Winners at War? More like Whiners at War. Or Winners at Warm Fuzzy Feelings. Or Winners on the Survivor Celebrity Cruise. [takes a bow]
These are all alternate subtitles for this past “greatest of all-time” season of Survivor (these are also names I flirted with for the headline of this post, and I just couldn’t bear to part with them. So, bonus titles! You’re welcome).
Without doing the arithmetic, I’ve probably posted more about Survivor than any other subject on this blog (are we still saying “blog?” Pop culture review? Internet phenomenon? Literary TikTok?). Certainly I’ve written more words about it than any other show, if the memory of my epic poem-length recaps serves correctly. So there ever was a time to dip my toes back into that clear blue Fijian water, it certainly seems like that time is now. With Season 40 just barely in our rear view, here are my thoughts:
I hated it.
Okay, that is not entirely true or accurate. But it was a letdown, peaking mid-season with the back-to-back-to-back eliminations of Boston Rob, Parvati and Sandra, and then not quite reaching that gear again. All things considered it will probably end up near the bottom of my top 10, or maybe even in the top 15 (I need to do a proper ranking, but perhaps that’s a post for another day). However, this season – as has been the trend in recent Survivor times – succeeded in spite of itself. And I shall endeavor to tell you why (buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy, scattered ride).
Absent, or maybe just ignored, among all the words committed to The Tonight Show plan for succession has been a discussion about what will happen to The Late Show with David Letterman and its lead-out The Late Late Show. Like Jay Leno, Dave has been at this game a long, long time. Unlike Jay, Dave seems to not care about ratings (possibly because he knows he’s likely to lose), does not appear to be that concerned with being well-liked (which has worked to his advantage, and has paradoxically made him more revered) and is not in any imminent danger of being forced out by the network brass, basically been given carte blanche by CBS to stay as long as he wants and, essentially, to do what he wants. When one jump-starts a late night franchise from scratch, we guess he’s granted some amount of immunity. But, unlike Jay, Dave doesn’t have a younger, hipper, potential replacement nipping at his heels, which makes the future of The Late Show even murkier.
While Craig Ferguson has built up a small but very loyal, impassioned following, and has received rave reviews for years from critics, we don’t have the sense that he’s long for his job, or at least eying the 11:35pm slot. In that small studio (we’ve been there) in CBS Television City, without a house band or announcer, Ferguson can deliver long, meandering monologues (verging on soliloquies) straight to camera, as if the audience and the viewing public wasn’t there, and engage in extended, intimate irreverent conversations with a diverse pool of guests. The Late Late Show interviews occupy that space between the celebrity shilling meant for the masses that one can observe on most late night talk shows and the quiet, introspective, one-on-one interviews conducted without a studio audience on past programs like Tom Synder’s Late Late Show. Sometimes it feels like The Late Late Show is performed for the studio audience, and then broadcast to millions of homes as an afterthought. Which isn’t to say that Ferguson couldn’t do a more traditional, more accessible late night show if he were bumped up to the main slot, we’re just not sure he wants to. Signed through 2014, when Letterman’s current contract runs through, it feels in some ways like he’s only there as long as Dave is, his relaxed, low-key, mischievous Scottish wit a complement Dave’s acerbic bitterness.
Yesterday Zap2It wondered if CBS’s new fall sitcom Partners is actually a reboot of the 1995 Fox comedy of the same name. However, the bigger question for us is if ABC’s new Friday night show The Neighbors is actually a spin-off of CBS’s short-lived 1997 Bronson Pinchot vehicle Meego. The tale of the tape:
The Neighbors: The series, set in New Jersey, revolves around a gated townhouse community called “Hidden Hills.” This is where the Weavers (Lenny Venito & Jami Gertz), a normal average family, have decided to move to. But upon their relocation to this community they discover that this place is populated by residents who are actually from another planet, using names of sports athletes, where men can become pregnant, receive nourishment through their eyes and mind by reading books rather than eating, and cries out green goo from their ears. Not only that, it appears that these aliens have been stuck on Earth for 10 years, still awaiting for a distress signal to return home.
Meego: Meego (Pinchot) is a 9,000-year-old shape-shifting alien from the planet Marmazon 4.0. After his spaceship crashes, he is discovered by three children; Trip, Maggie, and Alex Parker (Will Estes, Michelle Trachtenberg AND Jonathan Lipnicki) . They live with their single father, Dr. Edward Parker (Ed Begley, Jr.!) and pass Meego off as human (he tells people he is from Canada). Although he plans to go home as soon as his ship is repaired, he becomes attached to the children and decides to remain on Earth to care for them.
