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Thread: IDIOT BOX: The General TV Thread

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  1. #1

    Exclamation IDIOT BOX: The General TV Thread

    I thought I'd start a thread for TV in general, both local and international, so post away folks.

  2. #2
    By Jeffrey O. Valisno, Sub-Editor

    Battle of breakfast TV

    THE BATTLE for network ratings leadership extends beyond prime time television. Hours before the evening newscasts and star-studded soap operas try to outdo each other to boost audience shares at night, morning shows get the network wars going even before the sun rises.

    Generally, it is said that what TV network Filipino audiences watch for breakfast, will be the same channel they will tune into at prime time since they get clued in on what to expect on TV that night. Morning shows usually set up the TV schedule for most households for the day until night. Jonathan L. CellonaAired live just as TV audiences are having their breakfasts, morning shows offer news and entertainment features, celebrity interviews, traffic updates, weather bulletins and household tips, among others.

    ABS-CBN Corp. jump-starts its programming with Umagang Kay Ganda, anchored by a team of hosts led by Anthony Taberna and Bernadette Sembrano.

    GMA Network Inc. starts its day with Unang Hirit, currently the longest running morning show on local television.

    Not to be outdone, Pangilinan-led TV5 has Good Morning Club, the new kid on the block, which debuted on air just this year.

    Veteran entertainment columnist Mario Hernando said competition among morning shows in the Philippines is “quite stiff,” as major networks see the morning bloc as a major battleground for these shows to showcase their strengths.

    “Morning shows are important for TV networks because of the symbolic relationship that these shows have to the prime time slot at the evening, the performance of the network overall, as well as because of the ability of these morning shows to unlock a pot of gold in advertising revenues,” Mr. Hernando told BusinessWorld in an interview.

    He explained that morning shows “set audience psyches” to help them decide on which programs they will watch at night when they get home from work or school.

    “Generally, it is said that what TV network Filipino audiences watch for breakfast, will be the same channel they will tune into at prime time since they get clued in on what to expect on TV that night. Morning shows usually set up the TV schedule for most households for the day until night,” he said.

    At the same time, the increasing popularity of morning shows among Filipinos in recent years has made these breakfast programs “virtual cash cows” for the news departments of TV networks.

    “Before when the morning TV show format was not as popular as [they are] now, most Filipinos [would] tune in to their radio sets to get their dose of news in the morning,” he said.

    “Now, on an average day, morning shows attract a combined audience of about 300,000 to 500,000 viewers nationwide per day. Those are huge numbers, and TV advertisers know that,” he added.

    Because of that, he said that morning programs attract a big chunk of advertising revenues. “Just look at any morning show on air on any major TV network and you will see that they have all these product placements, sponsorships etc. These morning shows have more [TV] commercial loads, compared to all those late night public affairs shows,” Mr. Hernando said.

    All these reasons, he said, explain why major TV networks are pulling out all the stops to ensure that their morning show dominates the ratings race.

    “TV networks know that the stakes are high, and since watching morning shows for Filipino audiences is said to be a matter of habit, TV networks work hard to get audiences to choose their morning show, and keep them watching,” he explained.

    ABS-CBN

    ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda began airing in 2007. Prior to that, the network aired Alas Singko Y Medya from 1996 to 2001. Hosted by Julius Babao and Christine Bersola, Alas Singko Y Medya (which literally means 5:30) is widely credited for boosting the popularity of the morning show format on local TV, spawning rival programs in other TV networks.

    After programming adjustments and other short-lived morning programs (like Magandang Umaga Pilipinas), ABS-CBN settled with Umagang Kay Ganda, which now airs weekdays 5 a.m. to 8 a.m.

    Ma. Regina “Ging” E. Reyes, head of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs, said Umagang Kay Ganda boasts of an interesting mix of anchors and hosts that answers the varied needs of TV audiences.

