Sunday, April 26, 2015

TV: If They Could Turn Back Time

It was Cher.

We were talking to a Fox exec about the lamest sitcom ever aired by any network, Will Forte's The Last Man On Earth, and the exec was fumbling with a response about how the second season wouldn't be happening if, "like that song in the 80s, I could make time go backward."

It was Cher, who, in 1989 had a hit with "If I Could Turn Back Time."


And it's a song a lot of people are probably humming these days.

It's doubtful Barack Obama is.  But he should be.

After Saturday night, he certainly should be.

Thursday, the President of United States declared:

This morning, I want to express our grief and condolences to the families of two hostages.  One American, Dr. Warren Weinstein, and an Italian, Giovanni Lo Porto, who were tragically killed in a U.S. counterterrorism operation.
Warren and Giovanni were aid workers in Pakistan devoted to improving the lives of the Pakistani people.  After Warren was abducted by al Qaeda in 2011, I directed my national security team to do everything possible to find him and to bring him home safely to his family.  And dedicated professionals across our government worked tirelessly to do so.  We also worked closely with our Italian allies on behalf of Giovanni, who was kidnapped in 2012. 
Since 9/11, our counterterrorism efforts have prevented terrorist attacks and saved innocent lives both here in America, and around the world.  And that determination to protect innocent life only makes the loss of these two men especially painful for all of us.  Based on information and intelligence we have obtained, we believe that a U.S. counterterrorism operation targeting an al Qaeda compound in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region accidently killed Warren and Giovanni this past January.
Yesterday, I spoke with Warren’s wife Elaine and Prime Minister Renzi of Italy.  As a husband and as a father, I cannot begin to imagine the anguish that the Weinstein and Lo Porto families are enduring today.  I realize that there are no words that can ever equal their loss.  I know that there is nothing that I can ever say or do to ease their heartache.  And today, I simply want to say this:

As President and as Commander-in-Chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations, including the one that inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni.  I profoundly regret what happened.  On behalf of the United States government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families. 



What a solemn statement.

Two innocents killed in The Drone War, two innocents that were killed by Barack.

Thursday, he stands before the nation declaring his sadness and grief that, as the President of the United States, he has killed two innocent civilians.

48 hours later, he's yucking it up at a big moneyed dinner which pretends to be about journalistic scholarship but is really just another event where those with big money self-stroke -- is it any wonder Barack felt at home?

At a time when murdering two undisputed innocents should have resulted in solemn reflection on his part -- or at least the appearance of it -- he was instead making a public spectacle of himself and further calling into question not only his actions which resulted in the deaths of Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto but also his remarks supposedly expressing grief.

There he was implying swearing with "bulls**t" being cut off at "bull" by his "translator" "Luther" who also decoded phrases to explain Barack meant "hold on to your lily White butts."

Yes, a crowd of overpetted press who were let out of the pens for the night and a lot of minor TV stars whose 'fame' couldn't fill an episode of Hollywood Squares guffawed but they really aren't known for either grace or character, are they?

And Saturday's event won't be forgotten.

Barack could have bowed out and probably should have.

Barring that, he could have spoken with gravity.

Instead, he opted for hilarity, cheapening his statements on Thursday and the stature of his office.  At the end of all his jokes, he did attempt to get serious.  Even there he suffered.

We remember journalists we lost over the past year—journalists like Steven Sotloff and James Foley, murdered for nothing more than trying to shine a light into some of the world’s darkest corners.  We remember the journalists unjustly imprisoned around the world, including our own Jason Rezaian. For nine months, Jason has been imprisoned in Tehran for nothing more than writing about the hopes and the fears of the Iranian people, carrying their stories to the readers of the Washington Post in an effort to bridge our common humanity. As was already mentioned, Jason’s brother, Ali, is here tonight and I have told him personally we will not rest until we bring him home to his family, safe and sound.

And what of Ned Parker?

Just this month, he had to flee Iraq because he was being publicly threatened on social media, on Iraqi TV and by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

As criticism mounts, and it will, Barack may find himself humming along to "If I Could Turn Back Time" like so many others.

Like The CW.

"Minor TV stars whose 'fame' couldn't fill an episode of Hollywood Squares"?

Remember that from just a little while ago?

Yes, we're talking about people like Gina Rodriguez.

She was there, surprising many with the performance she and Henri Esteve put on.

If only she put so much energy into her televised performance, Jane The Virgin might not be such a ratings disappointment.

"The show that sends them fleeing" is how it's being dubbed.

Last Monday, The Originals delivered 1.3 million viewers, the heavily praised Jane reduced that lead in to 1.05.  The CW suits are finally admitting that they made a mistake January 11th in renewing the show.  They were influenced by the Golden Globe nomination Gina received.  And while she went on to win the award and that gave the show a boost -- the boost was only for one week.  People sampled the show and then left.

