Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ricky Gervais on The Office?

At the HBO presentation for Ricky Gervais' new self-titled animated show at the TV Critics' Association conference, Gervais revealed that there have preliminary talks about him making some kind of appearance this season on the American version of The Office.

Speaking of that show, which Gervais of course originated back in the UK, he says that it would be a "huge mistake" for him to go back and revisit that series in its original British form, but that maybe there's a slight glimmer of hope that he might someday return to making more of HBO's Extras, which he says he believes still has "a little bit of legs to it."

The Ricky Gervais Show -- an animated version of his hugely popular series of radio podcasts debuts on HBO on February 19 at 9PM. And of course, catch Gervais as the host of The Golden Globe Awards this Sunday night, January 17 at 7PM Eastern on NBC.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Eric, Julia, and Marriage Equality

I couldn't believe when I came across this video on YouTube, with two of my favorite TV stars of all time. Please -- back in 2004, I would not rest until I got the assignment to write a book about Eric McCormack, and now have threatened the lives of my fellow editors at CBS Watch! magazine if any of them attempts to sidle up to Julia Louis-Dreyfus before I do.

Now, to see them both together, not only being their funny and gorgeous selves (yes, I'd go both ways for them) but advocating for marriage equality? I'll admit it -- I think I just messed myself a little.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Happy Town vs Twin Peaks

At today's TCA, critics who have seen clips of ABC's upcoming series Happy Town began the session by comparing the show, set in a seemingly idyllic Minnesota town bedeviled by the serial killer "The Magic Man," to another ABC classic, the early '90s show Twin Peaks.

According to executive producer Scott Rosenberg, some similarities may be intentional, since exec producer Josh Appelbaum and others on the show are huge fans of the show; Rosenberg, he admits, was not. "So if you think it's too much like Twin Peaks, blame them. If you think it's not enough like Twin Peaks, blame me."

Rosenberg says he's actually more a Stephen King fan -- "Salem's Lot was a huge book in my childhood like Twin Peaks was to them," he explained. "So it's like a stem cell smush of Salem's Lot and Twin Peaks. No one did better that small town thing like [King did] with Castle Rock."

Appelbaum and Rosenberg were also the creators of two other failed series, Life on Mars and October Road, "which for some reason you people hated more than anything. We were treated like Michael Vick," Rosenberg joked. But as even he admitted, in that series, "there wasn't a lot of incident. It was just a small town world. But we loved that world, the small town and the sense of community. So we thought, 'Let's do October Road, but where shit happens.' That should be our tag line actually. 'October Road, where shit happens.'"

That shit, the producers went on to explain, won't include Peaks' predilection for weird midgets and supernatural phenomena. As Appelbaum explains, "Twin Peaks was very much set in a world that was wholly bizarre. Happy Town is much more the real world. there are dark corners to all of that. there are certainly surreal moments that pop up, but it's very grounded in the real world."

The producers reveal that they created Happy Town -- set in the fictional town of Haplin, MN but filmed in Port Hope, Ontario -- upon realizing that "there isn't a scary show on TV that doesn't fall into 2 categories. There's 'forensic porn,' which is bodies and women being abused, or vampires. And we realized, 'What about doing a show that's scary but very earthbound and grounded in reality?'"

Lauren German's character's Henley is our entry point into Haplin, and seems from the clips to be soon in jeopardy due to the Magic Man, whose terror reign had seemingly ended years before but has now begun anew. "There are a ton of entry points into the show," Appelbaum explained. If you're into romance, or crime, the show will hook you in.

And unlike with Twin Peaks, he promises that the core Magic Man mystery will have a satisfying conclusion, within the show's first season. "'[Who Killed] Laura Palmer extended into the second season, but we will answer the question of who is the Magic Man in the final moments of the first season. It's all about playing fair with the audience." And unlike say a show like CBS' Harper's Island -- of which Appelbaum says he was a fan -- Happy Town is prepared for a season 2 even beyond that revelation. "That doesn't mean that the rest of the ensemble will [learn the killer's identity.] It's a shocking revelation, and will turn the show on its head in a big way. It will have cataclysmic repercussions for the town."

