There have been many brutal TV show axings in recent years for various reasons.  Who knows what happened to those annoying contestants stranded on The Resort (dropped in its 5th week) and no one cared whether Yasmin ever got married (banished after week one).  The brilliant Studio 60 on Sunset Strip only managed one season and Cashmere Mafia was one of many casualties of the US Writer’s strike. 

 

But it was Channel 9 who set the record for short-lived programming.  On September 4, 1992, Doug Mulray fronted Australia’s Naughtiest Home Videos.  Being a 90 minute special spun off from Australia’s Funniest Home Video Show, you’d expect that it’s entire season would have been played out.  However, after only 35 minutes of animal rutting and scantily clad humans, legend has it that Kerry Packer dialled the studio direct and ordered the staff to ‘get that shit off the air’.

 

Three years since Packer’s death and deep in a ratings slump, it appears that staff have been trawling archive boxes for ideas.  Someone found an intact tape of Naughtiest and it is expected to appear next Thursday night at 8.30pm. (That’s August 28th – you wouldn’t waste gold like this while the Olympics is on).

 

Let’s hope they have a ratings-blitzing Two and a Half Men repeat on hand for when this moment inevitably plays out again. 

 

The wrong sex

August 7, 2008

 

After seeing the Sex and The City movie and being overwhelmed by excess clothes, real estate and drinking, one scene stood out as honest and real. Remember when Miranda bravely bared her soul to her three best friends by saying that she and Steve were trapped in a sex drought? Now, you’d think that was the uncomfortable bit, but what followed was the true train-crash moment. Instead of those allegedly loyal mates concurring and sharing their own similar experiences, they reeled in horror and boasted of how this had NEVER happened to them. For Samantha, it goes without saying that she wouldn’t stand for such a situation. But those other two perfectly primped princesses were incredibly disloyal. Since Charlotte hasn’t had to work since marrying first husband Trey, she probably has plenty of time to co-ordinate her underwear with her needs. But for Carrie to coyishly describe her encounters with Big and his extraordinary boudouir creativity was downright rude. It seemed obvious that Miranda had been wronged…but perhaps not.

The theme of the media’s portayal of marital sex has come under scrutiny by the US Parent’s Television Council. The same group who fuelled the fire over Janet Jackson’s nipplegate commissioned a a report titled “Happily Never After: How Hollywood Favors Adultery and Promiscuity Over Marital Intimacy”. The report found that primeteme tv has elevated illicit affairs and devalued the trysts between those who’ve exchanged vows. Their concern is that the excitement of fictional character’s affairs and constant references to boring sex between committed partners is undermining ths institution of marriage. They want the rapturous screentime devoted to immoral sexual relations limited and the image of married sex to be made more racy. According to them, then it will more accurately mimic what’s going on in the bedrooms of the married world.

So, according to the PTC report, it was Miranda who was misrepresenting those of us in the audience and the cut to the scene where Big has filled Carrie’s apartment with candles before man-handling her on the balcony is truly a moment of factually-driven empowerment that will last way after those two ever utter ‘I Do’.

It takes guts

August 1, 2008

During the 5th season of Seinfeld, I discovered that myself and Jerry had something in common.  The episode was called The Dinner Party – the one where all four characters are shopping for things to take to a friend’s place where they’ve been invited for an evening meal.  Elaine and Jerry are in line at a bakery trying to buy Babka when Jerry downs a black and white cookie that ends up making him ill, thus breaking his 14 year long run of not throwing up.

 

Now, I haven’t chucked since 1989, when I was sick with some flu.  That’s right, I’ve held on through all of the subsequent heavy drinking years and contagious diseases.  So when I heard about G4’s new gameshow, my stomach did an involuntary flip as I typed the title ‘Hurl’ into Youtube.

 

The intellectually rigorous premise of Hurl is that strong-stomached contestants (surprisingly, mainly blokes) eat a specifically scheduled choice of foods and then take on physical challenges, while keeping it all down.  The last one to lose their lunch bags $1000.  At least I believe that’s what happens.  I couldn’t bring myself to actually watch the clip, in case my own record was broken.

 

Hurl hasn’t broken any ratings records, but did top Entertainment Weekly’s list of 35 most appalling TV shows ever. It beat out Cheaters, a show about a dwarf groom looking for love and Jerry Springer. Now that takes real guts.

New Faces

July 30, 2008

A few weeks ago William Petersen, who has starred as Gil Grissom for the past 8 years, announced that he was leaving CSI. Gil’s final one liner as Crime Scene team leader will be delivered in the tenth episode of the 2009 season. Fair enough, the guy wants a change. He’s been chasing fictional bad guys for the milennium, only taking one break in 2006 to appear in a play. Apparently he is considering going back to theatre between Executive Producing future CSI eps and making the odd guest appearance. The list of rumoured replacements is headlined by Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne and Eric Stoltz (the guy who played Cher’s disfigured son in Mask).

Predictably, fans are outraged, with comments ranging from despair:

NOOOOOOOOOO  I don’t want him to leave!!!! why?????????? 😦 😦 😦 I knew the day would come but I just can’t face it…. GSR-4EVER

To the slightly deluded:

If Grissom did leave the show.it would be llike a James bond movie w/o james Bond. ( I like spy movies).It would not only mark the end of CSI.But the end of an era of great television. gsr4ever13

 

Considering that CSI has survived competition from several new shows and franchising, will changing the lead actor really make a difference?

 

One of the less successful role replacements was on Bewitched, when Dick York’s struggle with a back injury and pain killers caused him to lose the role of Darrin to Dick Sargent.  Growing up watching the repeats, I’d never noticed, but apparently fans at the time did and the series dropped immediately from 12th to 25th most watched show.  Perhaps the fact that the character name didn’t change along with the actor is what upset viewers. 

 

This would suggest that maybe it’s an easier sell when both the actor and the character change.  But I reckon it’s more of a problem if the new actor’s function is the same. It’s hard to say whether the X-Files would have regained ratings if David Duchovny had stayed, but the introduction of Robert Patrick as Scully’s offsider definitely signalled the series’ ensuing death. 

 

In the non-drama world, this same issue will play out in the hotly contested arena of American tonight shows.  On Friday May 29th, 2009, Jay Leno will host his final shift.  The gig will be handed to Conan O’Brien the follwing Monday, after he has patiently waited for the guernsey for more than ten years.  That’s some apprenticeship.  There’s already pressure on Conan to retain Leno’s consistent ratings…so you can only imagine how the guy reading for Petersen’s role must feel.  Maybe, since CSI is not the real world, one of the female characters should be promoted and any new guy will have to earn the respect of his boss and all of those loyal viewers.

A pitch for a new TV show often starts with ‘it’s this meets that’. For example, Project Runway is a Victoria Secret Show meets Idol or Wipeout is It’s A Knockout meets Judge Judy (wait til someone sues for permanent injury and the judge has to ask when they thought it was going wrong). Taking this into account, you can imagine the pitch for the UK’s new show Diet on the Dance Floor. It’s Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing With the Stars) meets The Biggest Loser. Over eight episodes tubby contestants sweat it out in choreographed fashion and dance off against one another each week. Both dance style and weight loss will be considered in deciding who gets sent home. As they progress, the dance routines will get more physically challenging as the outfits will undoubtedly get skimpier.

It’s a bit like your slightly tubby uncle meets a patch of sticky carpet late at night in any suburban pub.

When we first heard about Jerry Springer the Opera it had to be a joke…until the fixture of trashy daytime tv moved from small theatres in England to a sellout season on Broadway. Just like melding Disney characters with ice, it seems that putting narratives we know and love to music is a sure-fire winner.

The latest all-singing, all dancing, strangely juxtaposed sensation being brought to life in the US is Spiderman, the Musical. Out of all the superhero choices, it makes sense to expand on the original catchy theme tune that seamlessly incorporated lyrics like ‘radioactive blood’.

The really big news for everyone, apart from Tobey MGuire and Kirsten Dunst, is that they are holding open auditions for the starring roles. If you, or someone you know, can combine shooting webs from their wrists with a great rock singing voice, then this is the moment they’ve been waiting for. Casting will take place in New York on July 28 (10a-5p) at The Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard Street. The directors are looking for their Peter Parker (male, 16-20s); Mary Jane (female 16-20s); and a mysterious Principal woman (25-35) where the brief is “think Sinead O’Connor with a Middle Eastern/Bulgarian/Greek twist”. Perhaps a lady with a shaved head, an angelic tone and one hit will be Spidey’s on-stage nemesis.

With music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge, the final product promises to be a multi-cultural mix that should attract more than an incy wincy following. I hope someone is filming this…

BBC3 last week launched a new beauty talent search with a twist – BRITAIN’S MISSING TOP MODEL. Eight spunky girls, each with a disability, battle it out to become England’s next top model. The show’s first episode premiered well, delivering 30% above the broadcaster’s average. It certainly appears that having a limb missing doesn’t affect a contestant’s ability to bitch and moan. The first few minutes preview the entire series. Is it empowering to watch imperfect women getting photographed in underwear or nude? Will we be inspired by watching them roll down the catwalk? And how did they find a wheelchair accessible penthouse for the girls to share??