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Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 17, 2006; 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.

Join Lisa on Friday, March 17, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the latest on TV.

The transcript follows.

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.

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Lisa de Moraes: Hi. Did you watch Simon Cowell's new reality series "American Inventor" last night? It's the new poster child for the disconnect between TV critics and TV viewers. Panned by virtually every critic, yet it clocked more than 14 million viewers -- and on ABC which is practically a miracle. ABC even won the night, and ABC never wins Thursday night. Heck, last time ABC won Thursday night without sports during a TV season it took Michael Jackson talking to Martin Bashir about spending the night with little boys in his bed. And that was three years ago. ABC made great use of an opportunity -- CBS taking "Survivor" off for basketball, and don't they feel foolish now. FYI this launch is comparable to the kickoff of "Survivor" and "American Idol" in audience size.

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Washington, D.C.: Lisa-

Am I a geek if I'm excited to see the new Dr. Who?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes -- and a retro geek to boot. Not that there's anything wrong that that...

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New York, N.Y.: I absolutely love Grey's Anatomy and if history is a guide, it's a sure bet that a show will be canceled (see My So Called Life and Once and Again). What do you think of this show and is there any hint that it won't be back for another season?

Lisa de Moraes: Good grief no. It's doing a huge number on Sunday. It's now beating its "Desperate Housewives" leadin. It's here for the long haul.

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Sopranos: Is it true that this season's premiere was the least watched since 2002? How can that be? I was counting down the days until it premiered.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, it's true this season debut was low compared to previous seasons. But the show had been off the air for a long time -- maybe once too often -- and ABC has developed two hits in the interim -- "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy." Plus, since "The Sopranos" was last on, viewers have become that much more accustomed to watching shows when they want to. The cume number on that episode might be more relevant now than it has been in the past. I am anxious to see what the cume is on its various plays across the week.

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Rockville, Md.: I miss the good episodes of Lost. Why is this season dragging so much more than last? It seems like writers got so caught up in how awesome and tricky they're being that now the show is confusing and slow and has a lot more people.

Lisa de Moraes: This is soooo typical of a JJ Abrams Show. Starts off great, then loses its way....

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Silver Spring, Md.: Lisa, what do you think will be the impact of the FCC's indecency rulings this week?

Lisa de Moraes: More lawyers getting rich. Everything will be challenged, it will be interesting to see what holds up in court. That whole earlier primetime thing with regards to the "Without a Trace" episode is so bizarre it's funny. The episode is indecent in Denver but not in Delaware because primetime starts one hour earlier in Denver than it does in Delaware. And a four-letter word spoken by an actor on a Spielberg war flick is okay, but four-letter word spoken by an actual person in a conversation in a PBS documentary is indecent. Give me a break....

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Washington, D.C.: Lisa -- why does Kellie Pickler bug me so badly? It must be because I think this whole "aw shucks, y'all, my daddy's in jail, what's calamari" routine is a put-on. She's Carrie 2.0, without a brain.

Lisa de Moraes: I am deeply suspicious of someone who says she golly gosh has never seen a "calamari" and never had "sal-u-man" and does not know that a "minx" and "mink" are not the same thing, but knows the meaning of the word "arachnophobia."

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Burtonsville, Md.: Does anyone really believe Katie Couric is a good choice to anchor the CBS Evening News? Still, any network that would cancel "Love Monkey" deserves any disaster that befalls it.

Lisa de Moraes: Let's not forget these are some of the same suits who thought Bryant Gumbel was going to save "The Early Show."

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Herndon, Va.: The Divine Ms. deM: Please tell me that Fox's "inventor" spin-off of American Idol is flopping, or I will have to leave the U.S. for wherever it is Fox TV does not exist. By the way, Tony K keeps praising your writings in The Post on his radio show.

Lisa de Moraes: Sorry, it launched very well, and its audience grew pretty steadily each half hour, which is a good sign -- unless, of course, you're you.

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Chicago, Ill.: So are the results for AI going to remain at 9/8 central for the remainder of the season? That'll be an interesting matchup when an new episode of Lost comes on (when's the next new one, two months from now?). And why is anything that is good in the networks pretty much on only Wednesdays and Thursday 9/8 central?

Lisa de Moraes: Because nobody will watch them on Friday and Saturday nights, for instance... You guys have some responsibility here -- start slogging your way through "Ghost Whisperers" and "Cops" in enormous numbers so that the networks perk up and say "What's this? Look at these numbers -- we should really start to program these nights instead of just airing 'Rerun Theatre'!" That would help cause them to spread around the wealth a bit....Or, you could get a DVR.

