December 2010

'Idol' Gets a New Music Director

When Fox’s “American Idol” premieres its 10th season Jan. 19, one of the changes will be its new music director, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

TV music show veteran Ray Chew will take over the seat vacated by Rickey Minor, who left “Idol” to lead the band for NBC’s “Tonight” show.

Chew has worked on NBC’s “It’s Showtime at the Apollo” and “The Singing Bee,” and headed up the music for President Obama’s inaugural ball, which featured Mary J. Blige, Shakira, Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, Sting and Beyonce, the story reports.

Chew has also worked with Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight and Alicia Keys, among many others.

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Did Michael Jackson Kill Himself? That's What His Doctor Is Expected to Argue as Trial Looms

The former personal physician of Michael Jackson is due in court next week, and prosecutors expect his legal team to attempt to make the case that the singer administered the lethal dose of propofol himself, MTV reports.

Dr. Conrad Murray is the only person who has been charged in Jackson’s death last year at age 50. He is accused of involuntary manslaughter and has admitted giving Jackson propofol, an anesthetic the singer used as a sleep aid. Murray has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors say Murray gave Jackson a deadly mix of propofol and other painkillers and sedatives shortly before Jackson died on June 25, 2009.

As reported earlier, Michael Jackson fans and others are in an uproar over plans by Discovery Channel to televise a re-creation of the singer's autopsy as the trial nears.

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Long-Rumored 'Kardashians' Spinoff Is Apparently a Reality; Shooting Is Set for Spring

The third spinoff from E!’s “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” has been rumored since summer, and it apparently is going to happen, Us Magazine reports.

The show will feature Khloe Kardashian and her husband, L.A. Laker Lamar Odom, in a format that is being compared to “Newlyweds” and “Bethenny Getting Married.” Shooting is expected to begin in the spring.

The show follows “Kardashians” spinoffs “Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami” and “Kourtney & Kim Take New York.”

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OWN Introduces the 10 People Who Will Compete for Their Own Talk Show

One of the most ambitious new shows on Oprah Winfrey's OWN network will be a series called "Your OWN Show: Oprah's Search for the Next TV Star," and today the 10 candidates were revealed, the AP reports.

Among the contestants are an L.A. reporter, Elizabeth Espinosa, a Southern cook, Aunt Flora, a Texas minister named Tony Roach and a financial expert from Las Vegas named Alicia Taylor.

The 10 contestants were selected from more than 9,500 online submissions and many other in-person auditions. "Your OWN Show" premieres Jan. 7, with Nancy O'Dell and Carson Cressley hosting.

The Oprah Winfrey Network launches Saturday.

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NBC Puts Up Wednesday's Only Fresh Programming, Still Trails in Prime-Time Ratings

On another night of mostly repeat programming, ABC parlayed a decent showing by back-to-back reruns of “Modern Family” into a modest overall win in the key demo, TVbytheNumbers.com reports.

ABC finished the night with a 1.7 average rating in adults 18-49, beating CBS (1.6 average rating), Univision (1.3), NBC (1.2) and Fox (0.9). CBS came out on top in total viewers with an average of 7.6 million to 5.3 million for NBC, 5.1 million for ABC, 3.9 million for Fox and 3.3 million for Univision.

The only fresh episode on the major broadcast networks all night was NBC’s “Undercovers,” which came in fourth in its 8 p.m. time slot behind repeats of ABC’s “The Middle” and “Better With You,” CBS’s “NCIS: Los Angeles” and Fox’s “Human Target.” “Undercovers” limped home with an average rating of 0.9 in adults 18-49.

The two repeats of "Modern Family" in the 9 p.m. hour averaged a 2.1 in the 18-49 demo.

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Snooki Will Have Her New Year's Stunt After All--But Not in Times Square

The show will apparently go on for “Jersey Shore” star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, who wants to drop out of a ball on New Year’s Eve, Entertainment Weekly reports.

Snooki wanted the bit featured at New York’s Times Square celebration, but officials rejected the proposal, saying the request came too late and the idea was impractical. Now the event is back on, but it has been moved to Seaside Heights, N.J.

Seaside Heights borough clerk Diane Stabley confirmed that MTV had its permit approved so that Snooki could perform the stunt there. It was being taped for the Friday broadcast.

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Perennial Favorites 'Rudolph' and 'Charlie Brown' Fall Short This Year--So Which Holiday Special Was the Most Watched of 2010?

Television viewers tune in faithfully year after year to watch holiday classics such as the stop-action "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and the animated "A Charlie Brown Christmas," but neither of those was this year's most-watched Christmas special, according to The Hollywood Reporter's The Live Feed blog.

Instead, the top-rated holiday special for the period between Nov. 24 and Dec. 28 was CBS's Hallmark Hall of Fame movie "November Christmas," which averaged 13.5 million viewers for its Nov. 28 telecast, the story reports.

The second-most-watched holiday show was a tie between CBS’s annual airing of the classic "Rudolph,” which first appeared in 1964, and NBC's "Christmas at Rockefeller Center," with 11.3 million viewers each on Nov. 30.

