TCA: It’s not a TCA Press Session. It’s an HBO TCA Press Session.

HBO_LogoFor all the success HBO has had with its programming, it doesn’t get as much love on Wall Street as it does in the arts community – pundits were criticizing HBO’s decision to offer its programming over-the-top (OTT) for $14.99 per month.

Well, if the over 100 Emmy nominations are any indication, it might be worth it.

And that’s the basis for HBO’s presentation Thursday at the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena.

– Executive session: HBO President of Programming Michael Lombardo discussed the future of hit series Game Of Thrones, saying it’s possible the series go beyond seven seasons – and even a prequel he said. He declined to discuss Throne’s controversial rape scene in detail, which was talked about to death everything else.

Lombardo said he wasn’t concerned about competition from streaming service Netflix, which has garnered quite a bit of press attention and Emmy nominations (but not as many as HBO), saying there is just as much quality programming coming from FX and AMC as there is from Netflix. Lombardo also said he was open to bringing back Curb Your Enthusiasm for a ninth season if Larry David wants to do it. He also defended criticism over True Detective’s second season, which has been salvaged by some (especially on yours truly’s Twitter feed.)

Other HBO highlights:

– There was some controversy over David Simon’s new series Show Me A Hero, set in a public housing project in Yonkers, N.Y. in the 1980’s. The Wire creator scolded the crowd Thursday for their…lack of outrage:  “I’m coming with six hours on public housing in Yonkers, New York, and you’re not acting like I’m out of my mind. What were you people thinking?” Oscar Issac plays Yonkers mayor  Nicholas Wasicsko – the youngest mayor ever elected in the United States at the time – who often clashes with his less-than-progressive city council, led by Alderman Spollane (Alfred Molina.) The six-hour miniseries premieres Aug. 16.

Hero is directed by former Thritysomething writer Paul Haggis, who co-wrote, produced and directed the Oscar-winning 2004 movie Crash.

– During a session for his new HBO comedy Ballers, Dwayne Johnson (known as The Rock in WWE), said he was disappointed with Hulk Hogan after it was revealed the WWE superstar used racial slurs when he described his daughter’s music career in sealed documents in his lawsuit against Gawker. Rock and Hogan helped headline Wrestlemania in 2002. Hogan was “fired” from the WWE last week and anything referring to him was scrubbed from its website.

– Another panel had the cast of Bessie up, featuring Queen Latifah, Taraji P. Henson, and Kandi Landecker. Latifah told the crowd he’s in a better position to play the famed blues singer Bessie Smith now at 44 when she was pitched the project, at 22, the height of her hip-hop career. “When the project came my way, I don’t think I had the life journey that went along with it. I got to live more of the blues.” Latifah said at the tour.

Latifah’s Flavor Unit Entertainment, who also produced her now-canceled talk show, is producing Bessie for HBO, and is directed by Dee Rees.

Quick Bits:

– HBO announced several new specials at the tour: Amy Schumer’s first stand-up special, from the Apollo Theater in New York and directed by Chris Rock, premieres on October 17. A U2 concert special is slated for November 14, while a behind-the scenes documentary is scheduled for November 7.

– Mark April 12, 2016 on your calendars: that’s when Game Of Thrones, Veep, and Silicon Valley return with all new episodes.

– HBO renewed Real Time with Bill Maher for two more seasons.

– HBO also signed a “first-look” deal with Russell Simmons, whose TV career began with the network with Def Comedy Jam way back when.

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: Landecker exits WLS-FM

john-landecker190x25001– Mr. Records has called it a career: John Landecker, whose middle name is really “Records”, is exiting Cumulus-owned WLS-FM today. The move coincides with the arrival of new program director Brian Thomas from New York City’s Cumulus station, WNSH-FM (Nash 94.7, a Country station). Landecker said the departure of former PD Jan Jeffries had nothing to do with his decision to leave, which he made on his own. He insists he’s not “retiring”.

Landecker, who has worked for many local stations throughout his long career – including in Toronto and Cleveland, told Robert Feder he certainly won’t miss the music being played on WLS-FM –  especially after the 1960’s. WLS mainly plays mostly rock hits from the 1970’s and 1980’s (which basically means a lot Journey, Aerosmith, and Van Halen ten times a day.)

I guess we shouldn’t ask Landecker’s opinion on Alternative Rock or Hip-Hop.

– A year after being put up for sale, The Walt Disney Co. has finally found a buyer for Radio Disney’s WRDZ-AM (1300): Polnet Communications, who is in the process of selling its local low-power TV station, WPVN to a separate company. Polnet specializes in Polish programming (hence the name Polnet.)

WRDZ joins four other ethnic-brokered stations Polnet owns in the Chicago area.

Once known as WTAQ-AM, Disney bought the ethnic-programmed station in 1998 for its Radio Disney network, but has shifted away from its terrestrial radio strategy over the years more toward digital platforms. Disney put up its stations for sale, and WRDZ is one of the last ones to go.

If you’re looking for the WTAQ call letters to return to the 1300 frequency, forget it – they now occupy a Green Bay news/talk station.

– The St. Louis Cardinals are about to get seriously PAID. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Fox Sports Midwest has agreed to a contact extension with the baseball team lasting fifteen more years starting with the 2018 season and is worth close to $1 billion, perhaps making this the richest local baseball TV rights deal in history – remarkable given the St. Louis DMA ranks 21st in the country.

Cardinals’ games rank among the highest-rated in Major League Baseball – defeating almost all prime-time programming on the broadcast networks by far in households and among adults 25-54. FSN Midwest continues to air 150 Cardinals games per year, and can be seen not only in the St. Louis area, but also in several neighboring states, including Illinois, Arkansas, and Tennessee. No over-the-air games are planned, although at one time, KPLR and later KSDK carried Cardinals games.

