Wait ... is it the Super Bowl already?


If this is Monday -- it is, I checked -- then life is already in Super Bowl mode.

Today, lots of shows -- "The Talk," CBS Sports Network, CBS Radio Network, parts of "The Insider" -- begin broadcasting from New Orleans. Others arrive later, including CBS' morning show on Thursday and its evening news on Friday.

The three previous blogs provide an overview of Super Bowl coverage, the game itself and the show ("Elementary") that follows. First, however, here's the story I sent to papers, listing what's coming in advance of the game:

 

By MIKE HUGHES

If the Super Bowl has become an
unofficial holiday, then we all know the next step.

No holiday settles for one day. This
year, CBS and its cable channels want a week. They have prime-time
specials, news shows … and a chance for the CBS Sports Network to
get noticed.

CBS bought the former College Sports
Network in 2005 and gave it the new name two years ago. (A year
later, NBC renamed the former Versus as the NBC Sports Network.) Now
comes its chance.

This week, CBS Sports President Sean
McManus said, the cable channel has more than 50 hours from New
Orleans, including the daily Tim Brando and Jim Rome shows. “Going
from zero to 50 is a lot.”

That will be at a temporary broadcast
center in Jefferson Park that also houses CBS News, “The Talk,”
Bob Schieffer's “Face the Nation,” Doug Gottlieb's outspoken CBS
Sports Radio show and more.

These are strange bedfellows, McManus
granted. “Bob Schieffer is in the same location as Doug Gottlieb
and Jim Rome. (And) no one is going to confuse 'The Talk' with Doug
Gottlieb.”

Here's the schedule of TV and cable
specials from New Orleans. Times are ET and some vary locally:

Prime time specials

– Wednesday: “Super Bowl's Greatest
Commercials,” 8-9 p.m., CBS. Boomer Esiason and Aisha Tyler host
and have a live portion, so viewers can choose the all-time best.

– Friday: “Best Super Bowl Concert
Ever,” 9-10 p.m., VH1. Train headlines and Michael Strahan – once
a pro-football star, now a morning talk-show guy – hosts with VH1's
Carrie Keagan.

– Saturday: “NFL Honors,” 9-11
p.m., CBS. The second annual event hands out awards for Most Valuable
Player and the best coach, comeback player and single play. It also
has offensive and defensive categories for player of the year and
rookie of the year. Alec Baldwin hosts, OneRepublic performs and past
stars – Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders – present.

– Sunday: Yes, the game, on CBS.
After much advance commotion – starting at 11 a.m., kick-off is
6:30 p.m. Beyonce performs at halftime and a new “Elementary”
follows at about 10:30.

Daytime shows

– “The Talk,” 2-3 p.m. weekdays.
Beginning Tuesday, Train will be the house band; its singer, Pat
Monaghan, will be guest co-host on Tuesday.

– News shows. The morning show will
be there Thursday through Saturday, the evening news Friday and
Saturday. Also, “Face the Nation” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, leading
into the 11 a.m. barrage.

CBS Sports Network

– Weekday shows: Tim Brando, 9 a.m.
to noon; “Inside the Super Bowl,” 4-6 p.m.; Jim Rome, 6-7 p.m.;
“Super Bowl Live,” 7-9 p.m. (starting Tuesday); “Lead Off,”
midnight to 1 a.m.,

– Saturday: “Inside the Super
Bowl,” 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; “Super Bowl Live,” 10 p.m. to
midnight.

– Sunday: “Super Bowl Live,” 9-11
a.m. and about 10:30-11:30 p.m., after CBS' post-game show.

Also …

– “The Insider” – now re-dubbed
“OMG! Insider” will partly be in New Orleans. Co-host Kevin
Frazier, a former sports guy with Fox, will do nightly reports. CBS
produces the show, but syndicates it to stations, so times vary.

– And Craig Ferguson will tape a
Sunday “Late Late Show” in New Orleans. It airs after
“Elementary.”

 

It's elementary, dear viewers: Sherlock follows Super Bowl


We're busy talking Super Sunday now -- the Super Bowl and everything connected to it. My two previous blogs took overview of the day on TV and of the two teams. Here's another story I sent to papers, on something more specific -- "Elementary," which gets the key spot after the game:

By MIKE HUGHES

Let's give Jonny Lee Miller time to
adjust. This whole success thing is new turf.

His “Elementary” is a ratings hit –
a top-20 shows among young adults, a top-10 show among all viewers,
the most-watched new show of the season. Now it has the plush spot
behind the Super Bowl.

“You never, in your wildest dreams,
imagine that,” Miller said. “Your first goal is to stay on the
air.”

He's familiar with non-success. His
first marriage (to Angelina Jolie, no less) lasted three years; his
TV series (“Eli Stone” and “Smith”) lasted less.

