Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.
Z on TV
Critic David Zurawik writes about the business and culture of TV
With 'Olive Kitteridge,' HBO does what PBS should be doing

HBO's "Olive Kitteridge" opens with an older woman walking into the woods on a fall day. She is carrying a blanket, radio, envelope, revolver and one bullet.

She spreads the blanket on the ground, turns the radio to a classical station and places it on the blanket along with a sealed envelope that is addressed "To Whom It May Concern." Then she puts the bullet in the cylinder of the gun and looks up at the vast, distant, cold blue sky.

If this description of a possible suicide is turning you off, I can tell you right now "Olive Kitteridge" is not for you. Maybe something along the lines of "Family Guy" or "Sunday Night Football" would make for happier viewing.

But you should still know that "Olive Kitteridge" is the deepest, richest and most daring miniseries on American TV since "Mildred Pierce" in 2011 and "John Adams" in 2008. And as fine as the lead performances were by Kate Winslet in the former and Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney in the latter, none approaches the transcendent...

Read more
WBFF-TV to launch 4 p.m. newscast, digital weather channel

WBFF will launch a 4 p.m. weekday newscast starting Jan. 12, Bill Fanshawe, the station's general manager, confirmed today.

Fanshawe also confirmed that the Sinclair-owned station is going to launch a 24/7 digital weather channel in conjunction with Weather Nation perhaps as soon as next week.

The weather information will be carried on channel 45.2.

The 4 p.m. newscast is an important move for the station and a good one for the market. Generally, the more news and competition, the better. And Sinclair, with its vast national acquisitions, can bring more resources to its Baltimore coverage.

And I cannot help but wonder, for example, if Kai Jackson, who left WJZ after two decades last December to join Sinclair in Washington, will be back in Baltimore at the WBFF anchor desk.

If he had a one-year non-compete clause in the WJZ contract, he'd be free to return to the market in January. And he'd be going head-to-head with his former station.

Fanshawe declined to comment on Jackson.


Read more
Ravens fans hated Fox telecast even more than I did

I thought I was pretty hard on Fox Sports in my Monday column headlined "Fox hits bottom with Sunday telecast of Ravens."

I said the broadcast team of Justin Kutcher and David Diehl was so bad it made me long for those fourth-string crews from CBS Sports that I've regularly ripped in the past.

I added that when I first saw Kutcher and Diehl onscreen Sunday, I thought I had stumbled upon a regional cablecast of a Division III college game instead of Fox coverage of the NFL.

But apparently I was not hard enough, according to some of the totally tuned-in readers of Z on TV, who wrote to me about the telecast.

Here's an email from Stephen, in Ownings Mills, and note what he says about the image of the USS Constellation that Fox showed as it was coming back from a commercial in the third quarter.

... As I was watching yesterday’s game, I also noted the absence of any discussion about Will Hill.  The [Halloween] costume discussion was beyond belief.

During the game I commented on the absence...

Read more
Fox swamps liberal media on ideological loyalty, survey finds

When it comes to getting information on politics and government, Fox News has a far greater hold on conservatives than any single media outlet has on liberals.

That’s one of the finding of a new survey by the Pew Research Center, and I suspect it won’t shock many on the right or the left. Nor will the finding that those who define themselves as consistently conservative or liberal live in very different information eco systems be a big surprise.

But the online survey of 2,901 members of the center’s American Trends Panel nevertheless offers some strong supporting data as to the differences between the mindsets and media habits of conservatives and liberals in these highly polarized and snarly political times.

The extent of the loyalty to Fox is the most intriguing aspect of the survey to me, with Pew finding that 47 percent of consistent conservatives name Fox News as their “main sources of news about government and politics.”

Consistent liberals, on the other hand, line up with 13...

Read more
Fox hits bottom with Sunday telecast of Ravens game

I take it all back. All the complaining about CBS Sports scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of the announcers sent to small-market Baltimore for Ravens games — I take it all back.

Never did CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus go as low on the depth chart as Fox did Sunday in sending the team of Justin Kutcher and David Diehl to call the game.

When they popped up on the screen prior to kickoff at M&T Bank Stadium, I thought I had punched the wrong buttons and landed on a regional cablecast of a college football game — a Division III college football game between, say, Muhlenberg and Juniata.

Then, I decided it must be a stunt by Fox. Kutcher was an actor from one of their sitcoms, I was thinking, and this was the network’s latest obnoxious way to promote its prime-time schedule by having one of its new and unknown sitcom performers pretend to be a play-by-play announcer at the NFL game.

But, sadly, I was wrong. Fox was serious about Kutcher and Diehl, and they were really going to...

Read more
HBO stays on the case of intimate violence after others move on

Where has all the media concern for victims of domestic violence gone?

That's what I was thinking last week as I looked at TV lineups in vain for featured reports, stories or episodes of series about domestic abuse. And then I found the HBO documentary, "Private Violence," premiering at 9 Monday night, and it almost made up for the medium's short attention span.

Remember the flood of coverage in the two weeks immediately after TMZ posted the video on Sept. 8 showing Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancee Janay Palmer?

Led by television, the media binged on domestic violence in the immediate aftermath — and I mean that in a good way. The evening news on NBC and CBS led two nights with the story of the video and fallout from it. The lineup of stories included in-depth reports and analysis. News and sports cable channels ran all day for several days with aspects of the Rice story, the NFL's handling of it and the sociology of domestic abuse.

Indicative of what some saw...

Read more