COVERING KATRINA PT. 2
At one point during NBC's coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, reporter Martin Savidge commented: "This is not Iraq, this is not Somalia, this is home." In fact, the images that television continued to bring into American homes Thursday seemed far more horrendous than anything presented from war-torn nations abroad, and television anchors and reporters who usually distance themselves from disaster stories often appeared as angry as the hurricane victims about what appeared to be gross disaster unpreparedness. While he was interviewing Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, Anderson Cooper interrupted her after she thanked President Bush and former President Clinton "for their strong statements of support." Said Cooper, "I'm sorry for interrupting but for the last four days, I've been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi, and to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset and very angry and very frustrated. And when they hear politicians thanking one another, it kind of cuts them the wrong way right now, because literally there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman had been laying in the street for 48 hours and there's not enough facilities to take her up." When Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, who attempted to assure the country that authorities had things under control, appeared on Fox News and CNN, both networks split the screen with images showing just the opposite. (Indeed, an ABC News crew turned back when they encountered gunfire on the way to a New Orleans hospital.) Fox anchor Shepard Smith, reporting from New Orleans, remarked, "We were expecting a naval armada [to come to the rescue]. It hasn't happened." The television networks themselves also came in for a drubbing from several newspaper TV writers for their limited coverage of the disaster. Ed Bark of the Dallas Morning News commented: "How have ABC, NBC and CBS handled what arguably is the worst natural disaster in U.S. history? They've mostly been looking the other way, keeping their daytime soaps in play and waiting all the way until Wednesday night to schedule their first prime-time news specials on the devastation." Aaron Barnhart in the Kansas City Star also took the networks to task for handing off the story to the cable news networks, writing, "It doesn't matter if the coverage can be found somewhere else. When it's offered by broadcast networks, more people are informed and the overall sense of urgency rises. This is what happened in 9/11. It happened in the war...Coverage equals importance. That's what makes broadcasting broadcasting." Meanwhile, the cable news networks drew some of their biggest audiences ever. Since Sunday, Fox News Channel has averaged 4,159,000 viewers in primetime (it set a record of 4,900,00 on Wednesday), while CNN has drawn 3,076,000 (3,600,000 on Wednesday) and MSNBC, 1,235,000 (1,500,000 on Wednesday).
GEORGE CLOONEY SAYS TV NEWS NEEDS E.R. SUPPORT
Appearing at a news conference to promote his new movie, Good Night and Good Luck, at the Venice Film Festival Wednesday, George Clooney took a swipe at television news, which, he said, shies away from controversy and fails to inform the pubic. "Now, because we've fractioned into little pieces, you go look for the things that reinforce what you already believe to be fact and don't get a common truth," he said. Clooney's film concerns the decision by Edward R. Murrow and his CBS colleagues in 1954, to take on communist-hunting Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. "They were willing to take on things, fly in the face of the corporations that owned the companies that they worked for. Not many are willing to do that any more," he said. Clooney, whose father was a newscaster, suggested that no one in television today commands the kind of respect that was accorded Murrow in the 1950s. His exposé of McCarthy's tactics, Clooney said, was "one of the few times you could point to where broadcast journalism has actually changed the world and people's minds." He compared the '50s to the current time, saying that now, as then, "We use fear to attack civil liberties."
OLDEST SOAP OPERA TO EMBRACE NEWEST TECHNOLOGY
The Guiding Light, which debuted on radio on January 25, 1937, making it the longest-running program in broadcast history, will become the first CBS program to transition to CBS Netcast, which will offer podcasts of the network's regular programs. The soap opera, which moved to television on June 30, 1952, is also the longest-running scripted TV show. Originally, the 15-minute radio show was broadcast live at 1:45 p.m. each afternoon and a TV reenactment of the same episode was broadcast live at 2:30 p.m. However, for the podcasts, the dialogue heard during the regular telecast will simply be augmented with descriptions of any on-screen action. The first episode will be available on Tuesday, Sept. 6.
OSAMA PHOTOG SUES ABC
An Egyptian photographer who took pictures of Osama bin Laden that were purchased by ABC-TV for $15,000 has filed a $10-million lawsuit against the network, claiming that he had allowed the network to use the photos on a one-time only basis and that he had not authorized further use of them. Essam Mohamed Aly Deraz also claims that he never was credited for his work, which, he said, was undertaken at great personal risk. ABC declined comment.
FALK SAYS HE AND ABC ARE AT AN IMPASSE OVER NEXT COLOMBO TV MOVIE
A new Columbo movie -- the first in more than two years -- has been delayed because of a disagreement between star Peter Falk and ABC-TV over the script. "There's a bit of a problem," Falk told TVGuide.com. "The script that I like, the network doesn't like. The script that they like, I don't like." Asked why the network disapproved of his preferred script, Falk remarked only, "That is a good question, a good question." He said that the network wants Colombo's next case to be set among lingerie models, "so you can see why they would prefer that one."
SALES TV DVD'S CONTINUE TO SOAR
DVD collections of TV shows accounted for 15 percent of all DVD sales this year, even though they made up just 7 percent of the releases, Nielsen VideoScan said Thursday. Sales of the collections are up 26 percent over last year and show a continuing rise as movie rentals slow down. Sales of TV DVDs, according to Nielsen VideoScan, accounted for nearly 20 percent of all DVD sales during the week ended Aug. 21.
MOVIE REVIEWS: THE TRANSPORTER 2
The Labor Day weekend ordinarily is just about the worst holiday weekend of the year at the box office, so the studios rarely release blockbuster fare at that time. Yet it's hard to know whether the mediocre movies that the studios do release might be responsible for the lousy business. That question could be answered this weekend as one film, The Transporter 2, seems to be generating a favorable response from critics that few had expected. Laura Kern in the New York Times comments, "Purely shallow but never dull, the film wisely pushes the limits of absurdity to the extreme, making it easier to submit to its sheer camp." Under the heading, "Scorched Mirth," Kyle Smith writes in the New York Post, that the film "busts the credibility meter early on, quickly becomes preposterous, and then really lets its imagination rip." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times, who gives the film three out of four stars, remarks that the sequel is better than the original, citing "an ingenious plot that continues to reveal surprises and complications well into the third act; this is not simply a movie where the good guy chases the bad guys, but a movie where the story turns a lot trickier than we expected." Many of the reviews note that the film fills a void left by the recent absence of James Bond movies. "Who needs Bond?" asks Roger Moore in the Orlando Sentinel, noting that the movie "crosses over into Bond far-fetchedness in its plot and stunts. But it's still a noisy, goofy, cartoonishly violent ride." Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post argues that the film comes off better than it ought to because of the charismatic performance of its star, Jason Statham. "Statham isn't the best thing in Transporter 2; he's essentially the only thing. It's his charisma vs. the World. Score: Statham 2, World naught. He's an Englishman -- balding, lithe, focused -- discovered by director Guy Ritchie ... and now he's doing better than Ritchie. Plus, he's not married to Madonna."
MOVIE REVIEWS: UNDERCLASSMAN
By contrast, the other two films being released this weekend are the sort that give Labor Day movies a bad name. Actually, Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe & Mail ought to have looked at his calendar before giving Underclassman "a failing grade even by the low standards of late-August Hollywood releases." A.O. Scott in the New York Times describes it as "the latest bit of damaged goods offered up in the Miramax clearance sale." Likewise, Lou Lumenick in the New York Post calls it, "the latest mistake disinterred from the dusty shelves of Miramax." Ty Burr in the Boston Globe refers to it as "another cinematic lemon orphaned by the Miramax breakup." Chris Kaltenbach in the Baltimore Sun says that the movie is "the latest evidence that the Weinstein brothers, in the waning days of their reign at Miramax, were giving the green light to all manner of detritus." And Robert K. Elder in the Chicago Tribune says that in the Miramax "litter," Underclassman is "the runt ... deserving of a release straight to video." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times asks, "Did anyone at any time during the talks leading up to this film say, 'Gee, guys, doesn't it seem like we've seen this a million times before?'"
MOVIE REVIEWS: A SOUND OF THUNDER
Even before A Sound of Thunder was released, bloggers were already warning readers to avoid it. One of them, Rebecca Murray, unhesitatingly called it "the worst movie of the year," then wrote: "Words can not adequately describe just how rotten A Sound of Thunder truly is. My husband kept asking if we could leave during the screening but I said no. ... After we left the screening he let me know the movie was so bad it was actually making him physically ill." The major newspaper critics seem to agree. A. O. Scott in the New York Times writes. "This picture achieves a level of badness that is its own form of sublimity. You almost -- please note that I said almost -- have to see it to believe it." Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe begins his review by remarking, "Regardless of where one stands on the debate over human origins, both sides should be able to agree that the new evolution movie, A Sound of Thunder, is a work of unintelligent design." Philip Wuntch in the Dallas Morning News says that the sound you hear in the movie is not thunder at all, but "one big yawn." Lawrence Toppman in The Charlotte Observer figures that the movie is probably intended as "a $40-million tax write-off." And Michael Esposito in the Chicago Tribune dismisses it as "just awful."