Also on the panel: series stars Geoff Stults, Amy Acker, Steven Weber and Sam Neill, who revealed how, even as the cast filmed in the frigid Canadian outdoors last March, the show's producers kept a tight hold on all the show's secrets. "None of us knew whether we were bad guys or good guys so we had to keep things ambivalent." And as far as the identity of The Magic Man, that was kept "on total lockdown."

We won't learn the identity of the Magic Man anytime soon, either; ABC has not yet scheduled the debut of the show's 8 episodes.

ABC Loves Castle

Speaking of shows ABC President Steve McPherson is high on, he surprised me today by specifically mentioning Monday night's Castle, a fun and lighthearted detective comedy starring hunky Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic, now in its second season.

Castle, it turns out, is ABC's highest rated show in repeats. Who knew?!

So, one critic asked, does that mean Castle will survive and see a season 3?

"We're really excited about it. The Alyssa Milano episodes are just terrific. They're really finding their stride. [Creator] Andrew Marlowe has done great job of growing those characters. And I hear so much anecdotal support for the show, it's great."

ABC shows at least a little bit of love to Ugly Betty

When asked today about whether ABC still has faith in Ugly Betty, the network's president Steve McPherson gave a qualified show of support. It's still a show they believe in, he says, but they have to find the right time slot for it.

When Eastwick was cancelled this fall, viewers clamored for Betty to be rescued from a deadly ABC Friday time slot, and moved to Wednesdays at 10. ABC acquiesced -- but ratings have still not been good. McPherson theorizes that that's partly because by the time the move happened, some of the Wednesday comedies leading in to Betty were in repeats, and so didn't provide their strongest levels of support.

McPherson said that he does hope that Wednesday, with Betty at 10, will eventually have good flow in the ratings. And he does, he added, think that light drama/comedy is an opportunity that could really work at 10 o'clock. So although he didn't quite come out and reassure us that Betty would survive into the fall of 2010, it's at least a show of support and patience.

ABC renews The Middle, Modern Family & Cougar Town

BREAKING NEWS: ABC's Steve McPherson has announced today season 2 pickups for its 3 successful Wednesday comedies, The Middle, Modern Family and Cougar Town. It's great news for fans of these three fabulous new comedies -- and for the shows' producers, who didn't already know. In fact, "the shows are finding out from your blogs right now," McPherson joked.

"Creatively it was a wonderful fall. Hats off to my comedy team and drama team," the ABC President said. As for Wednesday, "it was quite a challenge launching a new night. But we're really excited where we ended up with that. It gives us a foothold in comedy, and we intend to grow that."

Speaking of footholds in comedy, I asked McPherson about the network's lame launches of Scrubs and Better Off Ted this season, and how they seem to have thrown those shows to the wolves the moment they didn't magically electrify ABC's moribund Tuesday schedule.

McPherson stressed that the network is not "burning off" Scrubs and Ted, and admitted that outside of Wednesday, any comedies airing on the network would end up being their own "island," which is a distinct competitive disadvantage. I also asked why neither Scrubs nor Ted was given the deceased Hank's time slot, and McPherson countered that repeats of The Middle and Modern Family have done great for ABC, and will until such time as the network finds a suitable replacement. In the fall, he added, the network had assessed Scrubs and Ted and had decided that neither would fit well into Wednesday. (I strongly disagree -- plus, they thought Hank, a more traditional multi-camera comedy, fit well among those other 3 shows? Hey, but that's what the man said.)

I followed up by asking if, after their runs end this month, Scrubs and Ted could be considered euphemistically "on hiatus," or more bluntly, "cancelled." According to McPherson, no decision has yet been made, and will be made only then. It doesn't sound promising, but here's to hoping that the rest of ABC's spring pilots yield a few comedies which could be combined with Scrubs and Ted to form a new night, much like the network did this year on Wednesday.

Lost Hearing About Lost?

Good news for people like me who didn't catch Lost from the beginning, and by the time the buzz built, felt it was too late to catch up. Today at the TCA, one of the show's executive producers Carlton Cuse announced that, preceding the debut of the show's 6th and final season on February 2, ABC will air a one-hour special recapping the show's first 5 seasons. The thought of that elicited giggles from critics, who could not imagine summing all of the show's legendary twists and turns so succinctly. "It's all in 43 minutes, and it's really done pretty well," Cuse enthused.

