WMAQ pulls off 10 p.m. news upset


Beat WLS-TV in key news demo for the first time in nearly 20 years

Dispute in 10 p.m. news race in Milwaukee

The last time WMAQ won the 10 p.m. news race in adults 25-54 demo, Ron Magers and Carol Marin were still anchoring, ER was the hottest show on television, and Jay Leno was hosting the Tonight Show.

Nineteen years later, the NBC-owned station is back on top in local news’ most important – and profitable demographic.

But it wasn’t a blowout by any means – its triumph over perennial leader WLS-TV was only one-tenth of a ratings point, 3.6 to 3.5. in the key 25-54 demo. In order to hold viewers, WMAQ pushed back its ad breaks later into the newscast for an uninterrupted flow. Station officials also cited its investigative stories, which received a major boost a few years ago from corporate parent NBC after it was acquired by Comcast.

WMAQ also benefited from the strong performance of Chicago Blackhawks playoff games, though they aired on weekends.

To be sure, the ABC-owned station did win in households, beating WMAQ by two points. But keep in mind advertisers don’t usually by household numbers (except maybe for sporting events.) According to another media website, WLS did sweep early fringe news time slots, but WGN-TV finished a strong second in the 25-54 demo from 4 to 6 p.m., ahead of WMAQ. WLS continues to be the market’s most-watched station.

Both WMAQ and WLS were up from last year; in May 2014, many Chicago stations lost ground in the 25-54 demo, with the second biggest loss in news audience combined (down 21 percent from May 2013), only behind Boston.

Despite a strong showing from David Letterman’s last shows and popular CBS primetime programming, WBBM was far behind in the 25-54 demo, finishing with a 0.9 rating, perhaps an historic low. The last time WBBM won at 10 p.m. an non-Olympic sweeps period was in November 1984.

On Wednesday, Letterman’s finale earned a 12.2 local rating.

At 9 p.m., WFLD also earned a 0.9 rating in the 25-54 demo for its newscast, putting it behind WGN-TV’s newscast. Without Empire, which wrapped its season in March, there was no powerful vehicle to drive WFLD’s newscast as Fox’s primetime lineup finished fourth nationally.

WMAQ wasn’t the only local NBCUniversal property to celebrate a ratings victory. Telemundo’s WSNS scored a ratings victory over Univision-owned WGBO, beating them in the adults 18-34 and the adults 18-49 demo, up 100 percent and 75 percent, respectively. Both WSNS and WMAQ are owned by NBCUniversal and their news teams have appeared in billboards together.

Telemundo’s local stations also put up strong demo numbers in Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, and Philadelphia.


While WMAQ barely WLS in Chicago, up north on I-94, there was also a close news race at 10 p.m. ABC affiliate WISN-TV, owned by the Hearst Corp. , virtually tied Tribune-owned Fox affiliate WITI in households, each with a 6.3. But WITI disputed this, saying they won by a few tenths of a ratings point (6.31 to 6.25), with an anchor for the station claiming in a tweet they beat WISN by the slimmest of margins.

Meanwhile, NBC affiliate WTMJ caught a break this month with the retirement of longtime anchor Mike Jacobs. The once-dominant station did manage to finish third at 10 p.m., finishing ahead of Weigel Broadcasting’s CBS affiliate WDJT. Like its affiliated sister station in Chicago, WDJT failed to take advantage of CBS’ strong primetime lineup and Letterman’s retirement.

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Letterman’s send-off packs them in

Late Show

Letterman’s finale episode draws more than 13 million viewers, largest since 1994

The final Late Show With David Letterman on CBS Wednesday night sent tons of viewers through the entrances – and scored its highest ratings in over 20 years.

According to Nielsen, Letterman wrapped up his 33-year career (or 6,028 shows) and drew 13.76 million viewers and a 3.1 rating in adults 18-49 – the largest viewership since February 25, 1994, when it had a huge Olympic-sized lead-in. Letterman outdrew every prime-time program Wednesday night, including the first game of the NBA East Finals between Cleveland and Atlanta (2.8 in adults 18-49.)

In the nation’s overnight markets, the retiring Letterman scored its highest ratings in over a decade, earning a 9.3 household rating and 21 share (live-plus-same day) – the biggest numbers since 2005, with an episode of Late Show featured Oprah Winfrey (making her first appearance on a show hosted by Letterman since 1989.)

Letterman’s sendoff was a huge hit in Chicago – a market he traditionally didn’t do well in. WBBM-TV earned a whopping 12.2 rating and 27 share – perhaps the highest rating Letterman earned in this market since his CBS premiere. New York’s WCBS did a 11.8/29, while KCBS in Los Angeles earned a 6.4/12. Letterman won his time slot in all top three markets.

Letterman also scored well in Milwaukee, drawing a 11.1 rating for CBS affiliate WDJT. In February 2014, Letterman averaged only a 2.0 rating according to Milwaukee media blogger Duane Dudek.

In Denver, Letterman drew over 250,000 viewers for KCNC-TV, according to the Denver Post’s Joanne Ostrow.

