10 Questions

It's time again -- whoops, strike that, since it's never happened before -- for 10 questions, issues, opinions, etc. that hopefully will be thought-provoking. Here goes:

  • SEVERAL years ago, David Letterman suggested CBS could do more to promote his show, hinting that its lackluster efforts had contributed to Jay Leno winning their ratings battle. Now, he's 180-ed. "I think (Leno) has greater appeal for more people than I do," he tells Rolling Stone.

    Letterman also "expresses bewilderment" at NBC's move to jettison Leno in favor of Conan O'Brien on "The Tonight Show" next year, according to the New York Times.

  • O'Brien may struggle to continue to have that Leno "appeal." His comedy -- to use a term once thrown around at Comedy Central -- often seems to have sort of a "below 14th Street" bent. Still, when O'Brien's current show bumbled at first, he found a way to turn things around.

  • FOX Sports executives are no doubt overjoyed with the potential ratings bonanza that could come with the World Series. Best-case scenario: The Chicago Cubs make the Fall Classic -- then go for their first championship since 1908 versus the cross-town Chicago White Sox.



    But Fox will surely settle for the Cubs against anyone, particularly the large-market Red Sox or L.A. Angels. Fox also has the National League Championship Series, meaning possibly more highly-rated Cubs games.

  • THE Washington Post's Paul Farhi had a knee-slapping column in the wake of networks' coverage of Hurricane Gustav. Farhi suggests storm coverage is unnecessarily filled with a certain machismo. It's overdone with reporters "dressed in the standard uniform of the intrepid weather correspondent -- colorful-but-flimsy network-logo jacket and ball cap -- to dramatize the effects of the driving rain and hurricane-force winds," he writes.

    He asks why, instead of those histrionics, shots of the "pounding surf, wind-whipped palm trees and mangled power lines" aren't illustrative enough. "This makes weather reporting different than every other kind of breaking TV news story," he writes. "No one covers a house fire by rushing into the burning building, or reports on a war by doing stand-ups in the middle of a tank battle."

  • DAN Rather was famous for his hurricane reporting. And the Post column leaves one wondering how long -- even in the hair-raising conditions -- he spent deciding what to wear in his stand-ups holding on to telephone poles.

    Consider the hilariously narcissistic YouTube video that caught him unendingly going back and forth on whether to wear a trench coat or suit jacket (for a non-storm appearance). Eventually, he settles on the trench coast. But that's not the end of it, as he then begins a second interminable back-and-forth on whether to go with the collar up or down.

    A major concern of his: How the coat will look with the wind blowing.

  • IN A MONTH, it will be interesting how PBS' Gwen Ifill, a respected journalist, will handle any lingering (they may have gone away by then) issues regarding Sarah Palin and her teenage daughter's pregnancy. On Oct. 2, she'll moderate the debate between Palin, the GOP VP candidate, and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

    Questions about Ifill's approach come amid the backdrop of the Obama-Clinton debate on ABC last spring, when moderators Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos were sharply criticized. The pair spent more than 45 minutes on questions about "character issues" - many of which had already been debated ad nauseam -- before moving into policy. The Washington Post's Tom Shales called their performance "despicable."

    It's unlikely Biden will raise the touchy pregnancy issue, so Ifill's tack becomes even more intriguing.

  • DID the abysmal Gibson/Stephanopoulos performance cost ABC this fall? It's a question raised before, but still pertinent. Four debates are scheduled -- three between Obama and McCain, plus the VP face-off -- and ABC was the only major broadcast network without one of its anchors chosen as a moderator.

    More salt in the wound: PBS had two, Ifill and Jim Lehrer. Lehrer will moderate a presidential debate, along with NBC's Tom Brokaw and CBS's Bob Schieffer.

    ABC isn't the only one losing a prime spot to burnish its image. CBS's embattled Katie Couric might have benefited from an opportunity in the spotlight.

  • LAST season's writers' strike caused mass programming disruptions, so it may be more appropriate to ask this a year from now. But will there ever be another big-time broadcast hit?

    The current crop of shows themselves are arguably as good or better than ever. But attracting an audience is of course harder than ever.

    And with their new shows this fall, networks face that conundrum again.

    With the exception of "Heroes" in the 2006-07 season, there's been a shortage for some time of new series becoming consistent (even) top-20 performers.

    "Heroes" was off the air last spring due to the strike, so insight into its future should come with its ratings in a few weeks.

  • TRIBUNE'S deemphasizing its stations' affiliation with the struggling CW may actually help the network. Variety reported stations such as Tribune's Dallas outlet have removed the "CW" from their brands. So in Big D, "CW 33" is now "The 33" (hmm, that sounds a lot like "The WB").

    But the CW brand doesn't carry much cachet, while some of Tribune's stations have strong local brands, such as KTLA in Los Angeles and WGN in Chicago. Heavy marketing using those monikers might help bring in viewers -- if for no other reason, than via promotions in their newscasts.

  • NETWORKS that brush aside advertisers' complaints about too much clutter seem to be practicing what they preach -- at least as far as their own out-of-home promotions. It's hard to walk the streets of Manhattan without encountering a slew of them.

    Stop at one corner and TNT touts new drama "Raising the Bar" on a phone booth. Five paces away, there's a sign above a subway entrance for Bravo's "Top Design." Across the street, there's a digital billboard plugging CW's "Gossip Girl." A fly pattern away is a video screen with clips promoting CBS offerings from "The Early Show" to new comedy "Worst Week."

    And all the while, buses go by with sides backing Fox's "Fringe," ABC's "Pushing Daisies," and "Date My Ex," another Bravo series.

    More than any other, Bravo Media seems to have a bottomless budget for both its flagship and newly added Oxygen network -- at least for signs in the Big Apple.

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