The TV Column: Lisa de Moraes

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Did the president of the United States -- leader of the free world -- move his Wednesday news conference from 9 to 8 p.m. to get out of the way of "America's Got Talent"?

With his approval ratings slipping and the health-care debate raging, the White House announced last Friday, via Twitter, that Obama would stage his fourth prime-time news conference in six months: "You heard it here first: primetime presidential news conference at the White House, Wed. 7/22 @ 9PM EDT"

But by midday Monday, CBS was the only broadcaster that had said it would carry the news conference, at which Obama is expected to make a statement on health-care reform, then take questions.

Not coincidentally, CBS is the only broadcast network that was scheduled to air repeat programming at 9 p.m.: "Criminal Minds."

Wednesdays at 9 is the one and only bright spot on NBC's schedule; that's when it airs "America's Got Talent" -- the summer's most watched TV show, with an average of 12 million viewers. This week is particularly big: NBC has promised it will feature Susan Boyle, the spinster singer who swept YouTube when she competed on "Britain's Got Talent."

(It's also when ABC airs the summer reality series "I Survived a Japanese Game Show," but that clocks a smaller audience than ABC's 8 p.m. reality series "Wipeout." On Wednesday nights, Fox has two hours of original "So You Think You Can Dance," the network's most successful summer show.)

In the middle of the day Monday, Obama's news conference was moved from 9 to 8, without explanation. But industry sources told The TV Column that the White House made the change to accommodate NBC's Very Special Episode of "Talent."

Late Monday, NBC and ABC decided they too would carry Obama's news conference at 8.

In ABC's case, it will push "Wipeout" from 8 to 9 and "Japanese Game Show" from 9 to 10; the network's planned news special, "Over a Barrel: The Truth About Oil," has been pulled from Wednesday and will air Friday at 10 instead.

No word from Fox, but no one's holding his breath, Fox having having set the "we have a cable news network to cover these things" precedent at Obama's last news conference.

* * *

CW has pushed back the start of production on its new drama "The Beautiful Life" by a week but insists it's not because co-star Mischa Barton was put under an involuntary psychiatric hold last week at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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