Mark's Media Spotlight

Mark's views on what's happening in the media.

Undercover Boss – A First Look

Undercover Boss, Premieres Feb 7th After The Superbowl

CBS has quite the reputation for putting on some quality Reality Programming.  After all, they were the first Network to take a shot at something different that resulted in this whole genre in programming with the introduction of Survivor.   But for every Survivor and Amazing Race, there was a Kid Nation and a Pirate Master.  (And I’m sure most of you already forgot  about There Goes The Neighborhood.)  Survivor, Big Brother and Amazing Race were all success stories because they managed to do something original in the Reality genre.

And now we have Undercover Boss.  And while this is new territory for CBS, it is hardly new territory for this genre.  FOX had a decent concept in Secret Millionaire, a show where rich folks donned poor man clothes before surprising their new friends with money and returning to their wealthy lives.  And while this show did well in overall numbers, it didn’t in the coveted 18 – 49 demo that advertisers crave.  So now I hear that ABC has picked up that show.  Undercover Boss’ concept isn’t much different, only more limited as here we have a wealthy CEO going undercover in his own company looking to see what life is really like beneath the ranks.

CBS describes the concept as “a different executive will leave the comfort of their corner office for an undercover mission to examine the inner workings of their company. While working alongside their employees, they will see the effects their decisions have on others, where the problems lie within their organization and get an up-close look at both the good and the bad while discovering the unsung heroes who make their company run.”

The premiere episode which follows the Super Bowl will feature Waste Management CEO Larry O’Donnell.   He meets and greets folks on assembly lines and working to pick up trash, not to mention one who multitasks almost everything in a satellite office and one who cleans porta-potties.  It all leads up to the usual profound revelations both in how office policies are carried out and in improving the employees lives.   And I confess that it is fun meeting all of the new people and most of their personalities are endearing.  But it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before although the pilot does make for some moving moments, even if we all knew they were coming.

The biggest problem I see is long term.  For example, in the pilot, the presence of the cameras surrounding this “new employee” is explained by him “doing a documentary” on the organization.  Well, doesn’t that pretty much take the surprise out of the actions of these employees?   And if this show were to succeed, how could a boss possibly go undercover without someone figuring it all out right away.  (Remember rule #1, people gossip a lot in the workplace.)  Did CBS think beyond the first few episodes here?  Granted, this season has already been shot but how could this be on next year?  I think someone didn’t think ahead here when creating this show.  I’d say CBS didn’t expect this to go beyond a season, but they did schedule this on after the SuperBowl.  In the meantime, you can look forward to future episodes focusing on White Castle and Hooters. Enjoy it while you can.

Undercover Boss; Premieres Feb 7, After the Super Bowl and then will remain on Sunday nights following The Amazing Race.

January 29, 2010 Posted by | Undercover Boss | | Leave a comment

Happy Town – Has ABC Lost Faith In It?

Happy Town

Happy Town

I came across this show after screening the much self-hyped premiere of ABC’s dismal and soon-to-be-forgotten series The Deep End.   First of all, let me say that this is one heck of a show!   Given the track record of exec producers Josh Appelbaum and Scott Rosenberg with critical and ratings bomb October Road and the ratings challenged Life On Mars, it is understandable that ABC would be squeamish about going forward with this series that was filmed last March, yet still sits in the ABC vault.   Still, having seen this show and before even knowing who the exec producers were,  I kept on comparing October Road to Happy Town.  Perhaps because its lead, Geoff Stults, as well as Jay Paulson were both supporting players on October Road.  At first, the idea of a comparison was crazy, except that they both take place in small towns, this one being Haplin, MN.  But then it became more apparent that if you took October Road, and made a lot of crazy awful stuff happen there, you have your new and improved series.