But “Elementary” has become a quick
hit, with Miller and Lucy Liu as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. It
survived the early complaints, when gans insisted that:

– Watson shouldn't be female. “People
haven't criticized that Watson is Asian-American,” Liu said,
“because it's not (politically correct) …. They'd love to say
something, but they'll get attacked.”

– The show can't match the bracing
wit of PBS' “Sherlock” movies. That may be true, but there are
only three on PBS each year; CBS plans 24 “Elementary” episodes.
And the “Sherlock” star, Benedict Cumberbatch, has praised
“Elementary,” Liu said. “He was really effusive about the
show.”

Miller seems to grasp the extremes of
Holmes, who has the savvy of an upper-class Englishman and the taut
hunger of the streets.

Yes. Miller can play upper-class. He's
done three Jane Austen films – the “Emma” mini-series and two
different “Mansfield Park” movies; he's played Lord Bryon, Dr.
Frankenstein and more.

But he also brings a street feeling.
For once, he hasn't had to cover up all his real-life tattoos. “Some
of my choices in the '90s have made for some rather time-consuming
make-up calls,” he said.

Miller brings the lean, Sherlock look.
“Yes, I am becoming he,” he said, semi-joking. “I might have
generally lost a few pounds. We spend a lot of time on our feet.”

It's a busy job, with a saving grace:
Unlike many shows, “Elementary” shifts tone.“When you're
shooting 20-odd episodes in a season, the last thing you want is for
each script to be the same,” he said.

That's no problem on “Elementary.”
Early episodes had quite a bit of humor; a recent one was stark and
serious. The Super Bowl episode will have Holmes collide with a
criminal profiler; future episodes may involve two classics
characters from the Holmes stories:

– Moriarty, his enemy. We'll hear
more about him in the second half of the season, producer Robert
Doherty said. “I see us getting a bit more serialized” then.

– Irene Adler, his female match.
Holmes has been mourning her death, but this might be that rare time
when he's wrong, Doherty implies. “Why would someone like our
Sherlock be drawn to this particular woman? … She's got to be
pretty unique, so we definitely want to meet her.”

– “Elementary,” 10 p.m.
Thursdays, CBS

– Also, after the Super Bowl, at
about 10:30 p.m. ET Sunday

 

Are we ready for football?


Somewhere in the midst of all those clips and commercials and concerts, there will be a football game Sunday. For many of us -- not really keen on Ravens and 49ers -- it will be fresh turf. Here's the story I sent to papers, with CBS people looking at some of the key points. The previous blog is an overview of the TV day:

 

By MIKE HUGHES

For casual football fans, Sunday's game
is a challenge.

It's a Super Bowl without superstars –
at least, not the big-play offense types. There's no Tom Brady or
Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers, no Manning of any sort.

During the regular season, the San
Francisco 49ers finished 11th, in total offense; the
Baltimord Ravens were 16th. Neither had a Pro Bowl
quarterback or receiver.

So what do we get excited about? Here
are possibilities, with comments from CBS Sports people:

1) Old vs. new: Ray Lewis has had 17
splendid seasons with the Ravens. The Associated Press named him
All-Pro 10 times and the NFL's best defensive player twice. In 2001,
he became only the seventh defensive man in 35 years to be named the
Super Bowl's most valuable player .

Now, at 37, h's retiring; he'll spend
his final game chasing a young 49er quarterback. “Very few people had
heard of Colin Kaepernick three months ago,” said Sean McManus, he
president of CBS Sports.

Kaepernick, a second-round draft pick,
was 8 when Lewis went pro. This season, his second, he stepped in
when Alex Smith (a former No. 1 pick) was hurt, then held the job
when Smith returned. “This is only his 10th starting
game,” Dan Marino marveled, “and he's in the Super Bowl.”

After spending his first four years in
Wisconsin, Kaepernick grew up in California. “He wrote a letter to
himself,” McManus said, “saying he was going to be a quarterback
for the Packers or the 49ers.”

On Jan. 12, he set the fate of both
teams. Kaepernick ran for 181 yards (a play-off record for a
quarterback) as the 49ers beat the Packers, 45-31; a week later, the
49ers won their Super Bowl spot.

2) The new scramble: Super Bowls are
won by passers who stand in the pocket and fire. Joe Montana was MVP
three times; Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Terry Bradshaw and Bart Starr
twice apiece.

The Ravens quarterback fits that mode,
Marino, a former quarterback, said. “Joe Flacco (is) the kind of
quarterback who will stand in the pocket and make the throws.” He
finished 12th in regular-season quarterback ratings, but
has been No. 1 during the play-offs.

Lately, however, a different kind of
quarterback has emerged. “This year, you have RGIII and Kaepernick
and also Russell Wilson,” said Bill Cowher, the former Steeler
coach. During the regular season, Robert Griffin III ran for 815
yards (beating the top running backs for 13 teams); Cam Newton had
741; Wilson had 489. Kaepernick had 415 in a half-season, then burned
the Packers when they tried some blitzing stunts. “That gave him
running lanes,” Cowher said. A week later, the Falcons stopped his
runs … and he beat them with his passing.

3) Brotherly combat: For the first
time, brothers will face each other as Super Bowl coaches

“Many of us have had sibling
rivalries our whole lives, so we know what it's like,” McManus
said.

And some can sympathize with John
Harbaugh. His younger brother (by 15 months) Jim beat him out for the
starting spot on the high school football team. John shuffled through
many assistant coach jobs, just as their dad did; Jim jumped straight
to the glamor parts. He started at quarterback for the University of
Michigan (winning the Rose Bowl) and for four pro teams in 14 season;
then he quite quickly became head coach at San Diego and Stanford,
then a pro coach of the 49ers.

“I played a lot against Jim,”
Marino said. “He was the complete competitor.”

Adds Shannon Sharpe: “He was a feisty
guy, a competitive guy.”

Sharpe (a former tight end) should be a
sibling-rivalry expert. He and his older brother Sterling (a wide
receiver), faced each other twice in the NFL, each winning once.
Still, he says he wouldn't have liked playing Sterling in the Super
Bowl, even with a win. “I could not have enjoyed my happiness
coming at his expense. It would have torn me up.”

4) The kicker question: If things get
tight, it may all come down to kickers. That's when 49er fans worry
about David Akers. “He missed a very short one” in the the
conference finals,” Cowher said.

Akers, 38, has been a dependable pro,
but this season his field goal percentage went from 85 to 69. In one
game,he missed a 41-yarder in overtime, creating the NFL's first tie
game in four years. In the league championship game, he missed his
only try, from38.

That leaves fans fretting. “It's kind
of tough to change” kickers late in the season, Cowher said. On
Sunday, that may or may not make a difference.

 

 

Hey buddy, got a dozen hours to spare?


On Sunday, the rest of life will gently recede and the Super Bowl will consume us. With that in mind, I'm sending several stories to papers; here's the first one, a viewer's guide to Super Sunday:

 

By MIKE HUGHES

On Sunday, people will conspire to
gather near their TV sets.

“The Super Bowl really has become a
national holiday,” said Sean McManus, president of CBS Sports.
“It's when people who haven't watched all year get together with
their families.

For hard-core fans, there's cable's CBS
Sports Network. The former College Sports Network starts early –
with a preview from 9-11 a.m. ET – and ends late, with a
post-postgame show at 10:30 p.m.

And for the casual fan? “It's a mix
of football and entertainment,” CBS producer Eric Mann said.

During 12-plus hours, CBS will serve up
music (Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Wynton Marsalis), plus commercials and
clips and Sherlock Holmes and .... yes, football. Here's a guide to
the CBS day:

– 11 a.m.: “The Road to the Super
Bowl,” from NFL Films. A season is stuffed into one busy hour.

– Noon: “New Orleans: Let the Good
Times Roll.” Marsalis helps us meet the music and the people.

– 1 p.m.: “The Phil Simms All-Iron
Team.” The former quarterback (and 1987 Super Bowl MVP) offers some
of his favorite players and plays.

– 2 p.m.: “Super Bowl Today,”
running for the next four hours. “Hopefully, we'll have some laughs
and some football,” Mann said. Also, “music is part of it, from
the NFL Tailgate Stage.”

He has James Brown hosting, with
reporters – Lesley Visser, Tracy Wolfson, Jason La Canfora – and
lots of commentators. There's a former coach (Bill Cowher), tight end
(Shannon Sharpe) and quarterbacks (Boomer Esiason and Dan Marino).

The ex-players are from the offensive
side, so CBS added current Packer linebacker Clay Matthews. “He was
excited enough to say he was going to go out and get a brand new
suit,” McManus said.

There will be football features –
including ones on the Harbaugh brothers (competing coaches) and on
young quarterback Colin Kaepernick. There may also be detours –
news anchor Scott Pelley interviews President Obama; the Tailgate
Stage has the Roots headlining.

– 6 p.m. The action moves to New
Orleans' Superdome, with Jim Nantz and Simms, plus reporting by Steve
Tasker and Solomon Wilcots. Keys sings the National Anthem.

– 6:30: Now (at last) it's football –
the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers – with CBS using 62
cameras. That's twice as many as it had in the
conference-championship game … and way more than the total (9 to
12) for an ordinary game.

That's partly because cameras are key
to any challenges of the referees' rulings, McManus said “When
you're at the Super Bowl, you make sure you have every angle
covered,” McManus said.

– Halftime: Beyonce performs, amid
flash and spectacle.

– Post-game (about 10 p.m.).
Locker-room interviews and such. Wet people celebrate.

– Post-post-game (about 10:30): Some
fans (and CBS' commentators) will flee to the cable network, for more
football talk. Most viewers, however, are expected to stay for a
transplanted “Elementary.”

That brings the show extra attention …
and extra stress, which producer Robert Doherty shrugs off. “I'm
stressed out all the time anyway,” he said.

His show has Jonny Lee Miller as
Sherlock Holmes in nowadays New York, with Lucy Liu as Dr. Watson.
It's become a quick ratings hit on Thursdays, so Doherty said the
hour will do double duty: It will work for newcomers, yet be
something “our regular audience will really have fun with.”

Terry Kinney will play an unpredictable
criminal, with Kari Matchett as the profiler trying to predict his
next step. It may seem quite complex to viewers – and elementary to
Sherlock Holmes.

Henry Ford: A life of fierce contrasts


Lots of lists came out last month, offering TV's 10 best shows. They had the usual suspects -- cable dramas, mostly, plus (on the wiser lists)  "Big Bang Theory." What they overlooked, however, were three PBS shows that are consistently top-quality -- "American Masters," "Frontline" and "American Exprience."

Now "Experience" is off to a great start. Its good, three-part "The Abolitionists" is followed by two really great documentaries -- "Henry Ford" on Tuesday (Jan. 29) and "Silicon Valley" a week later. Here's the story I sent to papers about the Ford film:

By MIKE HUGHES

A swirling life was summed up
concisely: “There's no such thing as not-fascinating in Henry
Ford,” biographer Douglas Brinkley said.

That becomes clear in an “American
Experience” portrait on PBS. “He was kind and generous at times,”
filmmaker Sarah Colt said. “But then he could be cruel. He was a
complicated person.”

Here was someone who retained the
values of growing up on a Michigan farm. “He could live with Clara,
his wife, in a small quarter and be just as happy as to have had a
huge mansion,” Brinkley said.

Ford was a tinkerer, Brinkley said,
toying with watches as a kid and vehicles as a young man. “He was
known as Crazy Henry, because he had his contraption … and it was
scaring all the horses.”

He was working on something, Colt said,
that others thought was a luxury. “The automobile was considered a
plaything, like yachts.” Instead, this small, mass-produced car
could be bought by the working man – including Ford employees, who
received a then-impressive $5 a day.

At a time when many places were
segregated, Brinkley said, the Ford factory was integrated. “Detroit
today is heavily African-American, because (of) Henry Ford …. If
you listen to old blues songs from the 1920s, they'll say, 'I'm going
up to the promised land and work for Henry Ford (for) $5 a day.'”

Other minorities prospered in his home
town, Brinkley said.. “Dearborn today is like 90 percent Arab
because Henry Ford paid all of the Arabs, particularly people from
Persia or Lebanon, equal wage.”

And for a time, Colt said, Ford seemed
to work well with everyone. “It would have been absolutely so
exciting and stimulating to have been in Henry Ford's creative team
in those early years.”

Then came the dark side. “Like
everyone else starting a business, he's beholden to his investors,”
said Mark Samels, the “American Experience” chief. “He has some
very rough run-ins. (That) sets off a lifelong anger and resentment
toward anybody controlling him …. And he starts to generalize
that.”

Like Walt Disney, Ford disliked
bankers; unlike Disney, he turned that into anti-Semitism.

“Here was a guy who was a genius at
machinery,” Brinkley said, “and suddenly, we're asking his
opinion on world events … and he was an ignoramus about it, a
bizarre ignoramus … He bought the Dearborn Independent and was
starting to promote the worst kind of anti-Semitism.”

Ford considered himself an expert on
everything, including how his workers should live. .This was,
Brinkley said, “a warped version of the Puritan work ethic ….
You're not allowed frills. You're not allowed to have … alcohol or
tobacco …. He became a bit of a scold.”

This was, Colt said, “what happens to
somebody when they sort of gain too much power and control.”

When executives started a project on
their own, he smashed a prototype and dumped the idea. When his son
started construction of a building, Ford halted it … and kept the
hole in the ground, as a reminder.

Gradually, Ford retreated. “He spent
a lot of his later decades trying to (go) back to a rustic, rural
beginning,” Brinkley said. “The only time he went to Congress was
to testify on behalf of birds.”

After spurring an industrialized world,
he re-created the past with Greenfield Village.

“Ford would buy Stephen Foster's home
and move it there,” Brinkley said. “Or a laboratory of Edison or
the Wright Brothers' (bike shop). So he created this kind of
Disney-like village of history.”

That's still thriving in Dearborn,
nestled alongside the Henry Ford Museum, which ranges from early
gadgets to symbols (including Rosa Parks' bus) of the civil rights
era. Combine them, add some nasty edges, and you have the life of a
man who was never not-fascinating.

– “American Experience: Henry
Ford,” 9-11 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 29), most PBS stations