Thursday, December 13, 2018


Here are my predictions for the TLC (Tables Ladders and Chairs) PPV this Sunday. Other than what I believe to be the main event I’m not all that excited about the card. If you want to know why RAW’s ratings are in freefall notice that both the Universal Championship and the RAW Tag Team titles are not up for grabs. Also, Shinsuke Nakamora’s Smackdown US Title is nowhere to be seen continuing the WWE’s total waste of a major talent. There are some injuries right now so it’s possible that neither Finn Balor nor Braun Strowman will appear (then again it could be work) and I honestly don’t see how most of these matches factor into a setup for Wrestlemania.

Anyway, here are the match order predictions, the winners (always assume clean finishes but well you know) and my patented Holy Shit predictions (max is a five). I assume that the first two or three matches will be on the pre-show but I could be wrong.

Mixed Match Challenge (WHO THE FUCK CARES)

Natalia v. Ruby Riot πŸ’©1/2 -- Natty’s defending her late father’s honor but Ruby is the future and putting Natty through the table will elevate her into a heel contender to face Ronda down the road.

Buddy Murphy v. Cedric Alexander πŸ’©πŸ’©πŸ’©πŸ’© -- These dudes brought down the house at Survivor Series and they should have another solid match with Murphy retaining. Either this will open the show or…

New Day v. Usos v. The Bar πŸ’©πŸ’©πŸ’©πŸ’© – The three best tag teams should rock the arena. Should be the Usos but will be The Bar. The New Day don’t need belts to be one of the best things going in the WWE.

Rey Mysterio v. Randy OrtonπŸ’©πŸ’© Should be OK and I think Rey wins and has a program with the current WWE Champ

Elias v. Bobby Lashley πŸ’©1/2 – I really don’t get Elias. I know I am in the minority but I’m sure he will go over in this match and it doesn’t hurt Lashley since it’s just climbing a ladder for a fucking guitar which the winner will just smash over the loser or the loser smashes over the winner. In either case move on.

Finn Balor v. Drew McIntyre πŸ’©πŸ’© – McIntyre is clearly moving up to the main event against either Lesnar or Strowman. Finn will give him a good match but again will fall short.

Braun Strowman v. Baron Corbin 1/2πŸ’© – Assuming it happens it will be quick and painful. If Braun shows up it will be the end of Corbin’s acting GM run.

Ronda Rousey v. Nia Jax πŸ’© πŸ’© – I would give this fewer holy shits but Rousey never ceases to impress me by performing over my expectations. She wins and moves on as the WWE figures out how to get her and Becky together for Wrestlemania.

Daniel Bryan v. AJ Styles πŸ’©πŸ’©πŸ’©πŸ’©πŸ’© -- Two of the best will put on a show. The New Daniel Bryan will continue his reign and I’m looking forward to it.

Seth Rollins v. Dean Ambrose πŸ’©πŸ’©πŸ’©1/2 I think Dean wins and Seth moves up the food chain. For whatever reason they have not been able to turn up the heat on this one. Interesting to see if Dean’s wife gets involved in some way.

Becky Lynch v. Charlotte Flair v. Asuka πŸ’©πŸ’©πŸ’©πŸ’©1/2 This should be awesome and deserves to main event the card. I guess it depends whether Becky is whole or needs to be protected. I think Asuka wins in an upset and Becky heads over to RAW which needs the ratings boost. Charlotte and Asuka feud and here come Mandy Rose and Shayna Baszler.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


I have often talked on my blog and Twitter feed about the importance of “showmanship” in programming a network. I’ve lamented about the lack of showmanship in so much of what goes on the air today. Showmanship doesn’t necessarily require spending large amounts of money. On the contrary. Showmanship in the TV biz should be about how you make something out of nothing. How do you take what you already have and turn it into an “event”. Making it more than it is.

If I had any success scheduling two networks for over twenty years I can attribute much of it to showmanship. The one that I am most proud of was delaying the premiere of 24 until January, starting with a four hour “event” leading out of an NFL playoff game on Sunday, and running it non-stop for the rest of the season. Not only did the ratings go up after two seasons of declines but, in the second season of this shift, 24 won the Emmy for best drama and Kiefer Sutherland won the best actor Emmy.

At NBC we had a pretty mediocre series from Wes Craven called “Nightmare CafΓ©”. We had no idea how to promote it so I said “Let’s not. Let’s do it as a sneak preview.” So, we promoted a sneak preview on a mid-week night at 10PM showing all sorts of weird shit from the series but never told the viewers what it was. We did get an audience to sample it but, sadly, they didn’t come back.

I loved figuring out ways to make something out of nothing with the theatricals that we purchased. I letterboxed “Sound of Music” one year (at NBC we had the movie tied up forever) and we did a sing-along once. I had the cast do interstitials for another run. We had written off two “Star Wars” movies and I played them one weekend promoting them as the “15th Anniversary Celebration of Star Wars”. They were two of the highest rated movies of the year in their third or fourth runs on NBC and they cost us nothing.

Of course, not all these attempts at showmanship worked but I always (and still) believe that it is the most important characteristic of a good television programmer.

This morning I realized that fifteen years ago FOX aired the first of what was to become a holiday tradition. December 20, 2003, we aired the first COPS Christmas Special “HO HO HO” which featured three segments on prostitutes. I’m not saying I’m proud of this but here’s the story:

For most of its first fifteen years on FOX COPS featured a city per episode. Around the time I arrived the format changed to more themed episodes. COPS was always bequeathed to the newest network current executive because, well no one wanted to handle it. As a result, my sidekick in scheduling MJ LaVaccare and I would offer a lot of input to the current exec on themes for the episodes.

In 2003 we had a young current exec who latched on to me for advice and guidance. Of course, he was assigned COPS and as we were mapping out the 2003-4 season of the show, I believe its 16th, I had an epiphany. I asked MJ if we had ever done a Christmas themed episode of COPS. To the best of his knowledge (which was encyclopedic) we had not. “What if he did an all prostitution episode titled Ho Ho Ho”? MJ always had higher moral standards than me (if I had any at all when it came to TV) but reluctantly agreed that it was worth the shot.

I called up the young current exec and told him that I was about to do him the biggest favor of his young career. “At the next Current Meeting (held in out boss Gail Berman’s office) you are going to announce that we are doing a  COPS Christmas special called Ho Ho Ho”. I didn’t have to go any further. He knew where I was going with this. The kid flipped out begging me not to make him do it. I explained that he will get kudos for this which I didn’t need at that point in my career.

I talked him down and, at the next current meeting, he nervously pitched this episode…not with a lot of enthusiasm I may add. As I expected he got applause for the pitch. This was FOX. The home of Mike Darnell and “When Animals Attack” so, of course we do things like this.

As the meeting ended, while my “student” was getting atta boys and high fives. Gail pulled me aside. “That was you” she said. I just smiled.

Showmanship. We need more of it in the TV business and we need more creative executives who are willing to go for it and make something out of nothing.

Happy Holidays

Ho Ho Ho

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


Any year with the release of new music by John Coltrane and the classic quartet is a good year for Jazz. If that wasn’t enough the Masked Wife and I were blessed with seeing Cecile McLorin Salvant twice this year at both Cal State Northridge (which for the second year has an excellent schedule of Jazz concerts) and Catalina Bar and Grill. The Jazz Bakery finally has a permanent home at the Moss Theater in Santa Monica which means far more top shelf Jazz in LA. We just saw Charles Lloyd and Gerald Clayton at the Moss and Kurt Elling will be there on Friday. There were also two welcome additions to the LA Jazz scene with Sam First down near LAX and The Write-Off Room on Ventura Blvd.  Finally, we had a chance to see the great Mary Stallings at Vitellos. Haven’t seen her in over ten years.

It's still not New York City but Jazz is happening in LA and go out and support it.

Here are ten Jazz albums that came out this year (or first came to my attention) that I would recommend as a good representation of what 2018 had to offer:

Renee Rosnes “Beloved the Sky”
JD Allen “Love Stone”
Emmet Cohen “Masters Legacy Series Volume 2: Ron Carter”
John Coltrane “Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album”
Kenny Barron Quintet “Concentric Circles”
Myra Medford’s Snowy Egret “The Other Side of Air”
Cecile McLorin Salvant “The Window”
Azar Lawrence “Elementals”
Keith Jarrett-Gary Peacock-Jack DeJohnette “After The Fall”
Black Art Jazz Collective “Armor of Pride”

There was also lots of fine Reggae Music in 2018. May I recommend these five:

Beres Hammond “Never Ending”
King Tubby Presents Dennis Brown “Tracks of Life”
Bitty McLean “Love Restart”
Kabaka Pyramid “Kontraband”
Alborosie “Unbreakable: Alborosie Meets the Wailers”