The 1965 "Charlie Brown" special, meanwhile, drew 8.1 million viewers on ABC on Dec. 7, with a second airing attracting 6.4 million viewers on Dec. 16, the story notes.

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ESPN Suspends Anchor Over Plagiarism Incident, Explains How It Happened

ESPN has suspended anchor Will Selva, reports NBA.fanhouse.com, after he was accused of plagiarizing material from Orange County Register sports columnist Kevin Ding, as we reported Wednesday.

Selva, who has been anchoring "Highlight Express" on ESPNEWS, apologized Wednesday for using Ding's words without giving the writer credit.

Selva's statement said, "I made a horrible mistake and I'm deeply sorry. I did not live up to my high standards or ESPN's. I sincerely apologize for my sloppiness, especially to Kevin Ding, viewers and colleagues. In my 15 years in broadcast journalism, nothing like this has ever happened and I will make every effort to ensure it won't happen again."

An ESPN spokesman, Josh Krulewitz, also issued a statement regarding the suspension: "This is something we take extremely seriously and we've taken appropriate action. We looked into how it happened and found that this very bad mistake was made because he should have been more thorough, even on deadline, not because he was intentionally trying to claim someone else's work as his own."

The statement adds that the mistake resulted from Selva's research, in which he cut and pasted material from local newspapers but later forgot to rewrite the information in his own words when he was preparing his script.

 

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'Conan' Tied for Youngest Late-Night Talk Audience

After six weeks on the air, "Conan" is tied as late-night television's youngest talk show, reports EW.com's InsideTV blog.

The TBS show has a median age of 33, tying it with another TBS late-night program, "Lopez Tonight," the story notes.

Conan O'Brien's talk show has been especially strong among viewers 18-34. The show ended the last week before Christmas with an average of 530,000 viewers 18 to 34 years old and an overall average of 1.3 million viewers for the week.

Between Sept. 28 and Dec. 27, TBS ranked second among all basic cable networks in adults 18 to 34 years old and adults 18 to 49, behind ESPN, the article adds. USA came in third in both demos.

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Nintendo Sets Minimum Age for Use of 3D Devices, Warns Parents of Young Children of Possible Harm to Eyes

If you have kids younger than 6 years old, Nintendo doesn't want you buying its latest 3D handheld device, reports Bloomberg News.

"Looking at 3D images for a long time may harm the growth of children’s eyes," Nintendo said in a note posted on its Web site. The company's new 3DS players will be promoted at a three-day event in Japan next month, the story says.

Nintendo is barring children under 6 from using the device's 3D functions at the introductory event, according to the report.

The hand-held device shows 3D images without the need for the user to wear special glasses, and it's Nintendo's biggest portable product debut since its DS player release in 2004, the story notes.

The videogame player will be sold in Japan starting in February and in the U.S. and Europe in March.

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Prosecutors: Reality Star Admitted Violence Was Result of Real Anger, Not Staged for MTV Show

The star of an MTV reality show who was jailed in a recent domestic violence incident didn't stage her violent acts for the sake of the television show, according to paperwork filed by prosecutors and cited by RadarOnline.com.

Amber Portwood, the star of MTV's "Teen Mom," was released from an Indiana prison earlier this week after entering a not guilty plea on Tuesday to several felony charges stemming from incidents with Gary Shirley, her daughter's father, RadarOnline notes. Portwood allegedly admitted the violent incidents weren't staged for MTV in front of her lawyer and after having being read her rights, the story says.

"She claimed the incidents were out of anger and were not staged for the reality show,” the paperwork states. The article says that a judge has ordered her to have no contact with Shirley.

 

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Michael Jackson's Estate, Outraged Fans Seek to Halt Autopsy Special

More than 9,000 fans of the late Michael Jackson have signed an online petition asking Discovery Communications not to air a television special that re-enacts his autopsy, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Jackson's estate has also sent an angry letter to Discovery about the program, which it calls "offensive" and "exploitative," according to TMZ.com.

The show is set to air Jan. 13 in the U.K. Discovery declined to comment on the letter, which was sent by John Branca and John McClain, who are co-executors of the estate, The Hollywood Reporter adds.

The letter reads in part that the show is in "shockingly bad taste ... motivated solely by your blind desire to exploit Michael's death, while cynically attempting to dupe the public into believing this show will have serious medical value."

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Pianist Billy Taylor, Longtime CBS Contributor and Jazz Educator, Dead at 89

Billy Taylor, an accomplished jazz artist, pianist, composer and Emmy-winning music reporter for CBS, died Tuesday at the age of 89, the AP reported. Taylor was at home in New York City when he suffered a heart attack.

Taylor was a prolific artist and worked with music greats including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and many others. He was a steadfast promoter of jazz as a performer, educator and broadcaster.

For many years on “CBS News Sunday Morning," he profiled musicians he admired, and in 1983 he won an Emmy for a piece he created on Quincy Jones, the story reports.
 

