Archive for CBS

The Unit Cancelled – Bad CBS

I wrote this for film.com. You can also go to that site to comment:

CBS won’t be re-upping with The Unit.

Was it a chain reaction after NBC opted out of Medium and CBS decided snag the psychic crime series, or was the military drama always doomed? We suspect the latter.

The Unit has been teetering on cancellations almost from the time it jumped out of the starting gate in March 2006. The Unit posted a respectable audience of 15 million before dropping each season to little more than 9 million viewers.

But despite some tawdry affairs depicted in the series, it’s never been a particularly sexy show for CBS. And CBS wants to have some flash, and to keep far away from its former image as the network drawing the most viewers over the age of 50.

The intense fan base has tried to keep the show on the air, but unlike the Chuck Subway campaign, where fans sparked the sandwich chain to actually sponsor the show, there were no big sponsors willing to go to bat for The Unit.

At a little under $3 million an episode, it’s one of the cheaper series to produce. But the networks are still trying to get the costs down on every show they pick up. The preferred method has been pay cuts or freezes. And that was something star Dennis Haysbert, who plays Jonas Blane on the series, wasn’t willing to do, according to an interview with him in the LA Times.

“There are a number of factors that go into whether I want it back or not,” Haysbert told the paper concerning both his salary and the creative direction of the show. “It’s been a great ride and, if I don’t work with these people again, I’ll certainly play golf with them.”

So in the words of Blane, “You, you and you…panic. The rest of you, come with me.” And we’ll give you five reasons why The Unit should have stayed on the air.

5. There are few scripted shows that parade a banner of nobility and love of country like The Unit. While it doesn’t shrink from controversy, it tells a story that isn’t being explored in a TV landscape that loves dark heroes. House may save your life, but you don’t want to invite him to the neighborhood barbecue. These are good ol’ boys serving their country, and darn proud to do it.

4. Ratings for the show weren’t horrible, but while the ratings were higher than other CBS shows that were picked up, the audience skewed towards older viewers. The median age was around 55, which might just as well spelled dead zone to advertisers. But we contend that this is exactly the group that probably has money to spend right now, and isn’t squirreling away every last cent for fear of getting booted from their jobs.

3. CBS has become the home of the procedurals. We’ve got ghost whispers – and soon another talkin’-to-dead-people crime fighter. We’ve got crime scene investigations in three different cities, and even a military crime team. And, as is the case with all the networks, you can’t swing a stethoscope without hitting a doctor show. Two of the new CBS series are doctor shows. But what is in short supply around the eye-land is a straight drama like The Unit.

2. Before Barak Obama, there was President David Palmer, the honorable man who served as our nation’s president. OK, it was just on 24, but Palmer set a tone. So when the actor, Dennis Haysbert, was recruited to head up the team at The Unit, you knew this was a man to be reckoned with. We could use a few more good men like Jonas on TV.

1. The Unit was written and produced by
Shawn Ryan
(The Shield) and created and written by respected Tony and Oscar-nominee David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed-the-Plow, American Buffalo). Mamet’s got a distinctive dialogue style. So when you want to brush this off as just a conservative bent military show, save the dismissive attitude and remember that two of the best dramatic writers around, Ryan and Mamet, helmed The Unit. They served proudly. They never talked down to their audience, and while leaving the door open just in case of a last minute stay of execution, they gave a satisfying season ender to their fans.

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Survivor: Gabon – Jeff Probst talks, and we list

Back when Survivor spent its third season in Africa, host Jeff Probst said it was more like spending time in a zoo than being out in the wilderness.

“It’s a preserve and the animals are used to having people around all the time, so it wasn’t that big of a deal to them,” Probst says after his recent return from filming the latest version of Survivor in Gabon. “In Gabon, they told us in advance that this would be completely different. These animals were not used to seeing any body around and if you see an elephant, it’s a big deal because you just don’t know how they are going to react.”

Probst says that during one Survivor:Gabon interview, a giant elephant came within 50 yards of the film crew.

“It was thrilling and scary at the same time,” Probst says. “This elephant will stomp on you. There were moments in the filming when survivors interacted with the animals and it felt like being in a Spielberg movie.”

At one point, a 12-foot python slithered into the camp, and someone had the bright idea of using it as a prop for a promo shot with Probst. The crew tried to reassure Probst they could stop the snake from squeezing him to death if it tried. Heck, the worst thing would be Probst might get a nasty, but not fatal, bite.

“They put the snake around my neck and I was holding the head while it was moving and I kept reminding myself that this was not a quote trained L.A. snake, unquote, but one that just crawled out of the jungle,” Probst says. “I held him for about five minutes while I had flashbacks to another promo about three years ago doing the snake thing with (so-called) trained snake. It bit the trainer, a full on clamp on the wrist. (On our shoot) we got some great still shots of me with the snake, but I wasn’t going to tempt things for too long.”

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CBS website has this snake, but not the picture with snake and Jeff Probst for “SURVIVOR: GABON – EARTH’S LAST EDEN,” which begins its 17th installment at 8 p.m. Sept. 25 on CBS. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc.

Last time Survivor” went to Africa, they called it the most boring cycle every.
OK, maybe that was just me. But with the dry plains instead of those subtropical and beach shots, the series had all the tension of watching paint dry. What more can you say about a series that includes rolling boulders as a challenge? And the contestants? Sleeping pills on steroids.

When the high points include some Virginia farmer named Big Tom Buchanan dong the chicken dance to “chicken in a bread basket picking out dough” or some blah, blah, blah, blah do-si-do stuff, you know you’re in trouble.

Did you miss those golden moments? We’re here to share a few more with you:
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Survivor: Gabon – Here’s the cast

Jeff Probst calls this return to Africa one of the wildest adventures of his life.

“This isn’t like the last African Survivor,” Jeff said in an interview after he returned from shooting the series last month. “These aren’t wild animals who are used to seeing people around. This is really out where it’s dangerous.”

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Jeff Probst, host of SURVIVOR: GABON – EARTH’S LAST EDEN, is pictured on the new tribal council set for the seventeenth installment of the Emmy Award-winning reality series, which premieres Thursday, Sept. 25 (8:00 – 9:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Photo: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS

Today, CBS released the cast of “Survivor: Gabon” as well as this Survivor clip.

The 18 castaways will compete on “Survivor: Gabon – Earth’s Last Eden” in a two-hour premiere at 8 p.m. Sept. 25 on CBS.

“In a strange coincidence to Earth’s Last Eden – good vs. evil emerges as a major theme this season. I think the audience will quickly identify with one group or the other,” host Jeff Probst teases in the press release. Will the group of deceitful castaways outlast those individuals who play from their heart or will the forces of evil prevail? Will temptations interfere with logical decision-making? More importantly, which side will come out on top?

This season, for the first time, the show will be shot in HD.

“Shooting in HD is like adding another character to the show,” Probst says in the press release. “The detail is so sharp you can’t help but feel as though you are experiencing the adventure yourself.”

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(Back Row-Standing) Michelle Chase, Charlie Herschel, Paloma Soto-Castillo, Corinne Kaplan, Crystal Cox, Dan Kay, Jessica Kiper, Ace Gordon, Jacquie Berg, Kelly Czarnecki, Marcus Lehman, Matty Whitmore and Bob Crowley, (Front Row-Kneeling) Gillian Larson, Susie Smith, Ken Hoang, Randy Baily and Danny Brown are the 18 castaways set to compete in SURVIVOR: GABON – EARTH’S LAST EDEN when the seventeenth installment of the Emmy Award-winning reality series premieres Thursday, Sept. 25 (8:00 – 9:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Castaways competing on SURVIVOR: GABON – EARTH’S LAST EDEN (in alphabetical order) are:

RANDY BAILEY

49

Eagle Rock, Mo.

Wedding Videographer

JACQUE BERG

25

Santa Barbara, Calif.

Medical Sales

DANNY “GC” BROWN

26

Portland, Ore.

Maintenance Man

MICHELLE CHASE

24

Los Angeles

Music Production Assistant

CRYSTAL COX

29

Durham, N.C.

Former Olympic Gold Medalist

ROBERT “Bob” CROWLEY

58

Portland, Maine

Physics Teacher

KELLY CZARNECKI

22

Buffalo Grove, Ill.

Retail Sales

ACE GORDON

27

Naples, Fla.

Jewelry Sales

CHARLIE HERSCHEL

29

New York

Lawyer

KEN HOANG

22

Westminster, Calif.

Professional Gamer

CORRINE KAPLAN

29

Los Angeles

Pharmaceutical Sales

DAN KAY

32

Boston

Lawyer

JESSICA “Sugar” KIPER

29

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Pin-up Model

GILLIAN LARSON

61

Temecula, Calif.

Retired Nurse

MARCUS LEHMAN

28

Atlanta

Doctor

SUSIE SMITH

47

Charles City, Iowa

Hairdresser

CBS Television…4

PALOMA SOTO-CASTILLO

24

Downey, Calif.

Student

MATTY WHITMORE

29

Pacific Palisades, Calif.

Personal Trainer

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“The Unit” back on CBS, “Shark” “Moonlight” gone

It’s true. As producer Shawn Ryan predicted, CBS took it’s own sweet time deciding on picking up the show, but “The Unit” will be back on board at 10 p.m. Sundays this fall.

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Max Martini, Dennis Haysbert, and Scott Foley star in “The Unit” on CBS. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2007 Broadcasting Inc.

Sadly, both “Shark” and “Moonlight” didn’t make the final cut.

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Vampire Mick had a brief time in the sun before CBS canceled “Moonlight.” Mick (Alex O’Loughlin) enjoys what time he has left as a human with Beth (Sophia Myles), on “Moonlight” at 9 p.m. Friday April 25 on CBS. Photo: Adam Taylor/CBS

Forgive me, but a flare-up of the herniated disk in my neck means I’m poaching liberally from the CBS press release. So here goes:

CBS announced today its 2008-2009 Fall Primetime Lineup, featuring five new series — two comedies and three dramas — and the launch of a new comedy block on Wednesdays.

The new series include:

ELEVENTH HOUR, a dramatic thriller from producer Jerry Bruckheimer about a special advisor to the government who investigates scientific crises and oddities.

THE MENTALIST, starring Simon Baker as a former celebrity psychic-turned- detective who uses his gifted skills of observation and expertise at “reading” people to solve crimes

THE EX LIST, a sexy comedic drama about a 30-something woman who searches her past relationships to find her future husband

PROJECT GARY, a comedy starring Jay Mohr and Paula Marshall as dueling ex-spouses and parents trying to move forward with new relationships

WORST WEEK a comedy based on a British series about a good guy who is always trying to do the right thing, yet something always goes wrong — especially when he’s around his girlfriend’s parents.

The freshman series will join 18 returning programs on the current CBS lineup.

CBS will return network television’s Number One drama franchise — CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION; CSI: MIAMI, CSI: NY — the Number One comedy, TWO AND A HALF MEN; the Number One news magazine, 60 MINUTES; and two franchise reality series —SURVIVOR and the five-time Emmy Award-winning THE AMAZING RACE.

Also returning are: THE BIG BANG THEORY, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, NCIS, WITHOUT A TRACE, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE, CRIMINAL MINDS, GHOST WHISPERER, NUMB3RS, COLD CASE, THE UNIT, 48 HOURS MYSTERY and CRIMETIME SATURDAY.
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Robin Sparkles is back on “How I Met Your Mother”

Last week I had to call a CBS publicist about another show and discovered she was hanging out at the beach – with the cast of “How I Met Your Mother” taping a music video featuring Robin Sparkles.

Check out legen-wait-for-it-dary IGN TV writer Eric Goldman for a great article on the taping.

Looks like we have something fun in store on Monday when Robin Sparkles returns. And her old boyfriend is played by Mr. Dawson’s Creek himself, James van der Beek.

If you don’t who Robin Sparkles is, she’s Robin’s (Cobie Smulders) alter ego from her Debbie Gibson youth, when Robin had a brief career as a poppy Canadian mall singer. Here’s the original video:

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Save “The Unit”

CBS is staying oddly silent about the future of “The Unit.”

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Max Martini, Dennis Haysbert, and Scott Foley star in “The Unit” on CBS. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2007 Broadcasting Inc.

So of course we expect the worst. There are no more episodes scheduled to air this spring, and no word yet on if this solid series will be picked up next season. So rather than sit on our thumbs, it’s time to take some action.

Well, not us really, but Scott Miles, the person who started this online petition.

If you want to voice your discontent, here’s the contact info for CBS:

CBS Comment line 323-575-4913.
Audience Services: audsvcs@cbs.com
CBS TV City attn: Programming
7800 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036

To register your comments online, go here: http://www.cbs.com/info/user_services/fb_global_form.shtml

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CBS Jury Still Out on “The Unit”

As of Friday, when CBS announced “Jericho” had been canceled, there was still no word on whether “The Unit” would return.

That would make a lot of people very unhappy, based on the more than 50 comments from readers of my previous blog Unscripted. And it would make me angry as well. “The Unit” has performed admirably through its run, and gained many supporters.

Let’s hope sanity prevails and “The Unit” will be back this fall when the networks need a viewers.

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As they bring his body home, the team copes with Williams’s death, on “The Unit”. Pictured: Max Martini, Scott Foley, Dennis Haysbert, Robert Patrick. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS. ©2007 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Let’s just hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of “The Unit.”

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CBS Fall: Shark and The Unit are MIA

CBS announced today it will renew 11 series for the 2008-2009, but “The Unit” and “Shark” don’t seem to appear on this list.

The shows you will see in the fall are: “Cold Case,” “Criminal Minds,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “CSI: Miami,” “CSI: NY,” “Ghost Whisperer,” “NCIS,” “Numb3rs,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Without a Trace” and “The Big Bang Theory.”

Those series join previously announced ‘”Survivor” and “The Amazing Race”.

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Sonja comments on quitter Jonny Fairplay

Walnut Creek’s Sonja Christopher may be known as the first person to be ejected from “Survivor,” but at least she’s no quitter.

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Affable breast cancer survivor Sonja Christopher, a real “Survivor.”

The ukulele lady had this to say:

Here’s my theory about Johnny Foulplay:

He undoubtedly got a fee for appearing (on All-Stars it was $25,000).
What easier way could there be to earn a quick 25 grand for three days
work than to get on the show and then quit?! Of all the Survivors I
know, he is the most despicable in my book.

You are absolutely correct. He could have easily continued, but clearly his game plan from Day 1 was to go in, grab the easy money and bug out. What a loser.

Hopefully, “Survivor” producers have learned their lesson – and anyone else crazy enough to hire this clown. And if you’re out there, casting people, give Sonja another go.

Here’s a look at the first episode, which includes Sonja getting cut up on the island, and Dr. Sean fixing her up. She also does a funny twist on “Bye Bye Birdie” while playing her ukulele:

And Sonja sent this link to her appearance on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” She says she’s “a little more cleaned up” than in the Survivor video:

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Survivor: Micronesia: Jonny “Quitter” Fairplay

It was so game on from the beginning when our own favorite Survivor, Yau Man Chan from Martinez, literally took down Jonny Fairplay to snag the immunity idol.

Immunity Idols love Yau Man, the guy who came up with both idols last time he played. When Fairplay stupidly found the first idol, on the wrong boat, he turned to correct his mistake. But a flying tackle send Fairplay into the side of the boat while Yau Man came up with the prize.

You go, Man.

We didn’t see much of Emeryville’s Mary Sartain, a real estate/financial company owner.

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Although she did a Playboy-style pose for the publicity shots for “Survivor: Micronesia.”

Now, I have to be happy that Fairplay appears to be the guy everyone wants on their team. After all, who wouldn’t want to go up against him in the finals? I like having Fairplay in the running because he gives good game. OK, time to confess: I also have him in the department pool and I could really use some money.

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Jonny Fairplay, the rat-faced weasel who made me lose the “Survivor: Micronesia” pool.

Wait, that was what Fairplay said about having a stable relationship and a baby on the way. But my favorite quote from him was when everyone was vying for his participation in their various alliances:

“I find it insane that there are nine of your favorite survivors of all time and they all believe what I say,” Fairplay tells the camera. “Have you not watched the show before?”

The favorites proved that experience pays off when it comes to working together to make camp. They have a great shelter, know how to get food and fire. But what they lack is the knack for winning challenges.

In the immunity challenge, which consisted of putting together puzzle pieces to make the wheels on a cart, then taking the cart through an obstacle course and finally putting the wheel pieces back in another puzzle, was won by the fans.

For a brief, shining moment, I thought that my man Fairplay was going to be in the game. Then, he went insane. He started telling people he wanted to go home to his pregnant girlfriend, to spend time with her and his baby. He wanted to be a good dad more than he wanted to play the game.

Fairplay and his fiance, Michelle Deighton, who was an America’s Next Top Model finalist, became parents on Jan. 16 when daughter, Piper Addison was born. Seems like Piper would have liked to have a little cash in the piggy bank instead of a legacy of having a dad who was a quitter.

Fairplay didn’t quit to be a good dad. What he wanted was to change his image to become more commercial. What he wanted to do was bail while he still could be seen as a nice guy, and not the weasel everyone remembers from his previous “Survivor” appearance.

What he wanted was to screw me out of the “Survivor” pool. Good riddance, JP. Now I’ll stick with the locals, Mary on the Fav side and Yau Man, who deserves more than anyone to win this time around.

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My man Yau Man, with dirty skunk Fairplay slinking around the background in this shot from “Survivor: Micronesia.”

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