In Letterman’s hometown of Indianapolis, where WTTV became a CBS affiliate just this year, his goodbye registered a 12.2, the same number in drew in Chicago.

The final episode of Letterman program featured numerous cameo appearances and numerous clips – even a few from his 1980 NBC daytime show, which lasted only a few months.

Letterman’s final Top Ten featured celebrities reading the list, with former Seinfeld co-star Julia-Louis Dreyfus perhaps with the biggest laugh at all when she read number four:“Thank you for letting me take part in another hugely disappointing series finale.”

The look of Jerry Seinfeld’s face (who read number seven) was priceless.

Another enjoyable moment from the show was the Taco Bell skit from 1996 where Letterman took orders at a drive-thru.

A behind-the-scenes clip later aired, leading into Letterman thanking his fans, friends, and family, signing off and handing it over to Foo Fighters to close out the show. During this segment, more than 500 clips were put together with the Fighters’ music serving as a backdrop.

On Thursday, workers at the Ed Sullivan Theater started dismantling the set. Beginning in September, Stephen Colbert moves in. In the meantime? CBS is stripping reruns of recently concluded drama The Mentalist in the time slot now vacated by Letterman. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, CBS regularly ran reruns of crime dramas and movies on its late-night schedule, opposite Johnny Carson.

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WGCI raids rival station for talent

WPWXWGCIIn a bold move, a local radio station has raided a rival’s cupboard.

As first reported by Radio Insight, WGCI-FM raided their crosstown rival WPWX (Power 92) and nabbed two of their viable on-air personalities: midday host Frankie Robinson and afternoon host Tone Kapone, who both continue in the same daypart capacity with WGCI. This is the second WGCI stint for Robinson, who co-hosted nights with Leon Rogers from 2007-09.

Power 92, owned by Crawford Broadcasting, and WGCI, owned by iHeartMedia, are both Urban Contemporary/Hip-Hop stations, each targeting the adult 18-34 demo.

Out at WGCI are midday host Lori Swain and afternoon host UB Rodriguez. Swain recently landed a show on Tribune’s local news channel, CLTV.

No replacements have been named for the existing Power 92 personalities, and no date has been set for Robinson’s and Kocene’s debuts on WGCI. Until then, interim jocks fill those slots.

This is the second time this year an iHeart urban station has raided a competing outlet for talent: in February, iHeart’s stole away popular Los Angeles morning radio personality Big Boy from Emmis’ Rhythmic CHR outlet KPWR-FM to help launch Real 92.3/KRRL-FM, the first true Urban Contemporary full-power station in L.A. since the demise of KKBT-FM “The Beat” in 2004. Emmis sued Big Boy for breach of contract, but he and iHeart prevailed.

Since then, ratings for KRRL improved over the former KHHT, while numbers slid for KPWR.

According to Nielsen Audio, WGCI finished ahead of Power 92, tied in eleventh place overall while WPWX tied for 23rd in the latest PPM survey. But the numbers in the key 18-34 demo are closer in ranking, according to Robert Feder.

This is the latest move iHeart has made locally to shore up its dayparts on its stations. A week ago, WLIT-FM hired Kristina Zsenyuk to host a live and local morning show on “My 93.9 FM”, replacing Paul “Cubby” Bryant on June 1. The move comes despite decent ratings for the New York-based Bryant.

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End of an era: David Letterman exits late-night TV


Wednesday not only marks the end of another sweeps period, but also the end of an era.

68 year-old David Letterman hangs up his mic tonight, after 33 years in the late fringe daypart – 22 of those years at CBS, where he moved to in August 1993.

The Indianapolis-born comedian went from bagging groceries to a weatherman for the market’s ABC affiliate to late-night legend. After his NBC daytime show came and went after three months, Letterman took over the 11:35 p.m. (CT) time slot after Johnny Carson on February 1, 1982. Late Night With David Letterman became a showcase for the wacky, the absurd, the funny – you can see Dave in a Velcro suit, or Chris Elliottt under the audience seats, or throwing stuff off the roof of 30 Rock, and of course, the world-famous Stupid Pet Tricks.

And when General Electric bought NBC in 1986, Letterman couldn’t resist the opportunity for them to be the butt of his jokes.

And don’t forget those Top Ten Lists, whether it came from the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska or Grand Rapids, Michigan (for those who don’t know, the lists began in 1985, three years into the show’s run.)

When David Letterman was passed up as host of The Tonight Show for Jay Leno, it was a huge once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for CBS to grab a proven commodity, and to turn around a daypart the network hasn’t had much luck in (remember Pat Sajak?)

Letterman left Late Night on June 25, 1993 and moved to CBS on August 30, 1993 in a very lucrative deal made during the Larry Tisch era – a guy who wasn’t known to be a big spender. Letterman worked with many local affiliates – some who hadn’t cleared CBS’ late-night schedule in years – to help launch the show. The result were blockbuster – Letterman instantly became no. 1 in late night, surpassing Tonight’s Jay Leno. In his first two CBS years, he had a rather unlikely stable of co-stars – his neighbors at the Ed Sullivan Theater (such as Rupert Jee of the Hello Deli, who appeared in a few Letterman skits) and of course, his mother Dorothy, who reported from the 1994 Winter Olympics for her son’s show.