The Television Critics Association press tour got underway in Pasadena this week with Netflix taking the stage first. Here’s a quick rundown on what The popular streaming service:

– Much to critics’ chagrin, Netflix still won’t divulge into how many viewers Netflix has for each show, but exec Ted Sarandos did say Orange Is The New Black is the most watched show on the service.

– Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen still might consider on appearing on Full House sequel Fuller House.

– Netflix plans to roll out a Marvel series every six months, with Jessica Jones next on top. Daredevil has also been renewed for a second season.

– Netflix Original series Longmire, picked up from A&E after three seasons, premieres on September 10. Aziz Ansari’s Master Of None premieres on Nov. 6. For more on Netflix’s upcoming programming, click here.

In other TCA news, MTV renewed Scream for a second season; NatGeo is airing miniseries Big Game Of Thrones, which I assure you has nothing to do with the HBO series Game Of Thrones. 

More news from TCA is coming soon, so watch this space.

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Think Tank Express: News content targeted by the FCC

WDBJ7-dot-com-generic1-jpg

FCC fine against Roanoke TV station could invite special-interest groups to influence newsroom content 

As you recall, the FCC proposed a fine of $325,000 against WDBJ in Roanoke, Va. last March after inadvertently showing a three-second video clip of a porn site with male genitalia during a 2012 news story about nearby Cave Springs, Va.’s effort to prevent a former porn star from joining its volunteer fire department.

WDBJ is owned by Schurz Communications, who also owns CBS affiliate WSBT in South Bend, Ind. and the South Bend Tribune newspaper. Schurz is based in the north-central Indiana city.

On Tuesday, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Radio-Television Digital News Association joined WDBJ in filing briefs against the fine, which the CBS affiliate is fighting. According to Broadcasting and Cable, the NAB and RTDNA are fighting against the fine on First Amendment grounds:

“From the broader industry perspective, the NAL [Notice of Liability] is disquieting because it improperly intrudes into broadcasters’ editorial discretion. In particular, the extraordinarily punitive nature of the fine and the accompanying discussion in the NAL raise the specter that the Commission’s subjective view of the merit of WDBJ’s underlying news story drove the unprecedented decision here. As such, the FCC’s action is a direct affront to First Amendment values that undoubtedly will further chill broadcast speech.”

Indeed, the fine – the first levied against a single TV station since the “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl over a decade ago – is quite steep. This action by the FCC – an government agency who only rivals the Illinois legislature for partisan dysfunction and for being useless and ineffective – is disgusting and chilling. This does nothing but invite government intrusion into the newsroom and trounces upon the First Amendment right of the freedom of the press.

Rev. Michael Pflager (Chicago Sun-Times)

Rev. Michael Pflager (Chicago Sun-Times)

Even worse, this decision could give politicians and special-interest groups more influence over newsroom content. It’s nothing but an open invitation for the likes of the Parents Television Council (whose praised the FCC ruling) and the Rev. Michael Pflager, if the controversy involving the latter over the film Chiraq is any indication (whether he’s for or against the movie doesn’t matter. ) In other words, if you’re sick of Plager being all over the news media now…

Or even worse, law enforcement. If you recall, Chicago Police detained several a journalist and a cameraman outside a hospital several years ago after covering a shooting. Outside the hospital where the victim was rushed, a Chicago Police officer stupidly threatened to terminate journalists’ right to free press.

During the riots in Ferguson, Mo. last year, police detained several journalists and threatened several news crews.

If the FCC upholds this ruling, our hope is WDBJ and the trade groups take this to court – even the Supreme Court if need be. WDBJ handled the incident internally (with the departure of the news director and those involved in the incident) and nothing more needs to be done. There is too much at stake to let the likes of the PTC, Rev. Pflager, and law enforcement to control content coming out of newsrooms. This is something you expect to see in North Korea, not in the United States of America.

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“Sharknado 3″: Oh hell, the thrill is gone

Ian Zierling battles Sharks in Sharknado 3. (SyFy)

Ian Zierling battles Sharks in Sharknado 3. (SyFy)

Amid all the product tie-ins, movie was a snooze.

I guess the best thing to acknowledge Sharknado’s first two movies was the guilty pleasure aspect of it… the campness – you know, it was so bad it was good. It was the type of flick ready to be mocked by the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew.

But Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No – proved this movie was just… bad. You can tell the guilty pleasure aspect of it had vanished. Worse, there were so many tie-ins to SyFy owner Comcast, you’d think the cable channel’s marketing department wrote the script. So here’s my embellishment…er, I mean review.

Former Beverly Hills, 90210 star Ian Zierling returns as shark-slayer Fin Shepard (Fin…get it?) – this time saving Washington D.C. from the airborne creatures and protecting the President of the United States, who looks like a certain Dallas Mavericks owner. When he finishes, Shepard discovers there’s another threat – multiple sharknados threatening the entire eastern seaboard.

Shepard’s family is vacationing at Universal Studios theme park in Orlando, owned by – you guessed it, Comcast and guess what – Sharknados show up and start wrecking havoc on the place. A NASCAR race (NASCAR has a deal with Comcast-owned NBC) at nearby Daytona was affected, as was an Orlando Magic game at Awmay Arena – oh, wait a minute… that doesn’t count because NBA rights are not held by Comcast, but Disney’s ESPN (same reason you didn’t see Walt Disney World get Sharknadoed – if it did at all.)

Shepard and company take refuge in the Universal globe as it came off its mantle and rolled around the park. You didn’t see it, but I’m sure Marcus Welby, Jerry Mathers, and the entire cast of McHale’s Navy were flattened by the globe.

