GOP’s silence; Bernstein speaks; Watergate comparisons; O’Donnell/MSNBC buzz; Sherman’s latest; TV upfronts preview; Zurawik reviews “SNL”


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Happy Mother’s Day! Hope you had a fantastic weekend. Scroll down for the highlights from Sunday’s shows… and a note about what President Trump didn’t do this weekend… But first, a preview of one of the best weeks of the year in NYC…

It’s time for the TV upfronts

Welcome to the upfronts — the week when the TV industry forgets about all of this season’s flops and promises it’ll be different this time around. The networks are pitching advertisers and beginning to promote new shows to the public at large. NBC and Fox are on Monday… ABC, ESPN and Univision on Tuesday… CBS and Turner on Wednesday… the CW on Thursday… and some smaller events are in between. This week is also a chance to evaluate the health of the TV biz…so let’s get to it…

{EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN}

NBC trying to recreate “Must See TV”

Sandra Gonzalez emails: Happy Upfronts week! To kick it off, NBC held a call with reporters on Sunday to announce it is bringing back its “Must See TV” branding. The Thursday lineup will feature “Will & Grace,” “Great News” (with Tina Fey set to guest star), “This Is Us” on a new night and “Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders.”

“It’s as close to Must See TV as we’ve ever had in our history,” Bob Greenblatt said… Read more…

“This is Us” becoming NBC’s Thursday centerpiece

Brian Lowry writes: NBC’s fall schedule once again adopts the CBS-like wisdom that when it comes to introducing new series, less is more. The network has also consciously sought to strengthen its position on Thursdays — a key night for ad sales heading into the movie-going and shopping weekend — by moving “This is Us” to become its 9pm centerpiece. And NBC might have an opportunity there, with ABC’s “Scandal” heading into its final season and “The Big Bang Theory” having experienced modest slippage in its dotage, despite a two-year renewal from CBS.
 >> More: NBC is giving “This is Us” the coveted post-Super Bowl time slot next winter…

 >> Joe Flint tweets: “Disappointed NBC isn’t trying to franchise ‘This Is Us.’ I was ready for ‘This Is Us: New Orleans’ and ‘This Is Us: St Louis.'”

The changing calculus for shows…

Brian Lowry adds: Although Greenblatt said the network’s execs “put blinders on in scheduling” when deciding what shows to pick up and renew, he separately acknowledged that there are lot of factors beyond ratings that inform its decisions. One of those is program ownership, and the money the network and its sister studio pocket from repeats and international sales of series that it produces… 

 >> Joe Adalian explains this really well over at Vulture… while you’re there, check out his “five depressing charts” too…

Ad $$ reality check

How much upfront $$$ spending will the networks snare this year? In this story, Variety’s Brian Steinberg explains why the ad market feels cooler than it did last year…

 >> Related: the NYT’s annual “upfronts are out of date, why is business still done this way?” story… ?

This is a classic THR photo illustration…

…Accompanying a story about “the annual cash grab,” here are Les Moonves and rivals swinging at a pinata:

WSJ’s look at “skinny bundles”

If you want to understand the “new ‘skinny’ streaming bundles that are reshaping the American television landscape,” the WSJ’s Shalini Ramachandran has got you covered… check out her charts showing which media companies have a foothold in each new service…

NBC “didn’t need Idol”

Sandra Gonzalez emails: NBC execs confirmed on Sunday that they’d been approached about bringing back “American Idol,” but Greenblatt said they ultimately passed because, they “didn’t need Idol.” In addition to “The Voice,” NBC has a couple of new music competition shows in development that could debut as soon as next summer…

 >> Speaking of “Idol,” Katy Perry is reportedly heading to ABC’s reboot…

Lawrence O’Donnell on the way out at MSNBC?

Lawrence O’Donnell, host of MSNBC’s ‘The Last Word,’ has just four weeks left in his contract, and the cable network does not appear to be interested in renewing his deal,” Yashar Ali wrote for HuffPost on Sunday. He cited “four well-placed sources” to say that “MSNBC has not been in contact with O’Donnell’s team of representatives to negotiate a new deal.” Does that mean O’Donnell is about to leave — perhaps for another network? 

Not surprisingly, I’m getting mixed signals from sources. One person says the story is accurate… another person says the story is off-base and contract talks ARE underway… officially, MSNBC says “we don’t comment on contract negotiations…”

New FBI director to be named this week?

We’ll see. Two of the people reportedly interviewing for the job are TV analysts — Mike Rogers appears on CNN and Frances Townsend appears on CBS News. A CNN spokeswoman told me on Saturday that Rogers will not be a guest on the network until there’s a resolution about the FBI director role. A CBS spokeswoman said Townsend is “not scheduled to be on at this time…”

Trump taking it easy on Twitter

Worth noting: @realDonaldTrump was relatively quiet all weekend long. The president hasn’t posted any cavalier tweets since last Friday morning, when he threatened James Comey and raised the prospect of “tapes.” The Comey scandal dominated the Sunday morning talk shows. But Trump didn’t chime in once… instead, he just posted a mellow Happy Mother’s Day message…
Quote of the weekend
“Is there anyone in the West Wing who can be trusted to tell the truth?”

–Jake Tapper on Sunday’s “SOTU…”

Republican voices few and far between

Quoting Jeffrey Toobin from Sunday’s “Reliable Sources:” “What is striking is that notwithstanding how obviously inappropriate this firing was, you have close to complete silence — or support — from” GOP leaders…

On “Reliable” and other shows, several guests suggested that some prominent Republicans are concerned about the president’s conduct… but are only talking about it privately, not publicly…

“A lot of people are scared”

Quoting David Ignatius on “Face the Nation:” “Talking this week to several prominent Republicans, people who have not been sharp critics of Donald Trump, I heard the same thing, which is: This guys scares me… One person said to me, there are no guardrails on this presidency. Another person said, this is Richard Nixon on steroids… A lot of people are scared. And they wonder, how do we get out of this?

 >> I asked David Frum a similar question on “Reliable:” “How does this end?” He reached for optimism but had a hard time. “We are going to test the strength and endurance of American institutions,” he said. Video here…

Carl Bernstein says “I think this is a potentially more dangerous situation than Watergate”

Jackie Wattles recapping “Reliable:”Carl Bernstein says the Trump administration could put the U.S. in a ‘more dangerous’ situation than the Watergate scandal did during President Richard Nixon‘s tenure.”

While this moment is “very different than Watergate,” he said, there are similarities. For instance: “The president of the United States seems to be doing everything in his power to keep us from knowing the facts.” 

At the same time, “fewer and fewer people are interested in the best obtainable version of the truth, but rather look for information on both sides to buttress what they already believe…”

Margaret Sullivan’s Monday column relates to this…

She points out that “the media world was blown off its axis” when Trump fired Comey, but it “was hard for dizzied news consumers to know what, or whom, to believe,” and some folks simply tuned out…
For the record, part one
 — James Fallows, who covered Watergate back in the day, says the “Comey affair” is worse than Watergate for these five reasons…

 — Jim Rutenberg‘s Monday NYT column is about “Resistance / Woke / Whatever-You-Want-to-Call-It TV…”

 — “Mike Greenberg‘s new morning television show is set to debut in early January,” Richard Deitsch reports…

THE LATEST FOX NEWS NEWS…

Stone and Bannon helped Ailes?

Fox’s problems from the Roger Ailes era “are increasingly spilling outside its walls and creating ramifications for local and national political figures as new allegations emerge and old ones are dredged up,” Politico’s Ben Schreckinger writes in this must-read piece. He reports that “Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and longtime confidant Roger Stone coordinated with Ailes to monitor and undermine the ousted Fox chief’s perceived adversaries,” including Gabriel Sherman. And speaking of Sherman…

Gabe’s latest for NYMag

Gabriel Sherman has a column in NYMag’s “work issue” about the Fox News workplace… he says “morale is sinking…” and speculation is ongoing about who might take over the network… he says Elisabeth Murdoch is “being discussed” as a possibility… 

 >> Also — according to Sherman’s sources — “Ailes’s pantsuit ban has been lifted…”

For the record, part two
By Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman:

 — Charlie Warzel at BuzzFeed examines the work by far-right bloggers like Mike Cernovich, Jack Posobiec and Chuck Johnson, saying that on a few occasions, these “former trolls” in “the pro-Trump media” have had “well-sourced reporting…”

 — Erik Wemple reports that after the arrest of reporter Dan Heyman, donations to the Public News Services increased 26-fold. However, that doesn’t mean much in terms of absolute dollar amounts: PNS “hauls in between $20 and $30 over a normal two-day period from its donation module. Over the two days after Heyman’s arrest at the West Virginia capital, that two-day number spiked to $775…

 — As we keep monitoring Silicon Valley for political bids, Willie Brown told the SF Chronicle that Y Combinator’s Sam Altman may run for governor in 2018. Here’s a Recode summary…

“Reliable Sources” highlights

Jeffrey Toobin told me he stands by his Tuesday assertion that Comey’s dismissal was a “grotesque abuse of power…”

Time magazine’s Michael Scherer, who just interviewed Trump, said he consumes his own presidency “very much as a television show…”

John Farrell, author of the new biography “Richard Nixon: The Life,” talked about fair and unfair comparisons between Trump and Nixon…

Trump and the media

White House declines Sunday show interview requests

Trump officials were scarce on TV this weekend. Kellyanne Conway was on Fox’s “MediaBuzz,” Rex Tillerson was on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and Nikki Haley was on ABC’s “This Week,” and that was it.

Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” threw some shade at the NBC and ABC shows, saying, “Since the president fired James Comey on Tuesday, we’ve been asking for a guest to explain the president’s reasoning and discuss the fallout. Saturday morning, White House officials said they would not put anyone out to discuss that. But they did offer senior officials to talk about the president’s foreign trip this week. When we said we were going to focus on Comey for at least the first half hour of this program, they put those officials on other shows.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Jake Tapper similarly noted that the W.H. did not want to engage on Comey Q’s: “We asked the White House to provide us with somebody who could answer our questions, the ones you want answered, but the W.H. declined…”

Chris Wallace v. “Fox & Friends”

Throughout the weekend, Fox’s opinion shows continued to downplay the significance of the Comey scandal and accuse the media of liberal hysteria. The big bad “media” was a big theme of “Fox & Friends” on Sunday morning. But Chris Wallace popped some bubbles during his weekly appearance… while responding to a question about whether the media is overblowing the matter… he said “this is a big story…. This is the first time in history that a president has fired an FBI director who was conducting an investigation that was directly investigating him and his associates…”

W.H. press briefing at 1:30pm Monday

Over the weekend Mike Allen’s sources said Trump is “considering a ‘huge reboot’ that could take out everyone from Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon, to counsel Don McGahn and press secretary Sean Spicer.” Trump’s suggestion about scrapping the daily briefings is also hanging in the air. For the time being, however, Spicer’s briefings will continue… Monday’s briefing is scheduled for 1:30pm Monday…

“Spicey” returns

Melissa McCarthy both hosted “SNL” and reprised her Sean Spicer character over the weekend, as Frank Pallotta recaps here…

Zurawik’s take

On Sunday’s “Reliable,” Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik said “SNL” is “brilliantly satirizing” an “administration that pumps disinformation…”

“SNL” season finale this week

Frank Pallotta emails: One of the most momentous “SNL” seasons in history comes to an end next week and with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Katy Perry as host and musical guest, so just how will the variety show end its 42nd season? We’ll see Alec Baldwin’s Trump one more time, right? How about Kate McKinnon‘s Clinton, Conway, or Sessions? Will Jimmy Fallon return as Jared Kushner to actually say something this time? Will The Rock again become The Rock Obama, or maybe even play a future presidential candidate himself? The possibilities are endless…

ICYMI: Sinclair story on the front page of Saturday’s NYT

TV Titan Requires Its Stations to Air Segments That Roil Its Staff” check out Sydney Ember’s story here…
The entertainment desk

“‘King Arthur’ Falls on His Sword”

That’s the Box Office Mojo headline about this week’s results: “Both ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ and ‘Snatched’ fell below Mojo’s forecast. In the case of King Arthur it opened well below our estimation as the $175 million budgeted feature couldn’t even crack $15 million over the three-day. Meanwhile, at #1 it was Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,’ which is already flirting with $250 million domestically after ten days in release and has now topped $630 million worldwide…”
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