Stupid Pet Tricks: A dog on a ladder. (Daily Motion)

Stupid Pet Tricks: A dog on a ladder. (Daily Motion)

But the success was short-lived: Leno took the lead by the end of 1995, thanks to several factors: nabbing Hugh Grant (who was busted for soliciting a hooker); O.J. Simpson jokes (complete with the Dancing Itos); and NBC’s surging prime-time lineup, which fed into Leno’s audience. Letterman didn’t know how to respond, and by the end of the decade, Letterman fell to third place, behind Tonight and Nightline – though Letterman closed the gap briefly when Conan O’Brien took over the Tonight Show.

In recent years, Letterman’s ratings have stabilized, though they remained behind Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel, whose show moved to compete head-to-head a few years ago.

Letterman’s show has hit the road several times – stopping in Los Angeles, London, and here in Chicago. In May 1989, he spent a week in the Windy City, and featured local icons Haray Caray, Jonathan Brandmeier, Bozo, and Oprah Winfrey, in an infamous interview that went wrong (Letterman would later urge Winfrey to contact him in a “Call Dave” campaign.) The week Letterman spent in Chicago was a hit, smashing late-night ratings records.

His second trip to Chicago was less memorable: Letterman taped only one show at the Steppenwolf Theater on November 15, 1996 with Anthony Edwards as guest.

In his later CBS years, Letterman had numerous landmark shows – his first show after the 9/11 attacks; his first show back after heart surgery; and was Bill Cosby’s first stop after his son was murdered. Letterman has also gotten into hot water – he received backlash after a harsh interview with Bill O’Reilly and came under fire for jokes about Bristol Palin. Then his private life went into turmoil after an extortion attempt forced him to reveal he had an affair with a few Late Show staffers.

Despite this, Letterman has remained strong and continued to thrive, keeping his loyal audience in his later years intact. Letterman is known as a master interviewer – instead of the fawning style other hosts are known for, he wasn’t afraid to ask questions that made his guests nervous and then some. For many, it was rude but made for great television.

When Letterman leaves for good on Wednesday night, it not only marks an end of an era – it’ll leave a void nobody can possibly fill, not after 33 years. Late night television won’t be the same.

Thanks Dave.

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The Upfronts Post-Game Show


Meet your new boss, Greg Berlanti, who is showrunning six shows next season.

What we learned:

– The sitcom is almost dead

– Too much drama

– Greg Berlanti is now the most powerful person on TV

Now that the parties have been held, the red carpet has been rolled up, and the song and dance routines have been performed, it’s time to get to serious business: sell suckers… er… I mean advertisers on the 44 new television shows scheduled to debut in the 2015-16 season. Yours truly’s thoughts on the overall health of network prime-time TV:

Yes, we’ve seen the eulogy for the sitcoms before (on and off for the last 30 years), but this time the threat is real. When The Big Bang Theory moves back to Thursday in November,  there will be no sitcoms scheduled for Monday on any of the broadcast networks – CBS will not broadcast any sitcoms in the first hour on prime time on a Monday since 1986 and on Mondays entirely since 1949. In fact, with Big Bang bumped to Mondays, you won’t see any sitcoms on Thursdays the first few weeks of the season, either…a first in television history.

Remember, this is a night where Lucille Ball thrived for 23 years. At one point, CBS’ Monday was entirely filled with comedies, during the 1989-90 season. It is truly an end of an era.

This fall, just seventeen comedies are on the Big Four broadcast networks. Thirty years ago – when sitcoms were almost declared dead, there were more than 20 – spread over three broadcast networks.

This is a huge red flag as the networks are disinvesting in comedies, despite NBC and others holding some of them for midseason. Top-tier cable networks and local stations have lost interest in airing off-network sitcoms, where as in the local stations’ case, preferring to run cheaper first-run game, talk, and magazines shows and news instead, and facing competition from video-on-demand services. Will half-hour sitcoms go the way of the Western? Likely not, but the diagnosis isn’t encouraging.

It’ll be interesting to see how former Fox sitcom The Mindy Project fares on Hulu. But you wonder if these kinds of services would end up becoming a dumping ground for programming that couldn’t cut it on network TV – similar to what first-run syndication was in the 1980’s and cable in the 1990’s.

Here’s how much “counter-programming” the networks are doing: on Thursday nights this fall, NBC, ABC, CW, and Fox all will have dramas competing against one another (CBS has football and sitcoms.)

There are a lot of dramatic series on network TV: more than 25 in all. Call it a glut, but these shows are easier to sell internationally and an off-net cable money maker for the studio domestically when the series hits 90 episodes or so. Too much drama? Well, too bad.

Move over Shonda Rhimes, there’s a new power broker in network television: Greg Berlanti has not one, not two, but SIX programs he is identified as the showrunner of next season, including Supergirl, Blindspot, and Legends Of Tomorrow.  The difference between Rhimes and Berlanti? The latter prefers to be low-profile – which isn’t such a bad thing.

