animation domination on Sundays) since the early '90s. My prediction is that some of the shows, like Outsourced at 10:30, won't have enough ratings power to survive.

But I like that this schedule shows that NBC knows they need to make some moves to recover from a disastrous recent history -- and here, they're making quite a few of them. Who knows -- people wondered whether ABC would be able to launch 4 new comedies back-to-back on Wednesdays in the fall of 2009, and they ended up with 3 of the shows surviving, and a major hit in Modern Family. So, NBC, I guess time will tell... Here's the announcement and schedule:


UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – November 15, 2010 – NBC today made several mid-season schedule announcements, including the premiere dates for four new series – the dramas “The Cape” and “Harry’s Law,” the comedy “Perfect Couples” and the alternative series “America’s Next Great Restaurant.” The lineup also includes series time period changes for “Law & Order: Los Angeles,” “Chase,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Parenthood.”

Additionally, returning series “Parks and Recreation,” “The Biggest Loser: Couples,” “Who Do You Think You Are?,” “Minute to Win It,” “The Marriage Ref” and “The Celebrity Apprentice” resume on the schedule while other moves maximize the amount of original, non-repeat programming on the network.

Following are night-by-night details:

The new action-filled drama “The Cape” will premiere with a two-hour episode on Sunday, January 9 (9-11 p.m. ET). An encore broadcast of the two-hour episode airs Monday, January 10 (9-11 p.m. ET) with new episodes starting in its regular time period on January 17 (9-10 p.m. ET). The highly buzzed-about drama “The Event” returns with a two-hour edition on Monday, February 28 (9-11 p.m. ET) and begins airing in its regular 9-10 p.m. (ET) time slot on March 7. The new drama “Harry’s Law” debuts at 10-11 p.m. (ET) starting on January 17. “Parenthood” will return on January 4 with new episodes in its current time period (Tuesdays, 10-11 p.m. ET) and will move to Mondays on March 7 at 10-11 p.m. (ET) with original episodes to complete its second season. “Chuck” continues at 8-9 p.m. (ET) on January 17.

The new season of “The Biggest Loser: Couples” premieres on Tuesday, January 4 at 8-10 p.m. (ET). “Law & Order: Los Angeles” will move to Tuesdays at 10-11 p.m. (ET) on February 8.

Beginning January 5, “Minute to Win It” returns at 8-9 p.m. (ET). The freshman drama “Chase” relocates to a new night and time at 9-10 p.m. (ET) beginning January 12. “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” moves to a new time beginning with a two-hour episode from 9-11 p.m. (ET) on January 5 before resuming in its regular time of 10-11 p.m. (ET) the next week. The new alternative series “America’s Next Great Restaurant” premieres from 9-10 p.m. (ET) on March 16.

The new Thursday-night lineup features wall-to-wall comedy beginning January 20 with “Community” at 8-8:30 p.m. (ET) followed at the new comedy “Perfect Couples” at 8:30-9 p.m. (ET). “The Office” continues at 9-9:30 p.m. (ET) and “Parks and Recreation” returns from 9:30-10 p.m. (ET). NBC opens a new hour of humor with “30 Rock” moving to 10-10:30 p.m. (ET) and the freshman series “Outsourced” concludes the night at 10:30-11 p.m. (ET).

The alternative genealogy series “Who Do You Think You Are?” returns on January 21 (8-9 p.m. ET). “Dateline NBC” will return on January 7 (9-11 p.m. ET).

“The Marriage Ref” returns for its second season on March 6 (8-9 p.m. ET) followed by the return of “The Celebrity Apprentice” (9-11 p.m. ET), also on March 6.

For more detailed information and photography on these and other NBC series, please log on to

The premieres of the new January-March program schedule follow in a grid (all times ET); new series are capitalized.

8-9 p.m. – “Chuck”
9-10 p.m. – “THE CAPE” will premiere with a two-hour episode on Sunday, January 9 (9-11 p.m.). New episodes start in its regular time period on January 17 (9-10 p.m.)
10-11 p.m. – “HARRY’S LAW’ (beginning January 17)
9-10 p.m. – “The Event” (returns on February 28, 9-11 p.m.; resumes in its regular time slot March 7)
10-11 p.m. -- “Parenthood” (debuts in this slot March 7 with all originals)

8-10 p.m. -- “The Biggest Loser: Couples” (beginning January 4)
10-11 p.m. – “Parenthood” (beginning January 4 for four episodes)
10-11 p.m. -- “Law & Order: Los Angeles” (beginning February 8)

8-9 p.m. -- “Minute to Win It” (beginning January 5)
9-10 p.m. –“Chase” (beginning January 12)
10-11 p.m. – “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (originals beginning January 5 with two-hour episode, 9-11 p.m. ET)
9-10 p.m. – “AMERICA’S NEXT GREAT RESTAURANT” (beginning March 16)

