Eddie Money performing in Florida.
Photo by Jeff Daly/Invision/AP
August 22, 2014

Rocker Eddie Money Headlines The Sweetcorn Fest

This weekend, rocker Eddie Money – known for hits including Two Tickets to Paradise, Baby, Hold On, and others – will be in town headlining the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival.  Nearly 40 years and after his debut album went double platinum, Money continues to tour.

Illinois Public Media’s Jason Croft talked with Money about his career, music videos and the television commercial that made him a pop culture darling.

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(Michael Brosilow)
June 09, 2013

In The Rush To The Tonys, A Late Glut For Theatergoers

This spring, more than in any recent year, the 2012-2013 Broadway season accelerated toward its conclusion: Nineteen productions opened between the beginning of March and April 25, the cut-off date for Tony eligibility. And many of those shows raised their curtains in the final two weeks of the season.

The Tony Awards are ostensibly given for excellence over the course of an entire year, but all the late openings make me wonder whether producers haven't taken to scheduling their shows strategically to garner Tony nominations and Tony votes for marketing purposes. Is the tail wagging the dog these days?

The glut of spring openings isn't just exhausting for theater critics and reporters — though I certainly heard some grumbles in the lobbies this year. It can also create confusion and overload for theatergoers. Every year, shows that might otherwise have had a chance to run end up folding early because they get lost in the shuffle; the downside of relying on Tony nominations as a primary marketing tool is that if a show doesn't get a few nods, it's time to pull the plug. But shows need time to develop an audience, and that comes — sorry, critics — primarily from good word of mouth.

Sure enough, this season's The Testament of Mary, starring Fiona Shaw, and Orphans, starring Alec Baldwin, announced closings within days of the Tony nominations, only a couple of short weeks after they opened. (Orphans did get a best supporting actor nod for Tom Sturridge's feral, almost acrobatic performance as a disturbed young man, but supporting-actor nominations don't keep a show open.)

Both shows had gotten mixed to positive reviews, and both had received some free, if negative, publicity. In Orphans' case, it was the very public firing of Hollywood actor Shia LeBeouf; in The Testament of Mary's it was the vocal picketing by a Catholic nonprofit, claiming the play's less-than-traditional telling of the Gospels was blasphemy. Could either play have built an audience? I don't know. Neither was really given a chance.

Another late opener, a revival of Frank Wildhorn's once-popular musical Jekyll & Hyde, received wretched reviews and no nominations — and announced its closing almost immediately as well. And, of course, once the Tony winners are declared on June 9, more shows that get shut out will post closing notices.

The rule of thumb has always been three flops for one hit on Broadway, but opening so late in the season somehow makes the flops seem ... floppier. In London, which admittedly has a less high-stakes economic climate for theater, shows open all the time, over the course of 12 months. Maybe more Broadway producers could open shows in the summer and winter, when there's far less competition for crowds and press; if a show excites theatergoers and generates a buzz, it'll find an audience. I honestly think Matilda, Pippin and Kinky Boots would've been hits even if they'd opened in January.

Another trend I've been thinking about is whether Broadway is the correct destination for every show. Orphans, for one, had an impressive yearlong run off-Broadway in the 1980s, where the implied violence among the three characters may have had a more visceral impact in a smaller theater. In the case of The Testament of Mary, a two- or three-week run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music or the Lincoln Center Festival, where more adventurous fare is standard, could have led to sellout crowds and the impression of success. But when you run for a few weeks on Broadway and close, you're a flop.

Alan Cumming's (almost) one-man Macbeth, for instance, was a hit at the Lincoln Center Festival last year; on Broadway, it's doing decent but not great business, and Cumming was ignored by the Tony nominators. If it had been brought back to Lincoln Center for a week or two, I've no doubt it would've sold out again.

And whether you liked or disliked Hands on a Hardbody, a musical based on a documentary about Texans willing to keep their hands on a pickup truck for days in order to win it, it's a small musical that might've seemed larger in a regional theater — it started at the La Jolla Playhouse in California — or a more intimate off-Broadway house.

Sometimes, off-Broadway can do something that's difficult to achieve on Broadway. Two new off-Broadway musical hits, for instance, have created interactive environments for their audiences. At the Public Theater, Here Lies Love, a show about Imelda Marcos with a score by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, turns its theater space into a disco, where the audience moves around to follow the action and is invited to dance. Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, meanwhile, is an electro-pop opera adaptation of a section of War and Peace, set in a downtown tent that's been tricked out to look like a Russian nightclub. Audiences eat and drink while the show happens all around them; occasionally, some patrons are asked to deliver a letter or play little percussion instruments.

