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February 2009 Archives

Video: ‘Wheel’ Hits 5,000-Episode Mark

February 27, 2009 11:34 AM

For the 5,000th time in syndication, contestants will buy vowels and opt to solve the puzzle on “Wheel of Fortune” tonight.

“Fortune,” in its 26th season, celebrated the milestone with a cake in the shape of “5,000,” along with host Pat Sajak and famed letter-turner Vanna White reminiscing about their favorite moment: their on-screen kiss, which was interrupted by show creator Merv Griffin.

“I think [‘Wheel’] could last indefinitely,” executive producer Harry Friedman said. “It feels almost like a sports franchise.”

Mr. Friedman said that each renewal of the show gives the producers the ability to plan out the strategy of the program three to four years at a time. This most recent renewal had the show focus on technology, including its leap into high definition, as well as providing the game in different digital formats, like online and on mobile devices.

As for the next 5,000 episodes, Mr. Friedman said the syndicated product is holding steady, downplaying the possibilities of any prime-time specials. As for Mr. Sajak and Ms. White, Mr. Friedman said he hasn’t heard any talk of retirement from “Wheel.”

Mr. Friedman said America’s appetite for game shows is growing, and he said he wouldn’t be surprised to see the classics, like “The $100,000 Pyramid,” return to the airwaves in the near future.

—Andrew Krukowski

We Love the ’80s!

February 25, 2009 3:49 PM

Alex Drake is on a bad trip—time trip, that is.

Ashes to Ashes

After taking a bullet to the head, the police officer, played by Keeley Hawes, finds herself face to face with figures she’s only read about: Gene Hunt, Ray Carling and Chris Skelton.

You see, Ms. Drake is the main character in “Ashes to Ashes,” a sort-of sequel to “Life on Mars,” the BBC series-turned-ABC drama. In the series trailer, she’s reading the file of Sam Tyler, whose travails in the 1970s were the subject of “Life.”

This time around, Ms. Drake finds herself sent back to 1981, complete with period-correct outlandishly big hair and visions of David Bowie in his distinctive “Ashes to Ashes” getup. (As with “Life on Mars,” Mr. Bowie provides the title tune.)

BBC America starts airing the series on March 7, but you can check out a preview clip here.

—Lisa D. Horowitz

WE tv Gets Break on ‘Breaking Bad’

February 20, 2009 2:27 PM

The day before “Breaking Bad” returns with Emmy winner Bryan Cranston on AMC, sister network WE tv will be airing “Last Chance,” an independent film Mr. Cranston made with his wife, Robin Dearden.

Last Chance

Charlie Collier, president and general manager of AMC, said the female-skewing film is designed to cross-promote the series to a new audience.

“It’s a sweet romantic drama that I wrote as a Valentine for my wife,” Mr. Cranston says. “I play her husband, kind of a louse of a guy, but I’m very proud of it and it’s one way that we can reach out and hopefully attract more women to ‘Breaking Bad.’”

Mr. Cranston said it would be nice if wives and girlfriends would sit and watch the series with their men.

“But not together,” he added. “You have to choose if it’s going to be your wife or your girlfriend.”

“All of us at Rainbow are big fans of Bryan Cranston and the work that he has done on AMC’s ‘Breaking Bad,’" said Kim Martin, president-general manager of WE tv. “We’re always on the lookout for quality product that speaks to women, and if it happens to come from someone who is already in the family, better still."

—Jon Lafayette

‘Breaking’ Out With Online Content

February 17, 2009 3:13 PM

“Breaking Bad” is getting some additional online content in advance of its second season, which starts March 8, AMC and Sony Pictures Television announced today.

Five webisodes premiere today at AMC’s Web site as well as Crackle.com, featuring “Bad” cast members Bryan Cranston, Dean Norris, Anna Gunn and Aaron Paul in three- to five-minute shorts.

Some include Walt (Mr. Cranston) confronting Hank’s (Mr. Norris) pre-wedding jitters and Jesse’s (Mr. Paul) introduction of his band, Twaughthammer.

Also launching today is an interactive promotion at waltswarning.com, in which viewers get a first-person perspective from Walt’s Winnebago.

And starting March 6, viewers can get a recap of “Bad’s” first season at Sony’s Minisode Network, which condenses shows into five-minute bite-sized videos.

Click the play button below to see one of the original webisodes.

—Andrew Krukowski

Prime ‘Access’ to ‘Stars’ Competition

February 15, 2009 7:30 PM

The appearance by “Access Hollywood’s” Nancy O’Dell on this season’s “Dancing With the Stars” is going to afford the syndicated entertainment newsmagazine exclusive access to this go-round of the popular ABC celebrity dance competition.

Nancy O’Dell

Rob Silverstein, executive producer of the NBC Universal-distributed strip, is planning wall-to-wall coverage of “Stars,” and isn’t shy about lauding Ms. O’Dell’s chances of winning the dance competition.

“I would say, up until she wins this thing, we will have something on the show every single day,” he said.