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Cable Net Slates 'Nine Nights of Glory,' Tribute to Olympic Documentarian

The work of sports film documentarian Bud Greenspan, who died over the weekend, will be featured in a special cable tribute, reports B&C.

Greenspan's "Nine Nights of Glory," to be televised starting Saturday on Universal Sports, will begin with his chronicle of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and include his subsequent films from other Olympiads, in chronological order. The films will be shown over nine consecutive nights at 9 p.m. ET.

Here’s the schedule:

Jan. 1 - Los Angeles ‘84
Jan. 2 - Calgary ‘88
Jan. 3 - Lillehammer ‘94
Jan. 4 - Atlanta ‘96
Jan. 5 - Nagano ‘98
Jan. 6 - Sydney ‘00
Jan. 7 - Salt Lake City ‘02
Jan. 8 - Athens ‘04
Jan. 9 - Torino ‘06

 

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Snooki's New Year's Eve Stunt Rejected by Event's Producers

The co-producers of Times Square New Year's Eve said they denied a request by “Jersey Shore” star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi to drop out of a ball during the event, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The co-producers said the request "came too late and was too impractical to fit in to our outdoor events," according to a statement.

The ball that Snooki would have been inside wouldn't have been "the actual New Year's ball in Times Square," but even having her in a separate ball on a "set-back roof" wasn't permitted, the story says.

MTV had planned to feature Snooki and other "Jersey Shore" cast members to lead the New Year's Eve crowd in a fist-pumping demonstration in an attempt to break a Guinness world record, the story adds.

 

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Something's Fishy About Outdoor Channel's 2011 Lineup, as Net Hauls In Four Former ESPN Shows

The Outdoor Channel announced its schedule for the first quarter of 2011, including four former ESPN fishing shows, reports MediaPost's MediaDailyNews.

"Buccaneers and Bones" stars Tom Brokaw, as well as actor Michael Keaton and Zach Gilford of "Friday Night Lights.” The other former ESPN shows are "The Saltwater Series," "Spanish Fly" and "Zona's Awesome Fishing Show," the article adds.

The channel’s other new programs include "Wardens," about Montana conservation officers who fight poachers and other problems, and hunting championship show "AWA Pro Series," the story notes.

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Internet-Connected TVs Remain a Fraction of the Total--But Segment Is Growing, and Users Are Liking It

About 21% of the televisions forecast to have shipped worldwide in 2010 have the ability to connect to the Web, and less than half of consumers use those features, reports Multichannel News, citing research firm DisplaySearch.

That means that about 43.9 million TV sets will have been shipped in 2010 with Web features, the story says. That should grow to 122 million units in 2014, according to DisplaySearch. But only 45% of consumers say they use those features in their Web-connected TV sets.

Of those who have connected their TVs to the Web, 57% say they are very satisfied with the Web features, the article adds.

Among those who have hooked up their TVs to the Internet, 57% use it to watch Netflix and 47% use it to watch videos on YouTube.

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The Numbers Are In, and 2010 Was a Miserable Year for CNN

2010 wasn't a good year for CNN, TVNewser reports.

The past year proved to be the worst prime-time performance for the cable news network in both total viewers and adults 25 to 54 since at least 1996, the story says.

In prime time, the network was down 34% from its 2009 figures in both total viewers and the demographic. The average prime-time audience for the network was 591,000, with 173,000 viewers 25 to 54 on average watching during those hours, the story notes.

 

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'American Idol' Adds a Twist

"American Idol" is adding a new twist to the singing competition. the New York Post reports. "Sing for Your LIfe" will be a last-ditch chance for competitors to make it to the show's finals.

According to the blog Joesplaceblog.com, contestants will have to choose just one song, although the Post says it's unknown how many contestants will be given this chance. Singers can pick one accompanying instrument or sing a capella, the story notes.

Fox officials didn't comment, the Post adds.

 

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Fox News Host's Comment Sparks Outcry

A comment by a high-profile host on Fox News, filling in on the channel's “Great American Panel,” has sparked outrage, with critics including Milton Kent of the San Francisco Chronicle chiming in.

The comment Tuesday by Tucker Carlson, guest-hosting for Sean Hannity, concerned controversial Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who did time in prison for dogfighting. Carlson said Vick “should have been executed” for his crimes, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

“I’m a Christian,” Carlson said, according to the story. “I’ve made mistakes myself. I believe fervently in second chances. But Michael Vick killed dogs, and he did in a heartless and cruel way. And I think personally he should have been executed for that. He wasn’t.”

Vick, who is having a career year on the field, has also been making speeches this year against cruelty to animals, the Sun-Times story reports.

In his Chronicle piece, Kent says Carlson went over the top and calls for Carlson to lose his job.

 

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NBC Parlays Rescheduled NFL Game Into a Huge Night in the Ratings

The postponement of the "Sunday Night Football" game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings took a toll on NBC's Sunday ratings, but the rescheduled game gave the network a huge win Tuesday night, TVbytheNumbers.com reports.

