The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Danville will be the place to be for political media junkies over the next few days for Thursday night’s vice-presidential debate between incumbent Joe Biden and his challenger, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Several network and cable news outlets have announced lineups that will put a who’s who of high-profile journalists on the ground in Kentucky, although a few talking heads will remain at anchor desks in New York and Washington.
Fox News has one of the larger contingents coming to Danville, including Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly, who will anchor the network’s debate coverage Thursday night and their own shows, Kelly’s America Live at 1 p.m. and Baier’s Special Report at 6 p.m. Also originating for Danville will be Studio B with Shepard Smith at 3 p.m., Your World with Neil Cavuto at 4 p.m. and The Five at – ha! – 5 p.m. Also reporting from Danville will be Fox News chief White House correspondent Ed Henry, chief political correspondent Carl Cameron and general assignment reporter Steve Brown.
The NBC/MSNBC contingent will be led by Hardball host Chris Matthews, who will originate his Thursday broadcast from Danville, along with Andrea Mitchell and Chief White House correspondent and poll guru Chuck Todd, who has already tweeted, “Danville, KY, an hour from everywhere?”
CNN has not responded to requests for information or posted coverage information.
ABC News senior foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz will moderate the debate. ABC News will have David Muir covering the Republican campaign of Mitt Romney and Ryan, and senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper covering the Barack Obama and Biden campaign.
CBS News will have two correspondents in Danville: congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes covering the Obama-Biden ticket and chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford covering Romney-Ryan.
Those into the voices of NPR can listen for national desk correspondent Debbie Elliott and Washington desk correspondent Brian Naylor in Danville, and correspondent Don Gonyea, who will participate in a vice-presidential debate round table produced by WEKU-FM and broadcast at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday.
We’ll update as we hear about more news personalities in Danville.
As Brazil’s presentation rolled out during Sunday’s night’s broadcast of the Olympics’ closing ceremonies, commentators Bob Costas and Al Michaels noted that Rio de Janeiro is just one hour ahead of the United States’ East Coast time zone, which will solve some of NBC’s timing problems during the London games.
Indeed, Winter Olympics aside, NBC has eight years to figure out how to deal with time zone differences in a world where global communication is now much more free than it was eight years ago. And who knows what communication will be like eight years from now when the games take place in either Tokyo, Istanbul or Madrid — the actual decision comes next year.
But this year, NBC was in a mighty struggle between an old television format in which the network structured the dissemination of events to suit its business model and a world where it is no longer the gate keeper of that information, and people get ticked off when it tries to act like one. As #nbcfail became a huge topic on Twitter, in large part because the network was waiting until prime time to show marquee events that were taking place in the middle of the American work day, experts rightly noted that the network has paid millions of dollars for rights to the games, millions more to execute the broadcasts and needed to maximize its revenue potential by showing them during prime time, when the advertising rates are highest. And the games did get great ratings.
But that argument is wearing thin with viewers and won’t hold up as technology continues to evolve, particularly as computers and TVs become more integrated. NBC has already sunk $4 billion into the next four Olympic contests — 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia; Rio in 2016, the 2018 winter games in Pyeongchang, South Korea and 2020 summer games — and if they don’t want a repeat of the public relations disaster 2012 has been, The Peacock needs to be exploring now how to build a new model that will satisfy its bottom line and a wired nation.
Of course, that’s not the only way NBC spiked blood pressures across the country the past two weeks. There was the edited opening ceremonies broadcast that dumped a tribute to the victims of the 2007 London terror attack. Then, Sunday night, NBC decided to hold off on showing The Who and other marquee acts in the closing ceremonies until after midnight, and after making viewers sit through the network’s new animal hospital show that I think was supposed to be a comedy.
The move put an exclamation point on how frustrating NBC’s overall coverage was.
Broadcasting a new show networks want to get in front of viewers after a major sporting event has become routine since NBC successfully aired the pilot of The A-Team after the 1983 Super Bowl. But I cannot remember someone interrupting the actual event to show the new show — No, “and we’ll bring you the fourth quarter right after our new reality show.” Yes, NBC has been pumping its very bland-looking fall lineup the past two weeks, but this was over the top.