The latter show was specifically created for the CBS Block Party, their attempt to topple ABC’s TGIF after picking up both Family Matters and Step by Step from the Disney network. Pinchot himself was coming off of a short stint on Step by Step as beautician Jean-Luc Rieupeyroux, which followed, of course, his long run as Balki Bartokomous on original TGIF member Perfect Strangers. While The Neighbors will air on Wednesday nights, not Fridays, it could have easily fit on that popular comedy lineup, and perhaps that’s where it will eventually end up, considering the statement from ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee that ““It’s time for Friday night to be a destination again for broad family entertainment.” May not be long until The Neighbors slides into Meego‘s old Friday at 8:30pm time slot.
Is it possible that residents of Hidden Hills are from the plant Marmazon 4.0? Why not? They all seem to have things coming out of their ears.
(and, yes, we realize that Meego is basically Mr. Belevedere with an alien. Or Free Spiritwith an alien. Or Who’s the Boss? with an alien. Or countless other shows with an alien).
In just a matter of our CBS will premiere the newest edition of Survivor, this time set in the vast wilds of the South Pacific. Also returning this season will be the much-maligned (at least by us) Redemption Island twist. Also also returning, the inclusion of two returning Survivor players from season’s past. Will one of those players be Steve, competing in back-to-back seasons?
Actually the two returning players are Coach (!) and Ozzie. Now in his third game of Survivor, we wonder if Coach will exhibit his trademark modesty.
We’re bringing this “daily” feature back after a too long hiatus (mostly because we’ve been busy, but also because our search terms everyday for the last six weeks have all been some variation on “Survivor Federal Agent Phillip”), today working with a non-Phillip term, “www.cbs/jeffprobst.” Last week on Redemption Island Probst played with fire, just dying for a fine from the FCC and a rash of angry letters from the Parents Television Council. Luckily, he toed the line, and while it seemed like he was just begging to blunder (a la Jenny Slate), he managed to somehow get out the following challenge commentary without explicitly describing a lewd act (but certainly suggesting it). We included this in our recap, but it’s worth posting again. Probst, living dangerously!
Oh, and if you were really curious (although, why you would search for a url, we don’t know), check it: cbs.com/jeffprobst
Before we start this Survivor: Redemption Island recap CBS would like us to visit www.cbs.com/jeffprobst. Normally we’d demur that kind of blatant and heavy-handed promotion, but we love Probst too much to complain in this particular instance. So go, now, and then come right back here.
Back? Okay, good! You got back just in time to listen to Stephanie list every food item ever, which, as any survival expert will tell you, is the best way to stave off the hunger of being by yourself in a sweaty jungle for two weeks. Right, Matt? Isn’t she helping? Isn’t Stephanie detailing every flavor of Pop Tart just melting your hunger away? But Matt totally wins us over by quoting The Sandlot, telling Stephanie “You’re killing me, Smalls.” GREAT REFERENCE. You know what, Matt, you’re okay by us. Just don’t start talking about how God is on your side again and how your faith will help you succeed in this reality TV competition. Oh, no, there you go. Nevermind. That didn’t last long.
Do I want Jay Leno to have a show? No. I think his time has come and gone. When Gallagher talks about late night comedians as the manifestation of mediocrity, Leno is the poster boy (which makes me think, wonder what Gallagher has to say about all of this). But if Leno is known for anything, it’s being the nice guy, the non-threatening (save for the chin) host. Yes, perhaps he shouldn’t have taken the Jay Leno Show gig, just moved on to washing his cars and dropping by his Comedy and Magic Club, and let Conan take over The Tonight Show without his predecessor breathing up his neck. But, in the end, it was NBC who decided five years ago to lock in The Tonight Show transition. In the last year they look guilty of committing knee jerk reactions, but in this particular case it seems their mistake was planning too far ahead, being too cautious in trying to plan the next phase of The Tonight Show. Perhaps they were trying to avoid The Late Shift 2, and, instead, directly caused it. But they didn’t have to try to keep Jay in the fold. Ever the good NBC soldier, even with a few “good” years left in him, Leno wouldn’t have defected to another network. But NBC got greedy, tried to have its Conan and eat it too. Leno thought he was doing the right thing, and in his eyes, as someone who no doubt also idolized Johnny Carson, this was his chance to truly own his program, and move out form Carson’s shadow. If he knew then what a disaster it would turn out to be, and the repercussions it would have, I don’t think he would have taken the gig. He didn’t get where he is by ruffling feathers.
Which is why I almost feel bad for the guy as I watch him get bashed by Jimmy Kimmel and especially David Letterman. Dave is clearly, and with good reason, still bitter over losing to The Tonight Show to Leno, and makes his animosity towards his former and (possibly) future rival abundantly clear, repeatedly referring to him as Jay “Big Jaw” Leno.
So while Letterman’s personal vendetta against Leno is certainly understandable, it doesn’t seem entirely fair to excoriate him the way Letterman does. Certainly, Letterman, of all people, should understand the mistakes made by, in his words, “the geniuses in programming” (He also takes some unnecessary shots at Carson Daly, but, really, getting referenced by Letterman is the closest Daly is going to come to the 11:35 slot (piling on!)).