NBC destroyed its main competition, CBS's "Kennedy Center Honors," on another night of mostly repeat programming. The Peacock Network wound up with an average rating of 7.3 for the night in the 18-49 demo, distancing itself from also-rans CBS (1.6 average rating), Fox, (1.3), Univision (1.3) and ABC (1.0).

In total viewers it was more of the same, with NBC way out front with an average of 21.5 million to CBS’s 9.8 million, Fox’s 4.0 million, ABC’s 3.6 million and Univision’s 3.3 million.

At 8 p.m. the game kicked off with a 6.7 rating in the 18-49 demographic, while ABC's broadcast of "Rudolph's Shiny New Year" managed only a 1.2 in the same demo for the hour. The other networks aired repeats.

From 9-11 p.m. the NBC NFL broadcast averaged a 7.65 in the 18-49 demo, while CBS's "Kennedy Center Honors"--which featured Oprah Winfrey and Paul McCartney being honored--averaged a 1.5 in the demo.

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'Family' Affair: Michael Chiklis of 'No Ordinary Family' and Julie Bowen of 'Modern Family' Join Neil Patrick Harris, Teri Hatcher, Conan O'Brien, Ashton Kutcher and Other Stars for Big Jan. 5 Event--But What's the Occasion?

A number of top TV stars will be in one place Jan. 5, with Michael Chiklis of “No Ordinary Family,” Julie Bowen of "Modern Family" and Disney TV star Miranda Cosgrove among the latest to add their names to the list.

The occasion is the People’s Choice Awards, which will broadcast live on CBS from the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, UPI reports.

Among those previously confirmed are Conan O’Brien, Ashton Kutcher "House's" Lisa Edelstein and Hugh Laurie, "The Big Bang Theory's" Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco, CBS stars Neil Patrick Harris and Pauley Perrette, ABC stars Teri Hatcher and Taye Diggs and NBC stars Zachary Levi and Minka Kelly.

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TV Writer Aron Abrams Dead at 50; Credits Included 'King of the Hill,' '3rd Rock,' 'Everybody Hates Chris'

Television comedy writer and producer Aron Abrams died Saturday at the age of 50, reports Deadline.com.

Abrams, who wrote for "3rd Rock from the Sun," "Everybody Hates Chris," “King of the Hill” and "Grounded for Life," among other shows, was found in his hotel room at the Fairmont Orchid Hotel in Hawaii. The cause of death was believed to be a heart attack.

Arons was part of a writing team that was nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award in 2006 for “Everybody Hates Chris.”

 

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Rate Hikes in the Works for Early 2011 on AT&T TV Packages

AT&T is planning rate hikes on the monthly pricing for its U-verse TV packages in February 2011, reports B&C.

The hike for various packages will range from 2.4% to 10.2%, the article reports. The prices of regular monthly U-verse TV packages will be: U-family, $54; U100, $59; U200, $69; U200 Latino, $79; U300, $84; and U450 $117.

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Sports Reporter Accuses ESPN Anchor of Stealing His Phrases

A reporter for the Orange County Register, Kevin Ding, has accused ESPN broadcaster Will Selva of stealing several phrases from his newspaper column, SportsNewser.com reports.

Ding joked about the incident on his blog, saying it wasn't his best lead-in column for a big game. The story was a preview of the clash between NBA Western Conference rivals the L.A. Lakers and San Antonio Spurs.

However, Ding didn't let Selva off the hook. He said of his so-so writing that Selva could have done better stealing from another column.

He ended his blog, “Sorry about that, Will.”

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A Telecast This Week Was Cable's Most-Watched Show of 2010

While the broadcast networks aired reruns and endured a dismal night of ratings earlier this week--and Spanish-language broadcaster Univision topped all the English-language broadcast nets in the key18-49 demo--cable was putting on its blockbuster show of 2010, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The Dec. 27 ESPN broadcast of the "Monday Night Football" game between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints was the most-watched cable program of 2010, according to the report. More than 19 million viewers tuned in to the NFC game, which may have been a preview of a playoff showdown to decide who goes to the Super Bowl.

By comparison, the highest viewership total for any program on the broadcast networks that night was about half that, 9.7 million, for CBS's repeat of "Two and a Half Men." 

The 41st season of “Monday Night Football" was the best ever in the telecast’s ESPN era, the story says.

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Feud Puts Golden Globes Broadcast in Jeopardy

The upcoming broadcast of the Golden Globes may be the last unless dick clark productions and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association succeed in negotiating a new contract, reports TheWrap.

The 2011 broadcast marks the end of the contract between the parties and the two sides have been feuding about future productions. The HFPA was miffed when dcp unilaterally made a new seven-year deal for NBC to air the ceremonies.

The parties have been in business together since the 1980s, the story says, but HFPA filed a lawsuit against dick clark productions in October, after the NBC deal. Reportedly, the underlying tensions have more to do with production costs than with the NBC contract, the story says, with HFPA accusing dcp of inflating its costs.

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Does TV Host Carry a Game Show Curse?

Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com asks whether a game show curse is following the host of Fox's "Million Dollar Money Drop," after the show flubbed the answer to a question that cost a couple $800,000.

The story points out that host Kevin Pollak, who is a respected actor with roles in "The Usual Suspects" and "A Few Good Men," last year agreed to host Fox's "Our Little Genius," a game show that had producer Mark Burnett behind it and a time slot after "American Idol." But that show never made it to premiere, with Burnett requesting that it be pulled over suspicion of contestant tampering, the story says.

While the eight episodes produced for the show never aired, the winners were paid their prizes. "So Pollak has now done two stints as a TV game show host, both of them mired in controversy. Was it just a string of bad luck? Or a sign that he maybe should stay in movies?" Andreeva asks.

 

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'Sopranos' Star Digs In to Help Motorist Stranded by Blizzard

One of the stars of "The Sopranos" became a blizzard hero to a stuck motorist in his West Village neighborhood in Manhattan, reports the New York Post's Page Six.

Beefy actor James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano on the HBO hit, helped dig out a stranded motorist on Bedford Street, which was unplowed on Monday night, following Sunday's storm. The actor also asked a local restaurant to change a $100 bill so that he could tip several other good Samaritans who joined in to help him dig out the car.

"It took him 45 minutes to get the car unstuck" with the assistance of other people, said the restaurant's owner, Phil Casacell, the story notes. ""He then took the $20 bills to thank the guys who helped them out. He was a real gentleman."

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As It Leaves PBS, KCET Scraps 'Sesame Street' in Favor of a New Lineup of Kids Shows

Kids won't be able to find out how to get to Sesame Street any longer from KCET-TV, which will air a whole new slate of children's programming beginning Saturday, when it ends its PBS affiliation, reports Yvonne Villarreal in the Los Angeles Times.

The station won't air other PBS shows, either, including "Curious George," "Sid the Science Kid," "Clifford the Big Red Dog" or "Martha Speaks," the story notes. Instead, it will air a new weekday lineup of children's shows, including the Canadian animated series "Busytown Mysteries," based on the books of Richard Scarry, and "Peep and the Big Wide World," a cartoon that teaches about nature and science.

The station will keep the series "A Place of Our Own" and "Los Niños en Su Casa," the article notes. But the station won't air children's programming for the entire 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. block as it currently does, instead turning to home-themed shows such as gardening and cooking series after 10 a.m., the story points out.

KCET said it will debut the KCET Kids & Family Channel, available on broadcast channel 28.2, Time Warner Cable channel 237, Cox 103 and Charter 310, the story says. It'll include Spanish-language content and other children's shows including "Anne of Green Gables" and "Big Green Rabbit," the story adds.

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Forecast Identifies Cybercriminals' Likely Next Targets

A report from tech security company McAfee, cited in the Los Angeles Times' Technology blog, says the focus of cybercriminals in 2011 will likely be newer devices such as Google TV, Internet-connected TV sets and Apple products such as iPads.

Apple products, which in the past have been ignored by hackers, are likely to be targeted with more sophisticated malware as more businesses adopt them, the story says. And when consumers use social-media services such as Twitter and URL-shortening Web sites, they should be aware that a growing number of shortened URLs are actually addresses that can bombard them with spam, malware and other scams, the story notes.

Another issue is the use of location-based apps, such as Facebook Places and Foursquare, which can tell cybercriminals with a few clicks a "wealth of personal information on individuals [that] enables cybercriminals to craft a targeted attack," McAfee said.

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Future of Olympics Telecasts Hangs in Balance as Comcast-NBCU Deal Looms

One of the big questions for Comcast after it closes on its merger with NBC Universal will be whether to bid at the International Olympic Committee's auction for media rights to the 2014 and 2016 games, writes The New York Times' Richard Sandomir.

While Comcast understands the importance of sports, it's "done little to tip its Olympic intentions," he writes. "Comcast has reason to be cautious about plunging into Olympic economics, where the cost of buying media rights in the United States has soared almost without a dip since CBS paid $50,000 for the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley, Calif."

Moreover, NBC lost $223 million on the 2010 games, partially because of the high price it paid to air the games, and the network could lose even more on the 2012 Olympics in London because of the $1.18 billion rights fee, the highest ever, the article notes.

While the IOC has delayed the 2014 and 2016 auction for media rights because of the recession, it's expected that as early as next spring media hopefuls including ESPN, Fox and possibly a joint CBS-Turner Sports bid will be competing for the rights, the article notes.

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Oprah Reveals the Advice She Gave to the Duchess of York

Oprah Winfrey tells Parade Magazine that she connected with Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, when she did an interview with her to discuss the tape that showed her trying to get money for access to her former husband, Prince Andrew. Winfrey said she also had advice for Ferguson, telling her not to join a celebrity chef television show and counseling that the step wouldn't help the Duchess rehabilitate herself.

Winfrey said the last thing she said to Ferguson at the end of the interview was, "Don't let me see you on 'Dancing With the Stars.'" Ferguson later emailed her to ask Winfrey's advice on the cooking show, and Winfrey said she advised Ferguson, "That’s not going to help you. How are you going to rehabilitate yourself on a celebrity chef show? You should be working on yourself.”

Ferguson did not do the cooking show, and will instead be appearing in a six-part documentary called "Finding Sarah" that will debut on Winfrey’s new network, OWN, this spring.

 

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Fox News Shows Dominated Cable News Ratings in 2010

Fox News dominated the cable news ratings in 2010, with "The O'Reilly Factor" ending the year as the most-watched show, reports TVNewser.com. The top 10 shows--in total viewers and in the key news demo of adults 25-54--were all on Fox News.

"Hannity" came in second, while "Glenn Beck" was the third-most-watched show among all weekday cable news shows, the story notes.

The best-performing show for MSNBC during 2010 was "Countdown With Keith Olbermann," which was 13th among total viewers and 11th with viewers 25 to 54 years old.

Meanwhile, "Larry King Live," which wrapped up with its final show earlier this month, was CNN’s highest-rated show in total viewers, coming in 18th on the list, the article adds.

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Netflix Looking Into Overseas Expansion

Netflix is talking with advertising and media agencies about international assignments, as the company is eyeing overseas expansion, reports Mediaweek.com.

The story says it's not clear which agencies Netflix is talking to, although the discussions are called "exploratory conversations." The article notes that Netflix's assignments in the U.S. aren't under review.

The story adds that Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings has said that the company would consider expanding to Europe, Latin America and Asia. Currently Netflix operates in the U.S. and Canada.

 

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Sears, Kmart Roll Out Online Video Rentals, Sell TV Episodes for $1.99

An online video rental store debuted Tuesday from Sears and Kmart, with the digital service selling shows and movies by the title, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

That means the store, called Alphaline Entertainment, is similar to Apple's iTunes and less like Netflix's model, which charges a monthly fee for access to digital titles, the story notes.

Kmart and Sears, which are both owned by Sears Holdings, are using the RoxioNow platform, which is owned by Sonic Solutions. As previously reported, Sonic Solutions is being bought by Rovi Corp.

Alphaline sells television episodes for $1.99 each and movies for $19.95, while films rent for $3.99. The service doesn't allow customers to burn most content to a DVD, the story adds.

TV shows that are available include "Fringe," "Two and a Half Men" and "Human Target."

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Interest Groups Want FCC to Delay Comcast-NBCU Merger, Examine Past Comcast Deals

Public-interest groups are asking the Federal Communications Commission to defer action on Comcast's merger with NBC Universal until Comcast makes its programming contracts available going back to 2006, reports B&C.

The groups, including the Media Access Project and Free Press, sent a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genchowski dated Tuesday that pointed out that the chairman testified in March that the FCC makes merger decisions "only after we compile and review a full record."

The groups pointed out that Comcast hasn't complied with the FCC's request for information on certain programming contracts struck since 2006, the article adds. The groups want to be able to view them and comment on them, as well as giving the FCC's staff a chance to review them, the story points out.

A Comcast representative didn't have a response to the letter, but referred to the company’s response last month to a similar charge from Bloomberg. Comcast said then that the charge was a last-minute maneuver to derail the deal and that it hadn't refused to produce the documents. Instead, Comcast said the production of the documents had been "deferred after conversations with commission staff."

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Big Year-End Retransmission Dispute Pits Time Warner Cable Against Sinclair Broadcast Group

As another year draws to a close, another fight over retransmission consent fees has arisen, with Time Warner Cable in a battle over the fees the cable operator pays to Sinclair Broadcast Group to retransmit 33 of its 58 television stations, reports The New York Times' Media Decoder blog.

Sinclair wants more money for those stations, which are located in 21 markets, the story says. The contract between the companies expires at the last minute of the last day of the year, and at this point the dispute could go either way--getting resolved before then, or having those stations dropped from Time Warner Cable homes, the article notes.

Sinclair said Tuesday that talks between the companies have halted because Time Warner Cable refused "to engage in further negotiations" after it asked for an average of 10 cents more per month per subscriber, which it says the cable operator rejected and refused to provide a counter-offer.

Time Warner Cable, for its part, said it was willing to negotiate "a reasonable agreement" and that it didn't intend to end negotiations, the article notes.

At this time last year, Time Warner Cable was involved in a similar fee dispute with News Corp., the article adds.

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Cold Weather Heats Up The Weather Channel's Ratings

The winter storm that has chilled much of the country is having a different effect on The Weather Channel, which has seen its ratings heat up.

The network announced Tuesday that it reached more total viewers over the holiday weekend (Dec. 25-26) than any news network, and on Sunday TWC had its highest total-day performance of the year.

TWC’s digital platforms have also surged. The company’s iPad app had its biggest day ever on Sunday, with more than 3.8 million page views. The Weather Channel for iPhone app increased 117% Sunday over its daily average for the month, setting another record.

Among the highlights for the TV network, based on Nielsen figures, Sunday’s average was TWC’s highest total-day performance of the year in adults 25-54, with average total day delivery in the demo up 121% over month-to-date figures. TWC was the top news network in the morning (7-11 a.m.) on both Saturday and Sunday in adults 25-54, and reached 45 million total viewers over the weekend, more than any news network.

 

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Major Cable System Makes 11th-Hour Decision to Carry OWN

An important distribution gap has been closed just days before the launch of Oprah Winfrey’s new cable channel, OWN, The New York Times reports.

Cablevision has agreed to carry the channel, which launches Jan. 1, the story reports.

OWN will take over Discovery Health Channel, which was already available on DirecTV and Comcast but was not carried by Cablevision. According to OWN, 85 million subscribers will have access to the new venture from Winfrey's company.

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Prelim Nears in Michael Jackson Manslaughter Case--With About 30 Witnesses to Be Called

The preliminary hearing in the manslaughter case against Michael Jackson doctor Conrad Murray is expected to last about two weeks and to include about 30 witnesses, TMZ.com reports.

The Web site reports that a “Perry Mason moment” is not expected, but rather that prosecutors are likely to produce a meticulous argument to support their claim that Murray acted recklessly when he provided Propofol and other medications to Jackson on the day he died.

Witnesses are expected to include Los Angeles Police detectives and medical experts. The legal theory, the story notes, is a novel one--that a doctor committed homicide in treating a patient. Therefore, a substantial amount of evidence is expected to be presented.

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Beloved 'Star Wars' Installment, Travolta Musical, Watergate Drama and Leslie Nielsen Comedy Are Among the Movies Added to National Film Registry

One of the movies in the original “Star Wars” trilogy and a hugely successful John Travolta disco movie are among the latest selections by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Film Registry, the AP reports.

“The Empire Strikes Back,” the 1980 “Star Wars” sequel in which the relationship between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader is revealed, is one of the 25 movies chosen this year to be honored and preserved. Also on the list is the 1977 Travolta movie “Saturday Night Fever.” The Library of Congress announced its selections today.

The purpose of the registry is to preserve films with artistic, cultural or historical significance, the story says. More than 2,100 films were nominated this year.

Among the other selections announced today: the Watergate drama “All the President’s Men,” the Spike Lee biography “Malcolm X,” the Leslie Nielsen comedy “Airplane!” and the Robert Altman Western “McCabe & Mrs. Miller.”

The registry includes a total of 550 films.

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Kelsey Grammer Looking at a Hefty Price Tag for His Divorce

 The cost to former "Frasier" star Kelsey Grammer to end his marriage to Camille--currently starring as one of Bravo's "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"--will be a whopping $50 million, reports TMZ.com.

Their 13-year marriage did not include a pre-nup, exposing Grammer to the whims of California divorce laws. Reportedly, Camille is entitled to a 50/50 split of the marital assets, which include income from "Frasier" as well as considerable real estate investments.

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Univision Beats All the English-Language Broadcast Nets in Monday Ratings

On a Monday night when the major broadcast networks aired nothing but reruns and settled for subpar viewer totals, Spanish-language broadcaster Univision was able to pull off an outright win for the night in the adults 18-49 demo, TVbytheNumbers.com reports.

Univision, broadcasting an hour of “Eva Luna” and the two-hour finale of “Soy tu Duena,” finished the night with an average rating of 2.0 in 18-49, edging CBS, which had a 1.9. ABC followed with a 1.6 average rating, well ahead of Fox (1.0) and NBC (0.8).

CBS got the win in total viewers with an average of 7.6 million, ahead of ABC (5.5 million), Univision (4.9 million), Fox (3.5 million) and NBC (2.7 million).

CBS aired reruns of its comedy block and “Hawaii Five-0” while ABC televised the movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” along with a “Castle” rerun, Fox repeated “House” and “Lie to Me” and last-place NBC ran a full three hours of “Chuck” reruns.

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Not in My Back Yard: Americans Don't Want 'Jersey Shore' Gang in Their Neighborhood

In a new poll by real estate marketplace Zillow.com asking Americans who they would want living next door to them, the least desirable neighbors are the people in the reality TV series "Jersey Shore," reports Reuters.com.

The person they would like most to have living on their street is Oscar winner Sandra Bullock. After Bullock, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was named, followed by Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, the Obamas, and Conan O'Brien. The Obamas slipped to No. 4 after topping the list a year ago.

The Obamas and Palin also made the worst neighbor list, following the "Jersey Shore" group. Kanye West and Mel Gibson rounded out the bottom five.

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Ron Howard Spearheading Massive Project to Present Stephen King Epic as Film Series Combined With TV Show

Oscar-winning director Ron Howard plans to adapt Stephen King's seven-part novel "The Dark Tower" as a series of feature films and a television show, reports The Washington Post.

Howard has been working on the big project with producer Brian Grazer and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, with the idea of having a trilogy on the big screen along with a companion TV series to cover the sections of the books not presented in theaters.

"The Dark Tower" is the story of gunslinger named Roland Deschain who tangles with magic, monsters and mutants, the article reports. Howard has been in discussions with NBC Universal about the epic, but so far nothing has been greenlighted.

In a statement about Howard's ambitious plan, King said, "I've been waiting for the right team to bring the characters and stories in these books to film and TV viewers ... [and] respect the origins and the characters in 'The Dark Tower' that fans have come to love."