After a reunion with dad David Hasselhoff, Shepard somehow ends up in space, fighting sharks – with or without Howard Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory, I’m not sure. So Shepard trains at NASA over the objections of Major Tony Nelson, noting there’s already one nutcase running things at Cape Canaveral – he didn’t like it when Shepard called him “master”. Shepard and the shuttle falls back to earth and his wife’s baby is born in space. But a piece of the shuttle falls from the sky and hits Tara Reid in the head, and so the audience gets to decide her fate through Twitter in Sharknado 4: No More (not actual title of film, but I hope it is.)

Just as it was in Sharknado 2, there were plenty of cameos in Sharknado 3: Mark Cuban, Chad Johnson, Ann Coulter, former congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, Chris Jericho, a lot of Today Show personnel (yet another NBC/Comcast tie-in) and NASCAR drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, who uttered the famous line Oh Hell No when he saw the chompers above.

A promotional poster for "Sharknado 3".

A promotional poster for “Sharknado 3″.

But where was the buzz? There seemed to be a lack of it leading up to the movie, and it showed: according to Nielsen, ratings for the third installment of Sharknado Wednesday night was down 3 percent in total viewers (2.8 million vs. 2.9 million); down 31 percent in the key 18-49 demo (0.9 vs. 1.3); and Twitter impressions were at 4.5 million, down 18 percent from its predecessor. On yours truly’s feed, there were only eight Sharknado tweets in the movie’s duration, with one tweeter said he DVR’d it; another said he wasn’t watching Sharknado 3 at all.

Of course, SyFy spun the ratings their way to make it seem like a massive hit – but let’s face it, we’re all tired of the sharks. Sharknado was not built to be a long-lasting franchise like Star Wars or Star Trek; the camp stuff doesn’t hold up well – you can only go so far with crappy writing, acting and directing. And while marketers who tied in to Sharknado were bursting with glee, there’s now a “sellout” factor Sharknado is associated with which makes it “uncool”, and this is even after all the Comcast product placement. The ultimate absurdity of this was summed up when a shark went flying into a Xfinity billboard. Outside of some funny lines, there was nothing really special about Sharknado 3.

And now we get to decide whether Reid lives or dies in the next movie because it represents another social media opportunity – or maybe the writers are too damn lazy to write the part, so they turned the chore over to you, America. Haven’t their WGA cards been revoked yet?

And you have to wonder… Is Sharknado 4 going to be set in Chicago? Been there, done that. Besides, we’ve had grasshoppers crawl up postcards of the Wrigley Building in the 1957 film Beginning Of The End. Really, do you want computer-generated sharks biting off still photos of the John Hancock Building and the Sears Tower? Plus, we have our own “disaster” movie coming out in December, the aforminated Spike Lee-directed Chiraq.

Oh Hell No.

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Comic-Con: “Heroes: Reborn” takes center stage

Heroes-Reborn-NBC-1-550x309NBC’s relaunch of the 2006-10 series is massive – and actually impressive

It was back in 2006 when a 73-minute pilot called Heroes was screened at the San Diego Comic-Con. The episode blew fans away as the success of the screening burned up the Internet (and this was when Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube were in their infancy.) Anticipation was built up for the premiere and its debut on September 25, 2006 was a smash hit for NBC, drawing over fourteen million viewers. The process proved Comic-Con as an effective marketing tool for promoting upcoming TV series.

A week ago, Heroes returned to the scene of the crime as NBC hoped lightning would strike twice in the same place with a Comic-Con panel on sequel series Heroes: Reborn in the 6,000-seat Hall H, where a panel can easily draw more fans than a UIC-Loyola college basketball game.

Tim Kring, who created the original and the follow up series is basically asking viewers to give the series another chance, alluding the series’ thirteen-episode season allows for better storytelling than the 22-episode season did for the original Heroes.

“We’ve had a long rest and a good night sleep and we’re ready to save the world again so if you found something about the show that you loved, something that you were passionate about the first time, then I very humbly ask you to give ‘Heroes Reborn’ a chance,” Kring told the crowd, according to Variety. “The challenge is that since we came along, we looked like nothing else on TV, and now huge shows are out there that we have to compete with.”

Appearing on the panel alongside Kring were several new cast members of the show – and some faces from the old show, including returning cast members Jack Coleman, Masi Oka and Greg Grunberg, who was the moderator. On the other hand, much of the original cast isn’t coming back, notably Zachary Quinto (who found fame in as Spock in the recent Star Trek movies) and Hayden Panettiere, whose Claire character is killed off in Heroes: Reborn (Panettiere now stars in ABC’s Nashville.)

A new extended trailer for Heroes: Reborn was unveiled at the presentation, which you can view below:

When Heroes debuted in 2006, NBC pioneered the use of digital content as a tie-in, releasing a series of webcomics and other interactive material for the show. You can expect the same with Heroes: Reborn, in addition to two soon-to-be released video games – one for mobile platforms; the other for consoles:

When NBC announced it was reviving Heroes in February 2014, yours truly and many others mocked the idea, criticizing the lack of innovation at the broadcast networks. Kring was often a target of criticism on this site from 2007-10, ripping him on telling us how to watch a series of his.

But with the advent of binge-watching and the way of consuming these shows becoming much easier, it turned out Kring – was actually right. I guess I’m the one who should be working at Wal-Mart (in fact, I work at an awful gig right now making Wal-Mart wages. It’s best you don’t ask further.)

So, will viewers – especially those like myself who gave up on the series along the way due to confusing plots and increasingly bad dialogue – give the franchise a second chance? Heroes: Reborn already has its work cut out for it, airing in a Thursday night time slot opposite an aging – but still potent Grey’s Anatomy and beginning in November, powerhouse sitcom The Big Bang Theory. If the show avoids the mistakes it made in the second and third season and keep viewers hooked, it may have a shot.

If not, I can always compare Heroes: Reborn’s performance to Bears QB Jay Cutler like I did with the original Heroes with former Bears QB Rex Grossman. At least some things haven’t changed.

And that’s a wrap for Comic-Con coverage.

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It’s official: White Sox, Bulls head to WLS-AM

BullsSox-AcademyAlso: NBA adds Saturday Night games to ABC

Two of Chicago’s sports franchises will have new radio homes in 2016.

As first reported by Robert Feder on Thursday, The Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Bulls both struck deals with Cumulus Media’s WLS-AM starting with the 2016 season. Financial terms were not released, but the deals runs through 2021.

Currently, the White Sox are on WSCR-AM (The Score); Bulls games are on WMVP (ESPN 1000). The Bulls’ 2015-16 season will air on WMVP, its last. The move leaves WMVP with no teams from the four major sports leagues.

With the White Sox exiting WSCR, look for Cubs games to move to the 670 frequency.. Cubs games currently air on WBBM-AM, where they moved to after 90 years at WGN-AM.

Both the White Sox and the Bulls are owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, who was seeking to align the rights deals to expire at the same time.

Chatterings of a White Sox/WLS deal surfaced weeks ago.

The move to WLS allows, White Sox and Bulls to provide promotional opportunities injunction with three other Chicago Cumulus stations: Classic Hits WLS-FM, and male-skewing Alternative Rock WKQX-FM and Classic Rock WLUP-FM, the latter would air Bulls games if there are any programming conflicts. In addition, both teams will have pre-game and post-game programming, selected preseason games, and weekly, year-round shows.

The deal is part of a move to shift WLS-AM away from conservative talk and more into a mainstream format, although for now, it’ll continue to carry Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and Michael Savage. Many news/talk stations have been successful carrying a mix of news/talk and sports, notably WTMJ-AM in Milwaukee and WCCO-AM in Minneapolis.

As a bonus for WLS, the move gives the station more lucrative programming to air on the weekends, instead of time-brokered programming.

While WMVP is losing Bulls telecasts after next season, the team could gain more ESPN television exposure – as well as other NBA teams as the sports network announced a new Saturday night NBA package to air on ABC.

ESPN, WMVP, and ABC are all owned by The Walt Disney Co.

The package, part of a new broadcast/cable deal that kicks in this upcoming season, gives ABC eight regular-season primetime games to air starting in January, effectively removing the low-rated early afternoon Sunday contest. These are marquee-matchups, which means the Bulls could land one or two games in primetime next season on ABC.

This isn’t the first time NBA regular-season games have aired in prime-time: NBC aired a few games on Saturday nights in 2000 or so, but wasn’t successful in the ratings. NBC lost the NBA package to ABC after the 2001-02 season. NBA regular-season games did not air in primetime on CBS when they had the rights from 1973 to 1990.

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Think Tank Express: The return of Larry Tisch

Larry Tisch, former owner of CBS in the 1980's.

Larry Tisch, former owner of CBS in the 1980’s.

Of course he’s dead. But you wouldn’t know it

The latest radio cutbacks came from a rather unlikely place – CBS Radio, which hadn’t announced cuts since a company-wide downsizing in 2008. CBS announced earlier this week it was eliminating 200 positions nationwide, including a number of positions in Chicago. Other Midwestern cities were hit just as hard including St. Louis and Detroit, where WWJ-AM fired its afternoon anchor team and is running pre-recorded news reports overnights instead of live voices.

New CBS Radio chief Andre Fernandez , who succeeded the retiring Dan Mason in the role, has said he wanted a leaner-run company.

Sound familiar? Yes, it looks like ol’ Larry Tisch is back at the helm.

If you read Ken Auletta’s Three Blind Mice, then you know about Laurence Tisch’s method of running CBS in the 1980’s – boneheaded financial decisions, trying to cut their way back to profitability, selling assets of the company like it was a garage sale (such as CBS Records, despite money-printing artists like Michael Jackson. ) Everytime CBS has done something stupid – and was often – yours truly refers to it as “The Church Of Tisch”, a phrase I coined in 2008 when then-WBBM-TV head Joe Ahern hit up station employees to help pay for his lunch and a marble shower in his office.

So the company that basically pioneered the odious way of disposing people – copied by Clear Channel/iHeartMedia, Cumulus, and countless others – is the last one to implement it.

cbs-radioSo while The Church of Tisch is busy celebrating yet another season atop primetime, their local TV and radio stations – outside of a few – are seeing little benefit. For example, CBS-owned KYW-TV in Philadelphia let three on-air personnel go last month as the station’s ratings struggles continue as they have dating back 30 years (when they were an NBC affiliate owned by Westinghouse, which acquired CBS from Tisch in 1996.)

Of course CBS has no comment on the firings; its against The Church’s policies to say anything about a dismissal. Deacon Fernandez might wack you upside the head with the collection basket after he shakes down every remaining employee in the place. I hear he needs the funds to pay for his lunch with the National Association of Broadcasters – an organization that touts how great terrestrial radio and TV stations are, but is nowhere to be found when the layoffs begin.

In fact, you can apply this “church” mentality to practically any media company in North America. iHeartMedia is basically “The Church Of Seacrest” now, thanks to a contract extension signed this week, giving Ryan Seacrest even more perks. Every employee who gets laid off at iHeartMedia from now on gets a Kardashian product to-go bag.

So welcome back to CBS, Larry Tisch. Given the sad state of the radio business, its like your penny-penching cheapskate ass never left the industry.

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Jan Jeffries exits WLS-FM

jan Jeffries. (Credit: Radio Ink)

jan Jeffries. (Credit: Radio Ink)

Transferred to Washington D.C. station

As first reported by Robert Feder Wednesday morning, WLS-FM program director Jan Jeffries is leaving the Cumulus-owned station but is being transferred instead to another Culumus outlet:  contemporary-hit station WRQX in Washington D.C.