The intimacy of both spaces and the nontraditional stagings would make these shows a tough transfer to Broadway. That said, it's not a hard-and-fast rule; hit shows like Avenue Q and Once have made the leap, and worked quite well in larger theaters.

But back to Broadway. What kind of Broadway season was it? Well, with some notable exceptions, the consensus is that it was a fairly mediocre one. According to the Broadway League, box office totals stayed pretty much the same as last season — at $1.14 billion for the year — but attendance slid 6.2 percent. The reason for the drop in attendance? Fewer playing weeks, partially because of the April openings crush and partially because of Superstorm Sandy.

The reason ticket sales remained on par from last season? Mainly a result of the premium ticket prices that producers charge for the most desirable seats in the house. Lucky Guy, the Nora Ephron play with Tom Hanks in the lead, has premium ticket prices from $225 to $350; it recouped its investment in a scant two months.

More on that show later. Elsewhere, nine new musicals opened, as did 14 new plays, five musical revivals and 12 play revivals. The fall was something of a washout, though; it was the spring that brought most of the hits Broadway craves. How will the Tonys assess the season? Here are my thoughts and predictions about some of the major categories — with my best guess at the winners in bold.

 

Best Musical

Bring It On: The Musical
A Christmas Story, The Musical
Kinky Boots
Matilda the Musical

Broadway lives and dies on the box-office appeal of big musicals, and this April three new hits opened: Matilda, a fresh adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's book about a spunky 5-year-old from England's Royal Shakespeare Company; Kinky Boots, a more conventional adaptation of an indie film about how a failing English shoe factory saves itself by making sturdy footwear for drag queens, with a score by Cyndi Lauper; and Motown: The Musical, Berry Gordy's personal memoir about his years making hits for the likes of The Supremes, Smokey Robinson and Michael Jackson, featuring more than 50 songs.

The last was almost completely shut out of the Tony nominations — and frankly, when it stops singing, it's almost amateur hour — but on the basis of the Motown catalog and the sometimes uncanny impersonations of the artists, it's been a huge hit. Don't underestimate the tourist trade — they're what keeps Broadway alive, and I suspect Motown will be running after the vastly superior Matilda and Kinky Boots are gone.

But for the big prize, the race between Matilda and Kinky Boots is neck and neck. The production values of Matilda, which features a wild set of Scrabble tiles that burst across the proscenium, are superb, as are the actors, child and adult, in this wildly imaginative show. I think Dennis Kelly will win best book over Harvey Fierstein (for Kinky Boots), but one of the most constant criticisms of Matilda is that it's hard to understand a lot of the lyrics in the chorus numbers. Poor diction? Overzealous sound design? (Matilda is, to quote one of the songs, LOUD.)

While Australian comedian Tim Minchin's score for Matilda is very clever, I suspect the Tony in that category will go to Cyndi Lauper for Kinky Boots. She's written songs that acknowledge her pop roots and are infectious to boot (pun intended). The winner of best actor in a musical will undoubtedly go to a man in drag this year: Bertie Carvel in Matilda gives a bizarre and singular performance as Miss Trunchbull, the gorgon principal of Crunchem Hall, and Kinky Boots star Billy Porter gives a fierce but warm performance as the drag queen Lola, who teaches some lessons in dignity and manhood to the blue-collar shoe-factory workers (and, by extension, to the audience). Who will win? I can't predict. They're both pretty terrific in very showy roles.

Aside from Matilda and Kinky Boots, the rest of the new-musicals slate this season was pretty mediocre, with the notable exception of A Christmas Story; that seasonal show was pleasing in an old-fashioned way, and marked the Broadway debut of two very talented young songwriters, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. They got nominated for a Tony, and I suspect we'll be hearing more from them.

Best Play

The Assembled Parties
Lucky Guy
The Testament of Mary
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Unlike last season, which most critics felt was an excellent one for new plays, this year was fairly disappointing on Broadway. None of the plays that opened in the fall were nominated, and all of them are already gone — among them David Mamet's The Anarchist, which starred Patti LuPone and Debra Winger; Theresa Rebeck's Dead Accounts, which starred Katie Holmes; and Craig Wright's Grace, which showcased Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon and Ed Asner. None of those high-profile actors earned nominations, either.