NBC also still struggles with the balance between sports and features. Several Olympics ago, it was getting slagged for its addiction to weepy profiles of athletes. For the most part, this year, the athlete profiles were much more concise and constrained and did help spike my interest in some contests. But this was the Olympics of out of control extraneous features such as Mary Carillo’s diversions with James Bond and Stonehenge and Saturday night’s hour-long Tom Brokaw piece about England during World War II. I love history, James Bond, and Stonehenge has always been weirdly fascinating. But come on. It’s a sports event. We have travel, history and entertainment channels.
For years, NBC and other Olympic broadcasters have been able to coast along to an extent because when it came to the Olympics in the United States, they were the only game in town. Not anymore, and if the network ignores criticism of the 2012 effort, it will find diminishing returns on its investment.
Sunday night, I was about to turn in around 11 p.m. when I decided to stay up a few more minutes to see what Gabby Douglas was all about. She was on the cover of Time magazine and had been one of the main names that bubbled up in chatter about the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
So, I watched her performance which was good, but included a noteworthy stumble. But soon, I was immersed in the drama of Jordyn Wieber and Alexandra Raisman, U.S. teammates and friends locked in a competition for the final U.S. spot in Tuesday night’s all around finals with Douglas. Wieber, a reigning world champion, also had a noteworthy stumble in her floor routine and Raisman was fairly flawless in her performance, which propelled her into the final.
Raisman giving her victory interview to NBC while Wieber stood behind her, inconsolable, was one of the more excruciating images I have seen on TV recently, and it also exemplified why the Olympics draw us in and interest us in sports we normally do not collectively pay attention to. It is the work of a lifetime coming down to a few seconds or steps. Even if we don’t understand the intricacies of gymnastic competition or other sports highlighted in the Olympics, we get that concept of a life’s work coming down to make-or-break moments. And for many of these athletes, this is it. Except for, say, a few sports like tennis and basketball, they don’t have the outlet of a professional championship to affirm their work. This will be the answer to “was it all worth it?”
Then there is the fascination of seeing some events we normally don’t catch in our steady sports diet of football, baseball, basketball and NASCAR.
Sunday afternoon, I found myself involved in the water polo match between the USA and Montenegro. The hour or so I devoted to watching that match was more than I ever paid attention to water polo in my life, save for times we attempted to play it in high school and college — games which usually were more about not drowning than scoring points, making it all the more fascinating to see people who could play water polo competently.
The Olympics get us and a lot of people to do things they would not normally do. Do you think Queen Elizabeth II would have appeared in a James Bond short that had her supposedly diving out of a helicopter if it wasn’t for the Olympics?
Even away from the games there is the whole #NBCfail drama boiling over on Twitter and other forums about NBCs coverage of the games. Once again, the Peacock is being plucked for showing events on tape-delay, an argument now amplified by the relative ease of getting results and even live video on the Internet, and some notable gaffes like omitting the tribute to victims of London’s 7/7 terror attack in its broadcast of the opening ceremonies.
True, NBC might need to think about how to handle these gaping time differences before the 2014 winter games in Russia (Rio 2016, fortunately, is only an hour ahead of Eastern time), though I also have to wonder who all these people are that would be available to watch major events midday, when most of us are working.
The Olympics sort of exist as an anomaly in this world that seems to collectively favor the familiar. But they succeed because even more than that, we love drama.
Owensboro native Kevin Olusola and his bandmates in Pentatonix stood waiting for the final results of the NBC reality-competition series The Sing Off.
“We heard ‘Pen’ and then a lot of screaming,” Olusola said of the Monday night finale. “Then everyone started hugging us and telling us we won.”
The vocal group won $200,000 and a recording contract with Sony.
For Olusola, it is the culmination of a career path that included a stop at the Governor’s School for the Arts at Transylvania University in 2004 and critical encouragement from classical music superstar Yo-Yo Ma and hip-hop mogul KRS-ONE.
Growing up in Owensboro, Olusola started playing piano very young, picked up the cello at age 6 and started playing the saxophone at 10. Along the way, he started beatboxing and became a Youtube sensation after posting a beatboxing-cello performance — celloboxing, he calls it.
Olusola in part credits the Governor’s School with putting him on the diverse path.
“It showed me how interdisciplinary the arts can be and how they could broaden my horizons,” Olusola said.
