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Reality, Non-Reality and Everything In-Between

Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 20, 2005 2:00 PM

Post TV Columnist Lisa de Moraes takes a look at what's on the tube in a fast-paced give and take about reality, non-reality, cable and you name it.

Join Lisa on Friday, May 20 at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the latest on TV.

De Moraes has written "The TV Column" for The Post since 1998. She served as the TV editor for the entertainment industry trade publication the "Hollywood Reporter" for almost a decade.

A transcript follows.

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Far Far Away: OK, was it just me or did it seem like The Donald picked "girl" jobs for Tana and Kendra. Come on, working at a beauty pageant or interior decorating? Bill and Kelly are building things and managing real estate (or at least that's what their p.r. people say). Could The Donald be more of a chauvinist?

Lisa de Moraes: Hi, Yes, it was sexist. But seriously, what did you expect? Actually, that's not fair; I would have thought that someone at NBC would have woken (woken?) up and said "Hey, wait a minute, you can't give the female winner a choice of "chick" jobs when your male winners are working on building buildings, etc. Apparently no one at NBC woke up. Either that or NBC's offices, like Brigadoon, float in the ether and only come down to earth every so often and the last time they touched down was the 50s.

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Washington, D.C.: With GMA breathing down the neck of the Today show, what changes do you think we will see in the near future on the Today show? Are Katie and Matt going to start doing acrobatics in front of the crowd? Will they have to learn how to walk on a high wire?

Lisa de Moraes: They've already made the change -- sacking the executive producer. I think Katie was quoted saying they needed to get back to real news, or harder news, or more news or something like that. Which I guess means Katie at the White House, Katie in Congress, Katie at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Katie on the floor stock exchange. The mind reels...

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Southern Maryland: What is Donald Bellisario up to now? I need to reassure my mom all is OK. She doesn't know what to do when one of his shows isn't on TV.

Speaking of Bellisario and mom, a friend of my mom, and a very devoted Magnum P.I. fan, once made a VHS tape of all the episodes with Michelle (his Vietnamese wife) so they ran together like a movie. Do you think they will start making DVD's where they merge arc episodes in to a movie like format?

Lisa de Moraes: Bellisario also does CBS's "NCIS" which survived the cut. YOu can reassure her that it will air Tuesdays at 8 in the fall... And re your other question,no I do not think we will see series episodes spliced together into a movie-like format on DVDs. But what do I know...

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Washington, D.C.: Brad Pitt isn't really doing network TV this fall, right? Your Tuesday column said he would be in E-Ring.

Lisa de Moraes: In my world, Brad Pitt is starring on every new drama series for fall: Brad Pitt discovers aliens in the ocean, Brad Pitt investigates kinky murders in San Francisco, Brad Pitt is the new female president of the United States, Brad Pitt is The Night Stalker, Brad Pitt works at a fertility clinic, Brad Pitt solves murders by looking at old bones...

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Boston, Mass.: Does this happen to you? I find when I get really intoxicated -- by whatever method -- and watch TV, I find everything especially bad. It used to be that you could at least find some humor in how bad things on TV were, but now everything that stinks on the tube -- which is just about everything -- is magnified even more. At least music is still good when you're high.

Lisa de Moraes: No...and that is so sad for you.

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Castle Shannon, Pa.: How funny was Moonves line saying that talking to Ghosts skews younger than talking to God. Did he say this tongue in cheek or was he being serious? God, I wish I had your job!

Lisa de Moraes: He was joking, but sort of serious and he was absolutely right. I think some viewers, myself being among them, do not like being preached at by TV shows. I really hate it, in fact. But am intrigued by shows that delve into issues of the afterlife...

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Washington, D.C.: Love your scoop, Lisa. Very disappointed they did not renew "The Contender". It was a refreshing show above all the other contrived reality garbage. They put it on a terrible night and time slot; they set it up to fail. If it were on a better night, the ratings would soar. Jimmy Lange is a friend and a local boy, so you should support this! Your thoughts? Thanks very much and have a great weekend.

Lisa de Moraes: They did not set out to kill this show at all. They had a lot riding on this show. But ultimately, it was about boxing and boxing has a small audience these days. That said, I'm not sure they handled the scheduling so well. It's on, no it's off, no it's on, no, its off again. Part of the problem was trying to work around Fox's boxing show, which tanked...And I don't support a show if it's local; I support a show if it's good....

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Washington, D.C.: Did you watch "Chaotic"? If yes, have you lost the will to live?

Lisa de Moraes: And miss next week's episode. Are you nuts? I loved it -- it is one of the worst things I have ever seen!

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Southwest D.C.: I couldn't get over "ER" last night. Is there still anyone in Chicago willing to party on flimsy wooden balconies anymore? How long can this show stay on TV?

Lisa de Moraes: Apparently forever. It's still doing surprisingly strong numbers, given how old the show is. Next year,with none of the original cast members, will be an interesting test...

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Washington, D.C.: Is there any way the F.C.C. will investigate American Idol on grounds that Paula gave that boy assistance? What if he had won? I've heard they have Nia Peebles as a substitute judge.

Lisa de Moraes: I do not believe the FCC will investigate because she does not ultimately pick the winner of the show. I'm not sure she even sways viewers in their voting, given that she loves every contestant. She's more window dressing for the show. And I love that Fox suit said on the phone news conference call yesterday that he did not have time estimate on when the networks "investigation" would end. I'm wondering if it has even begun...

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Woonsocket, R.I.: Ms. de Moraes -

Regarding the CBS fall schedule, if hitting "Yes, Dear" with sticks hasn't killed it yet, as Les Moonves commented, I suggest critics upgrade their weaponry. Let's go to plastic explosives and see how that works.

Also, Jennifer Love Hewitt is still scorchingly hot. There, I've said it ...

Lisa de Moraes: You know, I was with you all the way, and then you go and ruin it all with that Jennifer Love Hewitt comment. Let me know if you still think she's scorchingly hot after seeing her in the first episode of her new CBS series...

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Columbia, Md.: Posting early because I'll be in line for Star Wars III at 1 p.m. ...

Uhhhh, does the new series Kitchen Confidential have anything to do with Tony Bourdaine, the chef who wrote the great book of the same name? Seems a little weird to have a show of the same name. Shouldn't the suits have ponied up some $$$ to use that phrase due to copyright ... or some such legal mumbo jumbo ...

Lisa de Moraes: The new Fox series is, the network says, based on chef Anthony Bourdain's best-selling autobiography, "Kitchen Confidential" so I think it's safe to assume he's seeing some real money from this project. You can rest easy as you wait in Star Wars line...

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Wash(ed) Out, D.C.: CBS, crack-smoking or pure genius? Do they really think they can bring in a younger demographic by hiring the wooden albeit bouy-like Jennifer "Love" Hewitt? I have some guy friends who think she's hot but not for an hour a week. The rest of the schedule sounds just as craptastic. And Moonves sounds like a real jackass who only half believes the programming and will quit when the eye crosses that line to Fox-lite. Yeesh.

Lisa de Moraes: Given how well CBS did this season, I think you have to go with "pure genius." It is a very commercial lineup, loaded with Bruckheimerama. Love the JLH description.

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Baltimore, Md.: Why was Dead Like Me cancelled? Any chance it could come back, maybe on another network? I LOVE that show (and you too, pookie).

Lisa de Moraes: Dead Like Me is dead, sorry. But Mandy Patinkin has a new show, somewhere on this lineup. Honestly, after attending six network presentations in four days, it took me two seconds this morning to remember how to spell my name, my head is spinning so. I think he's on CBS in "Criminal Minds" Wednesdays at 8.

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Raleigh, N.C.: So what do you make of the proposed demotion of Bill Hemmer on American Morning on CNN over Miles O'Brien? I'm no visionary TV exec, but that strikes me as just plain odd. What do you think?

Lisa de Moraes: I think Miles would be great on the morning show. Somehow Rick Squarejaw always seemed a little stiff for the CNN morning show, and like he somehow wasn't part of the clique (though not nearly as bad as Ice Queen Zahn when she did the morning show). That said,I'm kind of surprised by this development -- I thought Rick Squarejaw tested through the roof with focus groups.

