The BLOG FLUME -- Fantasies and Frights

Michael Eisner says he'll leave Disney in such great shape it can coast for years. Um, hasn't that been the plan for, oh, a decade or so?

Written by Joe Llorens
Published: October 7, 2004 at 12:32 PM

1. From the Mickey News website:

Eisner is claiming that when he steps down in September of 2006, he will, “leave the company so robust that it will thrive for years after he’s gone.”

Excuse me? Did we all miss something? I think Mr. Eisner has finally lost it. He’s done way too many little tribute films with animated Mickey, and now he thinks that the Sorcerer’s Apprentice is actually going to wave his magic wand and make everything better. Aren’t the Disney Co.’s estimates being reduced today? Sounds like a company on the rebound, Mike.

My favorite quote from the article, though, was, “There’s a lot of high-fiving going on at ABC.”

I can picture it now: Hey, I know what we can do, let’s take a proven franchise like the Bachelor, but instead of hot young people we can put a bunch of forty-year-olds on the screen who, no matter how good-looking they are, make you feel a little sad that at this point in their lives they still haven’t found someone and have to resort to this shallow, empty device to try and meet the person of their dreams. Oh, and let’s develop an entire series around William Shatner, an actor who has become a desperate parody of himself. (slap high-five)

To understand the mentality of this network, one must only examine its show titles: "Hope & Faith," "Less Than Perfect," "Desperate Housewives," "Extreme Makeover" and the ever-indicative "Lost."

2. From the Orlando Sentinel:

Just a quick recap of the Halloween-related events going on in Orlando this weekend. You have the obvious listings for Horror Nights, Howl-O-Scream and the Not-So-Scary-So-What’s-The-Point events, but also some info on more local, low-key happenings around the city. The Orlando Ghost Tours seem pretty interesting.

The only problem I have with something like the Ghost Tours is that I have a hyper-active imagination. But I love going through haunted houses. I am a masochistic jerk. The thing is that I get sacred by these things, and it’s all well and good while you’re at the event. The problems start, though, when it’s three days later and I’m in bed trying to go to sleep and I suddenly revert back to age 5 and can think of nothing other than the badly made-up witch that jumped out at me with the cheap rubber elongated fingers and smoker’s cough. I really need to stop doing that to myself.

See ya at Horror Nights!

Readers' Opinions

From Jason Moore on October 7, 2004 at 1:02 PM
Actually, ABC is making some steps in the right direction this year. Desperate Housewives and Lost are both quite decent and have performed well so far. Spader and Shatner both just won Emmy's for their work on the Practice last year so I would hardly call setting a new show around them a bad idea (this show has also performed well so far). In fact, looking at the recent ratings for all new shows on all networks, these 3 are doing better than most (even better than Joey). I'm not trying to be super defensive of ABC or Disney here, I just don't see a point in continuing to cut them down just because it's the thing to do. Yes, they still have a long way to, but at least give them credit when they make a possitive step toward improvment. We'll see how everybody holds up as the season progresses...
From TH Creative on October 7, 2004 at 2:13 PM
I concur with Jason! And so does the Motely Fool

"I'll have to admit that I didn't think Disney (NYSE: DIS) could do it. When the company's board announced that it was hoping to name a successor to CEO Michael Eisner by June, and with COO and ABC chieftain Bob Iger as its lone internal candidate, I figured the company's next CEO would come from the outside. Would Iger have a shot if ABC was still in the ratings basement? There was no way that ABC could fix itself in a single season.

I was wrong. Like so many others these days, I'm watching ABC again -- even when it isn't Monday night and I have a fantasy football game on the line! The stranded Lost islanders have grown on me on Wednesdays. On Sunday, I caught last week's highest-rated show, Desperate Housewives, and was pleasantly surprised by the Boston Legal follow-up."

From Russell Meyer on October 7, 2004 at 3:41 PM
Desperate Housewives was the first original ABC show to top the ratings in years, so to mock the title and say that "hi-fiving at ABC" is not warrented is ludicrus. ABC has made a giant leap this season, and is actually the only network whose numbers have increased over last year, granted they were so low, going up is not that much of a stretch. While I haven't watched the episodes of Boston Legal saved on my TIVO, I have seen lost, and it is by far one of the best new shows since Alias and 24.

ABC is improving much more than anyone could have expected, so give some credit where credit is due instead of taking the easy road of trashing Disney.

From J. Dana on October 7, 2004 at 3:47 PM
Here here....I was kinda surprised at this absolutely ridiculous diatribe against ABC's new season. Or against Disney in general. As is evident, we all take our swings at Disney when it's warranted (which is often), but Joe, don't think the Blog Flume must be a slug-fest. Sometimes good things do happen, even for Disney. Here's a sampling:

(Hollywood Reporter) – New releases flood into the top reaches of the Billboard 200 this week, led by two titles from the Walt Disney Co.'s Buena Vista Music Group. For the first time ever, Disney labels claim the top two slots on the album chart.

Prime-Time Nielsen Ratings

(AP) - Prime-time viewership numbers compiled by Nielsen Media Research for Sept. 27-Oct. 3. Top 20 list-ings include the week's ranking, with viewership for the week and season-to-date rankings in parentheses. An "X" in parentheses denotes a one-time-only presentation.

1.(X) "Desperate Housewives," ABC, 21.6 million viewers.
2.(9) "Survivor: Vanuatu," CBS, 19.9 million viewers.
3.(2) "CSI: Miami," CBS, 19.7 million viewers.
4.(6) "CSI: NY," CBS, 19.5 million viewers.
5.(5) "NFL Monday Night Football: Dallas at Washington," ABC, 19.4 million viewers.
6.(7) "Everybody Loves Raymond," CBS, 18.7 million viewers.
7.(8) "Lost," ABC, 17 million viewers.
8.(10) "Two And a Half Men," CBS, 16.6 million viewers.
9.(X) "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 16.4 million viewers.
10.(15) "NFL Monday Showcase," ABC, 15.2 million viewers.
11.(X) "Cold Case," CBS, 15 million viewers.
12.(24) "60 Minutes," CBS, 14.9 million viewers.
13.(X) "The Apprentice 2," (Wednesday), NBC, 14.7 million viewers.
14.(17) "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," ABC, 14.5 million viewers.
15.(X) "Navy NCIS," CBS, 14.3 million viewers.
16.(11) "Joey," NBC, 13.6 million viewers.
17.(X) "Decision '04: Presidential Debate Analysis," NBC, 13.4 million viewers.
18.(X) "Boston Legal," ABC, 13.1 million viewers.
19.(15) "Law & Order: SVU," NBC, 13 million viewers.
20.(12) "Law & Order," NBC, 12.9 million viewers.

(Variety) – Long-suffering ABC appears to be neither lost nor desperate in the early going this season, as last week it enjoyed some much-needed success in the drama arena. With "Desperate Housewives" storming out of the gate Sunday and Wednesday's "Lost" remaining hot in its second outing, the Alphabet swept the week of Sept. 27-Oct. 3 in key demo categories.

NEW YORK (AP) – ESPN's regular-season baseball audience was up 7 percent from last season and the highest it's been since 2001. ESPN averaged more than 1.2 million viewers for its 86 games, according to Nielsen Media Research. The 1.1 average rating increased 10 percent over last season. ESPN averaged more than 2.4 million viewers for 19 telecasts of Sunday Night Major League Baseball, the largest average audience since 1998, and up 11 percent from 2003.

I guess that's overkill enough...and about those Orlando Ghost Tours: they're pretty good. I've been on them twice. For a real treat, though, take the drive to St. Augustine and do them in the oldest city in the country...truly eerie.

From Derek Potter on October 7, 2004 at 4:12 PM
ABC is doing better....finally, but one week of Desperate Housewives being number one isn't enough to celebrate. Don't get me wrong, it's a good show, but it's one mile in a marathon. Nothing will be proven to me until they can keep it that way. Monday Night Football will make them look good for the fall and winter, and ESPN has been the proverbial diamond in the rough since forever. What about ABC Family??? Still a pile. Their film division??? crap. Their parks??? profitable but not nearly what they once were. ABC is doing better, but for Eisner to say he will build the company to "robustness" in two years after leading them in a tailspin for the past eight is a pretty bold statement. Only time will tell if his mouth is still writing checks that his butt can't cash.

From John Franklin on October 7, 2004 at 6:07 PM
Eisner did make a bold statement, the only problems are:
How will he get Paris Disneyland out of its tailspin and ever-pending bankruptcy?
How will he turn both Disneyland (with its nearly dead Tomorrowland) and Ca Adventures (with its equally dead Hollywood Backlot) around?
How will he get the Paris Studios popular?
How will he keep MGM-Disney Studios from going belly up?
How will he get Animal Kingdom to become a full-day park?
When will he follow the examples of the Oriental Land Company in how to run Theme Parks?
How will he turn the live-action movies around and become popular again?
When will he follow the lead of Pixar in how to do animated movies?
The only bright spot for Disney seem to be their Broadway plays. It is true that the Lion King is still going strong. Beauty and the Beast just completed 10 years on stage. And they just started in London a stage version of Mary Poppins which has great reviews to date.
But, it will take more than 3 great series to keep ABC up in the ratings. It needs its own version of a CSI or Law and Order series. None seems to be forthcoming right now.
From Derek Potter on October 7, 2004 at 7:07 PM
I will add to that short list of bright spots....ESPN. After that, there is pretty much nothing. I said that it was a bold statement, however, at this point it's a big load of hot air. A change of this magnitude would take a miracle worker, and to my knowledge, Disney has none of those anymore.
From John Franklin on October 7, 2004 at 8:18 PM
I agree with you. Eisner is full of hot air. The only question I have: with all the hot air Eisner has inside him, what keeps him from floating away?
Actually, Derek, Disney does have one miracle worker named Matt Ouimet. Do you know who he is?
From Kevin Baxter on October 8, 2004 at 12:53 AM
I agree with Derek. While I applaud ABC for finally putting on some quality shows like Lost, Housewives and Boston Legal, one week of ratings highs after being in the basement for so long deserves nothing more than a high-five.

For one thing, the debate absolutely killed Top Ten shows CSI and Without a Trace, both of which ended up being repeats. New shows this week will push ratings down everywhere else.

Also, Fox hasn't even started their season yet, so ABC is basically playing against CBS and NBC. CBS is still killing them, but ABC is making great ground on NBC, which hasn't had much success beyond Joey. So ABC should be proud of that, if their shows hold on.

Lost appears to be doing so, as it is still first in its timeslot after three weeks. So good for that show. We'll see if Sunday holds up this week, but historically Sundays have always been a decent night for ABC. They've just gotten a lot better. (Which certainly doesn't bode well for Alias, does it? Expect that show to die this season.)

Problem is, all those other nights are still problems. They have three months of football, then back to the cellar on that night. Tuesdays are okay, but no big shows there. Fridays are getting suckier. And does ABC even have shows on Thursday???

Even Wednesdays are a bit problematic as The Bachelor, ABC's usually reliable reality show, is fading fast. I don't expect that to go beyond this season either. Losing three shows that perform fairly well - The Bachelor, Alias and NYPD Blue - isn't something a network as lowly as ABC can withstand well. CBS, yes. Fox, maybe. Just look what losing Friends and Frasier has done to NBC. You climb out slowly, but falling in is a quick process.

I don't want to take away from ABC having those three good shows. Hell, I'm watching them (even though it took me a bit to remember which channel ABC actually was) but I don't think people should get carried away. If they do, then Iger could be running the WHOLE show, and I don't think any of us want that. After all, how long did it take the man to get a hit show on the network after screwing up Millionaire so badly?

From TH Creative on October 8, 2004 at 4:51 AM
MR. BAXTER WRITES: I don't want to take away from ABC having those three good shows. Hell, I'm watching them (even though it took me a bit to remember which channel ABC actually was) ...

I RESPOND: Now THAT was very funny!

From V L on October 8, 2004 at 6:04 AM
I think we also have to consider that M.E. probably had very little to do with the great new shows (LOST is one of best news shows on television in recent history, in my opinion.) other than wave his hand to approve them. I think he got lucky, and the few extra million a year of possible from revenue IF the shows become a runaway hit will do very little to the gargantuan financial insecurity of the theme parks, lifetime, ABC Family....

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe LOST is a Metaphor for the Disney Company- the survivors is what's left of the different divisions of the company. M.E. is the gargantuan "thing" threatening to gobble them up, there's no hope is sight, and no one is really leading the company towards any viable solution. The pilot symbolizes the traditional animation department- (2D animation "drove" the company in the beginning,) but M.E.'s greed (hunger) already gobbled them up. And the Disney stores...they stood still for too long, and they got sucked up into the engine.

The more I think about it, the more brilliant the show is!

From TH Creative on October 8, 2004 at 10:37 AM
Disney stock floated just above the $25.00 mark on today's trading. Perhaps this can be tied to the success of ABC.

Still waiting for the day the stock will "drop into the teens" as someone here once predicted.

Guess who? :o)

From Ben Mills on October 8, 2004 at 10:49 AM
For any newbies to the site, THC is of course referring to himself.


From Joe Llorens on October 8, 2004 at 10:52 AM
At the risk of sounding like I'm desperately defending my blog, I'd like to desperately defend it. Like it's been said, three weeks does not make up for years and years of futility.

To suggest that I'm speaking out against Eisner just because it's the thing to do is to not really know who you're talking about. I have traditionally been a staunch Disney supporter, as you can plainly see in my post history. But one would have to be fooling themselves if they didn't see how the quality of the product has suffered over the years.

As far as the film aspect of the company goes, with the exception of Pirates, it's been companies that are associated with Disney and not Disney themselves that have been making the Nemo-sized splashed.

While ESPN has continued to be the crown jewel of the television division, you can't honestly say that it hasn't become a diluted shell of what it used to be. (I love poker as much as the next guy, but for Christ's sake, enough!!!)

ABC has been the laughing stock of the major networks for years now. If it hadn't been for Monday Night Football all these years, ABC would have become a non-entity a long time ago. Now they put out shows like Housewives and Lost that are showing some life and people are a bit quick to say that ABC is on it's way back into contention. They need to demonstrate some longevity before they are to be taken seriously again.

Maybe I should have written this in my original post, but it was really early and I was hung over. ;-)

From TH Creative on October 8, 2004 at 1:37 PM
BUZZ!! Ben sets of the sarcasm meter...AGAIN!

No, Mr. Mills, I did not make such a prediction. That would have been made by someone else. :o)

From Derek Potter on October 8, 2004 at 5:46 PM
I agree with the whole poker thing. I'm sick of watching it too, but there are a lot of people who aren't. Football has started again, and NBA will start soon again, so we will see more content. Add to that the Around The Horn/PTI hour (which I absolutely love), the ever popular sportscenter, and all of the other original shows and movies they are coming out with, and you still have a winner.
From Michael Patalano on October 8, 2004 at 9:33 PM
To Kevin: Since when has Sunday been a historically good night for ABC? In fact, before last year (and Ex. Makeover H.E.) ABC was constantly 3rd with WWoD/Alias/The Practice.
FOX does not pose a big threat until January. The biggest thing they will have until then will be the predestined playoffs between Yankees and Red Sox. The Bachelor isn't going anywhere as ABC has a contract to air (I think) two more versions of the show, in addition to the Bachelorettes.
To VL; You have to give Eisner credit where credit is due. You cannot say he is only part of bad shows and has no involvement in successful shows. That is downright unfair & we all know it.
To Joe: I am not going to complain about your article but rather just one line from your post "...three weeks does not make up for years and years of futility..." Those 2-3 years are gone and over with. Sure, you can't make up for the past, but you can improve the future. It is like saying "two days of sun can't make up for 5 days of rain." It rained, it's over, you can't change it.
Anyway, I applaud ABC, Disney, Michael Eisner, and Bob Iger on ABC's success and I hope this is signs of a ratings boost for ABC.


From Kevin Baxter on October 9, 2004 at 12:44 AM
I didn't mean since the beginning of time. And I'm not exactly sure how my "decent" turned into "good." Ratings have been "decent" as those shows weren't doing as badly as many, but they were actually "good" for ABC.

As for all this other crap, three shows certainly does not erase all the crap. Like:

Last fall where EVERY SHOW BUT ONE was created in-house, so Disney could rake in the syndication bucks. HA!

ABC turning down CSI because they didn't think it would play overseas. That one was actually approved and Eisner said No.

ABC turning away Mark Burnett and The Apprentice because they didn't want to pay that much. How much are they paying for friggin' Lost???

ABC totally ruining the cash cow known as Millionaire. That will forever be known as one of the most incompetent moves in television history.

And let's not all pretend this is something that has lasted 2-3 years! Disney bought ABC in 1995 when it was a money-printing machine and has since turned it into a money loser. The network has been sucking fumes since 2000! And while Eisner certainly shares some of the blame, Iger is the one who should be targeted. The man is a boob.

The biggest problem ABC faces is counting their chickens. What happens if Desperate Housewives gets too silly? What if people have decided they've had enough William Shatner? What if Lost runs out of tricks? Audiences are down all over network television. There's no reason to believe ABC can sustain the sudden interest in their network.

From TH Creative on October 9, 2004 at 5:32 AM
Mr. Baxter is so right aboout this! I guess his prediction that the Disney stock will inevitablly drop into the "teens" causing another takeover attempt from an outside company will happen any day now.

I'll sit here and wait.


From Joe Llorens on October 9, 2004 at 11:34 AM
"To Joe: I am not going to complain about your article but rather just one line from your post "...three weeks does not make up for years and years of futility..." Those 2-3 years are gone and over with. Sure, you can't make up for the past, but you can improve the future. It is like saying "two days of sun can't make up for 5 days of rain." It rained, it's over, you can't change it."

I think a more appropriate analogy would be two days of sun can't make up for a monsoon, which is how bleak the ABC ratings have been in recent memory. Like I said before, ABC has been so dismal as of late that people are a bit too desperate to say, "Hey, they're on their way back up," just because a couple of shows show some promise. I'm also not condemning ABC right off the bat, I'm just saying that Eisner's claims that he's going to leave the Disney Co. in as good a shape as he says he will are more than a bit exaggerated.

From Michael Patalano on October 9, 2004 at 1:15 PM
"ABC turning down CSI because they didn't think it would play overseas. That one was actually approved and Eisner said No.

ABC turning away Mark Burnett and The Apprentice because they didn't want to pay that much. How much are they paying for friggin' Lost???"

Well first off, your ASSuming that CSI and The Apprentice would have performed the same on ABC. You simply do not know that. For all we know, CSI could have bombed on ABC and people would have complained to ABC for picking that show up. An idea that works on one network may not work on another, ex. Wife Swap/Trading Spouces, Apprentice/Benefactor, Bachelor/Joe Millionaire/Every other copy of it. Also, there are more factors to a show's success than what network they are on. For example, ABC may have promoted it differently, and less people may have seen the promotions.

From Joe Llorens on October 10, 2004 at 3:43 PM
"An idea that works on one network may not work on another, ex. Wife Swap/Trading Spouces, Apprentice/Benefactor, Bachelor/Joe Millionaire/Every other copy of it."

There's a big difference between a carbon copy show not doing well on another network and the ACTUAL show being on another network. Do you honestly think that people who are fans of CSI wouldn't change the channel if it were being shown on ABC instead of CBS? Last I heard, people were fans of shows, not networks.

From Robert Niles on October 10, 2004 at 6:46 PM
Yeah, but would CSI have made the leap from a Friday night cult show with mediocre ratings to the top show on TV without Survivor's lead-in after CSI moved to Thursday night?

ABC didn't have anything to help expose the public to CSI, like CBS had with Survivor.

From Joe Llorens on October 10, 2004 at 7:05 PM
That's a good point Robert, but I still say that I'm right.

Oh yeah, and nya nya ny-nya nya. ;-)

From Kevin Baxter on October 11, 2004 at 11:17 AM
Let's not rewrite history, people. Not only was CSI pretty much ignored before its debut so CBS could focus on advertising its very expensive remake of The Fugitive, but CSI was doing a great job on Fridays, which is historically a very low viewer night. CSI was moved to Thursdays because Les Moonves believed he finally had a show that could compete with NBC's MustSeeTV. While Survivor battled for first in its timeslot, CSI killed everything in its slot.

While I do believe the way a network treats a show has a lot to do with how well it can do - like Fox and the way it killed great shows like Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Futurama and The Tick - I think CSI would have done well anywhere. When fall seasons start, people pay attention to the shows with buzz. Which is why they are watching these three new ABC shows. CSI got great buzz and would have succeeded anywhere. ESPECIALLY overseas, which is the stupidest part of all this. This show has extended scenes where no one says a word and these morons thought it wouldn't play overseas? Retarded!

As for your friggin' obsession with MY allegedly predicting Disney stock would fall into the teens, THC, why don't you grow a brain? I don't expect the stupidity to go away, but maybe some memory cells might start working. I personally did not predict Disney stock would go into the teens. Alleged experts did and I simply repeated it, as was my job writing the Flume. I don't care about stock value, as it is a barometer of exactly nothing or of stock "experts" whose opinions are slightly less biased than yours. So shut the hell up and let the adults have a conversation.

As for the new shows... Lost is still doing well, though not nearly as well as Desperate Housewives, which held up well in its second week. NOT holding up well was Boston Legal, which still won the hour but lost millions of ABC viewers once Housewives was over.

On the other end of the spectrum, life as we know it did horribly and may fulfill my prediction of being the first show cancelled this year. Then again, Disney may wait just so its utter failure doesn't taint the 2 1/2 successes it has right now.

From richard mauerhan on October 12, 2004 at 8:01 PM
The best thing that could happen to the Walt Disney Company would be for the powers that be (at some point) to sell off ABC, ESPN, Miramax, and nearly all of the "delivery" portion of a company that should really focus solely on its "content". Trying to fill the vast demand on the delivery side has diluted the quality (nothing you don't all know already). Use the cash for a stock buy-back to limit vulnerability to a takeover of the leaner and more focused company and reinvest in the core theme parks, feature animation, filmed family entertainment and merchandise that's not junk. If there's anything to buy out there with the money it'd be Pixar. Return to telling good stories with great characters in state-of-the-art presentation. Disneyland could use some new attractions also. Start by clearing the area between Small World and Big Thunder around behind Storybookland (which should be kept). Get rid of the outdoor theater! Construct a new skull rock with a Peter Pan attraction (just to the left of Small World) that takes in double the capacity of the present Peter Pan (waiting an hour for that ride is not fair to small children (ever try to keep a 4-year-old happy or awake after an hour in that line?) Use the old Peter Pan location for another simpler dark ride themed to say Three Little Pigs, or Sleeping Beauty (with a dragon). Also add an Aladdin virtual reality ride (see the new DVD) next to the new Peter Pan ride. Put in a new land behind Thunder Mountain that's sort of London on the Thames and put in a Mary Poppins attraction using the vehicle technology used on the Spiderman attraction at Islands of Adventure in Florida. Put back the skyway, (yes through the Matterhorn), reopen the submarine with the Nemo layover, bring back the retro monorails in primary colors, install a new Carousel of Progress that's brought into the 21st Century, put back the people mover and revamp Star Tours. Open Space Mountain and paint the rest of Tomorrowland all white again. Remove the Tomorrowland videogame arcade. Get rid of all the drink and snack carts with the exception of ice cream and popcorn. Take the political correctness OUT of the Pirates of the Caribbean (remove the turkey leg and put back the girl's slipper back in the Pirate's hand). While we're at it, there's a fairly new artifact in the treasure sequence of Pirates that looks nothing like anything ever looted from the "Spanish" Main. How come? There should be a new parade with all the Disney characters (famous and not-so famous)from 1928 through 2004 in sequence of release. Get rid of those over-merchandized snowglobe floats - and never again allow guests to join in the parade. Families pay good money to see REAL Disney characters! The Christmas character parade I remember back in 1965 was REALLY magical. I would also discourage the "camping out phenomenon" where people spread out towels, blankets and quilts to reserve space along Main Street and Rivers of America hours before a parade or the Fantasmic Show. This is not the pool at the Hyatt on Maui. It looks more and more like a bad swap meet or a triage area following a disaster. Encourage the crowds to keep moving UNTIL 30 minutes before the show. Expect more from this tried and true Disney fan who really does believe in a happy ending....well eventually.

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