But The CW is far from alone in being riddled with regret.

ABC execs are wishing they had a time machine ("and a lion tamer") with regards to Shonda Rhimes.

Fall started with Shonda being ABC's biggest asset.

She's now their greatest liability.

Back in February, we noted:

Katherine Heigl is not a bitch and the fact that Shonda Rhimes can't get over their conflict isn't reason for The Water Cooler Set to attack Heigl.  Considering her success, we think Shonda should have been a lot more gracious or at least kept her mouth shut.  She may think it's amusing but she's a woman and her one-sided cat fight with Heigl will later be used to help bring Shonda down -- probably in two years when Shondaland no longer seems new and the viewers fall away and The Water Cooler Set can really sharpen their knives on her.
Yes, Shonda, you dominate ABC TV.
Once so did Carsey-Werner -- and where are they on the ABC schedule today?

Two years?

Shonda's burned through good will much quicker than   we ever suspected was possible.

The firing of Patrick Dempsey has one ABC suit insisting this is "the last straw."

ABC thought Shonda was a winner but between her attacks on actors, her attacks on the press, her constant Tweets for TV 'justice' and all the rest, "angry" is now one of the kinder words that Alessandra Stanley and The New York Times could use to describe the woman ABC is describing as "out of control."

The whole point of keeping Grey's Anatomy on the air has been stability.

It's not been a ratings winner in years.

Back in season four (fall 2007 through spring 2008), a low rated episode brought in 'only' 18 million viewers.

This season, season 11, the show hit an all time low with an episode bringing in only 6.64 million viewers.  ABC wasn't on board with the departure of Dempsey (who was contractually set to appear in season 12 and season 13) but with the episode promoted around his character (but not revealing his character was being killed off) bringing in  9.55 million viewers, they think Shonda is "self-destructive."

Last fall, a Thursday built around Shonda programming seemed so smart.

And, for awhile, it was.

But February saw all three of Shonda's Thursday programs in serious trouble.

With regards to Scandal, we should disclose we were making money off of its demise.

Days after the January 29th return aired an ABC exec was bragging to us about the 10.48 million viewers the episode delivered.

We said enjoy it because the show is about to fall apart as a result of Shonda's decision to make Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington) a victim.  The audience would not embrace that.  The ratings were about to crater.

We felt we were right, he felt he was right, a $1,000 wager was made.

That wager has yet to be paid.

As the show has sunk in the ratings week after week, our friend has elected to double down.  We feel like we're taking candy from a baby as the wager continues to grow.  After it hit $10,000, we declared that when he paid our winnings -- which won't apparently come until the end of the season -- he could do so via a donation to St. Jude's,

Scandal's downward plunge has been shocking but completely understandable.  We expressed our initial concern when the 'gladiators' were two down (Harrison murdered and Abby off to the White House). But when Olivia became a victim, we stated the show had jumped the shark, that her kidnapping and her being sold, auctioned off, was so deeply offensive, that the audience wouldn't embrace it and we had to wonder if Shonda was on drugs?

Most likely, she's just a prisoner to a preening and out of control ego.

February was when Scandal began to crater, it was when Grey's faltered and it was when How To Get Away With Murder no longer mattered.

In the fall, the ratings average on the last one was over nine million an episode with the winter finale clocking in at 9.82 million viewers.  This was when the husband of series lead Annalise (played by Viola Davis) was murdered.  And then the show returned to announce that the one getting away with murder would not be the wronged and abused wife Annalise, but her college students.

Criminal defense attorney Annalise moped around, took to her bed for a rest cure and much worse as she went from series lead to bit player in an ensemble.  And the ratings reflected this.  After it was revealed Annalise was not the one who killed her abusive, cheating husband, no episode ever got nine million viewers again.  That's right, the winter finale of the show did better than the season finale.

But ABC made its decision in January (and Viola Davis leaked it at the end of that month) so February's struggling episodes?

It was too late for ABC to go back.

Now they're stuck with three Thursday programs which all saw massive ratings erosion as they aired throughout the spring.

If ABC could turn back time, How To Get Away With Murder would not be getting a second season. Shonda's famous for controlling three hours of prime time on one night.  Next season, she may be infamous as the show runner who sees not one, not two, but three shows canceled.

We started with Fox and that's where we'll wind down.  April 8th, Fox announced a second season for The Last Man On Earth.  The signs were already present.  The heavily promoted show had delivered viewers its first week (with back-to-back episodes) and then had cratered.  But Fox wasn't paying attention.  The ratings since then has underscored how unpopular the series is.

Right now, Fox, ABC and The CW are all swearing they will be much more cautious about announcing early renewals.

The insist they've learned their lesson.

We'd applaud that gained insight but the story of broadcast television in the 21st century really is a story of a refusal to ever learn from a mistake.

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