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Two Tivos To Paradise 03.20.09: March Madness, TV News Style
Posted by Al Norton on 03.20.2009

Hello Friends. Finally health has come back to the Norton household! It's amazing how much better life is when you can smell, hear, and taste everything. Mrs. Tivo and I took advantage of her folks being in town to sneak out to a lovely lunch last weekend at the Cheesecake Factory; once you have kids you'll realize how those little things you took for granted are oh so important in retaining your sanity.

Will Dailey, the official singer/songwriter of Two Tivos To Paradise, had a new EP released this week; By The Blue Hills is part two of Torrent, and the full CD will be available come the end of April. You can take a listen via his website , which also will fill you in on his spring tour, including multiple stops in New York early next month. Trust me – he's worth it; Peace of Mind and Never Be Your Baby are two of my three favorite songs of 2009 (Bruce Springsteen's Queen of the Supermarket being the third). You can also read the ongoing conversation we have in his blog, The Dailey Weekly. Speaking of things to read, scroll down to the bottom of the page and use the "More by Al Norton" feature to pull up my interviews with One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn and The Middleman star Natalie Morales which ran on the site this week.

Lost and insecure, you found news, you found news.

We'll Sit And Watch The Clouds Roll By And The Tall Grass Wave In The Wind
A week after Lauren Conrad told the press that the upcoming season of The Hills would be her last came the announcement that Mark Burnett was producing a new show focused on the life of current Hills star Audrina Patridge, calling into question the future of the MTV reality series. The upcoming 5th season has already been filmed and moving forward on a 6th without two of the main participants could potentially be risky business. The new show that Burnett will be pitching to networks next week will follow Patridge at work as well as in her personal life. The Hills is a spin-off of Laguna Beach, and has spawned a spin-off of its own, The City, which found Whitney Port moving to NY to work in the fashion industry. The new season of The Hills premieres on April 6th.

I made a personal vow at one point to never feature The Hills in a news item in this column but since this is about the potential end of the series I thought it worthy of making an exception. I have no idea why people watch this show as to me it is the worst of both worlds, watching extremely uninteresting people do essentially nothing. The fact that it's real is…well, frankly, it's not real; it's all ridiculously staged, so the idea that you are watching real life is out the window, too, so what does that leave you with? Getting pleasure from watching vapid people follow the map that producers laid out for them? Maybe the reason I don't get it is that my self esteem, while not high, is not so low that I need to watch rich folks with empty lives to feel better about myself.

Wow. Haven't had that much TV related venom since someone took issue with my placement of Anson Williams on the Top 10 Underrated TV superstars list. From a business point of view, the best move for MTV could simply be to buy this new show with Audrina and that way not lose the whole franchise. MTV's statement in response to her leaving said they were not confirming a 6th season but that they did not see an end to the stories they were telling, so it's possible they simply bring in a new group of "characters" and hope that the audience can't really tell the difference. I doubt LA is lacking for attractive but soulless wealthy young citizens who dream of being on television.

*Note: Yes, The Hills is on the list of shows that are tivo'd in my house – see below – but it's for Mrs. Tivo, not for myself, and by her own admission she doesn't really know why she watches other than it's good to have on in the background while she is doing other things. I choose to look past this flaw as she ignores the boatloads of mine.

You'd Make A Great Sensation, With Wealth And Fame Your Reward
David Chase's first post-Sopranos project will be to re-team with series executive producer Brad Gray and HBO for a mini-series that tracks the history of big studio movie making in Hollywood. A Ribbon of Dreams will tell the story of two unlikely partners who end up producing movies for DW Griffith. Beginning in 1913 and ending up in present day, the characters will interact with Hollywood royalty like John Ford, John Wayne, Billy Wilder, and Bette Davis. While the length of the mini-series has yet to be determined, the best guess is something like 7 to 10 hours.

I'm in. After how amazing The Sopranos was, I would watch just about anything that had Chase's name attached. Factor in that I am fascinated by the history of the entertainment industry as well as my frequent laments about the mini-series disappearing from the TV landscape, and I am giddy with anticipation. It should also be fun to see current actors playing the stars of yesteryear (much like it should be on HBO's upcoming series about the teenage years of Anthony Kedis), and the combination of Chase, Gray, and HBO should mean that the opening credits will have some big names in them.

