Deathwatch Winter TV Survival Odds

(Paul Sarkis/NBC, Patti Perret/FOX, FOX)
by James Hibberd
As you’ve probably heard, broadcast television is suffering through its Lowest Ratings Ever this fall. But that doesn’t mean every show is a goner (networks have to air something — even if it is Dr. Ken). 

We looked at the ratings to date and spoke to industry insiders to get a sense of which shows are likely to stick around for awhile, and which are in serious jeopardy. Here’s how the field currently stands (ranked from the highest to lowest based on average 18-49 demo ratings for the season including seven days of DVR playback when available):

Blindspot (NBC) — Now tats the way you do it: The fall’s biggest new success story is Blindspot with 12.8 million viewers and a 3.8 rating (why, it’s matching ABC’s Scandal). Having a lead-in from The Voice helps significantly, but last fall’s short-lived State of Affairs proved a show can flop in this slot regardless of having that front-loaded boost. Now here’s the shocking part: Blindspot, which stars Jaimie Alexander as Jason Bourne-like operative, is really the only outright new hit in the 2015-16 season so far; it’s the one new title among the Top 10 shows when measuring either adult demo or total viewers. Most other freshman series doing well-ish still don’t come close to Blindspot’s average even with a lot on DVR playback added. Like see here in the No. 2 slot… 

Quantico (ABC) –  It’s Shonda Rhimes karaoke that worked: ABC’s soapy thriller has a 2.8 rating thanks to doubling its numbers with DVR. 

Supergirl (CBS) — Kara’s next mission should be to rescue her slipping Nielsens. Averaging 2.8 for the season, sure, but started big and recently hit a new low. Still, Supergirl should receive a full-season order any day now. 

Life in Pieces (CBS) — A comedy that snagged it’s full season order and has a 2.5 rating that every other new comedy would envy. But it’s losing more than half of the huge Big Bang Theory lead-in. We suspect CBS will give some other series a chance after Big Bang later this season instead, and then we’ll see if Life in Pieces can stay intact. 

Limitless (CBS) — Picked up for the season — it’s doing well enough — but could still use some of that magical NZT for its ho-hum numbers (2.5 rating), or at least some generic Adderall.   

Heroes Reborn (NBC) — A high-profile limited series reboot with a 2.3 rating. The “evos” are not supposed to return, but we suspect NBC at least wants this title in its arsenal of options for consideration after seeing its pilots this spring, just in case the network wants to do another round (Heroes Reborn Again?).

The Muppets (ABC) — One of fall’s biggest launches felt a few bumps (2.3 average). ABC is changing showrunners and gave the series a mere three more episodes and called it a “full season” pickup (nine episodes is the tradition, especially for broadcast comedies, albiet it’s a standard that’s increasingly being ignored). ABC wants to make The Muppets better, and we suspect the show will have yet another chance next season.

Rosewood (Fox) — Finally, a Fox show makes the list. Rosewood is like The Mysteries of Laura last season — a Wednesday night procedural most expected to perform poorly that surprised by doing slightly better than poorly (a 2.1 rating, to be exact). It scored a full season order and has good odds to stick around beyond that given the rest of Fox’s lineup.

Scream Queens (Fox) — The most stunning disappointment of the fall (2.1 average), given the show’s high-profile cast, producers and pre-premiere polling data. Still, the scuttlebutt around the network is Fox will keep Ryan Murphy’s campy horror comedy for a re-launch next season with a new premise and a few surviving cast members (the rumor is it will become Scream Queens: Summer Camp). 

Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris (NBC) — Broadcast’s only new show this fall that wasn’t a traditional scripted drama or sitcom. Sadly for many this did not fulfill its stated promise of delivering the best time ever (1.7 rating). Feels done, but it’s fate is currently unclear. 

Code Black (CBS) — CBS threw five more episodes at this medical drama to finish out its first season (1.7 rating), but its season 2 survival odds are on life support.  

Dr. Ken (ABC) — Got a full season. Since Dr. Ken is (almost) matching lead-in Last Man Standing on tough Friday nights, and because ABC has had such a brutal time filling this slot in the past (Cristela, Malibu Country, etc), we’re hearing the doctor is more likely to keep sticking around than not despite its 1.6 rating. 

Grandfathered and The Grinder  (Fox) — Fox’s news hows are in rough shape, but the network has to have some content and some stability. Tuesday night’s Grandfathered and The Grinder are considered ad-friendly shows with promotable stars (John Stamos, Rob Lowe) and they’re sticking around even though nobody is happy with the numbers. Grandfathered is doing a 1.6 rating and Grinder has a 1.4.  