THURSDAYS (all beginning January 20)
8-8:30 p.m. – “Community”
8:30-9 p.m. – “PERFECT COUPLES”
9-9:30 p.m. – “The Office”
9:30-10 p.m. – “Parks and Recreation”
10-10:30 p.m. – “30 Rock”
10:30-11 p.m. – “Outsourced”

8-9 p.m. -- “Who Do You Think You Are?” (beginning January 21)
9-11 p.m. – “Dateline NBC” (beginning January 7)

7-8 p.m. – “Dateline NBC”
8-9 p.m. – “The Marriage Ref” (beginning March 6)
9-11 p.m. – “The Celebrity Apprentice” (beginning March 6)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wisconsin Time Warp

On Monday, TBS announced that it has ordered two additional episodes of its upcoming dramedy Glory Daze, bringing the total number of episodes for this first season to 10. The show, which debuts this coming Tuesday, November 16 at 10 PM Eastern, is described as being about "a group of friends who are trying to navigate college life in 1980s Wisconsin."

The description made me wonder: what is it about nostalgia shows set in the Badger State? First the Fonz is thumping Milwaukee's jukeboxes to life on the '50s-set Happy Days, and then spinoff stars Laverne & Shirley are living in a basement apartment on that city's Knapp Street. Then, starting in the late '90s, the kids of That '70s Show were similarly just hanging out in a basement rec room, in the fictional Wisconsin town of Point Place.

It's as if, once you set foot within Wisconsin's borders, you're obligated to trip back in time. Come to think of it, I can think of only one show ever set in Wisconsin that wasn't a period piece: CBS' '90s show Picket Fences, which was a whole other kind of weird. There must be something psychedelic in the state's ubiquitous, yummy cheese curds.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

RIP Ginny Sack

Back in the summer of 2000, I landed my first freelance assignment for TV Guide: to attend an open casting call for HBO’s newest hit, The Sopranos, being held at a high school in Harrison, New Jersey.

Unfortunately, I got stuck in traffic en route – because the show’s producers had vastly underestimated the size of the crowd that would show up. When thousands swarmed the town center of Harrison, and clogged the exit lanes of Interstate 280 in both directions, the town’s cops quickly shut the whole thing down.

I had to cobble together a story – but was later delighted to hear that some good did come of that day. A local New Jersey woman named Denise Borino had been selected to play Ginny Sacrimoni, the wife of Johnny, the New York crime family’s boss. For a follow-up story, I spoke to Borino in February of 2001, as she was filming her first batch of three appearances on the show. Both that day, and when I would subsequently see her at premiere parties for each Sopranos season, Borino – then working as a legal assistant in suburban Morristown-- was down-to-earth, and grateful to have the chance to live out her dream.

Sadly, Denise Borino-Quinn passed away last week of liver cancer, at the young age of 46, just seven months after the death of her husband, Luke Quinn, Jr. Here, my Q&A interview from 2001, with a quintessentially lovely, true Jersey girl.

Q: What is your background? Are you Italian-American like your character, Ginny Sack?

A: I’ve lived in Jersey all my life. I’m originally from Belleville, and then moved to Roseland. I’m 100 % Italian.

Q: How big a fan were you of The Sopranos before your audition?

A: Very big – I never missed a Sunday night. My mom and I would go downstairs, hang out, and watch it together. My whole family is totally ecstatic.

Q: There has been a lot of controversy about the show from some Italian-American groups. How well do you feel show and its characters reflect your own background?

A: Really not at all. That’s not what my family does. Although some of the traditions, like the Sunday dinners, that’s typical.

Q: What do you think attracts people to the show?

A: It’s filmed here in New Jersey. My friends and I look at it and say “I know where that place is. I’ve been there!” I think that’s really cool. I think on the first episode of season one, they mentioned my high school, West Essex. And I was like “Oh my God!” I love it, because it’s like, “I shop there, or I’ve been there.”

Q: Have you always had acting aspirations? What made you go to the casting call?

A: My best friend Maria Galasso made me go. She called and said, “Come on, let’s do this!” and I was hemming and hawing. She said, “Nobody else can say, ‘We tried.’” And then my boss urged me, too. She said, “Oh, go ahead. You should do this. You’re perfect for it. You should go for it.” They were the deciding factor. So I went and had some pictures redone, and off we went.

Q: But aren’t you a little young to be married to Johnny Sack? How old are you in real life?

A: I’m 37. And I say that without lying. It’s funny because Edie Falco and I are like five days apart. I have no plan to lie about my age. I have no reason to. It’s just a number.

Q: Was the open casting call what you had expected?