The hottest show of 1990 is now the hottest show of 2016!

The hottest show of 1990 is also the hottest show of 2016!

Remember when yours truly said the major networks were not innovative? The proof came in February 2014 when NBC announced it was rebooting Heroes Into Heroes: Reborn, a completely stupid and useless idea. Just as bad is a revival of former ABC sitcom Coach, which hasn’t aired an original episode in eighteen years. Of course, articles on Friday after the upfronts wrapped refuted claims on how “linear” TV is dead and broadcast is still the best way to reach audiences.

Yes, that’s true, given the enormous reach of over-the-air broadcast TV, and the powerful draw of live events, such as sports, the Super Bowl, the Grammys, and musicals on NBC.

But these events are basically carrying the business right now. It certainly isn’t the sludge of scripted offerings for next season. Your hottest new stars of the 2016 season are…the hottest stars of 1982: Craig T. Nelson and Jack Coleman. I’ll say it again: If NBC is really excited about the return of uninnovative junk like Heroes and Coach, then they should hold the premiere party for the show at a place where there’s even less innovation: Wal-Mart.

Who knows? You might find a Chicago radio executive or two at the party. Or several, jockeying in position to give their Heroes: Reborn spec scripts to Tim Kring.


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CW stays the course for fall


And you too can sit on a giant pretzel – “Crazy Ex- Girlfriend” is CW’s lone new fall show.

Only three new shows for next season – just one for fall

The CW unveiled its 2015-16 schedule on Thursday at the upfronts and there’s not much change – unless you count a few shows moving around the schedule.

Only ten hours are programmed a week in primetime – and with network brass satisfied with most shows, they decided to bring on only one show for fall – and the lucky winner is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which features a woman (Robot Chicken’s Rachel Bloom, who stars in and created the series) who gives up a successful law career in New York and heads out to California to find love. The new show is being paired on Monday with Jane the Virgin.

But the most anticipated new show on The CW comes in midseason – is DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow, which has a time traveler assembling both heroes and villains to stop a threat that puts the planet a stake. Another midseason entry is Containment, which sees the entire city of Atlanta quarantined while officials find a cure.

As for fall, here’s how the schedule shakes out: Tuesdays has The Flash paired with iZombie; Wednesdays has Arrow followed by veteran Supernatural; Thursdays has Vampire Diaries paired with the show it spun-off from, The Originals; and Fridays has Reign hooked up with CW’s lone reality show, the long-running America’s Next Top Model.

For the complete 2015-16 schedule with program descriptions, click here. 

Analysis: There is no doubt CW is generating the biggest buzz of the upfronts with Legends Of Tomorrow. It’s a smart move holding the series until January or so. The show is described as a Flash/Arrow spinoff and will play in their universe. As for the lone new show on the fall schedule (Ex-Girlfriend), the concept of dropping a successful career to head out west to find love is kind of corny. But the scenario could create some interesting – and humorous television (watch the trailer here.)

The rest of the schedule remains unchanged, with the exception of Reign and The Originals moving to new nights. Pairing Originals and Diaries is a smart idea, though renewing Reign doesn’t seem to be. Overall, a positive schedule for CW in 2015-16 – more than I can say for the rest of the broadcast networks.

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CBS unveils new 2015-16 season schedule

CBSCBS announces seven new series – five for fall

CBS announced its new 2015-16 season lineup for next season, with the network renewing 22 programs and bringing on seven new series – five of which will debut in the fall.

Here’s the night-by-night throwdown:

– Monday: Once again, Thursday Night Football is forcing some temporary changes, with The Big Bang Theory moving to this night paired with a new sitcom – a single-camera entry titled Life In Pieces, which seems to be a ripoff of Modern Family. And no wonder: the principals who were involved in Family are also involved in this show. Coincidence?

Rounding out Monday is returning dramas Scorpion and NCIS: Los Angeles.

Big Bang and Life both head to Thursday once TNF wraps, and replacing the duo is the much talked about sci-fi drama Supergirl, based on the DC Comics character. Supergirl is going head-to-head with another DC Comics property, Gotham on Fox.

When Supergirl launches – and with comedies Mike & Molly, 2 Broke Girls, and Odd Couple on the bench for midseason, it would mark the first time since 1949 CBS would not have a comedy on its Monday schedule (and is only the third drama in the 8/7 c Monday slot since then – the last was Scarecrow & Mrs. King in 1985.) In fact, it marks the first time NONE of the broadcast networks has a sitcom on Monday night in primetime – a disturbing precedent.

Following high-rated dramas NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans on Tuesdays is Limitless, which is – you guessed it – another drama involving the FBI.

Following Survivor and Criminal Minds on Wednesdays is new medical drama Code Block, which CBS hopes becomes its first medical drama hit since Chicago Hope.

After football exits Thursdays, Big Bang and Life takes over the first hour of prime-time, followed by the return of Mom and another single-cam comedy Angel From Hell, with Jane Lynch and Maggie Lawson. Elementary remains put.