The shift comes as ratings for the Classic Hits station has softened in the last year, losing ground to CBS’ K-Hits (WJMK), who has an identical format. In the recent PPM report for June, K-Hits opened up a huge lead on its rival and the gap between the two is even wider among adults 25-54.

Despite being transferred to Cumulus’ Washington D.C. station, Jeffries will retain his title as Cumulus Senior Vice President of Programming. No replacement has been named for the position he vacated at WLS-FM.

Since returning to the Chicago market four years ago (he worked at the former WAGO and at WLS/WYTZ-FM in the 1980’s), Jeffries has made some unpopular moves – notably shifting radio legend Dick Biondi to 11 p.m. and limiting the amount of the station personalities’ airtime. WLS also flipped to Classic Hits during Jeffries’ tenure here, ending a six-year run as an oldies station and adding to the dizzying number of format changes the 94.7 frequency has gone though in its lifetime.

And with Jeffries gone, there’s no doubt you’ll hear rumors of yet another format switch, the 8,134th since the station signed on in the 1950’s.

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Comic-Con Notepad: It’s A Marvel (or a DC)

sdcc

 

Attendees were still jackin’ it in San Diego as the 2015 Comic-Con extravaganza continued with more costumes, more cosplay (whatever that is), and more panels of your favorite TV shows, movies, and comics. More highlights:

– Even though Marvel Studios’ film studios sat out Comic-Con, its television division held plenty of panels – including Marvel Television Presents on Friday, with exec Jeph Loeb presiding over the festivities. First up was Agent Carter, with star Hayley Atwell and showrunners. The series is shifting its locale to 1940’s Los Angeles for season two, as Carter (Atwell) is called in to help solve a murder. Next show up was Agents Of Shield, featuring most of the cast. Loeb promised a shakeup in season three on Shield, and announced a new addition to the show, a character named Lash.

Shield had its own, separate panel at Comic-Con the following day, and for more information on the upcoming third season, you can view the panel below:

– Equal Time (to DC Comics): The long-awaited Batman v. Superman showdown is almost here. The minions in Hall H went wild during the Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice panel on Saturday, with Ben Affleck (Batman), Henry Cavill, and Amy Adams in attendance, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Also in the film: making her first live-action appearance in more than three decades is Wonder Woman, and also in the film are Aquaman and The Flash. The crowd was also treated to a surprise appearance by the cast of the upcoming movie Suicide Squad and was treated to – you guessed it – a trailer of the not-yet-finished movie. Someday I suppose, there will be an upcoming trailer to a trailer shown at Comic-Con.

The trailer – which has been criticized in some quarters– is right below:

 

– It’s not every Comic-Con you see a canceled show hold a panel. But that’s what exactly happened Saturday as the Hannibal presentation went on as planned, despite the show’s unexpected cancellation by NBC several weeks ago. Fans gave the network a hard time at the panel, but creator Bryan Fuller defended NBC executives, lauding them for giving him and the show a chance, according to Broadcasting & Cable. Despite Netflix and Amazon passing on picking up the horror-themed drama, Fuller said he’s looking at the possibility of bringing Hannibal to the big screen.

Not sure why Fuller would defend NBC; yours truly wouldn’t be so nice if the network yanked a show under you – especially for a show that performed decently well against the NBA Finals. While it was nice to give the peacocks some thanks, you know doing something like that wouldn’t go over well with the crowd.

Here’s the full Hannibal Panel:

 

For the record, the now-former Disney XD animated series Phineas and Ferb also held a panel, but no one cares about that. Well, at least I don’t (good riddance.)

– Well, look who’s back after a long absence… it’s the Muppets, who received a standing ovation at Comic-Con– an action worthy of Michael Jordan. The crowd packed the ballroom on Saturday to see what’s in store for the new half-hour single-camera comedy, the first regularly scheduled Muppets series since Muppets Tonight ran from 1996-98 for 22 episodes.

Showrunner Bill Prady (The Big Bang Theory) and other producers were on hand – as well as the Kermit The Frog and Miss Piggy. The new version of The Muppets is basically The Office meets The Larry Sanders Show: a more adult-oriented approach as viewers go behind-the-scenes of fictional late-night talk show Up Late With Miss Piggy, mockumentary style.

This method should have been applied to the Late Show With Joan Rivers, the first late-night talk show ever fronted by a woman. It would be a smash hit!

Muppets premieres September 22 on ABC. The Comic-Con Panel is below.

 

Comic-Con Quick Bits:

– With all the voice actors signed now for the next few years, The Simpsons unveiled plans for next season, including a Boyhood parody; a Treehouse of Horror segment where Sideshow Bob gets revenge on Bart; and Spider-Pig makes his first appearance since The Simpsons Movie. Matt Groening appeared on the panel, along with showrunner Al Jean and executive producer Matt Selman. The panel discussed the recent off-season news they made, including a misunderstanding over Homer and Marge’s marital status and the show skewing Donald Trump in a viral video. The Simpsons‘ season premiere is on Sept. 27.

– Seth MacFarlane appeared at Comic-Con for the first time in years at the Family Guy/American Dad panel. Among the goodies for Family Guy fans this upcoming season: Chris is registered as a sex offender and Quagmire (who already is) reveals he starred in a Korean soap opera, and there is an one-act story taking place in Stewie’s mind after he’s had his first nightmare. Guest stars include Ed O’Neill, SNL’s Kate McKinnion (as Peter’s sister) and Neil deGrasse Tyson. At least no Simpsons cross-over this season, although Scooby Doo is available…

Once Upon A Time is going to the darkside…at least one of its characters is. Emma goes dark (no, she doesn’t become black.)

– Panel was held Thursday for a new Ron Pearlaman show for Amazon titled Hand Of God as he plays a judge who hears voices in his head. Too bad they couldn’t market this as a real daytime courtroom show – Judge Pearlman would beat the shit out of Judge Judy in the ratings.

