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John Kiesewetter on the world of local and national TV

Senior Entertainment Reporter John Kiesewetter has been covering TV and media issues for 20 years. After joining the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1975 as a summer intern, he worked as a county government and suburban reporter; assistant city editor and suburban editor; and features editor supervising the Life section. He has a B.S. in journalism from Ohio University.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Cool Yule

AOL debuts a new Christmas broadband channel today filled with Warner Bros., Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera holiday cartoons, TV series and movies.
That’s where I’ll find my favorite Chistmas movie, "The Gathering," shot in NE Ohio in 1977. Stars include Ed Asner, Maureen Stapleton and very young Gregory Harrison and Veronica Hamel.
For you Christmas TV junkies, it also has "A Flintstone Christmas Carol," "Yogi’s First Christmas," "Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales" and Christmas TV episodes of "Eight Is Enough," "Alice," "Welcome Back Kotter," "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper," "Gilligan’s Island," "Animaniacs," "Perfect Strangers," "Pinky and the Brain" and many more (including the "Man from U.N.C.L.E." Christmas episode? Who knew?)
And you'll find a lot of really bad Christmas cartoons there, like "Tis the Season To Be Smurfy" and "Christmas Comes to Pac-Land."
So what's your favorite Christmas special or movie?
And what's the worst one ever made?


at 11/16/2006 11:33 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know off topic but wow clear channel selling out and the new owners are selling wkrc tv. I wonder if there will be any big changes made there and what changes are to come to all of the radio stations

at 11/16/2006 11:55 AM Blogger Not Todd said...

Best would be the original Peanuts Christmas special, with A Christmas Story a close second. Worst is easily that wretched Star Wars Holiday Special that only ran once before Lucas had it pulled.

at 11/16/2006 4:15 PM Blogger John Kiesewetter said...

To Anonymous:
More comments about Clear Channel selling off WKRC-TV/Ch 12 posted on "Channel 12 for sale" blog.

at 11/16/2006 7:58 PM Blogger skippercollector said...

My favorites at Christmas:
White Christmas (1954) (I like to watch my VHS of this when I'm putting up my decorations)
The Homecoming (1971)
The Gathering (1977)
The Christmas Gift (1986)
Karroll’s Christmas (2004)

A Charlie Brown Christmas
Santa Claus is Comin' to Town
A Flintstone Christmas

TV series Christmas episodes:
The Waltons/The Spirit (this is the least-known of The Waltons' Christmas
episodes, but I like it the best)
Eight is Enough/Yes, Nicholas, There is a Santa Claus
The Flintstones/Christmas Flintstone (this is not the same as the special)

at 11/16/2006 8:06 PM Blogger skippercollector said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

at 11/16/2006 8:26 PM Blogger skippercollector said...

I found an article about Jericho that has me puzzled. I hope this link works. If not, you might try copying and pasting.
It was published at Please, no Jersey jokes. That's not my point. It's about where the show is most popular. Go down to the paragraph that starts "While 'Jericho' averages...."
I doubt that Jericho is doing well in the ratings here. As far as I know, I am the about the only person locally who is watching it. I've mentioned it to a number of people I know personally, and some of them haven't even heard of it. However, everyone I talk to on Thursday mentions Dancing with the Stars, even though Jerry Springer is long gone.
I've read posts by others on discussion groups on the Internet who like the show. They are all over the planet, but none locally that I know of. I am wondering where the writer's information came from.
Jericho is my favorite new show of the season. The so-called flaws that so many people have complained about it on the Internet (namely that the people are nice to one another) are the reasons I like the show.

Disaster has its appeal

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Nuclear disaster -- the characters on "Heroes" are frantically trying to prevent a global calamity that would first strike Manhattan, while the citizens of the small Kansas town of "Jericho" are desperately dealing with the fallout from a widespread attack that apparently has decimated most of the country.
Who knew viewers would find such a dark and disturbing theme appealing?
NBC's "Heroes" and CBS' "Jericho" are the only two new serialized dramas to really caught on this fall, and they're among the very few rookie shows to click at all with viewers. Not so surprising, however, is that they are less popular in the New York area -- where we've been living for five years with a real gaping pit known as Ground Zero.
This got me wondering about why folks in mainstream America are gravitating to such unnerving fictional scenarios.
Perhaps it's because the precarious state of the world is never far from their minds anyway, theorizes "Heroes" star Adrian Pasdar, who plays politician Nathan Petrelli in the superheroes-living-among-us series.
"You can't help but be concerned with that on a daily basis, whether it's at the local kiosk, or turning on the TV ... you just can't get away from it," Pasdar said during a recent "Heroes" teleconference. "I think people have accepted that as a basic intrusion in their lives, whether they want it or not. So, it's a choice to watch a show like this, which gives you a sense of the state of the world, but also, of people taking extraordinary steps to try to make it a better place."
"Jericho" executive producer Jon Turteltaub, a feature film director ("National Treasure") who's venturing into television with this CBS series, recently told Reuters he wanted to create tales about how survivors, isolated in a small (fictional) Kansas town, react in a crisis.
"I think what we have all really focused on is less the nuclear message and more of the sociology of how to behave when everything goes wrong," Turteltaub said. "Most of us are pretty wonderful during the good times, but our true character comes out when we're confronted with tragedy and disasters. True leadership appears, and really hard choices have to be made."
While "Jericho" averages a healthy 11.3 million viewers -- and has boosted CBS' performance in the 8-to-9 p.m. Wednesday period by 48 percent in viewers and 36 percent in adults 18 to 49 -- in the New York television market, it generally finishes fourth in its time slot. The markets where it does best: Nashville, St. Louis, Columbus, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Buffalo, Oklahoma City, Cincinnati and Indianapolis.
The more hopeful "Heroes" fares better all around. Drawing 14.3 million viewers this past Monday night, it is the No. 1 new series in adults 18 to 49, 18 to 34, and 25 to 54. Nonetheless, while it's generally No. 1 or a close No. 2 in households in most of the United States, around here, it finishes behind -- and often a distant second to -- CBS' Monday-night comedies.
This is hardly to suggest that these shows lack North Jersey fans.
Wendell Adler of Fair Lawn wrote to say that he likes both newcomers. " 'Heroes' is great because it is different, and you just want more. 'Jericho' is good, because you picture yourself trying to survive the attack."
His response, and several "Jericho"-related e-mails I received from outside this area drove home that you shouldn't make sweeping regional generalizations.
For example, one viewer from Cleveland wrote a lengthy, humorous critique of that series, which she called "the post-Apocalypse-meets-Walton's Mountain show." Among other things, she asked, "Is anyone else watching this show and howling at all the plot holes and bad writing? Usually I love post-Apocalypse stuff, but this show is soooo dumb. The premise is that the cozy little town of Jericho has survived a nuclear attack with no damage (not even radiation), even though it's only two hours away from Denver, which was hit. They can't communicate with the outside world, and it seems as if nukes have taken out the government and other big cities across the U.S."
Among the many "howlers" she listed was one that had also struck me as preposterous: "Radiation was supposedly 'washed away' in a rainstorm that hit in the second episode," this Cleveland viewer wrote. "Everyone stayed indoors (no special protection) until the storm passed. No one got radiation sickness. No mention of water or soil being ruined. The farmer said that the husks on his corn protected it, and that since the ears were formed, no contaminated water got into them. Huh??!!"
On the other hand, a reader from Denver, responding to a fall-TV piece of mine that ran in the Denver Post, titled his e-mail "the urban myopia of television critics."
" 'Jericho presents another anti-urban counter to television's forensic mania," he wrote, adding that the lukewarm reviews the show received were "an obvious oversight by city-based television critics, blind to the precious few shows which reveal life in the hinterlands."
As I told that reader, through the years, I have loved many shows set in the hinterlands -- and I've also taken network execs to task for describing middle America as "flyover territory." So, no, that's not why I've had trouble warming to the oft-depressing "Jericho." The one regionalism I do believe comes into play here is that, in the New York area, we've been affected by 9/11 far more profoundly than the rest of America. Catastrophic attacks are not theoretical to us, so forgive us if we don't especially want to think about the prospect of nuclear disaster.
That said, I for one appreciated recently learning in "Jericho" that after the widespread nuclear attacks on America, New York is one of the few major cities still standing. (Washington, D.C., was not so fortunate.)
And, despite my reservations, I continue to watch "Jericho," which has grown on me a little. Like the reader from Cleveland, I am bothered by the gaping plot holes. But I do see value in watching a town pull together for the common good. And I like the story arc for Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich), the prodigal son of the town's mayor, who is emerging as a courageous and good man.
As for "Heroes," in which ordinary people discover they have extraordinary powers, initially, I was really turned off by the high-school cheerleader, who kept throwing herself off and into things to test her indestructibility. (Bones sticking through skin? Yuck.) But I've come to really like this drama. It's intriguing, clever, thought-provoking -- and the would-be saviors are reassuring.
As Pasdar recently put it, "When times are as dire as they are around the world, and every corner of the globe seems to be under some threat, imminent or immediate, it just seems that this kind of escapism takes root and grows wings faster, in times of trouble. This kind of show speaks to people's sense of fantasy and escapism in a real way, and on top of that, it doesn't add in the fantastic element of spandex and capes."
Hmm. Pasdar's theory might go to the core of TV's strange nuclear reaction this fall.

at 12/06/2006 6:45 PM Blogger skippercollector said...

Three more Christmas shows to add:
1. Another of my personal favorites is Scrooge, from 1970.
2. My mother really likes The Christmas List, a 1997 TV movie starring Mimi Rogers.
3. I learned in the past week that a favorite of my sister's is Ebbie, a 1995 made for TV movie starring Susan Lucci.

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