He went to Yale with a medical career in mind. But placing second in a competition presented by Ma changed everything. With the encouragement from Ma, KRS-ONE and others, Olusola went into music and developed a busy schedule, including touring with Christian rockers Gungor.
This year, Sing Off producers contacted Olusola saying that the a capella group Pentatonix wanted to work with him on the show. He became a critical part of the act, creating a rhythmic basis for its sound.
Now, plans are to move to Los Angeles and get started on that record.
“Medicine was a reliable and safe career, so it was a big leap of faith for me and my parents when I decided to pursue music,” Olusola said. “So, it’s nice to have a recording contract.”
“When they were talking to me, they were surprised at how much I did know,” Judd says, referring to her and her family’s long-held interest in their genealogy. “A key element of the program is the surprise factor in revealing to the star information that they did not know. They were like, ‘OK, you’re going to be a challenge. How are we going to find family data that you don’t know yet?’
“Then they said, ‘What would you like to know?’ and I said, ‘Where does my passion for social justice come from?’ I have such an inexorable drive for positive reform, for equality, for justice. Is there a precedent in the family for these kinds of values and civic participation?
“And there is. There most certainly is. They found the big one.”
What the big one is you can find out on the show at 8 p.m. ET tonight (April 8, 2011) on NBC, but let’s just say it goes back 12 generations and crosses the Atlantic Ocean.
And that’s part of what makes this show cool.
Who Do You Think You Are? had not shown up on my radar before Ms. Judd’s episode because on the surface it felt like just another celebrity-based reality show.
But watching tonight’s episode it struck me that this is prime time network television where history and culture are being discussed in detail and in a pretty fascinating way, and the network is not PBS. Yes, the show has its gimmicks and somewhat manufactured drama. But it is also touching and enlightening, two things you really can’t say about most TV today, particularly reality TV.
For Kentuckians, with Judd’s episode, we see some familiar landscapes and places, including a visit to Frankfort.
“I loved going to the state archives,” Judd said in an interview Friday for a story that will be in Sunday’s Herald-Leader and on LexGo.com about her new memoir, All That is Bitter and Sweet. “They were wonderful people and I loved getting on that microfiche and looking at property records and … it’s enthralling.”
Mar12Filed under: Derby, Louisville, Music, Television, video; Tagged as: Bob Costas, Carson Daly, Conan O'Brien, David Arquette, David Letterman, Derby, Eli Roth, Jay Leno, Jay Leno Show, Last Call With Carson Daly, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Lee Daniels, Lucy Steel, NBC, parkour, Pluto, Silversun Pickups, T-Pain, the bird and the bee, The Jimmy Kimmel Show, The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien, Total Request Live, TRL
The most overlooked victim in NBC’s late-night imbroglio earlier this year was Carson Daly.
While people stewed over what would become of Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, Daly, the host of the 1:35 a.m. Last Call With Carson Daly, was getting thoughtless slams. David Letterman constantly acted as if he couldn’t remember Daly’s name, calling his show the Pluto of late-night TV, and NBC executives forgot to mention him among personalities they wanted to keep on the air.
In one scenario, Daly would have lost his show.
That would have been the scenario in which Leno, whose 10 p.m. Jay Leno Show was cancelled last month, would have taken over a half-hour show before The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien and Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. As night owls now know, O’Brien decided not to take the deal, Leno now hosts Tonight - again – and Fallon and Daly are right where they were.
Daly took the weeks of uncertainty in good humor, even mocking his plight on The Jimmy Kimmel Show on rival ABC and posing for new Last Call promotional photos with a pair of defibrillation paddles on his chest.
Most important, he came back with the most inventive and interesting late-night show on TV.
So, NBC, here’s what you bought: Since all this “Tonight Show” hoo-ha started, Conan O’Brien’s ratings on the flagship late-night show have soared, while “The Jay Leno Show” has been, eh, OK. In fact, the last few nights, Conan at 11:35 was doubling Jay’s audience at 10.
Granted, there are famous qualifiers, like Conan’s show ended last night, so it was the final Conan fix for at least seven months while Jay will be coming back. And Jay does have prime-time competition at 10.
Here’s an evener plane: Conan has just been a whole lot funnier in his shows since it became obvious the nimrods at NBC were going to choose Jay over Conan on “The Tonight Show. The most noteworthy thing that has happened on “The Jay Leno Show” the last couple of weeks was that Jimmy Kimmel, ABC’s late-night guy, came on and humiliated the host. Night-to-night, Leno has just seemed grumpy.
