Some TV News Tidbits, Followed by the Theme From TRADING PLACES

Just some bits of news on a slow news day:

– There is much rejoicing because Comedy Central may be about to cancel The Jeff Dunham Show, which had their strongest-ever premiere but whose ratings fell fast after that. I would love to be contrarian and claim it was secretly good, but I can’t; it really was as horrible as everyone said. Granted, the level of cozy but mean-spirited hackiness (“Ahmed the Dead Terrorist” makes Death to America jokes!) isn’t that much different from the average episode of The Jay Leno Show, but that can’t really be considered a compliment. The odd thing about Comedy Central is that their most culturally-influential shows, the Daily Show family, have not really done a whole lot to elevate the level of the comedy on the network as a whole. Every time Comedy Central unveils a current-events show that is not from Jon Stewart’s stable, it’s so shoddily-written that it seems like nothing has changed since the Craig K. days. Smart comedy is an outlier on that network.

The Tyra Banks Show is also ending, and… I don’t really know what to say about that. I’m so out of touch with these things that I was genuinely surprised to find out that Ricki Lake didn’t have a talk show any more.

– NPR’s Linda Holmes picks “10 Favourite Pop-Culture Humans of 2009.” Number 1 is a guy who used to be a fake doctor on TV. And I don’t mean George Clooney.

– U.S. TV revenues were down in 2009. “Local broadcast TV” was hit especially hard (because this wasn’t an election year). Where’s a “save local TV” campaign when you need one?

– Canadian shows don’t usually do the network-hopping thing, so the fate of Less Than Kind is encouraging. It premiered on CityTV, where it got pretty good reviews but not very good ratings. The network was presumably not interested in giving it another season, so instead it has been picked up for a second season by HBO Canada. Whether the show will do better on pay TV, we don’t know yet, but the principle is a good one: Canadian networks/companies actually acting like competitive networks with their own programming priorities. Picking up shows from other networks is done all the time in the States, sometimes with great success. (NBC had this show called JAG that they didn’t feel was right for them or their audience; they axed it, CBS picked it up and parlayed it into years of good ratings and even higher-rated spinoffs.) It’s part of what gives a network its identity and “brand,” that they can identify shows from other stables as being a good fit with their audience.

UPDATE: In comments, Denis McGrath clarifies that CityTV had already ordered a second season of Less Than Kind and then decided not to air it:

LESS THAN KIND had a 2nd season produced. So it’s more like the Canadian SOUTHLAND. They decided they didn’t want to run it after they paid to produce it…which unfortunately reflects less a case of competitiveness than the prevailing view of Canada’s private nets: that doing original shows are a “tax” — not something to really care about.

– For a musical filler clip, here is the overture to The Marriage of Figaro performed by one of the best period-instrument orchestras in Europe, the Concerto Köln, conducted by René Jacobs. Mozart’s 21st piano concerto has been nicknamed “Elvira Madigan” ever since it was featured in the movie of the same name; I’m amazed that no one has given this overture the subtitle “Trading Places.”

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.4307862&w=560&h=340&fv=%26rel%3D0%26border%3D0%26]

For those listening with headphones, note the advantage of the divided violins setup: Mozart has the first and second violins doing different things at several points, and at one point the second violins take the tune while the first violins have the accompaniment (sort of switching their usual places). That’s hard to hear when the violins are bunched together on the right.

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