Lisa de Moraes
Lisa de Moraes
The TV Column

Romney vs. PBS; HBO show for Guest; NBC comedy reruns

PBS chief executive Paula Kerger finds Mitt Romney’s recent comments — about cutting the programming service’s federal funding — to be “extremely disappointing” given the “value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers.”

This week, Romney joined the ranks of other Republicans who are unimpressed by PBS’s 58 Primetime Emmy Award nominations — and have vowed to slash its federal funding.

More from Lisa de Moraes

Pulitzer Prize winner, Peabody recipient, Medal of Freedom honoree -- Lisa de Moraes is none of these, but she is an authority on the bad direction, over-acting, and muddled plot lines being played out in the TV industry's executive suites.

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  • ( Evan Vucci / Associated Press ) - Mitt Romney told Fortune magazine that he would cut off funding for PBS.
  • ( Michael Tullberg / GETTY IMAGES ) - Fred Willard lost a PBS hosting gig after his arrest last month.

( Evan Vucci / Associated Press ) - Mitt Romney told Fortune magazine that he would cut off funding for PBS.

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The presidential hopeful told Fortune magazine that he’s a fan of PBS, but that federal funding of same would get cut off during his administration.

Joining PBS in Romney’s tumbril are Amtrak, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“Some of these things, like those endowment efforts and PBS, I very much appreciate and like what they do in many cases, but I just think they have to stand on their own rather than receiving money borrowed from other countries, as our government does on their behalf,” Romney said in the interview.

In a statement of response given to The TV Column, Kerger noted that a national survey by the bipartisan research firms of Hart Research and American Viewpoint found in 2011 that more than two-thirds of American voters (69 percent) oppose proposals to eliminate government funding of public broadcasting — “with Americans across the political spectrum against such a cut,” she said.

“We understand that these are challenging times,” Kerger said.

But, she said: “Federal investment in public broadcasting equals about one one-hundredth of 1 percent of the federal budget. Elimination of funding would have almost no impact on the nation’s debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating.”

Kerger’s had a busy few weeks making statements about various GOP plans to pull fed-funds from PBS. Less than a month before Romney’s article came out, Kerger — speaking to TV critics at Summer TV Press Tour 2012 — noted the irony of a plan put forth by House Republicans to zero out PBS fed-funds by 2015. That was the very same week that PBS nabbed 58 Primetime Emmy nominations, behind only HBO and CBS.

Critics politely took down her point without asking her why she thought PBS having been shown that much love by Hollywood would impress House Republicans.

At that time, she explained that federal funding accounts for just 15 percent of the PBS budget, but that cutting the funding would most directly hit, and likely shutter, public broadcasting stations in smaller markets, in more rural areas.

Chris Guest to HBO

Kerger’s comments about the latest proposal to kill PBS fed-funds did not make too many headlines at the time because a) she’s not Mitt Romney and b) the headlines were mostly about her explanation at the same Q&A about Fred Willard, who’d just gotten zeroed out by PBS as host of its new “Antiques Roadshow” companion program, “Market Warriors.”

Willard lost the gig after his arrest at the adult Tiki Theater in Hollywood.

Well, there’s glad tidings for Willard from HBO: The premium cable network has given a series order to Christopher Guest for one of his trademark single-camera “mockumentary” comedies.

“Family Tree” is about a 30-year-old who loses his job and his girlfriend, but gains a box of belongings from a great-aunt he never met. That prompts him to start looking into his family lineage, and discover that he comes from a long line of, well, Chris Guest characters!

No word on deadline as to whether Willard’s getting a role. But Willard is, after all, one of the stars of the Chris Guest repertory theatre, having appeared in his “A Mighty Wind” and “Best in Show,” etc.

HBO has ordered eight episodes of the new comedy from NBC Universal International TV, which — bringing us full circle — is the same operation that gives us PBS’s “Downton Abbey,” recipient of a good chunk of those 58 PBS Primetime Emmy Award noms that so wowed The Reporters Who Cover Television, and Kerger . . . but House Republicans and Romney, not so much.

NBC comedy rerun

NBC will rerun the pilot episodes of two of its new comedies — the Matthew Perry vehicle “Go On” and the Crystal the Monkey vehicle “Animal Practice” — on Tuesday at 10, after that night’s episode of “America’s Got Talent.”

This time, both shows will air with ad breaks. There’s a limit to how much ad time NBC’s willing to eat to get its new season sampled.

During the network’s coverage of the London Olympic Games, NBC aired those first episodes of both shows, commercial-free. “Go On” — in which “Friends” alum Perry plays a sports talk radio host attending mandated group therapy after the death of his wife — aired after Games competition Wednesday night and averaged about 16 million viewers; “Animal Practice” aired after the Closing Ceremony on Sunday, and averaged nearly 13 million viewers.

Technically, NBC “interrupted” its coverage of the ceremony to ensure that the “Animal Practice” pilot started before 11 p.m., when, historically, the worst enemy of a new TV series premiere is not the competition on the other networks, but a phenomenon known in the TV industry as “going to bed.”

Some people were annoyed that they had to wait until after “Animal Practice” to see a performance by What’s Left of The Who, for instance, and expressed their ire on social media.

The haters also included a fair-ish number of people who work for NBC competitors — a sort TV celebri-trolling.

Glee’s” Kevin McHale, for instance, tweeted: “DEAR NBC. Interrupting the Olympic closing ceremony for an hr to air a show about a fictional animal dr. before it ends is a disgrace. Shame on you.”

It was unclear whether McHale felt that NBC’s pre-announced scheduling stunt would not have been a disgrace had the show been about something other than a “fictional animal doctor” — like, say, a fictional high-schooler.

“Animal Practice” exec producer Scot Armstrong decided to join the pile-on, tweeting, “I too am outraged,” and wondering whether NBC planned to air the second episode “in the middle of presidential debates.”

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/
tvblog.

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