It's Been Too Long Since We Took The Time, No One's To Blame, I Know Time Flies So Quickly
The Sci-Fi network announced a name and tagline chance this week; as of July 7th the network will become Syfy, and the new line will be, "imagine greater." Network President David Howe told the press, "we're more than just space and aliens and the future – the three things people think of when they think sci-fi." Much of the networks upcoming new programming are very human based dramas with tinges that hope to draw a wider audience, like Caprica, the Battlestar Galatica prequel that does take place on another planet but it's one very much like earth, and there is no space travel involved. Warehouse 13 is another new show, with a pair of FBI agents tracking down objects with supernatural powers, and he latest installment in the Stargate franchise does take place on a ship but is being described as a darker, more emotionally powerful type of storytelling than the previous Stargates.

Really? Syfy? To be fair, as stupid as this seems, I have to say it actually makes some sense to me, mostly because they are unable to trademark and license the name "sci fi" – there are 50 "sci fi" channels throughout the world – and this semi-phonetic spelling gives them some visual recognition. Did people complain when Digg.com went live? Sure, it's good for a few punch lines but as long as the network continues to develop quality shows, I am there.

Like A Coin In Your Mint, I'm Dented And I'm Spent With High Treason
It's pilot season in TV Land and as such we've broken the updates about new shows out of the "All The Young Dudes" section below and given it it's own feature. All of the shows mentioned below are having pilots filmed, putting them one step closer to getting a spot in their network's line ups this fall…

ABC: Eric McCormack (Will and Grace) is the lead on the untitled Tad Quill (Dirty Sexy Money, Scrubs, Spin City), which finds two best friends with lives going in different directions. Hey, can McCormack do a show without the one sentence synopsis opening with the words, "two best friends…". Clearly this does not bode well for the future of TNT's Trust Me…Donald Faison is the latest addition to the Cedric the Entertainer comedy The Law, about reserve LA police officers…The V reboot got some sci-fi credibility when The 4400's Joel Gretsch was cast as one of the leads…Paul Campbell (Knight Rider) and Freddie Prinze, Jr. are two of the leads on No Heroics, a comedy about b-list superheroes…Sam Neill has become a resident of Happy Town, a quirky crime drama in the vein of Twin Peaks…Justin Adler's (Samantha Who?, Big Day, the criminally under watched Sons and Daughters) untitled family comedy signed Smallville alum Michael Rosenberg to star….Kyle Bornheimer, whose Worst Week looks extremely doubtful to return, has taken the best friend role on the untitled Ricky Blitt sitcom that finds a guy torn between his best friend (Bornheimer) and his new girlfriend (Alyssa Milano)…Melinda McGraw, so great on Mad Men as Bobbie Barrett last season, has been cast opposite Kelsey Grammer in a new sitcom. Grammer plays a Wall Street tycoon who loses everything and has to lean on his long ignored extended family for support…Holly Robinson Peete is on board the Lauren Graham sitcom The Bridget Show

CBS: Richard Dryfuss landed the role of family patriarch in Mitch Hurwitz' (Arrested Development) comedy Happiness Isn't Everything, about a family that is way too involved in each other's lives. Jason Biggs had previously signed on…Moonlight star Alex O'Laughlin is front and center on Three Rivers, a medical drama about an organ transplant team…DB Woodside (24, Buffy) has joined Skeet Ulrich in the pilot Back, which got a profile boost when Sherry Stringfield was cast as Ulrich's ex-wife, who remarried after he disappeared for 8 years…

The CW: Mischa Barton is the first big name cast in The Beautiful Life, the Ashton Kutcher produced pilot about the NYC modeling world…Cloverfield's Jessica Lucas is the latest to take up residence on Melrose Place

NBC: Sorry I haven't written previously about Community, the Joel McHale starring comedy where he plays a lawyer who has to go back to college after a technicality makes his undergrad degree invalid. McHale has gone on record as saying he will still continue to host The Soup even if the show gets picked up. Comedy legend Chevy Chase will co-star as a fellow student…