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Washington, D.C.: Lisa -- You are the Rock Star of All-Time if you are going to do this chat after hanging out in N.Y. all week dealing with ... those ... people ... but if you are here: I post the weekly "why doesn't Arrested Development turn into its own network" question by asking ... Does Fox finally get some credit by moving Arrested to a night when it has a chance to get viewers? Or is this a ploy to screw it?

Lisa de Moraes: This is a ploy to snag Monday night sitcom fans who cannot stomach "King of Queens" -- count me among them.

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Linden, N.J.: Listen Up! I am so sorry that my one must-see show on television was cancelled! I think its main problem was making Tony far more curmudgeonly and less sympathetic as a character than he is in real life!

It was also the first show I ever felt I could write a script for because I felt I could probably do it just as well as some of the episodes I had seen! Which leads me to the question, can an ordinary viewer submit a script for a show that's currently being aired?

Thanks! I hope Tony and Mike aren't taking this too hard! They are both tremendous individuals!

Lisa de Moraes: That was one of the problems with "Listen Up." You'd watch it and say, "geesh, I could write a funnier episode than that!" And typically, producers and networks do not look at unsolicited scripts, they send them back unopened, so that if, down the road, someone writes an episode of the show that has even the slightest resemblance to your script -- you know, like "she finds a cute dog and takes it in and hilarity ensues" -- you can't sue them...

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Memphis, Tenn.: Lisa: please tell who will be the loser on next week's AI. I'm tied in our office pool.

Lisa de Moraes: Bo will win...(sob)....

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Kodak Theatre, Calif.: Love your sarcastic banner on Wednesdays and Thursdays summarizing the previous night's episode of American Idol. But really, you can poke fun at him all you want, but Bo Bice DOES have real talent and is a star in the making.

Lisa de Moraes: ..so long as he's not asked to sing "United We Stand." God, he and Carrie were just the worst on that one..

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Mandy Patinkin ..? puhleeze: This is the guy who upstaged HIS OWN MOTHER when she appeared on Joan Nathan's Jewish Cooking Series on PBS. Seriously ... the show was supposed to feature Patinkin's mother making her famed something or other... and the whole time Mandy is doing schtick ... oy!

On the other hand ... I was rapt by CSI last night. Quentin Tarantino needs serious help. It was riveting. Agree ...?

Lisa de Moraes: Mandy Patinkin has the voice of an angel. I have decided not to care how truly weird and self-absorbed he is...

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Bethesda, Md.: Is Stacked coming back next season and is Heather Locklear in any new shows? Love those girls.

Lisa de Moraes: "Stacked" is back -- hooray! Did you notice that the chick behind the coffee bar, you know, the one who was in "Hairspray" and is actually a talented actress but has virtually no role in this series, is now also stuffed into a push-up bra on the show? "Stacked" truly is, as one of my male colleagues put it so well the other day, just 30 minutes of four enormous breasts. Steve Levitan must be so proud.

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OC Fan: I can't believed they killed off Caleb ... it'll be interesting to see what effects it has next season (does Julie get to collect or will she be back in the poor house?) ... Then Marissa shoots Trey. Any guesses as to how that will turn out?

Lisa de Moraes: Based on the promos the last few weeks, it appears that everyone on OC is well-armed. Which is so reassuring. I can only assume they'll all be dead by the end of next season. Which is not necessarily a bad thing...

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Re: Jennifer Love Hewitt: If she floats, then she's a witch? Something like that?

Lisa de Moraes: very funny!

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Bethesda, Md.: I think we're way past saturation with the Law and Order franchise. This week there was something like three of the SVU ones on in a row. What's next, a Law and Order SUV?

Lisa de Moraes: Apparently you're not the only one who thinks so, which may explain why NBC pulled "Law&Order; Trial by Jury."

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Arlington, Va.: Re: E-Ring. Brad Pitt's fine, but I'm perfectly happy to see Benjamin Bratt coming back to TV. If the show's halfway decent I'll be there every week.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes Benjamin Bratt is fine, though military haircut does absolutely nothing for him. But Brad Pitt would be better...

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Kingstowne, Va.: Why do most TV shows take place in New York or Los Angeles? Doesn't Hollywood realize that 90 percent of the American population doesn't live in N.Y. or L.A., or even cares to visit? Why not have a drama in Omaha or Denver or Memphis or something?

