Friday, September 25, 2009

Fall Preview Preview

Now that the summer is officially over… as I mentioned last week my summer officially ends with the onset of Rosh Hashana…its time for Fall and the new TV season.

Back in the old days, the first day of school always coincided with the arrival of the Fall Preview TV Guide… a nice little consolation prize to look forward to when I would come home from my first day back. But since TV Guide got rid of its small regional magazine and went to the current format, I stopped reading it, so nowadays I rely on Entertainment Weekly and whatever I can glean off the various TV blogs that I read.

In addition to that, I really don’t get into the TV (or NFL) season until after the World Series. That gives the networks the chance to cancel the really crummy shows before I get a chance to check them out, but leave the less crummy ones there for me to watch. This year the Mets have been so lousy and NBC has made a historic change to its prime time approach, I have actually taken a little sneak preview pre-November.. hence the Sneak Preview Preview. Incidentally, I still watch the Mets so their game has to be over before I watch another show. And even though our suffering ends when the season ends a week from Sunday, poor Howie Rose has to go from this fiasco to announcing a season of Islander games!

One of the biggest changes is NBC’s decision to run the same show every night at 10pm… a concept that had never been tried before as most prime time shows air once a week. But since syndicated game shows and talk shows and court shows run once a day all across the week, why not try it with a prime time show. By the way, speaking of talk shows, what local theater troupe lends its actors to Jerry Springer’s show? There is NO way these are real people… If you pay close attention, the “confrontations” appear rehearsed and scripted and the “guests” always stand in just the right spot leading to those “spontaneous” fights. Yet all is calm later in the show when all the “guests” are in the late segment when the audience members fire off wisecracks, and the hick “guests” tend of have uncharacteristically witty comebacks.

So with Jay Leno getting the 10 pm slot, I decided to check it out to see if NBC made a brilliant decision or a colossal mistake. The network gets some ratings leeway for this show since the program is relatively cheap to produce compared to the usual stuff that airs at 10pm such as Law and Order. Its kind of odd having the 10pm shows moved up an hour, but I guess this is what East Coasters who relocate to Central Time go through.

Along the way, I caught a season premiere and a new show. I haven’t really been much of a fan of “The Office”…. I need a laugh track to watch a sitcom, so I can tell what the producers expect to be funny so I can laugh along accordingly. These laugh track less shows are hard to watch because I can’t take points off for missed jokes. And why don’t the cameramen ever laugh?? Are they required to keep a straight face? Do they reshoot a scene if the cameraman laughs? I guess the Office is ok… although Im not sure why its reruns bounced off Seinfeld from the coveted 730 and 11pm slot on Channel 5. I even caught the British version on Cartoon Network the other day, but I only watched 10 minutes of it. I would need to see more to give it a fair shot.

One new show that caught my attention was “Community” which got a rave review from Allen Sepinwall in the Star Ledger. I actually have found it to be somewhat amusing. Its about a guy who had a fraudulent college degree who has to go back to college and how he befriends a bunch of goofy characters in school including one blonde chic who he has the hots for. Its right out of the ensemble comedy formula of Taxi or Cheers, etc.

This past week’s show introduced us to the Spanish professor who is actually Asian who does a very funny shtick about why the students should ignore the fact that he teaches Spanish instead of Chinese or martial arts. But those of us who saw “The Hangover” during the summer might have been distracted by the actor since he is the same guy who was the naked guy in the trunk. You gotta give him credit… the guy has a iddy biddy teeny weeny little shmeckle yet had the guts to display it in the movie! Hopefully I’ll forget this fact one day and be able to focus more on his acting chops.

Chevy Chase is also in the show, and I am not sure if NBC would want the host of one of the worst talk show flops this side of the Wilton North Report to lead into Leno. And just to get this out of the way early, I am NOT a Leno fan, but I try to watch his new show with a fair attitude. I used to think Jay was hysterical in the 1980s when he would appear as a guest on Letterman’s 1230 NBC show. He also was a regular guest host filling in for Johnny Carson back then, although I tended to prefer Joan Rivers and Garry Shandling. But once Jay got the job, I started to like him less and less.

I recall watching the first episode when he took over the Tonight Show and Billy Crystal walked out as his first guest and went to shake “Ed’s” hand only to discover that there was no sidekick. And you have to give Leno credit for stepping into the shoes of a legend. However, when Bill Carter’s book came out detailing the lengths Leno went to screw Letterman out of the slot, I started to think NBC made a mistake. And when I realized that the Tonight Show Leno was a much more toned down version than the 1230 Letterman version of Leno, I really felt that the more talented Letterman really got the shaft and I was very happy when Letterman got the 1130 slot on CBS.

Leno’s ratings victories are well documented… and even though it started when Hugh Grant went on as a guest after he got caught in an embarrassing situation, one guest does not lead to more than a decade of ratings domination. I guess you can’t account for taste. The only reason I would ever watch a segment of Leno would be if he had a guest I really liked. For example, I remember a show with George Carlin where he was on the couch while Ann Coulter was as guest and you could just see that Carlin was keeping his mouth shut because he knew he could easily tear Coulter apart.

But Leno himself also got a raw deal at first when NBC pushed him out for Conan who I like but still really don’t watch. Once I discovered the incredibly witty Craig Ferguson I moved my late night attention to CBS. Nonetheless, NBC came up with a reasonable compromise by moving Leno up to 10 and probably saved themselves a lot of money in the process.

I have caught some of Leno’s early shows and I must admit I have laughed out loud a few times. I am hoping that now that he is not “Johnny’s replacement” but instead is “Law and Order; SVU”;s replacement that some of his late 80s early 90s edge would come back. The open of the show is similar to the Tonight Show.. Stuttering John is not the announcer any more.. but the band looks to be the same and the set is similarly laid out except there is no desk. Jay comes out and does his monologue and then the show steers away from the traditional talk show format.

I have noticed he has a revolving roster of comedians who prepare pre taped pieces. The first show featured the wedding singer from “The Hangover” and had him do a lengthy bit about a car wash that went just a little too long. Also, the other day a black woman did a bit about Harlem that also went a bit too long although it was sort of funny especially the way the black women were making fun of the new hoity toity white hairdresser who had set up shop nearby.

Having these guys are a good safety play for Leno.. if they bomb he just gets rid of ‘em and ultimately I think those pieces will be cut. Nightly news anchorman Brian Williams is also supposed to be doing a regular feature, but I haven’t seen it yet and Williams who I thought was so boring on Channel 2 many years back is actually quite witty in real life.

The talk segments are similar.. guests don’t sit on couches with Jay at a desk but instead sit next to each other on chairs. Jerry Seinfeld was on the first show and he was his usual funny self poking fun at Lenos “farewell” show compared to Seinfeld’s farewell show on NBC where Leno came right back to TV while Seinfeld did not. The segment also featured a funny appearance by Oprah. By the way, Seinfeld and crew will be on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” this season a show whose season premiere I also caught, although it was quite disturbing to see Jeff do the ol hoochy mcscoochy with Funkhouser’s crazy sister, and then deny it claiming she was crazy.

Leno also interviewed that moron Kanye West the day after his crazy appearance on the MTV Music Awards and really got tough with him, asking him what his dead mother would think about what he did the night before. Thursday night’s show featured Rush Limbaugh which was also a well done interview.. good to see Rush lost 80 pounds… his radio success has never translated to TV so you never really get to see him too often. Having him drive an electric car which had a cardboard AL Gore on a race course was quite amusing too.

But some of the segments don’t do as well. Pee Wee Herman was on earlier this week and a bit he did just was not as funny. And when Herman (who looks the same as he did 20 years ago even though he is 57) told Leno he had a new abstinence ring I was waiting for Leno to tie it in with a movie theater masturbating abstinence question.. but the question never materialized. And besides that happened in the early 1990s when Leno was doing funny shtick on Letterman and anybody under 25 probably doesn’t remember seeing Pee Wee’s Playhouse... nor do they remember x rated movie theaters... (how bizarre... there was no internet porn back then!)

So will I watch Leno? I will IF nothing better is on. I am not yet 100% well versed with the new Fall schedule. But what will happen if a CSI or Mentalist is on at 10? Will I watch Leno? Will I flip over to Wendy Williams on Channel 9? And will Leno return to his old edgy self? And more importantly, will this show be a colossal flop>? Or… will it turn into a brilliant programming strategy that will result in other talk/variety shows popping up on other networks? It looks like it could be an interesting season and kudos to NBC for at least trying to do something original and different.


Pumpy lost last week to drop to 1-1. This week its the Indianapolis Colts Arizona Cardinals matchup on Sunday Night... the rare game that Pumpy will see as much as I will since our Jewish friends will be at Temple Sunday night for Yom Kippur and not watching the game. The Cards are 2 1/2 point faves. Sayeth the Pump: "Take Indianapolis since I will be chanting Colt Nidre"


Last week we were 3-0 to even our record at 3-3.

TAMPA 7 point doggies over The Giants - Don't worry Giants fans... Big Blue will win the game.. this just strikes me as a tad too high a spread for a road game.

Chiefs 9 doggies over PHILLY - Are the Eagles really that good to deserve a double digit spread this early in the season?

Carolina 9 doggies over DALLAS - After Rosh Hashana, I watched the Cowboys lose at home... now I plan to do so after Yom Kippur. Big spread here... and Im talking about all the lox and bagels that Trophy Wife will serve!

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