 

 

 

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San Diego Comic-Con is here

Comic-Con

Geeks, man your positions – it’s Comic-Con time.

The 46th annual comics, gaming, and media convention stepped off Thursday in San Diego. Thanks to several movie studios bowing out, television is front and center panelwise with over 100 shows – related to sci-fi, fantasy, or not – being represented.

Animated product also is taking center stage, with Minions and new movies from the Peanuts gang and Scooby-Doo among the most talked about at the Con.

This is the first of three posts devoted to Comic-Con material, with the final article devoted to the Heroes: Reborn panel where yours truly plans to discuss (and mock) the producers’ future plans.

Due to space and time limitations, I won’t be able to write about all Comic-Con panels. But you can follow T Dog Media on Twitter for the latest Comic-Con news and will be posting photos of material on T Dog’s Media’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

Here are the highlights so far:

– Fans of MTV’s Teen Wolf had a reason to cheer during Thursday’s panel: it was announced the series was being picked up for a sixth season, series creator Jeff Davis (“Criminal Minds”) told the crowd. The entire cast, including Tyler Posey, is also coming back. Here’s the trailer fresh from the panel (um, don’t ask me who that is in the still. Bruce Rauner, perhaps?)

– Another popular show among the Comic-Con crowd is The Walking Dead and the producers didn’t disappoint Friday as they revealed the season six trailer to their legions of fans. But they also unveiled another trailer – yes, this one is for the spinoff series Fear The Walking Dead, which premieres on August 23 on AMC. Set in Los Angeles, the spinoff deals with the aftermath of the zombie apoclyapse (and beforehand.) Six episodes have been ordered for season one and has also been renewed for a second season. See the trailer for the new Walking Dead season below:

 

– HBO was present at San Diego Comic-Con with Game Of Thrones at the 6,500-seat Hall H – and it was a bit of a disappointment according to Vanity Fair. Author George R.R. Martin was a no-show, and so were many of the show’s creators, stars, and producers, and little was revealed about the upcoming season. Maybe they didn’t want to take questions about last season’s controversial rape scene. Not exactly worthy of Hall H or sleeping out on the San Diego Convention Center lawn for two days.

– Now this was worthy of Hall H – the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel took place on Friday, with  a specific Star Wars reel for Comic-Con (which you can view below) in advance of the new Star Wars movie hitting theaters on December 18 (no new trailers are going to be available until September.) J.J. Abrams was on hand for the festivities, as was Star Wars alumnus Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford. Afterwards, Abrams invited everyone in Hall H – and I do mean everyone – to a surprise concert, lightsabers in all with the San Diego Symphony performing Star Wars music. You can see Abrams now, pointing: “You get to go! You get to go! Everybody goes!”

Comic-Con Quick Bits:

– Kunal Nayyar and Mayim Bialik were cracking up reading Raj/Amy fanfic at the Big Bang Theory Writers’ panel on Friday, in which the crowd sang Soft Kitty for some reason. Too bad they didn’t read my fanfic submission, you know, the one where Wil Wheaton gets run over by a car – repeatedly.

– Former Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston had a little fun with a fan during Thursday’s panel for his new Crackle show SuperMansion, according to Entertainment Weekly. Asked if he liked filming in New Mexico during Breaking Bad, he told the fan: “I’d go and visit your mother once in a while.”

– Remember The Scooby-Doo Movies, which paired the gang with a celebrity in their quest to solve a mystery? Well, the rock band KISS revives the tradition in the latest Scooby Doo animated movie, Scooby-Doo & KISS! Rock And Roll Mystery. The four members of the glam band headed to Comic-Con Thursday to promote the new feature, where the gang solves a mystery at KISS World Amusement Park with help from Gene Simmons and Co. (As you know, Scooby-Doo and The Simpsons are in a race to see which show can outlast us all.)

The feature is available on DVD and Blu-Ray on July 21, but it you can’t wait, you can download it right now from Apple, Amazon, Google Play, or wherever downloads can be found.

This post was edited at 09:30 on 2016-07-16 (replaced Bryan Cranston YouTube video)

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“South Park” scores renewal deals with Comedy Central, Hulu

South ParkNew deal takes Cartman and Co. through 2019 and also renews Hulu pact

South Park fans received some good news Wednesday as Comedy Central renewed the half-hour animated comedy for three more seasons and thirty episodes, thru the 2019-20 television season.

Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone continue to write, produce, and edit each episode.

The renewal takes South Park through its 23rd season. South Park is currently cable’s longest-running scripted program and the second-longest one only behind The Simpsons.

Subscription video-on-demand service Hulu, which became South Park’s exclusive online platform in 2014, also renewed their deal to stream all existing South Park episodes, in addition to new shows the day after they air.

Straight from the press release, here’s Comedy Central’s Doug Herzog on South Park’s durability: “Nearly two decades later, ‘South Park’ today remains as important and influential as any series on any platform and has become one of the most recognizable brands to ever come out of television. Through South Park Digital Studios we will continue to aggressively expand the reach of the ‘South Park’ brand by pursuing additional extensions and licensing opportunities worldwide.”

South Park’s deal comes on the heels of The Simpsonsrecent two-year renewal deal, taking it through 2017 for seasons 27 and 28, respectively. Earlier this week, Cartoon Network’s Regular Show and Adventure Time were renewed for their respective eighth seasons. Both shows targets both kids and adults.

Premiering on August 13, 1997, South Park quickly became a cultural phenomenon, spawning several video games, two albums, and a feature-length movie.

Adult animation is one of TV’s most durable genres, with the most loyal audience as evidenced by the continued success of Archer, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, Adult Swim, and the show that restarted the genre – The Simpsons. The shows attract hard to reach young men, especially in the 18-34 and 18-49 demo. Last season, South Park topped all scripted cable shows in adults 18-49 and men 18-34.