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J.J. Abrams: Pookie, I know how you feel about J.J. But he hasn't done much with Lost all season. He's been too busy making sure that Mission Impossible 3 doesn't get sunk by the crazy-eyed, soul-sucking juggernaut that is Tom Cruise. (But last season of Lost was a little better.)

Lisa de Moraes: And on latter seasons of "Felicity" he was off doing something else spectacular. I still blame him. It's easier.

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Washington, D.C.: Lisa, can you provide any hints for this Sunday's episode of the Sopranos? I have only heard that Edie Falco will win her next Emmy because of it.

Lisa de Moraes: I can provide hints; HBO sent out the first few episodes, but I will not because it would ruin it...sorry.

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Gassaway, W.Va.: Dearest Lisa:

Is there any real chance for the return of Commander-in-Chief? Will they just burn off episodes in April? You'd think that after Geena Davis won the Golden Globe, the network would get behind this show, or at least fix it. Any clue?

Lisa de Moraes: Given that they've just dumped their second show runner -- Bochco has gone off to "do his pilot" which was "always the plan" is ABC's official position -- I'd say this one's toast. And I prefer not to think about Geena Davis or her "Little Girls Come Up To Me and Say They Now Have the Courage To Dream of Becoming President -- Kidding!" acceptance speech at the Golden Globes.

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Maryland: Ok, so I get that they are going to keep the name CW for the new network. But what does CW stand for? I seem to have missed that part...

Lisa de Moraes: CBS and Warner Bros. -- the two partners in the new network. CBS owns UPN and Warner Bros is one of the partners in WB -- the two networks that are being merged into The CW. Personally I think they should have gone with the name The WC and embraced the Water Closet jokes -- maybe even done some Water Closet guerilla marketing -- but, surprisingly, they did not ask my advice before settling on the name.

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Del Ray, Va.: Why can't Fox figure out how to keep House on the air during 'Mercan Idol season? Don't they worry about losing eyeballs to The Unit over at CBS?

Lisa de Moraes: Well, they ought to be worried if they aren't, because "The Unit" has been doing quite well in the ratings. It's a shame Fox can't figure out how to keep "House" on the air.

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Ann Arbor, Mich.: Lisa - yesterday Jon Stewart made a joke about how the Daily Show is being used (by neurosurgeon in the operating room??) and I've been trying to find the story that he alluded to but can't. Do you know what he was talking about?

Lisa de Moraes: I regret to say I too was stumped by the reference. Anybody out there know what he was talking about. Usually I'm pretty up on my "Daily Show" trivia, but I've been "Idol" obsessed lately...

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Ann Arbor, Mich.: Just received my 'The Office' boxed set. I'm very excited - and I just wanted you to know. I also watched the Winslow Boy yesterday. Jeremy says hi.

Lisa de Moraes: Funny you mentioning "Winslow Boy" because I was going to watch it -- again -- this weekend to enjoy a good David Mamet screenplay, as opposed to his new series "The Unit," had high hopes for but which leaves me kinda cold...

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Bada Bing, N.J.: Lisa: I may get whacked for this since I live in Jersey, but I just don't get all the hype about the Sopranos. I find it grotesque, gothic, and unfunny. I am supremely bored by all this hoopla over an over-the-hill show and am anxiously counting the days until a new House episode airs. Now, there is a Jersey-based show I can get behind!

Lisa de Moraes: "The Sopranos" is pretty over. I blame the many long hiatuses (hiatusi?)

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Kellie Pickler: My husband and I thought the same thing you did about her act being fake, but instead of arachnophobia, the word that got us was "genre." Not only did she use it correctly, she pronounced it correctly.

She has got to go.

Lisa de Moraes: Verrrry suspicious...

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Anonymous: How did the new Julia Louis-Dreyfus show do this week? I missed the first episode but enjoyed the second episode. What did you think?

Lisa de Moraes: The third episode is the best of the three, hang in there...

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Rockville, Md.: Lisa, during the "off season," do you take a break from the TV to recuperate or do you catch up on the things that you don't have time to watch during the season?

Lisa de Moraes: There is no "off" season any more. These jobs covering TV used to be pretty cushy, I'm told by some of the old timers. You could really kick back in the summer months and drink gin and tonics with your feet up on your desk. But there's way too much going on in the industry in the summer now...

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FX Network Questions?: What are your thoughts on Black.White. and this season of The Shield? Black.White. could be better and The Shield is benefiting from some great acting in making up for the slower story line. Also, is FX trying to become the "unsubscribed version" of HBO? Shows like Black.White., Thief, Nip/Tuck, The Shield, 30 Days are actually seem pretty good for a broadcast channel for original programming.

Lisa de Moraes: FX is not a broadcast network, it's a basic cable network but I take your point. And you are right, FX and other cable networks are spending more money to acquire more, and better, scripted programming, which is ironic because the broadcast networks are doing more unscripted programming which used to be standard stuff for basic cable networks. Life's a mystery when you think about it, really.

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Alexandria, Va.: Did you happen to catch last night's "Will and Grace?" I can't think of a better example of a once-brilliant show that jumped the shark long ago. The four leads are still wonderful, but the scripts (especially last night's) need an EPA Superfund cleanup.

Now if only Sean Hayes could get the Ed McMahon sidekick seat on Megan Mullaly's new talk show.

Lisa de Moraes: I feel exactly the same way. Brilliant cast + dreadful writing = sad viewing experience...

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Washington, D.C.: Lisa, how great was it watching Kevin sing part-time lover? I loved his moves. Do you even think he knew what the song was about?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, he knew. I think that Kevin has hidden depths. But his dance moves -- the worst. Though Katherine McPhee's moves on stage aren't much better...could she be any stiffer?

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Can't wait for Sopranos.....: My husband bets that Uncle Junior gets whacked by the end of the season. I say he might die of natural causes, but otherwise he's going to the old folks home (or looney bin). What do you think? The terms are a little steep so I'm hoping you're on my side......

Lisa de Moraes: I'm not talking...

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Sacramento, Calif.: So Simon is signed for five more seasons of AI. Don't you think it will have jumped the shark by then? I know there will still be undiscovered talent by then, but the face time for crazy untalented-but-delusional acts will be so amped up by then (as is the trend now) to make it utterly unmatchable ... your thoughts?

Lisa de Moraes: My thought is that we all -- Fox suits included - thought the show would be less popular this year and it's up again -- in its fifth season. That's very unusual.

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re: Daily Show last night: Judging from the giggly in the audience, I thought the opening of last night's show had to do with something the audience members told Stewart during the pre-show warm up. He sometimes refers to where folks are from and stuff like that. But maybe I was wildly leaping to conclusions...

Lisa de Moraes: your guess is as good as mine. Honest, I have no insider information here...

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TDS Question: Regarding the references to neurosurgeons and such on The Daily Show.

Because Jon mentioned it at the top of the show, there's a good chance he responded to something that was brought to his attention when warming up the audience. Every once in a while he'll do this. The studio audience laughs, because they know the context, and the home audience not so much.

Lisa de Moraes: If so, that's pretty lame show hosting. Did I just say something negative about Jon Stewart out loud?

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Washington, D.C.: Can I recommend an Idol-watching trick: TiVoing American Idol (if only to follow minutes behind) so you can whizz by Paula's meaningless comments, but still catch her body contortions in double-triple-or-quad time, so she looks like an drunk octopus?

Lisa de Moraes: Interesting viewing option. I'll try it this week and report back on Friday...Drunk octopus, you say?

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Castle Shannon, Pa.: Happy Green Day, Pookie. I'm okay with repeats on most of my shows, but why oh why is "Lost" repeating shows from LAST season?

Lisa de Moraes: I have no explanation for the madness that is the scheduling of "Lost" these days...maybe their chief scheduler is doing it on a bet....

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Somerset, N.J.: Lisa: I am sure you are right that the new drama The Unit is going to provide a smidgen of competition for House on Tuesdays. But do you really think that all of those fangirls who watch American Idol on Fox are going to switch over to their Grandpa's CBS to wade through David Mamet dialogue? Leaving the dial tuned to House's yummy Hugh Laurie seems much more likely this spring.

Lisa de Moraes: Sorry but The Unit is doing well across several demographic groups. It does not skew as old as you might think.....

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Washington, D.C.: Pookessa --My teenaged daughter is a huge fan of the OC. I try to watch it with her but keep nodding off. What's its prognosis - I understand that its numbers are down.

Lisa de Moraes: Very down. Pretty over... Moving on.