    “Seasoned journalists like Anthony ‘Ka Tunying’ Taberna, Bernadette Sembrano and Alex Santos are at the helm of news stories and interviews. Ariel Ureta and Winnie Cordero provide practical wisdom on relationships, family, parenting and consumer issues. The new generation of viewers who are tech-savvy, relates well with Bianca Gonzales, Iya Villana, Andrei Felix, Venus Raj and MJ Felipe. This team takes charge of showbiz, events, fashion, gadgets, pet issues and other ‘news-you-can-use’ type of stories. Earth science expert Edmund Rosales, delivers reliable weather reports combined with practical and relevant tips,” Ms. Reyes said in an e-mail to BusinessWorld.

    She said that while the morning show appears as an “info-tainment” type of show, Umagang Kay Ganda is still predominantly driven by news stories.

    “If something important breaks, you’ll be sure to get it first from Umagang Kay Ganda,” she said.

    Ms. Reyes points out that the program also maximizes the use of social media. “There are various segments that rely heavily on viewers’ response in Facebook and Twitter like Ka Tunying’s ‘Punto por Punto’ (segment) and Ariel and Winnie’s ‘Sabi ni Mister, Sabi ni Misis’ polls,” the ABS-CBN news chief said.

    She admits that the competition among morning shows is indeed stiff.

    However, ABS-CBN’s expertise in the format makes Umagang Kay Ganda a formidable competitor in the morning show category, she noted.

    “Since their introduction to Philippine networks, competition among morning programs has always been stiff. The challenge for Umagang Kay Ganda is re-inventing the wheel, so to speak, as most stories including features are dependent on seasons and occasions like summer, Halloween and Christmas. One might even compare efforts of morning shows to a race or a marathon, as each program strives to air a particular feature or news report first,” she said.

    “ABS-CBN News blazed the trail for this news variety type of morning program with the birth of Alas Singko Y Medya in the ’90s. Since then, despite title and cast changes, our morning news program has always been an important part of news and current affairs’ programming.

    Guided by our commitment to public service, we aim to make sure that the morning show delivers on its commitment to provide Filipino viewers with compelling news stories and useful information they need to start their morning, and guide them all throughout the day. That’s how important this show is to our news organization. Everything else is secondary,” she added.

    And while ratings are considered crucial in the existence of any TV show, Ms. Reyes stressed that their audience preference remains the leading factor in deciding what gets shown on air.

    “Umagang Kay Ganda’s primary responsibility is to its audience, thus, it is committed to provide news and features relevant to their lives.

    While TV ratings are a gauge of how a particular segment fares, it is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to determining what goes into the show. Umagang Kay Ganda seeks to connect with its viewers at the early hours of his or her waking time as we believe that it is a privilege to be allowed into their homes in the morning. Segments like ‘Punto por Punto’ and ‘Sabi ni Mister, Sabi ni Misis’ are considered Umagang Kay Ganda staples but do not necessarily have sponsors,” Ms. Reyes explained.

    She said Umagang Kay Ganda strives to strike a balance between news and entertainment features to keep audiences updated.

    “Umagang Kay Ganda acknowledges the different needs of its audience for every timeslot. For early risers who often need to get their news straight and fast without clutter, Umagang Kay Ganda gives them a round-up of headlines, breaking news, weather and traffic reports in a concise manner. Umagang Kay Ganda also puts premium on news content, especially during breaking news situations and special coverage here and abroad. Entertainment and other features, on the other hand, strive to go beyond the usual fare to include live interviews, set visits and other directly useful information,” Ms. Reyes said.

  3. #3
    ^^^ Continued

    TV5

    Proving that the Kapatid network is serious about its mornings, TV5 launched Good Morning Club last February. The show combines the network’s two previous morning shows Sapul Sa Singko (which started airing in 2010) and Kumare Club (which started airing in 2011).

    And while the market already seemed crowded by other morning shows, TV5 is confident that Good Morning Cub is giving the competition enough reasons to be on the edge, said the show’s program manager Bing Maaño said.

    “Unlike the two other morning shows, our features and entertainment segments are presented ‘tele-serye’ like. Instead of spiels we use dialogues. Instead of the usual segment introductions, we use scenes.

    We call these segments infotainment -- information with entertainment,” Ms. Maaño said in an e-mail to BusinessWorld.

    “It’s a competition of habits. Both networks have had their morning shows for more than a decade now. As for us, we are slowly building on that habit,” she added.

    The current lineup of hosts includes Paolo Bediones, Grace Lee, Cheryl Cosim, Amy Perez, Chiqui Roa-Puno, Christine Bersola-Babao, Makata-tawanan, Lucky Mercado, Joseph Ubalde and Shalala.

    But beginning Nov. 19, Edu Manzano -- who used to be one of the original hosts of ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda and GMA’s Unang Hirit -- will come on board as the Good Morning Club’s regular host.

    The show airs from 5 to 7 a.m. on weekdays.

    “We have hosts that are real friends off and on camera and viewers can actually see and feel that when they watch us. We use the host’s equities in their segments, that’s why it comes out very naturally,” Ms. Maaño said.

    “If you will notice our segments in Good Morning Club show the strengths and equities of our hosts. We do not make them do things they are not comfortable with. What they do in the program is basically what they do in their own homes. They are not acting or hosting, they are sharing and exchanging experiences with the viewers. It’s important that viewers relate to the segments or see themselves in the hosts or in the roles they play,” she added.

    With segments like “Luto Na Ba T’yang?” which features the recipe of the day, “Chiz-Mwah” about showbiz news tidbits and “What the Fact?” which focuses on trivia, Good Morning Club hopes to sway viewers to consider shifting to TV5.

    “Good Morning Club is what starts your day in the happy network. It’s a statement that mornings are about news and infotainment. It’s about giving viewers things to think about while keeping them entertained.

    The program is fighting fairly well in the ratings the same with the other (TV5) news programs,” Ms. Maaño said.

    There is also a social network component to the show.

    “We’re not just a show, we’re a club and our members are the viewers who interact with us via our social networking sites. We make it a point that we include their comments, views and suggestions in the program,” she added.

    At the same time, Ms. Maaño said the people behind Good Morning Club make it a point to strike a balance between providing news content and keeping the audiences entertained.

    “Striking a balance means constantly reminding ourselves in the production team that we need to give viewers the important news of the day while we give them useful information and tips,” Ms. Maaño said.

    “Infotainment, that’s how we want to label our features segments.

    They entertain and at the same time educate the viewers. Public service is a key element of the program, guide to self-help, inspiring real-life stories and free advice or access to information on various issues that attracts viewers,” she added.

  4. #4
    ^^^ Continued

    GMA

    Initially conceptualized to compete against ABS-CBN’s Alas Singko Y Medya, GMA launched Unang Hirit in 1999. The show started the war by airing at 5:15 a.m. -- 15 minutes earlier than its competitor which started at 5:30 a.m.

    The message was made even clearer by the show’s theme song, composed by Jimmy Antiporda. The song has a line that goes: “Sa Unang Hirit, mauuna ka. (With Unang Hirit, you will get ahead.)”

    GMA assistant vice-president for public affairs Arlene Carnay said Unang Hirit “not only delivers news, information and entertainment to morning TV viewers, it also serves as an avenue for public service.”

    “During the most trying times such as fires, floods, and other calamities; important events such as opening of school, Undas (All Saint’s Day) and Holy Week; and other events of national importance, Unang Hirit is always at the forefront of bringing much-needed Serbisyong Totoo (True Service) to our needy Kapuso,” Ms. Carnay said in an e-mail to BusinessWorld.

    Ms. Carnay said the show’s roster of anchors (Arnold Clavio, Rhea Santos, Connie Sison, Ivan Mayrina, Pia Arcangel) and hosts (Suzi Abrera, Lyn Ching Pascual, Drew Arellano, Monica Verallo, Love Añover, Luane Dy, Tonipet Gaba and Lhar Santiago) is also one of its best assets.

    “Their strong credibility, exceptional hosting skills, and authentic friendship further strengthen the equity of the show,” she added.

    She said Unang Hirit’s pool of experts includes one of the country’s top socioeconomic experts Professor Winnie Monsod who provides context and clarity to current issues. “Professor Monsod’s analysis segment alternates with the free legal advice on air [given] by our legal expert, Atty. Gaby Concepcion,” Ms. Carnay said.

    “Also in our team are fashion and etiquette expert Olen Lim, dance diva Regine Tolentino, and our resident foodie Nancy Lumen. Rain or shine, GMA resident meteorologist Nathaniel Cruz is around to update viewers about the weather,” she added.

    With the increasing competition coming from other TV networks, Ms. Carnay said GMA remains committed in keeping Unang Hirit the number one morning show in the country today.

    “Just like in other genres in Philippine TV today, there exists a high level of competition among TV networks and the morning show genre is no different,” Ms. Carnay said.

    “Healthy competition challenges us to perform better and be more attuned to the public’s needs,” she added.

    She said the show’s ability to adapt to the changing times is one of its strengths.

    “Unang Hirit is serious in delivering news and informative features that viewers need to know to start their day. But we believe that it is also our role to brighten every Filipino’s day by providing wholesome entertainment for the whole family. Creating the right mix of news and light features varies day-to-day, but we take on the challenge of anticipating what the public needs,” Ms. Carnay said.

    “Moreover, Unang Hirit has done something to public service that no other show has done. It has made it fun! All thanks to the creativity, sincerity and wide network of its teams. We have partnered with major universities, colleges and schools on the announcement of class suspensions,” she added.

    Ms. Carnay admits that ratings play an important factor in the planning of Unang Hirit.

    “However, it is not the only factor. Unang Hirit strives to be relevant and responsive to the needs of our viewers. We believe that by making our viewers’ needs our priority; winning in the ratings game will follow. By striving to be the first in news, public service and morning entertainment, Unang Hirit remains the longest-running and top-rating morning show in the country,” she said.

    Meanwhile, GMA’s sister channel, GMA News TV just launched its own morning show called Kape at Balita.

    The daily news and talk program has been tackling news and current issues daily from 6 to 7:30 a.m. since Oct. 22.

    “Bringing together the newest team of journalists -- multi-awarded broadcast journalist Susan Enriquez together with veteran radio commentator Joel Reyes Zobel, experienced senior reporter Michael Fajatin, and seasoned news anchor Mariz Umali -- that is set to deliver news in a unique style, the viewers are definitely in for a quick jump-start to their day,” GMA said in a statement.

    Ms. Enriquez, who used to be part of Unang Hirit, joins Mr. Zobel in delivering the latest news and most pressing issues, giving viewers the pros and cons of issues at hand. Ms. Umali handles a segment on female-related topics ranging from health and diet to lifestyle, and even gadgets and trends.

    Mr. Fajatin goes around the metro to know what people think about certain issues.

    “We will try to reach out to the audience that want to know what they need to know in the morning, like how prices of commodities can affect households. Also, we will try to be heavy on traffic situations, and weather updates, especially when there is a development in terms of tropical cyclones and the like,” Ms. Enriquez told reporters shortly after the show launched.

    STAYING POWER

    Entertainment editor and university professor Nestor G. Cuartero said the morning show format in general has demonstrated a unique staying power, with American morning show Today airing for the past 60 years.

    “Morning shows, which many people experience only as background noise as they rush in the morning, fill many important roles for the networks as they face declining viewership as more audiences are increasingly depending on the Internet for their news and entertainment fix,” Mr. Cuartero said in an interview.

    He, however, warned about the growing reliance of these morning shows on getting big-name celebrities to host the programs or latching on to controversial topics just to generate ratings.

    “Sometimes, these shows tend to be superficial. It is sometimes about what the hosts are wearing, or about the flashy sets,” Mr. Cuartero explained.

    “Then, there is also the trap of getting controversial. Who gets hold of a celebrity first? Who comes up with an exclusive interview? It is morning drama before everybody’s eyes,” he added.

  5. #5
    Charo is ABS-CBN CEO

    (The Philippine Star)

    | Updated December 12, 2012 - 12:00am

    MANILA, Philippines - ABS-CBN Corporation announced the appointment of Ma. Rosario “Charo” Santos-Concio (photo) as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), effective Jan. 1, 2013. The new position is in addition to her role as the company’s president and chief content officer. Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III continues to be the chairman of the board of ABS-CBN.

    As ABS-CBN president, Santos-Concio conceptualized strategies and solutions for the company’s growth, helping it achieve profit margins, record-high advertising revenues and leadership in nationwide TV ratings.

    It was also during Santos-Concio’s term that the network was named as one of the Top 15 highest scoring companies and the only publicly-listed media organization to garner a score for 90 percent or higher in the Institute of Corporate Directors’ 2008 Corporate Governance Scorecard.

    Before being promoted to president in 2008, she served as ABS-CBN’s head for Channel 2 in 2006, EVP in 1998, SVP of TV production in 1996, VP of production operations in 1991, and director for programs in 1989. She joined ABS-CBN as consultant in 1987.

    As a programming executive and producer, she is credited with ABS-CBN’s leadership in the TV and movie market with top-rating programs and high-grossing films under her helm, such as Esperanza, Pangako Sa ’Yo and May Bukas Pa, the sitcom Home Along Da Riles that revived the King of Comedy Dolphy’s career, and Star Cinema’s quality movies that broke box-office records.

    Santos-Concio is a recipient of many awards for her work and contribution to the film and broadcast industry, including Film Academy of the Philippines’ Manuel de Leon Award, Hall of Fame Awards for her long-running drama anthology Maalaala Mo Kaya from the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA), PMPC Star and Anak TV Awards, CEO Communication Excellence in Organizations (CEO EXCEL) Awards and CMO Awards’ Woman Super Achiever Award.

    She began her career in media as a production assistant in John en Marsha, then moved on to become a drama actress and producer for BanCom Audiovision, Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, Vanguard Films, Regal Films and Vision Exponents.

    Before becoming a media executive, Santos-Concio became famous for acting in critically-acclaimed films, most notably in Brutal, Kisapmata, Gumapang Ka sa Lusak and Mike de Leon’s Itim, for which she won the Best Actress award in the 1978 Asian Film Festival.

    She graduated cum laude from St. Paul’s College in Manila with a degree in Communications Arts and completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School in 2007.

  6. #6
    SAG Awards 2013: TV nominations favor cable dramas, network comedies

    Damian Lewis and Claire Danes of 'Homeland' make the drama cut, while 'Veep's' Julia Louis-Dreyfus is overlooked in comedy in the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations.

    By Meredith Blake, Los Angeles Times

    December 12, 2012, 1:56 p.m.

    Cable dramas and network comedies dominated the nominees for the 19th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.

    In the drama category, cable favorites such as "Homeland," "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad" and "Boardwalk Empire" picked up multiple nominations, while network series were all but overlooked.

    On the comedy side, the situation was reversed: Only one cable series, "Nurse Jackie," made the cut in the ensemble category, with SAG favoring network sitcoms like "30 Rock," "Modern Family" and "The Big Bang Theory."

    And naturally, there were some surprises and snubs.

    In the drama category, SAG voters followed the trend firmly established at this year's Emmys by failing to nominate the ensemble of any broadcast network series. Last year, "The Good Wife" was among the nominees, but this year only its lead actress, Julianna Margulies, made the cut. The crowded cable landscape also meant that the cast of HBO's fantasy series "Game of Thrones" was overlooked, despite picking up a nomination in 2011.

    After ignoring them last year, SAG voters nominated Damian Lewis and Claire Danes, the Emmy-winning leads of "Homeland," along with the rest of the show's ensemble.

    Although the cast of "Mad Men" received a nod, as did its star, Jon Hamm, none of its female stars — Elisabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, Jessica Paré or January Jones — were nominated. SAG voters also overlooked perennial nominees Kyra Sedgwick and Glenn Close, whose respective shows, "The Closer" and "Damages," wrapped up this year.

    Just as they did last year, SAG voters favored the ensembles of well-established sitcoms "Modern Family," "The Big Bang Theory" and "30 Rock" in the comedy category, neglecting relative newcomers such as "New Girl" and cable favorites "Girls" and "Veep."

    The one notable exception was a nod for the cast of Showtime's "Nurse Jackie": Although series star Edie Falco has now been nominated for a SAG Award for four consecutive years, Wednesday marked a first for the rest of the ensemble.

