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Desperate Networks

Bill Carter, Author
Bill Carter, Author . Doubleday $26.95 (404p) ISBN 978-0-385-51440-8
Reviewed on: 03/27/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
Hardcover - 496 pages - 978-0-7393-2611-4
Compact Disc - 978-0-7393-2514-8
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 283 pages - 978-0-7679-2786-4
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The power relationships of network television have turned topsy-turvy in the last five years. Carter, who covers the industry for the New York Times , reveals as one example how NBC was muscled out of its first-place standing as the other networks developed hit after hit. The shows he chooses to showcase are instantly recognizable—American Idol , Survivor , Desperate Housewives —and in every case, the show's path to the airwaves is at least as dramatic as its content. Though Carter is primarily concerned with prime-time hits, his reporting spreads out from the Today Show to the nightly newscasts and, harking back to his bestselling The Late Shift , the negotiations that cemented Conan O'Brien as Jay Leno's successor on The Tonight Show . Despite multiple narrative threads, the story never gets confusing or bogged down. Though some clear heroes emerge, like Housewives creator Marc Cherry, most of the key figures, from Idol 's acerbic Simon Cowell to network execs like CBS head Les Moonves and NBC's Jeff Zucker, are depicted ambiguously, reflecting failures as well as successes. And it's Carter's insider access, illuminating the players' states of mind, that makes this backstage drama so riveting. (May 2)

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