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The Television Critics Association Press Tour is going to be crawling with TVWeek staffers. Check this space for observations from the presentations, hallway chatter and the dope on who was misbehaving at the parties. TVWeek’s Jon Lafayette, Josef Adalian, Andrew Krukowski, Sergio Ibarra and Vlada Gelman all will post as they scour the scene for news.


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January 2009 Archives

NBC's Not Out of the 'Jungle' Yet

January 15, 2009 4:07 PM

"Lipstick Jungle" still has a pulse. But barely.

NBC has never officially canceled the Brooke Shields soap opera. There were rumors of its demise last month, but the network was careful to say it wanted to see how the show did when it returned in January.

NBC Entertainment President Angela Bromstad on Thursday again repeated NBC's position that the show could still return next year. She said it would depend on the network's development.

After her formal TCA session with reporters, Ms. Bromstad said the network is talking to other networks—including some inside NBC Universal (cough, Oxygen)—about ways to do a deal that would keep the show alive.

Still, Ms. Bromstad didn't sound too hopeful, indicating the show's Friday ratings have been challenging.

—Josef Adalian

'Office's' Daniels Pondering Another Series

January 15, 2009 4:04 PM

Could there be yet another series coming from "The Office" brain trust? Maybe.

Talking up his new Amy Poehler project at the TCA's Winter Press Tour, "Office" showrunner Greg Daniels said he is working on an idea for another series.

"I am talking to people (who write for 'The Office') about another idea," Mr. Daniels said Thursday.

The key for Mr. Daniels is that he likely would not be involved in the day-to-day production of the series. He's simply too busy to do three shows.

"It's possible that some combination of other 'Office' people could produce that without me giving my blood," he said.

—Josef Adalian

MSNBC Bolsters Weekend Documentary Slate

January 15, 2009 4:00 PM

MSNBC's spilt personality could become a bit more cohesive in 2009.

That's the word from MNSBC President Phil Griffin, who said the network is looking to tweak its weekend documentary programming.

Currently, much of the network's Saturday and Sunday schedule is filled with crime-themed programming from "Dateline NBC" and Peacock Productions.

"I want our primetime personalities to drive more of our documentaries," Mr. Griffin told reporters Thursday at the Television Critics Association's Winter Press Tour. He said the network already has aired specials tied to Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, and that more are in the works.

Mr. Griffin said MSNBC also is working on a documentary series hosted by T.D. Jakes, who's developing a syndicated talk show for fall 2010.

—Josef Adalian

'Call Girl' Producer Makes Promise to Viewers

January 14, 2009 5:00 PM

Premium cable is home to all sorts of nudity and naughty language. But the producers of Showtime's "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" are offering a promise to potential viewers about content.

"You won't see any lady gardens," promised producer Rebecca de Souza.

What's a "lady garden"? Well, the show is about a high-end prostitute doing what prostitutes do. You do the math.

—Josef Adalian

Showtime’s Still Growing, Executives Say

January 14, 2009 2:34 PM

Showtime chiefs Matt Blank and Bob Greenblatt touted another strong year for the premium cable service Wednesday, hyping across-the-board gains in subscribers and revenue.

Mr. Blank said Showtime added 1 million subscribers in 2008, ending the year with 16.5 million homes. He also cited a 50% spike in video streaming at the network’s Web site, SHO.com.

The executives didn’t announce any new series or projects, but Mr. Greenblatt revealed that Laurie Metcalf, Melissa Leo and Famke Janssen will guest star in the pilot for the network’s upcoming spinoff of “The L Word.” The potential series will be set in a women’s prison.

Mr. Greenblatt said Showtime has yet to decide whether to order another season of drama “Brotherhood.”

“It’s a show that we love,” he said. “But we’re just trying to figure out what the future of it might be.”

Mr. Greenblatt, never shy with an opinion, also made a prediction regarding his broadcast peers.

“I think we will see networks giving back time to affiliates,” he said. “I believe that will happen in the next few years. And I don’t mean Fox or The CW … and I don’t think it will be CBS.”

—Josef Adalian

NBC Adds Wells' 'Southland' to Press Tour Agenda

January 14, 2009 1:14 PM

Looks like NBC isn't wasting any time beginning the promotion for its just-ordered John Wells police drama.

Just days after the network officially picked up the project to series, NBC has scheduled a panel for the show Thursday at its portion of the TV Critics Association's Winter Press Tour. Producer Wells and the show's cast are set to attend.

In addition, NBC and Warner Bros. TV have come up with a new name for the show. Previously known as "Police," the show now is being called "Southland."

NBC also is planning a session with MNSBC host Rachel Maddow and late-night stars Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon. As expected, NBC Entertainment Co-Chairmen Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff will skip a formal session with the press, allowing new NBC Entertainment President Angela Bromstad to take the spotlight. She'll be joined by new NBC reality czar Paul Telegdy.

—Josef Adalian

Sharon Osbourne's Available

January 13, 2009 3:02 PM

Sharon Osbourne used to appear as a judge on the British show "The X Factor" (it's sort of like "American Idol"). She'll soon be seen on Fox via "Osbournes Reloaded."

Sharon Osbourne

So TVWeek asked: Would Ms. Osbourne ever want to appear as a judge on "American Idol," which also airs on Fox?

"I'm such a TV whore," she said. "I would go on anything."

Ms. Osbourne then spread her legs to illustrate the point. "I feel like Madonna!"

"Osbournes Reloaded"—coming this spring to Fox. Check local listings.

—Josef Adalian

New Developments on 'Arrested' Movie?

January 13, 2009 2:24 PM

Put Mitch Hurwitz, Jason Batemen and Will Arnett together in a room of reporters, and you're bound to get a question or two about an "Arrested Development" movie. Even if the session is supposed to be about "Sit Down, Shut Up," the animated comedy premiering this April on Fox.

Arrested Development

But before journalists … OK, this reporter … could even bring up the topic of "AD: The Movie," Mr. Arnett began Tuesday's session by gently mocking the online hubbub over the film.

"When's the movie of 'Sit Down, Shut Up'?" Mr. Arnett asked Mr. Hurwitz at the start of the panel.

Replied Mr. Hurwitz, "We're having trouble getting the cast."

So what is the latest on the "AD" movie? It's still almost happening but not quite a done deal yet, Mr. Hurwitz said.

"We want to do it," the writer-producer said. "We have a general (OK) from Fox Searchlight. I'm really optimistic."

And the plot for said almost-movie?

"We have a story," Mr. Hurwitz said. "It's basically 'Valkyrie' meets 'Hotel for Dogs.'"

—Josef Adalian

Kevin Reilly on NBC: Stop Stalking Me

January 13, 2009 9:45 AM

Kevin Reilly

Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly kicked off the Fox portion of TCA with what just might be the line of the day.

"NBC for me is like the crazy ex-wife I can't get away from," he told reporters.

He tried out the line on a TVWeek reporter just before the session.

—Josef Adalian

Starz Gets Ready to 'Party Down'

January 10, 2009 4:50 PM

At least one of the actors in “Party Down,” the new comedy from Starz, really was a “cater waiter” while waiting for her big break.

During a Saturday panel at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour about the series, about a group of Hollywood wannabes working for a catering company, Lizzy Caplan said she would serve food to show business types and “the whole experience made me so angry,” she said. She would be thinking, “You should be serving me,” adding, “There’s no one so cocky as the unemployed actor.”

Ms. Caplan also worked in a restaurant, where she still has friends on staff. She said some of them might be good for the show. “They’re really good at serviing food,” she said.

The show is created by Rob Thomas, who was executive producer of “Veronica Mars.” Mr. Thomas has cast several people who also appeared on “Mars” in the new show. Veronica Mars herself, Kristen Bell, has visited the set and is expected to appear in an episode, Mr. Thomas said.

“Party Down” is part of Starz’s push into original programming. Also upcoming is a new version of “Spartacus.”

Executive producer Rob Tapert described it as “a hard-core, testosterone-driven drama unlike anything on television now.” He said it would get a “hard R” rating because of what are expected to be brutal fight scenes between the gladiators, as well as a fair amount of sex and nudity.

