It rains in California in January.
I sort of knew that. But I didn’t realize how much until spending nine days in Pasadena to catch up on what is happening for the rest of the TV season.
Here are some of the more interesting things I learned over the nine days:
Fox Gave NBC “This Is Us”: That’s right, a network dying for a new hit gave it to a competitor.
But the reason is perfectly understandable.
20th Century Fox Television felt the poignant family series was a much better fit for NBC, which has had success with a couple of similar series, “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood.”
“This Is Us” would look out of place at Fox.
Besides, Fox owed NBC one.
One of the biggest hit series of Fox’s past, “House,” was produced by NBC Studios at a time that NBC badly needed a hit. NBC felt the renegade doctor played by Hugh Laurie was a better fit for Fox. And it was.
By the way, the season finale of "This Is Us" has been moved back a week to March 14.
It’s Been a Great Year for Fox Nationally: I didn’t realize that because most of its prime time programs get low prime time ratings on WUTV and the only one I watch regularly is “Lethal Weapon.” But Fox executive Gary Newman said the network had its best fall in five years and Fox is the only broadcast network that showed growth year to year.
Stephanie J. Block is a Star: Who? That was my thought as the star of PBS' upcoming “Live From Lincoln Center” production of the Broadway revival of “Falsettos” gave a performance before critics. Block, who played Elphaba in the Broadway company of “Wicked,” has an incredible voice, range and style. If she ever is in a Shea’s production, it would be must-see. Or must-hear.
Katie Holmes Needs PR Lessons: Holmes was in Pasadena to promote an upcoming Reelz production, “The Kennedys After Camelot.” After a press conference ended, she was swarmed by critics on stage. That routinely happens as reporters try to get their own material. As a critic asked a question, Holmes reportedly turned away and asked a handler if the media was allowed to go on stage to ask questions. Then she left without answering any questions. Holmes is no rookie to press tours. Her career got a boost almost two decades ago with “Dawson’s Creek.” She should have known better than to treat the media so poorly.
Bryan Cranston Gets Media Votes: On the other hand, Bryan Cranston, who is approaching superstar status, got a lot of media votes as most congenial by staying for 15 minutes after a press conference for Crackle’s animated series “SuperMansion,” while his handlers were trying to pull him away.
Stephen Nathan Is Involved in the “Bones” Finale: The Buffalo native has been a writer-producer on Fox’s long-running series for years but left the program two seasons ago. However, Nathan told me that he was involved in developing the story for the series finale, which is expected to air next month. David Boreanaz told critics that the finale will include an appearance from his father, Dave Thomas of “Rocketship 7” fame in Buffalo.
Everybody Didn’t Love Raymond at the Start: Ray Romano, who stars in the upcoming Epix series “Get Shorty,” told me during a breakfast here that he didn’t initially realize that the show that made him millions, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” was going to be a hit because the studio audience wasn’t wowed.
“The audience you are bringing in to watch the show live – this is not a joke – there are people who are bused in from senior citizen homes or rehab places,” said Romano. “This is not a joke. And some of them get paid $40 or $50 to sit in. They don’t know the characters and our show was very character-driven. The more you knew the character the more you knew the humor so it took a while to know … In the beginning, the audience would just sit there and we had to believe it was funny.”
He added the ratings were initially “horrible” on Friday nights before CBS head Les Moonves gave it a final chance by moving to Mondays after “Cosby” for the final six weeks. “We knew if we didn’t perform then, we were out. The ratings were bad, but the reviews were good so that gave us a little time.” It performed very well after the move.
Epix Was Named After a Video Gaming Brand: Mark Greenberg, the head of Epix, explained that Blockbuster was originally supposed to be a partner but passed to make an ill-advised hostile takeover bid for Circuit City. After looking at more than 1700 names, the decision was to go with a name that had three or four letters that fit on channel guides. While involved with Blockbuster, epic movies came to mind. “At the same time, X-Box had come out on multi-platform, so we dropped the c and made it an x,” explained Greenberg. He added that Epix now has more Time Warner Cable subscribers than Showtime or Starz.
Judd Apatow’s Favorite Comedian: In a session for “Crashing,” the HBO comedy starring comedian Pete Holmes that premieres on Feb. 19, director-writer-producer Apatow revealed his favorite current comedian after Holmes picked Brian Regan.
“My favorite comedian right now is Maria Bamford,” said Apatow. “There are people you respect, and there are people that will kill in every possible situation. But for me personally just going to a show, or people I just want to seek out just for my own enjoyment, nothing to do with work, Maria Bamford makes me laugh out loud more than anybody.”
I’ll be honest. I never heard of her until she starred in the 2016 Netflix series, “Lady Dynamite.” I told you that I learn a lot in California.
Glen Walker Is Still on Los Angeles TV: Walker, who worked at Channel 4 for about six years as a sports reporter and anchor, has had a long run on TV in Los Angeles. He now is on KTLA, which I watched for a few minutes before a story about a psychic had me looking for the remote. If you watch what passes for news in L.A. for a few minutes, you’ll have a new appreciation for television news in Buffalo.
Fritz Coleman is Still on Los Angeles TV: Coleman, who left Buffalo radio for Los Angeles television in the 1980s, is still a fixture on KNBC, the local NBC station. He is the weatherman who told me daily that it was going to rain in Southern California.