Author Archive

The American Model is the Devil

13 February 2012
by R.A. Porter

They did it. And I’m done with it.

I’ve unlocked the “Cancel Season Pass to How I Met You Mother Badge.”

Cooking Channel or…Food Network Canada

13 February 2012
by R.A. Porter



I cook. A lot. I started at six or seven, worked in restaurants in college, have a semi-annual breakdown where I contemplate chucking it all in and starting a food truck, and spend a lot of time reading, studying, and practicing technique.

I was excited when Scripps announced it was launching a second cooking channel, more focused on teaching, technique, and training than the mothership.1 And it certainly does have a lot fewer celebrity-driven and spectacle-driven shows and more traditional half-hour shows given over to teaching and recipes.

But after a couple years of watching, it’s pretty clear what Scripps was looking for: a way to make a few easy dollars by airing the Canadian and Australian shows to which they already had rights, in addition to older Food Network shows that no longer fit its schedule or updated tone. There is precious little original programming on Cooking Channel, but a lot of shows aboot the way to cook.

All of this leads to a rather second-hand quality to the network that is a bit depressing; however, that’s not to say there are no quality shows on the network—I watch many of them myself—nor compelling personalities. So let’s focus on those.
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  1. I remember when Food Network was focused on those things; that’s a long time ago. []

TV for Dudes too Stupid to Read Maxim

9 February 2012
by R.A. Porter

I’m tired tonight and didn’t want to be up for two or three hours writing about a real network (or even NBC) like I did last night, so I wanted to pick on someone easy and quick. And then I just kept hitting refresh on Twitter and Tumblr instead of picking anyone, and suddenly it was two hours later than when I sat down to write and I still hadn’t picked anyone…

And then of course it came to me.

I haven’t watched anything on Spike since 2007 when Donnie Wahlberg and John Leguizamo appeared in the miniseries, The Kill Point. I think I watched two or three hours of that before I wandered off to look at dust motes floating in a sunbeam. It was exceptionally entertaining, although I did find myself pondering how we each of us is so like those motes, swirling frantically when external forces act upon us, yet floating nearly weightless for most of our existence. Our lives, brief as the inexorable fall of the dust to the floor, but punctuated by moments of transcendent beauty and dance.

The Kill Point wasn’t nearly as interesting. I think. I don’t really remember it at all. There were manly men with guns and they did manly men things.

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Suddenly There is Music in the Sound of Your Name…

8 February 2012
by R.A. Porter

In the past three weeks, the following things have all happened on the National Broadcasting Company:

  • Mr. Daniel Radcliffe hosted Saturday Night Live
  • Smash, premiered to great fanfare (if NBC-level numbers)
  • Mr. Matthew Broderick appeared in a heavily promoted ad during NBC’s highest rated program of 2012 (I don’t think it’s premature to make that pronouncement now)
  • The NBC Promotions department put together a Superbowl spot in which the casts of many of its shows performed a slightly modified version of “Brotherhood of Man”.

Do you know what didn’t happen in the past three weeks?

  • The Parks & Recreation character Tammy Two did not appear in said promo spot.

Look, I know we fans of musical theater are only a diminishingly small fraction of NBC’s diminishingly small audience. And I know that the Radcliffe and Broderick appearances are mere coincidence that probably didn’t even register on anyone’s radar. But if you’re going to do that damn number, maybe you ask Megan Mullally—one of the all-time best Rosemarys, who has been awfully good for your network for a really long time—to pop in for a second.

Of course, that would require NBC’s promo department to know something about musical theater and they have enough trouble trying to figure out how television works, so I should let it go.

Maybe Brent Musburger could get me to care that THIS IS CBS

8 February 2012
by R.A. Porter

Since I started out my little project with a spotlight review of How I Met Your Mother, I might as well stick with CBS.

I bet that a clever monkey (like a Nielsen statistician) with access to Nielsen’s numbers (like a Nielsen statistician) and some secondary studies about television viewing habits, traditional vs. alternative broadcast models, and a well oiled slide rule could easily demonstrate that the lower overall numbers for shows with younger skewing demos are artificially depressed because many of those shows’ viewers watch through alternative, unmetered avenues. This problem is similar to that where the ratings service under-reports for shows that are commonly watched in groups. Then again, no clever monkey working for Nielsen is ever going to point out to its clients that its product is only good at figuring out what your mom likes to watch.

Top of the Nielsens (even if their demo still skews old) and able to successfully promote new shows and their overall brand from just about any timeslot, CBS has been the king for quite a few years now. They do an excellent job of building on their successes and duplicating a few formulas over and over, which means there are only a small handful of genera to which most of their shows fit.

  • Copus forensicusCSI and all its offspring. Numb3rs also fit in this genus when it was on the schedule (though a case could be easily be made that it could have been classed as Copus giftus).
  • Copus darkus - Here’s where you’d find your Criminal Minds, NCISes and Person of Interest. Given that CSI: NY tends to embrace the darkness  more than its kin from sunny climes, it could also fall into this classification.
  • Copus giftus - That special someone with that special gift. Poppy’s idiot show1 and the Unfunny Version of Psych slot in here.
  • Chuckus lorre - You’d better believe if I were in Moonvest’s place I’d give Chuck Lorre free reign to give me at least one hour of programming for the 8-9 timeslot each weeknight. My only special request would be that he provide a family-friendlyish block of shows for Friday nights in the mode of ABC’s old TGIF.
  • Survivus maximus.

That’s a whole lot of CBS shows. If you look at their schedule, there aren’t that many outliers. And that programming model has worked brilliantly for them. It’s not exactly niche programming, but they’ve found what works (and works well) and know how to stick with it.

But let’s not heap the praise too high here; as successful as they are from a numbers standpoint, their demo is getting older. And on a personal note, I just took a look at my DVR’s list of season passes…of the 44 current season passes, exactly three are for shows on CBS (and one of them, as you can imagine from yesterday’s post, is holding on by a thread).

So after the jump, let’s take a quick walk through the CBS week. I’ll try not to forget any shows that aren’t airing right now but make no promises.

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  1. I gather from the ads that criminals must spend a lot of time hanging around crime scenes when the police show up; else, how would her gift be of any damn use? []

How I Wrote About Your Show

7 February 2012
by R.A. Porter

So let’s talk about The View.

What? You didn’t think I was going to write about How I Met Your Mother just because the title of this piece clearly implied that, did you? No, no. Titles are contrivances, mere fluffery. They don’t constitute a contract between author and audience.

Just because the show seems to be framed as the first-person narrative of how its nominal protagonist met his children’s mother doesn’t belie the authors’ true intent. And since deconstruction is a passing fad, we’ve got to pay attention to all that stuff external to the text. If Carter Bays and Craig Thomas say HIMYM is a show about five friends on the cusp of delayed-onset adulthood that only tangentially concerns the romantic journey of one of them, then clearly that’s the way it is. You’re wrong. Each and every single one of you.

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A Man, a Plan, a Channel a Day…this isn’t a very good palindrome

6 February 2012
by R.A. Porter

There are a lot of reasons this blog has been inactive—work has been emotionally taxing, life has been filled with complications, I’ve been generally blocked—but those tell only part of the story. I’ve not been writing about TV; I’ve not been watching very much of it either.

Television breaks my heart.1

Whether it’s a once-brilliant show dragging itself along for years after it should have exited gracefully—like some revenant haunting the moors—or a challenging show that falters in its final moments with a clumsy deus ex Ron Moore’s ass,2 or just the realization that Whitney Cummings has two shows on the air while there are seasoned show runners with actual talent who can’t get a pilot shot…

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  1. Hyperbole is the currency of the Internet. Hypobole (spellcheck doesn’t appreciate that neologism) only works if your name is Bob Newhart or Steven Wright. []
  2. While there are some who feel the ending was such a misstep that it invalidates the hours that preceded it, I’m not one of them. I think the ending was a creative whiff, but at least they didn’t just take the strike. []

New trailer for FALLING SKIES

29 March 2011
by R.A. Porter

I’ve been resistant about this, but I do love Noah Wyle. Of course it means keeping fingers crossed that Good Blood Moon er, Blood MoonGood Moon Bloodgood doesn’t stink up the joint like she did in her Burn Notice arc. We’ll see.

CHARLIE JADE: Quick Programming Note

17 March 2011
by R.A. Porter

Looks like Syfy has one or two fewer wrestling shows or infomercials available to air. They’re going to be rebroadcasting Charlie Jade starting tonight/tomorrow morning at 5am EDT and (apparently) weekly in that prime spot.

Friday mornings at 5am. Boy do they know how to show the love for science fiction over there.

GREEK series finale

7 March 2011
by R.A. Porter

Tonight rings the bell on the era of innovation and risk at ABC Family as the slight but witty Greek ends its four-year run. There was a time, not so long ago, when the cable netlet didn’t know what it wanted to be. Before it had settled on a schedule rich in teen angst, teen intrigue, teen melodrama, and the regurgitated moralizing of Brenda Hampton, ABC Family threw seeds every which way looking for an identity.

One of those seeds blossomed into the brilliant and criminally under-appreciated Middleman. Another produced the short-lived Huge. And then there was Greek.

I don’t want to write a paean to the show; I did mention it was slight, right?

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