Things picked up in January, with Sharr White's The Other Place, featuring Laurie Metcalf in a virtuosic performance as a woman fighting the onset of dementia. But the plays that would eventually be nominated for Tonys all opened in the April crunch, and all had their positives and negatives.

Perhaps the most anticipated was Lucky Guy, Nora Ephron's final play, about Pulitzer Prize-winning tabloid journalist Mike McAlary. It stars Tom Hanks in an impressive Broadway debut, and has a top-notch ensemble cast directed by George C. Wolfe in his typically muscular, theatrical style. There was something poignant about a play written by a woman dying of cancer portraying a writer who died of cancer, but many critics felt the play itself was rather thin; instead of delving into scenes and characters, Lucky Guy directs the vast majority of its dialogue directly to the audience. Still, I think Hanks, Wolfe and supporting actor Courtney B. Vance have very good odds of winning Tony Awards for their work.

Richard Greenberg's The Assembled Parties, meanwhile, was a rambling look at dreams dashed on Manhattan's Upper West Side, featuring two strong performances from Jessica Hecht (not nominated) and Judith Light (a Tony winner last year and a contender again this time despite strong competition in the featured-actress category). The Testament of Mary was a fascinating monologue, notwithstanding what many thought was an overly busy staging and an overwrought performance from Fiona Shaw (not nominated).

That leaves Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Christopher Durang's funny if dramaturgically messy riff on Chekhov, set in contemporary Bucks County. It featured some brilliantly comic turns by Kristine Nielsen, David Hyde Pierce, Shalita Grant and Billy Magnussen (all nominated). I think it will win the Tony for best play — which doesn't often happen for a comedy — because Christopher Durang has been part of the New York theater scene for more than 30 years, and because audiences come out of this show feeling good.

Special mention must be made of The Nance, Douglas Carter Beane's play about gay life and burlesque in the 1930s, starring Nathan Lane, who gives one of his finest performances to date; he could give Hanks a run for the money as best actor in a play.

Best Revival of a Musical

Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella
Pippin
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Annie

This one is no contest: Diane Paulus' circus-inspired reimagining of the 1972 Stephen Schwartz-Bob Fosse musical Pippin, which is ostensibly about Charlemagne's son but really about showbiz razzmatazz. It's a huge, audience-pleasing hit.

Also no contest is Andrea Martin for best featured actress in a musical; her turn as Berthe, the randy grandmother in Pippin, is jaw-dropping, death-defying and utterly charming. I think Paulus herself has a good shot to win best direction of a musical. And one of the biggest heroines of the production is Gypsy Snider, who created the circus acts for both veteran circus performers and Broadway song-and-dance vets; unfortunately there's no possibility of an award for her unique contribution, since she's neither a director nor a choreographer per se.

Chet Walker, who re-creates and reimagines Fosse's original dances for Pippin, could take best choreography. Honorable mention goes to several of Cinderella's charming performers: Laura Osnes, Victoria Clark and Santino Fontana all give strong performances, and all are nominated for awards. I think the best actress Tony is a tossup between Patina Miller, who's the Leading Player in Pippin, and Osnes, the title character in Cinderella. Both are impressive in very different roles.

Best Revival of a Play

Orphans
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The Trip to Bountiful
Golden Boy

This was a bountiful season for play revivals — and my own favorite was The Trip to Bountiful. But I think the Tony will go to the most lauded of this season's revivals, Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

An import from Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, it featured devastating turns by Tracy Letts (better known as the playwright of the Tony-winning August: Osage County) and Amy Morton, as Albee's bitterly combative, profoundly interdependent spouses George and Martha.

But don't count out Golden Boy, a lovingly re-created revival of a creaky Clifford Odets play with some terrific performances — both Danny Burstein and Tony Shalhoub are deservedly up for Tonys as best featured actor — and sensitive direction by Bartlett Sher, also up for a Tony.

Trip to Bountiful, which opened shortly before the qualifying deadline, is a charming production featuring some beautiful acting. The seemingly ageless Cicely Tyson takes on the lead role of Carrie Watts, and carries the show; I think she has a very good shot at winning the best actress Tony.

And Condola Rashad is lovely as the young bride whom Carrie befriends on the titular journey; she's got a shot at winning best featured actress.


Matt Smith, who stars in the BBC's Doctor Who, will leave the show at the end of the year.
(BBC America)
June 01, 2013

Matt Smith to Leave Doctor Who at End of the Year

Doctor Who star Matt Smith is to leave his role as the Doctor at the end of this year, the BBC has announced.

After four years as the Time Lord on the BBC One show, viewers will see Smith's Doctor regenerate in the 2013 Christmas special.

The 30-year-old actor said working on the show had been "the most brilliant experience".

Doctor Who marks its 50th anniversary in November with a special episode, which Smith has already filmed.

The BBC said Smith's "spectacular exit" was yet to be revealed and would be "kept tightly under wraps".

Smith first stepped into the Tardis as the 11th Doctor in 2010. Taking over from David Tennant, he was the youngest actor to play the role.

Speaking after the announcement, he said he was "incredibly proud" of what the show had achieved over the last four years under Steven Moffat, the show's lead writer and executive producer.

Smith also thanked fans around the world for their "truly remarkable" dedication to the show.

 

 

'Extraordinary show'

During his tenure, Smith's floppy-haired, bow tie-wearing Time Lord has fought enemies such as Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels and the Silence.

His Doctor has shared his adventures with Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) and most recently, Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman).

Referring to his time-travelling companions, Smith said: "It's been an honour to play this part, to follow the legacy of brilliant actors, and helm the Tardis for a spell with 'the ginger, the nose and the impossible one'. But when ya gotta go, ya gotta go..."

Show runner Steven Moffat said: "Every day, on every episode, in every set of rushes, Matt Smith surprised me. The way he'd turn a line, or spin on his heels, or make something funny, or out of nowhere make me cry - I just never knew what was coming next.

"The Doctor can be clown and hero - often at the same time - and Matt rose to both challenges magnificently. And even better than that, given the pressures of this extraordinary show, he is one of the nicest and hardest-working people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Whatever we threw at him - sometimes literally - his behaviour was always worthy of the Doctor."

Moffat added: "Great actors always know when it's time for the curtain call, so this Christmas prepare for your hearts to break as we say goodbye to number 11. Thank you Matt - bow ties were never cooler."

The announcement of Smith's exit is likely to spark months of fevered speculation about his replacement.

'Still so exciting'

"Somewhere out there right now - all unknowing, just going about their business - is someone who's about to become the Doctor," Moffat hinted.

"A life is going to change, and Doctor Who will be born all over again. After 50 years, that's still so exciting."

Smith's first adventure in April 2010, the Eleventh Hour, saw his newly-regenerated Doctor crash his Tardis into the garden of a young Scottish girl who was later to become his new companion - Amy Pond.

In his most recent adventure, the Name of the Doctor - which aired two weeks ago - Smith's Time Lord visited his own grave on the planet Trenzalore.

In 2011, Smith became the first actor to be nominated for a Bafta in the role.

And he won the most popular male drama performance award at the National Television Awards in 2012.

Born in Northampton in 1982, Smith studied drama and creative writing at the University of East Anglia.

He made his TV debut in the 2006 adaptation of Philip Pullman's the Ruby in the Smoke, which starred former Doctor Who companion Billie Piper.

Smith's stage work has included stints with theatre companies such as the Royal Court and National Theatre. His West End debut was in Swimming With Sharks opposite Christian Slater.

During his time in Doctor Who, Smith also appeared in BBC TV films Christopher and His Kind, in which he played novelist Christopher Isherwood, and in Olympic rowing drama Bert and Dickie.

Matt Smith's statement in full

"Doctor Who has been the most brilliant experience for me as an actor and a bloke, and that largely is down to the cast, crew and fans of the show. I'm incredibly grateful to all the cast and crew who work tirelessly every day to realise all the elements of the show and deliver Doctor Who to the audience. Many of them have become good friends and I'm incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the last four years. Having Steven Moffat as show runner write such varied, funny, mind bending and brilliant scripts has been one of the greatest and most rewarding challenges of my career. It's been a privilege and a treat to work with Steven - he's a good friend and will continue to shape a brilliant world for the Doctor. The fans of Doctor Who around the world are unlike any other; they dress up, shout louder, know more about the history of the show (and speculate more about the future of the show) in a way that I've never seen before. Your dedication is truly remarkable. Thank you so very much for supporting my incarnation of the Time Lord, number 11, who I might add is not done yet - I'm back for the 50th anniversary and the Christmas special. It's been an honour to play this part, to follow the legacy of brilliant actors, and helm the Tardis for a spell with 'the ginger, the nose and the impossible one'. But when ya gotta go, ya gotta go and Trenzalore calls. Thank you guys. Matt."


May 19, 2013

Working Women On Television: A Mixed Bag At Best

Research shows that prime-time television isn't a bad place to find portrayals of working women. Working moms and working women over 40 are another story.

When actress Geena Davis was watching children's shows with her daughter a few years ago, she became so troubled by the lack of female representation, she started a think tank on gender in the media. The Geena Davis Institute recently partnered with University of California, Los Angeles, professors to conduct a study analyzing gender roles and jobs on screen.

The good news? Prime-time television's pretty decent at depicting women with careers.

"We looked at something like 11,000-plus speaking characters," Davis tells NPR. The study showed that 44.3 percent of women characters in prime-time television are gainfully employed. That's respectably close to the real-life figure of 46.7 percent. And it's vastly better than children's entertainment — meaning shows and family films — in which a grossly disproportionate 81 percent of the jobs are held by men.

Television today teems with women characters holding jobs of the sort a young girl — or boy — might aspire to. Think of all the women lawyers, doctors and detectives on procedurals, like Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Or the wisecracking female neurobiologist on The Big Bang Theory. Or Leslie Knope, the earnest small-town city councilwoman on Parks And Recreation, whose political ambitions lie short of nothing but the presidency.

As it happens, Geena Davis actually played the president of the United States on the short-lived 2005 ABC series Commander in Chief. These are the sort of female characters Davis hopes girls will see on TV, and aspire, eventually, to be.

But there's one problem, says Jennifer Newsom, who directed the 2011 documentary about women in the media. She points out that almost none of those characters have children. Nor do the career-obsessed heroines of her two favorite shows, Homeland and Scandal.

"Let's just forget the working mother," Newsom grouses. "Despite the fact that, of working women, 60 percent are working mothers." As part of her research, Newsom asked a Hollywood executive about this vexing absence of working moms on TV. The response, she says, was along the lines of, "Well, you know, our focus study group, they weren't comfortable with the mother [character] working so hard and blah, blah, blah."

Truth be told, it can be uncomfortable to watch a character like Nurse Jackie, a working mom, over 40, struggle on her series to hold her life, job and family together. Newsom says Nurse Jackie is even more of an outlier.

"Forty and older are actually 47 percent of our population here in the U.S., yet only 26 percent of women on TV," she observes. Of course, 40 and older in the real world tends to describe the ages of CEOs, high-level politicians and people who've poured decades into building distinguished careers.

According to the Geena Davis Institute, prime-time programs show women running companies 14 percent of the time. In real life, it's 25 percent. Glenn Close played such a character in the TV show Damages, about a woman in charge of her own high-powered law firm. Damages originally aired on FX. Its president, John Landgraf, admits the channel is mainly known for its compelling male anti-heroes.

"Frankly, the reason I mistakenly passed on Breaking Bad was that at the time, we had The Shield, Nip/Tuck and Rescue Me," he says. "And I was like, 'Well, are we going to have four shows with white male anti-heroes on the air? Is that really the whole of our brand?' "

Landgraf wanted powerful female anti-heroes anchoring their own shows. So not only did he greenlight Damages, but Dirt, a short-lived series starring Courtney Cox as the editor-in-chief of a sleazy tabloid. Neither show exactly found a Breaking Bad-like fan following.

"And it's fascinating to me," Landgraf adds, "that we just have really different, and I think, a more rigorous set of standards for female characters than we do for male characters in this society. It's much harder to buy acceptance of a female anti-hero."

Tell it to showrunner Janet Tamaro. She created Rizzoli and Isles on TNT, about a female detective and a female medical examiner that starts its fourth season in June. "I got a lot of a resistance when I wanted to write a scene with the two women in conflict," she recalls. "From both male and female executives, and everyone was squeamish about it — 'Oh no, no, no, we don't want to see women fight.' "

But Tamaro prevailed, and she scripted a spirited argument between her two leads that lasts until a colleague refers to their "cat fight," prompting them to turn on him. "Did you really just call a disagreement between two female colleagues a cat fight?" Rizzoli demands.

There's another place to look on television for strong depictions of working women, according to Geena Davis. "The most gender-balanced sector of television shows is reality shows," she says.

Look past the parade of housewives, bachelorettes and dance moms, and you'll see women flipping houses on HGTV, designing high-end suits on Project Runway, or running restaurants, like Robbie Montgomery on Welcome to Sweetie Pie's. The success of reality programs like these proves that showing women working really works. For everyone.


Jimmy Fallon and Jay Leno
(Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
April 03, 2013

Leno to Leave NBC's 'Tonight Show' Next Spring

NBC on Wednesday announced its long-rumored switch in late night, replacing Jay Leno at the "Tonight" show with Jimmy Fallon and moving the iconic franchise back to New York.

Fallon will take over in about a year, the switch coinciding with NBC's Winter Olympics coverage next year. Veteran "Saturday Night Live" producer Lorne Michaels also will take over as executive producer of "Tonight."

NBC made no announcement on who would replace Fallon at the 12:35 a.m. "Late Night" slot, although Seth Meyers of "Saturday Night Live" is considered a strong candidate.

The change at "Tonight," the longest-running and most popular late-night talk show, had been widely reported but not confirmed by the network until Wednesday. NBC reportedly just wrapped up negotiations with Fallon on a contract extension.

Steve Burke, chief executive officer of NBC Universal, said the network is purposefully making the move when Leno is still at the top of the ratings, just as when Leno replaced Johnny Carson at "Tonight" in 1992.

"Jimmy Fallon is a unique talent and this is his time," Burke said.

Leno, in a statement, offered his congratulations to Fallon.

"I hope you're as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you're the old guy," he said. "If you need me, I'll be at the garage."

Fallon said: "I'm really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow."

 

 

NBC has been quietly building a new studio for Fallon at its Rockefeller Center headquarters. "Tonight" began in New York in the 1950s, but Carson moved it to California in 1972. Starting next year, Fallon, Letterman, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will tape late-night shows in New York. ABC's Jimmy Kimmel and TNT's Conan O'Brien will be the top California-based shows.

"The 'Tonight' show will bring even more jobs and economic activity to our city, and we couldn't be happier that one of New York's own is bringing the show back to where it started, and where it belongs," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

New York state recently added a tax credit in its budget that seemed designed specifically to benefit NBC's move East with "Tonight."

While a storied part of television tradition, the network late-night shows find themselves with much more competition now with cable programs like "Adult Swim," smaller talk shows hosted by the Comedy Central duo of Stewart and Colbert, Chelsea Handler and a device — a large number of people take that time to watch programs they had taped earlier on their DVRs.

NBC is worried that ABC's Kimmel will establish himself as a go-to late night performer for a younger generation if the network doesn't move swiftly to install Fallon. ABC moved Kimmel's time slot to directly compete with Leno earlier this year.

But the move also has the potential to backfire with Leno's fans, who did not embrace O'Brien when Leno was temporarily moved to prime time a few years ago.

"The guys at NBC are not totally stupid and are not going to shoot themselves in the foot," said Gary Carr, senior vice president and executive director of national broadcast for the ad buying firm TargetCast. "I think it's a good move for them long-term. But it may have short-term ramifications."

NBC has long prided itself on smooth transitions but that reputation took a hit with the short-lived and ill-fated move of O'Brien to "Tonight" and Leno to prime-time a few years ago. In morning television, the "Today" show has taken a ratings nose dive in large measure because of anger at how Ann Curry was treated when she was ousted last year as Matt Lauer's co-host.

The Leno-Fallon changeover didn't begin smoothly. Leno had been cracking jokes about NBC's prime-time futility, angering NBC entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt, who sent a note to Leno telling him to cool it. That only made Leno go after NBC management much harder.

The first public effort toward making the transition smooth came Monday night, when Leno and Fallon appeared in a comic video making fun of the late-night rumors. It aired in between each man's show.

John Dawson, general manager for five NBC affiliates that have extensive reach throughout Kansas, said it will be difficult to give up a program that wins its time period by 33 percent.

"Jay has always been a great friend to the affiliates," he said. "For that alone it will be hard to give up."

But he said he believes in Fallon and in NBC's corporate owners Comcast, the nation's largest cable company.

"Comcast certainly knows how to launch entertainment programming," Dawson said.

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February 27, 2013

Video Games Created by Champaign Company to be Sold

Two video games created by Champaign-based game studio Volition are going on the auction block.

Game publisher THQ is putting the “Red Faction” and “Summoner” game franchises up for bid, as part of Chapter 11 Bankruptcy proceedings.

“Red Faction,” one of Volition’s most popular games, is up for sale on its own. “Summoner,” one of the game studio’s earliest products, is being offered as part of a package with other video games.

Initial bids are due April 1, and final bids required April 15. Court approval of successful bidders is expected in May.

THQ put Volition itself on the auction block last month. The studio, and its most popular franchise, “Saints Row,” were acquired by Koch Media.


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