Watching Conan’s final nights, with jokes like buying Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and putting him in a mink Snuggie on NBC’s dime, it’s become sort of amazing that he’s the guy NBC is paying to leave while Leno is the one they felt they couldn’t let go. That’s management at NBC for you.
It could very well happen that Leno retakes The “Tonight Show” in March and by the time O’Brien is back on the air in September, assuming that is what happens, Leno is back to being the ratings champ late night. He was the undisputed champ in the ratings when he left “Tonight,” so right now most arguments that he won’t retake the throne are purely emotional.
But no one can say O’Brien didn’t go out like a champ.
Above: After lampooning Jay Leno on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Tuesday night, Leno had Kimmel on his “10@10″ segment Thursday and it got … uh … tense.
As late night comedians including David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien have focused some of their attacks about “The Tonight Show” controversy on Jay Leno, some observers have understandably asked if the former and presumably future “Tonight Show” host is really a bad guy here.
O’Brien, who appears to be on his way out as the show’s host, made one of the most stinging statements Wednesday night when he said, in his monologue, “I want to say to the kids out there watching: You can do anything you want in life, unless Jay Leno wants to do it too.”
But wait, some say, this isn’t Jay’s fault. This is mismanagement by NBC, particularly by former NBC entertainment director and now NBC-Universal CEO Jeff Zucker. And yes, there is broad agreement that Zucker horribly mismanaged this situation, as well as many other things at NBC, and find it astonishing he is still employed by the network. Leno, one could argue, is as much a victim as O’Brien because he was put out of a job when he was No. 1 and placed in a precarious situation hosting a chat show where none had been programmed before. Meanwhile, “The Tonight Show’s” ratings have taken a dive since O’Brien took over. So, it really just makes business sense to return Leno to his old show where he presumably will return it to dominance.
After this, you get into a whole lot of other debatable questions like, how responsible were “The Jay Leno Show’s” bad ratings for O’Brien’s bad ratings, don’t these shows take time to click with viewers as both Leno’s “Tonight Show” and O’Brien’s “Late Night” did when they took over those franchises, and would Leno regain his old audience now, because he is viewed by many as a bad guy?
For some perspective, it’s interesting to go back to 2004 and recall what actually happened when the succession plan for “The Tonight Show” was put into place.
The New York Times’ Bill Carter is the authority on late night TV, and his story about the original deal is essential reading.
In a nutshell, Zucker was worried back then that O’Brien was talking to other networks because after more than a decade on 12:35 a.m. “Late Night,” he wanted an 11:35 p.m. show. So, not wanting to compete with O’Brien on another network, Zucker signed a new “Late Night” contact with O’Brien that promised him he would become the host of “The Tonight Show” in 2009, and he would have that chair for at least two years.
And Leno signed off on it. Carter wrote:
NBC executives said yesterday that Mr. Leno was instrumental in making the new arrangement, having agreed when he signed his latest deal in March, that he would be willing to step aside for Mr. O’Brien in 2009. He will be 59 at that point, while Mr. O’Brien will be 46.
In a statement, Mr. Leno said: “When I signed my new contract, I felt that the timing was right to plan for my successor, and there is no one more qualified than Conan. Plus, I promised my wife, Mavis, I would take her out for dinner before I turned 60.”
Of course, since then, Leno has remained at No. 1. NBC, again fearful of competing against its own talent, decided to “revolutionize” prime time by giving Leno a 10 p.m. talk show, and it did not work.
Despite contracts, and having made so many bone-headed decisions, you can understand why NBC just wants to hit a reset button and return 11:35 to the way it was.
But Jay Leno has a lot of power here, and considering his actions in 2004, the honorable thing for him to do would be to step aside. He agreed to a succession plan. The new plan for his career did not work, so it was canceled. Yes, entertainment is a rough, grownup business, and no matter what you were promised ratings and revenue are what really matter.
But grownups also make agreements, and they stick to them. It is time for Leno to stick to the promise he made in 2004.
When NBC announced early last year that it would retain Jay Leno for a primetime show after he left “The Tonight Show,” his successor, Conan O’Brien, did the only thing he could: congratulate his predecessor on his new deal.