FOX: Natalie Martinez (Death Race) is the female lead on the comedy Sons of Tucson, a love interest for Tyler Labine (Reaper)… The great Alfre Woodard will play the mentor of the main character on Maggie Fox, a drama about a world class surgeon who is also a schizophrenic…

And With Your Hair Swung Right And Your Pants Too Tight, It's Gonna Be All Right
Welcome back to the American Idol Revue, where we run down the latest week of American Idol, season 8. We're down to the final 11, and each week the remaining contestants will sing on Tuesday, with one going home on Wednesday. That is, if the judges don't take advantage of their only-can-use-it-once save. Let's get right to it…

Tuesday, March 17th

-This week American Idol likes both kinds of music, country and western.

-Seven of the contestants are wearing jackets tonight, including six of the seven remaining men.

-It's time for the "judges walk"…Paula brought the girls out again tonight but I am distracted by Simon, who is wearing a very thin tee-shirt and appears to be quite excited to be there.

-I am a big country fan but couldn't they have done U2 night on Saint Patrick's Day? I'd suggest they try a Paul Brady night but they aren't forward thinking enough to choose a master songwriter like him.

-Can we ditch Ryan talking to the panel and go with "Judges Chat", like how they open Regis & Kelly?

-FYI, it's not country music night, it's Grand Ole Opry week, with grand ole Randy Travis serving as mentor.

-Michael starts us of with one of my favorite Garth Brooks songs. Sadly, Ain't Goin' Down Till the Sun Comes Up has so many words that he is breathless and can't hit any notes in the chorus. Too big a song for him.

-Alison is doing a fun Patty Loveless tune and nails it. Nothing fancy but a quality vocal.

-Kris commits a huge sin in my eyes, referring to To Make You Feel My Love as a Garth Brooks song instead of giving credit to the songwriter, especially because said writer is Bob Dylan. Trish Yearwood's version is much better than Garth's, as is Billy Joel's cover…To be perfectly honest, Kris' version is better than Garth's, too.

-Lil Rounds might not have hit a home run with Martina McBride's Independence Day (her voice needed to be much stronger, even angrier, at the end of the chorus) but she looked as good as she has during the competition and that will probably pay off down the road.

-Adam does Ring of Fire. First off, his hit every note he went for and his performance was exactly what he wanted it to be, which should count for something. Secondly, that sucked.

-Scott does the second Martina McBride tune of the night, which leads to the most shocking Idol moment of the season; Paula offering coherent constructive criticism.

-I am really loving Randy Travis' interaction with the contestants. He is being totally honest with them.

-Alexis opens up hour two with Jolene, which is decent but nothing to write home about.

-Danny's cover of Jesus Takes the Wheel wows the audience but leaves me lukewarm.

-Anoop is doing Always On My Mind, which was my Moms favorite song, so he's got a high bar to clear in this house…Wow…Well done, sir, well done…As my friend Bill S might say, it got a little dusty in my living room just now.

-Megan Joy is apparently taking fashion tips from Paula…Ok, she may be unique but that's not always a good thing. Why do the judges love her so?

-Matt closes the show with a solid cover of another Carrie Underwood song.

I would put Megan Joy, Michael, and Adam in the bottom three but my guess is that America will replace Megan and Adam with Alexis and Alison.

Wednesday, March 18th
-Results show recaps are so easy…The bottom three are Michael, Alison, and Alexis…and it's Alexis who goes home…Wait, she gets to sing the same song that got her voted off in order to try and get a stay of execution (what's the logic there?), and the judges come back with a second rejection for the evening.

Next week is Motown week, with Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy, Jr. mentoring the final 10. Also, because of President Obama's TV address, the show will air on Wednesday (8 – 10) and Thursday (8-9) next week.

But You Were Up To Your Old Tricks In Chapters Four Five And Six
All you need to know about the Nielsen's for the past week (or so)…CSI (18%) and Grey's Anatomy (12%) both dropped Thursday at 9 pm, with the standard overall result (the former wins total audience, the latter tops in demos)…Both Smallville and Supernatural returned to smaller audiences than who watched their previous new outing…The star-studded reunion on ER helped them leap 22%, with 10.7 million tuning in, including the top demo numbers for the hour…Eleventh Hour has been a steady-if-unspectacular performer this year, with Thursday's 11.8 million being a good example; winning the hour in total audience but finishing last in demos…Great news for fans of Fox's Friday night line up; The Sarah Connor Chronicles was up 18%, and Dollhouse jumped 22%...Also qualifying as good news was Friday Night Lights' 15% surge…Ghost Whisperer topped Friday night with 11.11 million…Kings two hour premiere did not impress the Nielsen's, with a drop of over one million during the second hour. The average for the two hours was the lowest for any network show on TV that night…Desperate Housewives won the night with 14.3 million…The Unit had its second very strong week in a row, up 16% to win the 10:00 hour with 10.92 million (a season high)…Celebrity Apprentice was down for the second week in a row…Family Guy continues to have a strong season, with 7.2 million tuning in to the latest new episode…Dancing with the Stars was down a bit from last week but the shade over 21 million who tuned in were more than enough to win the night…12.8 million showed up for their appointment with House…All of CBS' Monday comedies rebounded from an off week to show gains, with Rules of Engagement's 10% being the biggest growth…Castle's numbers, and problems, were the same as it's premiere; good overall totals 11.48 million, but 18% turning it off during the hour…The 21.5 million who watched American Idol on Tuesday was a 15% drop from last week…NCIS' 15.5 million was a season low, and The Mentalist that followed set a new low as well…The first Dancing with the Stars result show was viewed by 12.42 million, 28% less than the same episode last season…Reaper hit a new low for the third consecutive week…Better Off Ted's demos were decent but it lost by almost 2 million total to Gary Unmarried...Lost's 9.08 million represented a series low, while Life on Mars was up 15% thanks to a non-rerun lead-in...23 million watched Alexis say goodbye on American Idol, a 7% drop from last week...Chopping Block continues to be a disaster, finishing behind four network competitors in both total audience and demos...To put things in the right context, every major network program on Wednesday night not about a time travelling cop was down from the previous week...

All The Young Dudes Carry The News
Industry News, Notes, and Hot Rumors…Andy Samberg has been announced as the host of the upcoming MTV Movie Awards…Entertainment Weekly is reporting that Booth will undergo a health crisis during a May sweeps episode of Bones that causes him to halucinate multiple conversations with Stewie from Family Guy. Both are Fox shows and Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane will be involved in making sure Stewie's dialogue is in-character...Henry Rollins has signed for six episodes of the upcoming second season of FX's Sons of Anarchy. Rollins will play this season's Big Bad…CBS finalized the deal you read about in this space a few weeks back, picking up three more seasons of Two and a Half Men and two more of The Big Bang Theory…Spike ordered a 12 episode first season of Blue Mountain State, a comedy set at a college football powerhouse…All parties involved shot down rumors that Mariska Hargitay's health issues would keep her off Law and Order: SVU for the rest of the season…May 12th is the premiere date for Bravo's new Real Housewives Of… franchise, this one originating from New Jersey…I was all set to tell you how Jennifer Esposito was going to play a big role on the upcoming season of Burn Notice as a private eye who becomes obsessed with finding out the truth about Michael Weston but before I could, the recast the part, going with Moon Bloodgood (Journeyman) instead…NBC has an eight episode first season of The Sing Off planned, a reality competition show were a cappella groups face off against each other…VH-1 is bringing Behind The Music back for a 10 episode season, with Lil Wayne and Scott Weiland among those being profiled…National Geographic has picked up a 6th season of The Dog Whisperer

Turns Out Not Where But Who You're With That Really Matters
The top thing I watched since the last column went to press AKA The Best Of What's Around…Even before I saw Sunday's episode of Breaking Bad I was trying to think of a way to work more praise of Bryan Cranston into the column; I saw him as a guest on The Bonnie Hunt Show on Friday morning (hey, you need to watch something when you are feeding the babies) and the physical transformation between him as himself and how he is when playing Walter White was breathtaking. It's not the bald vs. full head of hair look, it's like he is simply a different person. It's like watching a Seinfeld rerun and then seeing Jason Alexander as a guest on Letterman, and I mean that as high praise.

As it turned out, Sunday's episode of Breaking Bad was amazing, providing a fantastic showcase for the series supporting characters as well as giving us as tense a five minute sequence as TV has had this season. Anna Gunn as Walter's wife continues to shine, and Dean Norris as Hank has been a revelation this season; last week he was painfully awkward – in a good way - as he talked to Skyler about letting her sister back in her life and this week he showed off why Hank is so good at his job, getting the troops riled up about catching Tuco, questioning Jesse's Mom, and in his best moment taking aim and waiting patiently until Tuco gave him a clear target.

The sequence where Tuco's Uncle clued him in that Walter and Jesse were up to something was alternately hysterical and heart attack inducing, with that bell being a perfect choice by the writers. While I am saddened that the talented Raymond Cruz won't be back, I love the many story opportunities that his exit offers and eagerly await this Sunday's new episode.

People Say I'm Crazy Doing What I'm Doing. Well, They Give Me All Kinds Of Warnings To Save Me From Ruin
What's flashed before my eyes the last seven days…Two of the things that makes One Tree Hill so rewarding for it's fans are how well it knows it's characters and how willing it is to play with the standard episode structure; this week's series of one act plays about all the ongoing relationships was a high point of the season. The Peyton-Lucas segment about the health risks to her is she continues her pregnancy were emotionally brutal and extremely well written and acted. It was also nice to see Deb acknowledge some responsibility in Dan's descent into hell…Zzzzzzz, what's that? This week's Gossip Girl is over? Thanks for the heads up….I am a week behind on The Sarah Connor Chronicles but don't mistake that for me being any less into the show. The last two weeks, both of which were spaceship and three dot free, have made the show much more focused and showed how much tension there can be just from talking…Doug Benson hosting Best Day Ever this week = Happy Al…I was amused by Better Off Ted, not in a laugh out loud way but in a, "I'll keep watching for a few weeks" way. I am a big Alison Ackers fan…Orlando Jones added some quality laughs to Rules of Engagement this week, and Patrick Warburton was in his usual all-star form…While Scrubs has been MUCH better than last season, ABC's running reruns and then switching the day and time isn't all that much of an upgrade form the shabby treatment the show got from NBC…William Hurt's return gave Damages a boost; I am really enjoying this season as I think the majority of plot twists have made sense, not giving the audience the feel like they were written simply for plot twists sake…This week's How I Met Your Mother was an instant classic; the nightshirts alone would have qualified it for that status but the use of a Creed CD as a break-up device was sheer genius. Also, the stuff going on during Robin's talk show was hysterical…Grey's Anatomy returned with a very strong episode, including more excellent work from Kevin McKidd, who I find much more compelling here than I ever did on Journeyman…Still love Cooper on Private Practice but I am simply not in any way buying that Addison would even consider becoming involved with the husband of one of her patients…Get ready for the fun cooker; last week's 30 Rock was pretty damn funny and a great example of why people's expectations of the show can be too high – some episodes are just going to be laughed at and then forgotten, and that's ok…Loved Dwight standing up to Michael (sort of) on The Office almost as much as I loved the KGB knock-knock joke…Speaking of things I loved, Matt's Mom and Grandmother coming together over his football triumphs on Friday Night Lights was a totally believable and well earned emotional highlight. A highlight for totally different reasons was Lyla's drunk dancing…

TV Pick Of The Week
Seriously? Seriously? What the frak do you think it is?!?! One of the best TV shows of the last 10 years is signing off tonight with a two hour finale and you think something else might possible be my TV Pick of the Week?

The first hour of Battlestar Galactica's finale ran last Friday and was more than enough to whet my appetite. Particularly illuminating were the flashbacks, with Baltar's dealing with his Dad and the visual of Roslin in the fountain being highlights.

Finales are tough because usually people's expectations far outweigh whatever they end up seeing. To me the biggest thing is to stay true to the series and the characters, and I don't have a single worry that Ron Moore and David Eick will do anything but. That being said, the truth is that these last two hours will go a long way towards deciding where the show lands on the all-time lists. Right now I would put it in the top 20 all-time dramas, and the right sendoff could send it ever higher.

I almost never watch shows live but tonight will be the exception; don't miss the two hour series finale of Battlestar Galactica tonight at 9 pm on Sci Fi.

(FYI – While I am saving my all time top 20 lists for a future column, I can say that Lost, Homicide, The Practice, The Sopranos, The West Wing, and Six Feet Under are all on it. On the comedy side you'll find The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Cheers, Friends, and Seinfeld, among others)

Hope You Need My Love, Babe, Just Like I Need You
Here is some other noteworthy programming of the next seven days…

*In case you haven't heard, there is a basketball tournament going on, and if you turn to CBS at any point from today through Sunday late afternoon you will catch some action, with a three day break before games start up again next Thursday afternoon.

*Party Down, a new Starz comedy produced by Rob Thomas and Paul Rudd, makes it's debut at 10:30 pm tonight following the season two premiere of Head Case.

*Not only is this week's Dollhouse (9 pm, Fox) the game changer that Joss Whedon has been touting in the press the last few weeks but Two Tivos favorite Patton Oswald guests as well.

*Big Love's award worthy third season comes to a close Sunday at 9 pm on HBO, as does the current runs of Flight of the Conchords (10 pm) and Eastbound and Down (10:30 pm).

*Cold Case (9 pm, CBS) uses the music of John Lennon to set the mood this Sunday.

*Craig Ferguson: A Wee Bit O' Revolution (10 pm, Sunday, Comedy Central) is a stand up special from the host of The Late Late Show.

*Monday is a big night for ABC Family, starting with The Secret Life of the American Teenager (8 pm) ending its first season with the birth of Amy and Ricky's baby, followed by the premiere of the comedies Roommates (9:00 pm) and Sophie (9:30 pm).

*In The Motherhood is a relatively high profile comedy from ABC, based on the successful web series from Jenny McCarthy and Leah Remini and starring Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Megan Mulally (Will and Grace). It's premiere on Thursday at 8 pm is followed by the return of Samantha Who?.

Two Tivos To Paradise
30 Days, 30 Rock, The Academy, American Idol, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Antiques Roadshow, The Apprentice, Battlestar Galactica, Best Day Ever, Best Week Ever, Big Love, Bones, Breaking Bad, Brothers And Sisters, Burn Notice, Chocolate News, The Chopping Block, Chopped, Chuck, The Closer, Criss Angel Mindfreak, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Daddy's Girls, Damages, The Deadliest Catch, Desperate Housewives, Destination Truth, Dirty Sexy Money, The Dish, Entourage, Eureka, Everybody Hates Chris, Flipping Out, Gary Unmarried, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters International, Gossip Girl, Grey's Anatomy, Heroes, The Hills, House, How I Met Your Mother, Iron Chef America, Jon & Kate + Eight, Last Comic Standing, Last Restaurant Standing, Law And Order, Law And Order: Criminal Intent, Law And Order: Special Victims Unit, Life On Mars, Lost, Mad Men, Make Me A Supermodel, Man v. Food, Medium, The Middleman, My Name Is Earl, The New Adventures Of Old Christine, Next Food Network Star, Nip/Tuck, The Office, One Tree Hill, Paranormal State, Private Practice, Project Runway, Pushing Daisies, Psych, Real Time With Bill Maher, Reaper, Rescue Me, Rules Of Engagement, Run's House, Samantha Who?, Sanctuary, Saturday Night Live, Scrubs, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Shear Genius, Skins, So You Think You Can Dance?, Sons of Anarchy, The Soup, Sports Soup, Supernatural, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Top Chef, Top Design, Torchwood, True Blood, Trust Me, Ugly Betty, Will Work for Food

People Love You When They Know You're Leaving Soon
Here ends another edition of Two Tivos To Paradise. Hope everyone has good luck with their NCAA picks this weekend. We'll be back next week with all the latest in TV happenings.

Feedback is encouraged at twotivostoparadise@yahoo.com as well via the comments section below.

Sources for this week's column include Daily Variety, Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, and Hollywood Reporter (plus the web sites for those publications) as well as Aintit.cool.com.


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