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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.

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What Is: 2.1 Million ‘Jeopardy!’ Contest Entries?

May 3, 2009 7:30 PM

Fans responded positively to last month’s “Jeopardy!” Galapagos Islands sweepstakes, which garnered nearly 2.1 million online entries from 350,000 viewers for a chance to sail to the exotic locale with show host Alex Trebek.

Jeopardy Galapagos Contest Website'

Harry Friedman, executive producer of “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune,” said he was surprised by the big response to the contest—in which the show is partnered with National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions—saying it’s the largest turnout for any “Jeopardy!” sweepstakes yet. “Were we hoping for it? Yes,” he said. “Were we expecting it? No.” Mr. Friedman said Mr. Trebek will be more than just a passive celebrity on the trip; he will hang out with the fans.

Mr. Trebek also will use the cruise to shoot visual clues from the Galapagos to air on “Jeopardy!” next season, Mr. Friedman said. While Mr. Friedman wouldn’t say if “Jeopardy!” is up for another cruise any time soon, he noted that viewer response has sent a clear message to producers that fans want something unique from the program.

—Andrew Krukowski

Branagh’s ‘Masterpiece’ Moment

May 1, 2009 2:09 PM

Kenneth Branagh has taken his first recurring television role, but fear not, highbrow fans: It’s for PBS’ “Masterpiece Mystery.”

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A 'MASTERPIECE MYSTERY' PBS' Rebecca Eaton, left, and Kenneth Branagh discuss "Wallander." (Kevin Parry/The Paley Center for Media)

Branagh stopped by the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills on Wednesday to talk about “Wallander” with PBS’ Rebecca Eaton, Variety’s Brian Lowry and an audience of devoted fans (of which the Daily Blink is one). The hyperarticulate multihyphenate charmed one and all with his thoughtful, modest responses to questions about the Swedish books on which “Wallander” is based as well as his HBO film “Conspiracy” and even his upcoming comic-book film “Thor.”

“Wallander” is a series of three fairly self-contained films centered on a Swedish police detective, based on a series of books by Henning Mankell (he recently completed writing the 10th in the series, Branagh said). They’re shot on location in the Swedish coastal town of Ystad, and Branagh said he’s going back this summer to film three more of the books.

The Swedish locations, beautifully shot by “Slumdog Millionaire’s” Oscar-winning cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, create a strong sense of place. Branagh described the country as similar to the American West: “It’s the land of big sky,” he said, “very flat. You always feel as if you’re in a massive wide shot in a movie, or in a landscape painting.”

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Check Out Jerry's 10 Finalists in 'Springer Singer Search'

April 27, 2009 6:18 PM

NBC Universal’s “The Jerry Springer Show” announced the “Springer Singer Search” in March, looking for original song submissions about “Springer” from the show's fans.

Jerry Springer

Now, we’ve entered the semi-finals, as the producers have culled the pack down to 10 entrants. Viewers are encouraged to head over to http://www.jerryspringertv.com/ to vote for their favorites, and the top three will perform on an episode in May to decide the winner of the $5,000 prize.

After the jump, check out the semi-finalists as we check in with Blink’s bookie to get odds and notes on the competition.

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Look Out, Oprah: Ellen’s a Tweet Thang

April 26, 2009 7:05 PM

What was with all the hubbub surrounding Oprah Winfrey’s entrance into the Twittersphere earlier this month? Heck, fellow talk show host Ellen DeGeneres has been quietly amassing Twitter followers since her Twitter debut in early March.

Ellen DeGeneres

At press time, Ms. DeGeneres had 1,091,826 Twitter followers, while Ms. Winfrey has amassed nearly half that many in about seven days. Ms. DeGeneres is using her Twitter feed to give her fans more access to the show, which will celebrate its 1,000th episode Friday with a visit from Matthew McConaughey and the sale of a T-shirt emblazoned “Laugh. Dance. 1,000th.,” with proceeds going to the Humane Society of the United States. Celebrity tweets generally do give some backstage perspective, but Ms. DeGeneres’ feed is going so far as to put fans on-camera, turning her Twittering into a game that’s part scavenger hunt, part “Let’s Make a Deal.” So far, Ms. DeGeneres has rolled several Twitter segments into her show, offering free tickets to fans who subscribe to her feed and undertake challenges at certain times. “Twitter has allowed the show to engage the viewers even more by seamlessly integrating the content into the show,” Telepictures Productions President Hilary Estey McLoughlin said. “We plan on using this digital tool as well as others that enhance the viewers’ experience while remaining organic to the show.”

—Andrew Krukowski

There’s Baldo

April 26, 2009 7:00 PM

Paley Festival Fringe Panel

'FRINGE' FILES Joshua Jackson, left, discussing 'Fringe' with co-star John Noble.

“Fringe” star Joshua Jackson (right, with John Noble), appearing on Thursday’s PaleyFest panel for the show at Hollywood’s Arclight Cinerama Dome, took the opportunity to air what seemed to Blink a valid complaint about Fox, his home network. It seems that back in January, try as he might, poor Josh was unable to get good seats to the big Philadelphia Eagles-New York Giants playoff game.

Even after hitting up connections at the network, which was televising the game, he had to settle for some nose-bleed seats that he and his friends managed to scrounge up.

The Observer

Here’s the kicker: During the game he spots, on the sidelines, sitting in the choicest of sections, the Observer, the mysterious (and relatively minor) “Fringe” character the network is using to promote its schedule—planting him in the crowd at televised sporting events and even on “American Idol.”

A word of advice, Josh: Talent may be talent, but it’s promotion that will get you everywhere in showbiz.

—Chad Rooney

HBO’s ‘Big Love’ Packs in the Action

April 23, 2009 3:33 PM

If you’ve ever wondered how much story can fit into a one-hour TV drama, “Big Love” has the answer: A lot.

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'BIG' STORIES Co-creator and executive producer Mark V. Olsen, left, and Bill Paxton.

The last season of HBO’s polygamist drama about Bill Henrickson and his three wives featured a teenage pregnancy that became a miscarriage, blackmail, kidnapping, identity theft, multiple deaths, a cancer scare, confessions of love, a long-lost daughter and a road trip. And that’s just the half of it.

“They put me through everything you can think of,” Bill Paxton said at Wednesday’s PaleyFest panel for the show at Hollywood’s Arclight Cinerama Dome. “I have a twitch ever since the show wrapped. It was exhausting.”

“Big Love’s” intricate web of interweaving, nuanced storylines also took a toll on the show’s creators, Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer.

“The real headache began in the last two episodes,” when they were figuring out how to wrap up all the storylines, Mr. Olsen said.

The creators admitted they had used up their original six-year agenda for the show by the end of season three. Jeanne Tripplehorn, who plays first wife Barb, even worried that the show might lose viewers due to its dense and complicated storylines.

“We’ve never hired an actor we didn’t love,” the creators added, explaining their need to create more story.

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Spilling the Secrets of ‘The Hills’

April 23, 2009 11:55 AM

Will Lauren Conrad be back for season six of MTV’s “The Hills”? Did Spencer Pratt start those vicious sex-tape rumors? Will a third time down the aisle be the charm for Speidi?

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BEHIND 'THE HILLS' Creator and executive producer Adam DiVello, left, and Lauren Conrad.

Yes, almost, to all questions. At least that’s what the cast and creative team behind the popular reality soap opera teased at Tuesday’s PaleyFest panel at the Arclight Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.

In attendance at the panel were show protagonist Lauren Conrad, former co-worker Whitney Port, former roommate Audrina Patridge, former paramour Brody Jenner, former high-school classmate Lauren “Lo” Bosworth and former enemy-by-blood Stephanie Pratt. Noticeably absent were former best friend Heidi Montag and current root-of-all-evil Spencer Pratt, but more on that later.

Also in attendance were executive producers Liz Gately, Sean Travis, Sara Mast and series creator Adam DiVello.

Fans and some oblivious press members were treated to some interesting nuggets from the remainder of the current season, as well as the potential for life after season five. Blink was there in a front-row seat, Tweeting the revelations as they happened.

For some spoiler-filled goodness, check out the gossip (and some raw Twitter action) after the jump.

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‘Caprica’ Stands on Its Own at PaleyFest

April 21, 2009 4:52 PM

The “Caprica”/“Battlestar Galactica” event Monday at PaleyFest started with a clip from “The Outer Limits” featuring an early man-discovering-he’s-really-a-robot clip. It was awesome to see how far the genre has come and yet how the basic themes and guiding philosophies remain the same.

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NOT CYLONS Executive producers David Eick, left, and Ron Moore.

Moderator Seth Green, introduced to loud applause, told the crowd at Hollywood’s Arclight that he’s a huge “fanboy.” He also admitted he resisted the “BSG” phenomenon at first until friends finally talked him into watching it—at which point he got the DVDs and tore “through the first two seasons in like a week.” He said his plan for the night is to try to corner showrunners David Eick and Ron Moore and get them to explain the unanswered questions left floating around in the “BSG” universe after the season finale.

Moore and Eick came out to even more applause and described the inception of “Caprica.” It was brought to them by NBC Universal as an independent non-“BSG” series pitched by Remi Aubuchon; because of its artificial intelligence-heavy plotline, the three thought it might make an interesting collaboration and a distinctly different way of continuing the themes of “BSG” within a very different show structure.

Moore went on to thank “Friday Night Lights” alum Jeffrey Reiner (who was not in attendance), director of the “Caprica” pilot, for establishing a completely different and “unique tone, cinematography, sensibility” for the new show.

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Fans Haven’t Given Up on ‘Pushing Daisies’

April 20, 2009 3:22 PM

“Pushing Daisies” may be canceled, but the sold-out crowd at PaleyFest’s Sunday screening of the series’ last three, as-yet-unaired episodes wasn’t ready to let go. Neither was the show’s cast and crew.

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THE FINAL 'DAISIES' Creator Bryan Fuller, left, Ellen Greene, director and executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld and Chi McBride introduce the screening.

Introducing the screening to a standing ovation (another one followed the final episode), creator Bryan Fuller said, “I’m hoping there is a life beyond television for ‘Pushing Daisies.’”

Mr. Fuller, who noted that one of his first PaleyFest panels was “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” brought director and executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld and stars Chi McBride and Ellen Greene to the stage to say a few words.

“For all of you attending today, there's pitchforks and torches we'll be handing out,” Mr. McBride said, rallying the audience into protest mode.

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It’s All in the Attitude on ‘Mentalist’ Set

April 20, 2009 12:00 PM

Who knew? Network television is “basically improvised,” according to Bruno Heller, creator of CBS’ “The Mentalist.” He was comparing the pace of production on the season’s top-rated new show to his previous creation, HBO’s “Rome.”

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GOING 'MENTALIST' Creator Bruno Heller, left, co-executive producer Chris Long and Simon Baker.

Heller was joined by “Mentalist” co-executive producer Chris Long and cast members Simon Baker, Robin Tunney, Owain Yeoman and Amanda Righetti at the PaleyFest panel Friday night at Arclight Hollywood. The show’s Tim Kang was missing, according to moderator Ben Grossman of Broadcasting & Cable, because he was collecting an award as “the first actor to not crack a smile for the entire first season.”

Yeoman volunteered that he and Kang pass the time on set exchanging Chuck Norris facts. Pressed for an example, he offered, “When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn't lifting himself up, he's pushing the Earth down.”

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