It’s not black and white in the first couple of episodes as to whether each of the characters are good or evil and there is a lot of mystery surrounding most of them.  Sam Neill’s shopkeeper character in particular, is one of the most intriguing personas in that he seems to know a lot about what’s going on but knows how to keep himself out of trouble.  It’s also great to see Six Feet Under’s Francis Conroy back on the air as mysterious matriach Peggy Haplin.   Nevertheless, character development is everything here and this show knows how to put together a complex cast of characters.  And although there might be a serial killer involved here, don’t even try to compare this to the blood bath of CBS’s Harper’s Island, which featured one dimensional caricatures  straight out of the Friday The 13th movies.  The first big mystery surrounds the identity of The Magic Man, who abducts people and leaves no trace of them.  It’s hinted that it’s someone we already know.

There are also some comparisons to Twin Peaks.  I suppose that makes sense, but personally never got that show and this one is at least more firmly rooted and related to our world as opposed to the “bizarro” world that Twin Peaks took place in.  I’ll stick with the “October Road except for now stuff happens” comparison.

This show is akin to a great mystery book.  A book in which I found impossible to put down and was even more depressed after watching the first two episodes that I have no idea when I will finally get some answers!  The pace is faster than LOST or many of the other serial failures ABC tried out (Nine, Invasion to name a few) and the storylines are instantly addicting.  One thing is for certain and that is nothing is certain here in Happy Town.

So here is my personal plea to ABC: Please get behind Happy Town and put these 8 episodes on your schedule and do the type of promoting that made Desperate Housewives a household name.  While we’re at it, why not schedule this following Desperate Housewives for a few weeks and give Brothers And Sisters a little break.  Perhaps we can then forgive you for rushing The Deep End onto your schedule first.

“Happy Town” stars Geoff Stults as Tommy Conroy, Sam Neill as Merritt Grieves, Lauren German as Henley Boone, Steven Weber as John Haplin, Amy Acker as Rachel Conroy, Sarah Gadon as Georgia Bravin, Robert Wisdom as Roger Hobbs, Jay Paulson as Eli “Root Beer” Rogers and Ben Schnetzer as Andrew Haplin.

Recurring stars include Frances Conroy as Peggy Haplin, Abraham Benrubi as Big Dave Duncan, M.C. Gainey as Sheriff Griffin Conroy, Peter Outerbridge as Handsome Dan, Warren Christie as Greggy Stiviletto and Sophia Ewaniuk as Emma Conroy.

Josh Appelbaum (“Life on Mars,” “Alias,” “October Road”), André Nemec (“Life on Mars,” “Alias,” “October Road”) and Scott Rosenberg (“Life on Mars,” “October Road”) are executive producers. “Happy Town” is produced by ABC Studios.

January 25, 2010 Posted by | Happy Town | , , | 1 Comment

Live For The Moment – A First Look

Live For The Moment

Jeff Probst with Roger Childs Live For The Moment, This special broadcasts on Thursday, Jan 28th

Jeff Probst hosts this special that easily could turn into a series (or series of specials) about living your life to the fullest.  And let’s just say that this show tugs at your emotions within a few minutes of its start.  While the story of Roger Childs, the first person featured, may be a bit out of the ordinary, the concept is basically that of this being a TV version of the work that is done by the Make-A-Wish foundation, as it helps Roger and his family live out a few dreams, and trying to gain insight into just how we all should go about living our lives.  I don’t want to give away too much here on Roger’s adventure, but I will give you a hint on one of them – Buzz Aldrin.

In a time where people are depressed with their own lives due to economic troubles and job woos, the timing on this show couldn’t be better.  And as Roger revealed after one of his adventures, we should all finish what we started.  Mark Burnett is a genius in my mind who can do no wrong.  Why not make the most of the time you have and pursue your passions?  Hopefully a session with this show will give you the strength to make a change to your own life.

Even with his failures (“The Restaurant”, “The Casino” & “Pirate Master”) Mark Burnett always manages to entertain.  This is no exception and to be honest, the material is more suited for a shorter story on 20/20 or Dateline, but if you invest the time, you probably won’t regret it.  I’m not sure I could deal with my emotions being manipulated like this every week, but as a series of specials, count me in.

Live For The Moment reveals how one person’s life-changing event inspired them to live life to the fullest. Host Jeff Probst takes someone on a series of adventures and experiences that create special life moments with their family and friends. This person shares their inspiring insights on how they now live their life differently and, in doing so, will possibly change the way others live, too. Jeff Probst and Mark Burnett are executive producers for Jeff Probst, Inc. and Mark Burnett Productions

This one-hour special will be broadcast Thursday, Jan. 28 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT).

January 23, 2010 Posted by | Live For The Moment | | Leave a comment

Saturday Night Live Alert!

Let’s  face it,  SNL has been severely lacking in humor for the past two years.   One big exception was when Jon Hamm hosted in Oct 2008.   Well, good news folks, he’s back on January 30th!  Let the party begin.  Here was one of my favorite sketches from the episode.  The Vincent Price Halloween Special…..

January 22, 2010 Posted by | Saturday Night Live | , | Leave a comment

The Deep End – A First Look

The Deep End

The Cast of The Deep End

Being a huge fan of lawyer series, The Deep End seemed like a shoo-in to capture the void left by the absence of Boston Legal, alas, this show seems to have missed the mark.   When you create a series with a premise that we’ve seen hundreds of times, you need to find a unique niche.  Perhaps if given enough time, this show will find it, but for now, call in the cliche’ police, because we have a number of citations to hand out.

Let’s start with Citation #1: The man who sleeps with every hot woman with a pulse and proud of it.

Citation #2: Every woman with a pulse has no issues sleeping with the guy.   And, of course, all of the woman are gorgeous.

This worked on Boston Legal because it really was an absurd show that was more of a comedy even though it had its serious moments.  The Deep End is not funny.  Not by a long shot.

Citation #3: The head of the firm is a run by a one dimensional man who only sees dollar signs.  I loved Billy Zane on Samantha Who, but here, the writers need to find a bit more substance and less of a lawyer stereotype.  (Perhaps these writers should watch a couple of The Good Wife episodes in a desperate quest to learn some character development here.)

Then we have all of the rest of the Freshman lawyers.  Let’s just say that there is way too much sleeping around here, and not much in case work. Which leads me to the next citation.

Citation #4: The freshman lawyer who knows more than the Partner when working on his first case.  I think that was the icing on the cake in terms of unbelievable character/storylines.

In this clip below, count the citations you can hand out!

Many better law series have failed, this one should as well.

“The Deep End” stars Matt Long as “Dylan Hewitt,” Billy Zane as “Cliff Huddle,” Clancy Brown as “Hart Sterling,” Norbert Leo Butz as “Rowdy Kaiser,” Leah Pipes as “Beth Branford,” Tina Majorino as “Addy Fisher,” Ben Lawson as “Liam Priory,” Nicole Ari Parker as “Susan Oppenheim” and Mehcad Brooks as “Malcolm Bennet.”

The series executive producers are David Hemingson and Jan Nash. The pilot for “The Deep End” was written by David Hemingson and directed by Michael Fresco. The series, which premieres on January 21, 2010 from 8:00-9:00p.m., ET, is from Twentieth Century Fox Television.


January 19, 2010 Posted by | The Deep End | | 3 Comments

Crash Is About To Burn

The Cast of Starz

The End Of The Road Is Near

The news doesn’t look good for the very few fans of the Starz original series Crash.  I also found out that I was one of only 97,000 people who watched what looks to be the final episode of the series, which is a shame because it was one of the best hours of drama that I can recall.  One where you actually think about all of the events that lead up to the final climatic moment of the show.  97,000 people?  Really?

OK, so perhaps there are millions unaccounted for like me who DVR’d it.  Well, maybe not.  But seriously, all of this brilliant acting shouldn’t go sight unseen.  Netflix has the show on instant download (although I’m hearing that eps nine and 10 are out of order).  But look, any show with well known names like Dennis Hopper, Eric Roberts and Keith Carradine is at least worth checking out.  Don’t you agree?  One word of note.  You do have to watch the entire series to get the appropriate payback for some of the previous episodes.  This show is going away – no doubt about it.  Treasure it while you can.

The show hasn’t been “officially cancelled yet”, but Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht has only been been on the job for 3 days!   He comes from HBO, so I think he is used to seeing much larger numbers.

January 14, 2010 Posted by | Crash | 2 Comments