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    Published on: March 13, 2015

    by Kevin Coupe

    One of the questions I get asked most often by MNB readers with whom I find myself chatting is this: "Have you ever gotten up in the morning and had nothing to write about?"

    The answer, happily, is no. It's never happened. Not in the more than 13 years that I've been doing MNB. There's always something ... though some mornings are better than others.

    Consider, for example, today. It could've just been a regular morning, replete with stories that offered business lessons about strategic thinking, tactical movement, and smart marketing.

    But, no.

    Today, there was a story that ran in newspapers all over the UK. One of those papers was the North Devon Journal, which provided perhaps one of the best headlines I've ever had the pleasure to read:

    "Erection-inducing deadly spiders found in Tesco bananas by shocked wife"

    It's okay. You can go back and read it again. (I did when I first saw it.)

    This is, in fact, an actual story. Not something from the Onion, and it ran in newspapers all over Britain. Some papers emphasized the killer spider part of the story, some focused on the erection. The really good ones - and by "good," I mean the ones that really wanted to be read - managed to get all the elements into their headlines - the killer spiders, the erection, and, of course, the bananas.

    It seems that what happened is that a man bought a package of Costa Rican bananas from his local Tesco and brought them home, where his wife discovered that they were infested with Brazilian Wandering Spiders, which are also known as Banana Spiders. (Apparently, the Brazilian Wandering Spiders are common to Costa Rica, which explains, if nothing else, the whole "wandering spider" thing...)

    According to the story, "It is considered the world's most dangerous spider. They are aggressive and venomous spiders which can lead to death and serious injury - including a painful four-hour erection."

    The woman reportedly called Tesco, where a representative said she should bring the bananas back to the store where they were bought, so that the local manager could decide on the proper course of action.

    Really? That's the best they could come up with?

    I find myself wondering what the options might've been, other than taking the bananas back, killing the spiders, and offering both a full refund and an apology.

    Perhaps the spiders could've been repackaged, priced higher, and marketed to murderous and/or dissatisfied wives in the "marital aides" section. (It's been a bad run for Tesco, you've got to grab the opportunities when and where you can.)

    Of course, if Tesco did this I assume it would have to offer all the usual caveats to customers. Like, "normally when a man finds himself with a four-hour erection we would urge him to call a doctor, but in this case a mortician probably would be the better course of action..."

    In fact, the North Devon Journal writes, Tesco probably could've sold the spiders to the scientists who actually are studying the Brazilian Wandering Spiders to see if their venom can be adopted for erectile dysfunction treatments. (Can't wait to see the good news/bad news fine print on those drugs...)

    I also find myself wondering about the wife. Was she really shocked? Or, for at least a few moments, did she consider the possibilities and offer her husband a banana? The bad news, or maybe the good news, is that I'm going to end up a widow. But the better news is that the last four hours of the marriage are going to be one hell of a ride.

    So there you have it. Some mornings on MNB are better than others, and sometimes we get a gift, in the form of an Eye-Opening headline that reads, "Erection-inducing deadly spiders found in Tesco bananas by shocked wife".

    It's true. There will always be an England. And sometimes it'll be known for more than a stiff upper lip...
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 13, 2015

    The Associated Press reports that the French competition authority has handed out more than $200 million (US) worth of fines to eleven dairy manufacturers there, accusing them of collusion and price fixing. The report says that over six years the companies conspired through a "web of secret meetings, hand-written charts and phone exchanges," as well as "frantic text messages between French CEOs about cottage cheese prices. Clandestine smoke breaks in a Left Bank apartment to collude on yogurt strategy.

    According to the story, "The cartel was uncovered thanks to a special procedure that allows companies to report their own price-fixing activity to regulators in exchange for reduced punishment. Yoplait, majority owned by U.S.-based General Mills Inc., was the first company to report the activity, and was given no fines."

    It is expected that at least some of the companies involved will appeal their fines.
    KC's View:
    I would imagine that they'll just be appealing the size of their fines. It has to be hard to deny you were colluding on price when one of the companies with which you were colluding has informed on you to the government.

    By the way, we know that the world has changed when senior French executives make clandestine trips to Left Bank apartments to fix dairy prices. What happened to the good old days when they used to meet their mistresses in such places?

    Cheating, for the French, apparently is not what it used to be.

    Published on: March 13, 2015

    Nielsen is out with a study about subscription-based video on-demand (SVOD) services, saying that 41% of U.S. homes had access to an SVOD service in fourth-quarter 2014.

    "The report found that penetration of both high-speed Internet and SVOD access are strongly income-related," Nielsen says. "In fact, about 13% of homes boast multiple streaming services in their homes and nearly half of homes with SVOD access have a yearly household income of more than $75,000, while two-thirds of homes without broadband access have annual household incomes of less than $40,000 ... The report found that homes with subscription streaming services have a both a penchant for TV-connected technology and, perhaps more importantly, display the greatest usage of these devices—nearly 50 minutes more a day than a typical TV home. Additionally, these homes average 10 more minutes daily watching time-shifted TV and double that in terms of time spent using a multimedia device (such as Apple TV and Roku) than a typical TV home."

    Nielsen also is reporting that "13 percent of all U.S. television households use Prime Instant Video,’s subscription video-on-demand business, compared with 36 percent for Netflix and 6.5 percent for Hulu Plus."
    KC's View:
    While affluent consumers are adopting this pattern of content viewing faster, there's no doubt in my mind that as prices go down, the trend will accelerate ... and traditional content provider businesses will be endangered.

    But it also is instructive that these early adopters are not spurning the old ways of consuming content ... they just want lots of options so they can choose the method of consumption and the programming that they find to be most relevant at that moment. This is a good lesson for any consumer-facing business ... since the power more and more resides with the consumer anyway, the best course of action is to embrace the opportunity and play in as many of these fields as possible. The alternative - which is to resist change and try to force the consumers to see and do things your way - is not really an option at all.

    Published on: March 13, 2015

    There is a fabulous piece in the Los Angeles Times about how movie studios are working to align "the promise of virtual-reality cinema with the exigencies of modern studio bureaucracy" - essentially trying to figure out how to disrupt their own business model without going out of business.

    "At studios like Fox, at facilities across Silicon Valley and at directors' officers everywhere, a furious quest is underway," the TimesL writes. "As the mainstreaming of virtual reality looks increasingly imminent--the well-received debut of various new technologies at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week offered the latest evidence--the chase is on to forge, and define, the entertainment known as VR cinema."

    Essentially, the focus is on the storytelling balance of power, and how virtual reality allows the consumer/viewer to dictate how the story unfolds ... in virtual reality, the viewer can look right or left, instead of looking forward at what the director wants the person to see. While the viewer is empowered, the content provider loses some level of narrative control, which places enormous burdens on the storyteller.

    In addition there are problems having to do with creating immersive and intimate worlds within virtual reality that may, in fact, be too immersive and/or intimate for some viewers to handle.

    It is a fascinating piece, and a terrific metaphor for the problems that every business encounters in the modern and disruptive competitive universe. And if you're interested, you can read the entire story here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 13, 2015

    The New York Times reports that the American Egg Board plans a new and less conservative than usual ad campaign that will play out online and in print ... featuring actor Kevin Bacon and making puns about his last name.
    KC's View:
    Somehow, they have to do a segment in which he revives his old Ren McCormack character from Footloose, and maybe bring back Lori Singer and John Lithgow for cameos ... Lithgow could play a preacher who believes that the pairing of bacon and eggs is sinful, but his daughter and McCormack find love over a frying pan...

    I'm turning it loose, footloose,
    Kick off your kitchen shoes...

    Published on: March 13, 2015

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Shake Shack, the boutique burger chain that went public earlier this year to the drumbeat of high investor expectations, reported a quarterly loss of $1.4 million, compared to a year-ago profit for the period of $997,000. While Q4 revenue rose 52%, to $34.8 million, the company said that high beef costs and expenses related to its public offering affecting profitability.

    The company's share price dropped five percent o the news, and at least one financial reporter speculated about whether Shake Shack was the next Krispy Kreme.
    KC's View:
    This is the reason that I worry when cool companies go public ... I worry that they'll spend so much time trying to satisfy Wall Street that they will forget Main Street. I happen to be a Shake Shack customer, and a very happy one ... but I'll know if they start charging more or offering less. And that won't do wonders for our relationship.

    I understand the Krispy Kreme reference, but am not sure it is a fair one. At least, not yet. Krispy Kreme made the mistake of believing ubiquity was the path to riches, and it tried to get its doughnuts everywhere, making quality an almost secondary consideration. Plus, they got hit by the low-carb trend. And then, they had financial issues with franchisees. There's no evidence to this point that Shake Shack will face any or all of these issues.

    At least, not yet.

    Published on: March 13, 2015

    • The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that "a 'limited number' of turkeys at Butterball contract farms in Missouri and Arkansas have been diagnosed with H5N2 avian influenza."

