The Week in TV: George Lopez Canceled, Nation Mostly Shrugs
Lopez Tonight was canceled, but going by the numbers, you didn't even know it was on. This was the week in TV Land:
• File under The More Things Change: A year after Conan O'Brien left NBC for TBS amid a dispute over time slots, TBS has canceled George Lopez's Lopez Tonight, which was bumped back to a later hour when Conan debuted. To be fair, Lopez was never that funny, and his days were numbered the moment Conan signed his contract. Still, it's an ironic twist that Conan, who's spent the past couple years recasting his public persona as an underdog hosed by network politics and a higher-rated comic, would find himself in the position to do the screwing. The most awkward part was the way Lopez used his final monologues to claim that he was being let go because of his ethnicity. His penultimate monologue, on Aug. 10, had a bit about Sony giving the go-ahead to a sequel to The Smurfs, for which Lopez did voice work. His punch line: "So today I lost some work because I'm brown, but also I got some work because I'm blue." I hate to let facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory, but it's a numbers game, George, not a race war. The Lopez Tonight audience has been down ever since the show got kicked to a later slot, clocking about 400,000 viewers and a 0.2 rating. TBS doesn't care what color you are. They want eyeballs on screens and ad dollars in their pockets. End of story.
• Speaking of endings: AMC has renewed Breaking Bad for 16 more episodes, which will be its last. It's not clear yet how AMC will actually air those episodes, though. They might use them to create an extra-long season (each season so far has had 13 episodes, except for the truncated first season, which had seven), or they could break them over two years and two seasons of eight episodes each. It boils down to how long they want to rely on the show -- a critical hit and one of the series that's built AMC's brand in the drama department -- to fuel the network.
This is a good thing. Breaking Bad is a phenomenal show and a perfect example of how to tell a long-form story on television, and it's not designed to last forever. Creator Vince Gilligan isn't just spinning his wheels here; he's going places, and doing so intentionally. I love Breaking Bad, but I don't want it to run seven or nine years just because it's doing okay and AMC finally figured out a way to make production costs work. That's a disservice to the story. I'll be sad to see it go, but happy it gets to leave on its own terms. It's one of the best series ever made.
• I recapped Dancing With the Stars for this site a couple of years back. Having never watched the show before, I didn't know what to expect, so I was caught off-guard by the way I descended into madness and desperation as the season wore on. At one point, I'm pretty sure I dreamed about Tom Bergeron. It's not the worst reality show out there -- it's probably screened in purgatory, but not actual hell -- though it's still pretty obnoxious and dull. To further test viewers' collective will to live, the upcoming season will feature Snooki, who will probably be awarded some kind of automatic prize just for showing up and staying sober for two-hour stretches. Also joining the ranks of the dubiously titled stars: Tiffani Thiessen, who will do the Hot Sundae routine every week if she knows what's good for her.
• Tyler Perry is getting his own TV network. Nothing's been officially confirmed yet, but Lionsgate is looking to branch into Tyler TV and fill 24 hours a day with Perry-branded content, from reruns of his sitcoms to airings of the 13 (!) movies he's made since 2005. The rare non-Perry moments would be programmed with the kind of down-home, vaguely Christian stuff that Perry's become a master at mass producing, per the report in the New York Times. Given his staggering success, this was inevitable.
• Change of plans for SyFy and Eureka: Instead of giving the recently cancelled show a truncated six-episode season to wrap up additional storylines, execs at the network have announced that the show's upcoming fifth season (currently in production) will be its last. Having never seen an episode, I can't speak to the show's quality, but you have to admit it's impressive that an actual science-fiction show lasted six seasons on a network that spends a worrisome amount of airtime on low-budget B-movie ripoffs, shows about people trying to actually catch ghosts, and wrestling. Hell, Battlestar Galactica only lasted four seasons (two and a half of which were really quite good), so six years is nothing to feel bad about.
• Some follow-up info on Frank Darabont, AMC and The Walking Dead. Darabont's abrupt departure from the series came as a surprise, especially given the show's popularity and ratings, and the rumored explanation -- that Darabont couldn't keep up with TV production schedules after years in features -- felt plausible but still false. It turns out that the situation more likely revolved around budgeting, according to a story in The Hollywood Reporter. The show's second-season budget was cut last fall, and the network's also butted heads over costs with Mad Men's Matthew Weiner and Breaking Bad's Vince Gilligan, because apparently having hit shows that garner critical prestige and totally revamp your image from a network that shows Top Gun four times a week to a cable home for gifted dramatists isn't enough if you can't keep every cent to yourself.
Leaping into the fray, Kurt Sutter, creator of FX's Sons of Anarchy, took to Twitter to blast AMC for screwing over Darabont. Sutter placed the blame at Weiner's feet, saying the money that he and his crew won in negotiations could have gone to save Darabont's budget. One tweet read (this is all sic): "no one else wants to f--king say it, but the greed of mad men is killing the other two best shows on tv - breaking bad and walking dead." It was the latest in a string of less-than-brilliant PR moves from Sutter, and as a result, he pulled the plug on his Twitter account a couple of days later, saying, "My deactivation was pretty much self-preservation." He's got a blog post detailing the move, but it's ridiculously NSFW unless your boss is cool with the C-word in all caps in headlines, in which case you work for Larry Flynt and should probably reexamine what the hell you're doing with your time on this planet.
So that's that. Just another money fight. I hope that Glen Mazzara, the new showrunner, can make the smaller numbers work and do some good things. It's still a fun show with lots of good ideas, and it boasts one of the best pilots of the decade. It'd be a shame to see it die before its time.
• Not sure how long this'll be online, but it's worth checking out if you get the chance (even if you're like totally over the '90s). In October 2000, Nickelodeon aired a TV movie called Cry Baby Lane intended to be in the vein of the light horror of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, though I'll be the first to admit that Dark had some pretty weird episodes for a kids' show. Cry Baby Lane was about a dark fable come to life in which a pair of conjoined twins, one good and one evil, were kept hidden away by their father before succumbing to sickness and dying. The father then cut them apart and buried them separately, inspiring a group of modern kids to hold a séance and raise the good kid from the dead. Instead, they awaken the evil one, who starts to possess them one at a time. In no way does this sound like it was made for kids, but there you have it. The movie was disowned by Nick after parents called to complain about their kids' trauma, and it was never released on home video. However, threads on The Daily What and Reddit sparked renewed interest, and one intrepid uploader dug up a copy and put it online. Enjoy:
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