A: I knew there were going to be tons of people there, with open casting. We got there at 7:30 in the morning, and there were already so many. People had camped out the night before! I couldn’t imagine it. I had figured, “All right, I’ve gotta dress appropriately – flat shoes, gotta be comfortable.” I ended up meeting a lot of nice people, talking to them in line. It was a really fun day. After a while I was known as “stoop girl,” because after so long standing in line, I was parking my behind on somebody’s stoop.

Q: Were you among the lucky few who were seen in person, before the police shut down the whole casting call?

A: Actually, no. I never made it in through the doors. But then, they gave the address to mail pictures to. I mailed both my and Maria’s pictures in. I didn’t have a head shot, so I sent in two pictures – one of me holding my niece Alyssa from her Christening, and one of me and my two brothers from my brother Vincent’s wedding. I just went to CVS and had copies made. Then a month went by, and I got phone call to go into Manhattan and read for a part.

Q: What do you think the casting people saw in you?

A: I guess because I’m an outgoing little, short person, and I’m a huge fan of the show.

Q: What was your reaction when you first got the call to audition for the show?

A: When I had gotten the phone call asking me to come in for my first audition, the girl introduced herself, and I’m like “Who is this?!” She identified herself, and I started screaming, “I can’t believe this is happening!” I called my girlfriend Maria, and we were just yelling on the phone. I never thought it would go even that far.

Q: What happened after that first audition, to the time you learned you had the part?

A: It was really funny, because I had gone to the first audition, and when I came home that afternoon, there was a message that they wanted me to meet with the director and producer for a second audition. Fine, I went and did that. It was the day of my grandmother’s wake, as a matter of fact. I went to the studio, and took a friend with me who happens to be an Essex County sheriff’s detective. I went and read. The woman who went before me was literally waiting for me at the elevator, and said, “You have the part – you were really good.” Then, the day we buried my grandmother, I got the phone call. I screamed so loud that my father came running out of the bathroom thinking I was being murdered.

Q: In the work you’ve done so far on the show, have the other actors treated you like an actor, or a fan, or both?

A: I don’t even think they realized I was a fan. They just treated me like I was an equal to them. The whole cast was wonderful and warm. They immediately all came and introduced themselves to me. It really is like a family.

Q: What has been your impression of your castmates so far?

A: My very first scene was with James Gandolfini. It was totally awesome. He is just a very charismatic, intelligent, wonderful person. Edie Falco is also really a warm, down-to-earth person. I’ve seen her out of costume, and she’s not at all like Carmela. Michael Imperioli and I must have talked for like twenty minutes between scenes. Tony Sirico had me laughing – he’s definitely a character. He immediately came over to me, excused himself, and kissed me hello. Aida Turturro was really funny, introducing herself to me immediately and asking if I liked the new red shoes she bought. And the one person I really got awestruck with was Stevie Van Zandt – he’s like my favorite. I like Bruce [Springsteen], but I really like Stevie.

Q: Has appearing on The Sopranos been like you’d imagined it would be?

A: More. That first day was one of the most extraordinary days of my life. I came home and was like, “Wow, I can’t believe I was with these people, on the number one show!”

Q: Have you told anyone about your part? Your family? Are you allowed?

A: My family knows about my character, but as far as what I’ve done, I won’t discuss it, although my sister-in-law begs and pleads. [The producers] were very specific that I really can’t discuss things, period. My mother immediately wanted to go to my little hometown paper, but I can’t do anything until my first episode airs.

Q: You said Edie Falco looks different when dressed in character. How did the show dress you? Tell me about getting into character and costume.

A: I really can’t answer that. But I can say that the makeup is different, and is a lot more than I normally would wear. And I dress differently from how I’d go to work. But the nails are my own, which are long, because I do nails part time. And I have big hair. BIG hair.

Q: How do the people at work feel about your newfound fame?

A: Both partners of the small firm that I work for are totally ecstatic. They think it’s like the greatest thing in the world. It’s funny because one of the associates had a closing yesterday and he asked me, “Do you have your pictures?” I had taken photos showing Silvercup Studios, and things like that. They were all really awestruck. “This is really cool!”

Q: Forget them -- how do you feel about it?

A: I’m very nonchalant about it – I think it really hasn’t hit me yet. But [for the premiere], I’m having a party at my house. I’m inviting all my friends, my family – people who mean the most to me.

Q: What food will you serve?

A: Subs, hot wings. Knowing my mother, there will probably be a pot of gravy on. My niece Alexa gets highly insulted if there are no neck bones in the gravy. You throw it in with your meatballs, and your sausage, and your braciole. But I don’t know if I’m going to be able to actually sit there and watch myself in front of everybody. My friends already told me they’re gonna tie me to a chair and make me watch.

Q: About those friends, and family -- do they treat you differently now that you’re a star? Do you think they will later?

A: When he first found out I got the part, my brother Christopher said, “Just because you’re a star now, that doesn’t mean you can get out of making coffee on Sunday.”