Frog Croaks; WB Suits Squeal

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By Lisa de Moraes
Saturday, July 23, 2005

BULLETIN:

Michigan J. Frog, the 1950s Warner Bros. contract player best known for his top hat, cane and ragtime songs, is dead, killed by the WB network for whom he had been working as a mascot, The TV Column has learned.

We take you now to Beverly Hills, Calif., for the latest on this breaking story:

In the biggest news yet to come out of the action-packed Summer TV Press Tour 2005, WB suits, after being grilled during a midday news conference with the Reporters Who Cover Television, confessed yesterday to killing off their beloved mascot, Michigan J. Frog.

Mr. Frog would have turned 50 in December.

WB targets 12- to 34-year-olds. You do the math.

But WB suits, onstage to discuss their new prime-time shows starring Sara Gilbert, Jay Baruchel, Rebecca Romijn and even Don Johnson, insisted Mr. Frog's demise had not been the work of ageists.

In fact, they had the crust to suggest that Mr. Frog got snuffed because he skewed too young.

Back in the mid-'90s, when the WB was launched with programming specifically targeting teens and young adults, it decided not to employ a serious network TV logo -- such as an eyeball or a peacock -- but instead to dust off from the Warner Bros. vault an animated frog (created by the same guy who'd given us Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and Pepe Le Pew) that, they reasoned, would appeal to younger viewers.

Unfortunately, it worked too well, and coupled with the fact that so many stars of WB's prime-time hits were in high school, the network once known as the WB, or the Frog, became known as That Teen Network, not friendly to anyone over 20. This limited the network's growth among the young adult set, which did not sit well with the Old Men of Time Warner.

In retrospect, industry experts said yesterday, it was inevitable that Don Johnson would be added to the WB schedule and Michigan J. Frog would get whacked.

"Is the frog dead?" asked one critic after noticing that Michigan was missing from all the WB signage in the Beverly Hilton ballroom where the network's day at the press tour was taking place.


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