By Jaime Weinman, Aaron Wherry, and Kate Lunau - Saturday, December 8, 2012 - 0 Comments
More exits from Montreal’s political stage, the Pope tweets, and hockey fans finally catch a break
On the side of Angels
Ontario Judge Maureen Forestell may be the Hells Angels’ only friend on the bench. The Ontario judge ruled that a 2007 police raid had no right to seize their gold, diamonds, belt buckles and leather goods just because they had the Angels’ “death head” logo emblazoned on them. Forestell said the bling wasn’t directly related to any crime sprees or attempts to intimidate people. In fact, she added, the club has a rule requiring its members to remove their merchandise “when committing offences,” and she ordered the swag returned to the bikers.
Too random an act of kindness?
New York City cop Larry DePrimo became a seasonal hero last week when a photo of him giving a pair of boots and socks to a barefoot man on a frigid Manhattan night went viral. While the 25-year-old police ofﬁcer was instantly beloved—and earned an invite to the Today show—it took New York’s media a few days to track down the man with the new boots. When they did, the story grew a lot more complicated. Jeffrey Hillman isn’t homeless, as he appeared to be. The deeply troubled Army vet has an apartment paid for by a benefit for homeless veterans. It also turns out Hillman is still barefoot. He told reporters that although he appreciated the cop’s gesture, “I could lose my life” for wearing the $100 Skechers boots on the street. Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 10:59 AM - 0 Comments
The latest proof of that is the news that Jeff Zucker may be in line to run CNN.
Okay, let me play devil’s advocate here for a second: Zucker’s reputation for failure, while not undeserved, is also partly a product of the time and place when he happened to be running a network. Given a network that hadn’t developed a major hit in several years and was highly dependent on a few aging, expensive hits, and given a broadcast TV business that was clearly about to contract due to new media, he tried to speed up the transition to the business model that TV companies will all have to follow pretty soon: a collection of assets, spread across multiple platforms.
That said, the guy did take NBC from first place to fourth. And once he was relieved of that job by the new management, he was hired by former NBC star Katie Couric to produce her talk show. And now that that’s not really working out, he may get a job running a big cable news network. It’s hard not to wonder what you have to do to become box-office poison as a TV executive. Actors can become washed up; writers can become washed up; but the world of network executives is a small, clubby one, and once someone has established himself as a top executive, it’s hard for him to lose the confidence of the people who make these hiring decisions.
There is one point of similarity between CNN now and NBC during Zucker’s tenure. As the article notes, CNN isn’t actually a money-losing company at this point; it’s a successful, profitable company whose most visible asset – the North American cable network – is a disaster. This is a bit like NBC in the ’00s, which was doing very well in many respects, particularly its cable and news divisions, but was struggling badly in the department most people were familiar with (broadcast entertainment programming). Zucker tried to de-emphasize the broadcast network and put more emphasis on the NBC/Universal “family” of assets, and I would not be surprised to see him do something similar for CNN. In other words, maybe the main network can’t be fixed and the only thing left to do is to make people more aware of the parts of CNN that actually do work: the website and the international news operation. Perhaps that’s the logic behind bringing Zucker in.
The main suggestion for actually fixing the main network, if it’s fixable, has been to emphasize the thing the company has always been best at: international news. That is, turn CNN Domestic, which nobody likes, into something like CNN International, which people actually watch. The advantage of that, apart from the fact that it would get good reviews (the Will McAvoys of the world are always lighting into cable news for not doing enough stories about what happens overseas), is that it would instantly distinguish the network from Fox and MSNBC, networks that only care about international news when it might have some kind of domestic political impact (like Fox’s obsession with Benghazi). The disadvantage is that it’s not clear how many new viewers will watch a network for news that doesn’t – at least at first glance – seem to affect them directly. In some ways the call for CNN to do more international news is a bit like the call for MTV to play more music videos: it’s as much about nostalgia for the glory days of the network as anything else. Still, it might work better than what they’re doing now. Just about anything would have to.
By Jaime Weinman - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 11:40 AM - 8 Comments
Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien have become a proxy for two different viewpoints in a divided country
When Conan O’Brien hosted his final episode of The Tonight Show last Friday—“we have exactly one hour to steal every item in this studio,” he announced—it somehow seemed appropriate that he was losing the show to Jay Leno the same week the Democrats lost Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat to Republican Scott Brown: this latest late-night shakeup has inspired the kind of passion usually reserved for political movements. When NBC announced that it was giving the 11:35 p.m. time slot back to Leno (after angry affiliates forced the network to cancel his low-rated prime-time show), there was what veteran TV critic Diane Werts described to Maclean’s as “a frenzy.” NBC executive Jeff Zucker, who is often blamed for the decline of the network, told Charlie Rose that he received death threats over the move. Demonstrations were held across America to protest the reinstatement of Leno, including a rain-soaked rally outside the Tonight Show studio, where O’Brien and sidekick Andy Richter waved to the crowd like politicians departing office. When Leno got The Tonight Show in 1992 instead of David Letterman, it was just an entertaining showbiz story, but Leno and O’Brien have come to represent more than who gets to interview Tom Hanks. They may be a proxy for two different viewpoints in a divided country.
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 9:31 PM - 2 Comments
Jeff Zucker is a strangely fascinating figure. He’s like one of those baseball managers — Chuck Tanner, or someone like that — who takes a first-place team to the cellar, without damaging his reputation or his ability to get work. One of the running themes in the NBC saga is that Zucker has somehow managed to evade blame for taking a first-place network to last place, even though it’s directly attributable to his disastrous development record in the early ’00s, along with his lack of a strategy for dealing with the end of NBC’s 90s hits.
Other people, like Ben Silverman, get fired and publicly derided, while Zucker keeps getting promoted upward. And it’s happening again; he’s going to be the head of the new Comcastified NBC. You would think that new management would want to bring in some, you know, new management, but Zucker is apparently a fixture at this point; he’s going to stay there because, he’s always been there, so he must be doing something right. He’s living testimony to the rule that if someone hangs on to a high-profile position long enough, the world will begin to assume that he deserves it.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that he is doing something right. As Mark Harris pointed out in his recent piece on NBC, Zucker’s bad track record at the main network may be more than balanced out, from a corporate point of view, by the success of other branches of the NBC TV family. Maybe, in an age of consolidation, an executive can’t be judged primarily by the success or failure of only one network, and maybe NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox are not that much more important, in the big picture, than their corporate brethren. That’s a whole lot of “Maybe”s, though. For now, it just looks like Zucker is an example of a weird paradox in the world of TV executives: really successful TV executives don’t last long in their jobs, while unsuccessful ones can last forever if they’re good at pinning the blame on others.
(Link via Sarah Weinman)