Category Archives: Television

These posts will be about PR in the television industry.

Jennifer Lopez Breaks Down on Camera

Last night’s episode of “American Idol” definitely seemed a little more centered on the judges’ feelings than on the contestants’. In one of the first big emotional moments of the show’s tenth season, first-year judge Jennifer Lopez had to break it to fan-favorite contestant, Chris Medina, that he was no longer in the running to become the next American Idol. After breaking the news to Chris, Lopez broke down into tears while the other judges, Stephen Tyler and Randy Jackson, consoled her through this difficult time. The incident begins at the 3:27 mark on the video below:

Now, don’t get me wrong, I feel bad for Medina, and I definitely understand Lopez’s difficulty with having to reject so many people every week. I almost thought she was going to pull something like Sharon Osbourne tried to pull on “America’s Got Talent” nearly four years ago. Anyway, I’m sure the constant rejection-giving can get a bit exhausting and take a toll on the spirit, but I feel like the drama surrounding the judges has eclipsed the competition surrounding the contestants.

This is all a public relations strategy to get more people interested in the show. It’s kind of brilliant when you think about it, actually. Viewers think that they are turning their TV on to watch a singing competition, but what they mostly get is celebrity drama, and they don’t even realize it while it’s going on!

When this show started ten years ago, it was about the contestants. That’s what made the first season so good (and is probably why Kelly Clarkson is still the most successful “Idol” winner). But over the years, the show’s focus has shifted to the judges and their drama. There were rumors of fights between Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell, there were emotional moments that mainly focused on the judges, and it was all about what the judges had to say. The contestant’s slowly became background noise.

Sadly, I still think this is the case with the show. When Cowell announced his leave from the show, all the drama last summer centered around who the new judges were going to be, and now with this latest episode, Lopez is getting all of the news headlines rather than Medina. I think it’s all an effort for Fox to promote the show since this season has significantly lower ratings than previous seasons. I don’t think Lopez faked crying; obviously she was really upset. But I think Fox is exploiting her breakdown to increase ratings when it should be focusing on Medina’s emotions after being told he did not make it into the top 24.

Maybe I’m being too critical of Fox’s desire to exploit emotions all for the sake of good public relations. I mean, isn’t that all “American Idol” is really? It’s just a show about people being emotional and crying, which tugs at the heartstrings of America. Barf. Either way, I think the show needs to get back to what really matters on the show: the contestants. I’m hoping that once the final 12 are chosen, the show will focus more on them and less on what the judges are doing.

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Why is no one watching ‘Cougar Town?’

Image Credit: Buena Vista

I know, I know. Because it’s a show about cougars. Middle-aged women preying on young, 20-something aged men. But that’s where you’re wrong. Sure the show started out as a raunchy sitcom about a recently divorced mother who decided to try out the dating scene again, but after around episode eight of the first season, the writers realized that most people didn’t want to watch a show about a 40-year-old woman having sex with various 20-year-old men.

Granted, I found those first eight episodes to be quite funny, but I was in the minority. No longer is the show centered around Jules’ (Courteney Cox) love life, it is now an ensemble comedy centered around the relationships between the members of “The Cul-de-Sac Crew.”

The Cul-de-Sac Crew, from left: Ian Gomez, Christa Miller, Dan Byrd, Courteney Cox, Josh Hopkins, Brian Van Holt, and Busy Phillips; Image Credit: Buena Vista

Produced by Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel, the men behind “Scrubs,” “Cougar Town” found it’s groove about 2/5 of the way into the first season and since then has become one of the funniest ensemble comedies on TV, sometimes even funnier than (dare I say it?) its lead-in “Modern Family.”

Before you harp on me calling out “blasphemy!” I dare you to actually go back and start watching “Cougar Town” from the very beginning and catch up (you have 2 months since it is going on hiatus in order for ABC to test out its Matthew Perry sitcom “Mr. Sunshine”). I think most people would be amazed at how funny the show is (unless you didn’t like “Scrubs” humor, in which case “Cougar Town” might turn you off no matter what). Take this joke about Jules throwing her boyfriend’s words back into his face:

Funny, no? Or maybe it’s just me.

Enough of my praise for the show, let’s get down to why I think the show has dropped from 11.28 million viewers a week to 5.03 million viewers. All in all, it boils down to the name of the show, and the reception of those first few episodes. Today’s audiences are pretty quick to judge whether they like a show or not and “Cougar Town” just didn’t pass with them. As soon as a viewer rejects a show, it is almost impossible to bring it back into his or her good graces.

A name change for the show was even under discussion over the summer to get people to realize that it just wasn’t about cougars anymore (“Family Jules” was my personal favorite as an alternative title idea). One thing the writers have been doing that I find hilarious is inserting self-aware pre-title headers on the title card of each episode. Besides (Still) “Cougar Town” located at the top of this post, there has also been (Badly Titled) “Cougar Town,” (It’s Okay to Watch a Show Called) “Cougar Town,” and (Titles Are Hard)” Cougar Town.”

That being said, it is a pretty funny way and a nice wink to current viewers of the show, but it doesn’t really do much for people who started the show during season one and then gave up. The sad truth is, most of the show relies on in-jokes (just like “Scrubs” did) that new viewers just won’t understand.

Part of this blame, I feel, goes to ABC for not promoting the show very much. I watch all of my TV on Hulu so I can’t speak for the ads ABC does on its own network, but I don’t think I have even seen so much as an online ad for “Cougar Town” since season 2 started. Luckily, ABC renewed the show for a third season last month so any fan’s worries about cancellation after this two-month hiatus have been assuaged. I guess all of us will have to kill time for the next two months playing “Movie Mash-Up.”

You would think that lead-in “Modern Family,” America’s number one comedy, would be able to transfer some viewers over to visit “Cougar Town,” I honestly feel that most viewers that watch only the former show consider themselves above the “low-class” humor of the latter. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s the impression I get (I also happen to watch “Modern Family” and love it, so don’t think I’m elitist in my love for “Cougar Town”).

All in all, I think the show can be saved if ABC showed a little bit more faith on it. It is all about how the public perceives the show and how confident the network is in it. But the network isn’t doing anything to show viewers that it believes in “Cougar Town” as much as it does in its critical darling “Modern Family.” Even with  reviews for the second season of “Cougar Town” being almost all positive hasn’t helped the Nielsen Ratings. Most of these reviews cited the drastic improvement in quality of the show. Entertainment Weekly even named it the most underrated show on TV.

ABC should try to find an audience for this show. But who should the audience be? Honestly, I think it should stick with its original market of middle-aged women. I searched for “Cougar Town” on Facebook just to see what people are saying about it and most people who seem to like it are middle-aged women commenting on how much the show reminds them of their own lives (not the cougar lifestyle, since there is only one cougar in the show anymore and she shows up for a 10-second spot every other episode). Particularly meaningful to this audience are the moments when Jules shows her (somewhat insane) love for her son Travis, or jealousy over his new college  girlfriend. The show has a heart and ABC needs to market that instead of just the goofy scenes.

But as a 22-year-old college student who adores the show, maybe college students are also a viable target audience for the show? It is certainly quirky enough. ABC needs to do something to really push the show to a broader audience. Use Facebook and Twitter like all the other PR practitioners seem to be doing to get things noticed.

Hopefully this post might get some of you to try out “Cougar Town.” If it doesn’t, I suppose I’ll have to enjoy my weekly meetings with the wino group of the self-proclaimed Cul-de-Sac crew for as long as I can. I’ll still be opening a bottle of red wine every Wednesday night, because you just CAN’T watch “Cougar Town” without some red wine in your hand, can you? I even have my own “Big Joe” to drink out of. For those of you who watch “Cougar Town,” you know what I’m talking about, and if you don’t, you can just watch the video below.

I’m interested in all of your thoughts as well! Why do (or don’t) you watch “Cougar Town?” Can ANYTHING be done to get you to give it a(nother) try? Sound off below.

NBC loses peacock in merger with Comcast

Image Credit: NBC Universal

See that image above? You won’t be seeing it again on your local NBC station. But before I get to my thoughts on that, let’s discuss the events leading up to this drastic change.

About a week ago, the long-gestating merger between NBC/Universal and Comcast finally reached its close. While most news stories focus on the business aspect of the deal, I would like to discuss what this merger could mean for the shows on NBC, their ratings, and the possibility of changing NBC’s public image.

It’s no secret that NBC’s former president and CEO of NBC, Jeff Zucker, has had a career riddled with controversy. As stated in Deadline’s article, Jay Leno and Zucker’s own NBC show “30 Rock” crack a joke at his expense every chance they get.

Now that Zucker is out of the way, Comcast and Universal are hopeful that they will be able to bring NBC back to the “must-watch TV” that it claims (and used) to be.  Remember Thursday nights 10 years ago? NBC had shows like “Friends,” Will & Grace,” and “ER.” But times have changed.

I’m not saying that Thursday nights today are bad, per se. But NBC is not having much luck bringing in more viewers with its niche (but still hilarious) shows like “Parks and Recreation,” “Outsourced,” “Community,” and (a declining in quality) “30 Rock.”

Sure, all of these shows are (or were at some point, in the case of “30 Rock”) critically acclaimed, but NBC might want to consider a more broad, less quirky comedy. Now, I know that fans of these Thursday night shows will scream “No!” at my suggestion, but from a business and ratings standpoint, this makes sense. You can still make a broadly comedic sitcom very funny and good. It’s just hard to believe because we haven’t seen one in a while.

One other concern I have is the new logo that NBC has, shown here:

Image Credit: NBC Universal

Notice something missing? NBC’s iconic logo, the multi-colored peacock has been removed from the logo, cited as being “too busy” by NBC Universal’s chief executive Steve Burke. I can only assume that this is meant to distinguish the “new” NBC from Zucker’s NBC, but I’m just not sure this is a good idea. Remember the GAP logo fiasco?

That being said, I also think this logo change could be a genius move on their part. I predict that most viewers will be rather vocal about their dislike (or liking) of the new logo. This will (in my opinion) create enough uproar and publicity to put NBC back in the headlines and minds of the viewer. It may start off as negative, but you know what they say: “There is no such thing as bad publicity.”

I’m sure many of you will disagree with my thoughts on this merger and logo change, so feel free to voice your opinions below. USA Today had some interesting suggestions for NBC Universal as well, and I think that most of these suggestions could help the studio.