5QQ: HitFix TV Critic Alan Sepinwall

New Jersey residents already know that the Newark Star Ledger, Tony Soprano’s paper of record, is also the home of TV critic extraordinaire Alan Sepinwall, while internet users know him from his terrific blog, “What’s Alan Watching?”

As of today, though, Sepinwall’s TV columns and prolific blog entries will be available to everyone, all in one place, HitFix.com. To mark the occasion, we fired him our 5 Quick Questions.

I grew up reading The Star Ledger, and when Alan joined the paper 14 years ago, his column quickly became my favorite. I found myself reading them even when the subject matter was of no interest to me, because the guy can just flat-out write.

His TV blog, however, really takes things to 11. He offers wall-to-wall coverage of insider TV events like the network “upfronts,” but the bulk of the blog is made up of reviews and episode recaps that combine synopsis with incisive commentary. The episode recaps are often better than the shows he is critiquing, and he participates in lively talks with a large, smart community of commenters. Best of all, perhaps, is a “no spoilers” policy that would make Ziploc envious.

If  you like TV at all, you should follow Alan Sepinwall to HitFix. New Jersey residents, you’ll still find Alan’s columns in the Ledger, but check out the blog, anyway.

OK, sales pitch over. Here’s Alan’s 5QQ:

1. How do you get your first TV news of the day?

Twitter. Either the people I follow will have written about the latest developments, or they’ll link to the people who have.

2. Either, Or (you gotta pick one!):

Arrested Development or Firefly?

Arrested. I love Firefly, but I’ll take Buster’s hook-hand and Tobias the analrapist over Jayne’s grunts.

Caruso, Smits, Schroeder, or Gosselaar?

Caruso. Easy. Smits a better actor, but Caruso had the best-written character of the four, and back before he turned into a parody of himself he had ridiculous charisma.

And I know of which I speak when it comes to NYPD Blue.

(Please forgive the circa 1995 web design. I was young and stupid and trying to do the HTML coding myself.)

Omar Little or Arthur Fonzarelli?

Omar. Are you crazy? Shotgun beats thumb, every time.

Family Guy or lemon juice in your eyes?

Family Guy. At least I occasionally laugh or smile at a reference from my childhood. No upside whatsoever to lemon juice if seafood isn’t involved.

3. What’s the biggest story the TV media has missed this year? (Or last week):

Pretty much every story that doesn’t involve Conan or Jay. It’s amazing how many barrels of ink and bytes of information were devoted to covering two guys fighting over who gets to topline an outdated format.

4. Obligatory Twitter Question: Describe yourself in 140 characters or less (hash tag optional!).

Found a way to turn a misspent childhood and an obsessive-compulsive relationship with TV into a career.

5. Are you nervous or excited about the future of TV Journalism? Why?

I’ve spent the last 14 years amazed that people have been willing to pay me a livable wage to watch and write about television. That I’ve now found a second place willing to do so makes me a little less concerned. Lots of information is out there for free, but the hope is that the best stuff is still worth paying for. And that keeps me from getting lazy.


The Cheerleader, The Marine, And The NFL Team That Tried To Keep Them Apart

Daniel Snyder, the owner of the historically revered Washington Redskins, does not have the best reputation amongst his hometown fans and media.

Ever since he took over the team in 1999 they’ve had a losing record. This is thanks, in large part, to a revolving door of high-priced coaches and players, as well as the standard organizational mismanagement that plagues most mediocre sports franchises in America.

Amidst the turnover of personnel, Snyder has been the only consistent face of the Redskins brand. In turn he has become, fairly or unfairly, the personification of what has been consistently and routinely wrong with the Redskins for the last ten years.

Add to that the fact that he makes a killing on the team that is generally pretty bad, and you begin to forget the “fairly or unfairly” part. His power suits, finger gunning (“No, you’re the man!”), and general Jerry Maguire-ness only confirm what you probably already knew: Dan Snyder is easily and instantly unlikeable.

Now, a new report involving a Redskins cheerleader, her Marine boyfriend, and the team’s NBC broadcast partner threaten to make the Redskins look, at best, fundamentally dumb, and at worst, awfully callous.

First watch the video below, which shows the reunion between Lt. Denver Edick and his wife, Kristin Edick:



Sweet, right? Yes, super sweet. But the story behind how NBC’s Washington affiliate got ahold of the story? Not so much:

[Because] Lt. Denver Edick’s wife is a cheerleader for the Washington Redskins, the easy score turned into a turf battle in which ABC, the network that pitched the idea, wound up barred from FedEx Field, while the team handed the ball to the NBC station in town, which happens to be its broadcast partner.

Yes, the ethical implications of freezing out a station on a story because it doesn’t show your games are iffy. But stuff like that happens all the time – broadcast partners are given preferential treatment by sports teams. What makes Snyder and the Redskins look really bad however, is this gem:

And the Redskins formed a defensive line against any other coverage. A news executive involved in the discussions says a Redskins official told him that if Kristin Edick talked to anyone from WJLA, the ABC affiliate, she would be dismissed from her cheerleading job.

Snyder has since apologized on behalf of the organization, and threatened to fire a whole bunch of people because of the mishap.

This comes on the heels of a rough week for the Redskins owner, who lost his entire equity investment in Six Flags amusement parks, and saw the retirement of his longtime “PR henchman” Karl Swanson. One would figure he could use Swanson right about now.


FNC’s Brit Hume Likes Obama’s ‘Predator Drone’ Joke – Olbermann Doesn’t

Leave it to the Jonas Brothers to cause President Barack Obama to say something that would upset Keith Olbermann and rally Brit Hume to his side. While most of the President’s comedy monologue at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last Saturday was quite warmly received, some in the media are protesting that jokingly threatening the boy band with predator drones– which have been linked to civilian deaths abroad– is disrespectful to the loss of human life. The issue has Olbermann disagreeing with the president’s choice and Hume calling the complaints “absurd.”

“That was over the edge,” Olbermann declared yesterday after showing a clip of the joke. “I thought that was almost in the ‘where are the weapons of mass destruction, under the desk’ thing,” referencing Bush-era jokes about the invasion of Iraq. In contrast, earlier today on America Live, Hume argued that it was clear the President was not interested in actually killing the Jonas brothers and that “this kind of thing is absurd.” Hume didn’t miss the opportunity to take a stab at the entire White House Correspondents’ dinner itself, however, telling host Megyn Kelly he opted to have a root canal done rather than attend.

Commentary from Hume and Olbermann below:


NY Magazine: CBS/CNN Potentially Striking Up News Partnership

New York Magazine’s “Daily Intel” blog is reporting that CBS and CNN are cooking up what could be a game changer for the cable news landscape: a partnership where both networks would share talent and airtime, with the possibility of seeing CBS’ Katie Couric taking over the CNN 9PM spot currently inhabited by Larry King.

From the NY Mag report:

CBS News and CNN are in advanced negotiations about signing a news-gathering partnership, according to executives familiar with the discussions. The talks revolve around how the two news divisions can combine operations in a bid to cut costs and expand audiences on both sides. While such conversations have occurred over the last decade, the current news-business climate — plummeting CNN ratings, ever-shrinking evening-news audiences, major layoffs at ABC — make a deal more logical than ever before.

The report notes that both CBS and ABC had expressed interest in a merger in the past, pointing to the successful transfer of NBC talent to MSNBC, but that the final negotiations to on how to share talent and airtime never reached a conclusive point. This time around, because of CNN’s comparatively lackluster ratings in primetime and CBS’ interest in maintaining a news audience against the current of diminishing network news viewers, NY Mag reporter Gabriel Sherman is saying the deal makes “too much sense” from a financial standpoint.

The main issue in the merger– the one that has apparently ended all previous talks between CNN and network news– is the way in which talent would be distributed across networks. As the companies would remain separate entities despite cross-promoting, the balance between the two in making new decisions and giving their talent publicity is the trickiest part of the deal. NY Mag reports that two of the names most likely to make cross-network appearances are Anderson Cooper and Katie Couric, the latter whose contract is will be up for negotiations next year. Sherman posits that Couric would be a possible successor to Larry King, bringing her into cable news primetime.

Because the negotiations are still ongoing, neither network has made public statements on the matter, but the idea is, at the very least, innovative. CNN is already unique among the three biggest cable news outlets because it is not associated with one of the major broadcast networks. Unlike MSNBC or Fox News, a deal like this would allow CNN to remain semi-autonomous but still reap the starpower of a major network, while giving CBS news the backing of television’s first 24-hour news network.


Chris Matthews Is ‘Confused’ By Michael Brown’s ‘Insane’ Oil Spill Theory

Little after White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs attacked Fox News for going too easy on former FEMA director Michael Brown’s claim that the Obama administration did not react quickly enough to the Gulf oil spill, MSNBC gave the controversial Bush-era figure a second shot on Hardball, and Chris Matthews was determined not to repeat Neil Cavuto’s mistakes.

Matthews let Brown expand on his original comments on Your World, where he suggested that the Obama administration may have chosen to react slowly to the oil spill so to cause a disaster large enough to impact both public and legislative opinion on energy policy. On Hardball, he took this a step further, linking the oil spill to an accusation that the President wanted to “bankrupt the coal industry,” and suggesting that the President claimed to approve of offshore drilling while not actually doing so, only to discredit it later. “When he comes out and says he would like to see the coal industry bankrupted,” Brown noted, “I think they see a crisis like this and they” try to find a way to exploit it. It was complicated, and Brown was interrupted several times by objections from Matthews such as “I’m confused” and “that sounds insane.”

More interesting even than the very direct response to Brown’s attacks from the White House is the fact that Brown is on television at all. Why are news outlets giving him air time? One possible explanation that the phrase “Obama’s Katrina” has been making the cable news rounds, though even that is insufficient reason to bring in the majority share owner of the original Katrina disaster to assess this new, completely different one. Maybe it’s just because he makes for such great TV. Video below:


Glenn Beck Is Firmly Against Nipple Clips For Times Sq. Bomber

Presumably it was just a matter of time before someone linked the Arizona Law to the Times Sq. Bomber — they represent the two hottest button topics in the nation at the moment. A stretch? Not for Glenn Beck and his pipe. Beck responded tonight to Mayor Bloomberg’s (totally irresponsible) speculation that the Times Sq. bomber could be someone “who’s homegrown, maybe a mentally deranged person, or somebody with a political agenda, that doesn’t like the health care bill or something.”

That’s darn fine detective work, Mayor [enter pipe]. Could be anything, you’re right. Could be a deranged tea party goer. Somebody against Obama and his health care bill. Elementary my dear Watson! You should be our next Attorney General! You are brilliant, sir!

It comes across better in the video. Meanwhile, Beck wants to know “who didn’t know this guy, who he was, what he was doing?” According to Beck everyone including the guy at the hot dog stand knew…knew that he was not a Tea Partier? Beck won’t say specifically but this seems to be the inference. “Everyone in their job, did their job, did it the way it was supposed to be done…not in a racist way.” Which presumably is Beck’s way of justifying the AZ immigration law? The NYPD tracked down the guy who tried to blow up Times Sq. so it follows that the AZ police will not racially profile? It’s a dubious stretch, to say the very least, but apparently one Beck is willing to make. Also, we were able to catch this guy because he immigrated here legally. Also? This guy was clearly motivated by something larger that mere opposition to Obama because what sort of person would try to blow up children.

Beck also cleared up his Mirandized comments from this morning: “Brian Kilmeade, who I love, went all Jack Bauer on me, I swear he’s got nipple clips in his pocket.” Which is Beck’s way of saying he is standing behind his assertion that Shahzad should be treated humanely (i.e. no nipple clips) because he is a citizen. “The Constitution is tough when it gets in the way.”


Scandal-Ridden Former IL Lt. Governor Candidate Scott Lee Cohen Launches Gubernatorial Bid

After appearing on a local talk show with his wife to confirm rumors of beating, attempted rape, using steroids, and not paying his alimony or his taxes, Illinois Lieutenant Governor candidate Scott Lee Cohen gave a tearful farewell to his campaign, presumably never to return to the political world again. Three months later, Cohen is reanimating his campaign for a shot at the big time, announcing an independent run for governor yesterday.

Cohen, who had won the nomination for Lt. governor in the Democratic Party days before his troubled past surfaced, is running on a campaign of honesty and redemption, telling the Chicago Tribune that he believed “Illinois needs honesty more than perfection.” His campaign is claiming that recent polls show he has a decent chance of winning, even as an independent.

Even in his new political role as an independent, however, Cohen seems unable to avoid scandals. The private matters that ended his initial campaign are in still play, but in addition to them the Tribune noted that he began his campaign is making suspicious claims of owning a “green business,” which Cohen claimed was in the works with a distributor, one who “told the Tribune in February that he met with Cohen just once more than a year ago, gave him a tour of his company and never heard from him again.”

At the very least, Cohen can claim something that appears increasingly rare in Illinois campaigns: none of his allegations involve bribery or embezzlement.

The video blog “Illinois Statehouse News” caught up with Cohen at the press event for his new campaign, where he told them that if he “didn’t believe that with the support of the people I could win, I would never run.” Video below: