Jeff Zucker, the George W. Bush of television, will be named chief executive of NBC Universal this week, reports the L.A. Times. Zucker, the 41-year-old former president of NBC’s prime-time entertainment division and executive producer of Today, succeeds longtime CEO Bob Wright. When I say “George W. Bush of television,” I mean that in a “failing upwards and being horribly out of touch” sense, not a “destroying the very fabric of our nation” sense. This is the guy who’s responsible for much of NBC’s recent woes – instead of promoting new shows (Scrubs, cough!) to succeed juggernauts like Friends and Frasier, he chose to extend the commercial warhorses as long as he possibly could. He’s fucked up ever since he left Today, and NBC seems to keep giving him a better job and a bigger paycheck. (Also, he almost cancelled The Office and greenlit Fear Factor.)
The Black Donnellys, or Paul Haggis does The Departed, premieres Monday, March 5th at 10 PM on NBC. The crime drama from the writers that brought you the classic comedy Crash (because you, too, can defeat racism with your own magic bulletproof cape!) focuses on four Irish-American brothers in New York’s fabled Hell’s Kitchen (Real estate agents call it Clinton). There’s no word on whether or not famous Hell’s Kitchen resident Matthew Scudder makes an appearance. This show has the potential to be pretty good…or it did, until we all found out that it was being written by the guys who did Crash.
Black Donnellys replaces The Aaron Sorkin Vengance Hour, aka Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip on Mondays at 10. There’s been a lot of talk this past weekend that Studio 60’s hiatus signals the end for the high-cost, low-rated, anger-inducing series. As much as I’d like that to be the case – because maybe it will make Sorkin pull his head out of his ass and start producing good work again – I have to say “don’t believe the hype.” This had been in the cards for a while – S60 would air for six weeks after the Christmas break before Black Donnellys replaced it in March. Yes, it does not bode well for Sorkin’s show that NBC hasn’t announced a return date, but let’s not sing the praises of God in National Cathedral just yet.
Also in the “don’t believe the hype” file are the ratings for Sunday’s Super Bowl (aka the Straight Oscars). I’ve seen a number of conflicting reports – some are calling it the lowest-rated Super Bowl in years, while a press release from CBS calls it the third-highest rated program of all time. That press release, however, uses the “all-or-part” rating of almost 140 million viewers, which is kind of a cheat. The full Nielsen report comes out on Tuesday.
When it comes to the annals of “Robbed by Emmy” lore, the snub of Robin Weigert for her performance as Calamity Jane on Deadwood is one of the most egregious in recent memory. Her amazing, heartbreaking, infinitely quotable work on that show guaranteed that I would pretty much watch anything she ever does from now on. That’s a long winded way of saying she’s guest-starring on ABC’s Lost when it returns this week. The episode also stars “Hey! It’s That Guy!” Zeljko Ivanek, best known for playing what can charitably be described as dickheads. Lost airs Wednesday nights at 10 on ABC.
Norbert Leo Butz, who starred in the “Dear God, Please Kill Me Now” (and I mean that in a good way) musical The Last 5 Years, is saying goodbye until tomorrow to the Great White Way. Butz, who won a Tony for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,signed on to play a loudmouthed conservative in the Fox pilot Playing Chicken. The sitcom focuses on Butz’s Jake and his left-wing brother Tim, who wind up living together when Jake becomes wheelchair-bound. And together…they solve crimes. (I’m not kidding.) Norbert, you’re awesome, but I could never rescue you from a concept like that – I’m still hurting from its awfulness. You’ve got the next ten minutes find a shiksa goddess to play your female lead, and then maybe I’ll consider watching.
Well, it worked for Sarah Jessica Parker, right? That’s what Brooke Shields may have been thinking when she decided to star in Lipstick Jungle. The NBC pilot is based on the novel by Candace “Sex in the City” Bushnell and focuses on three wealthy working women in New York. Shields plays a film studio president, wife, and mother of three. If you miss Lipstick Jungle this fall, you can catch it when thousands of college-aged girls hold marathons in their dorm rooms and talk about how much they are just like the main characters. (Omigod!)
Here’s some sweet news for you music lovers who also have DIRECTTV. The satellite provider is bringing the South By Southwest (SXSW) music festival to television this spring. The special will air over three days – March 15th to March 17th on DIRECTTV’s Channel 101 (The 101). There’s going to be additional behind-the-scenes footage, but who shives a git about that? Here’s who’s playing: The Stooges (with Iggy Pop). Pete Townshend. David Byrne. Interpol. Hot Hot Heat. Buzzcocks. Booker T (without the MGs). Awesome, man, totally awesome.
After realizing that airing a fourteen-hour documentary about World War II during the height of the fall premiere season – even if long-form docu master Ken Burns directed it – amounted to commercial and financial suicide, PBS has bumped the first part of The War to September 23rd. Although PBS bragged last week that this new airdate will be seventeen years to the minute since Burns’s The Civil War made him an iMovie name, I’m concerned about this. Burns is an absolutely amazing and spellbinding filmmaker (go rent Unforgivable Blackness and Mark Twain if you don’t believe me.) So while I would like to see him do something besides adding to the many other WW II documentaries, many more people need to see his stuff and they need to see it outside of a history class. (Hey, Burns, what ever happened to that stand-up comedy documentary you wanted to do?) Forcing viewers to choose between the new fall season and this is a big, big mistake. I remember when Burns’s Jazz aired in mid-Winter, in between November and February sweeps. Any slot has to be better than this one.
Speaking of PBS…Hey, TV’s Toby Ziegler, what do you have to say about President Bush’s plan to slash the Public Broadcasting System’s budget by almost 25 percent? “…In a time when the public is rightly concerned about the impact of sex and violence on TV, this administration is [not] gonna protect the Muppets! [They’re not] gonna protect Wall Street Week, [They’re not] gonna protect Live from Lincoln Center, and by God, [they are not] going to protect Julia Child!” (Aaron Sorkin, “Take Out The Trash Day” from The West Wing.)