One of the sillier TV controversies of this new year was the outrage from "Lost" fans over the possibility that the final season premiere would be delayed by the president's State of the Union speech.
In one of the more deft moves by the White House, the date was moved up from Feb. 2 to tonight, and the president will speak at 8 p.m. on the four big broadcast networks, as well as the all-news channels.
That means mostly reruns in the 7 p.m. hour -- except for a new edition of Fox's "American Idol" on Channel 6, as auditions continue from Dallas, with Neil Patrick Harris as one of the guest judges.
Here's a rundown of tonight's schedules for the other big networks:
- NBC has a "Mercy" rerun at 7 on Channel 4, and then gives over the final two hours of prime time to the speech and reaction.
- ABC has reruns of "Modern Family" and "The Middle" in the 7 p.m. hour on Channel 12, dedicates 90 minutes to the president and plans a "Cougar Town" rerun at 9:30.
- CBS has reruns of "The New Adventures of Christine" and "Gary Unmarried" in the 7 p.m. hour on Channel 58, and also plans 90 minutes of airtime for the speech and the follow-up, with a "Two and a Half Men" rerun at 9:30.
A little State of the Union TV trivia: It's now taken for granted that the State of the Union Speech is delivered on prime-time TV, so it's available to the largest potential audience. It was Lyndon B. Johnson who started that tradition on Jan. 4, 1965, in a speech in which he termed the nation: "free and restless, growing and full of hope."
But LBJ wasn't the first president to deliver his annual message to Congress in the evening. That would be Franklin D. Roosevelt, who delayed the normally daytime speech to the evening for his 1936 speech.
For the record, the Constitution doesn't call for the president to disrupt TV schedules with an annual speech, just requiring the president "from time to time" to provide "Congress information of the state of the union."
On TV: In another psychological blow to broadcast TV, Martha Stewart is moving her daily show to the Hallmark Channel starting this fall. It currently airs at 11 a.m. weekdays on Channel 12.
- Oprah Winfrey sits down with Jay Leno at 4 p.m. Thursday on Channel 12, as Leno starts trying to rebuild his image, which was tarnished in NBC's late-night mess.
- Leno, by the way, will end his failed 9 p.m. show on Feb. 9. He'll return to "The Tonight Show" on March 1, after the Winter Olympics. Until the Olympics start, NBC will air reruns of Conan O'Brien's "Tonight Show" in the 10:35 p.m. slot.
- The History Channel is giving Daniel Lawrence Whitney, better known as "Larry the Cable Guy," his own show in the third quarter of this year. "Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy" will feature the comedian traveling to historic sites.
- For the first time since the 2008 presidential election, Fox News Channel topped all cable channels in prime-time last week, with USA Network in second. Interest in the Senate race in Massachusetts helped.
Counting down to "Lost": With the State of the Union Address safely out of the way, the coast is clear for the final season premiere of ABC's "Lost" at 7 p.m. Tuesday on Channel 12.
I've never been part of the "Lost" cult, so I'm not up on all the questions that need to be resolved by the time the finale ends.
But this video tries to lay them out for you.
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.