Tagged: CBS

The Law Is A Ass

Bob Ingersoll: The Law Is A Ass #404


I feel like staying far away from Civil War II this week. How far away? I’m not even writing about comic books. That far.

Doubt was another attempt to do a Shonda Rhimes style show without Shonda Rhimes. CBS tried to hedge its bets by having former Grey’s Anatomy Katherine Heigl headline Doubt. Did that help? Even less than her presence helped in her last show, State of Affairs. State of Affairs lasted 13 episodes. CBS pulled Doubt after only two episodes. Which is one more episode than I was able to last. Doubt was such a huge turkey it could have fed the Eight is Enough brood and still have had enough to give the Brady Bunch leftovers. But I digest.

Doubt told the story of Sadie Ellis, a high-priced New York City defense attorney who was defending Dr. William Brennan on a first-degree murder charge. The show was, as TV flack hacks like to put it, “ripped from the headlines.”

See, Dr. Brennan was a doctor, a pilot, and a the son of a US senator, who was accused of murdering his 16-year-old girlfriend back in 1993. So, this story is a mash-up of John F. Kennedy, Jr. (son of a senator and a pilot) and Michael Skakel (nephew of a different Kennedy senator who was accused of the 1975 murder of his 15-year-old girlfriend and convicted in 2002). The writers had to go to the library achieves to find whatever newspapers they ripped this15-year-old headline from. I understand that if Doubt had made it to a second season, instead of just a second episode, it was going to do a “ripped from the headlines” story based on Sacco and Vanzetti.

Dr. Brennan’s girlfriend was murdered back in 1993. We learned in a pretrial hearing that Dr. Brennan confessed to the murder to another student while they were in boarding school. And that the murder weapon disappeared in 2006 and hasn’t been found.

Ms. Ellis and her team thought their best chance to win the case was to suppress the statement. If that was their best shot, Dr. Brennan better start getting measured for his fashionable “The New Black” jumpsuit. Because the odds of them winning the suppression motion were even worse than the odds of my winning the Mega Millions and the Powerball. Three times.

The Fifth Amendment says that no one can be compelled to incriminate him or herself. Confessions are suppressed when they are obtained in violation this amendment because they are in some way coerced. All courts hold that if the government or one of its agents coerce the confession in some way it must be suppressed. That doesn’t apply here. Brennan gave his confession to another student, not the police.

Courts are split on whether a confession that was coerced by a private citizen should be suppressed. Some say any coerced confession should be suppressed. Others say only a confession that was coerced by the government should be suppressed. But, again, that doesn’t apply here.

Dr. Brennan’s statement was one that he gave voluntarily to another student while they were attending boarding school. There was no hint of coercion. And there is no split among the courts that a confession what was not coerced should not be suppressed.

Ms. Ellis could also have tried to suppress the evidence because it was a statement made by someone who was not in court and which is being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted, i.e., that Dr. Brennan killed his girlfriend. You know, hearsay. Sadie didn’t even try that one.

When most states defined hearsay, the definition specifically excluded the statement of a party in the case that is contrary to the party’s position at trial — such as a confession by a defendant who pled not guilty would be. New York didn’t go that route. In New York, the statement of a party opponent is still hearsay. However, it is one of the exceptions to New York’s hearsay rule. So not hearsay or an exception to the hearsay rule, either way the confession would be admissible.

The judge quite correctly ruled that Dr. Brennan’s statement should not be suppressed. So the defense team’s best shot fired blanks. Then, just when things looked darkest for Dr. Brennan, they got worse. The police found the murder weapon.

Seems back in 2006 there was a fire in the 93rd Precinct and the evidence there was moved to the Staten Island police warehouse. Let me get this straight; the evidence was lost because the police forgot where they put it? That’s dubious at best and this show was never at its best.

Police have to keep track of what’s called the chain of custody on all evidence. They have to know where evidence is at all times so that when it’s offered in a trial, the police can establish that the evidence is actually what it purports to be and hasn’t been tampered with. Toward this end, evidence is kept in secure lockers and has to be signed out when someone wants to examine it. That way there’s a paper trial detailing where the evidence was at all times and who had it.

So when the police moved the evidence from the 93rd Precinct to the Staten Island warehouse, they would have made records of the move so that the evidence’s chain of custody could be maintained. The police would have known at all times where the murder weapon was and would have been able to put their hands on it anytime they wanted it.

Sadie tried to exclude the murder weapon. She argued to the judge that its chain of custody had been broken when it was lost in the warehouse. The prosecutor argued that a chain of custody breach goes to weight not admissibility. Wrong!

If the defense can establish that there was a break in the evidentiary chain of custody so that the evidence might not be what it purports to be or might have been tampered with, that means that the evidence is not admissible. Chain of custody arguments go to admissibility, not weight. Any prosecutor would know that; except, perhaps, the one who didn’t think to look in the police warehouse that all the other stuff from the 93rd Precinct was moved to after the fire.

And that’s what happened in the first episode of Doubt. I can’t tell you what happened in the second because I, like most of America, didn’t watch it. One episode was bad enough. I can only suffer so much for my art.

Is fandom “entitled”? A history of fan-made material

Is fandom “entitled”? A history of fan-made material

Star Wars Meets Star TrekFor those who came in late, a bunch of fans crowdsourced the funds to make a Star Trek fan film, Axanar. The funding campaign was outrageously successful, earning over 1.1 million dollars. That large an amount of money set off Paramount’s sensor array, and they quickly filed suit against said fans for unauthorized use of trademarked items. The folks behind Axanar counter-sued, claiming Paramount didn’t have hold of all the items they claimed.  It was going to get testy (and potentially untenable for Paramount if any of the points made in the counter-suit were deemed valid) until J.J. Abrams stepped in and convinced Paramount to calm down.

In response to said events, this week Paramount released a series of guidelines that fan films must follow in order to stay on the right side of the law, or at least on the right side of Paramount’s battery of white-lipped attorneys. Some of those rules are quite reasonable – the producers of the films can’t make merchandise of their property, and Paramount wrote up a paragraph of verbiage the producers must include in the film’s credits.  Some of the rules are a bit more stringent – the films can’t be more than 15 minutes long, and nobody in the production can have any “professional credits”.  That second one is drawing a number of eyes – some are arguing that it could mean you’re not allowed to use union workers for the production crew, something the unions will likely have something to say about.

Now, the real problem here is that for years there was an unspoken “line” to determine what was considered acceptable by fans’ creations. The exact details were never set in stone, but centered around basic ideas like “don’t make too much money, don’t do anything particularly untoward with the property,” and so on.  While the exact location and cartography of the line may not be known, it’s pretty obvious that Axanar crossed it miles back.  This was no simple pack of fan on cardboard sets and an eight-millimeter camera – the film (and its short prequel) had professional actors, some who had not only appeared on Trek before, but ones like Gary Graham who were actually portraying characters they had played on the actual shows.  The producers of Axanar had stated that in addition to making this film, they were effectively setting up a movie studio, dedicated to making more features in the same vein. So basically, they broke the “don’t make too much money” rule before they even stepped on the set.

These new “guidelines” are far stricter than what was allowed before, and are clearly in response (Retaliation? Perhaps…) to the liberties taken by the Axanar team.  To make an example, an apartment house has a tacit agreement that nobody can play their stereos above six, and even though people were playing them at seven or eight, nobody was complaining. But one guy threw a party and turned his stereo to ten, and the landlord had to step in and put his foot down, so now everyone has to keep their stereo at four.

There have been many conversations about the new rules online – many saw it as a potential death-blow to the staggeringly popular Star Trek Continues series, an acclaimed web series which was likewise inspired by another fan production, Starship Farragut. Another fan production, Renegades, simply announced they planned to excise all Trek references in its new production and become a completely new franchise.

But it was a conversation with an online friend that I found the most interesting.  He described fans who wanted to make amateur films as “entitled”.  That they somehow thought they had the right to make their own versions of other people’s IP and share them with the world. To say that I disagreed with him is an understatement.

First off, let’s look at the history of fandom… starting with the Epic of Gilgamesh.

You heard me.

The classic epic poems could arguably be described as the first fan fiction.  The stories were created by persons (largely) unknown, re-told and embellished by countless other creators.  The versions we know were assembled from various bits and bobs by people who usually ended up getting credit for “writing” them, though you could make a case that “editor” was a better description.

Jumping ahead centuries, Sherlock Holmes had its share of fan fiction. When Arthur Conan Doyle decided to stop writing about Holmes (because apparently he got tired of money) the fans rose to the cause. Doctor Who fans kept the flame alive during The Dark Years with fan productions like PROBE and the audio plays of BBV, which eventually became the official audio plays by Big Finish.  Indeed, many of the people who worked on those fan productions went on to create for the new series.

Entitled?  Hardly.  Dedicated, committed, even? Absolutely.

The big change between the fan films of past decades and those of today is technology.  Thirty years ago, such films were only seen at conventions, often in people’s hotel rooms.  Save for a copy of a copy of a VHS tape, there was no way to obtain one for yourself.  So too for fanzines – stories and art got a hundred or so copies made, which were hawked at conventions, eventually selling through their single print run, never to be heard of again.  Now, literally anyone can film an adventure in 4K quality, with cinema-quality effects, and make it available globally with the click of a button. This makes these fans no more “entitled” than the fans of yore, it just makes them a lot easier to get recognition. Indeed, many times these fan productions catch the eyes of the official producers in a positive way. A fan-made opening for Doctor Who was considered such a good idea, they got a hold of him and used the idea for the series’ new opening titles.

But at the core is that Line. It was virtually impossible to make money on fan material back in the day – it’s almost difficult NOT to now.  But still, for the most part, the desire of the fan is not to make money, but to share their love for the property, and show off their own ideas and jokes.  We’ve seen entire video games created by fans based on their favorite shows and movies.  The sheer breadth of creativity by the fans of the world’s various popular properties likely outstrips the original works by an order of magnitude.

But I don’t know of many fans who think they have a “right” to do so.

When a company steps up and points out a fan project that crosses the line, there is usually a hue and/or cry to some degree.  People will claim the company has “gotten greedy”, and there will be some muted mumblings of boycotts, but in almost all cases, the item in question has simply stepped past that Line, and pretty much deserved to get hit with the ban-hammer.  And in the cases where they weren’t, so far, cooler heads have prevailed.  I’ve talked in the past about the Harry Potter Website scare.  When the HP books (and especially the films) became popular, fan websites proliferated, with various names that used terms and phrases from the series.  And someone in the Warner Brothers legal department thought these sites would cause the downfall of the franchise, and the Cease and Desist orders went out like the exact opposite of Hogwarts acceptance letters. And the news articles began to appear about ten-year-olds getting threatening legal letters, and there was much clicking of tongues, and Warner Brothers quietly waved their hand and the complaints were cancelled.

It’s always been a dance between creator and fandom.  The creators know they owe their fans for the money they’ve paid into the property, and respect their desire to want to play in their garden. The challenge has been in making sure nobody goes too far with their work, and have it potentially become a challenge to the original.  In the age of the electric-type internet, that’s becoming more possible.

We’re starting to see amazing new ways that fans and originators can co-operate.  Cartoon Network just announced a program where they’d work with fan artists to turn their creations into limited run officially licensed items. The fans get both major recognition for their work, and a few dollars to boot, and the creators get to wet their beak, and maintain control of the property.

In a very real way, these rules set forth by Paramount are a GOOD thing.  Strict tho they may be, they set up an actual set of rules that fan creations can follow. The Line is now LITERALLY drawn, which means there’s less chance of stepping over it in error.

Supergirl Flies To Archie’s House


If you are one of the confused masses who have been wondering why Supergirl was on CBS and not on the CW, stop wondering. Everybody decided the CBS thing was a mistake, and Supergirl will be joining Arrow, The Flash and probably Legends of Tomorrow on the mini-network next season. Which is this fall. Still confused? Hey, Jake, it’s Chinatown.

Aside from her DC comrades, Supergirl won’t be alone.  She will be joining Archie, Veronica, Jughead, Kevin and Betty in a new series, Riverdale, which is based upon the current crop of rebooted Archie titles. Yep, the CW is the official comics network.

In addition to their four-color roots, Supergirl and Riverdale have something in common with Arrow and the rest. All are produced by Greg Berlanti, a man so successful he could get a show based upon a can of singing worms on the CW. It should be noted that CBS owns a piece of the CW, and Warner Bros. – owner of Supergirl, Green Arrow, The Flash, and the sundry Legends of Tomorrow – owns the rest, outside of a sliver owned by WGN. Unless WGN sold off to finance their own new superstation shows.

It should also be noted that Supergirl was CBS’s #1 rated new series for the last season, although its audience share has dropped off noticeably. However, it’s big on DVRs, where people zip through the commercials. The show had one of the highest license fees for a new program, so, in addition to moving to the CW, Supergirl is also moving production from Los Angeles to Vancouver, a less expensive venue and the home to the other DC teevee shows. So I guess everybody is happy.

The episode where The Flash visited Supergirl and friends did quite well, and the move (both to the CW and to Vancouver) should make future ratings-boosting crossovers more available,

No word yet on when the new season starts.




cbs-supergirl-death-of-superman-theory-729118I don’t know what the hell goes on in the minds of the CBS suits, or why the hell they are dragging their heels about Supergirl’s future.

But it doesn’t look good.

Monday night at 8:00 I turned the television on to CBS, only to see that Big Bang Theory was on for the entire hour.  This isn’t the first time the network has done this; so have other networks for other shows, and it’s almost always a sign that the show is struggling for life, that its ratings are not satisfactory enough for the suits to keep the show on the air. 

CBS is not a network noted for niche or cult programming, or a network geared towards the “coveted” 18-34 slice of the Nielsen ratings.  Their programming has been dominated by police procedurals (NCIS and its many spin-offs) and soapy dramas masquerading as law procedurals (The Good Wife, Madame Secretary), and reality shows (The Amazing Race, Survivor) with sitcoms eating up the rest of the airtime.  And the sitcoms are pretty standard fare; Big Bang is—im-not-so-ho—an outlier on their schedule.  I really don’t know how that series ended up on CBS, it’s so out of the box for them. 

Buffy, The X-Files, Twin Peaks, Star Trek, The Walking Dead, The Sopranos were all the “little shows that could.”  All started out incredibly low in the ratings—Buffy lost out to Seventh Heaven initially, and only showed up as a truncated mid-season replacement its first year—but slowly became powerhouses through word-of-mouth.  But the networks to which they belonged all gave them a chance.  It may have been because there was nothing to replace them with; it may have been, like Star Trek, because of massive fan letter campaigns in that pre-internet dark age which in 2016 would equal or surpass the number of e-mails on Hillary’s private server.  Or, and I think this is the most important reason these shows stuck around to gain fan-atic followings, it may have been because there was at least one executive who championed it, who really believed in it.  I just haven’t read or seen that happening at CBS.  Rather, I think they simply wanted to jump on the bandwagon of the CW’s Arrow and Flash, and ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  There was no one who really loved Supergirl for herself and the show’s potential.

I admit, I was not all that happy with Supergirl when it first premiered.  (You can check out my initial complaints here.)  But followers of this column know that I have slowly been changing my mind, and I’m here to say—in-my-no-so-ho—that the second half of the series has really started to come into its own. 

For too long a time the supporting characters—Hank Henshaw/J’onn J’onzz, Alex Danvers, Cat Grant, even Max Lord, Winn Schott, Jimmy Olsen, and Lucy Lane—were developing and growing and becoming people we cared about.  Meanwhile Kara Zor-el/Kara Danvers/Supergirl was stuck in Barbie doll land—and then sometime around the

Episode 13, “For the Girl Who Has Everything,”—which I admit had some problems—the “doll” showed some cracks and wear and tear.  And with Episode 16, “Falling,when her Freudian moral super-ego becoming subordinate to her darker and selfish id, Kara Zor-el was a Barbie no more; like Pinocchio, she was no longer moving to a puppet master’s strings, always dancing and singing and play-acting, but suddenly self-aware.  Was it ugly?  Sure, but it was human, and suddenly the audience could identify with her. 

As of April 4th, and with the success of the Supergirl/Flash crossover—which absolutely rocked!!!! (and which was a big flip of the bird to that other team-up currently gracing movie screens)—giving the show a much-needed ratings boost, the series is still in renewal limbo, although Les Moonves, CBS’s president, has said that “all freshman shows are likely to be renewed.”

Not much of an endorsement, is it?

Hey, Moonves, let the girl fly!

Tweeks: Supergirl Review

Supergirl premiered on CBS Monday night setting a Fall series record of 14 million viewers. It was an undeniable teen hit with both boys and girls. And of course we watched it too.

But as critical fans of all things being superhero-y while female, did we enjoy it? Duh. But was her costume Tweeks Approved too? How does this show stack up against Agent Carter? Considering the middle school pressure to blend in would we keep their superhero powers a secret? Watch our review to find out the answers.

The Point Radio: Ashley Williams TV Wife With Spice

Ashley Williams is teaming up with comedian Jim Gaffigan to bring his home life to sit com life. She talks about the challenge and the fun she has had usually being a “good girl”. Plus more on JUSTICE LEAGUE GODS AND MONSTERS as actress Paget Brewster explains just how different her Lois Lane really is.

More in a few days with our look at Comedy Central’s DRUNK HISTORY and ANOTHER PERIOD. Be sure and follow us on Twitter now here.

The Point Radio: Farewell To LOST GIRL

It’s the fifth and final season for the SyFy supernatural show, LOST GIRL. Series star Anna Silk talks about her favorite moments (and the things she grabbed from the set on the last day) plus BITTEN’s Laura Vandervoort talks more about her show’s new season and what it was like to be TV’s first Supergirl.

We are back in just a few days and so is the hit Game Show Network series, THE IDIOTEST. We take the test – here – no holds barred!   Be sure to follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

REVIEW: True Detective

True DetectiveYears ago, there was a CBS miniseries, Chiefs, based on the Stuart Woods novel and featured a murder mystery that spanned the years, embroiling three different police chiefs. In 1983, it ran for three nights and I was captivated. When HBO debuted True Detective with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in January, I was immediately reminded of that event. Here, both men were involved in a 1995 murder and now, 17 years later, they get drawn back to the case.

The excellent serial killer serial ran eight episodes and maintained a nourish mood and style that set it apart from all the other serial killer serials that are currently running or recently ended. On the off-chance you missed it, HBO Home Entertainment is releasing a box set this week and it’s well recommended. A lot of the credit and perhaps the reason I was reminded of the earlier series may be that this too comes from a novelist, Nic Pizzolatto. Marty Hart (Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (McConaughey), members of Louisiana’s Criminal Investigation Division, are interviewed regarding the ’95 case where a woman’s body was found, the corpse artistically arranged. Since they stopped talking in 2002, the men are interviewed separately by detectives Thomas Papania (Tory Kittles) and Maynard Gilbough (Michael Potts) allowing for varying perspectives, points of view and slightly varying details.

Over the course of the episodes, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, another reason the series is consistently excellent, we learn about the initial investigation and the two deeply flawed men who were haunted by its gruesomeness. Hart has been cheating on his wife, Maggie (Michelle Monaghan), with court reporter Lisa Tragnetti (Alexandra Daddario), while Cohle is battling a drug dependency and is grieving over his dead daughter. Neither man is a saint and is far from perfect, so when a second body turns up, it makes them question the man they arrested nearly two decades earlier and is still in jail. Of course, stirring up the dark past is never good although it allows the actors a chance to shine time and again.

Pizzolatto and Fukunaga deftly intertwine the two timelines as we see the previous and current investigations unfold, each step rippling across the tortured psyches of the two detectives. And then comes the finale which, like so many before it, infuriated and tantalized its fan base.  We wanted Rust to find the Yellow King but found physics instead, which left many scratching their heads n confusion. There remain threads and questions for season two although some felt more should have been resolved to make the first eight episodes more satisfying.

The eps are neatly transferred to the three Blu-ray discs tucked within a nice slipcase. The show’s art direction is well replicated on the packaging giving it the same dank, creepy feel. Visually, the three discs are superb matched with excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. They are accompanied by some very nice bonus features starting with commentaries on episodes four (with Pizzolatto and Burnett) and five (Pizzolatto, Burnett and Executive Producer Scott Stephens). These are interesting (I wish there was one for the finale) although the chatter is not wall to wall as we’ve come to expect these days. HBO’s patented Inside the Episode featurettes are included followed by two deleted scenes from episodes three and eight. There is also “Making True Detective“, a fifteen minute overview which emphasizes the production design; an eight-minute chat with McConaughey and Harrelson; and, a fourteen minute dialogue between Pizzolatto and Burnett. The box set comes complete with a digital copy of the season.

REVIEW: Shazam! The Complete Series

shazamordwaycvrGrowing up, Saturday morning television meant cartoons and nothing but cartoons. By the 1970s, though, live-action bits crept in, starting with Christopher Glenn’s In the News interstitials on CBS along with silly things like The Banana Splits and H.R. Puffenstuff. In 1974, though, Filmation cleverly blended the two as it took the Big Red Cheese from comics to television. Shazam! debuted in the fall of 1974 with Michael Gray as Billy Batson, charged by the animated gods with their powers to fight crime in the adult body of Captain Marvel.

Last year, Warner Archive released the complete series on DVD and it is as charming as ever in its simplicity. In a mere thirty minutes, Billy and Mentor (Les Tremayne) rode the highways of California in their RV and when danger struck, the magic lightning let Bill become the hero (Jackson Bostwick). The effects were little better than when George Reeves donned the red and blue costume as Superman twenty years earlier. Both fought evil with similar solemnity and everything was put back to order by the time the end credits rolled.

Throughout the 3-disc, 28-episode collection, nary another character from the comics are used, divorcing it from the source material, which is a shame since it could have used a Dr. Sivana or animated Mr. Talky-Tawny. Also, the wizard Shazam is absent and Billy gets advice directly from Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury.

Bostwick was an earnest and likeable Captain Marvel and when he was replaced by John Davey, it’s fairly seamless. Gray’s Billy is easily five years too old to be a convincing youth but he’s very likeable while veteran character Tremayne does a fine job with little material.

Unfortunately the series aired from 1974-1976, a time when parent groups pressured the networks into cleaning up the level of violence the precious children were exposed to which undercut what could have been a fine kid’s action series. There’s fun stuff going on but a lot of missed opportunities as each case became a teachable moment instead of a thrilling thirty minutes of action. Still, the show was a cut above its competition which is why it is so well remembered. There’s a crossover with Isis (Joanna Cameron), who helmed a spinoff series of her own that was collected some time back and worth seeking out.

It would have been nice to have some extras but the Warner Archive program brings things to smaller audiences at the cost of no money invested in such bonuses,. We do, though, get a lovely cover from artist Jerry Ordway, who did a memorable run with the character in the 1990s.

The Point Radio: PERSON OF INTEREST Shakes Things Up


It’s been a pretty eventful few weeks on the CBS series, PERSON OF INTEREST. We talk to cast members abut their reactions to those events and where the show may be headed for the rest of the season. Plus WALKING DEAD finishes up big and Robert Downey Jr. hit Crackle.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE! The Point Radio App is now in the iTunes App store – and it’s FREE! Just search under “pop culture The Point”. The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any other  mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.