Weekend viewing: Fridays remains unchanged with Amazing Race, Hawaii Five-O, and Blue Bloods, and Saturdays has two hours of reruns and 48 Hours Mystery. Sundays remains unchanged, with the exception of CSI: Cyber subbing in for sister show CSI, which will produce a two-hour TV movie to wrap the show after fifteen seasons.

In addition to the three sitcoms mentioned above, Undercover Boss and Person Of Interest are being held for midseason, plus two new dramas: Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, and an action hour based on the movie Rush Hour, which was actually a comedy when it was released theatrically.

Finally, Stephen Colbert’s new late-night show premieres September 8.

To see CBS’ new 2015-16 schedule and a complete description of all the new shows, click here. 

Analysis: CBS’ schedule is stable for the most part, but much like ABC’s – it could face ratings declines. CBS is oh so lucky to get the Super Bowl and its possible one of the two new midseason entries could get that magical post-game slot. Or not.

Known for being the superhero network in the late 1970’s, with Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, and a bad Spider-Man series, CBS is trying again with Supergirl, its first superhero entry since the original Flash during the 1990-91 season. The trailer looks slick and well-produced – but can it beat Gotham, a fellow DC comics property?

The rest of CBS’ new shows – forget about it. Oddly, CBS went back into the single-cam sitcom and nabbed not one but two shows. Remember The Crazy Ones and Bad Teacher? And yet another Criminal Minds spinoff. The first one didn’t work, so why should this one?

Limitless and Code Black could work, but both better hold a significant part of their respective lead-in, or its lights out.

CBS is still “America’s Most Watched Network”. But by how big of a margin?


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ABC releases its 2015-16 schedule

ABC_MeetingMuppetmania reigns supreme as the revival is already being talked about to death

ABC unveiled its 2015-16 season schedule on Tuesday, and much of it looked like last season’s: much of the lineup is unchanged, with four new comedies and six new dramas joining the lineup. Five of those shows debut this fall.

Of note is Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Thursday’s lineups remains unchanged. Let’s focus on the nights where there are changes:

– Tuesdays starts off with a completely different, revamped version of The Muppets, executive produced by Big Bang Theory’s Bill Prady. The series plans to take a look at the Muppets’ personal lives’ at home and work.

I know what you’re thinking. Huh?

Vulture had a much more accurate description than the press release: the new Muppets is set at a talk show.

After Muppets is Fresh Off The Boat at a new time. Following Agents Of Shield is a new drama titled Quantico and yes – it’s another FBI drama! Can’t get enough of those!

– Replacing the canceled Cristela on Friday is new comedy Dr. Ken, leading out of just-renewed Last Man Standing.

– Sunday brings us two new dramas following Once Upon A Time: Oil, about a couple who moves to North Dakota to take advantage of an oil boom; and Of Prophets And Kings, set in biblical times.

Midseason shows include The Catch, The Family (not related to the 1976-80 ABC drama Family), The Real O’Neals, Uncle Buck, and Wicked City.

For a complete schedule and descriptions of all of ABC’s new shows, click here. 

Analysis: While you can applaud ABC for their stability, this may not be the best policy as ratings for some of their returning programs are down from last year – for example, Shield, Grey’s Anatomy and even Scandal have seen drops. Playing it out until 2016-17?

Don’t know about the new Muppets. While a lot of us grew up with them in the ’70’s, seeing them in a single-camera format Office-style may not work. Meanwhile, Quantico sounds so bad and stupid, it should be avoided at will.

Sundays has Oil – the original title of Dynasty – but don’t look for John Forstyhe pimping like Luscious Lyon or Linda Evans and Joan Collins fighting in a swimming pool. But you do get another ’80’s icon in Don Johnson. Maybe he’ll sing Heartbeat…. Prophets and Kings sounds blah.

Finally, was there a need to revive Uncle Buck? While scheduled for midseason, slotting it with an all African-American cast reminds yours truly what ABC did to The Odd Couple in 1982. Wait a minute…didn’t The Odd Couple return to TV recently?

Sadly, there’s nothing to write about regarding ABC’s new shows. They better hope their veteran shows keep performing well – which is already too much to ask.


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Fox announces 2015-16 schedule

Fox-logoAnnounces end to American Idol in May 2016. Break out the Belvedere!

Fox announced its 2015-16 schedule Monday during its upfront presentation and as you would have guessed, the show centered around Empire, the hottest TV show ever. The central cast made an appearance, including a performance from Chicago’s own Jennifer Hudson, who played a gospel singer in a few episodes.

Empire receives an eighteen-episode order next season, split into two – one for fall; the other for spring. Confirmed guest appearances for season two include Alicia Keys and Chris Rock.

All in all, nine new series are on the schedule for next season (five in the fall) – not to mention the World Series, NFL, and the final season of American Idol -which winds down its run in May 2016.

Here’s the night-by-night blowdown:

– Mondays features the return of Gotham, followed by new sci-fi drama Minority Report. In January however, the return of The X-Files takes Report’s spot beginning Jan.25, with the re-launch premiering after the NFC Championship Game a day earlier, similar to how new seasons of 24 launched in the past.

– It’s a night of all new programming on Tuesdays with new sitcoms Grandfathered (with John Stamos) and The Grinder leading up to new thriller Scream Queens. Aaaahhh!

– New drama Rosewood leads off Wednesday and right into Empire.

– Thursday has veteran Bones leading into former Monday drama Sleepy Hollow. American Idol moves here on Thursdays in January.

– Friday is low cost reality night, with Masterchef Junior and World’s Funniest Fails.

– Weekends remains unchanged, with college football on Saturdays and comedies on Sunday.

For midseason, Fox has Bordertown which could land in the post-Family Guy slot once Last Man on Earth concludes its season. Fox also picked up dramas Frankenstein Code and Lucifer and live-action comedy The Guide To Surviving Life.

For the full schedule and complete description of the shows, click here.

Bye bye, Idol: First of all, good fucking riddance to American Idol. The so-called DeathStar of television has been an annoying presence in pop culture for thirteen years. The show wasn’t as popular here in Chicago as elsewhere, proving at least we in the Windy City have some brains. The most standout moment? Jennifer Hudson getting hosed? Annoying teenage girls in the audience? Sanjaya? William Hung? Paula Abdul getting drunk on the show? Bringing on Mariah Carey and Nicki Manaj as judges? (which sent Idol’s remaining audience scrambling toward the exits) Ellen Degeneres? The rise of Ryan Seacrest?

Yes, I know Fox affiliates will miss the show because it provided them inflated news lead-ins (except in Chicago, of course) and boosted Fox’s value and their affiliates on Wall Street (until the economic collapse hit.) But the party’s over – in fact, the party ended quite a while ago.

But don’t celebrate too much. Keep in mind Idol can be rebooted at anytime. After all, Mancow and Jay Mariotti each became employed again, didn’t they?

Analysis: On the surface, Fox’s schedule isn’t really all that impressive. Like NBC, the network decided not to invest in comedies, with only two new shows on the fall sked. Mondays looks alright, with Gotham paired with the interesting Minority Report and the reboot of The X Files – great night for sci-fi/comic book fans. However, look for Fox to tank on Tuesday as all three of their programs won’t do any better than the fare from last season.

Fox will likely remain dominant with Empire on Wednesday, but will have a new lead-in with Rosewood, which seems incompatible. Thursdays, Bones is long in the tooth and Sleepy Hollow… well, should have been put to sleep. Look for Fox to get a small boost from a final season of Idol when it comes to Thursday midseason.

Friday is cheap reality show night, so nothing to say there. Sundays is kind of hard to judge given football lead-ins, but Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Last Man On Earth should be just fine. Meanwhile the lackluster treatment of Bordertown and the last-minute renewal of Family Guy makes you wonder how solid Seth MacFarlane’s relationship with Fox is. Final season for the Griffins?

Unless Fox has another breakout hit show a la Empire, look for them to continue to struggle.


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NBC unveils 2015-16 season schedule

NBCEmphasizes drama; only one hour of comedy on the fall sked for the first time in 37 years

NBC released its 2015-16 schedule Sunday, with six new comedies, seven new dramas, and one new short-term variety hour emceed by Neil Patrick Harris. The sked also features two revival efforts: Coach, which ran on ABC from 1989-96 and Heroes, which ran on NBC from 2006-10.

There are only two sitcoms airing on the fall schedule: Friday’s Undateable and People Are Talking, the smallest number on the schedule since 1978, when NBC aired forgettable sitcoms The Waverly Wonders (a Joe Namath vehicle which lasted only three episodes) and Who’s Watching The Kids, both also airing on Friday.

Wonders was replaced in November 1978 with Diff’rent Strokes, which would become one of NBC’s few hits of the era.

Canceled shows include Bad Judge, A to Z, Constantine, and About A Boy. The network has not said anything about Sunday dramas A.D. and American Odyssey, which is strange. If I were a betting man, these two shows would not return.

Here’s the night-by-night blowdown:

– Mondays leads off with a returning Voice followed by new drama Blindspot, which has the FBI investigating a women’s tattoos.

– Tuesdays features an hour of Voice followed by medical new drama Heartbreaker, and variety hour Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris, filling in until Chicago Fire returns in November.

– Wednesdays remains unchanged with The Mysteries of Laura, Law and Order: SVU, and Chicago P.D.

– Thursdays leads off with Heroes Reborn, followed by The Blacklist and new thriller The Player.

– In addition to the relocated comedies on Fridays, Grimm and Dateline return intact.

– Weekends remain unchanged, with the return of Sunday Night Football.

Analysis: NBC’s 2015-16 schedule seems quite interesting to say the least – many of their midseason comedies look interesting. Applaud NBC for a few innovative concepts – the megastore comedy, the show featuring behind-the-scenes turmoil at a telenovela and new dramas Blindspot and Player.

