Jun 11

Far be it from me to blog about TV

But I doubt that a TJ Simers inspired sitcom will be a ratings bonanza.

From Sports Business Journal:

“The series is about an old-school reporter in a medium that is quickly evaporating and a daughter who is a participant in the new media,” Tollin said. “Ultimately, it will be a comedy focused on their relationship and the relationship they never had because he was always on the road and was kind of an absentee dad. He’s kind of trying to make up for lost time. She’s trying to teach the old dog new tricks.”

There have been two successful sitcoms that have prominently featured sportswriters: The Odd Couple, which had the advantage of being based on a famous play and film and with great actors, and Everybody Loves Raymond, where the main character was a sportswriter who seemingly never left his own home.

I refuse to acknowledge the series My Boys as being successful or featuring a sportswriter who actually worked as a sportswriter does today.

 

 

Jul 13

2011 Emmy preview

With the Emmy nominations coming Thursday morning and no Dodger game until Friday night, I’ve been trying to predict, for my own entertainment, which drama and comedy series will get 2011 Emmy nominations.

The comedy field might even be more crowded than the drama field this year, reversing recent trends. Here are some top contenders:

Comedy
“30 Rock” (a perennial)
“The Big Bang Theory” (last year’s most surprising omission)
“The Big C” (the hot new Showtime show often gets a long look)
“Community” (also beloved but perhaps only a cult favorite)
“Glee” (polarizing show creatively, but a nominee last year)
“Louie” (deserving but probably too narrow an audience)
“Raising Hope” (the best of a poor year for new broadcast comedies)
“Parks and Recreation” (critically beloved — this should be its year)
“Modern Family” (defending champ)
“Nurse Jackie” (nominated last year)
“The Office” (another perennnial: not as consistent as in past years, but its good episodes were great)

Drama
“Boardwalk Empire” (high-profile new HBO show, generally considered a success)
“Dexter” (nominated the past three years)
“Friday Night Lights” (still a longshot, but broke through with acting nominations last year)
“Game of Thrones” (fans are even more passionate about this HBO show)
“The Good Wife” (top broadcast network candidate)
“Justified” (critically beloved and represents FX well)
“The Killing” (hotly disputed finale might have left bad taste for some voters)
“Mad Men” (perennial that should have no trouble with “Breaking Bad” off the air this past year)
“Men of a Certain Age” (has its fans, but maybe not enough)
“The Walking Dead” (nominated for Golden Globe last winter, but it’s been off the air since early December)
“True Blood” (nominated last year, but probably fades away)

My personal favorites (not predictions):
Comedy: “Bored to Death,” “Community,” “Louie,” “Modern Family,” “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” though I wouldn’t complain if “The Big Bang Theory” got in.
Drama: “Boardwalk Empire,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Justified,” “Mad Men,” “Terriers,” “Treme”

You can see Variety’s Emmy preview coverage here.

I’ll be in the office at Variety at dawn to help start our Emmy news coverage — make sure you stop by — then will be heading over later in the morning to the Variety Sports Entertainment Summit, which ends with a “Moneyball” panel at 5:05 p.m.

Jul 13

Going deep with ‘Moneyball’

Morning briefing …

Dave McNary of Variety has an in-depth look at the development and prospects of upcoming film “Moneyball,” which hits theaters in about two months.

You know about Roger Owens, but Steve Lopez of the Times profiles another longtime Dodger Stadium peanut vendor, Ronnie Nelsen.

This post is dedicated to actor Roberts Blossom, who passed away Friday. Blossom was featured in one of my favorite episodes of television ever, the “Cicely” episode of “Northern Exposure.”

Jul 01

The first commercial Dodgers broadcast, 70 years ago today

Cynthia Littleton of Variety and Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News have pieces on today’s 70th anniversary of what’s said to be the debut of commercial television – with both noting that a Dodgers-Phillies (Brooklyn loses, 6-4) game was part of the original programming. The Dodgers also played in the first televised baseball game, in 1939.

… Television sets had been available in Gotham department stores such as Macy’s since the 1939 World’s Fair broadcast got early adopters excited about the potential of television. But most of the sets in use in 1941 were set up to receive 441 lines of picture while the FCC had set the commercial telecasting standard at 525. That made for some muddy visuals early on.

Variety was unimpressed by the overall presentation, the hucksterism and production value.

“It was all pretty corney,” Daily Variety reported on July 2, 1941. “Especially a crowd of announcers and radio hangerson eating chocolate layer cake made with Spry and yumyumming. Practically all the sets in the New York area were picking up 525 line images on old sets adjusted to 441 lines. This cut down definition, but it was not engineering definition that was hard to bear. It was the low grade showmanship.”

WNBT and WCBW broadcast about 15 hours a week in those first few months. But the flagship stations for the Peacock (NBC) and the Eye (CBS) didn’t get much time to refine their product before the U.S. entry into WWII put the kibosh on virtually all commercial telecasts. The technology and resources that David Sarnoff and William Paley were plowing into TV were immediately diverted to the war effort.

The growth of TV would be stymied for the better part of the 1940s, until a manic vaudevillian named Milton Berle hit it big with “Texaco Star Theater” in 1948 and TV sets starting flying off the shelves.

* * *

  • Ken Arneson, retired Baseball Toaster chieftain, has a guest piece on Baseball Prospectus today. As I always say, ‘nuf said.
  • Here’s a new baseball cartoon blog: Gary Finkler’s 7th Inning Sketch, complete with requisite Frank McCourt image.
  • The Collected Sins of the Frank & Jamie McCourt era, by Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness. Unenjoy!
Feb 14

Lakers’ mega-TV deal could have impact on Dodgers


US PresswireThe Lakers’ local TV future is set until my 65th birthday. The Dodgers’ TV future … not so much.

Over at Variety, I have a story on Time Warner Cable’s landmark 20-year deal to create English- and Spanish-language Lakers TV networks. (And since this is the first question everyone has asked me today – no, this doesn’t mean only TWC subscribers will get to see the Lakers. It does mean that your satellite or cable provider, if it’s not TWC, will have to pay for the rights to air the networks.)

It’s too soon to know what this means for the Dodgers’ future TV plans, though not too soon to speculate.

First, an excerpt from the story:

In a major shift on the Los Angeles televised sports landscape, Time Warner Cable has acquired rights to distribute local broadcasts of Los Angeles Lakers games in a 20-year deal beginning with the 2012-13 NBA season.

Time Warner Cable will launch English- and Spanish-language sports networks showcasing the franchise, taking away the rights to live game broadcasts from current broadcasters KCAL Channel 9 and Fox Sports Net.

TWC is not keeping the channels exclusive to its own subscribers. Rather, it will make them available to all satellite, cable and telco distributors in the Lakers’ territory, which includes all of Southern California, Nevada and Hawaii.

National broadcast contracts on ABC/ESPN and TNT are unaffected, but 2011-12 will be the last season of local over-the-air broadcasts of the Lakers in Los Angeles.

“We are aiming for full and complete distribution with all distributors,” Time Warner Cable exec veep and chief programming officer Melinda Witmer told Variety. …

Dave McMenamin of ESPNLos Angeles.com is also covering the news, as are the Times’ Joe Flint and Bill Shaikin. Flint has details on what the cost could be per subscriber, while Shaikin’s piece most directly addresses the impact on the Dodgers, whose TV deal with Fox expires in 2013:

… Beyond then, according to court documents, Frank McCourt had intended to launch cable channels dubbed “DTV: Dodger Television” in English and Spanish, enabling the team to more than triple its annual television revenue if projections held true. …

Dodgers spokesman Josh Rawitch declined to comment on how the Lakers’ announcement might impact the Dodgers’ television plans. However, two sports industry consultants said what the Dodgers might have lost in financial upside could be somewhat mitigated with the newfound leverage of more sports channels in town.“It opens up a heck of a lot more what-ifs,” said Andy Dolich, a former top executive with the Oakland Athletics, San Francisco 49ers and Memphis Grizzlies.

McCourt still could pursue DTV, although local cable and satellite operators might balk at adding a Dodgers-themed channel, since subscribers might balk at paying for DTV, the Lakers channels, Fox Sports West and Fox’s Prime Ticket.

The Lakers, however, just provided McCourt with additional leverage. Until Monday, the Dodgers could say to Fox, “If you don’t offer us enough money to renew our deal, we’ll start our own channel.” Now the Dodgers can say to Fox, “If you don’t offer us enough, we can start our own channel or move our games to the Lakers channel.” …

However, since the loss of the Lakers and Dodgers would deprive Fox of arguably its two most valuable sports properties, Ganis said Fox might make the Dodgers an enormously lucrative contract offer. …

Fox said the following in a statement in response to the upcoming end to nearly three decades of Laker home broadcasts on Fox Sports Net: “”Fox made an offer to the Lakers that would have paid them one of the highest local TV rights fees in professional sports. We did not believe that going higher was in the best interest of our business or pay TV customers in Los Angeles, who will bear the cost of this deal for years to come.”

* * *

  • Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy has not one but two photo-filled posts on Day 1 of the Dodgers Caravan, which featured a team-infused cleanup effort along the L.A. River.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness offers Dodger fans “Six Reasons for Optimism in 2011.”
  • The 1932 Detroit Tigers spent part of their Spring Training at Stanford’s brand-new Sunken Diamond, and Scott Allen of Rule of Tree has a post about it.
Dec 20

My favorite TV shows of 2010

Drama

  1. Mad Men
  2. Breaking Bad
  3. Friday Night Lights
  4. Luther
  5. Terriers
  6. Boardwalk Empire
  7. Lost
  8. Treme
  9. Justified
  10. Rubicon

Honorable mention (in alphabetical order): Chuck, In Treatment, Men of a Certain Age

Comedy

  1. The Daily Show
  2. Modern Family
  3. Party Down
  4. Parks and Recreation
  5. Community
  6. Bored to Death
  7. Louie
  8. The Big Bang Theory
  9. Better Off Ted
  10. The Office

Honorable mention (in alphabetical order): 30 Rock, The Colbert Report, Curb Your Enthusiasm

Sep 27

Ken Burns’ ‘Tenth Inning’ hits and misses at the plate


PBSPedro Martinez

My lack of anticipation for “The Tenth Inning,” Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s four-hour sequel (airing in two parts Tuesday and Wednesday on PBS) to Burns’ 1994 documentary, “Baseball,” could hardly have contrasted more to how eager I was to see the original.

That 18-hour documentary came out when Burns’ glorious “The Civil War” was still fresh in my mind, came out during the work stoppage that caved in the 1994 baseball season and, perhaps most importantly, largely featured material from the distant past. Buck O’Neil, to whom “The Tenth Inning” is dedicated, made “Baseball” worthwhile all by himself.

By contrast, I wasn’t in any hurry to relive post-1993 baseball via the Burns treatment. I didn’t feel I had enough distance. (On top of that, “Tenth” figured to be exceedingly light on Dodger content, providing a reminder of how absent Los Angeles has been from baseball relevance for most of the past two decades.)

That latter concern was certainly borne out, but I will tell you that I did enjoy “Tenth” a bit more than I expected, with Burns (along with co-writers David McMahon and Novick) showing that at times, he can still deliver the goods.

It’s true that it’s tough to be a Dodger fan watching this program. Basically, the best one can do is take in the homage to Pedro Martinez and recall the time when he was ours, or take in the homage to Dave Roberts’ World Series steal and recall the time when he was ours. Furthermore, I felt personally insulted by the documentary’s suggestion that “no Latin player, not even (Roberto) Clemente or the Dodgers’ great Mexican pitcher of the 1980s, Fernando Valenzuela, had ever before received such an outpouring of affection and admiration” as Sammy Sosa.

But I did enjoy revisiting recent baseball history – being transported back to Fernando Cabrera’s pennant-clinching hit or seeing names like Tony Gwynn celebrated once again – more than I expected.

“Tenth” also did a better job than I feared injecting nuance into the discussion of performance-enhancing drugs, a topic that permeates the four hours. Through its sources and narrator Keith “Goliath” David, “Tenth” provides a brief history of cheating in baseball, knocking down some of the holier-than-thou aspects of the debate, and explaining why, even as suspicions rose, people didn’t really want to investigate.

“Innocence is beautiful, sometimes,” Martinez says memorably.

And though Barry Bonds’ story was somewhat sadly tiresome, the set-up wasn’t: a focus on Bonds’ father Bobby and how his troubled career shaped Barry, yielding the person who would stare unabashedly into the face of the disgust directed toward him:

“Boo me! Cheer me!” Bonds exclaims at a press conference. “Those that are gonna cheer me are gonna cheer me; those that are gonna boo me are gonna boo me. So what. But they’re still gonna come see the show. … Dodger Stadium is the best show that I go to in all my life in baseball. They say ‘Barry sucks!’ louder than anybody out there. And you know what, you’ll see me in left field (encouraging them), because you know what, you’ve got to have some serious talent to have 53,000 people say ‘You suck.’ I’m proud of that.”

There are moments when “Tenth” goes beyond the obvious to tell its stories, and those moments are pretty great.