But O’Brien had to sense trouble, and now he’s got it.
When Leno got “The Tonight Show” desk after Johnny Carson’s retirement in 1992, he had bigger shoes to fill than O’Brien, but he didn’t have the prospect of Carson still hanging around. Leno, on the other hand, was signed by NBC to start a 10 p.m. talk show that was supposed to revolutionize prime time network broadcasting.
In fact, its low ratings were driving the late evening newscasts of NBC affiliates around the country into a ditch. (Here in Lexington, NBC afflilate WLEX says it has not seen a “Leno effect,” but other NBC stations have seen audiences and, subsequently, revenue dive.)
So Sunday, NBC announced what was probably some form of O’Brien’s greatest fear: “The Jay Leno Show,” the 10 p.m. talker, has been canceled and Leno will get a half-hour show at 11:35, his old timeslot. Under this plan, O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” would start five-minutes into the next morning.
In an normal situation, the 10 p.m. show would be cancelled, Leno would have simply moved on to his next opportunity, and O’Brien would have the sort of time Leno had to make “The Tonight Show” his own.
But this situation is far from normal. NBC is running scared, trying to keep all the talent it has under contract while demonstrating it doesn’t have a clue what to do with it. And in the process, the Peacock network could be destroying one of the most enduring franchises in television, “The Tonight Show.”
Almost half-way through the first episode of The Jay Leno Show, Jerry Seinfeld sat down and cracked a joke about how in the 1990s, when Seinfeld went off the air, people actually retired. But now, in the Brett Favre ’00s, people retire, take a three-day weekend and come back.
It didn’t feel quite like a compliment.
After all, though Favre had a good first game as a Minnesota Viking yesterday, he hasn’t exactly come out of retirement and won Super Bowls.
And really, the initial episode of The Jay Leno Show felt more like the product of a three-day weekend than a three-month break. At half time of Sunday Night Football, Leno joked that NBC was throwing a big Hail Mary pass with his new prime time comedy/variety/talk show that will run at 10 p.m. five-nights a week.
Even if it fails to achieve, Law & Order- or ER-like ratings, the Leno show reportedly could be a success because a whole week of the show costs less than an hour of a scripted drama.
But the debut episode felt like a pass that went through the receiver’s hands and fell to the ground. And despite all the chatter about this being different from The Tonight Show, Leno’s gig until May, the only things that seemed to differentiate The Jay Leno Show were changing the order of some Tonight Show staples and taking away Leno’s desk.
The show opened with a title sequence that looked like something out of the first few years of Saturday Night Live. Then Leno emerged on a set that looked smaller than his old Tonight Show digs — or Conan O’Brien’s new Tonight Show digs, for that matter — though it is reportedly a bigger studio.
Leno came out and delivered a mildly amusing, topical monologue which led into two taped bits. In the big spotlight piece, Hangover actor Dan Finnerty sang to a car wash customer who seemed as uncomfortable experiencing this as it was to watch it.
Seinfeld finally sparked the show to life, including a short Oprah Winfrey interview in which he asked all the questions before a faux flummoxed Leno.
The most compelling moment of the show wasn’t humor, but actually Kanye West coming out to discuss his classless hijacking of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech on Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards. Leno clearly hit a nerve with West by asking what his late mother would have thought of his behavior. Then West joined Jay-Z and Rhianna for a solid performance of Run This Town.
But Leno’s first show was far from solid — a routine Tonight Show at best. Of course, Leno’s Tonight Show is proof you can’t count the man with the anvil chin out early. He struggled early, only to dominate his time slot for most of his 17-year late night run.
But there, he was facing news and other talk shows. At 10, he’ll contend with scripted dramas and other standard network fare. And it’s first night out, The Jay Leno Show was a not ready for prime time player.
Note: 35-minutes later, on The Tonight Show, O’Brien welcomed viewers to NBC’s “night of a thousand monologues,” and proceeded to deliver a much funnier one than Leno’s, covering many of the same topics.
Some other views:
- Newark Star-Ledger’s Alan Sepinwall.
- Atlanta Constitution’s Rodney Ho.
- Ed Bark of Uncle Barky’s Bytes.
- Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times.
- Time Magazine’s James Poniewozik. (Interesting here that several commenters seem to be people who never stayed awake for the musical guests on The Tonight Show.)
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich