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PROGRAM NOTES
Channel Hopping...
Jimmy Kimmel, the February Sweeps, and a talking horse.

by Mark D. Johnson
January 31, 2003

Channel Hopping..._Mark D. Johnson-Jimmy Kimmel, the February Sweeps, and a talking horse. Today’s column is a mixed bag of recent television topics.
  • Kimmel Debut

    ABC’s new foray into late night entertainment, “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” is off to a bit of a rocky start. It debuted on Super Sunday night to respectable ratings, then lost a third of that audience when it appeared Monday night in its regular weekday time slot, 12:05 AM ET, following “Nightline”. Kimmel, former co-host of Comedy Central’s “The Man Show” and “Win Ben Stein’s Money”, brings some edginess to ABC, which is hoping to attract younger viewers with a raucous atmosphere and the host’s reputation for vulgarity.

    While Kimmel proved to be quick-witted on “Ben Stein,” his “Man Show” gig was all too juevenile. He jokingly stated recently that his new show would set out to be a “comedy version of The Tonight Show”, and I would agree that Leno’s show could be much funnier, but it remains to be seen if Kimmel’s humor can rise above the cheap sex jokes of its crosstown rival.

    It especially remains to be seen in some areas of the country, where ABC affiliates owned by Allbritton Communications have decided not to air Kimmel’s show, presumably based on decency standards. My local affiliate is one such station, and I therefore cannot tell you first-hand how bad, good, or mediocre the show is. “Live” started out offering adult beverages to its audience with a two-drink maximum policy, but the liquor license was quickly torn up after an audience member threw up near a high-level Disney exec. Reports are not clear, however, on whether the vomitting stemmed from the alcohol or the quality of the show.

  • Sweeping Up

    The February sweeps period is upon us, a time in which the networks pull out all the stops in a ratings grab. This is typically done by a) stunt casting (“Friends”), b) super-sized episodes (“Friends”), c) quality specials (“The Music Man,” starring Matthew Broderick), d) hyping unscripted shows, and/or e) shameless pandering to the lowest common denominator (“Are You Hot: The Search For America's Sexiest People”). NBC’s “Fear Factor” manages to do all but option C (When will people get tired of that tripe?).

    Also this month: “Survivor 6” returns too soon and tries to mix things up by pitting men against women. Reality finales of the smash hit “Joe Millionaire,” “The Bachelorette,” and “Celebrity Mole: Hawaii,” which has turned out to be the most entertaining of the current unscripted fare, even if it is “Mole Lite”.

  • A Horse is a horse...

    Yes, the early sixties sitcom “Mr. Ed” is coming back to primetime on Fox, but this time the talking horse will have a more urban voice like that of Eddie Murphy. The pilot will be written by Jack Handey, of “Saturday Night Live” Deep Thoughts fame. My guess is that they’ll use computer animation this time around to make Ed’s lips move instead of the old fishing line. I have a hard time imagining that this concept will fly with today’s TV audience. Will they make the content more adult than the original for wider appeal? Of course, of course.

  • Jerry Springer Eyes Senate Run

    The former mayor of Cincinnati and king of trashy talk shows is considering a 2004 Democratic run in Ohio for a U.S. Senate seat. "I want to be helpful in rebuilding the party," he said, according to the Associated Press.

    If Democrats need Jerry Springer’s help, they’re in much worse shape than I thought.

  • Fox to debut its new shows in the summer

    As far back as anyone can remember, new television seasons have always started in the fall. But Fox is doing some thinking outside the box and will try to avoid a repeat of its troublesome fall 2002, when many of its shows were put on hold until the World Series wrapped up in late October. Recent reality hits have begun in the summer (“Survivor”, “American Idol”), and it’s extremely challenging to compete with all the other networks’ new shows in the fall, but for Fox to start it’s whole new season in the summer sounds like a major gamble to me. Some summer series launches would be smart, but on the whole, I think they’d be better off giving the baseball playoffs to another network.

  • Not-So-Super Ads

    This year's batch of Super Bowl ads was a bit of a let-down. Worthy: Budweiser's Zebra Referee, HotJobs.com (people singing "Rainbow Connection"), office linebacker Terry Tate... Clunkers: Levi's Buffalo Stampede, MLife's Gilligan's Island, 90-second Cadillac ad.

    And it wasn't just the ads that fell flat: the half-time show was dull, and of course, the game itself was lopsided. Two stars for Super Bowl XXXVII. On the bright side, the Dixie Chicks did a fine job with the National Anthem.
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