However, particularly in the second part, there are also extended stretches in which the storytelling fails to reach any kind of height, stretches in which the storytelling is completely conventional, no more special than a run-of-the-mill sports documentary that gets thrown together without such fanfare. Because of this, I think that “The Tenth Inning” will be appreciated more by the casual fan than the dedicated fan (and, of course, enjoyed much more by fans of the teams depicted than the teams ignored).

“As its flaws become apparent, (baseball) actually gains depth and humanity, even as it loses its fairy-tale, mythic qualities,” says sportswriter Thomas Boswell, who quietly emerges as perhaps the best on-screen voice of the documentary. Burns and his team get this concept, and I’m glad. The tone to the conclusion of 240-minute endeavor couldn’t be more appropriate. I just wish “The Tenth Inning” had pursued more off-the-beaten path stories, stories like Buck O’Neil and Bobby Bonds, than spending so much time on the more familiar recent history that feels like it’s been sitting on a warming tray.

Jul 14

The Old Spice Guy wins going away


A significant part of my past two days has been spent watching the brilliant marathon project by the folks behind Old Spice’s The Man Your Man Could Smell Like campaign: approximately 200 YouTube videos that responded to individual tweets on Twitter — from celebrities and unknowns alike — all turned around inside of a couple of hours. I thought some of you might enjoy reading about the story behind the campaign if you have seen it or learning about it if you haven’t. For sustained comic brilliance, it’s one of the great achievements of the year.

No problem posting this here, because the star of the campaign, Isaiah Mustafa, is wearing a Dodger T-shirt in this interview on G4 — and because of his character’s ongoing dalliance with Alyssa Milano.

May 18

‘Lost’ penultimate chat thread

I’ll be at tonight’s Dodger game and won’t see the second-to-last “Lost” until Wednesday. So I thought it would be a good idea to bring back a chat thread for the show tonight.

Remember: No spoilers (including scenes from the finale).

Mar 26

Ronald Belisario: What happened?


Kirby Lee/US Presswire
Ronald Belisario pitching in Game 2 of the 2009 National League Championship Series.

Ronald Belisario has been ruled out for the Opening Day roster by Joe Torre, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Most of what I read about Belisario chides him for blowing this opportunity and letting down the Dodgers and their fans. But absent a rational explanation for what has happened, I still can’t help thinking that the bigger issue is a serious problem that we should be concerned with instead of critical of.

That might make me sound soft, and if he’s being a flake just to be a flake, I’ll adjust my reaction accordingly. But I’m just having trouble imagining why Belisario would willfully self-sabotage. Right now, I’m still in the position of hoping Belisario makes it back, mentally as well as internationally.

* * *

  • I’m scheduled to be a guest on KSPN 710 AM at 1:40 p.m., interviewed by Andrew Siciliano and Mychal Thompson. (That link will also take you to Molly Knight’s interview with the pair from Thursday.
  • In case you missed it, Ronnie Belliard made weight and is now an official 2010 Dodger, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
  • Ben Badler of Baseball America joins the groundswell of praise for prospect Allen Webster, a fave of Dodger Thoughts and Maple Street Press Annual prospect expert CanuckDodger.
  • Steven Goldman, writing at ESPN’s TMI blog, wonders if the failure of Joba Chamberlain to make the Yankee starting rotation will represent a tipping point for over-protecting young arms.
  • Forty years ago today: “Next Stop for Steve Garvey Is Third Base at Dodger Stadium” (via the Daily Mirror).
  • The Pawnee Parks and Recreation Summer Catalog is a must-peruse.
Mar 21

Straight out of ‘Seinfeld’

Sorry, Kramer, but no dice.

In the sixth inning of today’s game, there was a moment strikingly similar to “The Wink” episode of “Seinfeld.”

Aaron Miller, the Dodgers’ 2009 first-round draft pick, was facing his first batter. He gave up a long fly ball over the head of Xavier Paul in center field. The batter flew around the bases for what appeared to be an inside-the-park home run.

But then the official scoring came in – it would only be ruled a triple, plus an error on Paul.

The batter? Jose Constanza.

BOBBY: Hey, …

KRAMER: Huh?

BOBBY: … that’s not a home run. (grabs frame)

KRAMER: Yeah, maybe not technically, but …

BOBBY: You said he’d hit two home runs.

KRAMER: Oh, come on. Bobby, Bobby! That’s just as good!

BOBBY: Well, you’re not taking that card.

KRAMER: Now, Bobby, Bobby, we had a deal . . . gimme that …