South Park’s 19th season begins on September 16 on Comedy Central.

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MeTVFM surges in June PPM book

5170358On 87.7 FM, MeTV FM drastically pulls better numbers than predecessor

Usually, PPM radio ratings reports are about as dull as sucking on an ice cube – hardly any changes or movement happens month-to-month.

But not this time as there has been some significant shifts in local radio listening.

According to PPM numbers released by Nielsen Audio Tuesday, Weigel Broadcasting-programmed WRME-FM – or MeTV FM as it is branded, showed drastic gains from its predecessor, The Game. The Soft AC/Oldies hybrid finished in 25th place with a 1.6, up tremendously from what WGWG earned in June 2014 – nearly four times as much.

MeTV FM also gained a full share point from its first full survey in March – a whopping 166 percent increase! MeTV FM also drew more listeners than ESPN 1000 (WMVP), WIND-AM, and WLS-AM, which tied an historic low for the once mighty “Big 89″.

And this despite the signal not being available in a lot of car radios (and punches a hole in the theory the 87.7 signal was the reason The Game couldn’t attract an audience.) Pretty impressive.

For those not able to listen to MeTV FM, you can tune in on analog Channel 6 (an LPTV station which is also 87.7 FM as they share the same frequency) and is also available on Xfinity cable systems on channel 877 (and in stereo).

In other PPM highlights:

– Thanks to the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run, WGN-AM posted its highest ratings in years, finishing fourth overall, with a 30 percent month-to-month increase. But without Cubs telecasts (now on WBBM-AM), WGN’s momentum would be tough to maintain.

– iHeart Media’s Kiss FM (WKSC-FM) has widened its lead over contemporary-hit rival B96 (WBBM-FM) by eight-tenths of a point – perhaps the biggest gap between the two since WKSC debuted in 2001.

– In the race between Classic Hits stations, K-Hits (WJMK) jumped 17 percent to finish sixth, far ahead of WLS-FM, which fell 15 percent month-to-month and landed in fourteenth place.

– Among country stations, newcomer Big 99.5 (WEBG) still trailed heritage US 99 (WUSN). Both were down month-to-month.

– As noted earlier, WLS-AM tied a historic low with a 1.1., flat for the third consecutive month as the station is trying to convert from a conservative talk station to a more mainstream one. Neither Jonathan Brandmeier or Steve Dahl has had an impact on the ratings thus far. Just proves recognizable names don’t always guarantee ratings success.

 

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End of the line for Bill Cosby

It what may likely be the end of Bill Cosby’s TV career, two networks have yanked his television series due to a new round of rape allegations.

Diginet Bounce TV announced Tuesday it was pulling the plug on Cosby reruns, effective immediately. Hours later, Centric – a Viacom-owned cable network targeting African-Americans in the 25-54 demo and a competitor to Bounce, announced it was removing reruns of The Cosby Show immediately.

Both Cosby and The Cosby Show are distributed by The Carsey-Werner Co., which produced both shows.

These moves comes as Cosby – already under fire for allegedly raping and drugging women, admitted in a 2005 deposition he supplied drugs to certain women in a lawsuit filed by a former Temple University employee, which has been since settled.

This marks the latest effort to scrub Cosby from the TV landscape since rape allegations surfaced last year. In November, TV Land yanked Cosby Show reruns off its schedule, and hasn’t returned since. Earlier this year, Diginet Cozi pulled the plug on late-night reruns of I Spy, the 1960’s spy drama Cosby appeared in with Robert Culp.

Locally, The Cosby Show was carried on WCIU-Ch. 26.4 (also known as MeToo) up until last December, when the station became an affiliate of the new Heroes & Icons network.

Cosby’s development deals with NBC and Netflix fell through after public outcry continued to grow.

The removal of Cosby’s material is simple: with the controversy remaining in the news, it would be hard to attract any advertising – direct or otherwise – for his programs. No marketer would want to be associated with Cosby at this point – despite his endorsements in the past for General Foods (Jell-O), Coca-Cola, Kodak, and Texas Instruments.

With I Spy and his own 1969-71 self-titled sitcom, Cosby returned to NBC in 1984 with The Cosby Show, which became a runaway success and helped propel the peacock network to first place.

The Cosby Show was sold into syndication in 1986 and set a then-record for most money paid on a per-episode basis, earning $4 million a half-hour. But station exces – notably from Big Three affiliates who bought the show – grumbled about paying too much, and wasn’t the ratings hit they hoped it would be. Cosby Show reruns were a longtime staple of WFLD-TV’s lineup from 1988 to 1999.

Cosby returned to weekly television in 1996 via CBS with Cosby, a markedly different series from his NBC sitcom. Cosby did manage to run four seasons, but was never the hit The Cosby Show was. The series entered off-network syndication in 2000.

It is not known if Cosby, The Cosby Show, I Spy, or his 1970’s cartoon series Fat Albert would air ever again on linear television. But its a safe bet it won’t be anytime soon.

 

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: Tax the cloud

old man yells at cloudThe latest edition of T Dog’s Media Notepad:

Only in Chicago: if you stream any kind of entertainment and have a paid subscription, you – the consumer- are now going to be subjected to a 9 percent sales tax. This includes any paid subscription to Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Amazon Prime, etc. The so-called “cloud tax” also applies to businesses who store data and information over the Internet, i.e. “the cloud”.

City officials defend the move, saying it needs the revenue to close revenue defecit. The problem is, the revenue expected to come in is only $12 million a year -a drop in the bucket to wipe out a deficit reported to be much larger. Chicago’s tech community, which has been growing by leaps and bounds, isn’t happy with the move – and some say would discourage tech firms from doing business in the city.

Of course, what do you expect when the city and the state are run by a bunch of idiots?

