Swept away

Ghastly as it may sound, you have to believe there was a Detroit TV station executive who yearned, if only for a fleeting moment, “Holy Rosa, if only we could get an exclusive on the Parks funeral.”

Then a local sponsor could have been recruited (most likely the ubiquitous Rock Financial) to present the historically long 11-hour coverage with “limited commercial interruptions,” sparing Detroit Channels 2, 4 and 7 hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost ad revenues. Then we might have been spared the 20-second vision of Freman signing autographs outside the church during the service. Best of all, one station could have reaped the humongous ratings spike from our farewell to a true legend and not fretted over pre-empting its regular programs in this most critical of TV times.

For this is November, the coldest month in television. It’s called a “sweeps period,” when networks and their local affiliates set advertising rates for the all-important holiday buying season based on the relative appeal of their lineups. Never mind that this exercise also takes place in February, May and July, or that networks now premiere new shows throughout the year. Old habits die hard with Nielsen and Madison Avenue, and the fall ratings sweeps from Nov. 2-30 are traditionally the most cutthroat and competitive time on the tube.

So what have you missed so far? Not much. A live “presidential debate” between Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits on The West Wing that was juicier and more informative than the real thing has ever dared to be (and, for my money, diminished by the presence of a goofy Ellen DeGeneres hawking American Express cards during the breaks). Incumbent West Wing president Martin Sheen joining his son Charlie on a roguish Two and a Half Men. A swingin’ 1960s flashback episode of Las Vegas. Special extended cases from the Law & Order and CSI families. A new George Carlin special on HBO (don’t worry, they’ll repeat it), Penn and Teller on NBC and, for those of you who can switch off your good taste knobs, the second-season premiere of Pamela Anderson’s Stacked on FOX.

Oh, and the end of the world witness Category 7: The End of the World, the two-night, four-hour CBS disaster sequel to last year’s Category 6 miniseries, which unites a gaggle of threadbare stars (Tom Skerritt? Swoosie Kurtz? Shannen Doherty?) to endure weather-related catastrophes that destroyed the planet. Let’s proclaim this Exhibit A for bad taste — and atrocious timing — in light of America’s still-fresh emotional wounds from the Hurricane Katrina devastation, shall we? I guarantee you Les Moonves, CBS’s slick programming chief, agonized for at least 20 seconds over whether to air this turkey before declaring, “With what we paid for this thing? Run that sucker at 9 p.m.!”

Maybe the Katrina survivors don’t have access to TV sets yet.

What do we have to look forward to the rest of the month? You decide:

The Poseidon Adventure, 8 p.m. Nov. 20, NBC: I think a dramatization of those Somali pirates who tried to hijack a cruise ship a few weeks ago would be far more dramatic. Instead, NBC elected to dredge up a “re-imagined” version of this 1972 disaster classic: a three-hour, made-in-Australia epic with new characters, the chic addition of terrorists and such familiar faces as Rutger Hauer, Steve Guttenberg and Peter Weller. Sorry: If it doesn’t have Ernie Borgnine and Red Buttons, not interested.

• Music, music, music: Kid Rock, U2 and Jerry Lee Lewis headline I Walk the Line: A Night for Johnny Cash at 8 p.m. tonight on CBS; The Dick Clark-manufactured American Music Awards, 8 p.m. Nov. 22, ABC, hosted by that musical superstar, Cedric the Entertainer; The Faith Hill Music Special, 9 p.m. Nov. 23, NBC; big-hat-no-Zellweger Kenny Chesney in the “concert/drama” Somewhere in the Sun, 8 p.m. Nov. 23, ABC.

• Movies, movies, movies: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, 8 p.m. Saturday, ABC; Anger Management, 8 p.m. Nov. 23, FOX; Daddy Day Care, 8 p.m. Nov. 24, FOX; Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones, 8 p.m. Nov. 25, FOX; Silver Bells, a heartwarming Hallmark Hall of Fame holiday TV-movie starring Tate Donovan as a widower, 9 p.m. Nov. 27, CBS; Felicity: An American Girl Adventure, 8 p.m. Nov. 29, The WB.

There will be the usual deluge of big-name guest stars on otherwise routine series (Bruce Willis squares off with Ashton Kutcher tonight on That ’70s Show, for you celeb-news geeks). If you live for Lost, we finally get to find out what Kate did on Nov. 30. The deathless Barbara Walters presents her 115th annual 10 Most Fascinating People list at 10 p.m. Nov. 29 on ABC, with Tom Cruise and Condoleezza Rice among the chosen.

However, the most significant November event for me is Ted Koppel’s last broadcast as host of ABC’s Nightline Nov. 22. His final guest is (are you ready for this)? Mitch Albom. What the hell kind of send-off is that?

Jim McFarlin is Metro Times’ boob-tuber. Send comments to [email protected].

About The Author

Jim McFarlin

Jim McFarlin, former media and entertainment critic for the Metro Times and The Detroit News, is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in People, USA Today, Black Enterprise, HOUR Detroit, and many other publications. His latest book, The Booster, about the decline and fall of U-M’s Fab Five, is...
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