    The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has said that "while this strain is highly contagious and potentially fatal to birds, the risk to humans from infected birds is low," and to this point, "there have been no reports of humans infected with the virus."

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that the British Parliament has voted "to ban branding on cigarette packs as of 2016, drawing promises of a legal challenge from the tobacco industry and raising the prospect of similar legislation in countries across Europe."

    The story says that "under the 'plain packaging' law, cigarettes will be sold in uniform packs stripped of distinctive logos and colors - and adorned with graphic health warnings. That would mean packs of Marlboro cigarettes without their signature red trim and Lucky Strike packs absent their target logo.

    "The world’s biggest tobacco companies said they would challenge the decision in the courts."

    A similar law has been implemented in Australia; it is considered unlikely that any such legislation would get serious consideration in the US.

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that the Canadian company that owns Minnesota's Mall of America wants to build an even bigger mall in Miami, which it wants to call American Dream Miami. It would have, in addition to stores, "a ski slope, a water park, a sea-lion show, miniature golf, bowling, a submarine ride, restaurants, a performing-arts theater, a cinema, a Ferris wheel, an ice rink and a roller-coaster ride as well as hotels and condominiums."

    However, the story says that the project is hardly a sure thing at this point, with the owners having to jump through financial, regulatory and environmental hoops before a shovel can ever hit the ground.

    Retailing Today reports that "Dollar General chairman and CEO Rick Dreilling said the company will add to its 2014 year end store total of 11,789 units in 2015 by opening 730 new stores and remodeling 875 others ... The company did not provide a specific 2016 new store or remodeling target, but a few simple calculation based on the company’s average store size and 2014 year end square footage total indicated the company is poised to open more than 800 units annually."
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 13, 2015

    Michael Graves, the globally renowned architect who moved effortlessly between designing postmodern buildings and cheap chic household goods that were sold at places like Target and JC Penney, has passed away. He was 80.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 13, 2015

    I continue to get email about, well, email...

    MNB reader Stephen Willmott wrote:

    I love Morning News Beat and try to read it every day. I frequently get news from our local PBS channel. But, it is frustrating how easily politics have a way of getting in the way of the real news.

    I’m a little surprised by the way you paint the Secretary of State’s e-mail issue with such a broad stroke. True, there are others that don’t trust technology and probably for good reason. But that is not the case for Mrs. Clinton. She uses and embraces technology. And, we may find she committed a felony by keeping her official communications private to selectively review before releasing. She clearly disobeyed direct orders from President Obama and this while holding her own reports responsible for the very issue she was ignoring.

    Mrs. Clinton is probably running for the Presidency of the United States. That certainly seems arrogant and as I noted we could find her actions were criminal. You frequently promote transparency in business and that should be the same for politics. President Obama tells us “his is the most transparent Presidency in history.” Mrs. Clinton’s actions are the opposite of transparent and it seems that is the big story here and not who does or doesn’t embrace technology.

    I think that I've tried not to let politics get in the way of how I've written about this issue ... and, in fact, my entire focus in the Hillary Clinton case has been on transparency.

    But maybe that hasn't been as clear as I'd like it to be.

    Writing about the other side of the story - politicians who don't use email - MNB reader Herb Sorensen wrote:

    John McCain pretty well lost the use of one arm in Viet Nam, and I believe that he is possibly too disabled to use a computer.  This was reported on when he was running for president.  I presume this might have some relevance to non-use of email.

    I also know there are chief executives in the corporate world who do not personally "use" email.  I forget who it was that has his secretary review and print out all of his emails, and then reviews the print copies and makes handwritten notes for her to type up replies.

    Maybe the optics aren't good, but I don't think use or non-use of email is the issue.  In Hillary's case it is likely criminal malfeasance which is being buried.  In this sense, it is destruction of publicly owned records over which she had control, that is the issue.  She is in the Lois Lerner class.  Criminality in the administration of our government has become so rampant, that it is difficult to be sure who is and isn't doing it, in every case.  But people destroying records that may document their own incompetence, malfeasance or criminality, are probably guilty, why else would they be destroying mandated records?

    Just a few points.

    1.  McCain is not too disabled to use a computer.  He was caught playing poker on his iPhone during a 2013 Senate hearing on Syria.  If you can play poker on your iPhone, you are capable of sending email.  You just choose not to. (By the way...I want to emphasize here that I am not minimizing McCain's injuries, nor the extent and dedication of his career in public service. Far from it.)

    2.  I think the number of CEOs in the corporate world who do not do email is dramatically smaller today than it was 5 or 10 years ago ... and I'd be willing to bet that many of the ones who don't have the same last name as the the company, or own the place.

    3.  Your point about Hillary is fine ... as long as you are willing to concede that people with different political viewpoints than you may see it differently.  I'm not a Hillary fan, and I think this issue tells us a lot about her - none of it good - regardless if there is criminality involved.  And because I am neither judge nor jury nor lawyer, my inclination is to look at this story from the business lesson point of view ... because that's what I do.

    On another subject, I got the following email from MNB reader Ed Lonergan:

    After the hostile takeover of Chiquita I am retired for the second time.  Will see how long that lasts.  I still love to read MNB daily.  I don't always agree with you, but I love your willingness to take stands and create dialogue.  Where would we all be without it?  Bravo!

    I was prompted to write by your piece on Wendy's (farm to fork) and poke at McDs.  Think what you may of the burgers, but I thought I'd note a couple of things.

    First McD's beat Wendy's to the punch by a number of years.  You can see the video of my friend and Fresh Express Supplier, Dirk Giannini, here.

    And a few added bits on apple, potato, etc. supply, here.

    McDs did these videos back in 2011 to tell a bit of the story about their value chain.  Fresh Express is one of the suppliers of lettuce, apples, onions, tomatoes and other veggies to McDs.  They could have filmed Dirk, Bill Tarp, Jerry Rava, or any of the other family farmers supplying product ... the quality story and their passion for their product is real.

    There is no small amount of debate about whether pre-washed/pre-cut or whole head programs (where product is washed or cut at the store) are better.  I have my personal opinion (I prefer bagged product that I know has been processed in a food safe environment).  We were agnostic as a company and supplied both types of product for both kinds of customers.

    One thing I can tell you though, the QA team at McDs was amazing.  They collaborated closely with us on a daily basis.  They were regularly on the farms, with the harvesters, in the plants, you name it ... to be sure they fully understood and "owned" the value chain.  They pulled cases from across the value chain every month and did cuttings of all products with all suppliers attending ... products were quality and sensory scored ... and the suppliers helped one another raise the bar each year for the good of the enterprise.  We were darned proud when we beat our fellow suppliers on quality, and when we didn't, we worked hard to improve.

    It took us almost a year to qualify to make cut cukes for McDs wraps and to do so, we had to invent an entirely new gentle handling process to make the grade.

    I hope McDs finds their new path and relevance for the millennial generation.  I've served their business in various capacities across the world (Diversey provided cleaning & sanitation products) ... and especially in emerging markets, the role they served in driving the industry to better, safer practices was inspiring.

    Thanks for that. It is a good day when I learn stuff.

    I did a little bit of a rant yesterday on what I see as the inefficiency and growing irrelevance of newspaper circulars, which prompted MNB reader Richard Layman to write:

    They are like mnemonics.  People need reminders.  Most of what we buy we don't need.  But we might be thinking about it.  Circulars are one of the tools that keep certain stores "top of mind" and push people ("trigger") them to shop and buy.

    You say they aren't targeted.  Sure they aren't.  At least not in the way that you think.

    But remember the old study of advertising and activation.  People need to see an ad 7 times before they buy.  But they don't see ads every time they are run by the merchant.  So 21 ads need to run for the target to see the ad 7 times.

    Anyway, circulars are one of the elements in what we might call "maxi-marketing" -- although the book of the same title is actually about multiple channels.

    The same general point is why Ron Johnson's everyday low price initiative at JCP or Macy's post merger with May and dropping of coupons in ads didn't work.

    Sure we want low prices.  But to buy something we don't really need, we need an inducement. A coupon, like an ad circular, is a mnemonic.

    However, MNB reader Jack DiSalvo disagreed:

    How right you are.  As a buyer/merchandise manager for nearly 20 plus years I spent a 1/3 of my time planning, reviewing, or analyzing tab results.  We charged our Consumer Product companies  an enormous amount of money to be in tabs( inserts).  In the 70’s and early 80’s the stores would typically order extra product for the event but when inserts became so prevalent that they were in the newspapers weekly the sale per item was so low that store were just using there existing inventory and would replenish what they sold. 
    Where there is problem someone will come up with a solution.  Maybe a Facebook can be an aggregator for a consumers by sending  only those coupons I need for this particular week.  I check off those things ( broad category’s), and they send me coupons which I either except or reject then load them onto my telephone and when I go shopping I use my phone as a way to get specific discounts.  Save a lot of wasted paper and handling ( manufactures pay a pretty hefty handling premium to the retailer now).

    MNB reader Rich Heiland chimed in:

    I was a newspaper reporter, editor and later publisher/general manager and I know you started out in that trade. The tone-deafness of newspapers is not new.

    The circulars you write of began as advertiser resistance to a long-standing newspaper policy of ROP: You can run any ad you want as long as you run it the way we want you to and in no more than two colors (black and white) and pay what we ask. Obviously with the advent of big box stores, more competition in the grocery business the model that was desirable for the newspapers was not desirable for the advertisers. The revenue hit newspapers took when pre-prints became dominate was staggering compared with ROP rates. Now pre-prints are becoming obsolete.

    FYI - I was one of the first publishers to run front page ads. All my industry peers thought it was heresy. My answer was to go back and look at early day newspapers - which featured front page ads. I also would run an ad upside down if that's how an advertiser wanted it. I'd like to say newspapers have learned from the past and today are creative and leading the charge into new ways of serving communities and businesses. I'd like to, but...

    From another reader:

    Add to your list that circulars are the main tool "cherry-pickers" use to shop multiple stores and save money by only purchasing loss leaders and low margin sale items. Cherry-pickers buy the largest percentage of ad items which generate a small percentage of profit for the stores.

    And MNB user Dan Blue wrote:

    I wanted to comment on your discussion on newspaper circulars. I am reading a book written in 1890 by Alfred Thayer Mahan, a famed US Navy admiral and historian. The book, "The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783" has had a few excellent business lessons in it that I wrote down when I read them for further consideration. Your piece this morning reminded me immediately of this passage:

    "The battles of the past succeeded or failed according as they were fought in conformity with the principles of war; and the seaman who carefully studies the causes of success or failure will not only detect and gradually assimilate these principles, but will also acquire increased aptitude in applying them to the tactical use of the ships and weapons of his own day. He will also observe that changes of tactics have not only taken place after changes in weapons, which necessarily is the case, but that the interval between such changes has been unduly long. This doubtless arises from the fact that an improvement of weapons is due to the energy of one or two men, while changes in tactics have to overcome the inertia of a conservative class; but it is a great evil. It can be remedied only by a candid recognition of each change, by careful study of the powers and limitations of the new ship or weapon, and by a consequent adaptation of the method of using it to the qualities it possesses, which will constitute its tactics. History shows that it is vain to hope that military men generally will be at the pains to do this, but that the one who does will go into battle with a great advantage, - a lesson in itself of no mean value."

    Wow. Thanks for that.

    And, I got some nice emails about yesterday's FaceTime video commentary.

    One MNB reader wrote:

    I had to comment on this. I have been traveling for over 15 years now and have ordered room service twice. Once in a terrible snowstorm (which I know you can appreciate) and once when I was very sick. For the life of me I cannot understand how one does not take the opportunity to go out and explore, interact with locals and absorb the local landscape when out and about. Absolute truth; I have been in cities where I know my way around better than the locals.
    Of course, my love of great beer and food helps drive this passion. The friends and experiences made along the way are priceless.
    Much of what you write about resonates with me but this especially so. It would be great to share a beer someday. I know a thousand great places!!! Thanks for what you do!!

    My pleasure. And I've love to.

    From another reader:

    Your Face Time article this morning hit a personal cord with me that I just had to write and tell you how great it was.  I am in sales for a food manufacturer and travel the country selling our products.  It should also be noted that I’m an only child and don’t have any brothers and sisters. 
    Needless to say, eating alone in a restaurant never bothers me.   I typically eat at the bar, have a beer and watch a game.  This is usually the plan but, more and more I find myself talking to someone seated next to me, the bartender, waiter, etc.  I love listening to where they’re from, where they went to school, what they want to be, past job positions and general experiences.  My wife and kids always say they feel sorry for me that I have to eat alone.  I find it an adventure.  Who will I talk to tonight and what stories will be told? 
    I tell my daughter (15 years old) that I think it’s really sad when you have a friend or two over to the house and 15-20 minutes go by where I don’t hear you conversing with each other.  Your texting, twitter, snap chatting or so deep into your phones that you forget to engage in conversation with the person in the room.  Why did they come over in the first place?

    And, from yet another reader:

    Fantastic! What a great piece to read with the first cup of coffee ... and working in one of the best movies ever...

    I was driving yesterday and an old Jimmy Buffett song came up on my iPod that I thought made roughly the same point I was making...

    I rounded first, never thought of the worst
    As I studied the shortstop's position
    Then crack went my leg like the shell of an egg
    Someone call a decent physician.
    I'm no Pete Rose, I can't pretend
    While my mind is quite flexible
    These brittle bones don't bend...

    I'm growing older but not up
    My metabolic rate is pleasantly stuck
    So let the winds of change blow over my head
    I'd rather die while I'm living then live while I'm dead.

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 13, 2015

    One of the things I like most about iTunes is that when new TV series are launched, the first episodes - commonly known as "pilots," - often are made available for free. The hope, obviously, is that a free taste will result in regular viewing, either on TV or the computer. In my case, especially at times when I am spending a lot of time traveling, it becomes a respite from the usual stuff and a chance to see what is playing on American television without any sort of commitment.

    For example, during the past couple of weeks at various times on airplanes I've watched five different programs ... and three of them, I'm confident in reporting, were awful.

    Take for example, "CSI: Cyber," which is the latest in the spinoffs from the venerable and still-running, at least for the moment, CBS crime series looking at forensic investigators in Las Vegas. Having returned to the well twice more, with "CSI: Miami" and "CSI: NY," each of which had respectable runs, now CBS is offering us a series about forensic experts with the FBI looking into cyber crimes.

    The sad reality is that I found it to be unwatchable and totally formulaic - it could have been called "NCIS: Cyber" or "Criminal Minds: Cyber," with very little editing of the scripts. Patricia Arquette, so good in Boyhood that she won an Oscar, plays the head of the cyber crimes unit, and she strikes me as utterly unbelievable and miscast. (Not because she's a woman, but because she seems like the least likely detective ever, or at least since Kate Mulgrew played 'Mrs. Columbo.") The good news is that I'll never feel compelled to watch another episode.

    Or take the newest version of "The Odd Couple," which has been brought out of mothballs by ABC and stars two pretty talented comic actors Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon. But as talented as they are, the whole schtick just seems dated and pointless ... because the whole point seems to be to find a vehicle that will bring Perry back to his "Friends" prominence. This ain't it ... the writing is soft, the production seems half-hearted, and I cannot imagine that this will be around for any length of time. (We'd all be better off watching the old Jack Klugman-Tony Randall version, which totally stands up to the test of time.)

    Finally, there is the pilot that I found not just to be bad, but utterly reprehensible - "The Slap," which is an NBC series about the emotional and legal repercussions to a group of New York friends when one man slaps a misbehaving child who belongs to someone else. These perhaps are the most narcissistic people ever portrayed in a TV series, and they render the show, in my opinion, unwatchable.

    Take, for example, the guy played by Peter Sarsgaard, normally a very watchable actor - he doesn't get the promotion he yearns for, he turns 40, and so he considers having an affair with the teenaged babysitter. And he's shown to be the (admittedly confused) moral center of the series! "The Slap" is just rotten to the core.

    I can only say that after watching a hour of this tripe, I don't give a damn what happens to any of them ... unless, of course, we can arrange for them all to be bitten by Brazilian Wandering Spiders, which would at least provide four or five hours of entertainment value.

    There were, however, two shows that I watched that struck me as pretty good - I won't watch them every week, but I can see myself downloading a few episodes when I have a long plane ride coming up.

    "Battle Creek" is a cop series co-created by the guys who brought us 'Breaking Bad" and "House," and it has the mordant sensibility you'd expect from these fellows. Dean Winters plays a beaten-down and perpetually exasperated detective with a dysfunctional police force, and Josh Duhamel plays an FBI agent who inexplicably gets assigned to the city and promptly seems to get every break in the books. The writing is sharp, and their chemistry is fabulous; they remind of of the old "Rockford Files" episodes in which James Garner's low-end detective gets trumped at every turn by a handsome and charmed PI named Lance White, played by Tom Selleck just before he took on "Magnum PI." (Boy, am I dating myself now...)

    The other series worth paying attention to is "The Last Man On Earth," which struck me as a very funny piece of work starring Will Forte as, well, the last man on earth ... and the wonderful Kristen Schaal as the last woman on earth. Adam and Eve, they ain't ... and I found myself laughing out loud at the first two episodes. I think I may want to revisit them again, sooner rather than later.

    I am heartened by the fact that some creativity remains on traditional broadcast television, though a little disturbed by what somehow passes for creativity. The business lesson is clear, especially in an industry where cable and non-traditional venues are offering increasingly intelligent and provocative programming - you better bring your A game.

    That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

    KC's View: