Critical Miss: CBS’ DVD Delivery Delayed

Sometimes mistakes are just innovations without good PR. That might be the case at CBS, which was in a panic last week when an overnight mailing to TV critics of DVDs of some new fall shows failed to arrive on Wednesday as scheduled—or on Thursday morning, as the carrier, DHL, had promised, according to a CBS e-mail explaining the foul-up (“Many of you have already contacted us about this issue, and we once again extend our regrets and apologies”). The note blamed a software glitch at DHL, which fessed up and apologized after CBS formally complained.

The missing packages included the two-hour premiere of Threshold last Friday. Given that critics often have to file their reviews early because many newspaper feature sections are printed in advance, CBS quickly threw the debut episode onto a secure Web site and implored DVD-deprived critics to watch it there.

It was too late for Maureen Ryan, TV writer for the Chicago Tribune, who had a Wednesday deadline (her DVD turned up on Thursday). Ryan based her review on Threshold’s original one-hour pilot. She liked the show—but gives a rave to the idea of streaming shows online for critics. “I hope more networks do this in the future,” Ryan tells B&C via e-mail. “It would beat waiting for the overnight-delivery guy.”

Hal Boedecker of the Orlando Sentinel was less enthusiastic. The image quality of the online version was too murky, he says: “They didn’t do themselves any favors.” Hey, Hal, lose the dial-up and get high-speed.

Trouble in 'Taradise’

Reports of the demise of Taradise were slightly exaggerated. The E! Entertainment Television travelogue/partymentary, with tottering Tara Reid as the occasionally too exuberant host, performed adequately for the network in the ratings, hovering around E!’s summer prime time average of about 400,000 viewers.

But the show will indeed not be back for a second season. E! Networks President Ted Harbert tells B&C that Taradise, a marginally less lascivious and more intensely host-centric version of the network’s long-running beach’n’bikini-fest Wild On, proved to be a more complicated project than its previous incarnations.

“The show was incredibly difficult to produce with someone well-known,” Harbert says. “Tara was involved in every minute, and it was an exhausting production.”

E! will run 12 of 13 planned episodes of the show that tracked Reid’s funfunfun visits to Monte Carlo, Spain, Athens and Cyprus, Greece, and other places where bartenders are known to work.

The online folks at Gawker Media were especially attentive to the series: The Defamer Web site’s recent report that Taradise “is no more” was nearly accurate (they said two episodes would remain unshot), and Gridskipper tirelessly chronicled “the ultimate in do-nothing television.”

We’ll miss those pitiless, hilarious summaries almost as much as—O.K., a whole lot more than—the show itself.

Ad Twist At KNBC

Encountering infomercials at 3 a.m. is no surprise. But running into infomercials at 3 p.m. earlier this month—and on a major station like KNBC Los Angeles, no less—was positively startling. Viewers could have been excused for thinking that the heavyweight NBC owned-and-operated station was in desperate straits, but it turns out that KNBC was simply doing some schedule-juggling necessitated by Dr. Phil’s moving to KCBS prior to Martha’s Sept. 12 premiere. So KNBC called in some unlikely substitute programming during the week of Sept. 5.

Afternoon viewers were treated to a variety of paid-up content, including Travel Café and an infomercial about St. Jude Hospital.

Station President/General Manager Paula Madison says the solution was not ideal: “As a rule, I would not do it again on a weekday at that time.”

When King World’s Dr. Phil came up for renewal last year, KNBC balked at a license-fee increase—from an estimated $185,000 per week to $225,000 per week—and KCBS swooped in. That left KNBC without a 4 p.m. show. KNBC shifted The Ellen DeGeneres Show from 3 to 4 p.m., planning to run Martha Stewart’s syndicated show at 3 p.m.

But that presented KNBC with a weeklong gap. The station could have pulled another show off its shelf, Madison says, but “we were looking to generate revenue without having to pay a license fee for five days.” Madison wouldn’t specify how much the station made from the paid programming, but she did say it was a “pretty good bit.”