So if you want to watch House of Cards or Daredevil, it’ll cost you more while you don’t get taxed for what passes off as radio in this town. Oh, I can hear the NAB gloating now… In the meantime, look for a surge for people using fake Evanston, Bedford Park, Blue Island, and Hammond addresses.

Sinclair Broadcasting, owners of a few downstate and two Milwaukee TV stations, has formed a partnership with former Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner to produce programming for first-run syndication.

Christened Tornante-Sinclair LLC (Eisner’s company is named Tornante), the new venue plans to produce and develop programming for first-run syndication for Sinclair stations and others – each with equal amounts of ownership. The move comes as syndicators – especially those in the studio-run system- have lost interest in developing such product as ratings for live TV continue to decline amidst a viewer exodus toward alternative video forms in addition to a lack of off-network shows, notably comedies – an area Tornante-Sinclair is looking into.

Eisner’s company already produces courtroom show Judge Faith for Trifecta Entertainment and is cleared on 35 Sinclair stations (in Chicago, Faith airs at 9:30 p.m. weeknights on Weigel-owned The U Too.)

It looks like Comic-Con is sticking around San Diego for awhile – the city in the nation’s 27th-largest television market signed a deal to keep the large pop-culture convention in town until 2018, according to Variety. This development comes as this year’s show takes place earlier than usual (July 8-12) and also comes as the city may be losing its football team – the San Diego Chargers are considering a move to Los Angeles if a new stadium deal isn’t reached. Charter members of the AFL, the Chargers played their first three seasons in L.A. from 1960-63. The Chargers now play at Qualcomm (Jack Murphy) stadium.

So how did San Diego manage to keep Comic-Con? I guess a “cloud tax” wasn’t part of the deal.

Comic-Con officials fielded offers from the Los Angeles area, including Anaheim. No doubt the geek community would rather see the Chargers move to Hollywood rather than Comic-Con. After all, a Super Bowl victory for the Chargers is in the realm of “fantasy”.

Quick Bits:

– WKQX hires a new PD

– WBEZ decides to unionize

– NBC cancels American Odyssey and A.D. The Bible in a holiday news dump

– Fox sets soccer rating records with Women’s World Cup final – USA!

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“Family Feud” soars to No. 1

Steve Harvey is all smiles. And why not? Family Feud is the #1 game show for the first time in over three decades

Steve Harvey is all smiles. And why not? Family Feud is the #1 game show for the first time in over three decades (Fremantle Media)

-Becomes the top-rated syndicated game show for the first time since November 1983

– Also: Inside Edition beats ET for first place in magazine genre

Well, look who’s back at No.1…

Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud, the venerable game show which survived numerous host changes since its return in 1999, has finished as the top-rated syndicated game show and top-rated strip for the first time in 32 years.

For the week ending June 20, the Steve Harvey-hosted game show topped all daily first-run strips with a 6.1 household rating, pulling ahead of Wheel of Fortune (6.0) and Jeopardy (5.9), marking the first time since November 1983 that Feud – when it was hosted by Richard Dawson, beat archrival Wheel – which was cleared in only 40 percent of the country and didn’t air in New York or Chicago yet. ABC-owned WLS began airing Wheel at 6:30 p.m. since January 9, 1984.

It also marks the first time Debmar-Mercury finished in the top spot with any show.

And Feud is coming off a spectacular premiere of its Celebrity edition on ABC Sunday night, scoring a 2.4 adults 18-49 – the highest rated non-sports program of the week.

Keep in mind however, Wheel and Jeopardy were preempted or delayed in many markets – especially in Mountain and Pacific time zones due to NBA Finals and Stanley Cup games.

Wheel has dominated syndication throughout most of its existence, but has been dethroned in recent years by other shows – notably Judge Judy. Wheel’s had a streak at the top in its early years, snapped by Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1991.

"Family Feud" original host Richard Dawson in this 1981 photo. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

“Family Feud” original host Richard Dawson in this 1981 photo.  (ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

This is a measure of revenge of some sorts for Feud, which was knocked off by Wheel in the Nielsen ratings in early 1984, despite not being fully cleared in the rest of the country. When Jeopardy premiered later in the year, Feud wound up finishing third behind both King World game shows and despite ranking in the top ten, then-Feud syndicator Viacom (which is now CBS Television Distribution – the current distributor of Wheel and Jeopardy) pulled the plug after the NBC-Owned stations declined to renew the show, while ABC canceled the daytime version.

After getting decimated by Wheel on WLS-TV, WMAQ, Chicago’s NBC O&O, moved Feud from its longtime 6:30 p.m. prime access slot to 1:30 a.m. in September 1984 to make room for that hot new programming concept, Name That Tune. WMAQ and other NBC-owned stations returned Feud to access in 1988 to similarly disastrous results, though this version with Ray Combs would last six seasons.

Feud returned to access last September over Fox-owned WPWR, which aired the last three seasons of Combs’ era, the unsuccessful return of Dawson in 1994, and the first season when it returned to syndication five years later.

Meanwhile, another surprise emerged in the weekly syndication ratings. Entertainment Tonight – which had a long streak as the top-rated magazine show, was toppled by Inside Edition by a score of 2.9 to 2.8. This has to be a historic low for the 34-year old show, which lost ground over the years to newer, competing programs in the genre – especially TMZ, Dish Nation, Extra, and Access Hollywood, which attract younger audiences than ET.

This past week, Inside Edition and its host, former WMAQ anchor Deborah Norville were in Chicago and Wrigley Field to shoot some segments. Edition airs locally at 3 p.m. on WLS.

Both ET and Inside Edition are syndicated by CBS Television Distribution. Like Wheel and Jeopardy, Edition is a former King World show.

Overall, Litton’s weekly E/I block Weekend Adventure, which targets kids and adults, topped all comers in syndication with an eye-popping 6.7 rating.

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