The show's upcoming ending is something which co-creator and executive producer Damon Lindelof says includes a "final image" which they've had in mind for years. And, once ABC "allowed" them, as he worded it, to work towards an end date, the writers have been able to concoct a final season which crafts a satisfying story, rather than staying a few seasons past the show's welcome.

As Evangeline Lilly, aka Kate, admitted from the stage, filming the show's finale will be bittersweet, because the cast has spent six years "in the jungle, growing up together, and growing up in front of all of you." But, as the cast really does spend its time trapped together on an island, where, she explains, you can't just run off to Vegas for a weekend escape, she does also feel like the end of the show may be a big "golden horizon" of opportunity.

In either case, before the actors go their separate ways, Lost's final season will be a reunion of sorts, Lindelof announced, as some of the show's departed stars like Harold Perrineau and Cynthia Watros return. Also on today's panel were Emilie de Ravin, Michael Emerson, Jorge Garcia, Josh Holloway, Daniel Dae Kim and Terry O'Quinn -- but not Matthew Fox, who of course will return as Jack. Perhaps he's off somewhere, living out the actions he read in Faraday's journal to keep flight 815 from crashing in the first place.

Lost airs its recap special on February 2 at 8 PM, followed by the 2-hour season premiere at 9 on ABC.

150 Episodes and Going Strong

Tonight, NCIS hits a true milestone as the show broadcasts its 150th episode. Think about it: most shows, NCIS included, produce a typical 22 or 23 episodes per season. So it takes about 7 years on the air to get to this point -- and by then, most shows are in decline. But what's so amazing about this CBS ratings powerhouse, now part of a new CBS killer Tuesday night lineup, is that NCIS just keeps on growing.

In tonight's episode, called "Flesh and Blood," an assassination attempt on a foreign prince hits too close to home for DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) when his father (none other than venerable TV star Robert Wagner!) is linked to the case. Check it out tonight (Tues., Jan 12) at 8 PM Eastern/Pacific on CBS.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Well, Better Off Ted ain't going to Fox...

I just asked Fox President of Entertainment Kevin Reilly about whether Fox, which he says is looking to get deeper into the comedy business, would ever considering rescuing worthy comedies from other networks -- specifically, ABC's neglected Better Off Ted.

"We're going to create our own shows," he answered.

Oh well... there's always NBC (?!)

Simon Cowell announces final season on Idol

At today's TCA Executive Session, FOX President Kevin Reilly and Chairman Peter Rice brought out Simon Cowell to announce breaking news: the 2011 launch of a U.S. version of his international hit talent contest, The X Factor.

X is currently shown in 17 countries worldwide, with a global audience of more than 500 million, and is the #1 TV entertainment format in Europe. The show, Cowell says, has no upper age limit for contestants, and so it receives over 250,000 applicants each year. ("You could literally be 100 years old -- so Paula [Abdul] could audition," Cowell joked.) In order to accommodate huge numbers like these, and to secure the judges for the U.S. version -- which by the way, Cowell says, will definitely not include Paula -- Fox and Cowell have agreed to hold off the debut to 2011, but will begin putting the show together now.

As a result, Cowell says, he is announcing that this upcoming season of American Idol will be his last, because he doesn't feel that he can do both shows simultaneously. To add a bit of ceremony to the proceedings, Rice produced a contract for Simon to sign on stage, noting that Fox and Cowell had come to their agreement to launch the show at 11:30 this morning -- merely an hour ago.

As to how the new reality show will affect Fox's schedule, Reilly says that decisions haven't been made about moves to other reality shows, but he envisions a schedule where Idol airs in the spring, X Factor in the fall, and So You Think You Can Dance in the summer.

No News on Conan at Fox

Anticipating and addressing the critics' questions at today's TCA Executive Session, Fox's President of Entertainment Kevin Reilly commented on rumors that a dissatisfied Conan O'Brien might prefer to leave NBC, rather than delay his Tonight Show a half hour in deference to the newly moving Jay Leno, and jump ship to Fox. Here's what Reilly had to say:

There's not too much more we can illuminate. We're digesting this the same way you are. We're in "wowee" mode right now. Our position on late night has been consistent all along. At our last session when we announced and talked about Wanda [Sykes], people asked if we wanted to be in the five times a week business. And we said that's a business we've been in and out of, and it's never completely off the agenda. It's something we're always interested in.

I love Conan personally and professionally, but he has to make decision about his futgure. We've talked to his people and had informal conversations, mostly commiserating about the situation. But other than that, we're not free to talk about any other business proposition [with Conan], and we haven't.

Sons of Tucson is Delicious

It would have been easier to say Sons of Tucson "sucks," but I wouldn't want that to be confused for my review of this funny new Fox comedy series, which comes from an out gay executive producer Todd Holland, formerly of Malcolm in the Middle. (One of that series' young stars, Justin Berfield, is all grown up now and another exec producer of Sons.)

But I had to post this, my favorite piece of graft so far at the TCA conference. (And yes, it's prickly pear flavored!)

Starring Tyler Labine, late of Reaper, Sons of Tucson premieres on FOX on Sunday, March 14 at 9:30 Eastern.

Is The Marriage Ref Good for the Gays?

In all but five states of this union, gay people do not have the right to marry each other. But, according to Jerry Seinfeld yesterday at the Television Critics Association (TCA) convention in Pasadena, we gays will have The Marriage Ref.

The hourlong unscripted show sprang from the real-life marriage of executive producer Seinfeld, who once asked a friend to arbitrate a silly fight between him and his wife Jessica, who was in yesterday's audience. (For the record, Seinfeld says, he lost, and had to accept the friend's binding decision.)

He decided to turn the idea into a show, in which 3 to 5 real-life couples per episode will be videotaped at home, having the typical types of arguments that couples -- and yes, despite our supposed "alternate lifestyle," we gays, too -- have that run for years and tend to fester. One show, he explained, will show a wife whose husband prefers to park his Harley in the middle of the living room. Other issues may be less glaring. But in order not to trivialize or be flippant about serious issues like domestic abuse and child endangerment, none of the shows, the comedian emphasized, will go near issues "that makes you uncomfortable that the marriage might be in real trouble."

In the show's format, a panel of celebrity guests discusses each couple's video, and makes a case for one or the other of the complainants to judge Tom Papa, whose sole decision will be binding. And says Papa, a comedian whose previous TV work includes the short-lived (and New Jersey-set) 2004 NBC sitcom Come to Papa, his decision won't always be the obvious one. In the case of the Harley couple, for example, Papa hints that he may have found in favor of the husband. "She's yelling at him, 'You have a Harley in the living room!' And he's like, 'I understand that, dear.' He was so nice to her. I was like, 'What he is doing is completely insane, but how respectful is this guy? He's got to get points.'"

And of course, with the court case challenging Prop 8 about to begin here in California, it was on everyone's mind: For the Marriage Ref's services, what about gay marriages?

"Oh yeah, they're in," Seinfeld enthused.

"If you're married and you're fighting, send your tape," Papa added.

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

(The Marriage Ref will air a special sneak preview on Sunday, February 28, following NBC's coverage of the Closing Ceremony of the Winter Olympics, before settling into its regular Sunday time slot, from 8 to 9 PM beginning March 14.

The show will shoot episodes in New York starting Wednesday, January 27. So if you need help figuring out who should take out the garbage, call Jerry!)

Even More Glee -- Officially Renewed!

Check out this press release from FOX, distributed today at the Television Critics Association conference. After just the first half of this first full season, Glee is already officially renewed for the fall of 2010. So no need to wait and sweat it out until May, fellow Gleeks!

By the way, the show will return with new episodes on Tuesday, April 13. And you may want to practice some vocal exercises, because according to the press release below, Glee will soon seek three new cast members for season 2, between ages 16-26.




Series Returns with All-New Episodes Tuesday, April 13, on FOX

FOX has ordered a second season of the genre-defying comedy GLEE, it was announced today by Kevin Reilly, President, Entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Company. GLEE has become a bona fide cultural phenomenon boasting winning ratings, critical acclaim, a rabid fan base of “GLEEks,” two certified Gold albums and more than 4 million song downloads. The series has received four Golden Globe nominations, including one for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy; a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series; two Directors Guild of America Award nominations; and a Writers Guild of America nomination for Best Comedy Series and Best New Series. Additionally, the American Film Institute named GLEE one of the Top 10 TV Programs of the Year, and the series also recently won a People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Comedy.

“We’ve loved GLEE ever since it was a pilot script, so it’s been an incredible thrill to watch the show take root and see audiences embrace these characters in such a huge way this season,” said Reilly. “The show is a true and rare gem in television. We couldn’t be more proud of what Ryan Murphy and the GLEE team have created so far, and can’t wait to see what they come up with for Season Two.”

GLEE has also launched the acting and singing careers of its young, talented cast, and turned them into international sensations. Replicating and expanding on the process used to discover the stars from Season One, the series’ executive producers will begin a nationwide casting search this February to fill three new roles that will be added to the show’s second season.

Building upon the show’s incredibly supportive community of GLEEks and with the hope of bringing fans even closer to the series, auditions will be open to amateur individuals as well as professionals between the ages of 16-26, and all hopefuls will be able to submit auditions online. Additional details to be announced soon, please check for updates.

This unique casting search and process will be chronicled in a multi-part special that will air leading up to the premiere of the series’ second season in fall 2010 on FOX, and the new cast members will be revealed in the premiere episode.

“GLEE has always been about finding new fresh exciting voices. Our second season search for young talent will be in the vein of our first season. We launched a nationwide search for talent for our first season with great unexpected results, and Season Two expands that search in an even bigger way,” said executive producer and creator Ryan Murphy. He added, “Anybody and everybody now has a chance to be on a show about talented underdogs. No matter who you are – a Broadway talent or a struggling singing waiter with a dream in the Midwest – you now have an opportunity to make that dream come true by posting your talent video and showing us what you can do. ALL the roles will be chosen from the video audition process, which is exciting and unprecedented. We want to be the first interactive musical comedy on television, and the search is ON.”

“GLEE is the hottest new show of the season, and it’s amazing to look back at the audition tapes of those stars as they were being discovered,” said Mike Darnell, President of Alternative Entertainment for FOX. “Just like GLEE, there’s never really been an unscripted program like this on television before. The stakes are real, and it’s going to be incredibly compelling to watch the lives of these unknowns transformed before our eyes.”

GLEE returns with all-new episodes on a new night beginning Tuesday, April 13 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.

GLEE follows an optimistic teacher who – against all odds and a malicious cheerleading coach – inspires McKinley High’s Glee Club to conquer the world one singing competition at a time. GLEE stars Dianna Agron, Chris Colfer, Jessalyn Gilsig, Jane Lynch, Jayma Mays, Kevin McHale, Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Matthew Morrison, Amber Riley, Mark Salling and Jenna Ushkowitz.

GLEE is produced by Ryan Murphy Television in association with 20th Century Fox Television. Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan are co-creators of the series. Murphy, Falchuk and Dante Di Loreto serve as executive producers, while Ian Brennan serves as co-executive producer.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Parenthood, Take 3

Today, NBC presented its panel on its newest drama, premiering at midseason, Parenthood. Critics asked Lauren Graham about stepping in for Maura Tierney, who continues her treatments for breast cancer and who the show's executive producer Jason Katims says is "doing well." Katims explains, by the way, that they delayed the show, which was originally supposed to premiere in the fall of 2009, in deference to Tierney, who was the one who opted out of the show and gave the go-ahead to recast.

The show is also quite unusual in at least two other ways: 1) it's based on a movie from two decades ago, Parenthood which starred Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen in 1989, and 2) it's being attempted even though an earlier TV adaptation failed in 1990. That Parenthood, says Ron Howard, one of the new show's executive producers and the director of the original film, was more of a sitcom treatment of the material, which he says in hindsight wasn't the right approach. This new show, Katims and Howard say, is a combination of comedy and drama (and is an hour long.) When the new show's pilot was re-shot with Graham replacing Tierney, it was lightened up a bit, away from the other extreme of heavy drama.

Howard told, by the way, the fun story of the film's origins in the '80s; back when he was heading to Argentina to make the film Gung Ho, he got on a 17-hour flight with his family and dozens of carry-on and checked bags. In the first hour, he decided to let his young daughter Bryce try his sushi appetizer; baby Bryce -- now better known as the movie star Bryce Dallas Howard -- proceeded to projectile vomit all over his shirt. "Great -- let's totally embarrass her," Graham said with a laugh as Howard told the story on stage.

