TelevisionWeek's Blink page is an industry must-read, taking a sardonic look at happenings across the television business. This wry coverage is extended online and updated throughout the week.



August 2007 Archives

Kathie Lee Gifford Makes Comeback -- So to Speak

August 19, 2007 9:00 PM

It took the 20th anniversary of perennial morning favorite "Live With Regis and Kelly" to bring Kathie Lee Gifford back to the set -- for one day, at least.

A two-week celebration of the show's two decades in national syndication will kick off Monday, Sept. 3. It will be capped by a Sept. 14 appearance by the former "Live" co-host, who will join current co-hosts Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa to review memorable moments on the air.

The celebration also will showcase the series' wildest times (in front of the camera, anyway) in regular segments throughout the two weeks. "Our 20th anniversary is a huge milestone for the show," said Michael Gelman, executive producer of "Live."

"Few television shows reach a year on the air, much less two decades. We're proud that we've been able to bring fun, laughter and a positive start to the day to millions of viewers for so many years. At this point we've become part of the fabric of American pop culture."

As part of the anniversary promotion, Chrysler will give away 20 cars to viewers. The series is distributed by Disney/ABC Domestic Television. -- Chris Pursell

Blink's a Working Girl for the Right 'Numb3rs'

August 19, 2007 9:00 PM

Blink has been known to take a little work home on occasion, but never to the extent we did last week. We got an insider's view of the CBS drama "Numb3rs" at the crack of dawn Wednesday when the production showed up to shoot part of the Oct. 5 episode at Blink's condo complex -- including a scene involving Blink's bedroom window.

The crew arrived outside by 7 a.m. Blink's room was part of the first shot of the day. "Numb3rs'" on-set dresser, Tim Sheehan, taped a curtain in the window and blew it outside with a fan as series regular Alimi Ballard, who portrays FBI agent David Sinclair, ran by it through the alley outside.

Before knowing Blink might tattle on them, everyone associated with the show was friendly, unobtrusive and remarkably cheerful for that hour of the day. They were out of Blink's unit by 7:54 a.m.

"You actually got off easy," said Mr. Sheehan, who was the only person inside Blink's bedroom for the most part. "Usually it's 50 people gathered inside your apartment."

A spokeswoman for the show later confirmed what Blink gathered at the shoot: that her place doubled as the home for a presumed dead "female escort" who escapes out the back when the "Numb3rs" team knocks on her door. We're not exactly sure what to make of Blink's bedroom so easily being taken for that of a hooker's. So, just this one time, we will go with the official studio spin, which the spokeswoman offered by e-mail: "Our location scouts only have the best taste, so take it as a compliment." -- Melissa Grego

Ellen, Tyra Meet the Presidential Candidates

August 19, 2007 9:00 PM

Not to be outdone by cable, syndication is prepping its own version of the presidential debates leading up to the election. Two talk shows have scheduled sit-down interviews with leading presidential hopefuls to kick off their new seasons with a bang.

First up, Ellen DeGeneres will have a one-on-one with Sen. Hillary Clinton in New York Sept. 4 and 5 to kick off the new season of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." Ms. DeGeneres previously interviewed Sen. Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, to terrific rating results.

Not to be outdone, Tyra Banks has lined up Sen. Barack Obama to discuss his run for office for the return of "The Tyra Banks Show," which tapes Sept. 27.

Both series are distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. For fans seeking more direct interaction between the two contenders, four more debates are planned for this year: two on MSNBC, on Sept. 26 and Oct. 30, one on CNN on Nov. 15 and one on CBS on Dec. 10. -- Chris Pursell

'iVillage' in Chicago's Second City

August 19, 2007 9:00 PM

On Sept. 17 the results of the summerlong extreme makeover of NBC stations' daytime show "iVillage Live" will be unveiled.

An NBC spokeswoman said the network is not ready to reveal anything yet, but Blink is: The show has a new title, "In the Loop With iVillage," a clever reference to the downtown business district of Chicago, the new hometown of "iVillage," which originated in its freshman year from Orlando, Fla.

The show has traded up from an ensemble of unknowns to nationally known talent: actress-comedian-reality show contestant Kim Coles, and Bill Rancic and Ereka Vetrini, both alumni of NBC's "The Apprentice."

The show has a new production aegis, NBC News' Peacock Productions, and a new executive producer, Marlaine Selip, a veteran of such NBC family programs as "The Jane Pauley Show" and MSNBC's "Donahue." The show also intends to be edgier, more hip and more celebrified than it was in Orlando, while still cross-pollinating with the femme-focused, NBCU-owned iVillage Web site. Michele Greppi

'Legal' Eagles Mix It Up at WGA

August 15, 2007 8:49 AM

William Shatner says he now gets recognized more often for portraying Denny Crane in ABC's "Boston Legal" than he does for being "Star Trek's" Captain Kirk.

With his recent Emmy nomination for playing yet another womanizer, one has to wonder, which of the two characters has bedded the most ladies?

"Denny Crane's had more time -- he's quite a few years older -- but Kirk's had more opportunity," Mr. Shatner told Blink.

And who's better in bed, Crane or Kirk?

"It depends on what planet you're on," came his reply.

Mr. Shatner was speaking to Blink at Tuesday night's "Boston Legal" WGA event in Beverly Hills, which was suitably mixed for a show that combines drama and comedy in equal measure.

Although "An Evening With 'Boston Legal'" clearly was timed as an Emmy campaign event, the guests avoided discussing the awards, instead focusing their discussion on the show's multiple facets.

Star James Spader observed that the show succeeds in its social and political commentary only because it tries to be more than just rhetoric.

"It doesn't just strive to do that. It does it at the same time it strives to be silly. And to be irreverent about itself. I would loathe this show if all it became was a platform," Mr. Spader said. "It's a strange mix of drama and comedy, and something funny, something farcical. Any one of those things by itself would be unbearable."

Showrunner and executive producer David E. Kelley said the show resonates on both sides of the political fence. "You'd be amazed how many letters we get from staunch Republicans thanking us for finally putting someone [like Denny Crane] on TV who tells it like it is."

Panel kept the audience in stitches, with even moderator Arianna Huffington getting in on the act, describing Candice Bergen's character "as if Murphy Brown has grown up and is having more sex."

"It's amazing David does this -- and that people buy it," Ms. Bergen replied.

When Ms. Huffington took to comparing the show's characters to Greek gods -- Shirley (Ms. Bergen) combines aspects of Aphrodite and Athena, Denny Crane represents Zeus -- Mr. Spader exclaimed in mock horror, "Zeus? You have no idea what you've done."

Discussion of the friendship between Mr. Spader's Alan Shore and Mr. Shatner's Denny Crane brought much laughter.

"As a stalwart Canadian I never held a boy's hand," Mr. Shatner said, taking Mr. Spader's hand, "until now. I never had that [male] friendship that dispensed with pretense and leveled with each other. I had it with women -- a lot -- but never with a guy. And never without sex. I just leveled them out. So it comes as a revelation to me to have a relationship with a guy that's more than who's on Monday night."

Mr. Spader revealed one male he counts as a close friend is fellow cast member Christian Clemenson. The two went to high school together and have remained friends, even playing brothers in the 1990 film "Bad Influence."

Also on the panel were producer Bill D'Elia and new cast member John Larroquette. Attendees included "Boston Legal" alum David Dean Bottrell, who played fan favorite Lincoln Meyer in season three.

-- Alex Romanelli

Arianna Huffington, James Spader, William Shatner and his man purse

Talent Lineup Unveiled for Telepictures' 'TMZ'

August 12, 2007 9:00 PM

Perhaps the most talked-about new syndicated series for fall is Telepictures' newsmagazine strip "TMZ," based on the mega-Web site TMZ.com that breaks celebrity news online. A lot of questions have surrounded the format of and talent for the show, but with the approach of the launch comes some clarity.

Executive producer (and main on-air personality) Harvey Levin has added four people to the strip's on-air talent list, including Teresa Strasser, who is perhaps best known as the host of TLC series "While You Were Out." Ms. Strasser currently co-hosts TV Guide Network's weekly pop culture roundup "TV Watercooler" with comedian John Fugelsang and is a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times' Calendar section. The show also has signed Katie Daryl, who has hosted the political MTV Special "Choose or Lose" and recently worked with HDNet as host and producer of "True Music"; Ben Mankiewicz, who co-hosts the Air America/XM radio show "The Young Turks" and hosts film presentations on Turner Classic Movies; and TMZ.com staffer Michael Hundgen. Jim Paratore will also executive produce.

The "TMZ" hosts will be based in its new newsroom on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. The series was designed to complement the Web site, with news updates added to later airings of the show. -- Chris Pursell

Student Counsel

August 12, 2007 9:00 PM

"Cops" producer John Langley and USC School of Cinematic Arts Dean Elizabeth Daley were presented with Caucus for Television Producers, Writers and Directors Achievement Awards Aug. 4 for their continued support of student filmmakers.

The awards were presented at the Caucus' second annual Casino Night held at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel, where more than 200 television creative figures gathered to raise funds for the Caucus Foundation student film grant program. Foundation Chairman Chuck Fries reported that the foundation has granted $421,000 in completion funding to 64 student filmmakers since its inception in 2001. -- Tom Gilbert

NatGeo Goes Wild

August 12, 2007 9:00 PM

It's a real zoo online, especially now that the National Geographic Channel's broadband site NGC Wild! is adding a new Wildlife Conservation Society category.

Short-form videos available in the category will highlight the Wildlife Conservation Society's research efforts around the world and at its five zoos in New York City, including the Bronx Zoo.

One set of videos, narrated by actress Glenn Close, features wildlife from Gabon, one of the last unspoiled wild areas in Africa. Another group features video from a "Crittercam" worn by a lioness that allows viewers inside the lives of a lion family.

Since its launch in May, NGC Wild! has streamed more than 500,000 videos, including a record 50,000 on Aug. 7. -- Jon Lafayette

Reveille 'School' In Session

August 12, 2007 9:00 PM

NBC Co-Chairman Ben Silverman sold his first reality series years ago by pre-packaging advertisers with the content. Now his former company Reveille is continuing the same ad-supported tradition for the Web.

Last Thursday, the four recently promoted department heads of Reveille (managing directors Howard Owens, Mark Koops, Chris Grant and Lee Rierson) joined with MSN and Volvo to throw a party at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles to celebrate "Mr. Robinson's Driving School," the company's third Web-exclusive series. Since "School" chronicles a competition between a pair of driving instructors, the series is able to readily incorporate Volvo into storyline.

The 16-episode comedy launches on MSN Aug. 15 and stars Craig Robinson of "The Office." -- James Hibberd

Roberts Returns

August 12, 2007 9:00 PM

Robin Roberts is scheduled to be back at the anchor desk with co-anchor Diane Sawyer on ABC's "Good Morning America" Monday morning.

Her return comes two weeks after her stunning announcement that she had been diagnosed early with breast cancer and a week and a half after undergoing surgery she said was successful.

"She is still awaiting her test results, but is feeling great and looking forward to getting back to work," a "GMA" spokeswoman said. Ms. Sawyer's announcement on-air Friday of Ms. Roberts' return triggered a burst of applause from the crowd in the "GMA" studio. -- Michele Greppi

Television Industry Pulls Together to Raise Hope

August 5, 2007 9:00 PM

While the television industry is an intensely competitive field, players are known to unite occasionally over an issue here or there. One of them is the annual City of Hope Golf Classic benefiting the Tim Nesvig Lymphoma Fellowship & Research Fund, which in its third stanza July 29 brought together everyone from Fox and Comcast to NBC and MTV to raise money and awareness for the charity. The fund honors Tim Nesvig, who died in 2005 at age 30 from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and was the son of Fox Broadcasting President of Sales Jon Nesvig. This year’s Sunday dinner and auction were followed by Monday’s Golf Classic at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and raised nearly $1 million for the charity, up from $800,000 last year. Event co-chair Bob Cook, president and chief operating officer of Twentieth Television, noted "24" star Kiefer Sutherland taped a promo for the organization that debuted at the dinner. "City of Hope has helped boost survival rates for children with cancer to 80 percent today, when it was just 10 to 20 percent just two decades ago," Mr. Cook said. "It’s such a marvelous place in that their doctors are literally curing cancer, because they have brought together some of the most fascinating minds in medicine." The list of names on the event’s organizing committee alone makes for a who’s who of the TV industry. "There is support for this across the board from every major media company, and it is terrific to see such an outpouring of money for the fellowship and in Tim Nesvig’s memory," Mr. Cook said. This year’s fellow is Leslie Popplewell, M.D., who is overseeing a trial using genetically modified T-cells designed to recognize lymphoma cells. Donations may be made at TimNesvigFellowship.com.
—Chris Pursell

