Film and TV

The Week in TV: The Circle of Life

A lot of entrances and exits to talk about. This was the week in TV Land:

• Good news: VH1, which in recent years has given itself over almost entirely to horrid reality shows starring people you would avoid at all costs if you knew them in real life, is bringing a little music back into its lineup by reviving Pop Up Video, the trivia-laced music video show that originally ran from 1996-2002 and is the source of probably one-third of your musical knowledge. Co-creator Wood Thompson is returning as an executive producer. The network has ordered 60 half-hour episodes that will begin airing this fall, with one major change from the previous installment: hip-hop is now included in the mix. Per The Hollywood Reporter, hip-hop was left out of the original series because the genre was apparently the purview of MTV; your jokes here about MTV's street cred are as good as anyone's, so go ahead and write your own. Anyway, now that MTV has actually removed the words "Music Television" from its logo and started filling every spare second on its schedule with Jersey Shore specials, VH1 can have hip-hop. The THR story linked above is also worth reading to see Thompson adorably complain about how Twitter ripped off his idea, as if no one ever thought of short-form jokes before he stuck them into Van Halen videos.

• Christopher Meloni, having had enough of finding raped corpses next to raped garbage in dumpsters that were somehow also raped, is leaving Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He won't be returning for the show's upcoming 13th season, which will open with a special musical number featuring Neil Patrick Harris and the Muppets. Kidding! Someone gets raped. Anyway, Meloni wasn't able to come to agreeable contract terms with producers Universal Media Studios, though as many have pointed out, Meloni started talking a year ago about how he was ready to hang up his shield. Although NBC would be loath to admit it, this is probably as good a time as any for the show to end. It's been a solid decade-plus, but the show's best days are long behind it.

Jeff Conaway died Friday at the age of 60. He'd been struggling with drugs and alcohol for years, even going back to his time on Taxi. After leaving that sitcom, he bounced around TV and movies for most of the 1980s and '90s; his steadiest work came when he was cast in Babylon 5. The end of his career was marked by sad appearances on VH1, first on Celebrity Fit Club, which he left to attend rehab, then Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew. He confessed on the latter to a variety of childhood traumas and long-standing substance-abuse issues, as well as regular thoughts of suicide. It's a sad end for a guy who made some great TV.

• The list of classic blunders needs to be expanded. After "Never get involved in a land war in Asia" and "Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line," we should add "Never screw over a public persona, especially a stand-up comedian." Eugene Mirman recently got hosed by Time Warner Cable, who rescheduled an appointment without notifying him and then continued to reschedule it until he was one step short of madness. To respond, Mirman wrote an open letter that he published in some New York papers, including the New York Press. Money quote: he referred to TWC as acting like "a controlling, abusive husband on an episode of Law & Order." TWC director of digital communications Jeff Simmermon responded to the letter on the corporate blog, where he dutifully eats crow by detailing TWC's historic problem areas and talking about ways the company is trying to improve them. Now if only Patton Oswalt could get Comcast to tell me just what the hell Xfinity is.

• Chris Hardwick's Nerdist podcast is a fantastic listen for comedy nerds (and nerds in general), since he discusses the actual work and process with a variety of performers. The hour-long shows are pretty free-form and highly entertaining, which is why BBC America is creating a "pilot/special" based on the podcast that will be a "panel talk show" in which Hardwick and guests will riff on comic books, movies, comedy, and burger salad. Hardwick has also signed to host the network's "Ministry of Laughs" Saturday-night comedy block, which you will probably not watch but will tell people you did.

• Jimmy Fallon knows what works for him, and he does it well:

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Daniel Carlson
Contact: Daniel Carlson