Lisa de Moraes: Because New York and Los Angeles are the No. 1 and No. 2 TV markets in the country and if your show is a hit in those markets, it's a big help. And people like watching shows set in their hometown, just like they like to root for their hometown teams, even if they no longer live there. Interestingly, or maybe not, networks were once afraid to set shows in New York City - - thought it would be a turnoff for the rest of the country....and there are shows set elsewhere: "Everwood" comes to mind and "ER which is set in Chicago, unless Chicago got blown up in an episode I missed and they moved it elsewhere....

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Anywhere, USA: I will say that after watching all of CSI last night, one of the most disturbing images I saw was on ER. Watching that porch collapse made my stomach turn. One of the people that died went to my H.S., I wish I had known it was coming and could have turned it off.

Lisa de Moraes: Why would you have turned it off? Did you object to the image itself or that someone who died in the actual incident attended your high school? Storylines ripped from the headlines is a time honored tradition in TV..

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Chicago, Ill.: Did you read Virginia Heffernan's blog on the N.Y. Times Web site for this week? I thought that it was pretty funny.

Lisa de Moraes: NYT and LAT both blogged. It was a lot of fun to read their impressions of something I had just seen myself.

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Reston, Va.: "Also bound for Monday, a new drama called "Prison Break," about an engineer who robs a bank so that he can get into prison with the floor plan to break out his brother, who's on death row for a murder he did not commit."

Come on. You made this one up, right Lisa?

Lisa de Moraes: Alas, I did not....can't wait for that one, right? To be fair, sometimes the descriptions in the press releases sound so hair brained and then you see the show and it actually looks much better than you were expecting. If not, they can get Carmen Electra to guest star during the November sweep.

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E-Ring (via 20009): So, in the pilot, Ben Bratt lives in my apartment, for which I received $250. (Not kidding!) Now that the show has been picked up, can I expect more in-house filming? I mean, they couldn't have filmed ALL they need in one day, right?

Lisa de Moraes: They paid you to have Ben Bratt shoot at your apartment? They paid you?!

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Princeton-Plainsboro, N.J.: Lisa: I know you are a big fan, so did you get to see Hugh Laurie this week at the UpFronts in NYC? Hugh, the acting god, is bringing big-time class and sexiness to Fox, dontcha think?

Lisa de Moraes: Fox seated the press way up in the rafters during their presentation. So when Huge Laurie walked on stage along with dozens of other cast members from other Fox shows, he looked very small -- about 2 inches. And then they lined up the cast of some other show, Malcolm in the Middle or something, in front of him and you could not see him at all..what a waste. And then, to make things worse,they had Ryan Seacrest out on stage forever, interviewing the judges on "American Idol" who, guess what, had nothing to say. Fox's presentation had to be the worst of the lot...

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ER: You're kidding, right? It was painfully obvious that that porch was going to collapse. Each and every time they showed it -- I was waiting for it. It was quite probably THE most predictable thing EVER on ER, or, perhaps that I've EVER seen on TV.

Lisa de Moraes: ..and there's that too.

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Ashburn, Va. Who comes up with these premises for new shows -- the suits or the writers? Some of those ideas seem like they're randomly generated by a computer.

Lisa de Moraes: Both. Some shows are pitched by writers to the networks. Sometimes network execs are looking for a certain kind of show. Like ABC wanted to try to find a sort of scripted version of "Survivor" -- they got "Lost."

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House: How do you think "House" will do without the American Idol lead-in next fall? I hope people keep watching. This week's episode was one of the finest I've seen on TV all year.

Lisa de Moraes: Fox was pleased with the numbers snagged by "24" this season without an "American Idol" leadin. Assume they're hoping for the same with "House." Don't think that's an unreasonable expectation, given how "House's" audience has grown steadily with the "Idol" leadin each week. It means "Idol" fans like what they're seeing after that show.

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Washington, D.C.: Lisa, I see that Dr. Phil has another special. Does he really think that brow beating and humiliating a drug addict on national TV will help this person stop taking drugs? I would think it would just make you want to get high ASAP.

Lisa de Moraes: Dr. Phil's specials have been sliding in the ratings lately, so maybe this will be his last. Fingers crossed...I'm out of time. Bye.

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