On the other hand, there are some moves that leaves you scratching your head. Heroes Reborn? Seriously? Read this piece I wrote last year on why a reboot of this series is a dumb idea. At least it’ll get walloped by The Big Bang Theory and Grey’s Anatomy, so you won’t have to worry about it hanging around. Another head scratcher is a Coach revival, slated for midseason. Shit, is Hollywood finally out of original ideas? Can’t wait for the revival of Gimme A Break.

And while its great Neil Patrick Harris is bringing back variety to primetime, that should have been Maya Rudolph’s job.

Overall, a decent 2015-16 season lineup for NBC, despite the presence of Heroes and Coach.

For a complete description of all of NBC’s new shows and specials, click here.

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Bubble Bustin’ Friday: More shows get the ax

bigbubbleburstThe Friday before the upfronts have become a tradition like no other: the day decisions are made on “bubble” shows.

ABC already made some decisions on cancellations and pick-ups on Thursday (click here for more info), while the rest on the networks made their decisions on Friday and more could be coming:

After months of waiting around, NBC announced the official cancellation of Constantine, put on hiatus last November. However, The CW is rumoured to be interested in the show.

NBC also pulled the plug on About A Boy, One Big Happy, Marry Me, and State of Affairs. Earlier, NBC pulled the plug on Allegiance, and the fate of A.D. and American Odyssey still has yet to be determined.

The network did pick up sophomore comedy Undateable for next season – for a full season of live episodes, the first to do since Roc during the 1992-93 season. Undateable aired live this past week.

CBS announced Friday it was dropping freshman dramas Battle Creek and the much-maligned Stalker, and freshman comedy The McCarthys. Still on the bubble is Elementary, Undercover Boss, and The Odd Couple.

Earlier in the week, CBS picked up Supergirl, which would mark its first superhero series to air on the network since the original Flash during the 1990-91 season.

– Fox sent once-popular Following packing after three seasons, and dumped new drama Backstrom. Fox did however, pick up Bones in a last-minute decision, for its 11th season. Several decisions still need to be made on some shows, including American Idol.

Broadcast Networks, Television

Bubble Bustin’ Thursday: Seven shows get the ax

With the upfronts just around the corner – next week in fact, the networks are cleaning out the deadwood and making firm on several pilots.

ABC announced Thursday it had renewed 23 shows for the 2015-16 season, from veteran shows Dancing With The Stars and Modern Family to newbies black-ish and Beyond The Tank, a Shark Tank spinoff. ABC also announced it was picking up nine new shows – six dramas and three comedies. Among them is a new medical comedy from Community star Ken Jeong (who actually is a doctor in real life) and a Muppets reboot, making use of its synergy with parent company Disney.

To make room, ABC dropped four shows from its schedule: Forever, ResurrectionCriestla, and Revenge. No word on the fate of Last Man Standing, which is reportedly undergoing yet another showrunner change.

With ABC renewing Marvel’s Agent Carter for a second season, it came as no surprise it did not pick up a Agents of SHIELD spinoff.

Meanwhile, The CW announced Thursday it would cancel medical drama Hart of Dixie after four seasons, and pull the plug on The Messengers after just one. They did renew iZombie for a second season, despite averaging a little under a 1.0 rating among adults 18-49.

And Fox decided to end The Mindy Project after three low-rated seasons, but the show’s producers is in talks with subscription video-on-demand service Hulu to pick up two seasons of the show so it can go into off-net.


Remembering Ty Wansley

ty-wansleyTy Wansley, a St. Louis native who rose through the ranks of Chicago urban radio, died Wednesday at the age of 63 due to congestive heart failure. Wansley was a fixture in Chicago radio for decades, most recently serving as Information Director for iHeart Media’s three African-American targeted radio stations: WGCI, WVAZ (V103) and WGRB.

Wansley started out as a newscaster in St. Louis radio, working for KWK and KATZ, and became news directior for Sheridan Networks’ small chain of radio stations. In 1979, Wansley arrived in Chicago where he became employed as a newscaster at WBMX and then at WJPC. After a successful stint as a talk-show host at WVON-AM, Wansley jumped to WLS-AM in the 1990’s, being partnered with attorney and former 10th Ward alderman Ed Vrdolyak for a weekday afternoon show with some saying the pairing was one of the most unusual in Chicago radio history. Both men wound up at WJJD-AM after being dropped by WLS.

In the 2000’s, Wansley was hired by Clear Channel (now iHeartMedia) to handle information and public affairs programming for the three urban stations. Wansley often gave news updates during breaks on V103’s The Tom Joyner Show and The Steve Harvey Show and hosted public affairs programming.

Wansley also worked in TV, hosting WCIU’s Urban Street.

In a statement released today by Chicago City Hall, Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised Wansley’s tireless work and journalistic skills: “Ty Wansley was one of Chicago’s great radio voices. Whether he was questioning leadership or informing his listeners, Ty brought a great passion and perspective to the news. He was adorned in our communities and his body of work was a credit to our city. The thoughts and prayers of the City of Chicago are with Ty’s family, friends, and many fans at this difficult time.”

Funeral services are pending.

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“Simpsons” renewed for two more years

SimpsonsRenewed through 2017; seasons 27 and 28 on tap

In a move certain to stir debate, Fox has given a huge vote of confidence to long-running animated comedy The Simpsons, which renewed the series through 2017, taking it through its 28th season.

