TV Chat: Breakout hit? We're waiting ...

Dan Byrd and Adhir Kalyan star as Justin Tolchuck and Raja Musharaff on the CW's "Aliens in America," a critically recommended series that should stick around despite its performance in the ratings.

Jonathan Storm: Hello, everybody. Here we are. And we've turned off the TV for a little while at least.

Ellen: I have a DVD on pause, actually...

Jonathan: And I have my computer replay episode of Kid Nation on pause. My wife set the TiVo to record a movie when it was supposed to be recording Kid Nation last night. I gave her a piece of my mind!

Ellen: I realized I'd had Kid Nation on a week-to-week lease, so I only ended up recording the last 20 minutes or so last night -- I was watching Pushing Daisies. So did Taylor get the boot?

Jonathan: I haven't seen it yet. But unfortunately I do know who won the Gold Star. I think I'm the only person watching that show. tvqueen: Is it me or is Gossip Girl a tame version of SATC? The narrator even sounds like she is emulating Ms. Bradshaw!

Jonathan: Maybe that's why I can't stand GG. I could watch Sex and the City, either. Yuck! All that girly stuff. Pooh.

Jonathan: Couldn't watch it.

Ellen: It's probably not just you. But I should hope it would be a little bit tamer than Sex and the City -- who wants to hear high school students talk about anal sex?

Ellen: Or, for that matter, poo?

Jonathan: Oooh.

Ellen: I think you mean yuck. Oooh sounds excited.

Jonathan: Yes. Yuck. Ick. Ugh.

Ellen: And I've already 'fessed up to watching Gossip Girl. Lonelyboy finally got kissed last night.

Brendan: What are your long term visions for Chuck and Journeyman?

Ellen: I tend not to have long-term visions for new TV shows -- I'll admit I'm not keeping up with Chuck. I wouldn't mind looking at Kevin Kidd for quite a while longer. But the time travel thing, which feels very much like that great book, The Time Traveler's Wife, could end badly. Or if could if this weren't a TV series.

Jonathan: They're getting upchuck ratings, and neither is headed for a long journey, methinks.

Ellen: Kevin McKidd, I mean. He obviously has affected my typing.

Jonathan: It's that Scottish accent, mon.

Jonathan: The guy on life is more hotter.

Jonathan: Not to mention the gal......

Jonathan: She was the one who took peyote with Tony Soprano.

Ellen: The guy playing him -- Damian Lewis -- is hot. But the character himself is maybe a little bit too quirky. Love the show, nevertheless. It's not all about cute boys.

Jonathan: Nor is it for me.

Jerry 'B' Seinfeld: Hi, I'm not sure if you've noticed, but I have a new "Bee" movie coming out soon. Could you please plug it?!

Ellen: I have been plugging it. I'm telling people it's a movie about nothing. Or maybe it's a nothing movie? I forget.

Jonathan: I'd rather watch John Belushi.

Jonathan: I think if I had as much money as Jerry, I'd just go out to Easthampton and watch the sunrises.

Duke: I read Ellen's article about what she watches on TV. How can you watch that much?

Jonathan: Yeah. How can you watch that much?

Ellen: Duke, I expected to hear that a lot, but believe it or not, not one e-mail I've gotten has wondered that. They're all too busy listing their own viewing schedules, many of which make me look lazy (since this is kind of my job). One guy has six DVRs and watches nothing in real time. He's like the networks' nightmare, fast-forwarding through the stuff that earns the money.

Ellen: And Jon, I'm sure you watch at least that much.

Jonathan: Jeez. I have one TiVo and I still have stuff from back in December that I haven't watched.

Jonathan: Actually, I don't watch that much. I have better things to do with my time than waste it with stupid TV.

Jonathan: (Not really.)

Ellen: Oh, I have stuff like that, too. Though I've had to clear out some of it to make room. I finally admitted I was never going to watch the last two episodes of Wedding Bells. Or Belles, whatever it was called.

Jonathan: My problem is that I have to watch Antiques Road Show and Cold Case and all sorts of weird Court TV mysteries and so forth because that what my wife wants to watch.

Jonathan: I just finished watching Veronica Mars last week.

Ellen: And I'm not letting go of the last Everwood till they promise to release it on DVD.

Jonathan: And when I turned 60 (I was already white), I felt an overwhelming compulsion to watch the Evening News.

Jonathan: Why wouldn't they release Everwood?

Jonathan: They could make a bundle.

Jonathan: Look at the big My So-Called Life set coming out in a coupla weeks.

Ellen: I think it's nice that she watches anything with you. My husband has his own TV, and only joins me for Numbers and for 24 (which we both enjoy yelling at together). Mostly, he prefers Andy Griffith. And Gunsmoke. Which would be fine, if I were a TV critic in the early 60s.

Jonathan: He sounds like a retro dude. No. We watch together, and the problem with the news is that it takes 90 minutes to watch a 22-minute show because we talk about everything. I try telling her to shut up, but it doesn't work.

CE: Thanks for the pre-season recommendations of "Aliens in America", "Reaper", and "Pushing Daisies"- you were right on target with them, and I like them all- and I hope- look forward to full seasons of all three?

Jonathan: I was very worried when I heard that Ellen liked them too. But then it seems that almost everybody who has watched it has liked Pushing Daisies, and I'm certain it will get a full pickup for the year.

Jonathan: The other two are on CW, and so that gives them a good chance of sticking around too.

Ellen: Aliens is looking shaky, Nielsen-wise. But then it's on a network most people still can't find without a map, and in a very tough time slot. Reaper has the same problem. But Pushing Daisies just won the demo last night for the third week in a row, so although its total viewer numbers aren't going to wow anyone, I think it stands a decent chance.

Jonathan: Oh no. We agree again. I must be getting soft.

Marie: I don't get why the Nielson Ratings want to capture DVR'd shows. Isn't teh purpose of ratings to grab Advertisers? Viewers who DVR/TiVO are the anti-commerical demo.

Ellen: The Nielsens aren't behind that move -- the networks are, and they're the ones who pay Nielsens' bills. Oh, and you could be getting smarter, Jon. Growth is always possible.

Jonathan: Growth?

Ellen: There are also some studies -- OK, conducted by CBS, which might just have some bias here -- that suggest people who fast-forward still see more commercials than people who don't. Because people who don't are in the kitchen getting a beer, I guess.

Jonathan: Yes. And people who have DVRs are more into TV than regular people and play lots more attention. I know I stop to look at the occasional ad when it's whizzing by. But the new technology could be a problem, especially for the ad-supported cable networks that do good original programming. A big slice of their audiences are DVR-oriented.

Ellen: The one thing I've learned from all those e-mails I'm still getting about viewer habits is that the future the networks have been fearing is already here: people time-shifting, watching online, etc. They're just not paying attention to schedules anymore. And they care much more deeply about TV than they used to.

Jonathan: Do you think those people are representative of the regular audience?

Ellen: Oh, it's obviously a self-selected sample. But you have to figure that people who even bother to read a TV column care more than someone who doesn't. I started doing this job the same year My So-Called Life came out, and what I've seen change over the years is the level of passion people feel about particular shows that might not be at the top of the Nielsens. Or even in the middle.

Jonathan: Everyone has "their" shows! Marie: My question wasn't that great, the board suddenly had "tech difficulties". Anyway, has any new show been declared the Breakout Show of Fall 2007 yet?

Ellen: Hey, not everyone's a critic -- the board hits us with those tech difficulty messages. And your question was a good one.

Ellen: I don't think anything's breaking out. Some may escape.

Jonathan: I guess "Private Practice" has the best ratings, but it's no breakout.

Jonathan: Breakouts are actually pretty rare.

Ellen: Yeah, a spinoff seems to not qualify for that.

Jonathan: "Heroes" was supposed to be the big breakout last year, but it's hardly a huge success in the overall ratings.
My first year on the beat was also the year that ER and Friends broke out. So I thought every season would be like that. Boy, was I surprised.

Ellen: Anything that breaks 10 million is considered a hit.

Jonathan: God, ER seems even older than you. I think it may creak out of view this year.

Jonathan: But is a hit a breakout?

Ellen: When My So-Called Life was on the air -- for all 19 episodes it got -- ABC's entertainment president, Ted Harbert, told reporters that as much as he loved it, he didn't know how long he could continue to air a show that only got 10 million viewers.

Jonathan: And should Jimmy Rollins be MVP?

Jonathan: Those were the days. Tony: Any word on whether they will finally issue a complete boxed DVD set of the Sopranos this year? Would make for a great holiday gift!

Ellen: Yes, especially the Christmas specials.

First we get Jerry Seinfeld plugging his junk, now Tony Soprano. What is this, an infomercial?

Ellen: I never know these things till they send them to me (that one, if it ever comes, will probably be brought by a guy with semiautomatic, since Sopranos screeners have long tended to go missing in my office). But if you want to track it, is the go-to place for stuff like that.

Jonathan: Information! Get your information!

Stacy: Hi!

Jonathan: And Hi to you, too, Stacy.

Jonathan: Cool top you're wearing.

Ellen: Hi, Stacy. Anything to say about TV? Here's the place to speak up. And feel free to ignore Jon's fashion statements.

Jonathan: I am the critic.

Jonathan: Of everything.

Marie: One more question: I'm surprised neither of you have hyped the finale of Mad Men tonight. Have you seen the ep?

Jonathan: I only have so much hype....

Ellen: I saw it two weeks ago (and mentioned the finale, I think, last week), but ran out of space in today's column, what with Viva Laughlin and The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard. Truth is, I think all the people who are going to watch Mad Men this season are already hooked -- they're not going to start watching tonight. They'd be too confused. But I hope there'll be a DVD so they can catch up before next season.

Ellen: The unhooked, I mean.

Jonathan: Who is the Amazing Mrs. Pritchard?

Jonathan: Is she on America's Top Model?

Ellen: You know, if you checked your mail once in a while, you'd find marvelous things (and, OK, awful stuff from the Hallmark channel, too, which has been sending out Christmas movies for months already).

Ellen: The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard is the Masterpiece Theatre season opener.

Jonathan: Masterpiece Theatre! "A lot of fun!"

Ellen: I'm really looking forward, actually, to the January launch of Masterpiece's Jane Austen festival. But I know I might be alone on this chat in that.

Jonathan: I feel sorry for PBS. There are so many choices these days, even though its shows are usually two or three cuts above the other choices. I'm looking forward to the Jane Austen festival too! God, I think I need to check myself into rehab.

Jonathan: What are you suffering from, Mr. Storm.

Ellen: There is nothing in any of Austen's books about rehab. And yet I'm not entirely against the idea, for you.

Jonathan: I keep having these fantasies that I agree more and more with, can you believe it, Ellen Gray.

Jonathan: Nurse! Quick.

Jonathan: Get the narcotics!

Jonathan: I think the Austen thing will be fun and instructive. And besides... Lots of hot young girls.

Ellen: You'll use any excuse. I think that's considered drug-seeking behavior.

Jonathan: TV is my drug.

Ellen: Plus Colin Firth. That should be popular. Though I actually prefer the 1980 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. Just to make sure I wasn't remembering it as better than it was, I rewatched it recently on Netflix's instant viewing option.

Jonathan: Oh my word. You are a techno-completist. Did you actually pay for it?

Jonathan: Your eyes must be falling out of your head.

Ellen: It comes with your Netflix account now -- you get a certain number of hours of streaming video along with whatever your plan requires. And yes, they are. Especially since i broke down and got myself an iPod Touch (my mini was working just fine after three years, so I have no excuse). I'm now watching YouTube on a very small (but cool) screen.

Stacy: Gee, Jonathan, if you think I'm a cool dresser, you should see the hubby! lol I didn't know PBS was going to do a Jane Austen festival. I'll have to bone up on my reading. I got a 5-book anthology of Jane Austen from a bookclub, but haven't read it yet.

Jonathan: Oh dear, yet another married woman throwing herself at me.

Jonathan: I don't have an I-Pod. I don't know how they work. My friend has an I-Pod phone. If you turn it upside down, the picture flips too. It's too scary.

Ellen: You're sure it wasn't six books? Because that's the usual number. If you read them, you can go see The Jane Austen Book Club, which isn't as good as reading Austen, but is a lot better than the book on which it's based. And it has Hugh Dancy in it.

Jonathan: He's going out with Claire Danes. She has never thrown herself at me.

Ellen: The Touch flips, too. It's a lot of fun. But reading on the browser is either going to improve my eyes or destroy them utterly.

Jonathan: It's all too small and too pervasive. What about the natural grandeur of nature? Get your head out of your tech device!

Ellen: I also watched an episode of Back to You on it the other night. And laughed no more or less than I might have on the big screen.

Jonathan: OK. Now I know that you're the one who needs rehab.

Jonathan: I wouldn't watch another episode of Back to You unless they tied me in a straitjacket and shackled me to the bench in front of the tube.

Ellen: I think that's been clear since my admission that I'm actually watching Gossip Girl.

Jonathan: You actually paid $1.99 to watch that crap???????

Stacy: No, it's a 5-book set I got from Doubleday bookclub. I'll have to get it out and start reading when it gets cooler--if it every GETS cooler )-;

Jonathan:  Look how techboy I can be. I read Austen in college and got in a big fight with my professor, who was convinced she was some sort of sex addict.

Ellen: I only have temperature requirements for knitting -- I finally went to the knitting store this week, ending, I thought, the long, hot summer. And now it's hot again. But Jane can even go to the beach. She's versatile that way.

Jonathan: Knitting, I-Pod, Netflix. You are a modern marvel!

Ellen: I always just thought of them as cleverly written romance novels. And I knit long before it was cool.

Ellen: Gotta do something while watching all that TV.

Jonathan: Hey, it's 1 o'clock!

Ellen: Thanks to all of you who came in to chat and kept me from having to talk so much to Jon.

Ellen: I seem to make him nervous.

Jonathan: Ohhh. And I was just getting ready to say what a fine time I had.

Jonathan: So, see you next week, same time, same station, and make sure you all have mean things to say to Ellen.

Ellen: OK. Next week, we'll have warm cocoa...or wine coolers. Depending on the weather.