High-Fashion Fun

August 5, 2007 9:00 PM

How much is that tunic in the window? At press time, HBO was set to take over the tony Barneys New York in Beverly Hills over the weekend to promote Tuesday’s DVD release of the second season of the series "Rome." Media agency PHD came up with the idea, which included everything from Rome-themed window displays, slated to stay up until Aug. 13, to a cocktail party on Saturday that cast members Kevin McKidd, James Purefoy and Polly Walker and costume designer April Ferry were expected to attend. In addition to DVDs, HBO planned to give party guests a book about the series, featuring never-before-seen photos, production sketches and commentaries by series historian Jonathan Stamp.
—Jon Lafayette

Picks and Pans Online

August 5, 2007 9:00 PM

Few critics have endured as many movies—good and bad—as the "At the Movies" team. Now film fans can access all of the reviews and debates that have aired on the long-running Disney/ABC Domestic Television weekly series, which is entering its 22nd season in syndication. The distributor last week launched a database of about 5,000 reviews online, including not only those from the current "At the Movies With Ebert & Roeper," but also reviews dating back to the days when Gene Siskel sat in the other theater chair. Current theatrical and DVD release reviews are posted to the Web site following each weekly broadcast of "Ebert & Roeper." "For years this was a dream," said Roger Ebert, co-host of the series. "Now I am exhilarated that it is a reality, thanks to the enormous effort of digitizing something like 1,000 programs. It is always fascinating to go back and see what was being said about a film before it opened. The disagreements, between me and Siskel and Roeper, will be fun to revisit, and even more exciting will be our sense of discovery when we find something like ‘Boyz N the Hood,’ ‘Fargo,’ ‘Hoop Dreams’ or ‘Monster.’ I may start searching around in this archive and never stop!"
—Chris Pursell

Kinky, Campy World

August 5, 2007 9:00 PM

Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey’s World of Wonder Productions, the creative force behind WE’s "Wife, Mom, Bounty Hunter," Oxygen’s "Tori and Dean: Inn Love" and Sundance Channel’s "One Punk Under God," is mounting a monthlong Art in August art exhibit in a storefront gallery at its Hollywood Boulevard headquarters. The exhibit will showcase a different artist or collection each week. Up Aug. 13: Leonora Claire’s assortment of works entitled "Golden Gals Gone Wild," featuring outrageous likenesses of the menopausal gang from ABC’s erstwhile hit "The Golden Girls"—mdash;and including Ms. Claire’s prized first acquisition, a well-publicized, no-breasts-barred sendup of a scantily clad Bea Arthur by Chris Zimmerman. After landing that gem, Ms. Claire went on to commission similar interpretations of the series’ stars from some 30 other artists. A note of caution: Management is not responsible for any damages whatsoever, howsoever caused.
—Tom Gilbert

Kids Swarm ‘Nation’ Casting

August 5, 2007 9:00 PM

An open casting call in Cleveland for a presumed second season of CBS’ fall reality show “Kid Nation” was swarmed with more than 400 kids seeking a spot on the yet-to-premiere series, CBS confirmed. More than 80 of the kids camped out overnight to ensure an audition spot. The high degree of interest in a reality show that hasn’t even debuted is unusual, especially for a second season that has not been ordered. “Nation” follows 40 kids living in a New Mexico “ghost town” without parents for more than a month. CBS hopes the kids’ high interest in appearing on the show translates into high interest in watching the show this fall as well.
—James Hibberd