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Should TV series creators worry about hashtags when titling their shows?

- July 15th, 2014

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Perhaps the new series How To Get Away With Murder should be retitled How To Get Away With A Long Name For A TV Show.

The panel session for How To Get Away With Murder at the Television Critics Association tour produced a lot of questions about the title, which doesn’t lend itself very well to hashtags on Twitter. Like, #HTGAWM? Not really catchy.

But series creator Shonda Rhimes didn’t want to hear about it.

“We don’t consider a hashtag when we’re writing a show,” said Rhimes with flat incredulity.

But you know, I’ll bet a lot of writers do. And maybe they should, in this day and age.

“The idea that we decide what Twitter is going to call something is a very weird notion to me,” observed Rhimes, whose new show is coming this fall to ABC and CTV. “Twitter makes its own decisions about that kind of thing.

“Twitter has a lovely community of people who decide stuff and then they hashtag stuff. It’s a very new notion now that networks are trying to push (hashtags and trends) on the community of Twitter. Twitter makes stuff up and that’s far more interesting.”

Over to you, Twitterverse.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

 

 

Three reasons soccer is scoring far more often on North American TV

- July 12th, 2014

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There is a channel in Canada called Bite TV, and yes, wouldn’t it be appropriate if Luis Suarez were given his own show?

Suarez, of course, is the Uruguayan soccer star who was booted out of the World Cup for biting an opponent. It was the third time in his career that Suarez has been suspended for gnawing on human flesh (on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO and HBO Canada, the host joked that if Suarez bites seven more people, he gets a free person with FIFA’s “frequent biter” card).

But with the 2014 World Cup final set to air Sunday, July 13 on CBC and ABC, here’s something else to gnaw upon: Soccer has kind of arrived as a major North American viewing spectacle.

No, not all soccer. But soccer at the highest level is capable of drawing big North American TV audiences now, and in my humble opinion, this fairly recent transformation has occurred for three main reasons:

1 High-definition TV.

No sport has benefited more from the high-definition revolution than soccer. The game lends itself to the shape of a high-def screen, much better than the old box-shaped screens. And since soccer players don’t wear helmets or caps or masks, you get to see their faces and expressions (and teeth), which is more important than you think when you’re trying to introduce a sport to someone who doesn’t know much about it.

2 Availability.

With the explosion of sports specialty channels and pay services, mostly through Rogers and Bell, the biggest and best soccer leagues in the world – the Premier League in Britain, La Liga in Spain, the Champions League, which gathers the best club teams from across Europe, etc. – are much more accessible now to North American TV audiences than they ever were before. For example, personally I am a fan of Manchester City in the Premier League, and over the past few seasons, I have been able to see virtually every one of Man City’s games from the comfort of my own home. That was unthinkable a decade ago, or even a half-dozen years ago. And the more you watch the best leagues, the more interest you’ll have in something such as the World Cup, which essentially is a big all-star tournament with players competing for their home countries.

3 No commercials.

This wouldn’t be the first thing you’d care about if you didn’t care about soccer at all. But if you do have even a marginal interest in soccer, or if you’re just catching onto it a little bit, you will begin to notice something remarkable. A soccer game starts. The first half goes for 45 minutes, plus injury time. There are no ads. No TV timeouts. There will be some commercials at halftime. Then the second half begins, and it’s the same thing. And you start to get used to that. Watch five soccer games, then try watching an NFL or CFL or NHL or NBA game. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself shouting at the TV, “How is this normal? Why do we put up with this in North America? All these ads and stoppages are driving me bonkers!”

Maybe a sport with no ads speaks more to a generation that has grown accustomed to watching TV shows with no ads, through online services or premium cable channels. Is that the soccer generation?

Regardless of the hows and whys, more North American TV viewers than ever are getting a kick out of big-time soccer. It’s up to savvy TV executives – and players such as Luis Suarez – to make a meal of it.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

 

Murder, Liars, Suits; TV must-sees for the week

- June 7th, 2014

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Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of June 8

1 Murder in the First
Debut: Taye Diggs and Canadian Kathleen Robertson star as detectives in this San Francisco-set series from Steven Bochco that follows developments in a single case throughout the entire season.
When: Monday on Bravo

2 Veep
Third-season finale with back-to-back episodes: The team tries to make presidential candidate Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) seem more folksy as the New Hampshire primary approaches.
When: Sunday on HBO Canada

3 Suits
Fourth-season debut: Wait, didn’t the previous season of this show wrap up just a couple of months ago? Yup, it was back in April. Who’s in charge of this scheduling? Lawyers?
When: Wednesday on Bravo

4 Tony Awards
Live: Hugh Jackman hosts the 68th annual edition of this hardware handout from Radio City Music Hall in New York. I have to say, Jackman was pretty great when he hosted the Oscars in 2009.
When: Sunday on CBS, CHCH

5 Chasing Life
Debut: A 20-something named April, played by Canadian Italia Ricci, is on a roll professionally and personally. But some devastating medical news forces her to adjust her thinking about everything.
Tuesday on ABC Spark

6 Graceland
Second-season debut: When a cartel puts a hit on Mike (Aaron Tveit), he returns to the supposedly safe haven of the title house, only to find that the place has changed quite a bit.
When: Wednesday on Bravo

7 The Incredible Mr. Goodwin
Debut: In this five-part series, “escapologist” Jonathan Goodwin swings from burning ropes and emerges from rocket-launched cars, etc. Seriously, I did not know “escapologist” was a word.
When: Tuesday on OLN

8 Major Crimes
Third-season debut: Mary McDonnell returns as Los Angeles Police Captain Sharon Raydor, who heads up a special squad dealing with high-profile and/or sensitive cases.
When: Wednesday on Super Channel

9 Duck Dynasty
Sixth-season debut: The lucrative leap into the mainstream for this series likely has come to an abrupt halt due to Phil Robertson’s repeated anti-gay comments. But the show goes on.
When: Wednesday on A&E

10 Pretty Little Liars
Fifth-season debut (main cast pictured above): Aria (Lucy Hale) guards Ezra (Ian Harding) at the hospital following his shooting, while the others set a trap to draw out “A.” Wouldn’t if be funny if it were Fonzie all along?
When: Tuesday on M3

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Modern Family gets Cook’d in a Labyrinth; TV must-sees for the week of May 18

- May 16th, 2014

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Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of May 18

1 Rookie Blue
Fifth-season debut: Andy (Missy Peregrym) and Dov (Greg Smith) try to pull themselves together at a diner, but let’s just say some Pulp Fiction-style complications ensue.
When: Monday on Global

2 Labyrinth
Debut: A four-hour historical Holy Grail-themed mini-series airing over two nights, starring Jessica Brown-Findlay, who played the ill-fated Lady Sybil Crawley on Downton Abbey.
When: Thursday and Friday on CW

3 Modern Family
Fifth-season finale: Wedding-day chaos threatens everything, but an unexpected turn of events gives Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) the ceremony they’ve dreamed about.
When: Wednesday on ABC, City

4 Last Comic Standing
Eighth-season debut: The new judges are Russell Peters, Roseanne Barr and Keenen Ivory Wayans. The new host is J.B. Smoove. But it’s the competitors who’ll have to be funny.
When: Thursday on NBC

5 Cook’d
Debut: Kids can be the pickiest eaters in the world, so why not make a TV show about it? Each week celebrity chefs prepare meals in the hopes of impressing a panel of jaded juvenile judges.
When: Tuesday on YTV

6 Gang Related
Debut: An action drama centring on Detective Ryan Lopez (Ramon Rodriguez), a rising star on L.A.’s gang task force whose gang connections might be a little too good, if you know what I mean.
When: Thursday on Fox

7 Buy It Fix It Sell It
Debut with back-to-back episodes: More “junk TV,” so to speak. Pro “fixers” battle over auction items that need just a little love before hopefully becoming money-making masterpieces.
When: Friday on HGTV

8 Shannon and Sophie
Debut with back-to-back episodes: This essentially is a delayed spinoff of Gene Simmons Family Jewels, starring Gene’s wife, model/actress Shannon Tweed, and their daughter Sophie.
When: Tuesday on W

9 The Middle
One-hour fifth-season finale: After Sue (Eden Sher) wins a family trip, the Hecks must overcome a series of setbacks if they want to enjoy their time at Walt Disney World.
When: Wednesday on ABC

10 The Maya Rudolph Show
Debut: Yet another attempt to revive the so-called variety-show format that basically has been co-opted by all the late-night dudes. Rudolph is joined by Andy Samberg, Kristen Bell and more.
When: Monday on NBC

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Barbara Walters has Rosemary’s Baby; must-sees for the week of May 11

- May 10th, 2014

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Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of May 11

1 Penny Dreadful
Debut: Josh Hartnett, Eva Green and Timothy Dalton star in this horror series set in 1890s London, England that incorporates well-known fictional characters from the era (Dorian Gray, for instance).
When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Movie Central

2 The View
Barbara Walters, 84, makes her final regular appearance on the daytime talk show she co-created. Then in primetime, ABC will air a two-hour special celebrating the highlights of Walters’ lengthy career.
When: Friday on ABC, CTV

3 Rosemary’s Baby
Debut: Based on the 1967 novel/1968 movie, this is a two-part mini-series starring Patrick J. Adams, Zoe Saldana and Jason Isaacs. The plot kind of reminds me of the cancelled series 666 Park Avenue.
When: Sunday and Thursday on NBC

4 The Blacklist
First-season finale: After the crash of a prisoner transport plane, the escapees are running wild. Didn’t the Clash have a song about that? Anyway, Liz (Megan Boone), of course, turns to Red (James Spader).
When: Monday on NBC, Global

5 The Big Bang Theory
Seventh-season finale: With his entire world descending into uncertainty, Sheldon (Jim Parsons) considers a major change. And as we all know, change does not come easily or naturally to him.
When: Thursday on CBS, CTV

6 Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
First-season finale: Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his team risk everything to stop Garrett (Bill Paxton) and HYDRA. Garrett and Hydra, sounds like something that should be winning a Grammy, am I right?
When: Tuesday on ABC, CTV

7 Nashville
Second-season finale: As the album by Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) climbs the charts, Rayna (Connie Britton) plans a free concert to promote her own album. Wait a minute – there are still albums?
When: Wednesday on ABC, City

8 Never Ever Do This at Home
Season-two debut with back-to-back episodes: Teddy Wilson and Norm Sousa are causing more mischief in a way that lives up to the title of the series. Like, um, painting a house with a cannon.
When: Monday on Discovery

9 Riot
Debut: This game show, which takes place on a set that’s built on a 22-degree angle, sees celebs participating in song and sketch challenges. Executive produced by Steve Carell, who appears in the first episode.
When: Tuesday on Fox

10 Oprah’s Master Class
Fourth-season debut: Grammy and Emmy winner Justin Timberlake discusses his influences and life lessons. Unless those influences and life lessons start and end with Oprah herself, she’ll be pissed.
When: Sunday on OWN

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv