Posts Tagged ‘TV’

Sherlock Holmes, Season 3



I’ve been a fan of PBS’s updated version of the Sherlock Holmes series but I’m concerned that I’ll be disappointed with Season 3.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock has perfectly captured the main character’s charismatic, highly intelligent, extremely analytical, anti-social, and slightly annoying personality. The concentrated blue-eyed gaze,deep voice, and unkempt air of the unknown British actor made for compelling TV.

During the series second season, Cumberbatch had gained a bit more exposure to American audiences in supporting roles in the remake of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and “War Horse” but those roles didn’t diminish Cumberbatch’s credibility in his primary role as Sherlock Holmes. I had no problem buying into the premise that Cumberbatch was Sherlock or that Martin Freeman was Dr. Watson. As a fan and viewer,  I bought into the premise and identified the actors with their roles.

However, prior to Season 3’s debut things have changed.

Not only have appearances by Cumberbatch in prominent roles such as the lead in HBO’s “Parade’s End”, the latest Star Trek movie, and the voice of Smaug in The Hobbit become more frequent. But Martin Freeman’s role as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit films have also heightened his profile.

So, my concern is that as I watch Season 3, I’ll find it more difficult to become as emotionally involved in the series as I have during the previous two seasons because my objective, analytical brain will be reminding me about the actors’ other roles.

I’m hoping I’m wrong.


After watching the first two episodes of Season 3, I sensed a certain smugness which I found disappointing and off-putting. However, after reading Emily Nussbaum’s assessment in The New Yorker , my attitude has been somewhat altered.


JFK and the Brand Ideal

JFK & Caroline playing

Most of the media analysis surrounding the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination has been focused on its impact on journalism and American perceptions about TV in terms of news.

However, I’ve also been struck by how TV helped Americans who were between the ages of 7 and 45 during the “Camelot” years to emotionally connect with the Kennedy family. Vaughn Meader’s comedy album, “The First Family” not only made us laugh at the Kennedy’s but also, because of JFK’s publicly good-natured reaction to it, with them.

CBS Sunday Morning ran a story about JFK’s father, Joseph Kennedy’s plan to market his son for the presidency “like soap”. That story encouraged me to consider the consequences of Joe Kennedy’s marketing campaign and I’ve concluded that its result, to those of us watching, was a message about the ideal family and its values, attitudes, and behaviors.

Jim Stengel, in his book GROW, discusses the concept of the Brand Ideal. According to Stengel , a brand’s success relies on its ability to satisfy one of the following fundamental values: elicit joy, enable connection, inspire exploration, evoke pride, or positively impact society.

The Brand Ideal of Jack and Jackie Kennedy could be described as “a youthful, healthy, intelligent, cultured, loving couple who represented the hopes and dreams for America’s future”. In other words: Camelot.  [ Feel free to quibble with this description and its basis for validity. I use it only for the purpose of example.]

The fact that Baby Boomers still revere JFK and Jackie today despite what we’ve learned about their very human flaws and short-comings seems to me to be a testament to how well Joe Kennedy’s marketing of his son worked.

Your thoughts?


November 22, 1963


November 22, 1963 was a Friday.

I was a typical shallow, self-possessed, care-free teenage male in the first couple months of my first year in high school at Mount Pleasant High in Providence, Rhode Island.

On Friday’s, my last class of the day was gym. In 1963, gym class for males was an active, athletic program to prepare young men for military service and which required students to develop skills on the parallel bars, pommel horse, horizontal high bar, still rings and for rope climbing. The gymnasium also served as the school’s basketball court, so the space was cavernous and the class was noisy. Consequently, we couldn’t hear messages being transmitted over the school’s loudspeaker system.

So, on that Friday, after I’d showered and walked along the typically noisy corridor to my locker, I was in a good mood and oblivious to what was going on around me.

I  was in a good mood because that night was scheduled to be opening night for the Mount Pleasant High School Dionysiac Player’s production of Thornton Wilder’s classic play, “Our Town” and my theater debut as a member of the stage crew manning the main spotlight.

My original plan had been to try out for the football team but, at the last moment, I wisely changed my mind. The football coach was also my Geometry teacher and, for some reason, there was an unsettling level of antipathy between us.

So, instead, I decided to join the theater group at the urging of my friend, Mike Grace. It was a decision that, to this day, I’m glad I made.

Arriving at my locker and fetching my things for the bus ride home to Smithfield, I was blithely mocking the sweet young woman I’d befriended whose locker was to my right. She was emotional and, because I couldn’t hear what she was saying, my initial thoughts were that she was laughing. But then I realized that it wasn’t the sound of laughter but of grief that I was hearing.

When I asked her what was wrong, I presumed that she was reacting to a misunderstanding or breakup with her boyfriend. The usual stuff of adolescent drama.  So, when she told me that the President was dead, it didn’t register. I laughed thinking that she was telling me some sort of sick joke. Then, I looked at her face…and I knew.

John F. Kennedy was a mythic figure in Southern New England. In 1963, Rhode Island’s population was heavily Roman Catholic Italian and, although JFK was Irish, he was one of our own.  His was like a death in the family.

The first reaction I can recall was wondering how this tragic event might affect the play.

Our theater group had worked hard, rehearsed and devoted much of our lives for the previous two months in order to be ready for this moment. The school wouldn’t cancel opening night, would it?

Other than the moment when I was told about the assassination and the overarching sense of loss and sadness which enveloped the school, there are two incidents that I most vividly remember about that afternoon. The first involved one of the wise guys who, like me, was bused in from Smithfield and with whom I’d shared classes since elementary school. He started laughing and making jokes about Kennedy’s assassination. I was appalled and, frankly, embarrassed for him.  Over the years, I’ve wondered if he sometimes stopped to consider how he’d reacted and, if he did, how that affected his life.

The second incident occurred when we discovered that the school administration had, indeed, canceled opening night for our production of “Our Town”. Of course, it was the appropriate decision under the circumstances. But, we were emotionally invested in our work and had difficulty accepting the decision. What shocked me was when the student who played George Webb, one of the play’s primary characters, lay down on the stage and while pounding his fist sobbed “Why did he have to go get killed on opening night?”  I understood the kid’s angst but found his self-absorbed attitude embarrassing.

The Mount Pleasant High School Dionysiac Players production of “Our Town” did go on as scheduled on Saturday night. And, as I recall, the show was well-received by an audience which was probably affected more than usual by the play’s story of day-to-day life, youthful love, premature death, sorrow and grief. That play continues to touch me to this day.

On Sunday afternoon, while continuing wall-to-wall commercial-free live coverage of the weekend’s sad events were being broadcast on the existing three television networks (ABC, NBC, CBS), Mike Grace and I were doing a project for Mike’s aunt and uncle in the living room of their home when I happened to glance over at a TV and noticed the Dallas police escorting Lee Harvey Oswald down a corridor. It all seemed pretty mundane until, all of a sudden, a man in a black hat stepped out from the crowd, shoved his hand towards Oswald’s stomach and shot him. The black-and-white photo we’ve all seen over the intervening decades of Oswald crumbling in pain is still shocking. But, to see an actual murder occur live on a national TV broadcast as it happened was stunning. At first, it seemed unreal. And, thinking that I might be imagining it, I asked Mike if he’d just seen what I saw.

The 48 hours from the moment  when JFK was killed on Dealey Plaza until the moment when Jack Ruby’s bullets ended Lee Harvey Oswald’s life,  were surreal and shook America’s sense of order and complacency to its core.  This was a time in American life when we lived daily on the brink of nuclear holocaust in our conflict with the Soviet Union. We were all subconsciously concerned that, at any moment, we might get word that the missiles were coming in.

Leading up to this anniversary, journalists have been focusing on how coverage of the events of that weekend changed news because it was on TV. I would argue that it changed America.

For the first time, we were able to not only hear but to see events as they happened. Radio had provided us with theater of the mind. With TV, we were there…watching Jackie grieve at her husband’s coffin, watching little John-John salute the passing caisson, seeing Lee Harvey Oswald murdered in cold blood.

On that weekend leading into Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays, we were shaken to the core.

When World War I began, we got our news on time delay via newspapers.

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, we learned the news from radio.

John F. Kennedy’s assassination was the first calamitous event which we Americans shared communally through television.

It remained the most significant historical event of my lifetime through the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy in the late 1960s, the Kent State Massacre, the murder of John Lennon and other tragic events which we experienced through the years.

For me, a change began to occur when I watched the Challenger disintegrate as Dan Rather was covering its launch live in 1986. It became obvious to me that I was going to continue to witness these occasional tragedies through my remaining days.

Then, of course, came September 11th.




PS- A fellow Rhode Island native, Bill Flanagan, has an interesting insight on how the death of John F. Kennedy affected our parents who were his contemporaries in the World War II generation.

Game Of Thrones

Game of Thrones cover OK, I admit it. I don’t get the Game Of Thrones phenomenon. Can someone please explain it to me?

Although the show has just completed its third season and achieved its highest ratings to date, I’ve never watched it. But I keep hearing references to it. Mostly, on TV. Although I did see a young guy reading a Game Of Thrones paperback the other day.

So, is it a demographic thing? Is the audience for Game Of Thrones essentially the under-30 crowd? I gather that the show contains a lot of sex and violence so is its appeal primarily to young males. Is it to males what the Twilight series is to females? Or is the series more mass appeal than that and the attraction is its study of impact of power, sex, and violence and human relationships?

Game of Thrones … Peter Dinklage as Tyrion.

What exactly am I missing?

February 1964

It was Sunday, February 9th, 1964. Just eleven weeks earlier, America had been shocked and stunned by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. JFK had been a beacon of hope and inspiration for Americans, especially BabyBoomers. But Lee Harvey Oswald’s gun had silenced those hopes and created a void which needed to be filled. That void was filled by The Beatles.

Music industry veteran, Steve Meyer has vivid memories of that moment and he’s graciously allowing me to share them with you:

“We were four guys…I met Paul, I said do you wanna’ join the band, ya’ know? Then George joined, then Ringo joined…we were just a band that made it very, very big, that’s all.” — John Lennon

Yes…very big indeed, once the “Lads from Liverpool” hit our shores and nothing was ever the same.
Beatles on Sullivan 1964
Their first appearance on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ was watched by an estimated 74 million people that Sunday night in February 1964 making it one of the biggest events in broadcast history, and the crime rate in U.S. cities dropped dramatically during the show’s broadcast. It was indeed, as Ed Sullivan used to say, ” A really big show!”

The assault on American radio and charts was equally overwhelming. In the past few decades you’ve all read about the chart accomplishments of such mega-artists as Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Madonna, and others, but they all pale in comparison to this statistic:

For the week ending April 4, 1964 The Beatles had 11 singles on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 chart, including the first top five slots:

* #1* – Can’t Buy Me Love
* #2* – Twist and Shout
* #3* – She Loves You
* #4* – I Want To Hold Your Hand
* #5* – Please, Please Me
* #31* – I Saw Her Standing There
* #41* – From Me To You
* #46* – Do You Want To Know A Secret
* #58* – All My Loving
* #65* – You Can’t Do That
* #79* – Thank You Girl

Of course if you’re old enough to remember listening to your favorite Top-40 station back then, you remember hearing all these songs and more as the “British Invasion” started. It’s almost impossible to imagine any artist or band being able to monopolize the charts and radio in such fashion today, and I don’t think we will ever see it happen like that again. It was a different time.

Just how much The Beatles changed everything in pop culture has been the subject of many articles, books, TV specials, and now they teach courses on them in many colleges. Prior to The Beatles, Top-40 radio didn’t play album cuts from best-selling artists … not even Elvis at his height.

But when The Beatles released ‘Rubber Soul’ and made the decision there would be no single released from the album for radio or retail (much to Capitol’s dismay originally), radio programmers simply put “Michelle” on their stations along with “I’m Looking Through You,” and about four other tracks from the album. The Beatles ruled at retail and requests, so radio had to respond.

But the fact is, NOBODY had ever achieved that kind of airplay (album tracks) at Top-40 radio previously. The Beatles were the first. Of course ‘Rubber Soul’ wasn’t the only album they released without a single for radio/retail. ‘Sgt. Pepper’ (the first rock “concept” album) didn’t have a single and neither did their double-album, ‘The White Album.’ But it made no difference, they were all over Top-40 radio. Of course the release of ‘Sgt. Pepper’ (and subsequent concept albums by the Stones, Who, etc.) gave birth to the notion that the radio audience might want to hear more than just singles and great radio men in Boston, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, and elsewhere, put FM stations on the air that played albums and “progressive radio” (the forerunner of all album radio that followed) was born.

Before The Beatles, there was no such thing as “stadium rock.” Nobody had ever played arenas or stadiums before 1964. But The Beatles sold out Shea Stadium, Candlestick Park, and other stadiums around the country in mere hours after tickets went on sale, shocking those in the press and media who predicted the shows by the group (“a fad” as they were called back then) wouldn’t sell tickets in those quantities. I was lucky enough to see them at Carnegie Hall, Forest Hills, and at both Shea concerts. The word mania doesn’t begin to describe what occurred the minute The Beatles took the stage.

Long before MTV hit the air (thirteen years to be exact), The Beatles made a TV film called ‘Magical Mystery Tour.’ Though the critics in the UK panned it for the most part, in hindsight one can watch it and realize it was merely a long-form video with five separate concept videos to support their new songs. They were years ahead of the curve in realizing how music and video could be merged for greater audience.

Another amazing fact: ‘Sgt. Pepper’ was recorded in four-track. Yup, that’s right. Four track. Listen to it today and you realize what an engineering masterpiece it is, and how many tracks had to mixed down and on top of each other to make the final recording. Many albums made today use dozens more tracks and updated technology … but sonically, Pepper remains a masterpiece.

I could go on and on … I’ve been a Beatles fan for these past 49 years. I never imagined that night I watched them on the Ed Sullivan show that within five years I’d be lucky enough to get a job working for Capitol Records selling Beatles records, and then promoting them to the very radio stations I grew up listening to. When I worked for Capitol Records in 1970 and 1971 in New York City I was fortunate enough to meet John Lennon briefly. The first time I talked to him I got “mealy mouth,” was nervous, and he asked me what was wrong. I mumbled and then said,” I … I watched you on Ed Sullivan …” And he said, “Ah…well, that was The Beatles thing and all that … I’m just John now … so tell me what kind of music do you like?” We talked until the wee hours of the morning and I walked back to my apartment on a cold December morning with my mind racing.

The Beatles created the soundtrack for our lives back in the ’60’s and each song they sang made us feel like the wait wasn’t going to be too long, and that sooner rather than later, we’d all be on our way to better lives. Maybe that’s been only partly true, but it’s what we all wanted to believe because their music made us feel such things. So we sang their songs loud, proud to claim them as “our own.” But we should’ve known they belonged to the whole world and that the world we lived in was moving away from innocence.

John was right…they were a “band that made it very, very big.”

They were all that … and a whole lot more. A helluva lot more.
The closest I ever came to meeting a Beatle was when I was about five feet away from Paul McCartney as he left the premier of his movie, “Give My Regards To Broad Street”. We had eye contact for a few seconds. He didn’t look happy.

I also had the chance to hang out one night with John Lennon’s son, Julian. Unfortunately, I blew it. The realization that I was actually spending time with a Beatles’ son left me tongue-tied. While I should have been having a pleasant conversation focused on him, his opinions and aspirations, I was too busy second-guessing myself so that I wouldn’t come across like a dim-witted fan. Too bad. Turned out that Julian’s a pretty nice, down-to-earth guy.

Stephen Meyer is a music industry veteran who has served in executive positions for several music labels including as National Promotion Director for Capitol Records from 1976-1983. You can subscribe to his weekly music industry newsletter at

Sunday Morning

CBS Sunday Morning has been one of my few “appointment viewing” TV shows since it debuted with Charles Kuralt in 1978. It seemed to me that what Kuralt and producer Shad Northshield had created was essentially the secular equivalent of a religious service complete with sermon, homily, music, and moment of reflection for a nation which was increasingly foregoing organized religious services. It was also very much radio on TV with a lot of effort put into creating sound which enhanced to impact of the visuals.

It’s been apparent for a long time that the current producers of the show don’t share this vision. They don’t seem to grasp what marketers would call the show’s “brand ideal” and the purpose that the program serves as a part of many viewers’ lives. Instead, it’s treated as just another morning news/infotainment vehicle for the sales department. Consequently, we get a bumper stating “This moment of nature is brought to you by Prodaxa…” leading into some usually very abbreviated nature footage which is immediately followed by a pharmaceutical industry spot targeted at the 60+ crowd. (Note to sales: It’s not about demographics. It’s about psychographics. “Hangover” star, Bradley Cooper said he was thrilled to be interviewed by CBS Sunday Morning because he had grown up watching the show and I have Millennial friends who are avid fans of the show.)

OK. Here’s what prompted this outburst.

Today, CBS Sunday Morning presented its annual end of the year “Hail And Farewell To Those We Lost” tribute to folks who’d died during the past year. I come from a broadcasting background, so I can appreciate the editing decisions which are part of this compilation process. I also understand that the network is interested in making the show relevant and interesting to a younger 35-49 year old female audience. So, I the programming guy part of me can understand why the producers would choose to spotlight a pop icon like Whitney Houston but essentially (forgive this choice of words, but it seems appropriate) bury important historical figures like WWII hero/ Senator/ Presidential candidate, George McGovern and Gulf War hero, General Norman Schwarzkopf in a brief three-way montage with WWII hero/Senator Daniel Inouye in the piece as historical footnotes.

McGovern’s presidential bid was a colossal failure in 1972 but I would contend that it politically galvanized Baby Boomers, helped legitimize the anti-Vietnam War, and contributed to the downfall of Richard Nixon’s presidency. Whitney Houston was talented artist with incredible promise who lost her way and experienced a tragic decline. Hers is a heartbreaking story but I’d contend that McGovern’s was more significant.

I was also annoyed as the final strains of Etta James’ version of “At Last” provided an underscore for the end of the segment. Ideally, the music would have reached its end, there would have been a few poignant moments of silence with the appropriate CBS Sunday Morning logo bumper, and then programming would have resumed. Instead, there was a quick fade of the music before its end into an inappropriately upbeat bumper teasing the use of pink in today’s world. It reminded me of some of the ”train wreck” moments I’ve heard in radio when a somber news bulletin about some tragic event is immediately followed by a DJ who was obviously not listening and who jauntily launches into some inappropriate song or, worse, an inane contest.

Again, I can appreciate the pressures and time constraints that the producers and staff are under at CBS Sunday morning. It’s not my intention to be a cantankerous old fogey and bitch just for the sake of complaining and venting some unrelated frustration at an easy target.

Call me a starry-eyed idealist but I really believe that radio , TV, and movies are more about art than about commerce. My goal here is to contribute to the conversation about content.

Your Cheatin’ Heart

A few months ago, I posted a blog piece about cheating on taxes. That prompted a response from Allison Morris who sent me the infographic below created by Online Colleges in a blog piece about how cynical members of the Gen X and Gen Y generations feel about cheating and lying. They appear to think of these behaviors as necessary for basic survival. How much these attitudes are created by media exposure from television police procedurals, movies and music would be an interesting topic to pursue.

Check out the infographic below and let me know what you think.
Rise of the Cheater Infographic

Top TV Shows Of Conservatives & Liberals

The Experian Simmons annual survey of this year’s favorite TV shows ranked by political philosophy has been released. (Note that Independents and Libertarians aren’t listed.)

    Conservatives’ Favs

1. Barrett-Jackson Auction
2. This Old House
3. The 700 Club
4. Swamp Loggers
5. Top Shot
6. The Bachelor
7. Castle

    Liberals’ Favs

1. The Daily Show
2. Colbert Report
3. Masterpiece
4. 30 Rock
5. Parks and Recreation
6. The View
7. Glee

Your thoughts?

Buzz4Boomers March 17,2011

In a recent blog, radio consultant Fred Jacobs notes that advertising agencies may finally be readjusting their thinking about the value of consumers aged 55-64 year old.

“The demographic targets may finally be reacting to the Baby Boom generation. If that sounds totally counter-intuitive, the fact is that agencies essentially stopped thinking once they cemented the 25-54 target in place more than two decades ago.

The Boomer train continues to move, and those over 55 are abundant and a whole lot different than fiftysomethings of just a generation or two ago.

As David Poltrack, head research maven for CBS, points out in a recent Hollywood Reporter article, “The fact is an affluent 58-year-old is certainly more valuable than a 22-year-old who is just getting by.”
As TV demos age – the primetime average is now 51 – there’s a certain logic to advertising targets aging with them. As the Hollywood Reporter notes,Tom Selleck and Kathy Bates are winning in prime, while Classic Rocker Steven Tyler is reinventing American Idol.”


I remember having conversations with agencies about older consumers back in the early 1980s. Historically, the agencies used young adults in their early 20s to make decisions about the value of older consumers and there was a tendency to attribute irrelevant information about the buying habits of previous generations to modern consumers. Thirty years later, now that those 20-somethings are now 50-somethings, it’s nice to see that agency thinking is starting to change.

You can read Fred Jacobs excellent blogs at