UT football legend Ricky Williams to appear on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’

Ricky Williams (Rodolfo Gonzalez photo)
Ricky Williams (Rodolfo Gonzalez photo)

Presidential contender Donald Trump is out and Arnold Schwarzenegger is in as host of “Celebrity Apprentice.”

But the bigger news, for University of Texas football fans at least, is that this season’s competitors will include Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams, NBC said Thursday.

He’ll be up against actress Brooke Burke-Charvet, “America Ninja Warrior” host Matt Iseman, boxer Laila Ali, Carson Kressley of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” fame, comedian Jon Lovitz, ex-“Big Morning Buzz Live” host Carrie Keagan, mixed martial arts pro Chael Sonnen, Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil, musicians Boy George and Carnie Wilson, NFL alum Eric Dickerson, Olympian Lisa Leslie and “Real Housewives” stars Kyle Richards and Porsha Williams.

This will be the eighth season for “Celebrity Apprentice.” NBC has yet to say when the show will premiere.

Texas firm buys 3 Austin TV stations as part of $4.6B deal

kxanThree Austin TV stations are in line to get a new owner — and it’s not the company everyone was expecting.

Virginia-based Media General, which operates NBC affiliate KXAN, CW affiliate KNVA and MyNetworkTV affiliate KBVO, is being acquired by Irving-based Nexstar Broadcasting Group in a deal valued at $4.6 billion in cash and stock, according to an announcement made Wednesday.

The new company will be named Nexstar Media Group and will have 171 full-power TV stations in 100 U.S. TV markets.

Last year, Media General had agreed to merge with Iowa-based Meredith Corp. That deal almost immediately hit a series of roadblocks when Nexstar executives made a counteroffer. They were rebuffed initially, but criticism from key Media General stockholders steadily grew.

The breakup up with Meredith will cost Media General $60 million. Meredith will also get first dibs on buying any stations Nexstar is required to sell off in markets where it overlaps with Media General. TVSpy.com reports those markets will likely include Roanoke, Va; Green Bay, Wis.; Davenport, Iowa; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Lafayette, La.; and Terre Haute, Ind.

“Together with Nexstar, we can deliver a more comprehensive, integrated and competitive offering across all markets for the benefit of our advertisers and brands,” Media General president and CEO Vincent Sadusky said in a written statement. “I am thankful for the hard work and dedication of our talented employees, and I’m confident they will continue to make many valuable contributions as part of a larger and stronger organization. I look forward to working closely with the Nexstar team to bring our companies together to realize the power of this compelling combination and ensure a smooth transition.”

In Texas, KXAN, KNVA and KBVO are Media General’s only stations. Nexstar, however, owns several more, including ones in Abilene, Amarillo, College Station, El Paso, Harlingen, Lufkin, Midland, San Angelo, Tyler, Waco and Wichita Falls.

Through a contract with Four Points Media Group, Nexstar briefly operated Austin CBS affiliate KEYE beginning in 2009. That deal ended, though, when Four Points was sold to Sinclair Broadcast Group, KEYE’s current owner, in 2011.

“The acquisition of Media General’s broadcasting and digital media assets represent a transformational growth opportunity for Nexstar and is strategically and financially compelling,” Nexstar president and CEO Perry Sook said in a written statement. “The transaction increases Nexstar’s broadcast portfolio by approximately two thirds with very limited overlap with our existing properties, more than doubles our audience reach, provides entrée to 15 new top-50 (markets) and offers synergies related to the increased scale of the combined digital media operations.”

Austin represents one of those new top-50 markets Sook mentioned, ranking 39th in the nation, according to Nielsen, with 745,640 TV households.

The Media General deal is expected to close in either the third or fourth quarter of this year, Nexstar said.


“The X-Files” s10 e2 “Founder’s Mutation:” Well, that was an improvement

So Monday night’s X-Files, the second of the show’s revival, was not the emotionally draining trash fire that the first one was, which is good.

Mulder and Scully interview a hapless victim. Could Mulder look more bored?
Mulder and Scully interview a hapless victim. Could Mulder look more bored?

This puts “Founder’s Mutation” on par, but no better than, say, your average third season episode.

Tonally, it was technically a “Monster of the Week” episode, but featured plot tendrils that extended into the show’s wider mythology.

The plot, more or less: Mulder and Scully investigate a mysterious death and discover a psychic janitor (his powers the result of genetic manipulation) is attempting to contact his missing sister. After he nearly destroys Mulder with a ultra-high pitched mental scream and some horribly mutated children (mostly with cartoonishly exaggerated versions of real-life maladies) our heroes eventually lock down the doctor doing the manipulation. A short battle follows, the doctor gets what it coming to him (in grotesque fashion) and the brother and sister escape.

A couple of things:

  • Personal beef: Mulder, fix your tie! When Mulder accidentally picks up a guy in a bar, he has his tie loosened but his top button buttoned. Lord, I can’t stand that. Either fix your tie knot or unbutton your top button, Mulder. This is relevant to nothing. It just got on my nerves.
  • Dana Scully, smooth of face, rough of voice. What was up with Gillian Anderson’s voice? She sounded two-packs a day here. Her countenance on the other hand? Exceptionally smooth. (Also she sounded high as heck when saying “He didn’t answer my question” as, well, someone avoids her question.)
  • The horribly mutated kids and the psychic subplot felt like a shout out to something like “Akira.” Not that the Japanese have a monopoly on creepy psychic children (and psychic children are ALWAYS creepy), but there was something distinctly manga-ish in the way the kids were on display
  • I want more alien/human hybrids. There was a smooth tie-in to the larger X-Files mythology when Mulder mentioned that the Syndicate was trying to fuse humans and aliens as part of their we-made-a-deal-with-the-alien-invaders shtick, and that these kids might be related to that project. It was thin, but I will take it.
  • CZnI1zCWcAAsUJO.jpg large
    Thank you, @wingtipsloat for the photo

    Fantastic shout-out to Planet of the Apes. In one scene, a pregnant teen is talking about the possibly manipulation of her fetus with Mulder and Scully. Behind her, we see Zira, Cornelius and newborn Milo from “Escape from the PLanet of the Apes.”

  • I am mixed on the dream-sequences. The mutated children forced Mulder and Scully to reflect on William, their child together who may be (who is probably) some sort of alien/human hybrid. I was fine with the slightly melodramatic bits with Scully.  She sold being a mom well. Mulder, on the other hand, seemed like the same Mulder we know with some kid in the room. Not that pople automatically change  when they become parents, but Duchovny could have been a little broader here.
  • And then, he imagines William kidnapped by aliens. And we end on a shot of him looking very sad indeed. The idea of the Mulder family as intrinsically, as forever fated to be, tied to alien invasion is a fun, if tragic one. I am a sucker for cyclical family tragedies and that aspect of the mythos fit that bill nicely.
  • Mitch “Skinner” Pileggi is in town for a play. He mentioned to the inimitable John Aielli this (Tuesday) morning that he went here for a meal.

The “X-Files” returns: We want to believe! And yet….

Welp, that was kind of like an X-Files episode.

 Joel McHale, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in “The X-Files.”
Joel McHale, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in “The X-Files.”

The ’90s-defining show returned Sunday night after the Panthers and the almighty Cam Newton absolutely wrecked the Arizona Cardinals on your local Fox affiliate. Said hammering took the game into the 9 p.m. hour, prompting a flurry of tweets from people getting a little impatient waiting for their Fox Mulder.

I wonder if, after the episode, those same folks were like, “OK, maybe we could have waited a little longer.”

If you kept your expectations Marianas Trench-low, the first of six episodes was, well, a reminder of who these folks were. Mulder (David Duchovny, delivering a performance of Harrison Ford-level who-cares-ness) lives in the woods, Scully (Gillian Anderson, who didn’t look like she could move her forehead) is a doctor (surgeon?) at a DC hospital.

After a listless voice-over from Mulder that noted writer Maggie Serota characterized nicely (“Imagining it was some PA’s job to wake David Duchovny up at 4am and then shove a mic in his face for those voiceovers”), the episode, apparently one of only two conspiracy episodes in this six-ep arc, delivers, well, a lot of confusing setup.   Joel McHale shows up as a conservative talk show host named  Tad O’Malley who’s some sort of blend of Alex Jones, Art Bell and Bill O’Reilly.

Add in an abductee named Sveta (Annet Mahendru, best known as Nina in “The Americans”), some genuine alien tech than manages to get destroyed and Mulder’s seeming conviction that no, aliens aren’t real at all but it was all a massive conspiracy by actual homo sapiens with all-too-human motives — cut to the still-amazing Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) who now smokes through a hole in his neck. (For my money, “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man” is one of the most enjoyable, most tragic, most epic hours of TV of the 1990s.)

A few thoughts:

  1. Mulder’s sunglasses are from the Al Pacino in HEAT collection. We all miss the 1990s in different ways.
  2. It was somehow very Bedelia to see Scully in a limo.
  3. Walter Skinner is not aging. Dude is definitely part alien.
  4. The dialogue continues to be a trainwreck. There has to be a happy medium between, say, David Mamet and whatever creator Chris Carter is doing here. Carter is very much like George Lucas in this regard: Great big picture guy, not so hot with the chatter.
  5. O’Malley’s monologue was a bit much. The man used the phrase “weather wars,” people. Now, were this a dialectic on the fraught relationship between the West and developing nations regarding climate change, that would be one thing. But it was not.
  6. I will be seriously bummed if they end up just scrapping the shadowy-human-elite-making-a-deal-with-actual-aliens aspect of the show. Carter and the rest of the “X-Files” actually did a bang-up job for about four seasons on making that aspect hang together. And then the wheels came off, mostly through piling on too many details. Then the show got nearly unwatchable. Then the two main characters left. (And yes, it happened in that order.)
  7. As many, many people have pointed out virtually from the moment the series ended in 2002, “The X-Files” struggles for a post-9/11 context. The show calls back to a time when the U.S. economy was on fire, we weren’t in a state of perpetual war against a tactic and the Internet was a legitimate frontier. The U.S. just didn’t have all that much to complain about, so it was fun to make up stuff about the government and aliens and weirdness. Now, things are far less pleasant, certain and stable.
  8. Which brings me to my biggest beef (and one I hope will be addressed in the coming monster-of-the-week episodes, but I am not holding my breath):
  9. Mulder should be way, way crazier. Given his paranoia and conflict about working for the government while not trusting them back in 1996, he should be a gibbering loon 20 years later. There are amazing places to take the story of these two people — two people who have seen things, over and over again, that nobody will confirm or deny — in the age of total information awareness. (“Mr. Robot” does this sort of thing incredibly well.)
  10. I would have loved to see Mulder completely around the bend and Scully (and Skinner) trying to coax him back to reality, a reality that all of us deal with every day. Seeing this character attempting to deal with the 21st century and his demons and the possibility of the truth still being out there would have made for outstanding TV.












Where To See All of the Shows Nominated for (and Awarded) Golden Globes

So one of the bigger stories to come out of the Golden Globes was the wins by “Mozart in the Jungle,”  which picked up both best TV series (musical or comedy) and a best actor in a musical or comedy nod for Gael García Bernal

MV5BMTc5NjE1MjA4MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTI0ODczNzE@._V1_SY317_CR3,0,214,317_AL_It is a program a lot of folks on social media claimed to not have seen or even heard of. Which points to the increasing diversity of venues for television programs.

“Mozart in the Jungle” is on Amazon Video, which is only available on Amazon’s streaming video service. (However, it is streaming for free from midnight Eastern time on Friday until 11:59 p.m. local time on Sunday night.)

Streaming actually owned the musical or comedy category.  “Mozart” joined its Amazon-based sibling “Transparent,  “Casual,” which is only available on the Hulu streaming service, the ground-breaking Netflix streaming show “Orange Is the New Black,” and two HBO shows (“Silicon Valley” and “Veep”).

Over on the drama side, networks and cable still dominated the nominees: “Empire” is on Fox, “Game of Thrones” reigns over HBO, the time-travel romance “Outlander” is on Starz, and the winner, “Mr. Robot,” is on USA. Only “Narcos” is on Netflix.

As for best TV limited series, only ABC’s “American Crime” and PBS’ “Wolf Hall” are on broadcast networks. The rest were on cable: “American Horror Story: Hotel” and “Fargo” on FX, while “Flesh and Bone” is on Starz.

Jon Hamm won best performance by an actor in a television drama for AMC’s  “Mad Men,” which is off the air but can be found on DVDs or streaming services.

Other nominees included Rami Malek for “Mr. Robot,” Wagner Moura for “Narcos,” Bob Odenkirk for AMC’s “Better Call Saul” and Liev Schreiber for Showtime’s “Ray Donovan.”

Cable and streaming also dominated the best actor (musical or comedy) category.  Aziz Ansari stars in the Netflix show “Master of None,” Jeffrey Tambor in “Transparent” and Patrick Stewart in the Starz show “Blunt Talk.” Only Rob Lowe represented the networks for starring in Fox’s “The Grinder”

Oscar “Poe Dameron” Isaac won best actor in a leading role in TV movie or limited series for the HBO mini “Show Me a Hero.” Idris Elba was nominated for the BBC show “Luther,” David Oyelowo for the HBO movie “Nightingale,” Mark “Rudolf Abel” Rylance for “Wolf Hall” and  Patrick Wilson for “Fargo.”