Blood & Oil (ABC) — A bust: Don Johnson’s return saw its order cut and the title is off ABC’s midseason schedule after coming up dry in the ratings (1.5).  

The Player (NBC) — With that 1.3 average, Wesley Snipes’ game was over weeks ago. 

Minority Report (Fox) — Like Scream Queens, a surprising outcome given the auspices (in this case producer Steven Spielberg) and brand (based on the 2002 film). And like The Player and Blood & Oil, this hasn’t been officially canceled, but given it’s numbers (a 1.2 rating), and it’s production cut-down, you don’t need to be a Precog to figure out Minority Report’s fate. 

Wicked City (ABC) — Wicked City managed the seemingly impossible: In a season where nothing is being officially canceled, it got officially canceled (0.8 average). 

Truth Be Told (NBC) — Another Not Officially Dead Yet show that saw its order cut. The negative reviews and a nearly negative Nielsen rating (0.7 average) for a Friday night comedy that makes Dr. Ken look like The Big Bang Theory.  

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW) — Squeaked out an order for a five more episodes this week. But with a 0.3 average it’s tough to see even occasional broken-toy hoarder The CW keeping this show instead of trying something fresh next season. 

NPR is graying, and public radio is worried about it

As NPR came of age in the 1980s, its audience matured with it. Three decades later, that is starting to look like a problem.

Many of the listeners who grew up with NPR are now reaching retirement age, leaving NPR with a challenge: How can it attract younger and middle-aged audiences — whose numbers are shrinking — to replace them?

NPR’s research shows a growing gulf in who is listening to the likes of “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” the daily news programs that have propelled public radio for more than 30 years. Morning listening has dropped 11 percent overall since 2010, according to Nielsen research that NPR has made public; afternoon listening is down 6 percent over the same period.

Perhaps more troubling are the broader demographic trends. NPR’s signal has gradually been fading among the young. Listening among “Morning Edition’s” audience, for example, has declined 20 percent among people under 55 in the past five years. Listening for “All Things Considered” has dropped about 25 percent among those in the 45-to-54 segment.

The growth market? People over 65, who were increasing in both the morning and afternoon hours.

The graying of NPR, and the declines overall, are potentially perilous to the public radio ecosystem. 

NPR, based in Washington, serves programs to nearly 900 “member” stations, which rely in large part on financial contributions from their listeners. The stations, in turn, kick back some of their pledge-drive dollars to NPR to license such programs as “Car Talk,” “Fresh Air” and “Morning Edition” (federal tax dollars supply only a small part of stations’ annual budgets, and virtually none of NPR’s).

But as audiences drift to newer on-demand audio sources such as podcasts and streaming, the bonds with local stations — and the contributions that come with them — may be fraying.

“It’s a problem, and no one has really figured out what to do about it,” said Jeff Hansen, the program director at Seattle public station KUOW (94.9 FM). He noted that public radio was invented by people in their 20s in the 1970s, largely at stations funded by colleges and universities. “What they didn’t realize at the time was that what they were inventing was programming for people like themselves — baby boomers with college degrees.”

That audience has largely stayed loyal. The median age of public radio listeners has roughly tracked the median age of baby boomers. The median NPR listener was 45 years old in 1995; now he or she is 54, according to Tom Thomas, co-chief executive of the Station Resource Group, a public-radio strategy and research consortium. “The [aging] trend has been gentle and continuous for the last 20 years,” he said.

To shore up its appeal to a younger crowd, NPR’s contemporary managers say that they are going where younger ears are, both via digital technology and with programming that has younger people in mind. Although radio is still, by far, the dominant way to listen, NPR’s distribution chain now includes podcasts, Web text and streams, satellite broadcasting and social media.

Among its news initiatives, NPR in October and early November launched a series on the lives of 15-year-old girls around the world; it played on all of NPR’s news shows and on NPR also has attempted to foster a community of younger listeners through “Generation Listen,” a Web site that features audio and text stories, as well as news of community events hosted by young NPR listeners.

In more subtle changes, NPR added two new, younger hosts — Ari Shapiro and Kelly McEvers — to “All Things Considered” this summer, joining 68-year-old Robert Siegel. And it promoted Michel Martin, an African American woman who is the former host of “Tell Me More” (canceled last year) and now hosts “Weekend All Things Considered.” Editorial Director Michael Oreskes said the anchor reset is “an invitation to both traditional listeners and new ones to think about the programs in new ways.”

Some of the other brand-name talent at NPR illustrates the situation: Talk-show host Diane Rehm is 79; senior national correspondent Linda Wertheimer is 72; legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg is 71, and “Weekend Edition Saturday” host Scott Simon is a relative youngster at 63.

Last year, the organization launched a mobile app, NPR One, that streams both national and local public-radio stories via smartphones and tablets. NPR said downloads of the app have been growing, but it hasn’t released figures (notably, “Serial” — the massively popular and critically praised podcast — was produced not by NPR but by an independent public-radio organization, Chicago Public Media’s “This American Life”).

Jennifer Aniston Was Replaced on Friends and Nobody Noticed Until Now

Jennifer Aniston was replaced by a stand-in during one scene on an episode of the beloved sitcom Credit: Warner Bros. Television

Eagle eyes! Jennifer Aniston was replaced by a stand-in on an episode of Friends, and it wasn’t until recently that a particular fan noticed.
Jordan D’Amico took to the website RecentlyHeard to document his stealthy observation. He explained that during a marathon viewing, he noticed that Aniston — who played Rachel Green — was replaced during one scene in the Season 9 episode entitled “The One With the Mugging.”

“Only a few minutes into the episode, an enthusiastic Rachel rushes into Monica’s apartment to tell Joey that he got an audition with the famous and fictional actor, Leonard Hayes, played by Jeff Goldblum,” D’Amico wrote. “The three friends admit to admiring the actor. Joey (played by Matthew LeBlanc) goes to sit back down. It’s at this point that… BAM!”

Lo and behold, the Emmy-winning actress, 46, was nowhere to be seen. Instead, a stand-in with much darker hair and who was wearing a different colored shirt, was standing and smiling next to Joey, where Rachel was supposed to be.

This isn’t the first time a fan has noticed an error on the beloved sitcom. In another episode, Courteney Cox’s stand-in was also accidentally left in.

Friends aired on NBC from September 1994 to May 2004, spanning 10 seasons. In addition to Cox, LeBlanc, and Aniston, the show also starred Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, and Matthew Perry.

Tell Us: Did you notice the stand-in on the episode?

'Saturday Night Live' on Heckling High-Alert for Donald Trump Appearance

image by AP Photo/Rich Schultz

Protesters disrupted a broadcast Sharon Stone hosted in 1992, and despite a Secret Service security detail and rigorous audience-vetting process, the controversial candidate could spark similar outbursts on live TV.

In 1992, during a monologue delivered by Sharon Stone spoofing her infamous crotch-baring scene from Basic Instinct, six protesters lurking in the audience of Saturday Night Live surged toward the stage. They were opposing "Hollywood's homophobia and misogyny as exemplified in the film," they later explained. (Stone played a bisexual murder suspect.)

The group was stopped by NBC guards before they could get there, but their voices could be heard on the broadcast. The four men and two women were held by security until police arrived and were later charged with disorderly conduct and harassment. Stone, for her part, "wasn't flustered at all," according to one eyewitness.

That incident was an isolated one at SNL. But despite the addition of a Secret Service security detail to an already rigorous audience-vetting process, history runs perhaps its strongest risk of repeating itself Nov. 7 when the controversial Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump takes the stage as host.

And heckling will happen, if Luke Montgomery has anything to do with it. The Los Angeles-based activist and founder of the anti-Trump campaign Deport Racism 2016 is offering $5,000 to anyone in the studio audience heard saying "deport racism" or "Trump is a racist" on the air. The group is one of several protesting Trump's SNL appearance over "racist and xenophobic language" they say he's used throughout his campaign — with Latinos and Latino-Americans targeted in particular. Montgomery's is the only group, however, that is not calling on the network to cancel his appearance, but rather is encouraging hecklers to infiltrate and hijack the event.

"They're doing it for ratings," Montgomery tells The Hollywood Reporter. "It's a pretty crass game that they're playing. And we are going to try to steal their thunder and steal the spotlight."

Just how big a spotlight? It's impossible to predict, but the ratings high watermark for the show involved another highly controversial Republican candidate: Sarah Palin's 2008 appearance opposite doppelganger Tina Fey drew an astounding 17 million viewers in the first half-hour.

Montgomery says the response to his offer has been enthusiastic, but he won't reveal specifics as to how many people have said they will try to penetrate the taping at 30 Rockefeller Center or how they intend on going about it. "We're really hopeful," he says. "I can't really tell you much more than that. 

We don't want to compromise any plans that are being made."

Representatives for SNL are tight-lipped about what security measures are being taken for Trump's appearance. A New York Police Department spokesman tells THR that "adequate security" measures will be in place. The Secret Service, which now follows Trump on the campaign trail, did not respond to requests for comment. 

If the procedure is anything like those put in place for Hillary Clinton's appearance on the Oct. 3 season premiere, potential protesters will have to cross two security checkpoints. According to one frequent SNL attendee, audience members who arrive at 30 Rock for both the dress rehearsal and live taping are placed into one of several efficiently run lines: There's a VIP line, a line for people seated on the floor (closest to the stage) and a standby line.

After moving through a metal detector and checking in with a NBC employee, visitors are handed a ticket and given a wristband. They are then loaded onto an elevator bound for Studio 8H. At regular tapings, after getting off on the eighth floor, they are then instructed not to use cameras or smartphones during the taping. Their ticket is then taken from them — no souvenirs, sorry — and they are guided to a seat.

During the season-opener featuring Clinton, however, there was another checkpoint on the eighth floor, where Secret Service agents patted audience members down, scanned them with metal-detector wands and thoroughly rummaged through their handbags.

About 40 people get seats on the floor, the section directly in front of the stage where the band sits and the opening monologue is delivered. The seats are about eight feet from the host's mark, and anyone sitting there during the live broadcast could easily access Trump and get in front of the cameras.

The rest of the theater's 200-odd seats are in the stands, where access is close to impossible. But, like the Stone protesters in 1992, their voices could be heard by millions of people. (Not West Coasters, however. The Stone protest — as well as Sinead O'Connor's infamous tearing up of a photo of the Pope, which occurred just six months later — were both scrubbed from the later feed.)

Despite all these precautions, however, there is virtually nothing that NBC can do to prevent determined protesters from interrupting the show with their voices — the one thing no metal detector or frisking can keep from entering the studio.

"Live television is live television," Montgomery says. "It may have a delay, but it's still live. We're hoping someone can throw Trump off his game."

Largest Police Union Cautions Quentin Tarantino: We've Got a Surprise Coming for You

Getty Images
by Ryan Parker, Pamela McClintock

"And a lot of it is going to be driven by Tarantino, who is nothing if not predictable."

In a veiled threat, the largest police union in the country says it has a "surprise" in store for Quentin Tarantino.

Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, would not go into any detail about what is being cooked up for the Hollywood director, but he did tell THR: "We'll be opportunistic."

"Tarantino has made a good living out of violence and surprise," says Pasco. "Our offices make a living trying to stop violence, but surprise is not out of the question."

The FOP, based in Washington, D.C., consists of more than 330,000 full-time, sworn officers. According to Pasco, the surprise in question is already "in the works," and will be in addition to the standing boycott of Tarantino's films, including his upcoming movie The Hateful Eight.

"Something is in the works, but the element of surprise is the most important element," says Pasco. 

"Something could happen anytime between now and [the premiere]. And a lot of it is going to be driven by Tarantino, who is nothing if not predictable.

"The right time and place will come up and we'll try to hurt him in the only way that seems to matter to him, and that's economically," says Pasco. 

When asked if this was a threat, Pasco said no, at least not a physical threat. "Police officers protect people," he says. "They don't go out to hurt people."

The director of the upcoming Hateful Eight has drawn the ire of unions from the largest police departments in the country, border patrol and other law enforcement organizations.

Last month while marching in New York for a rally against police brutality, Tarantino called police "murderers." He has since gone public to clarify his remarks, saying that he is not anti-police, but against unarmed men and women being killed by them. 

At this point, most box-office analysts don't think Hateful Eight will be hurt at the box office by the dust-up.

"Tarantino is no stranger to controversy. At the end of the day, this publicity only has people talking about the film more. I don't think it will negatively impact the box office," says Phil Contrino of Adds Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations, "I think audiences can separate the auteur from the activist since most people who buy a ticket to a Quentin Tarantino film show up to hear what his characters say, not the filmmaker. "I mean Star Wars is about to take over the known media universe. This is just white noise."

Rentrak's Paul Dergarabedian has a different opinion. "Quite simply, there’s no way to know whether it will affect box office. Even after it opens, you can’t quantify whether or not a boycott ultimately had an impact. But it has to cause a headache. It’s not the kind of thing you want surrounding your movie, especially in the crowded Christmas frame when it will be going up against movies like Joy

And this situation is gaining traction. The idea that there’s no such thing as bad press isn’t necessarily true here."

TWC didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the FOP.

Snoopy Gets a Star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame

Just in time for The Peanuts Movie

Everyone’s favorite beagle Snoopy has joined the ranks of Hollywood’s elite: He now has a star on the Walk of Fame.

The pooch’s plaque, number 2,563 on the boulevard, was set just in time for his feature film, The Peanuts Movie, AFP reports. Fans can find the star next to his creator’s, Charles Schulz.

Snoopy isn’t the first animated character to make the cut. Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Snow White and Shrek all boast the honor. He’s also not the first dog. Lassie and Rin Tin Tin are on walk, too.
photo by

Fred Thompson, with larger-than-life persona, dies at 73

Fred Thomson, the former U.S. senator from Tennessee, Republican presidential candidate and “Law and Order” actor, died Sunday after a recurrence of lymphoma. He was 73.

Thompson’s family announced the news in a statement, which was published in The Tennessean.

“It is with a heavy heart and a deep sense of grief that we share the passing of our brother, husband, father, and grandfather who died peacefully in Nashville surrounded by his family,” the statement said.

It continued: "Fred once said that the experiences he had growing up in small-town Tennessee formed the prism through which he viewed the world and shaped the way he dealt with life.  Fred stood on principle and common sense, and had a deep love for and connection with the people across Tennessee whom he had the privilege to serve in the United States Senate.  He enjoyed a hearty laugh, a strong handshake, a good cigar, and a healthy dose of humility.  Fred was the same man on the floor of the Senate, the movie studio, or the town square of Lawrenceburg, his home."

"Fred believed that the greatness of our nation was defined by the hard work, faith, and honesty of its people.  He had an enduring belief in the exceptionalism of our country, and that America could provide the opportunity for any boy or girl, in any corner of our country, to succeed in life. "

Thompson, born in 1942, served in the senate from December 1994 to January 2003.

Following his time in the senate, Thompson played District Attorney Arthur Branch on Law & Order for five seasons, leaving the show to run for president.

Thought to be a contender during the early stages of the 2008 Republican presidential primary cycle, Thompson drew little support in many of the early states and he took a big hit when the former Southern senator failed to win South Carolina. He eventually dropped out in late January.

After leaving the race, he campaigned extensively for presidential nominee John McCain, and briefly sought support to become chairman of the Republican National Committee before quitting after a few months.

"Fred Thompson lived life to the very fullest," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. in a statement. "The first in his family  to go to college, Fred would go on to become Watergate lawyer, Senate colleague, presidential candidate, radio personality, and icon of silver and small screen alike who didn't just take on criminals as an actor but as a real-life prosecutor too."

Thompson's rise to the Senate was atypical. He had never before held public office, but he overwhelmingly won a 1994 special election for Al Gore's old Senate seat after connecting with voters. In 1996 he easily won a six-year term.

The son of a car salesman, Thompson was born in Sheffield, Ala., and grew up in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., where he was a star athlete. He was 17 when he married Sarah Lindsey. The couple, who divorced in 1985, lived in public housing for a year as newlyweds.

Thompson graduated from Memphis State University in 1964 and earned his law degree from Vanderbilt University in 1967. To pay for school, he worked at a bicycle plant, post office and motel.

Thompson went on to become a lawyer in Nashville. In 1969, he became an assistant U.S. attorney, then volunteered in 1972 to work on the re-election campaign of former Republican Sen. Howard Baker. A year later, Baker selected Thompson to be chief minority counsel on the committee investigating the Watergate scandal.

Afterward, Thompson returned to Tennessee and represented Marie Ragghianti, the head of the Tennessee Parole Board who was fired in 1977 after exposing a pardon-selling scheme. Ragghianti won reinstatement and her case was made into a 1985 movie titled "Marie," based on the 1983 book "Marie: A True Story," by Peter Maas. The producers asked Thompson to play himself, which launched his acting career.

"Fred Thompson served the people of Tennessee and America with great honor and distinction," said Sen. Bob Corker, R Tenn. in a statement Sunday night. "From the courtroom to Capitol Hill to Hollywood, his larger than life personality was infectious and had a way of making all of those around him strive to be better."

Thompson once called the Senate a "remarkable place" but, like Hollywood, said there was "frustration connected with it." He said he was disappointed the Governmental Affairs Committee didn't get more time in 1997 to investigate the fund-raising practices of the 1996 presidential election.

Some thought his high-profile role as chairman of the hearings could launch a presidential bid. That did not materialize in 2000 after the hearings were dismissed as political theater.

"They ran me for a while and then they took me out of the race, and all the time I was kind of a bystander," Thompson said in 2002 about speculation over his presidential prospects two years earlier.

Just before leaving the Senate, Thompson told the Associated Press that too much time was spent on meaningless matters and partisan bickering.

"On important stuff, where the interests are really dug in on both sides, it's extremely difficult to get anything done," he said at the time.

In June 2002, Thompson married Jeri Kehn, a political and media specialist.

After retiring from politics, Thompson hosted a conservative radio talk show between 2009 and 2011 
and became a TV advertising pitchman for American Advisers Group, a reverse mortgage financial company.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.