By the time the deal is up, The Simpsons would have produced 625 episodes – only ten short of Gunsmoke, which produced the most of any prime-time scripted series at 635 and has passed Law and Order, which produced 456 episodes.

Season-to-date, The Simpsons is averaging a 2.7 live-plus-same day adults 18-49 rating, even from a year ago. However, the higher rating average comes from inflated football lead-ins earlier in the season – a recent episode earned only a 1.3 L+SD rating. On the other hand, The Simpsons is one of the more time-shifted shows on television, scoring huge gains once DVR usage is factored in.

In addition, The Simpsons also experienced a bit of a resurgence last summer when FXX aired a marathon featuring every show ever produced. During the prime-time portion on some nights, classic Simpsons episodes drew a million or so viewers a night, beating several prime-time cable shows.

And due to its heritage status, The Simpsons can still command six figures in ad revenue.

Many fans feel the series has slipped in quality over the years – it depends who you ask when the decline began, or if still a fan of the show, if a decline ever started. Yours truly wrote a scathing review of an episode which rewrote the series’ backstory during the 2007-08 season.

The Simpsons’ is the latest veteran show to get a vote of confidence. A few weeks ago, CBS Television Distribution renewed Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune through the 2017-18 seasons, taking the syndicated game shows into their 34th and 35th seasons, respectively – yes, those two shows have lasted longer than The Simpsons.

Other shows currently on the air longer than The Simpsons (excluding newscasts and sports) include 60 Minutes, 20/20, and Cops.

If you include shows out of prime-time, The Simpsons are behind Entertainment Tonight, Face The Nation, Nightline, The Price Is Right, all four existing soap operas, and Meet The Press, which has been on the air since 1947.

In a press release, Homer Simpson – yes that Homer Simpson, noted “I’ve outlasted Letterman, Jon Stewart and ‘McDreamy,’ because I have something they don’t: a costly 200-donut-a-day addiction.”

Don’t celebrate just yet Homer – you still haven’t outlasted Jonathan Brandmeier and Steve Dahl.

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Think Tank Express: Random thoughts

Marvel's "Kick" panel at C2E2 with Hayley Atwell (i) and Ming-Na Wen (T Dog Media)

Marvel’s “Kick” panel at C2E2 with Hayley Atwell (l.) and Ming-Na Wen (T Dog Media)

Oh, when are the upfronts? It’s been slow here at the T Dog Media newsdesk. So here are some random thoughts:

Dr. Oz said, for some reason “We will not be silenced” in response to some Columbia University doctors questioning his credentials. But would silence him is low TV ratings.

Instead of reporting the news, CNN and Fox try to become the news during the Baltimore disturbances. The protesters (not rioters – there’s a difference) know something’s up with this – they’re not as dumb as you think.

During the protests, someone in the crowd said Fox News “correspondent” Geraldo Rivera profits off black pain. During his career, Geraldo has profited off everybody’s pain, including the hapless TV viewer – no matter what the color. Someone should’ve wiped the smile off that prick’s face; he had no business down there.

 And speaking of media people who ought to be put out to pasture, WGN Radio’s Walter Jacobson doesn’t like the “Chiraq” name, as alluded to in his “Perspective” commentary this week (he still did those?) Jacobson was the very type of person I was referring to when I wrote this recent piece. And this from someone who at one time dressed up as a homeless guy for a sweeps stunt. Must’ve gotten the idea from his buddy Geraldo.

Meanwhile, WGN-TV reporter Tom Negovan complained Monday night while marching with a crowd on the South Side protesting the Freddie Gray death, that the crowd “wasn’t being cooperative” and was swearing “during a family newscast”. Really? Why should the crowd cooperate with you? And since when a newscast – often filled with violent images, is a ‘family’ one? Negovan is a tool.

Yours truly attended “C2E2″ – aka The Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo on April 24 at McCormick Place and had a great time – especially the “Kick Ass Women of SHIELD” panel I attended, featuring Ming Na-Wen from Marvel’s Agents Of Shield and Agent Carter’s Hayley Atwell. And for the first time, C2E2 became a source of breaking media news – at the Adult Swim panel, Aqua Teen Hunger Force creator Dave Willis announced the series would end after this season – its thirteenth.

In its sixth year, C2E2 is gaining a good rep and soon will match the San Diego and New York Comic-Cons as “must attend” and “must follow” events. And best of all – it’s right here in Chicago.

Another successful event sweeping into town recently was the NFL Draft, which showcased the city in a very good light. Not sure why the top two draft picks didn’t want to come and decided to stay home. Do you really want 200 guests trampling on and tearing up your property?

Want a good perspective on how the media handled the recent disturbances in Baltimore? Sun media critic David Zurawik is your guy.

Though yours truly hasn’t watched him since 1997, David Letterman will be missed in late night – especially his Top Ten list.

– How about that? With this entry, I had a top ten list of my own. That’s because I can’t think of anything else to write. Or maybe because I’m tired.

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