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May 4 - 10, 2017 
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Idiot Box

TV News

Tidbits from around the dial

By Devin D. O’Leary

Write On!

The Writer’s Guild of America and the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers averted a potential union strike, coming to terms on a new contract on May 2. This means, of course, that your favorite shows are no longer in danger of dropping off the airwaves. The last Hollywood writer’s strike lasted for 100 days from November 2007 to February 2008. It caused all scripted shows on TV to shut down and wreaked particular havoc with late-night talk shows. (Jay Leno, for example, soldiered on—writing all of his own material for more than a month.) Primetime ratings during the period of the strike dropped by 6.8 percent. Unlike last time there were few hardcore sticking points between the two sides. Back in 2007 writers were fighting to get their cut of “new media” like digital downloads, internet streaming and the like. With this new contract, which constitutes a three-year deal, writers will get more money in the Guild’s health plan and higher script fees on shows with short seasons. With cable and steaming services going for far shorter seasons these days, a lot of writers found themselves failing to qualify for union benefits. New rules now set 2.4 weeks as the definition of “work” needed to qualify for episode fees.

You’re Out!

FOX’s generally well-received sports drama “Pitch” got a late-in-the-game cancellation earlier this month. The series focused on the first woman, a pitcher, to play Major League Baseball. The show ran for 10 episodes, from Sept. 22 to Dec. 8 of last year. The editors of TV Guide placed the show at number four in their top ten most anticipated shows of last season. It debuted with a solid 4.23 million viewers and closed out its freshman season with a still-credible 2.89 million viewers. Unfortunately, executive producers Kevin Falls and Dan Fogelman confirmed via social media on May 1 that the show would not be getting a second season.

Grow Up!

NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Lifestyle Networks President (welcome to corporate America, people) Frances Berwick recently announced that the company’s preschool network, Sprout, would be rebranding itself as Universal Kids this September. The underage network will expand its reach to include kids 6 to 11. Content will now include shows from DreamWorks Animation Television and “unscripted originals” (reality shows, that is) starting with “Top Chef Junior.” Preschool programming will continue during the day, but will be bolstered with new(ish) content, including DreamWorks’ “All Hail King Julien” and “DreamWorks Dragons: Riders of Berk.” Future shows will include the award-winning international fantasy series “Nowhere Boys,” the Australian kiddy show “Little Lunch,” tween dance drama “The Next Step” and “Hank Zipzer” (based on the kids’ book series written by Henry Winkler). Universal Kids will go live on Sept. 9.

Don’t Talk With Your Mouth Full

Comedian/ventriloquist (but mostly just ventriloquist) Jeff Dunham is expanding his TV empire with a food show. “Incredible Edible America With the Dunhams” will feature Dunham and his wife Audrey (who, I guess, is a “food blogger”) traveling the country and getting paid to eat “over-the-top edible creations” like yard-long sandwiches and donut ice cream. Good work if you can get it. The show—which allegedly features “Jeff Dunham’s signature sharp wit combined with Audrey Dunham’s culinary knowledge”—is scheduled to premiere Monday, June 5, on Food Network.

Ladies’ Night

IFC has acquired the critically acclaimed Canadian sketch comedy series “Baroness von Sketch Show.” This single-camera sketch comedy show is performed and written by Meredith MacNeill and award-winning Second City alumni Carolyn Taylor, Aurora Browne and Jennifer Whalen. The all-female comedy—described as “slightly off”—was recently honored with multiple Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Variety or Sketch Comedy and Best Writing in Variety or Sketch Comedy. Among the topics it tackles: soccer moms, bachelorette parties, sexual politics and the pretentiousness of ordering fancy coffee. IFC will air 13 episodes of season one and two of the half-hour series beginning in late summer.

 
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