Thursday, August 9, 2018

SUMMERSLAM 2018 PREDICTIONS, MATCH ORDER AND HOLY SHIT RATINGS


I’m really looking forward to this SUMMERSLAM. It’s been quite a while since a card on a major WWE PPV feels as fully formed over a week out from the event…and by and large it makes sense. What is really exciting here is that there are so many permutations as to how the main event, which I assume will be Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns, will play out; and there’s a “Money in the Bank” contract match which will factor into all this…oh and then there’s the whole Paul Heyman situation. I can’t remember a WWE storyline with so many possibilities, not that the WWE can’t figure out a way to screw this all up and leave the fans confused and disappointed…and as good as this PPV could be it will again be overshadowed by NXT TAKEOVER which invades  Brooklyn’s Barclay Center the night before.
As of now there are eleven matches on the card and I have to believe that there will be a few modifications and probably two pre-show matches. Here are my predictions, match order and “Holy Shit” (💩) expectations for the event. If need be I will update all this after the RAW and SMACKDOWN LIVE “Go Home” shows.
Here we go gang
The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan💩💩💩1/2 (Match Order: Seventh) Here’s where the card kicks it up a notch. I know this looks like a low “Holy Shit” score but I think that this is the beginning of a long program that may take us all the way to WRESTLEMANIA so they can’t leave it all in the ring…unless Bryan does not re-sign in which case this is a 💩💩💩💩💩 match. Miz will win in some questionable way but strap in for months of this feud.

Baron Corbin vs. Finn Balor💩 (Match Order: Fifth) Bathroom break. Finn wins.

The Bludgeon Brothers vs. The New Day (SmackDown Tag Team Championships)💩1/2 (Match Order: Sixth) God I hope it’s the New Day but I think the Bludgees retain in a short match. A shame given the phenomenal ND/Bar match on SMACKDOWN.
UPDATE: It's my prerogative to change my mind and, given the in-ring level that the New Day is operating at right now I think they will take back the belts.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins (Intercontinental Championship)💩💩💩💩 (Match Order: Fourth) These guys can wrestle but this has been going on for so long. I guess Seth wins with Drew McIntyre stepping in for Rollins’ next program. Dean Ambrose may appear here either to help or turn on Rollins.
UPDATE: Well Ambrose showed up on Monday and looked fantastic. This match is going to be pandemonium and should set up many story lines for these solid performers. I'm elevating the "Holy Shit" level to 💩💩💩💩💩

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jeff Hardy (United States Championship)💩💩💩1/2 (Match Order: Second) This should be a solid match and keep the buzz going from the KO/Strowman battle. The WWE has prevented Shinsuke from realizing his full potential having totally blown his program with AJ Styles which I thought would steal the show at WRESTLEMANIA. There are rumors Nakamura may be returning to NJPW but I think he will retain. Oh, and Randy Orton will play some role here probably helping Shinsuke win and then turning on him.

Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens (Money in the Bank contract is on the line)💩💩💩💩 (Match Order: First) I know that you want to start with an action-packed, high-flying battle and these two lunks, although they can move, will not deliver that kind of match. However, this battle will have a major impact on the main event and the result can play through the rest of the four plus hour show which leads me to believe that Kevin Owens (my hero) is going to find a way to wrest the MITB briefcase from Strowman and factor into the Lesnar/Reigns outcome.
UPDATE: Given Monday's RAW it's clear that Paul Heyman is going to play a significant role here. A Heyman/KO alliance with KO holding the belt would be awesome. I'll hold out hope.

Carmella vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte (SmackDown Women's Championship)💩💩1/2 (Match Order: Third) Two of these women can wrestle and one cannot and she will retain in a way where Becky and Charlotte will start their program.

Alexa Bliss vs. Ronda Rousey (Raw Women's Championship)💩💩💩💩 (Match Order: Ninth) I have become a Ronda Rousey believer and she will defeat Miss Bliss who will put in a surprisingly solid performance here and there will be a Natty turn either during or before the match. This could turn into a three against one (with Mickie James thrown in) to give Rousey a daunting challenge. Guaranteed to exceed expectations.
UPDATE: Well Natty is probably out for this Sunday and if she does show up I doubt she will turn on Rousey. Also it appears that Alicia Fox is the new Mickie James. I haven no idea how all this will impact the match but I still think that there will be a title change here.

AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe (WWE Championship)💩💩💩💩💩 (Match Order: Eighth) This will be the match of the night with two veterans who know each other really well and, you may remember, both had top shelf contests against Brock Lesnar in the past year. It’s going to be a brutal strong style match. Should be Joe but I think AJ retains.

Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (Universal Championship)💩💩💩💩1/2 (Main Event) What’s really exciting isn’t the match itself which will be brutal, violent and fairly quick but what happens before and especially after. I’m assuming Heyman does not come down with either of these dudes. There are so many possibilities but the one I’m rooting for is a Reigns win and an Owens run in to beat an exhausted Reigns for the belt and then an alignment with Heyman. If I’m wrong about KO then Strowman runs in and Roman beats him as well to overcome the two monsters, solidify his position as top dog and then turns with Heyman as his advocate. The anticipation for this will be huge.

To summarize in match order and projected winner (*)

Strowman v. Owens* 💩💩💩💩
Nakamora* v. Hardy 💩💩💩1/2
Carmella* v. Lynch v. Charlotte 💩💩1/2
Ziggler v. Rollins* 💩💩💩💩💩
Corbin v. Balor* 💩
Bludgeon Bros. v. New Day* 💩1/2
Miz* v. Bryan 💩💩💩1/2
Styles* v. Joe 💩💩💩💩💩
Rousey* v. Bliss 💩💩💩💩
Reigns* v. Lesnar 💩💩💩💩1/2



Summerslam Bottom Line: 💩💩💩 ½ Holy Shits
Summer Slam Chili: 💩💩💩💩💩💩


Monday, August 6, 2018

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY "THE OC"


THE OC premiered on FOX fifteen years ago this week. The show’s early August premiere grew out of necessity. You see FOX had a unique problem in attempting to launch its Fall season: Major League Baseball.

The season traditionally starts in mid-September and, while the other networks could run new episodes of their shows uninterrupted for seven or eight weeks, FOX would find itself preempted for the ALCS, NLCS and World Series on a somewhat random basis through October, and don’t get me started on rain delays and rainouts. We could not get our schedule going until November and then we were facing “sweeps” episodes and stunts on the other networks. It was not pretty.

Fortunately for us AMERICAN IDOL came along in the summer of 2002 and settled into its January-May run. This made up for our horrendous Fall performance. Still we were trying to figure out what to do in the Fall. We decided to break the traditional development cycle so that some shows (dramas to be exact) would be ready to come on in mid-August and get a six to eight week uninterrupted run before the baseball preemptions kicked in.

We didn’t make a big deal of this. No grandiose announcements at the Television Critics Tour that pilot season is dead…we continued our regular development. We just went about the business of figuring out how to get some shows on the air earlier than in the past.

If memory serves me we read a bunch of scripts and settled on two (possibly three) dramas that we would put into early development so that they could be screened before traditional pilot weeks. A few of us would screen the pilots and order two of them straight to series. I don’t believe we tested them before we made the decision. We went with our gut.

The two pilots that we ordered were THE OC and a quirky series called WONDERFALLS which I personally liked a lot. We were all every excited when we saw THE OC. It felt like we were back in BH 90201, PARTY OF FIVE, MELROSE territory and it had several things going for it:

·      It had the nerd/bad boy friendship dynamic at its center
·      There was the “shiksa goddess” component which always pops
·      You had the whole FRESH PRINCE/GREEN ACRES/NORTHERN EXPOSURE fish out of water element
·      There was a sad rich girl/bad boy sexual tension thing
·      The creator Josh Schwartz (really nice guy by the way) injected a bit of a neurotic Jewish vibe into the proceedings which eventually gave birth to Chrismukkah, second only to Festivus in terms of holidays born from television.

What it didn’t have was diversity. After the show’s successful summer launch that diversity issue led to a heated discussion between my bosses and me over whether THE OC should follow the IDOL results show in mid-season or should we give THE BERNIE MAC SHOW (which grew with the IDOL lead-in) a second season in that prized slot. I lost that one and THE OC moved to Wednesday in the 2003-04 season. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is the fifteenth anniversary and I want to talk about the premiere launch.

First, after ordering WONDERFALLS, with the producers knowing full well our strategy for the early pick-up, we were informed that the show would not be ready in the Fall. This was a typical ploy but non the less discouraging. The show wound up being given a tough time slot in mid-season and without the promotional push it would have received with the summer launch. WONDERFALLS vanished after its original order. We’ll never know what might have been.

The good news was this allowed us to focus exclusively on THE OC. As we started the campaign there was some concern that, by premiering the show in early August, we were signaling to the audience that this was a summer burn-off. In order to combat that perception, we made sure that the campaign made it clear that this was a ”Fall” series. We came up with the slogan “The best show of the fall begins this summer” or something close to that.

Little did we know that there was someone lurking at another network who was intent on destroying THE OC…Jeff Zucker. Jeff was, at that time the President of NBC Entertainment and sort of the Wile E. Coyote of this saga. Jeff decided that he was going to take down THE OC by airing I believe an original episode of FEAR FACTOR against the premiere. FEAR FACTOR was a success for the Peacock and representative of the taste that Zucker was introducing to the Must-See-TV culture.

When we saw what JZ was up to I suggested taking a page out of cable and running THE OC three time a week – Tuesday original and repeats of the episode on Friday and Monday. One of the benefits of launching THE OC in the summer was the flexibility that it gave us in scheduling the show for maximum effectiveness. It’s sort of how the AMERICAN IDOL results show came into being the prior summer.

Back then in the summer of 2003 scheduling and counter-programming mattered more than they do today so putting FEAR FACTOR against the premiere of THE OC had the intended impact. It didn’t demolish the show but, given the push, the ratings for the premiere were not what we had hoped for.

I was in Hawaii with my family when THE OC premiered. Before I left on vacation I promised my boss Gail Berman that I would get up early, find a computer in the hotel, get the numbers and call her at about 4AM on Kauai. I also told Mike Darnell our head of unscripted and my partner in crime at FOX that I was going to be three hours earlier than LA time so PLEASE!!! don’t call me when the ratings arrive. Mike and I talked ratings quite a lot especially during IDOL season when we would be on the phone at 5:30 in the morning talking overnights. Mike was an OC skeptic and thought we were out of our minds to try to launch a scripted show in the middle of the summer.

Anyway, I called Gail from the lobby of the hotel and we both agreed that there was nothing that we could do other than to hope that this strategy of airing the show two additional times each week might off-set Zucker’s dastardly deed.

After the call I crept back into my room where the Masked wife kids were sleeping when my cell phone blasted out some reggae ringtone waking the entire family. It was Mikey.

“So, what do you need me to give you for next week?”
“Mike it’s four in the morning, I’m in Hawaii, you just woke my family. I told you not to call me when the numbers came in.”
“Oh yeah, sorry, but what do you need me to have ready for next week?”
“Mike we’re not doing anything and my family is shooting me daggers.”

It took me a few more minutes to end the conversation but that was Mike and I honestly wouldn’t have had it any other way with him. We accomplished a lot.

Back to Zucker. He felt that he had successfully destroyed THE OC and, the following week, went back to repeats of some scripted show. Fortunately, between that and the multiple repeats the second episode took a leap up in the ratings. Zucker panicked and put a repeat FEAR FACTOR against episode three but it was too late. THE OC had taken hold and I believe the ratings grew again and the “buzz” was beginning . Zucker’s moves gave us a great growth story to go along with the growing popular reception to the show.

THE OC was one of those rare shows where a plan actually came together. Program Planning, Creative, Casting, Marketing and Scheduling all with a little help from a clueless executive at another network contributed to the success of a beloved albeit fairly short-lived series on FOX.

Happy Anniversary!!!!