The key figure of Spartacus is yet to be cast, but Mr. Tapert said he’s not concerned.

“The history of television is it creates stars,” he said.

Starz’s dramatic series “Crash” has just finished its first season. Starz Entertainment President Bill Myers said that conversations about season two will begin next week, and that there are a few weeks before a decision about a renewal must be made.

Returning to Starz is improv comedy “Head Case,” which this season will feature Jerry Seinfeld, Tori Spelling and Hugh Hefner as guest patients.

Star Alexandra Wentworth said that since the show is improvised, it's hard to know what to guests might do. She reported that Mr. Seinfeld decided to work a little more blue than fans of his sitcom might expect.

She said only one thing went too far for the show: when singer Macy Gray went on and on about how much she wanted to sleep with Barack Obama.

Ms. Wentworth said her husband, ABC’s “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos, advised her that it was over the line.

Mr. Stephanopoulos won’t be appearing on “Head Case,” but Ms. Wentworth said her work has appeared on “This Week.”

When David Gregory took over as moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Stephanopoulos read a top 10 list of things Mr. Gregory should expect on his new job. Ms. Wentworth said she wrote many of those items.

—Jon Lafayette

BET Focuses on Obama, 'Harlem Heights'

January 10, 2009 2:22 PM

The election of Barack Obama is very much on the minds of the people at BET and its viewers.

“This is a historic time,” said BET CEO Debra Lee, speaking at a Saturday session of the Television Critics Association's Winter Press Tour at the Universal Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles.

BET will be covering the inauguration of Mr. Obama and airing two specials, “King to Obama,” looking at the impact the slain civil rights leader had on the president-elect, and “The Obama Effect,” in which a cross-section of African-Americans of different ages and backgrounds “reflect on how Obama’s rise has moved them,” Ms. Lee said.

BET also will be hosting an inaugural ball.

“We want to share this moment with our audience and tell the story of a dream realized,” Ms. Lee said, adding, “a dream I never thought would come true.”

The main thrust of the session was to promote BET’s new series “Harlem Heights,” a reality show following a group of young college-educated professionals living in the New York neighborhood.

One scene in the series shows the characters reacting to Mr. Obama’s election, but that wasn’t designed to be part of the storyline. The series was acquired by BET before Mr. Obama became the nominee of the Democratic party.

“None of us expected the election to be so meaningful to us and the people in Harlem,” said Loretha Jones, president for entertainment at BET. “We happened to be with these people on Election Night. And you saw their reaction to the election.”

It also was acquired before Ms. Jones joined the network.

Ms. Jones said that since joining BET last year, she has enjoyed “a pretty smooth transition” and that “it’s been very easy for me to get inspired about what BET has in store.”

Unlike many reality shows that throw strangers together in a house, some members of the cast of “Harlem Heights” knew the show's producer and one another before production started.

One participant, in fact, was assistant to MTV News chief David Sirulnick.

“They all knew each other. We were looking for that special quality. They’re a crop of young African Americans who are that new Harlem renaissance,” said Randolph Sturrup, one of the show’s creators and producers.

“I haven’t seen people like this on TV since ‘The Cosby Show,’” said executive producer and creator Kurt Williamson.

Ms. Jones said the show is not designed to be a BET version of “The Hills.” And while it has high production values, it is not scripted.

“This show is not ‘The Hills,” she said. “The production values, which I find to be a positive, allow us to capture the beauty of Harlem in a way we haven't seen before.”

—Jon Lafayette

'NASCAR Wives' Gets Prime TLC Slot for Debut

January 10, 2009 10:03 AM

After it shows the crowning of a new Miss America, TLC plans to introduce the country to the women involved in a different type of competition.

“With the record ratings of ‘Miss America’ last year, we think of that timeslot as our post-Super Bowl slot, so that’s where we’ve chosen to debut ‘NASCAR Wives,'” said Eileen O’Neill, who’s starting to turn around struggling TLC.

The new series will focus on the women in the lives of the men who drive for NASCAR, a sport whose fan base is about 40% female.

“These are strong women, women who live extraordinary lives, run businesses, raise families and support their families when they hit the track and race at breakneck speeds of over 200 miles per hour,” Ms. O’Neill said.

One critic at Friday evening’s panel asked the NASCAR wives if they were familiar with Bravo’s “Real Housewives” and if they were concerned by the way those women are portrayed on TV.

“I’m not too familiar with that show, but I’m not concerned because the reason why I joined on is because I trust TLC and nothing is fabricated,” said Angie Skinner, wife of racer Mike Skinner. “It’s honest, and we’re approachable women. I’m not ashamed of what I do in my life, so I’m not ashamed to have it on TV.”

—Jon Lafayette

'Beast's' Swayze Enters Hospital, Misses TCA

January 9, 2009 12:13 PM

Patrick Swayze, star of A&E's new series "The Beast," checked himself into a hospital Friday morning and was unable to attend a session on the show at the Television Critics Association's Winter Press Tour in Los Angeles.

Mr. Swayze has been battling pancreatic cancer during the filming of the show.

"Patrick has checked himself into the hospital. He asked us to go forward with the panel. A&E networks wishes him the best with his recovery," said Abbe Raven, CEO of A&E Television Networks.

Mr. Swayze went into the hospital for observation because of pneumonia brought on by chemotherapy, added Bob DeBitetto, president of A&E Network. He said Mr. Swayze plans to resume promoting the show as soon as he's back on his feet.

Jon Stewart Touts 'Important Things' at TCA

January 9, 2009 11:14 AM

Jon Stewart is a producer of Comedy Central’s new show “Important Things With Demetri Martin,” but he didn’t come to the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour in person. Instead, he sent a tape.

“You’re thinking, ‘He thinks he’s too big,’” Mr. Stewart said in his prerecorded message. “That is why I pre-taped this message.”

Mr. Stewart seemed to have sympathy for the critics who staggered into the Universal Hilton ballroom Friday morning.

“You have a lot of shows to watch. ‘The Hills,’ ‘The City,’ ‘Bromance.’ Because of that your brains probably hurt and it’s hard to hold onto any kind of adult relationship,” he said. “I don’t know why they still make you do these things.”

Mr. Martin had to follow that; he remarked on how difficult it is to make critics laugh in the morning.

“This is the best time to do comedy. Just after 10. If it could be any brighter in here, that would be great,” he said.

Mr. Martin said his show would have guest stars, including fellow “Daily Show” alum John Oliver and Amanda Peet.

When asked about Mr. Stewart, Mr. Martin said: “The glow of his star permeates the show. He’s not in it. He’s just not right for the show.”

—Jon Lafayette

Nick: It’s a SpongeBob Party With Pandas and Penguins

January 9, 2009 10:07 AM

Good things kids probably haven’t heard the old expression "Don’t trust anybody over 30."

The Penguins of Madagascar

Nickelodeon will be marking its 30th year on the air this year and the 10th anniversary of “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

Nick President Cyma Zarghami said Mr. SquarePants will be celebrated with 20 new episodes, a TV movie, a documentary, a vertical Web site and a live touring performance by the show’s cast.

Johnny Depp will join the celebration, providing the voice of a surfing god during one special episode of the show coming up.

Working in partnership with DreamWorks Animation, Nickelodeon in March will be launching “Penguins of Madagascar,” a cartoon spinoff of the hit animated “Madagascar” films.

Ms. Zarghami said Nick has ordered 26 more episodes of the show, bringing the total to 52. She said Nick also is working with DreamWorks on a TV version of “Kung Fu Panda.”

Ms. Zarghami also announced that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will be the host of this year’s Kids Choice Awards.

AMC's Collier Expects Weiner to Return to 'Mad Men'

January 9, 2009 8:27 AM

AMC General Manager Charlie Collier said he was “very optimistic” that “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner will be back with the show. Mr. Weiner is in a salary dispute with Lionsgate, which produces the award-winning series.

Mr. Collier said a third season of “Mad Men” is scheduled to air in the third quarter. That’s doable if the show’s writers room gets opened in February, he said.

Last year, because of the Writers Guild of America strike, the writers didn’t get to work on the show until February, and the show still got on the air during the summer.

AMC announced the show’s renewal last year.

—Jon Lafayette

Gilligan Has Something Nice to Say About WGA Strike

January 8, 2009 5:44 PM

Season two of AMC’s Golden Globe-nominated series “Breaking Bad” will have a “slam-bang” ending, creator and executive producer Vince Gilligan promised Thursday afternoon during a session at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour in Los Angeles.

One of the new season’s first images will give viewers a clue as to where the season is going, Mr. Gilligan said.

Along the way, the show will take a number of interesting side roads, he said, including one that was imposed on the writers when the New Mexico home where one of the characters lives was sold out from under the production.

Season one of “Breaking Bad” was cut short by the Writers Guild of America strike. While the strike was an “awful, terrible thing,” Mr. Gilligan said it might have had a silver lining for the series.

He’d originally planned a big ending for the season, but was fortunate not to have the opportunity to film it.

“I realized I wanted to slow things down,” he said. “The strike saved us from doing too much too soon.”

—Jon Lafayette

Nat Geo Aims for Bush, Gets Obama Too

January 8, 2009 5:23 PM

National Geographic Channel had a camera crew on board for President-elect Barack Obama’s first flight on Air Force One, network general manager Steve Schiffman said Thursday afternoon at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour.

National Geographic had planned to show outgoing President George W. Bush’s last flight on the presidential plane for its documentary “On Board Air Force One,” but as a bonus, it got Mr. Obama meeting his new pilot and flight crew.

“On Board Air Force One” premieres Jan. 25, followed by “On Board Marine One,” which looks at the president’s helicopter fleet.

—Jon Lafayette

Hold the Anchovies

January 8, 2009 4:17 PM

Isabella Rossellini is returning for a second season of her short-film series “Green Porno” on Sundance Channel, in which she acts out the reproductive behavior of marine animals.

What animal was the most difficult for her to become? The anchovy, Ms. Rossellini said.

That’s because “they swim in schools,” she said, all trying to get to the center of the group so they can avoid being eaten by predators.

“All of the costumes are made of people, and they all had to move together,” she said. "It was hard for me to be in the middle of all these anchovies and do their movements.”

The new season of “Green Porno” begins May 5.

—Jon Lafayette

Rockers Ready to Rumble

January 8, 2009 4:15 PM

Talk about your battles of the band.

The members of the struggling band in the IFC series “Z Rock” were asked who would win a throwdown between them, the Conchords from HBO and the Jonas Brothers from Disney Channel.

Paulie Z of Z Rock liked his chances. “Remember, we’re from Brooklyn,” he said.

But, he added, “Motorhead would probably kick our butt.”

John Popper of Blues Traveler, who appears on the series, suggested that in such situations, it’s a good strategy to go after the bass player first. “He’s got the biggest thing to swing,” Mr. Popper said.

—Jon Lafayette

Brown Rice and Vegetables at TCA

January 8, 2009 1:41 PM

The cable portion of the Television Critics Association winter press tour got off to a relatively healthy start.

At a luncheon for WE tv's new series "I Want to Save Your Life," TV writers accustomed to a diet of Diet Coke and brownies were served grilled chicken, brown rice, baby vegetables and a fruit cup.

The menu was designed by Charles Stuart Platkin, the Diet Detective and host of the show who each week tries to help people by putting them on a healthy path.

The show in April joins the lineup at WE, which GM Kim Martin said had been the fastest-growing women's network in 2008.

"The Locator," which contributed to WE's growth in 2008, will be back for a second season, Ms. Martin announced.

—Jon Lafayette

Blogging the TCA

January 8, 2009 1:40 PM

Universal City Hilton

TVWeek will be blogging from the Television Critics Association winter press tour. Stayed tuned to TCA Navigator for posts from our bloggers and breaking news.

Check out our Winter Critics Poll coverage here to find out which shows TV critics think are the best and worst on TV.