Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Little of the Old In and Out


(image via jackmyers.com)

In: Dawn Ostroff. The new head of the combined UPN and WB Networks made a splash today. Ostroff was President of the buzzy UPN ("Veronica Mars," "Everybody hates Chris"). Her material-driven philosophy of providing edgy 18-34 demographic content is tailor suited for the new digital age where -- at long last -- content is king (and, of course, downloadable for $.99).

The move to partner and merge may be an offshoot of pressure brought about by the cantankerous Carl Icahn (Who may, according to Fortune, be planning to "merge some of Time Warner's businesses -- AOL, the TV networks, and the movie studio -- with ... IAC, the Internet company run by Barry Diller"). Curiously, while WB insiders were touting the success of "Beauty and the Geek" -- a marginal hit, Time Warner was saying to all within earshot that the network was failing to perform. According to the Hollywood Reporter:

"The timing of the deal is opportune for both sides, sources said, in part because CBS Corp.'s existing affiliation pact with News Corp.-owned top UPN affiliates, WWOR New York and KCOP Los Angeles, is set to expire in September, while Tribune has been in protracted negotiations with WB for a new long-term affiliation deal.

"The surprise news of the merger comes as the WB Network has faced pressure to perform and prove itself as a strategic asset at a time when its parent company Time Warner is under intense scrutiny on Wall Street and from maverick investor Carl Icahn. TW has struggled with the WB's financials since the network was launched in January 1995 because of its lack of TV station holdings, which are the primary revenue drivers for broadcast networks. Sources said WB Network chairman Garth Ancier and WB entertainment president David Janollari are expected to depart their posts following the completion of the deal."

Goodbye, David Janollari; Hello, Dawn Ostroff.



(image via bestshowticketslasvegas)

Out: American Idol. It was the best of weeks ... it was the worst of weeks for AI. The Corsair likes his "American Idol" as much as most Americans. But, man, they are getting pounded lately. And, that "Tan Girl" thing? Bringing out her mother with the dungaree skirt was a bit too cruel. Anyway, they were hammered last Sunday in the Old Gray Lady's Op-Ed entitled -- not unpolitically -- "Family Values on Fox":

"The news that 'American Idol' has started a new season with ratings even more enormous than last year's reminds us of an old query. In a nation with a disquieting surplus of moral arbiters, why isn't there a call to clean up television programs that specialize in humiliating the weak?

"People devote untold hours to worrying about the sexual orientation of cartoon characters, but nobody seems disturbed that more than 30 million American households watch a 'family' show that picks out hapless, and frequently helpless, contestants solely for famous and powerful judges to make fun of them on national television.

"'American Idol' is known, even among those who have never seen it, as a talent show in which a dozen or so young pop singers compete to win a recording contract and a national profile. But it begins every season with several weeks of early elimination rounds in which judges pick the handful of contestants who will make it to the finals from a preselected mixture of very talented and very terrible singers. The very terrible have reason to hope that, having come so far, they might actually be as good as they imagined in their dreams.

"Most of them are extremely young, na�ve and deluded. Many appear terribly vulnerable and some seem to border on mentally impaired."

(A considerable pause) From the tone of the editorial, now we know why The New York Times is referred to as the "Old Gray Lady." But ... they have a point. "Tan Girl's" tan had nothing to do with her singing -- and her mother, quite frankly, had nothing to do with anything except a lesson in abjectly humilating two generations on live tv. Further, GLAAD has issued a complaint about "Idol."

Gary Sussman asks on EW's Popwatch:

"I'm not sure what to make of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation's complaints about perceived homophobic comments by Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson on the first two episodes of the new American Idol season. On the one hand, GLAAD is not the only observer to bristle at remarks like ''Shave off the beard and wear a dress, because he'd be a great female impersonator' (Simon, regarding auditioner Charles Berry) or 'Are you a girl?' (Randy, to auditioner Zachary Travis); PopWatch's Mike Slezak winced as well in his first Idol TV Watch column last week. On the other hand, such insults may just be part of the larger efforts of the Idol team to make the audition episodes look like a freak show. (Not to excuse Simon's equal-opportunity cruelty, but his scorn for nearly everyone makes Idol feel inclusive, in a perverse way.) Besides, given the show's often disco-fied musical choices and all-around diva-licious behavior, how much more gay-friendly could the show be?"