Graham says she had spent the past 2 or 3 years not planning on acting in TV but looking for projects to produce, but could not resist the quality and pedigree of the Parenthood script when it was sent to her this past year. The show does have an impressive cast, including Six Feet Under's Peter Krause, Boston Legal's Monica Potter, Erika Christensen, Dax Shepard, Craig T. Nelson, and Bonnie Bedelia, who was so fabulous most recently on Del Shores' Sordid Lives.

Parenthood debuts on Monday, March 1 at 9 PM Eastern on NBC.

Heroes on the Run

It's a sign of the turmoil at NBC that just a few seasons ago, Heroes was such a big hit for the network that they announced a spinoff of sorts, a second hour of the show whose format was never quite announced before the network changed its mind.

Now, in just its 4th season, Heroes is on the bubble, a possible candidate for cancellation. According to NBC President Angela Bromstad, the decision will be made relatively soon. She and her team will, she explains, be sitting down with the show's creator Tim Kring within the next few weeks, in which he will pitch them his vision for a possible additional year. The network will keep that in mind as they then evaluate their pilots for fall. "Heroes has been performing strongly in its 8 PM time slot," Bromstad claims, although that is questionable. "There's a good chance it can come back."

"A good chance?" Wow! Remember back in 2006, when Heroes was red hot? At least at the peacock network, what a difference 3 1/2 years makes!

Carson Daly squeezed out?

A possible casualty in the late-night wars, NBC Chairman Jeff Gaspin has admitted, may be the NBC host airing latest at night, Carson Daly with his show Last Call. With the proposal to move Jimmy Fallon back to 1:05, that would mean Daly's show would have to push to 2:05 AM -- which is time dedicated to local affiliate programming. This would effectively mean that in this game of musical chairs, Daly is left without a seat.

Gaspin affirmed the network's commitment to Daly, whose New Year's Eve show achieved a 3.2 demographic rating, a high for him. He said no decision has been made, but talks are ongoing to keep Daly in the NBC fold, with or without Last Call.

BREAKING NEWS... Leno officially axed from 10 PM Slot

BREAKING NEWS: As anticipated this morning, NBC announced at the TCA convention that Jay Leno's 10 PM show is history.

Starting today's presentation by addressing the elephant in the room, NBC Chairman Jeff Gaspin announced that as of February 12, Jay Leno will no longer be airing at 10 PM. Gaspin still stands by the show's quality, but admits that the dramatic competition on network and cable -- plus now from people using the hour to catch up with viewing from their DVRs -- was just too daunting of competition for Jay and his format. The show has just not performing where it needed to be, Gaspin admitted.

(This despite the network's assurances at the upfront back in May that this was a "52-week strategy," where Leno would prove his worth over time, especially as his show in originals would supposedly beat other networks' repeats. "I think over time it would have started to grow. Over time we would have had a much greater time to see it grow. For the network, it was not a wrong decision," he maintains. But as Gaspin now says, as the NBC affiliates, upset about their declining 11 PM newscast ratings from Jay's lead-in, began to revolt and threaten pre-emption, something had to be done now.)

The plan going forward, he said, is still tentative. "I'd like to say that it was a done deal," he admitted, but so far, this is just a proposal, with the late-night hosts being "incredibly gracious and professional" about NBC and its messy situation, but not yet officially on board with the change. And that change is, for Jay Leno to air in a half-hour show at 11:35, for Conan and his Tonight Show to air at 12:05, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to push back to a 1:05 AM start.

Filling the 10 PM slot? Gaspin admits that he doesn't know, but admits he's been thinking about it for a while -- and expects to wait until the last minute to announce when listings are due. "That's what you do when you put together a schedule," he said. "You wait to see what your competitors are doing." But Gaspin does say that, with those 5 hours of network real estate now freed up, he expects we'll see 2 more hours of scripted dramas on NBC, 1 more hour of reality (ugh!), and an expanded Dateline NBC and/or repeats. Sadly, he did not mention additional room for comedies, which used to be NBC's hallmark back in its heyday.

Another change for NBC: going back to the traditional plan of presenting an "upfront" for advertisers in New York, this year on May 17. It's a departure from the earlier, boastful and somewhat hubris-filled plan of going straight to series with shows like Knight Rider and Bionic Woman, which ultimately fizzled creatively.