The “I REALLY have no idea what that show is” goes to the Netlifx streamer “Bloodline,” whose Ben Mendelson was nominated for best supporting actor  in a limited series or TV movie. He lost to Christian Slater playing a dad in “Mr. Robot,” as did Alan Cumming for CBS’s “The Good Wife,” Damian Lewis in “Wolf Hall” and Tobias Menzies  in “Outlander.”

Nobody was mad to see Taraji P. Henson win best actress in a drama for “Empire;” she beat Caitriona Balfe as the lead in “Outlander,” Viola Davis in ABC’s increasingly bonkers “How to Get Away With Murder,” Eva Green on Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful” and  Robin Wright on Netflix’s “House of Cards.”

Maura Tierney picked up best supporting actress in a limited series or TV movie for HBO’s “The Affair,” which some people remain convinced is really good. She beat Uzo Aduba in “Orange Is the New Black,” Joanna Froggatt on PBS’s “Downton Abbey,” Regina King in “American Crime” and Judith Light, who is amazing on “Transparent.”

Lead actress went to Lady Gaga (which Leo found amusing) for her role on “American Horror Story: Hotel”; she beat Queen Latifah in the title role of HBO’s movie “Bessie,” Felicity Huffman in “American Crime” and Sarah Hay on Starz’s “Flesh and Bone.”

Rachel Bloom took best actress in a TV musical or comedy for the CW’s underseen  “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” winning over  Jamie Lee Curtis in Fox’s “Scream Queens,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus in HBO’s “Veep,” Gina Rodriguez for the amazing CW series  “Jane the Virgin” and  Lily Tomlin in the Netflix series “Grace and Frankie.”

KVUE reporter leaving town for Dallas TV gig

Shannon Murray (Mike Wenglar photo / KVUE)
Shannon Murray (Mike Wenglar photo / KVUE)

Another Austin TV news reporter is leaving town, en route to the Big D.

KVUE’s Shannon Murray signed off for the last time Wednesday night, wrapping up a three-year stint at the city’s ABC affiliate.

Her next stop is KDFW, the Fox-owned station in Dallas. There she’ll join another recent Austin transplant, former KEYE reporter Alex Boyer, who started at Fox 4 earlier this month.

“I grew up in Dallas, so I can’t wait to cover the news in my hometown,” Murray said. “I’m honored to be part of the top-rated station and to work alongside the experienced staff at KDFW.”

New Austin radio station targets area’s LGBT community

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 9.09.42 AMA new radio station targeting Austin’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is set to launch Tuesday.

When 97.5 Pride Radio Austin signs on at noon, it will become the second LGBT-focused station in the nation to be operated by San Antonio-based iHeartMedia. The other is in Minneapolis.

Other iHeartMedia stations in Austin include 96.7 Kiss FM, 98.1 KVET-FM, KASE 101, 102.3 The Beat, 103.1 iHeartAustin and AM 1300 The Zone.

Pride Radio Austin is modeled after iHeartMedia’s popular Pride Radio channel on the iHeartRadio app. It will kick off commercial free, playing 10,000 songs in a row from artists such as David Guetta, Calvin Harris, Nick Jonas, Katy Perry and Rihanna.

The new station will also feature news and contests of interest to the Austin LGBT community, iHeartMedia said.

“As we look at Austin’s progressive community, there is no better time to launch a radio station for LGBT listeners and allies,” said Patrick Davis, iHeartMedia senior vice president of programming for Austin and Dallas. “We are very excited to bring 97.5 Pride Radio’s unique programming to a city that thrives on being different.”

In addition to the 97.5 FM frequency, Pride Radio will be available on the HD2 subchannel of 100.7 FM, as well as online at 975PrideAustin.com and via the iHeartRadio app.

“Austin has one of the most active LGBT communities in the nation, and 97.5 Pride Radio will fit right in with the community,” said Don Parker, Pride Radio brand manager and senior vice president of programming for iHeartMedia. “Through our iHeartRadio digital platform, Pride Radio forms deep connections with listeners across the country through relatable programming and entertaining news content, and we look forward to creating a new bond between 97.5 Pride Radio and local listeners through Austin’s very own customized version of Pride Radio.”

KUT adding 4 new shows to its lineup

tumblr_static_kutnews_tag_vert_color-003Austin NPR affiliate 90.5 KUT-FM is making some changes to its lineup this month, adding four new shows.

The shows, with descriptions provided by KUT, are:

“Freakonomics Radio,” 1 p.m. Saturday

“Freakonomics Radio” explores the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature — from cheating and crime to parenting and sports — using the tools of economics to explore real-world behavior. Host Stephen J. Dubner discovers the hidden side of everything in interviews with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, social scientists and entrepreneurs — along with his “Freakonomics” co-author Steve Levitt.

“On Story,” 9 p.m Saturday

Austin Film Festival’s “On Story,” the Lone Star EMMY award-winning television series hosted by PBS affiliates across the nation, is coming to public radio as a one-hour program. “On Story” content is recorded live at the Austin Film Festival and Conference, as well as their year-round events. Pilots of the show aired monthly on KUT in 2015.

“The New Yorker Radio Hour,” 8 p.m. Sunday      

“The New Yorker Radio Hour” gives “The New Yorker” a voice on public radio for the first time. On the show, “The New Yorker” Editor David Remnick is joined by the magazine’s award-winning writers in a weekly hour of radio that will both delight and inform. The show will feature a mix of profiles, storytelling and insightful conversations about the issues that matter, plus an occasional blast of comic genius from the magazine’s legendary “Shouts and Murmurs” page.

“Reveal,” 9 p.m. Wednesday

“Reveal,” the Peabody Award-winning investigative journalism program from the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and PRX, will air as a weekly show. KUT aired “Reveal” as a monthly pilot program in 2015. The hour-long show – the first-ever weekly investigative journalism radio show – presents original work from CIR’s team along with various partners, including public radio stations and producers, as well as web sites, journalism centers and reporters from around the world.

The additions to the schedule mean there will be a few subtractions, as well. “American Routes” is being dropped. So are repeats of “On Being,” “Radiolab” and “The TED Radio Hour.”

Several other shows will get new time slots. They are:

  • “Bullseye with Jesse Thorn,” 8 p.m. Saturday
  • “On Being,” 1 p.m. Sunday
  • “The Splendid Table,” 2 p.m. Sunday
  • “The Moth Radio Hour,” 9 p.m. Sunday
  • “Selected Shorts,” 10 p.m. Sunday


KXAN adds meteorologist to its weather team

Natalie Ferrari (KXAN photo)
Natalie Ferrari (KXAN photo)

There’s been yet another meteorologist switcheroo at one of Austin’s TV stations.

This time, it’s at KXAN, where Natalie Ferrari signed on over the holidays, handling weekend morning weather.

Ferrari arrives from KBTX, the CBS affiliate in Bryan/College Station. Before that, she spent time at a station in Abilene.

With her arrival, Rosie Newberry, who had been KXAN’s weekend morning meteorologist, slides to weekend evenings. Mark Monstrola vacated that spot when he took a job at the Fox affiliate in Denver late last year.

Ferrari’s hiring is the latest in flurry of weekend weather shifts at local stations in the past year. Newberry, for instance, arrived here in January 2015 from Columbia, Mo.

Over at KVUE, weekend evening meteorologist Lynae Miyer left and was replaced by weekend morning meteorologist Jared Plushnick. Plushnick’s replacement on the Saturday and Sunday early-bird shift is Nathan Gogo, who comes from Waco’s CBS affiliate.

KEYE added meteorologist Collin Myers to its weekend lineup after Jordan Steele shifted to the station’s weekday morning newscast and Fox-owned KTBC hired Chelsea Andrews to replace Scott Prinsen, who, like Miyer, left the TV business.

Got all that? Good.

Kiss FM morning host: ‘They pulled the plug on us’

Elvis Duran
Elvis Duran (Courtesy photo)

Austin radio station 96.7 Kiss FM has apparently dumped nationally syndicated morning host Elvis Duran.

“They pulled the plug on us,” New York-based Duran told one listener today on Twitter. A short time later, he told another fan, “They decided to take us off.”

Kiss FM is owned by San Antonio-based iHeartMedia. Company representatives didn’t immediately respond to a message from the American-Statesman seeking details on who will take over the morning shift permanently.

Duran’s name has already been removed from the list of DJs on the station’s website.

Duran made his Austin debut in 2013, replacing popular host Bobby Bones, who was tapped by iHeartMedia to helm a nationally syndicated morning show of his own. Bones’ show, which runs on dozens of country radio stations, is based out of Nashville, Tenn.

Bones can still be heard locally on KASE 101.

Kiss FM isn’t the only Austin station to make changes recently. Over at 93.3 KGSR, morning host Kelly Jordan departed late last year. A permanent replacement has yet to be named.

Majic 95.5 has altered its lineup, as well.