TV Q&A: 'The Voice,' 'The Mentalist,' 'Pawn Stars' and more

Friday, 22 November 2013 01:03 PM Written by 

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TV Q&A with Rob Owen

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This week's TV Q&A (after the "Read more" jump below) responds to questions about “The Mentalist,” “Will & Grace” and why cable dramas are eating the broadcast networks’ lunch. As always, thanks for reading and keep the questions coming.

- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV writer

Q: Will “Fashion Star” be back on NBC or anywhere else?  When will the new season of “Project Runway” start?    

- Betty, 64, Bethel Park

Rob: No, “Fashion Star” will not be back. It was canceled in May after two low-rated seasons.
A Lifetime publicist had no information on when a new season of the original “Project Runway” will air (my guess is early 2014). “Project Runway All-Stars” is currently airing a season.


Q: On NBC’s “The Voice,” sometimes a judge will tell one of their team members that they made a few calls or called in a favor in order to be able to use a song on the show. Do the judges have to pick from songs owned by Universal? Or do they have a specific group of songs they are allowed to pick from, regardless of who owns the rights?

- Scott, 36, Pittsburgh

Rob: An NBC publicist for “The Voice” said songs do not have to come from the Universal catalog.

The song selection is a joint decision made by the artist and their coach,” she explained. “Some songs are clearable.. some are not.. so once coach/artist agree to a song.. the clearance process begins.. and [final song selection] ultimately depends on clearance.”

Clearance means the ability to get the rights to use a song at a cost that is within the show’s budget.


Q: I watched “Person of Interest” Tuesday night. Why did they kill off Carter (Taraji P. Henson)? Did her contract end or did she want out?

- Loretta, 57, Pittsburgh

Rob: Neither, I suspect. Oftentimes characters are killed because the writers believe it best suits their story.

Ms. Henson talked to David Letterman Wednesday night about her character’s death. Per CBS, she told Letterman:

She was aware when she “signed on to do the project that the character would have a beginning, a middle and an end,” and that she knew it would happen, “but I just didn’t know when.”  Letterman asked if she was able to tell anybody.  Henson said she “felt like I’ve been hiding a secret, keeping a secret from my lover for years,” but that she did tell her mom and “my grandmother, because you can’t shock grandma like that.  She might go into cardiac arrest.”

Henson also discussed her departure in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.


Q: I've enjoyed “Pawn Stars” because of the interesting items. Lately, however, they've been spending more time on what I feel are silly, boring ego trips (Rick's Bachelor Party, Chum selling hot dogs, etc.). Is this what the future holds for the show? The Old Man's nastiness is a bit out of hand too.

- Don, 77, Morningside
An A&E publicist’s only response was that “Pawn Stars will continue to showcase an array of quirky characters attempting to sell, purchase or pawn items. Viewers will also see the Pawn Stars haggle over a slew of interesting historic items, while getting small glimpses into their personal lives.”


Q: Can you tell me what happened to the new series “Ironside”? It was very good - and I'd like to see more of it.
- Nancy, Maplewood, Minn.

Rob: Unless NBC decides to burn off unaired episodes at some point, viewers won’t get to see more. NBC canceled its “Ironside” remake after just a few low-rated episodes earlier this fall.

Q: What is wrong with CBS? As a fan of "The Mentalist," I have been forced to wait until after10:30(or later!!)on Sundaynights to watch the show. Instead of airing four, one-hour shows after the football game, why doesn't CBS just eliminate one of the shows until January and run a half-hour comedy after the game so the other shows can start on the hour? It makes sense to me. How about you? Thanks for letting me vent!
- Mark, 63, Mt. Lebanon
We’ve written about viewer frustration with CBS’s Sunday night schedule many, many times over the years. Here’s the basic gist: CBS doesn’t care about annoying viewers. In July 2012, CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler said football overruns are "great for us because our [ratings] numbers are up across the entire night." My suggestion: Set a DVR to record a two-hour block and watch the show later. CBS clearly doesn’t deserve live eyeballs on Sunday night so I feel no remorse about recording and watching later.

Read more about Sunday’s episode of “The Mentalist” in on Monday in this Tuned In Journal space.


Q: I am continually amazed at the big name stars that appeared on “Will & Grace” (Michael Douglas, Madonna, Demi Moore, Jeff Goldblum, etc.) What was it about this show that appealed to these stars?

- Barb, 53, Omaha, Neb.

Rob: At the time it premiered in 1998, “Will & Grace” was a pretty revolutionary show with two out, unapologetic, gay lead characters in Will and Jack.

Big-name stars jumped on board because “Will & Grace” was well received critically – it was seen as a prestige program, not a run-of-the-mill sitcom – and because these actors wanted to support a program that espoused a pro-equality agenda for its gay characters.


Q: When you think of the best dramas on TV, why is it they are most on cable and not on the big networks? “Mad Men,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “The Walking Dead,” “Game of Thrones,” “Breaking Bad,” “American Horror Story,” etc. When will the networks wake up? Are they really tied down by the "standards" or are they just lazy and unwilling to take chances? Besides maybe “Under the Dome” there hasn’t been one network must-see drama in a very long time. On the flip side, most TV comedies seem to thrive on the networks and not on cable. Why the difference?

- Mike, 40, Pittsburgh
Here’s the problem: With the exception of “The Walking Dead,” which has become a ratings juggernaut, most of the show’s Mike names do not get high enough ratings to survive on a broadcast channel. Networks are trying to take more chances but often when they do they are not rewarded with viewers (see: Fox’s “Lone Star” in 2010).

I think plenty of folks would dispute the quality of “Under the Dome,” which struck me as an interesting concept that turned out to be poorly executed.

There are some excellent shows on broadcast channels, more comedies as Mike points out, but there are good dramas, too, most notably CBS’s “The Good Wife” and NBC’s “Parenthood.”

Q: What is up with USA Network daytime? Why four days of “SVU” after1 p.m.when they just got “NCIS: Los Angeles.” Too much “SVU,” I enjoy “NCIS” much more.

 - Nancy, 59, Plum Borough, Pa.

Rob: I suspect it’s because “SVU” is older than “NCIS: Los Angeles” and USA has the rights to air and re-air more episodes of “SVU” but I was unable to confirm that with a USA publicist who only said, “While our schedule does change from time to time, we’re happy to hear that you enjoy watching NCIS on USA. You can see your favorite agents on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Please check your local listings for times.”

Q: Two questions:
1. On all news programs, the "clutter" at the bottom of the screen is now taking up about a quarter of the viewing area.  It's ridiculous and frustrating because it blocks the view of stories.  We can see the news story -- don't need a title attached to it.  Why do you think the networks believe they need that?
2. Every day, on “Good Morning America,” during the weather segment at approximately
 7:15 am or so, while Sam Champion (or Ginger Zee) is speaking, all of a sudden you can hear a skip and the word is repeated. What's the purpose of that?
Thanks for listening to my pet peeve and resolving my curiosity!

- Jennifer, 59, Bethel Park, PA
I’ve noticed the clutter too and it seems to violate the idea that TV is a visual medium. To show video of some event and then cover up half of it with graphics is a little bit insane. I’ve been frustrated by this from time to time, too. I think stations just get carried away with themselves and lose sight of their main purpose: To show images that are in the news.

As for the weird skip in “GMA” during the weather, it’s a glitch, according to WTAE chief engineer Dave Kasperek: “The viewer is noticing a minor glitch that occurs when we switch to our production control room just prior to local weather reports that always follow the GMA weather reports. It’s a limitation of the digital technology common now.”


Q: I've been watching “The Untouchables” every night on ME TV, and I've noticed something strange that maybe you could clarify for me.
Every episode has a commercial break somewhere around the 25-30 minute mark. Every time they come back from that break, they're returning to the show already in progress, so I miss some of the story. It seems like there are always local commercials running at the end of the commercial break, so I'm guessing that WPXI is simply covering up some of the program at the beginning of that show segment to jam more commercial time into the hour. Do you know if this would be the case?
And just in case you talk to someone at WPXI and they say "Well, we figured it wouldn't really matter and we figured no one would really care and it wouldn't really bother anyone to miss a minute or two of the show," then you can tell them for me that it DOES matter and somebody DOES care and it DOES bother someone that they're missing a minute or two of the show.
- Richard, 46, Castle Shannon

Rob: It’s entirely possible that ME-TV has edited the episodes this way to allow space for more commercials. That’s not an unusual practice for older shows that ran longer than the current, shorter running times on programs.

WPXI program director Mark Barash said WPXI is not adding spots.

“The ME TV network tells us how long commercial breaks are and we schedule commercials in that length,” he explained. “We don’t try to squeeze in more commercials than indicated on the program format sheet.

“ME TV might have made an error in relaying the amount of time available in any given break. We will make an inquiry, but I doubt that is the case because the formats we get match those with the rest of America. I’m sure if this was a nationwide problem or issue it would have been fixed by now.”

So that takes us back to my theory that the shows are simply being cut before they go out nationally. 

Q: I've noticed that theSaturday “Today” show is two hours but WPXI only shows one hour sometimes. Why is that?  Does 'PXI really think we need more of the same news we've been hearing since approximately6 a.m.?  

Also, why does every station start its broadcast with "breaking news" only to tell the viewer that oh, maybe, a bird walked across the street? I always thought "breaking news" was for items of a very big nature -- not the local stuff.

- Sheila, 60, New Castle
“Weekend Today” is two hours Saturday (7-9 a.m.) and one-hour Sunday (8-9 a.m.), so you’re only missing some of the program if it gets trimmed on Saturday.

Sometimes the network shortens due to early sports,” WPXI’s Barash said. “Other times we have to cut some due to the obligation to get children’s programming on the air that otherwise might be pre-empted by NBC Sports programming.”

As for “breaking news,” we’ve written before about how the use of that term has gotten out of hand since 9/11/01. Stations use it to grab viewers’ attention but overuse has turned them into the TV Stations that Cry Wolf.

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