More details as the critics undoubtedly continue to grill Gaspin and NBC President Angela Bromstad.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My So-Called Adoption

Today at the TCA, the CW Network presented its new series premiering at midseason, Life Unexpected (the x, critics seem to be relieved, is no longer capitalized.)

The show's creator, Liz Tigelaar, spoke passionately and from first person experience about the fantasy element of an adoptee's life. Back when she was growing up, she says, she knew she had been born in DC, and so liked to imagine that she was the secret daughter of Nancy Reagan (!), and deserved to be living in the White House. (Her adoptive mother, she says, reminded her that basic math would show that this was not possible.)

"I don't want a baby, but i'd love it if a teenager showed up on my doorstep," Tigelaar enthused, in explaining how the idea occurred to her that immature bar owner Base (Kristoffer Polaha) and radio DJ Cate (Shiri Appleby) would be confronted one day by Lux (Brittany Robertson), the now teenaged daughter they gave up for adoption who needs their signatures to be emancipated from the foster care system. But then, not surprisingly in order to provide the setup for this series, the judge decides that Lux must stay in the uneasy dual custody of her birth parents. And so starts this story of an unconventional, dysfunctional family, augmented by Dawson's Creek's Kerr Smith, who here is all grown up himself as Cate's radio co-host and boyfriend.

Tigelaar says she herself met her real birth parents just recently, since starting this project. Her birth mother, whom she met in November, categorically stated, "I am not a radio DJ," in contrasting the show to their real lives. And "my own [adoptive] parents made me feel so special, and so wanted. And this girl [Lux] didn't get that at all," says Tigelaar, who like her alter-ego Robertson is a beautiful blonde, in contrasting the show to her real story.

And so, the details of the show come purely from Tigelaar's imagination as a writer, having gained her experience working as the assistant to the prolific and much-adored TV writer Winnie Holzman, creator of My So-Called Life, and writer of the book for Broadway's Wicked. Perhaps Life Unexpected will be the successor to that beloved but prematurely cancelled show, a 2nd Decade carrier of that teen angst pedigree.

Life Unexpected debuts on the CW on Monday, January 18 at 9 PM Eastern/Pacific.

What's Sheldon's Deal?

Last season on Big Bang Theory, Penny (Kaley Cuoco) famously asked the guys, "What's Sheldon's deal?" Is the brilliant physicist Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), she wanted to know, into men? women? sock puppets?

Today, a hint of an answer from the series' executive producer Chuck Lorre, at the Television Critics Association conference in Pasadena. Lorre's thoughts:
Part of his character, which I think is wonderful and unique, is that he has chosen not to play in the relationship game. Either way, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, any sexuality, he has said, "This is not for me. I'm a scientist. All I'm interested in is science and what George Lucas does." I think it's terrific that we've stumbled into creating a character who has chosen a lifestyle for himself that's unique. And I don't see any reason to modify it.

Ah, so that's it. Definitely sock puppets. George Lucas sock puppets.

Meet The Borgias

For those fans who are about to mourn the impending passing of The Tudors, which will soon debut its final season -- "We've run out of wives," Showtime's president Robert Greenblatt joked today at the TCA -- the network is announcing today a show they hope will be a suitable replacement, The Borgias.

The show is to star Jeremy Irons, in his first series role, as Rodrigo Borgia, patriarch of the infamous Italian Renaissance family in 1492 Italy. The cast of characters includes Rodrigo's two twisted sons, Cesare and Juan, as well as, of course, daughter Lucrezia, who at 14 was the most sought-after political marital match in Europe and who reputedly developed an expertise with poison.

The Borgias was created and will be executive produced by famed film director Neil Jordan, and also produced by the man who wrote all 40 episodes of The Tudors, Michael Hirst. The show will go into production this summer, for a scheduled debut in early 2011.

In my own personal Flash Forward...

...April 29, 2010 is full of delicious cupcakes. What could be so bad about that?

From the Television Critics conference in Pasadena, more news coming soon from behind the scenes of this fascinating ABC hit. Stay tuned!

RIP Three Rivers 2009-2009

Live from the CBS Presentation at the Television Critics Association (TCA) conference in Pasadena comes the sad news of the fate of one of CBS' fall shows, the previously "on hiatus" Three Rivers.

When asked whether that euphemistic status really means "cancelled," CBS President Nina Tassler spared no words as she earned a few laughs: yes. "I think we've all been doing this long enough to know what 'on hiatus' really means," she admitted.

But on the plus side, the Alex O'Loughlin-led series, set in a Pittsburgh organ transplant hospital, managed in its short life to save eight real lives, as it inspired people to sign up for organ donation. How many other series can say that?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

CBS Watch January/February 2010 issue on Newsstands... NOW!

Now on newsstands and in your mailboxes: the January/February 2010 issue of CBS Watch!

Check out Jennifer Goddard's cover story on Harrison Ford, whose newest movie, Extraordinary Measures co-starring Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell, comes out in theaters from CBS Films on January 22. Other pieces include my travel piece about the Rome Cavalieri hotel -- aka the hotel the Drapers stayed in last season on Mad Men; my roundup of the "Tough Broads" in CBS' history; my "Now Hiring" job application to become a Hollywood agent, and Frank DeCaro's reminiscence of a CBS classic, The Lucy Show.

Watch! can be found on newsstands in stores like Target, Barnes & Noble, and Hudson News -- and you can subscribe for free! Just go to and sign up for your free subscription -- no strings attached!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Girls Just Wanna Win Celebrity Apprentice

Okay, so who the hell are Maria Kanellis and Selita Ebanks?

But I have to admit, I love that, like with eventual champion Joan Rivers last year, the people behind Celebrity Apprentice -- perhaps The Donald Himself! -- know enough to throw one to the gays. I'll so be watching this season, because they had me at "Cyndi Lauper."


Darryl Strawberry, Cyndi Lauper, Bret Michaels, Sharon Osbourne, Michael Johnson, Holly Robinson Peete, Goldberg, Carol Leifer, Sinbad, Summer Sanders, Rod Blagojevich, Maria Kanellis, Curtis Stone and Selita Ebanks Will All be competing for Charity

NEW YORK - Monday, January 4, 2010 - NBC and Donald Trump announced today the all-star celebrity cast for the third season of "The Celebrity Apprentice" premiering on Sunday, March 14 (9-11 p.m. ET/PT).

Over the course of the celebrity seasons, over $3.5 million has been donated to charities worldwide in addition to money raised from the awareness and exposure on the show. Now 14 new celebrities will rise to the challenge once again it will be men versus women. All the celebrities will be vying for the coveted title as they fight for their respective causes close to their hearts.

The men include: Darryl Strawberry, Bret Michaels, Goldberg, Michael Johnson, Rod Blagojevich, Sinbad and Curtis Stone. The women include: Cyndi Lauper, Sharon Osbourne, Holly Robinson Peete, Selita Ebanks, Maria Kanellis, Carol Leifer and Summer Sanders.

Donald Trump said “This season of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ is going to be fantastic. The list of celebrities we have this season is outstanding and the show will really resonate with our core viewers and fans. I expect this season of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ to be the best one yet.”

The celebrities will compete in business-driven tasks around New York City using their fame, rolodexes and their business acumen to win weekly tasks and money to donate to their favorite charities, while ultimately battling with each other to stay out of the boardroom and avoid hearing those dreaded words "You're Fired!"

They'll be subjected to long hours, grueling mental challenges, personality clashes and intense scrutiny -- all without the help of their regular support system of agents, managers and personal assistants. Certain tasks encourage the contestants to reach out to their network of celebrity contacts for assistance or donations -- making for entertaining surprise visits by some of the world's biggest stars along the way.

Trump and his advisors in the boardroom will judge all of the tasks. Returning back to the boardroom are Trump's children (and colleagues) Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., alongside longtime Trump Organization employee and "Apprentice" advisor George Ross. The boardroom will again feature a "rotating seat," allowing a variety of famous business leaders and industry legends to join Trump in spirited judgment on each task. As with last season, the winning celebrity teams will relish the opportunity to watch the losing team squirm in the boardroom from the comfort of their own war rooms. When all is said and done, 13 celebrities will be famously fired and only one will emerge to become The Celebrity Apprentice.

"The Celebrity Apprentice" is produced by Mark Burnett Productions in association with Trump Productions LLC. Mark Burnett, Donald Trump, Page Feldman and Eden Gaha are executive producers.

ABOUT THE CANDIDATES:Each celebrity contestant was handpicked for their balance of notoriety and business skills. Their bios and photos will be available on NBC Media Village