On TV

Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 14, 2005; 1:00 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.

Lisa was online Friday, Oct. 14, at 1:30 p.m. ET to discuss the latest on TV.

Column: Geena Davis's Approval Ratings Rise (Post, Oct. 12)

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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Washington, D.C.: Is it wrong that I watch Commander in Chief for the camp value alone? "This is not Mac the President, but Mac the mother -- leave my kids alone" -- priceless.

Lisa de Moraes: Hi. And, no. It is the only reason to watch this show....

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Tinseltown: I just wanted you to know that I took your advice and stuck by "The Office." At first I thought the boss was too dumb to be real and he wasn't all that funny. It was the sexual harassment episode that turned me around, because I have seen bosses that stupid. Now, I realize, this is great satire. The show, in my eyes, is getting better, even if the show is the same and my perception of it is better. Thanks.

Lisa de Moraes: You're welcome. "The Office" seems to work better this season, probably because it has "My Name is Earl" as its leadin. That's probably because both are single camera, laugh-trackless comedies. Or, maybe it's because both of them are good.

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Washington, D.C.: As usual, it's always great to chat online with you and the rest of the folks out there.

I miss "Hugh Laurie" and the gang from "House". I'm having withdraw pains. Should I relieve my pains and buy Season One on DVD? (grin). By the way, how long will Sela Ward (House's ex) be on the show? Thanks and I love reading your columns.

Lisa de Moraes: Baseball will be over soon, but if the pain is too acute, I recommend a dose of DVD. And Sela Ward can't be on too few episodes this season for my taste...

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Washington, D.C.: Lisa:

The mother character in Chris Rock's show is portrayed to be a pretty awful person. Any insight on what the actual history or current status of Rock's relationship with his mother is? It seems there is a story to tell there (and perhaps Rock is telling it through the show).

Lisa de Moraes: I disagree. I think both of the parent characters are wonderful. Have no idea what Rock's relationship is with his mother. I really do not care about stuff like that...

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Richmond, Va.: I'm not sure you've ever mentioned the best comedy on TV, Reno 911. Why this oversight?

Lisa de Moraes: Total oversight. It's a fun, weird show.....

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Commander in Chief: As much as I want to support a show about a female president, I'm just done with president shows. I'm hanging in there with West Wing out of loyalty to a friend who's on it, but honestly, I zero interest in another pres show ...

Lisa de Moraes: Since you're a die-hard "West Wing" fan -- and my sympathy on that -- you're the perfect person to ask: are you actually going to sit through a live one-hour faux political debate WITH COMMERCIALS (although fewer than usual) in which, the writer of the episode says, there will be no clear cut winner? I'm nodding off, just writing the question. Meanwhile, re the whole female TV president thing: among certain members of The Reporters Who Cover Television, there's some speculation that, with Steven Bochco now running the show, the president on "Commander in Chief" won't be female by the February sweeps. They wisely reason that it will not happen until February so that during the November sweep Bochco will be able to do one of his trademark envelope-pushing episodes (think "NYPD Blue") -- and their money is on one called "The President's Breasts are Missing!" (I wonder if I can say that on a Washington Post chat? I guess I'm about to find out...)

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Vienna, Va.: As a TV person ... can you explain some commercials for me? I hate with a passion the AVIS ads that include the giant walnut and the idiot woman going on about how she now loves the Orca as opposed to the humpback whale. What the heck do either of these have to do with rental cars? I find them so annoying -- if I have to rent a car in the future I will intentionally avoid AVIS -- unless they have a helluva deal.

Also the Orca ad is badly edited -- the male idiot in it is cut off in mid-inane comment.

What up with that?

Lisa de Moraes: I think Avis is targeting the humpback whale consumer. Or maybe the giant walnut consumer? Questions like this always make my heard hurt. My advice: TiVo....

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Head Cases: A chatter about 2 weeks ago mentioned the cancellation of this show after 2 episodes. I was shocked -- it was a good show! It had a relatively fresh premise, had good writing, good acting . . . Why in the world would a network put all the effort into developing the program and then cancel it after 2 episodes? I'm seriously curious --can that possibly make financial sense? And what about those slow starters like Seinfeld? Do TV execs not believe that can happen anymore for some reason?

Lisa de Moraes: ...because no one was watching.. Obviously they didn't have enough confidence to keep paying the tab...Decided to shut down production and cut losses. Which must be easier to do when the company that owns the network also owns the production company making the show. Ah, the joy of vertical integration...

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Rapid City, S.D.: Has Kitchen Confidential been yanked? It was good while it lasted. Too bad I was the only one watching.

Lisa de Moraes: Not officially. Baseball was on this past Monday; the Monday before that "Kitchen Confidential" was broadcast...That said, it's numbers have not been great.

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Herndon, Va.: Lisa: How is Dick Wolf, L and O and its clones doing? I still watch the original, although it's not the same after Jeffy Orbach's departure. Is old age catching up with it?

Lisa de Moraes: I think these shows are holding up well considering their age -- particularly the original -- and what the other networks are now throwing up against it. For instance, this season ABC moved "Lost" to 9 p.m. Wednesday (from 8 where it ran last season)in order to, among other things,give its show in the "L&O" 10 p.m. Wednesday timeslot a huge leadin audience. ABC could run test pattern after "Lost" and do a pretty good number. Last week ABC's "Invasion" clocked 11.4 million viewers at 10 while "Law & Order" logged 12.6 million. And don't forget "L&O" has virtually no leadin momentum; Martha airs at 9 on that night on NBC. Among young viewers, "L&O" got a 5.0 rating (meaning 5 percent of the population in that age bracket) to "Invasion's" 5.2 rating. Too much information, I know..

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Washington, D.C.: Lisa,

What is the future of Joey? Do you think it will make it through this season?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, because NBC has nothing better for the timeslot. And, I think NBC says it's an upscale show. So the 10 people who are watching it are rich. Or something like that. When networks no longer have a good "tonnage" story to tell about a show's performance, they start slicing and dicing the audience:they're really rich, they're very well-educated, the concentration of younger viewers is high, etc. -- and it's hard to keep track of which niche argument is being used with which show...

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Rockville, Md.: I suspect that there are enough bad shows on television. Certainly I spend very little time with it. But I don't see you writing about very much that you like. Is burnout a problem for critics? Or is this just an indication that Mr. Minnow was right and it is a wasteland?

Lisa de Moraes: Mr. Minnow was misguided, though a very nice person I'm sure. I'm flattered that even though you spend very little time with television, you seem to read my column regularly...but it sounds like you have missed the columns in which I gush over shows, like "House." Or "American Idol" with which many have a love-hate relationship, including me. Burnout is never a problem when you cover television because the industry changes so quickly. Remember when Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather and Peter Jennings were institutions and expected to be there forever? How quickly that all changed...

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Washington, D.C.: Lisa--So, maybe this isn't as interesting as a question about Martha Stewart, Geena Davis, or some awful reality show, but do you know what's happened to WHUT-TV, channel 32? I haven't been able to get it for the past week (I don't have cable) and neither have some of my friends here on the Hill.

Lisa de Moraes: My colleague John Maynard reports that WHUT, Channel 32, began installing a new analog transmitter last Monday but have hit a few snags because of the weather. So if you don't have cable or satellite, you are out of luck. A station suit says they expect the transmitter to be up and running on Wedesday...

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Washington, D.C.: How do you think Freddie Prinze Jr.'s TV show is going to hold up? I wanna watch, because he seems like such a nice guy, but it just looks so...calculated.

Lisa de Moraes: "calculated"? You mean to be "awful"? I think "calculated" is giving them too much credit.....

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Washington, D.C.: Lisa--Regarding the mom on "Everybody Hates Chris"--I totally disagree with the person who thinks she's awful. Along with Jane Kaczmarek on "Malcolm" and Jessica Walter on "Arrested Development," she is contributing to what can only be seen as a true golden age of TV moms which we all should cherish.

Lisa de Moraes: You tell 'em -- TV moms rule!

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Arlington, Va.: I know this chat should cover lighter topics, but I hope at some point someone will discuss what increasingly bothers me about Oprah: the materialism. We all know she has more money than God. And it is really hard to dis' someone who has now made it her personal mission to take child molestors off the street. But does she have to give them $100k of her own dough as a reward? Why does this bother me?

Lisa de Moraes: And I always thought this was one of the Washington Post's heaviest chats...But seriously, let's talk about something heavy. Like Oprah! -- da dum dum! Grievously, the reward seems to motivate. Didn't she catch two alleged molesters in her first week of her new Where in the World is the Child Molester campaign? I don't think "America's Most Wanted" got that much action that fast when it debuted.. Maybe I'm wrong. It was ages ago...

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Anonymous: Favorite TV show of all time?

Lisa de Moraes: I know I've answered this before and I know it always disappoints, but my mother taught me that honesty is the very best policy, unless a lady thin or fat ask you do you like her hat --in which case you like like crazy. Anyway, it's the BBC production of "Pride and Prejudice" that starred dreamy Colin Firth, and whatshername. Of course, I loved it because it was a well produced, well directed adaptation of a classic of literature. I'm a very serious student of Jane Austen. Plus, Colin Firth...Really, NBC should star Colin Firth in "Joey." Someone might actually watch. CBS should put Colin Firth on the CBS Evening News; it might actually win again. ABC should hire Colin Firth to do "Nightline."

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Church of Oprah: The worst part about Oprah is not only the materialism, but the way in one minute, she is talking about her cashmere pajamas or drinking tea out of the china John Travolta gave her, and in the next, lecturing people on how they should live their lives. Um, Oprah, you have NO IDEA what normal people's lives are even like, so maybe you ought to shut it. ARGH! Needless to say, I still watch...it is like a car wreck - I can't look away.

Lisa de Moraes: And that is the magic of Oprah. A car wreck you can't stop watching...

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Arlington, Va.: RE: TV Moms, while Jane and Chris's mom are good TV moms, I don't if I would say the same for Jessica Walter...don't get me wrong though, she is hilarious and one of my favorites on Arrested...but I don't know if she's a good mom. She has an uncanny obsession with her son, drinks a lot, ran over Michael, had an affair with husband's brother and went head to head against Liza. Well, actually she should get props for the last one.

Lisa de Moraes: you mean that makes her a BAD mom? Wow, I have to rethink my whole childhood...

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Curb Your Enthusiasm: Have you seen any of the 3 new episodes so far this season? I think that this is the funniest season yet plus they are pushing the envelope on many topics.

Lisa de Moraes: I've seen all three and it's terrific this season...loved the episode with the dog.

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Arlington, Va.: What has been your impression of Arrested Development so far this season? And did I read somewhere that it got beat by WifeSwap in ratings? Ugh, it makes my heart ache, only if Gob and Lindsay were around to do their chicken cluck dance...if only...

Lisa de Moraes: Pookie, hate to be the one to tell you, but "Arrested Development" is getting beat by everything except UPN's "One on One" in its Monday timeslot and "One on One" is actually giving it a run for its money. Wife Swap, King of Queens, Surface, Seventh Heaven -- all beat AD last week.

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Springfield, Ill.: Dearest Lisa:

Respectfully, but given that many of us lurk here on our lunch hours, couldn't you have reconsidered the decision to use "Oprah" and "got some action" in the same response?

Lisa de Moraes: ick -- did I really? So sorry.....

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HBO and The Wire ...: When is it coming back on and any idea about the story arc/plot this season?

Lisa de Moraes: HBO says "some time next year."

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Washington, D.C.: Is there a reason why Comcast decided to re-order all of the channels last weekend? I understand the whole idea of grouping similar channels together, but it's not like everyone didn't already know the numbers of the channels they watch.

To make it worse, I'm now getting ghost images on my non-digital TV over Channel 9, which means that I can't watch ESPN upstairs.

Lisa de Moraes: yeah, good luck dealing with that ---- hahahahaha!

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Washington, D.C.: I think the mom on "Everybody Hates Chris" is hysterical. That actress pulls it off perfectly because she has love in her eyes even when she's threatening to smack her kid so hard the wax will fly out his ears.

Lisa de Moraes: I know, I love lines like that. Or the one where she said she'd kick him so hard he'd have her toes for teeth or something like that. Does that make me a bad person? Then again, who cares...I find her utterly charming. And the penny-pinching dad. There's a lot of love there -- seriously!

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Ohio: I agree... I could watch Colin Firth in anything. But my question is: where is Scrubs? Did I miss it? Please tell me it'll be back soon!

Lisa de Moraes: Okay, you cannot love Colin Firth and Scrubs....It's on the bench at NBC, which probably means coming back very soon....

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Washington, D.C.: Man, I was almost focused and ready to spend the afternoon working hard and you had to go and bring up P&P and Colin Firth. Mmmm, yummy. Afternoon work plans destroyed.

Lisa de Moraes: mine too...

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Southwest D.C.: I noticed that the twin boys on "Desperate Housewives" have not appeared yet this season. Are they holding out for more money?

Lisa de Moraes: I don't know WHAT's going on with Desperate Housewives this season. Are you as disappointed as I am. It seems to have lost its way and, judging by what critics are writing, I'm not the only one who feels this way....

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Arlington, Va.: "Countdown with Keith Olbermann," "Hardball with Chris Matthews" (both on MSNBC), and "Boston Legal" on ABC and "Las Vegas" on NBC? Doing OK in the ratings? Any danger of cancellation for any of these shows.

Thanks, Lisa; your column rocks!

Lisa de Moraes: Nothing does very well on MSNBC, except curling. Really, curling does great during Olympics on MSNBC. "Boston Legal" is hanging on to a nice chunk of its "Commander in Chief" audience on Tuesday, which is a good sign for that show. And "Las Vegas" is self-starting on Monday -- "Surface" is not giving it such a hot leadin number, but that's good news for "Vegas."

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JTS: Do 'you' think Desperate Housewives has jumped the shark?!

Lisa de Moraes: I hope not.... it's way too young....

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Washington, D.C.: Any good reunion TV movies coming out this fall?

Lisa de Moraes: If there's a god in heaven that trend is over....

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Fisher and Sons:

Did you see the last episode of Six Feet Under? What did you think of the ending montage?

Lisa de Moraes: They handled the final episode very well, don't you think? One of the best swan-song episodes I've seen in a long time...

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Eastern Market, Washington, D.C.: Being a great TV mom no longer has to have anything to do with being a good mom, and that's what makes those three so great. They're just great CHARACTERS, and that's all that matters.

Lisa de Moraes: Being a great TV mom never had anything to do with being a good mom. The best TV mom ever was on The Addams Family...

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WDC: I would watch Colin Firth sleeping. Or reading the phone book out loud. Or eating. Whatever. Bring on "The Colin Firth Show."

Lisa de Moraes: Actually, let's face it. he's best in cruncy gravel period dramas. Not that I didn't love him in "Love Actually" aka, the DVD I watch about once a month....

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Arlington, Va.: The Apprentice, as a show, is plowing old ground and showing its age, don't you think? This whole shtick of the guys being buddy-buddy and the women all fighting among themselves has so been done before. That said, I still love the Donald. Watching him on camera is like watching the baby panda.

Lisa de Moraes: They should scrap the show and give The Donald his own talk show. He's all that's good about the show. Oh, and George and whatshername. They could take turns being his Ed McMahon on the sofa.....

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Sarajevo, BH: Is there any chance the expression "jump the shark" has jumped the shark?

Lisa de Moraes: A long time ago, Sarajevo....

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Washington, D.C.: Lisa,

Do the governments of the world realize that, in Hollywood, there is apparently a cadre of 110-lb, super hot women who are so tough that no man has a chance in a fight against one of them, no matter how large and well-trained he is?

Seriously, when will this ridiculous trend end? I'm watching the first episode of Bones and it turns out that she's a kung fu chick that not even highly trained FBI agents can deal with. Then they add Michele Rodriguez to Lost? And there's the always absurd Alias. Can you point your witty and acerbic eye to this ridiculousness please?

Lisa de Moraes: Oh grow up. This trend will stop when young men stop watching, silly!

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NCIS: How does NCIS stay on the air? My husband and I watched it when it first came out and thought it sucked. We watched it again a few weeks ago to see if maybe it got better, but it's still awful. Are people that hard up for forensics shows?

Lisa de Moraes: "NCIS" is having a great season, I'm sorry to report. Last week it was a top-10 show -- thank you Fox, which took off ITS forensics drama in that timeslot, "Bones", presumably sending some of those viewers over to "NCIS." Fox is also to thank, in some measure, for last week's ratings bump for "Commander in Chief" and "My Name is Earl" because they also took off "House" for the sake of baseball in the Tuesday 9 p.m. timeslot in which both those shows air. Fox is quite the selfless network this time of year and I think that "CiC's" ABC, "NCIS's" CBS and "Earl's" NBC should find some way to express their gratitude. I'm thinking full page thank-you ad in Variety. Oh wait, you had a question, didn't you...Yes, people are that hard up for forensic shows. Phew!

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Madison, Wisc.: Lisa:

Using the formula of crappiness times longevity, what is the worst show of all time? I can't think of anything that beats Full House, but your knowledge of TV infamy should be able to unearth something better/worse ...

Lisa de Moraes: I'm thinking anything by Miller/Boyett (sp?) -- the folks who did "Full House" is way up there on the list, but my personal fave is "Wings."...There was a time when NBC could slap any piece of drivel in between those hit Thursday sitcoms and viewers would suffer through it. Fortunately, viewers finally wised up, and CBS finally decided to actually program Thursday night and the rest, as they say, is history...

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Fairfax, Va.: I like the Martha version of the Apprentice better than the Donald's. Martha is getting more passive aggressive each week and it's a hoot to watch her daughter tremble at the boardrooms.

Lisa de Moraes: Her daughter is pretty scary. I want to learn so much more about their relationship, but, alas, they don't spend much time together on screen...

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Silver Spring, Md.: Now I'm frustrated that I lent someone my Pride and Prejudice DVDs! I'll have to console myself with Colin Firth in Bridget Jones's Diary ...

Lisa de Moraes: The original -- not the terrible sequel.....

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ROANOKE VAQ: Re the Avis ad -- the ad was successful enough that the viewer remembered the name "Avis" and associated it with car rentals. Is the ad stupid? Yes. Did it cut through the rest of the airwaves' blather? Yes.

Lisa de Moraes: Will the viewer rent from Avis. No....hmmmmm..

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Camden, N.J.: Is baseball on Fox driving up the ratings for Commander in Chief this month or is this show the real deal? It seems sort of lame to me (and no, that is not a reference to Hugh Laurie on House)! Seriously, CinC lacks credible character development, plotting, or writing so why are people watching it?

Lisa de Moraes: Baseball definitely gave the competition an edge this week and last. We won't know if it's the real deal for another week.....

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Adamstown, Md.: As a man, one of my guilty pleasures is watching Desperate Housewives. OK, at first it was to see all those women, but I got hooked on the plot and watched all season. But it is a drag this season, isn't it? There's no surprise. Yes, there is some curiosity as to who's in the basement, but you can really take assumptions and hints that it's the husband/father. At worst, it's a relative. Season 1 -- no one knew who killed Zach's real mom until they told us.

Lisa de Moraes: Lots of people I hear from are disappointed in this season, and yet, the numbers are huge, so I'm apparently not talking to the right people. And, on that happy note, I've run out of time. Bye....

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