To paraphrase Peter Parker's Uncle Ben: With great ratings comes great responsibility ..


(image via parentheticalnote)

In: John McCain's Crusade. Everything about Senator John McCain's life suggests epic scale. From his years in captivity and torture at the hands of the North Korean regime to his being caught up, unfairly, in the Keating scandal (The Democrats needed to make an essentially Democratic scandal look bi-partisan; McCain was in the wrong place at the wrong time; his involvement, at its worst, was minimal), to the mammoth Campaign Finance Reform wars --which took up the 90s -- to now, the most meaningful moment of his Senate career.

Our favorite Dickensian villain Robert Novak writes:

"The Republican and Democratic versions of lobbyist reform trotted out last week had very different styles. The austere Republican presentation professed desire for bipartisanship. The gaudy Democratic show equated the GOP with original sin. But each fell short of what is called for by the reformer most widely respected by the public, Sen. John McCain.

'"I'm very disappointed,' McCain told me, 'to see the Democrats trying to turn this issue into attacking Republicans.'' He was no less upset with open avowal by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and the House Republican establishment of earmarking funds that McCain considers the seedbed of lobbyist corruption. The Democrats, in their anti-Republican light show, ignored earmarks.

"A reform of a system that has grown ever more rotten must have two salient characteristics, in McCain's view. It must be bipartisan, and it must eviscerate, if not eliminate, earmarks. McCain exerts extraordinary influence for a politician without a formal leadership role or a government office, but the magnitude of his task is awesome. He must persuade Democrats to cooperate with Republicans when they now see an opportunity to crush the GOP, and he must wean his own party from its addiction to government pork.

"Rep. David Dreier, chairman of the House Rules Committee, discovered the difficulty of McCain's first task two weeks ago when Hastert assigned Dreier to come up with a lobbying reform package. Initially, he approached the ranking Democrat on the Rules Committee, Rep. Louise Slaughter, who, like many House Democrats, has grown acerbic as the party enters its 12th year in the minority. She responded to Dreier's appeal for bipartisanship with cold shoulder and hot tongue."

(Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment) Cold shoulder and hot tongue, indeed. (Averted Gaze) More vintage Novak here.


(image via vietnamnet)

Out: Paul Wolfowitz, President of the World Bank. While the reformist effects -- if any-- of the appointment of neoconservative John Bolton as our man at the United Nations are still being assessed, the bull-in-a-China-shop reforms of neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz to the World Bank are not going as ducky. According to the Financial Times (link via Drudgiepoo):

"... When Mr Wolfowitz was appointed, the Financial Times urged him to give the bank greater focus and to overhaul its management. He cannot achieve this in an organisation with 10,000 staff operating in more than 100 countries by relying on a handful of trusted aides from his own country. Unless he moves quickly to appoint a team representative of the shareholders that is credible to the staff, his presidency risks ending in paralysis and disappointment.

"...The term of a World Bank presidency is an all-too-brief five years and the early months are frequently marred by sniping from the career staff who are more permanent fixtures. Because the post is filled by the nominee of the US president, a new chief often knows little about the organisation and takes time to make a mark. Almost eight months after taking up the role, Paul Wolfowitz has yet to set a course for his presidency and staff disquiet is reaching deafening levels.

"The immediate cause of the turmoil at the World Bank is the appointment of an adviser to Mr Wolfowitz with close ties to the Republican party as the new director of the internal watchdog that investigates suspected fraud and staff misconduct. His choice has raised questions about the selection of someone so close to the president and whether this was the best person for such a sensitive post. But the ensuing strife has revealed widespread unhappiness among senior bank staff and executive directors over Mr Wolfowitz's management style and performance.

"Following his arrival, Mr Wolfowitz made clear his intention to streamline the bank's management structure. His predecessor had appointed five managing directors, four of whom had already left. There were more than 30 vice-presidents below managing director level, whose ranks he planned to thin out.

"The fifth managing director left late last year, as did the highly regarded general counsel. Only now is Mr Wolfowitz close to appointing new managing directors, who are unlikely to be in place until the summer - a year after his arrival. Meanwhile power has gravitated to his immediate circle - mainly Republican stalwarts, prompting agitation among the career staff."

The full article here.

No comments: