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Hulu's first scripted weekly series falls short of a Battleground worth claiming


The new web-only series Battleground trains its sights on the minds behind a fictional Wisconsin Senate campaign. Hulu photo

Premiering: Thursday, Feb. 14th on hulu.com and hulu plus
Starring: Jay Hayden, Teri Reeves, Jack DeSena, Ben Samuel, Lindsey Cutter, Jordan T. Maxwell, Alison Haislip
Produced by: JD Walsh, Hagai Shaham, Marc Webb

By ED BARK
The title is more than a little misleading, suggesting an intergalactic series or at least a bloody war front of some sort.

But during election seasons, Battleground also can be a hotly contested state. And hulu.com doesn't yet have budgets big enough to accommodate a lot of scope, costumes or special effects.

What we have here then is strictly earthbound and filmed in your friendly content provider's old school daze city of Madison, Wisconsin. Battleground, launching Tuesday, Feb. 14th on both hulu.com and hulu plus, is scheduled to run for 13 episodes in half-hour chunks. It's hulu's first original scripted series and for the most part plays like a semi-promising minor league pitcher without good enough stuff to play in the Bigs. Nice try, though, and everyone has to start somewhere.

Battleground's theme song and talk-to-the-camera interludes are reminiscent of The Office and its numerous offshoots. It's also at least mildly derivative of HBO's landmark Tanner '88 series, in which a fictional presidential campaign was tracked from the inside out.

Hulu's first two episodes of Battleground fall well short of both antecedents. The campaign staff for plain-faced, middle-aged U.S. Senate candidate Deirdre Samuels (Meighan Gerachis) is notably young and pretty but not very believable. And an incoming volunteer named Ben Werner (Ben Samuel) is impossibly naive and wide-eyed -- to the point where you'd like to grab his shoulders and shake him for the remainder of the premiere episode.

Running the show is Chris "Tak" Davis (Jay Hayden), who has GQ model looks but way too nice a temperament for a campaign manager of even a school board race.

Tak's chief media strategist, Kara "KJ" Jamison (Teri Reeves), likewise lacks the requisite bite. There's also one-note Jordan T. Mosley (Jordan T. Maxwell), who likes to think he's a key operative but is actually the campaign's "copy room advisor." Add speechwriter Cole Graner (Jack DeSena), who's romantically involved with KJ, and campaign helper Lindsey Cutter (Lindsey Payne), who's warming to Ben. And Ali Laurents (Alison Haislip) is increasingly indispensable as the "social media director."

The would-be senator they all work for is decidedly charisma-challenged, as is the show. Battleground's first two episodes, while not unwatchable, don't achieve enough liftoff to merit must-see return trips to hulu for further weekly adventures. The whole enterprise is too labored and forced for that. Waiting for Battleground to jell seems like too much of a losing proposition. A candidate who seemingly has nothing going for her only compounds matters.

GRADE: An on-the-curve C in deference to Battleground's web origins

new jerryseinfeld.com is fun, but not navigable enough right now


By ED BARK
The brand new jerryseinfeld.com not surprisingly is all about him.

But if he's being a show-off, it's to our advantage. Let him explain under the "What Is This?" heading, in which Seinfeld notes that he started watching stand up comics on TV when he was 10 years old.

"I fell in love with them and I'm just as fascinated with stand up comedy today," he says. Furthermore, "when I started doing TV, I saved every appearance on every show I did."

So what he's done lately is sift through all of his old stuff and pick three brief bits a day to post on his website. They all "still amuse me for some reason or another," he says. "Somewhere out there are ten year olds like I was just waiting to get hooked on this strange pursuit. This is for them. I'm just hoping somehow it will keep this silliness going."

One of his three Wednesday, May 11th submissions is "Rooting For Laundry." with which he regaled David Letterman during a 1994 appearance on his show. Fans who cheer for sports teams, he says, are really "rooting for clothes" because the players keep changing from season to season. It's an amusing little sniglet.

Here's one problem, though. Right now you can't access the previous day's bits. Or anything else other than the three riffs currently on Seinfeld's daily menu. So you may not see this in time to watch "Rooting For Laundry." But you may be just in time to take in the Thursday, May 12th trio of "Golf is an avoidance technique; Closed captioned for the movie impaired" and "The post office is like a lava lamp."

Seinfeld needs to fix this. Otherwise it's a great idea.

"Welcome to Cambio, where fans become friends"


Up-close on their terms with Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas

By ED BARK
The new website Cambio is the latest way for celebrities of a certain age and status to blow past conventional media outlets and go directly to their fans.

In other words, it won't be warts and all. What you'll see is what they want you to get.

Launched Tuesday, Cambio (which means change in Spanish) is a production of AOL, MGX Lab and the Jonas Group, which reps the Jonas Brothers (who have a home in North Texas), Demi Lovato (whose mom was a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader) and Season 6 American Idol champ Jordin Sparks among others.

Aimed at 13-to-24-year-olds, Cambio is a "safe environment" for stars to communicate with fans, Kevin Jonas Sr. told The New York Times.

A visit to the web site Wednesday immediately cued up a video of Lovato welcoming customers to Cambio and touting her filming of the premiere episode of Cambio Cares in Santiago, Chile.

The Jonas Brothers -- Nick, Joe and Kevin -- also provide a brief video taste of their new Road Dogs softball team, with more coming. For now you get a collection of squealing fans, a snippet of game footage and Joe Jonas declaring, "I'm not trying to boast. I'm just saying we're gonna win. We're gonna win with all my force." Whatever develops, you probably won't see any ground balls going through his legs.

Another early feature, Cambio Connect, is hosted by an aggressively exuberant guy named Quddus. Fans are encouraged to interact with Cambio's roster of stars via Twitter, Facebook and youtube. They're also urged to send in questions, but don't throw any sucker punches. In the first installment, Allison J 20 asks Sparks what it felt like to win American Idol. "It felt so amazing," she says in part. Sparks also experienced "surprise and awe."

Well, there you have it -- and welcome to it. And here's that Road Dogs video.

Treasure trove: Archive of American Television puts major players on record


By ED BARK
Brimming with facts, figures and interviews with many of the medium's most prominent figures, the newly remodeled Archive of American Television can be a site for sore eyes once you start navigating it.

In other words, it can be hard to stop watching. Some of the interviews -- and interviewers -- obviously are better than others. And a few bugs still need to be squashed. But as a TV tutorial, this is a gold mine.

Below is a portion of an interview with Hill Street Blues creator Steven Bochco, who very candidly talks about the ups and downs of this landmark NBC series. You can either watch the whole half-hour or move up to the 10-minute mark, where Bocho talks about drug use on the set and some of the series' combustible actors. It'll take just over 30 seconds for the entire interview to load up, so a little patience is required.

Bocho has seldom been shy about expressing his opinions, so that helps. Other TV giants among 219 interviewees to date include Steve Allen, James Arness, Bea Arthur, Bob Barker, Milton Berle, David Brinkley, Sid Caesar, Walter Cronkite, Dick Van Dyke, James Garner, Larry Hagman, Angela Lansbury, Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, Carroll O'Connor, Carl Reiner, Tim Russert, Aaron Spelling, Grant Tinker, Barbara Walters and Betty White.

Here's Bochco discoursing on Hill Street:

Killer trailer for 4th season of Showtime's Dexter

Now the married father of three, including a newborn baby, Dexter Morgan and his serial killing ways return to Showtime on Sunday, September 27th.

The network has put together a blood-curdling trailer for Season 4 of Dexter, in which John Lithgow will join the cast as "The Trinity Killer" while Keith Carradine reprises his role as Special Agent Frank Lundy. Michael C. Hall stars in a title role that so far has earned him three Emmy nominations, including one earlier this month. Here's the clip.
Ed Bark