Courteney Cox Works the Elliptical and the Paparazzi; Who's Going to Rule the Media World in 2007?
The honeymoon is officially over.
As you probably already know, December can be a bit of a cakewalk for critics. Between the Best Of lists and the Worst Of lists and the Good Gift lists and the retrospectives, you can crank out a month's worth of columns in five days or so, freeing up lots of time for office parties and exceseeive egg nog consumption.
Unfortunately, with the New Year, all that light lifting comes to an end. It's time to cast off the lists and come up with some real analysis and new thoughts for 2007.
I've got one list left for you, originally cooked up when editors around here asked me about Who to Watch in 2007. I've cleverly retitled it Who to Watch in Media in 2007 (that why they pay me the big bucks, my friend).
Here it is - my list of the folks who will make a difference in the 0-7. I'm sure I missed a few, so why don't you give me your tally in comment-land?
Fox News Channel creator Roger Ailes. As disenchantment with Republicans brings ratings declines for his top-rated cable newschannel, Ailes is challenged with debuting a new business news channel, boosting sagging viewership for the core channel, launching a new syndicated morning show and improving the company's 22 owned and operated local affiliate stations (including WTVT-Ch. 13). Watching Bill O'Reilly take on the Fox network's O.J. special and the Beltway Boys actually admit GOP demagoging on illegal immigration may have hurt the party with hispanic voters only hints at the narrow tighrope Ailes and his minions will walk this year.
NBC/Universal TV Group CEO Jeff Zucker. Smart money says this Homestead Florida native will replace Bob Wright as NBCU chairman later this year or in early '05, making him the top executive responsible for a network which plunged from first to fourth in ratings during his tenure as the top TV executive. He also will wind up supervising $750-million in budget cuts and 700 jobs downsized from the company starting in '06. Makes sense only in the tangled world of network TV office politics.
Sopranos star James Gandolfini. This is more symbolism than anything. HBO's massive mobster hit The Sopranos will air its last eight episodes in early 2007, marking a massive milestone for the pay cable channel. It hasn't been able to present new series to equal the success of classics such as the Sopranos and Sex and the City, while competitors such as Showtime and FX have eclipsed its buzz for edgy programming. With its most successful show about to go sleeping with the fishes, the suits at this pay cable giant have run out of time to make lightening strike again.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs. His iPod is the embodiment of the way digital media has destroyed old-school entertainment business models. By allowing everyone to carry their entire music collections and audio programs in their hip pocket, he helped push record stores into history's dustbin and gave the radio industry a huge kick where it counts. Early this year, Apple will market iTV -- a device allowing users to play video downloaded into or streamed through their home computers on their TV sets. Local TV stations, take heed: you're next on Jobs' hit list, as he continues to weld Apple's brand tightly to every digital media innovation.
YouTube founders Steve Chan and Chad Hurley. Now that Google has purchased the video sharing Web site for a cool $1.65 billion, the work really begins. Can they stave off lawsuits over the loads of unauthorized copyrighted material on their site? Can they figure out how to make money off a site where users upload and share video for free? And can the big media outlets figure out how to preserve their copyrights while publicizing their projects through the viral cool of YouTube populism? If they accomplish this in 2007, it's another nail in the coffin of traditional media.
CBS anchor Katie Couric. Yeah, we're tired of hearing about her, too. But now that most of the looky-loos have officially stopped sampling her show, CBS's $15-million woman faces her real challenge: winning over a bigger portion of the 24-million people who still regularly watch network TV news. Long-term network news viewership actually shifts very slowly -- it took interim anchor Bob Schieffer a year to add 300,000 viewers to CBS' evening newscast. So Couric's rubber will meet the ratings road sometime in mid 2007.
Courteney Is So Not Monica
The first thing you notice, is that she is awfully intense.
Her schedule is tight enough, that by the time I get former Friend Courteney Cox on the telephone to talk about her new FX series, Dirt, she's working the elliptical exercise machine in her house, getting in some sweat time before heading to the set.
It's a crazy moment in her star-crossed life. Husband David Arquette, who teams with her as an executive producer on FX's twisted drama about a tabloid magazine, also will debut a mediocre comedy Wednesday on ABC, In Case of Emergency. She's cranking out interviews to publicize the show days before Christmas while also wrapping up her last scenes before the holiday break. And there's her two-year-old toddler, Coco.