Currently planned is a daily confessional segment from Ms. O’Dell about the day’s practice; a body measurement index to show how much weight and body mass Ms. O’Dell loses over the course of the competition; interviews with former celebrity dance partners of Ms. O’Dell’s teammate Tony Dovolani; and a “leg measure-off” between Ms. O’Dell and former WWE wrestler and “Stars” competitor Stacy Keibler to see who has the longest legs.

“This is a one-time chance,” Mr. Silverstein said, adding that “Access” is planning to have cameras follow Ms. O’Dell everywhere: in her trailer, during rehearsals and backstage.

Mr. Silverstein said he’s trying to figure out a way to use “Access” to generate viewer votes for Ms. O’Dell.

An online poll at TVGuide.com has pegged Ms. O’Dell as the early favorite to win, with 29% of the vote. Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson is a close second with 26%.

—Andrew Krukowski

‘ET’ Dances Around O’Dell Casting on ‘Dancing’

February 12, 2009 4:02 PM

The announcement of “Access Hollywood” host Nancy O’Dell joining the season’s “Dancing With the Stars” puts rival entertainment newsmagazine “Entertainment Tonight” in a precarious position.

Nancy O'Dell

“Stars” gets a large amount of coverage on “ET,” but Ms. O’Dell is the face of the competition. What to do?

If you’re “ET,” the answer appears to be: Refuse to cover it.

Stories on “Entertainment Tonight’s” site regarding this season’s “Dancing With the Stars” currently lack Ms. O’Dell’s name. She’s not even mentioned in the main article about the cast.

Ms. O’Dell’s absence also is notable in another story about who the cast is partnering up with this season.

“‘Dancing With the Stars’ has called 13 new celebrities to the dance floor and, for the first time, three real-life couples will battle in the ballroom—‘ET’ reveals the dance partner pairing,” reads the beginning of the story, but it then only lists 12 competitors. Guess who’s missing?

Typing “Nancy O’Dell” into the search box on etonline.com also turns up zero results.

An “Entertainment Tonight” representative had no comment.

For comparison’s sake, Warner Bros.’ “Extra” lists Ms. O’Dell in its story on the cast announcement, referring to her as a “TV personality.”

—Andrew Krukowski

‘Castle’ Gets Notes From Authors

February 11, 2009 12:02 PM

A secret poker club for mystery authors?

Looks like Rick Castle, the mystery writer played by Nathan Fillion in ABC’s upcoming “Castle,” gets his storytelling advice from real-life writers James Patterson and Stephen J. Cannell over a poker game.

Mr. Patterson and TV veteran Mr. Cannell, who created or co-created shows including “The Rockford Files,” “The A-Team” and “21 Jump Street,” urge Castle not to cut off the head of his cash cow in the following sneak peek.

—Vlada Gelman

Judge Penny Tunes Up at Image Awards

February 10, 2009 6:12 PM

“Family Court With Judge Penny’s” Penny Brown Reynolds took a break from the bench to deliver the benediction at the NAACP Image Awards luncheon on Feb. 7.

Judge Penny

Promoting a message of giving thanks, Ms. Reynolds read the third verse of James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as “The Negro National Hymn.”

She said she still considers herself a courtroom judge rather than a television personality, so her strut down the red carpet was something new for her.

NAACP Image Awards nominees also attended the breakfast, including “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Chandra Wilson, “Ugly Betty’s” Vanessa Williams and “American Idol’s” Randy Jackson, who introduced Ms. Reynolds at the luncheon.

Seated next to her at the breakfast was Motown singer Thelma Houston. Ms. Reynolds said she didn’t recognize Ms. Houston at first, and used her BlackBerry to Google her name.

“I clicked on a link for her name expecting information,” she said, “but ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ started playing.”

“Don't Leave” was Ms. Houston’s big 1977 disco hit. Ms. Reynolds said they both laughed off the embarrassing moment and began singing an impromptu duet of the song.

—Andrew Krukowski

Parent Knows Best

February 6, 2009 3:23 PM

Here's one of those corporate right-hand/left-hand/doing? situations that always prove so embarrassing.

We've all heard about the infamous surprise porn incident in Tucson, Ariz., last Sunday, when Comcast analog subscribers who were tuned into the Super Bowl on NBC were unwittingly subjected to 30 seconds of action on the Shorteez pay-per-view porn channel, also carried by Comcast in that market.

Lisa de Moraes, in her Washington Post TV column today updates the situation, reporting that Comcast, which termed the mishap an “isolated, malicious act,” will give offended subscribers a $10 credit. She goes on to quote Federal Communications Commission spokesman David Fiske, who denies a press report that the FCC is investigating the Tucson incident beyond an initial review of complaints.

Now here's the good part—that press report he’s denying? From a no less impeccable source than Comcast-owned E! Entertainment Television’s E! Online news. It was later amended with a retraction.

—Tom Gilbert

‘Torchwood’ Turns Up the Heat in Season 3

February 5, 2009 1:26 PM

That fearless alien fighter Captain Jack is back in the BBC’s “Torchwood,” and if the trailer is anything to go by, this five-episode series will be a nonstop string of plot twists, explosions, betrayals and pan-sexual making out—just what “Torchwood” fans were hoping for!


In its third season, airing later this year on BBC 1 in the U.K. as well as on BBC America, “Torchwood: Children of Earth” sheds its usual serialized approach to present one story over five nights. John Barrowman returns as dashing Captain Jack, joined by Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd), as something mysterious is happening to kids all over the world. The children all appear to have simultaneously … just … stopped.

While dealing with the loss of cohorts Owen and Toshiko, Jack, Gwen and Ianto must (a) solve the mystery; (b) cope with what looks like the mother of all government coverups; and (c) deal with their unusual love triangle (or quadrangle, if one includes Gwen’s now-husband).

Watch the action-packed trailer after the jump.

—Lisa D. Horowitz

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Fox Channels Ghosts of Grindhouse

February 4, 2009 11:43 AM

Starting Feb. 13, Fox will debut its new Friday night lineup, teaming Joss Whedon’s new drama “Dollhouse” with the return of “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” The femme-focused pairing of two action-oriented series got the network’s hypemeisters thinking.

“We were talking about how our new Friday is like a good old ‘double feature’ night where the good guys (girls?) always win,” Fox marketing chief Joe Earley said. “We have these amazing ass-kicking women who are beautiful, smart and funny. So our special ops guys created this great spot specifically for the Internet.”

The spot features plenty of sexy shots of “Dollhouse” star Eliza Dushku and “Terminator” temptress Summer Glau, along with retro graphics and over-the-top narration (“Fuego your Fridays!”).

But it turns out the Internet wasn’t big enough to contain the energy of the promo.

“We liked it so much we decided to do a cut-down to air in our cable buy, and to run on our own air,” Mr. Earley said, noting that the broadcast version had to be tweaked a bit to meet with the approval of Fox’s broadcast standards and practices department.

Check out the spot below:

—Josef Adalian

CBS Shows Viewers the Love

February 3, 2009 1:05 PM

CBS is bringing new meaning to the phrase “Love hurts.” Or “My bloody Valentine.”

CBS Valentines

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the network—along with sister studio CBS Paramount Network TV—has launched an Internet-based promotion giving viewers the chance to send e-mail postcards featuring the stars of Friday crime dramas “Flashpoint” and “Numb3rs.”

One e-greeting features “Numb3rs” star Rob Morrow, dressed in full FBI getup, telling the recipient, “No, I love YOU more.” Another has the cast of “Flashpoint,” in full SWAT team regalia, reminding us, “Love is a battlefield.”

The subtle message of the promotion seems to be: ABC may have the corner on weepy female-driven soap operas, but our bullet-ridden crime dramas score with the ladies, too. (Indeed, CBS regularly wins Friday nights thanks to “Numb3rs,” “Flashpoint” and 8 p.m. anchor “Ghost Whisperer.”)

The e-greetings are available for distribution at Fridaynightlove.com. CBS is promoting the microsite on CBS.com and TV.com. The promotion will run through Valentine’s Day.

—Josef Adalian

Calling All Bar Tricks

February 1, 2009 9:00 PM

If you run into the spiky-haired, Mohawk-sporting, self-anointed “bizarre magician” Brian Brushwood, he might ask to practice some of his new scams on you.

That’s because his Web show, Revision3’s “Scam School,” has turned out to be such a hit that he needs some new tricks.

The Web series, launched last year, has earned more than 1 million views online and was named one of iTunes’ best podcasts of 2008. That good fortune also means the host needs to devise a new cadre of scams, tricks and gotchas to help viewers score free drinks and phone numbers at bars.

At the NATPE convention in Las Vegas last week, Mr. Brushwood said he’s been brushing up on his magic by practicing his new tricks for friends. He also spends about 30 minutes each day answering e-mails from viewers about the tricks they’ve already learned on his show.

“I want them to do the tricks well, so I have to manage my ambassadors,” he said.

—Daisy Whitney

Room for Cream

February 1, 2009 9:00 PM

What do you get when you mix a meeting at Starbucks, six hours on the streets of Manhattan and $2,500?

The genesis of one of the most successful Web networks ever.

That’s exactly how online video channel BarelyPolitical got started nearly two years ago with the super-popular viral video “I’ve Got a Crush on Obama” starring Obama Girl. She’s played by actress Amber Lee Ettinger, who detailed the network’s inauspicious beginnings at last week’s NATPE convention in Las Vegas.

“The idea came when [BarelyPolitical creator] Ben Relles e-mailed me out of the blue and said, ‘I have a fun project if you’re interested.’ We met at a Starbucks and he played me the song ‘I’ve Got a Crush on Obama’ and it reminded me of a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit,” she said.

She donned her high heels and tight T-shirt and spent the next six hours on-camera looking lustful for then-candidate Barack Obama.

Mr. Relles recouped his initial investment via sales of T-shirts and song downloads, and BarelyPolitical has gone on to rack up more than 125 million views for all of its videos created since then.

“I had no idea the video would take off the way it did. We did it when [Obama] was polling 11%,” Mr. Relles said.

—Daisy Whitney