TV Column: ‘Today’ ratings in; Curry out.

June 20, 2012

One day before ratings come out that will probably show ABC’s morning infotainment program “Good Morning America” beat NBC’s “Today” show for the fifth week in the past 10 weeks, word got out that, to the surprise of no one, NBC News was working on a plan to do what almost always happens in these situations: replace the female co-anchor.

In this case it’s Ann Curry, the show’s former news reader who, after being passed over at least once, got the co-anchor gig only when Meredith Vieira vacated the job last June.

Since December, when the Reporters Who Cover Television were jolted out of their post-November sweep slumber after spotting NBC News suits dining with Ryan Seacrest, there had been rampant speculation as to the future on “Today” of Matt Lauer, who had floated word he might opt to leave, and Curry, whose future on the show had looked iffier as the ratings sank.

“GMA” has beat “Today” in total viewers four of the last nine weeks, and it might be five of the past 10, based on early stats for last week’s ratings. “GMA” this season has cut in half its year-to-year ratings gap with “Today” and now stands the closest to the NBC show it’s been in the past 16 years.

Things looked a lot bleaker for our Nell in April, when two things happened the week Lauer’s old “Today” partner Katie Couric filled in at “GMA”:

1. Lauer announced that he had signed a new contract and would remain anchor-in-chief of the morning infotainment show.

2. “Today” producers announced they had signed a big mystery “get” for that week, who turned out be Vieira, returning to the show to announce she would help out with Summer Olympics coverage.

Curry’s expected to be gone by the time the “Today” gang leaves to cover the Games, according to the New York Times.

It’s likely Curry will be given another gig within the NBC News fold.

“We’re stuck with you, for a long time,” Curry said, joking with Lauer when he made his announcement — tragically, given the odds that were then being given on her prospects of remaining with the show.

NBC News execs declined to comment.

Haunted by rip-offs

CBS tried, unsuccessfully, to block the launch of ABC’s new reality series “The Glass House,” calling it a rip-off of its “Big Brother.” But Wednesday afternoon CBS announced — with tongue firmly in cheek — that it is developing a reality series called “Dancing on the Stars.”

“Dancing on the Stars,” CBS said, will be “an exciting and completely original reality program that owes its concept and execution to nobody at all.”

“Dancing on the Stars” will be broadcast from the celebrity-strewn Hollywood Forever Cemetery, CBS claimed. It will feature “moderately famous and sort of well-known people you almost recognize competing for big prizes by dancing on the graves of some of Hollywood’s most iconic and well-beloved stars of stage and screen.”

The cemetery houses the remains of such Hollywood luminaries as Rudolph Valentino, Cecil B. DeMille, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Jr., Tyrone Power and Terry, the dog that played Toto in “The Wizard of Oz.”

(Lending this joke just a shade of plausibility, fact is that Hollywood Forever Cemetery is already known for its screenings, at which fans bring blankets, drinks and picnic dinners to watch old movies in the company of dead celebrities. This Saturday, for instance, it’s screening the 1974 classic “Chinatown” on the Fairbanks Lawn.)

In its “announcement,” CBS noted that permission to broadcast from the location is pending and, if efforts in that regard are unsuccessful, “approaches will be made to Westwood Village Memorial Park, where equally scintillating luminaries are interred.”

(That’s where Marilyn Monroe is buried and, more recently, Farrah Fawcett.)

“This very creative enterprise will bring a new sense of energy and fun that’s totally unlike anything anywhere else — honest,” a CBS spokesman said in the dripping-with-sarcasm announcement, adding that the company has been working with a “secret team” for several months on the creation of the series, which “was completely developed by the people at CBS independent of any other programming on the air.”

Response in the Twittersphere to CBS’s “new show” announcement was immediate and appreciative. Mainstream media response, according to a CBS source, has been “somewhat more variegated, ranging from ‘appreciation’ to ‘incomprehension.’ ”

Perhaps taking the gag one step too far, the company also revealed it’s working on a half-hour comedy for prime time, called “Postmodern Family.”

A Palin trips

Lifetime’s reality series about Bristol and Tripp Palin, “Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp,” crashed and burned Tuesday night when it attracted a meager 726,000 viewers.

That’s less than half the 1.8 million viewers who had watched the show Lifetime telecast immediately before the debut, “Dance Moms.”

Among women 18 to 34, “Life’s a Tripp” plunged 50 percent compared with Lifetime’s previous four-week average in the time slot; the story was much the same among women 18 to 49 and 25 to 54.

“Life’s a Tripp” is a rare misstep for the Palin reality-TV dynasty.

Back in September 2010, Bristol Palin’s debut helped ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” attract more than 21 million viewers.

Her guest-star gig on ABC Family’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” logged nearly 3 million viewers in July 2010.

And Sarah Palin’s reality-series debut on TLC’s “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” attracted about 5 million viewers, which was a record for that network back in November 2010.

Getting all legal

The same day Bristol Palin’s new Lifetime docu-soap reality show bombed, her BFF Kyle Massey and his brother Christopher sued Associated Television International, the production house of “Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp,” saying the show was their concept and the producers cut them out.

In the lawsuit filed late Tuesday in Los Angeles, the Masseys and their mother say they came up with the original idea, in which Palin and Tripp would live with the Massey brothers while Palin worked at a small charity in Los Angeles. That show was sold to Lifetime’s cable sibling Bio channel. Palin and Kyle Massey had become good friends while competing on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” (not to be confused with CBS’s “Dancing on the Stars”), Bio said last year when it announced it had greenlit the new reality series from Associated Television International.

The show never materialized. Then, in February, Lifetime announced it had bought a Bristol and Tripp Palin reality series, from the same Associated Television International. The new show, Lifetime said, would follow Bristol, Tripp and Bristol’s younger sister, Willow, as they move from Wasilla, Alaska, to Los Angeles and then back to Alaska.

Wednesday’s premiere showed the Palins moving into an L.A. McMansion, but by the end of the two back-to-back half-hour episodes, Willow had already packed her bags and left. And scenes Lifetime showed of upcoming episodes took place primarily in Alaska with the whole Palin family.

Tuesday’s premiere also featured the much-reported scene from the original show shooting, in which a guy got into a screaming match with Bristol Palin at a bar on Sunset Strip, calling her mother a woman of ill repute. Palin responded by asking him whether he was “a homosexual,” and things went downhill from there. Palin was later seen outside the bar, on her cellphone, telling her mother: “I can’t believe this is what has become of my [expletive] life.”

In their court filing, the Masseys say that the producers “fraudulently re-packaged” the show solely as “Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp” but that the concept is the same idea originally created and produced by them. Associated Television International did not comment Wednesday.

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