No wonder Cox comes off as focused and competitive as her current alter ego, tabloid editor Lucy Spiller, while talking about Dirt. Here's some excerpts which didn't fit into today's Floridian feature:
On why her fictional tabloid editor doesn't make up stories: “That’s really important to give her some kind of compassionate quality. We want – this magazine has to be different than other magazines. It has to be -- They don’t want to print lies. They don’t want to chase other stories…. They want to break stories...Lucy is in search of the truth, because that’s something that’s really important in her life. You later find out with her father. -- do you know anything about my (character's) dad and how he committed suicide? Well, there’s a reason why she finds it so important expose the truth in people. And to find answers to things. That’s something she has in her own life that she’s dealing with. To her, its better to expose the truth than to have secrets.”
On why she doesn't think a show which depicts a character cutting off a finger to get a compelling photo goes too far: "I’ve always kind of gotten those questions – it’s like, anything you do. I remember doing Scream, and people were like -– 'Don’t you think that’s too much violence happening and what do you think, is that creating, you know killers?' No. It’s a movie. It may be over the top. We have a little more leeway, because (the photographer character) is a schizophrenic and he was off his meds and, you know, seeing a dead girl he’s having an affair with. I think we can kind of get away with anything."
On how she's channeled negative encounters with paparazzi into a TV series: “Celebrities get really pissed off at the paparazzi. There’s no doubt. They can get in your face and make you feel like its fight or flight time. You feel surrounded or trapped. They can piss you off. But I’m trying to think right now, where we’ve done things that…There’s a lot of trade-offs, a lot of behind the scenes negotiations going on. That has a lot to do with publicists. That’s out there...There’s never going to be something I’ve taken directly from, so you know who we’re talking about, because we don’t want to hurt anybody. We’re not out to get back at anyone. We’re not out to expose anyone’s life. But we might take a little piece of a story we heard there. And say that’s interesting; I wonder if we added a little sister and some other thing. Made it about a another subject. There will be a resemblance.
"The very opening shot of dirt is (photographer) Don Konke digging in -- he’s burying himself – he’s digging a grave, what the symbolism is. Just to get in the lowest position he can get to take picture of, in this case, Rick Fox and a porn star. I happen to know that particular thing came from – I have two friends who on their honeymoon, they’re pretty well known – not friends that I worked with. They’re just people I know. and they were on their honeymoon and they were in their hot tub and there’s a paparazzi who literally dug a hole inside the hotel area they were staying in and took pictures of them having sex on their honeymoon. It got out – they ended up – the magazine called them and said we won’t print these, but we need you to do this for us."
On why she insists on executive producing any TV project she stars in from now on: “I’ve been on TV for so long, I just want a little bit more…I wanted to be al ittle but more involved. I was lucky once, I’m not sure I’ll ever be that lucky again, so I wanted to make sure that every person who worked on that crew, from top to bottom, I wanted them to be the greatest people, the nicest people. Life is short and work is long – you gotta love going there, it’s your family. It’s your home. Compared to Friends, we work 16 hours a day. I think we’ve assembled the most amazing group of people. That was important to me and making sure I’m in charge -- well, not in charge, but have a say about my character and other characters – just being involved. I love the whole process. I’ve produced before. I’ve produce a design show, a comedy a few pilots. This is something that’s just my passion.”
On leading her first TV series since Friends: "It's scary – (critics') writing, it’s Courteney Cox, Courteney Cox, Courteney Cox. Once (viewers) tune in, the show speaks for itself. But I feel the pressure -- I want people to give it a shot. It’s been a while since I’ve been on TV and this means a lot to me. I know people will come anyway, because they’re such huge FX fans. I hope there’s a few Monica fans out there who will accept as this kind of really different character who only gets more and more racy. We don’t get quite as racy as Nip/Tuck, but pretty goddamn close.”
On how she developed the Lucy Spiller character: "That’s interesting. At the beginning, I know that was a discussion with the writers. Like, in one of the scenes I was telling this guy to get out o my bedroom and saying 'Oh because I’m a woman, you won’t do what I’m asking.' I cut that out because I don’t want that to be her issue at all. Her issue is not being compared to a man. I feel like that’s been done. I like the fact that Lucy can’t have an orgasm with a man. I thought that was a interesting trait. She’s so independent, she doesn’t let anyone in enough to let go. She enjoys that time -– she does like to be touched -– but if its time to work, it’s time to work.”