Archive for July, 2016

The Thrilla in Phila.: The Coronation of Hillary

July 29, 2016

THIS WEEK’S MEDIAPOST TV BLOGS

The Hillary Show: Four out of five of this week's MediaPost TV blogs covered the televised Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. Plus, on Monday: "Sharknado"! Blog links below.

The Hillary Show: Four out of five of this week’s MediaPost TV blogs covered the televised Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. Plus, on Monday: “Sharknado”! Blog links below.

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, July 29, 2016 — It was a thrilla in Phila., a Democratic Convention in Philadelphia that provided four nights of television that closely followed four nights of Republican conventioneering a week earlier. For a TV columnist, it has been two weeks of televised politics, plenty to write about.

Read all four of my Democratic Convention TV columns for MediaPost with these links (starting with Tuesday):

Monday, July 25: Syfy Gets Some Help Promoting Its New ‘Sharknado’ Movie

Tuesday, July 26: Thrilla In Phila., Day 1: Comedian Wags Finger, Lectures Democrats

Wednesday, July 27: Thrilla In Phila., Day 2: Idiotic Celebrities And One Masterful Speaker

Thursday, July 28: Thrilla In Phila., Day 3: Dems Put The Party In ‘Political Party’

Friday, July 29: Thrilla In Phila., Day 4: The Coronation Of Hillary

PREVIOUSLY: Be sure to read all of my columns on the Republican Convention in Cleveland from a week earlier: “The Cleveland Trump Show” — find the links right HERE.

Contact Adam Buckman: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com

Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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TV Howl Extra: My Interview With Irritable Al

July 27, 2016
Sen. Al Franken speaking at the Democratic National Convention Monday (July 25) in Philadelphia.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) speaking at the Democratic National Convention Monday (July 25) in Philadelphia.

‘He had a voice like a cartoon frog’ — book excerpt, below, from JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television by Adam Buckman

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, July 27, 2016 — Former TV comedian Al Franken made a splash Monday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, delivering a speech ripping Trump University and then appearing with Bernie Sanders supporter Sarah Silverman in an attempt to unify the Democratic Party behind nominee Hillary Clinton.

But many of us on the TV beat remember Franken before he was a senator, when he was just another comedy writer, a “Saturday Night Live” veteran, trying to make a living in the TV comedy biz.

This is the story of one of those efforts, an NBC comedy series called “Lateline,” and what Franken had to say to me in an interview the day after the show was cancelled in 1999. This story is excerpted from my book called “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television,” available on Amazon:

Chapter Five: CAVALCADE OF STARS

Part I

Click on the pic to visit my Amazon book page.

Click on the pic to visit my Amazon book page.

Another comedian who agreed to get on the phone to talk about the cancellation of his own show was Al Franken, who also wound up casting the blame on someone else – in his case, NBC.

Read “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” by Adam Buckman: Order your copy today — right HERE!

Franken’s show was a sitcom called “Lateline,” a newsroom spoof in which he starred as a gung-ho but bumbling correspondent for a late-night news show modeled loosely on ABC’s “Nightline.”  NBC had just given it the axe and Franken had an axe to grind.  This was another instance in which I believed I had no chance of getting the star of a cancelled show (who in this case also happened to be the show’s creator and executive producer) on the phone to tell me why he thought his show was cancelled and how he felt about it.

But I put in the request anyway and, incredibly, an NBC publicist put Franken on the phone for me, even though Franken was furious about the cancellation and in no frame of mind to do an interview that would spare NBC’s feelings.  Instead, he unloaded on the network and the then-president of NBC’s entertainment division, Scott Sassa.

Al Franken in "Lateline."

Al Franken in “Lateline.”

“We made good shows,” Franken said calmly, sounding a little weary, at the outset of our conversation.  “I think NBC did a bad job in presenting it to the public,” he said, referring to the way “Lateline” had been scheduled.  The show had had a short, uneven history, premiering in March 1998 for just six weeks and then going away for a year.  It returned in March 1999 for a planned run of six more episodes, but five of them never aired after NBC cancelled the series the morning after the first one attracted one of the smallest audiences ever recorded by the network on a Tuesday night up to that time – 6.7 million viewers.

I then asked Franken about Sassa and whether the NBC president had called him personally to give him the bad news.  The question apparently hit a sore spot and Franken turned peevish.  No, Franken answered, Sassa did not call him.  “It would have been nice for Sassa to call me,” said Franken, who then basically called the head of NBC a liar.

At issue was a “promise” Franken insisted Sassa had made to him about NBC’s commitment to “Lateline.”  “I felt cold-cocked. … [He] promised me six shows,” said Franken, who characterized Sassa’s “promise” as “an explicit guarantee” that “Lateline” would have a run of six episodes to get on its feet.

“[Sassa] didn’t explain why he felt ethically that you can promise six and then pull [a show off the air] after one,” Franken complained.  (For his part, Sassa declined a request for an interview with me then, but an NBC spokeswoman denied Sassa had promised Franken anything.)

Franken then noted that it was unfortunate for the television production industry in New York for “Lateline” to be cancelled because it was one of only a handful of situation-comedies then being produced in New York City.  He then unloaded on me when it became apparent that I could not recall in that instant which other sitcoms were produced in New York.  As a result of this shortcoming, Franken basically called me an idiot who lacked the qualifications he felt were necessary for writing about television, though to my knowledge, the job of covering television as a journalist was one that Franken had never held.  I tried to explain to him that the identities of the other made-in-New York sitcoms (they turned out to be “Cosby” on CBS and “Spin City” on ABC) were irrelevant to our story.  And if they were relevant, I told him, then I would endeavor to report them correctly before the story got into print.

It wasn’t the first time I found myself explaining to someone that I wasn’t a walking, talking encyclopedia of television, that it was not important for me to know every little thing about television when conducting an interview such as this one.  The main concern for me, as with any journalist, was not necessarily to have every fact correct when you are interviewing a newsmaker and researching a story, though it certainly couldn’t hurt.  What mattered much more was getting it right by the time it appeared in the paper.  And I assured Franken it would be, though by this time, he had had enough of me and I had had enough of him.  After we hung up, I concluded that either Franken was having a bad day or he was basically an asshole.  I figured it was a little bit of both.

The story, headlined “Franken burns NBC bridge,” published on March 22, 1999, in the New York Post, was a great story for me, though I never learned how Franken felt about it.  However, I developed such a visceral dislike for him in the aftermath of that interview that I welcomed the occasional opportunities that arose later to take additional swipes at him.

Al Franken Parkay commercial.

Al Franken Parkay commercial.

One was an item I didn’t really have to write later that year, though I wrote it anyway.  “Former sitcom star Al Franken has landed on his feet – you can see him shoveling a forkful of steaming hot baked potato into his mouth in a commercial for Parkay margarine,” I reported on Oct. 25, in an attempt to write an item that would portray Franken as a has-been whose career had seen better days, but was now reduced to hawking margarine.

Franken went on to host a radio show on Air America, the short-lived liberal radio network.  When a condensed, one-hour version of the radio show, shot in the Air America studios on videotape, began airing in 2004 on the Sundance cable channel, I took up the cudgel again to describe him in a review as having “a voice like a cartoon frog.”  I also accused him of exhibiting posture unbefitting the profession of broadcasting, taking pains to write that Franken “slouches over his microphone like he has no spine” (my intention being to imply subtly that Franken lacked backbone, though I doubt anyone who read it ever caught this implication).  I never learned Franken’s reaction to this column either (if he ever even had a reaction), but he had backbone enough to run for the U.S. Senate in 2008, representing Minnesota.

[Excerpted from “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” by Adam Buckman. Copyright Adam Buckman 2014 All Rights Reserved.]

Contact Adam Buckman: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com

Want more great stories from the TV beat? Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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Four Blogs On This Week’s Cleveland Trump Show

July 22, 2016
This week the Republicans, next week the Democrats: Read all five of my MediaPost TV blogs from the past week, below.

This week the Republicans, next week the Democrats: Read all five of my MediaPost TV blogs from the past week, below.

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, July 22, 2016 — The Republican Convention in Cleveland was the TV show to watch this week — which is why I devoted four out of five blogs to it since Monday. Read all five of my MediaPost TV blogs from the past week, right here:

Monday, July 18: With Snipers Making Headlines, USA Network Introduces A Series About A Sniper

Tuesday, July 19: The Cleveland Trump Show, Day 1: Making Special Effects Great Again

Wednesday, July 20: The Cleveland Trump Show, Day 2: Where’s The Showmanship?

Thursday, July 21: The Cleveland Trump Show, Day 3: As Ted Talked, GOP Lost Cruz Control

Friday, July 22: Cleveland Trump Show, Day 4: Candidate Gracelessly Accepts Nomination

Next week: A Thrilla in Phila.: The Coronation Of Hillary

Contact Adam Buckman: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com

Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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Hot Summer Blogs: From ‘Mr. Robot’ to ‘Fargo’

July 16, 2016
From "Mr. Robot" to "Fargo" and the Emmy nominations, here are this week's MediaPost TV blogs.

Here are this week’s MediaPost TV blogs — links below!

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, July 16, 2016 — The week started with a look ahead to the second-season premiere of “Mr. Robot” on USA Network and ended with a look at this year’s Emmy nominations announced Thursday — of which “Mr. Robot” received six. Read all of my MediaPost TV blogs from the past five days, right here:

Monday, July 11: No Easy Answers As ‘Mr. Robot’ Returns For Season Two

Tuesday, July 12: Obnoxious ‘White House’ Doc Reveals How First Families Live Like Royalty

Wednesday, July 13: Characters Have Many Vices, No Principles In HBO’s ‘Vice Principals’

Thursday, July 14: As Conventions Near, Late-Night Gets Serious About Politics

Friday, July 15: Thank You, Networks, For Tallying Your Emmy Nominations So I Don’t Have To

Contact Adam Buckman: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com

Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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Back By Popular Demand: This Week’s Rundown

July 8, 2016

ALL FOUR MEDIAPOST TV BLOGS: July 5-8

This week's TV blog topics included PBS's "Capitol Fourth" show and the mystery of the year-old footage, Donald Trump's TV habits, Gretchen Carlson's lawsuit against Roger Ailes, and the familiarity of this week's mayhem in the streets.

This week’s TV blog topics included PBS’s “Capitol Fourth” show and the mystery of the year-old footage, Donald Trump’s TV habits, Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit against Roger Ailes, and the familiarity of the protest marches and violence in the nation’s cities this week.

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, July 8, 2016 — Presenting the return of the weekly rundown of this week’s MediaPost TV blogs — written by yours truly, Adam Buckman. Follow the links, below:

Tuesday, July 5: Complaints About PBS Rainy Night Fireworks Footage Are All Wet

Wednesday, July 6: Couch Potato-In-Chief: Grazing Around The Dial With Donald Trump

Thursday: July 7: Thanks To Carlson, Entire World Can Read Her Lawsuit Against Ailes

Friday: July 8: And The Beat Goes On: Mayhem In The Streets Revives Baby Boomer Memories

Contact Adam Buckman: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com

Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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