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Rosslyn, Va.: The Old Christine show... I have to say I really liked this show. I think its a great fit for Julia and can't wait for the next show!!!! I kept thinking while I was watching the 2nd episode "Lisa says wait for the 3rd...Lisa says wait for the 3rd".

Lisa de Moraes: I still say "wait for the third."

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RE: Jump the Shark: Hasn't someone come up with a replacement for this phrase yet?

Lisa de Moraes: No, we were working on a list but I got distracted. Care to contribute?

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Arlington, Va.: Hello there, I am just totally bored with Survivor this year. There are no appealing participants and the challenges are just contrived. What do you think, Lisa? Are you Survivored-out as well?

Lisa de Moraes: I'm pretty tuckered out when it comes to "Survivor." Even Mark Burnett's trademark "new twists" don't get me going any more. And the casting is pretty redundant; I feel like most of the competitors are been-there-done-that. Or maybe it's because all of the competitors have themselves seen so many editions of "Survivor" they play to what they think are the show's expectations. Maybe they need a "Survivor: Mensa" or a "Survivor: Lord of the Flies" edition to jazz things up.

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Washington, D.C.: Lisa, how does Ann Curry keep her job? She cannot make it through two sentences without messing up. I can't even watch her give the news anymore because it is so distracting.

Lisa de Moraes: You don't find it riveting? Maybe it's just me. I love live TV

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Fox: Are any of these new Fox shows like The Loop and Free Ride any good? I feel like I've already seen them because of the tons of commercials during American Idol. I have absolutely no time to watch any more shows, so I wanted to know what you thought out of interest.

Lisa de Moraes: I liked the pilot of "The Loop" when I saw it ages ago, but I've matured a lot since then.

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Cleveland, Ohio: Oh, I have massive hate for FOX, the bad boyfriend of all networks. We split after the fiasco of "Firefly." I (sob!) fell again for "House" and "Prison Break" but now it's the same old story, never on, dissing the fans...tell me dear Pookie--is there a support group?

Lisa de Moraes: We're it!

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Silver Spring, Md.: I thought the invention show was hilarious. Kind of like watching the auditions for Idol - you just want to see the bad people who think they are good. Are you planning to watch the show Unanimous? How much lower can they go than locking people in a bunker? I will watch just to see the absurdity of it (which, of course, is what they are counting on). But good news - Blow Out with crying Jonathan is back next week!!

Lisa de Moraes: You mean the new Fox reality series "Torture." I don't like to watch...I have a weak stomach.

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Albemarle, N.C. Kellie Pickler's home town: As I said to my wife there is a fine line between cute and dumb blonde and Kellie is pushing the envelope. Having met her before American Idol, she has amped up the accent and corn-pone routine a bit.

Lisa de Moraes: I knew it! No one can be that dumb and that blonde at the same time.

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Inventor Spin-off on ABC NOT FOX!: Fox's "inventor" spin-off of American Idol is flopping, or I will have to leave the U.S. for wherever it is Fox TV does not exist.

and ABC?

Lisa de Moraes: Thank you for catching that.. Now the earth can return to its axis....

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Ace: Aren't I just a poor imitation of Constantine, without the pout. What are the odds that I will hook up with this year's pouter queen, "I'm Not Pregnant" Katherine

Lisa de Moraes: Gosh I hope you're right because I would be so sad if Ace wins this based on his pertiness...it was thrilling to see him in the bottom three this week, really thrilling. You notice that a lot of the best-lookers have been booted on this show? Becky O'Donohue, Ayla Brown, David Radford. Maybe ugly people do rule after all..

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Audience in on the joke: Letterman does that sometimes too, but he usually explains it afterward for the TV audience.

Lisa de Moraes: ..which makes all the difference in the world to the viewer at home.

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Kat's moves: She said later to Ryan Seacrest that her shoe broke and someone had to grab her another pair and something had gone "wrong" with her dress, hence the stiffness on stage. But, seriously, what is it with shoes and AI? Could the bit with Ryan and Mandisa's shoes have been any ickier?

Lisa de Moraes: But she's always that stiff. She just came armed with an excuse this time...I loved watching Ryan take off Mandisa's shoes. I'm actually liking Ryan this season. Go figure.

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Boston, Mass.: So, Pookie, how do you feel about Bones? Other than Ms Deschannel's unfortunate eye make up, I really enjoy the show, and hope they pick it up for next season.

Lisa de Moraes: I feel that I did not realize until "Bones" that David Boreanaz could act. He's great when he's not trying to be all angsty and vampirish.

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Washington, D.C.: Lisa,

The previous question about the low figures for the Soprano season premiere made me think about TV ratings: Does Nielsen compute the on-demand viewing of shows? I figure that for an urban area like DC, where many if not most HBO subscribers enjoy digital cable, shows like the Sopranos are often seen for the first time through the on-demand feature. And it looks like that trend will only become more widespread in the future.

Lisa de Moraes: It probably will become more widespread, though it's not a huge number now and on-demand numbers aren't readily available now like they are for telecast-and-day-of (dvr) viewing. This is a problem when trying to gauge ratings success for a show that's also being offered on-demand. It's also not possible now for a journalist to easily come by stats on how many people have watched an episode of a show on an iPod, etc. It's an imperfect science.

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Washington, D.C.: American Idol allows hundreds of votes from one phone line. Why is that? Obviously it helps a singer get tons of votes regardless of their talent. Is there a way for this type of show to be more fair? I enjoy the show to a degree but the voting system is ridiculous and I confess I'm talking about the chicken little kid.

Lisa de Moraes: Because one of the show's sponsors is a phone company that makes money on the text message voting and the more votes cast that way the more money they make.

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New York, N.Y.: Do you think the telenovels beginning in September on the stations replacing the UPN network will be any good?

Lisa de Moraes: I think they will be tremulous...

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Cleveland, Ohio: I'm not really laughing at "Sons and Daughters," but I'm still kind of enjoying it. Is that wrong?

Lisa de Moraes: Not at all, it's at least attempting to be different...

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Washington, D.C.: What was Ann Curry on this morning? They let her sub for Katie, and she's babbling sofastyoucanhardlyunderstandher. She also really needs the rethink the chartreuse mini-sweater-thing (what are those called)? I'm surprised they can't find someone better. How hard it is to read a Teleprompter?

Lisa de Moraes: Apparently pretty hard. And what the heck is a mini sweater thing?

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Bethesda, Md.: Lisa,

Will the Bill Paxton ever get interesting? Who would have thought that Chloe Sivengy could be so boring?

Thanks HBO for making us wait three months for Deadwood for this show.

Lisa de Moraes: It was interesting that HBO's promos for "Big Love" -- the night of The Sopranos return -- seems to be trying to cast it as a comedy. It's a pretty bleak show.

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Washington, D.C.: How long will The Loop last? Do they have any gags other than: waking up unsure where one is; getting arrested in a plane/airport; and pulling a "genius" idea out of one's posterior at the last second?

Lisa de Moraes: I take it you are not a fan.

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Jump the Shark: No! Don't you remember, someone came up with something fabulous and we all loved it. Now if I could only remember what it was. I really don't want to have to slog through old transcripts....

Lisa de Moraes: I can't even remember what I had for breakfast -- or if I had breakfast, for that matter. I'll look through the transcript and report back next week. (I'm saying that a lot today; maybe I should've had that second cup of coffee.)

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Indianapolis: The mini sweater thing is a shrug, people!

Lisa de Moraes: Thank goodness we can at least answer one question today.

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Washington, D.C.: I'll say something negative about Jon Stewart and I love his show. His interviews are horrible. He should ask Colbert for some tips.

Lisa de Moraes: Amen. Colbert is brilliant during the interviews -- did you see him with Olbermann and Franken recently? He ran circles around them both...

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Rockville, Md.: the various questions today about ratings #s make me wonder about CBS, which always seems to be touting mega #s for its shows. Are the CBS #s real, or is the network being disingenuous with the figures?

Lisa de Moraes: All of the networks are guilty of using "reach" numbers in their promos instead of "average audience." "Reach" means anyone who surfed through a show, watching as little as six minutes. "Average audience" means the average number of people watching the show in any given minute. Some cable networks even use "reach" numbers that tell how many people watched as little as one minute -- about how long it takes me to figure out which logo I'm seeing in the corner of the screen and therefore what the heck I'm watching. It's nonsense.

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David Boreanaz and St. Patrick's Day: "I feel that I did not realize until "Bones" that David Boreanaz could act. He's great when he's not trying to be all angsty and vampirish."

or when he's not trying to affect an Irish accent....

Lisa de Moraes: that too...

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...speaking of inside jokes...: What's with all the "Pookie" references?

Lisa de Moraes: since I've received several variations of this question: it's short for Pookischmookie. The name of one of my long dead aunts...I'm out of time. Bye.

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