    The comedy actress category was mostly a repeat of last year, with the notable exception of "Modern Family" star Julie Bowen, who won her second Emmy in September. She was edged out of contention by Amy Poehler of "Parks and Recreation." Despite winning an Emmy for her performance on "Veep," Julia Louis-Dreyfus was also neglected by SAG voters.

    Among actors, the biggest surprise may have been that Michael C. Hall was overlooked for his work on "Dexter," while Jeff Daniels was honored for the critically scorned "The Newsroom." Louis C.K. edged out this year's Emmy winner, Jon Cryer of "Two and a Half Men," on the comedy side.

    There were few surprises in the TV movie or miniseries categories, with SAG voters largely siding with the Emmy choices by nominating the stars of HBO's "Game Change" and "Hemingway & Gellhorn" and History's "Hatfields & McCoys."

    The SAG Awards will be held Sunday, Jan. 27, at the Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center and broadcast on TNT and TBS at 5 p.m. (Pacific).

  7. #7
    SAG Awards: Snubs and surprises in the TV nominations

    The National Board of Review said DiCaprio was the best supporting actor of 2012, but SAG voters seemed to disagree. DiCaprio's role as plantation owner Calvin Candie failed to earn him a nomination.

    By Meredith Blake

    December 12, 2012, 8:04 a.m.

    The nominees for the 19th Screen Actors Guild Awards were announced Wednesday morning, and, as always, there were some surprises and perceived snubs.

    In the drama category, SAG voters followed the trend firmly established at this year's Emmys by failing to nominate the ensemble of any broadcast network series. Last year, "The Good Wife" was among the nominees, but this year only its lead actress, Julianna Margulies, made the cut. The crowded cable landscape also meant that the cast of HBO's fantasy series "Game of Thrones" was overlooked despite picking up a nomination in 2011.

    After snubbing them last year, SAG voters nominated Damian Lewis and Claire Danes, the Emmy-winning leads of "Homeland," along with the rest of the show's ensemble.

    Although the cast of “Mad Men” received a nod, as did its star, Jon Hamm, none of its female stars -- Elisabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, Jessica Pare or January Jones -- were nominated. SAG voters also overlooked perennial nominees Kyra Sedgwick and Glenn Close, whose respective shows, “The Closer” and “Damages,” wrapped up this year.

    Just as they did last year, SAG voters favored the ensembles of well-established sitcoms “Modern Family,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “30 Rock” in the comedy category, neglecting relative newcomers such as “New Girl” and cable favorites “Girls” and “Veep.”

    The one notable exception was a nod for the cast of Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie”: Although series star Edie Falco has now been nominated for a SAG Award for four consecutive years, Wednesday marked a first for the rest of the ensemble.

    The comedy actress category was mostly a repeat of last year, with the notable exception of “Modern Family” star Julie Bowen, who won her second Emmy in September. She was edged out of contention by Amy Poehler of “Parks and Recreation.” Despite winning an Emmy for her performance on "Veep," Julia Louis-Dreyfus was also neglected by SAG voters.

    Lest we forget the boys, the biggest surprise may have been that Michael C. Hall was overlooked for his work on “Dexter,” while Jeff Daniels was honored for the critically scorned “The Newsroom.” Louis C.K. also edged out this year’s Emmy winner, Jon Cryer of “Two and a Half Men,” on the comedy side.

    There were few surprises in the TV movie or miniseries category, with SAG voters largely siding with the Emmy choices by nominating the stars of HBO’s “Game Change” and “Hemingway & Gellhorn” and History’s “Hatfields & McCoys.” Perhaps the only surprise was the recognition for Charlotte Rampling’s performance in the Sundance Channel spy drama “Restless.” It is the first SAG nomination for the British actress.

  8. #8
    'Pawn Stars' at center of legal tempest with Hollywood agents

    By Scott Collins

    December 12, 2012, 5:30 a.m.

    How big are the stars of "Pawn Stars"? Big enough for Hollywood agents to fight over them.

    Los Angeles talent agency Venture IAB filed a lawsuit Tuesday claiming that it guided the careers of Rick Harrison and other workers at the Las Vegas pawn shop featured in the History reality hit. But Harrison, his father ("The Old Man"), his son ("Big Hoss") and staffer Austin Russell ("Chumlee") were later poached by a bigger firm, United Talent Agency.

    Venture claims that it lost millions of dollars in commission as a result after "Pawn Stars" became one of cable TV's biggest hits.

    Venture sued A&E Television Networks, which owns History, claiming that A&E boss Nancy Dubuc induced the "Pawn Stars" cast to sign with UTA because Dubuc's friend Michael Camacho worked there. Camacho left UTA under a cloud earlier this year after the agency settled a separate conflict-of-interest case brought against him by another client. The Harrisons and Russell are not named as defendants.

    A History rep could not be immediately reached for comment.

    Coincidentally, the "Pawn Stars" suit landed on the same day that Dave Hester, featured on A&E's "Storage Wars," sued claiming he was fired after complaining that the show is staged.

  9. #9
    Television review: BBC's 'The Hour' is time well spent

    Here's the scoop: The show within a show about a television news magazine in 1950s London improves its already stellar cast and grows in sophistication.

    By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic

    November 28, 2012, 6:00 a.m.

    When the BBC's six-part period piece "The Hour" premiered last year, critics were divided — mostly by the Atlantic.

    In Britain, reviews of the show, which revolves around the creation of an envelope-pushing television news magazine called "The Hour" in 1950s London, groused about the slow pace, the outlandish spy intrigue and its occasional preachiness. In the U.S., the reaction was more of a collective swoon; the mood, the costumes, the writing, the cast (and of course those accents!) were so intoxicating that even an increasingly absurd plot proved only a minor distraction.

    Ironically, the second season begins as BBC News finds itself embroiled in a reporting scandal that would serve nicely as an A-plot for the show. "The Hour" holds, as most journalism-based theater does, that hard-working reporters are too often undone by keepers who cower behind a Potemkin village of "standards" and "policy" in an effort to avoid controversy — unless controversy pays the bills, in which case they manufacture it.

    But "The Hour," like "Mad Men" to which it has been exhaustingly compared, is more concerned with its workplace as a window on an era and a nation than it is exposing the inner-workings of journalism.

    As Season 2 opens, the show within the show is now solidly successful, having made its anchor, Hector Madden (Dominic West) enough of a star that he now wiles his time away in nightclubs, signing autographs and consorting with chorus girls, only to skid into the studio with seconds to spare.

    Watching the clock and sighing in irritated resignation is producer Bel Rowley (Romola Garai), who puts up with Hector's antics for the same reason his wife, Marnie (Oona Chaplin), does — because he is talented and charming and because, as women in the 1950s, they may have increasing influence but they do not yet have real power. Randall Brown (Peter Capaldi), Bel's new boss, on the other hand, does have power.

    Within minutes of the first episode, he not only gives Madden an ultimatum, he brings in a co-host/possible replacement, none other than Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw), the dogged young firebrand around whom last season revolved. After broadcasting an interview that questioned the British government, Freddie was fired, leaving Bel bereft of both a constant if unrequited suitor and her most brilliant news gatherer.

    So this season's cast, which includes the deliciously oily government press secretary Angus (Julian Rhind-Tutt) and the wry, dry foreign news editor Lix (Anna Chancellor), is not just as terrific as it was last season, it's better.

    Capaldi's Brown may seem buttoned-down and OCD finicky, but he's here to turn the heat up, not down. He not only questions "The Hour's" rather smug self-confidence, he clearly has a past with Lix, which means we may finally get to see more of Chancellor, who already steals every scene she's in by simply squinting through the inevitable plume of cigarette smoke.

    More important, despite Whishaw's brilliant portrayal of Q in "Skyfall," this season is less James Bond, more "The Wire," with both the news and personal stories focusing on tensions of an increasingly multicultural city and a rise in gangland-style crime.

    The men and women of "The Hour" are dealing with shifting social strata, though creator Abi Morgan seems content to leave Britain's class issues to "Downton Abbey," showcasing instead the effects of immigration and the women's movement. Garai's Bel remains the luminous core of the story, sacrificing, as such women inevitably do, love for work, though this popular narrative crutch seems more believable than usual here, considering the period and the profession.

    After getting sacked, Freddie apparently read a lot of Kerouac and lived in Paris, so he returns with a wider vision and a new resolve. Indeed this season has an air of maturity that owes more to character than fedoras, pencil skirts and the still seductive snick of monogrammed lighters.

    Bel and her staff are no longer young Turks shaking up the fusty old BBC; now they are, for better or worse, part of the mainstream news media, forced to question their own motivations as well as those of the Establishment. In the first two episodes anyway, this makes for a more sophisticated storytelling, a drama of adults who must take responsibility for decisions of the mind as well as the heart.

  10. #10
    Review: Big Cat Week on National Geographic Wild spots a leopard

    Boone Smith heads to Afghanistan to search for the elusive snow leopard in a Big Cat Week opener on Nat Geo Wild that's both illuminating and bracing.

    By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic

    December 8, 2012, 6:00 a.m.

    For the premiere episode of its third annual Big Cat Week, National Geographic Wild has upped the stakes.

    Having already explored man-eating lions and most of their lethally gorgeous kindred, this Big Cat Week opens Sunday night in Kabul where big cat tracker and National Geo fave Boone Smith and his team stops before entering the mountains in search of the elusive snow leopard.

    Hoping to find a part for their busted radio transmitter, they wander the streets of the Afghanistan capital like "Homeland" extras, while the requisite urgent voiceover explains that the Taliban is currently on a killing spree and that Smith and his team would do well to keep a low profile.

    Rather difficult to do for the movie-star handsome Smith (seriously, are big cat trackers drawn from the same gene pool as paramedics and firefighters?) and, of course, his camera crew. But no matter, the colorful marketplace gives the piece the regional flavor on which National Geographic has built its reputation and if the anxiety-provoking soundtrack does force one to wonder if Mandy Patinkin's Saul will be appearing from a shadowy doorway with the necessary hardware, no doubt a visit to Afghanistan contains a certain amount of danger even for environmentalists. (Memo to CIA: When next you have to rescue hostages from a foreign city * la "Argo," send in the National Geo big cat team.)

    Joining Smith in the field is John Goodrich, another good-looking if a bit more laid-back conservation scientist as well as local tracker Hussain Ali who, mercifully, looks like a normal person. Up we go into the mountains, learning how global warming is decreasing the snow pack that, though a boon to native herders, is decreasing the leopard's natural habitat.

    This sort of information is the stated raison d'etre for Big Cat Week, which is part of the Big Cats Initiative's attempt to increase awareness about dwindling and endangered species. Snow leopards, found only in the mountains of Central Asia where they are hunted by herders and poachers seeking their fur and spectacular tails, are on the endangered list. (Interesting fact: They cannot roar.) And indeed, while in Kabul, Smith finds it easier to procure an illegal snow leopard pelt than a radio part.

    Up we go into the mountains, where we learn about the tracking patterns of the leopards and watch the experts train local conservationists on how to set a snare and use a tranquilizer gun. The team hopes to put tracking collars on several leopards to learn more about the population.

    It is laborious and often boring work. An intrusive voice tries too hard to keep the mood tense by asking things like "will the team get the traps set in time?," which is pretty annoying since it is safe to assume that they will.

    And indeed, they do, leading to 10 or 15 truly exciting minutes in which we see both the un-scripted excitement of the team (the local conservationist is so excited, Smith has to calm him down so he doesn't upset the leopard) and the exquisite leopard himself. During those dead-of-night moments, the tension is quite real.

    Watching the animal struggle while the guys with the tranqs hurry up the trail and take aim, the viewer joins the team in admiring the beauty of the leopard and fearing for its well-being, both before it is sedated and after, when the drug leaves the animal groggy and in real danger of slipping from its steep and unstable mountainside.

    It's a lot of work for a few moments of splendor, but that's how it goes when you're hunting the big cats.


 
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