 

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Ousted Reporter Confirms He Has Left Network: 'I Never Intended to Humiliate or Embarrass Anyone at MSNBC'

After months of speculation about his status at MSNBC, both the network and political reporter/anchorman David Shuster confirmed today that Shuster is no longer with the company, The Huffington Post reports.

MSNBC suspended Shuster indefinitely in April, reportedly because he had filmed a pilot for CNN. Shuster told the publication that he enjoyed his eight-plus years with the network and had only positive feelings about his experience.

"I never intended to humiliate or embarrass anyone at MSNBC, and I harbor no ill will or bad feelings towards anybody over there," he said.

In the months since his suspension, Shuster completed a master’s in public policy at Georgetown University, the article notes.

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Sarah Palin Uses Her TV Show to Try to 'Refudiate' Origins of 2010 Word of the Year

Sarah Palin used Sunday's episode of TLC's "Sarah Palin's Alaska" to "refudiate" what the Oxford University Press called 2010's word of the year, reports the New York Daily News.

The former governor of Alaska complained to her husband on the TV show that "refudiate" was simply the result of a mis-typed tweet, the story says.

But the article points out that her memory might not be accurate, since she misspoke the word while on Sean Hannity's Fox News show, saying President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama "have power in their words. They could refudiate what it is that this group is saying," referring to the NAACP's position on alleged Tea Party racism.

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Forecast Sees Wide Adoption of Internet-Connected TV Services--Even as U.S. Lags Behind Rest of World

According to a forecast from media research forecaster Futurescape, in five years almost 40% of televisions sets produced for the U.S. market will have Internet connections and services, reports MediaPost's MediaDailyNews.

The forecast indicates that about 43 million U.S. television homes out of 115.9 million overall TV homes will have sets with online connections. The article says other research suggests that 57 million U.S. television homes will view regular full-length TV shows from online sources on their TV sets.

Futurescape says social media is one reason for the push into Internet-connected TV sets, and that 63% of television viewers want Web access for their TVs, enabling them to tap into show information, talk about programs with friends and to shop online.

The story notes that the U.S. is moving more slowly than other parts of the world into Internet-connected TV, with a global forecast that 54% of flat-panel sets to ship in 2014 will include Internet-connected TV services.

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Star of Cable Show Arrested in Alleged Domestic Violence Incident

The star of a cable reality show was arrested and placed in an Indiana jail for an alleged attack on the father of her child, reports TMZ.com.

Amber Portwood, the star of MTV’s “Teen Mom,” allegedly attacked Gary Shirley three times between August 2009 and July 2010, with some of the attacks reportedly captured on tape, the article notes.

Indiana's Madison County Prosecutor's Office has charged Portwood with two felony counts of domestic battery, one felony count of neglect of a dependent and one misdemeanor count of domestic battery, the story says.

 

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While Couple Decides Whether to Return to 'Million Dollar Money Drop,' Fate of Show Remains Up in the Air

The couple wrongly bumped off Fox's "Million Dollar Money Drop" aren't sure whether they'll accept the show's offer to return, the New York Post reports, adding that the show might not even be around for a second season.

Gabe Okoye and Brittany Mayti said on "Good Morning America" that they are weighing their options as they decide whether to return to the show, which invited them back after admitting that their answer about Post-it Notes was correct.

"We've been asked to go back on. It's kind of hard to re-create the momentum," Okoye said.

But there might not even be a show to return to, the Post points out. The show's 12-episode first season will end next month, and all 12 episodes have already been taped.

"We may have a Season 2 and we may not--it's all up in the air," a spokeswoman for the show's producer, Endemol, said.

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Apple Hit With Lawsuit Alleging iPhone and iPad Apps Send Users' Personal Info to Ad Networks

Apple is accused in a lawsuit filed Dec. 23 of allowing applications for iPhones and iPads to send users' personal information to advertising networks without the users' consent, reports Bloomberg News.

The complaint was filed in federal court in San Jose, Calif., and is seeking class action status, the story notes. The suit says Apple's devices include identifying devices that allow advertising networks to track which apps users download, as well as how frequently and for how long they're used.

“Some apps are also selling additional information to ad networks, including users’ location, age, gender, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political views,” the suit claims.

It's filed on behalf of Jonathan Lalo of Los Angeles County and cites apps such as Pandora and the Weather Channel, which are named as defendants with Apple, the story notes. The complaint says that Apple claims it reviews all apps sold through its App Store and doesn’t allow them to transmit user data without customer permission.

An Apple spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to requests for comment, the article notes.

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Will January Event Be the Last Hurrah for SAG Awards?

This could be the last year for the Annual Screen Actors Guild show, which will be held on Jan. 20, writes Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com. Hollywood may have a single actors' union by the end of 2011 that would replace both SAG and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, according to the report.

That would mean "a newly conceived awards show for the combined actors' union," Andreeva writes. But she points out that next month's SAG Awards show could easily be called the AFTRA Awards because an increasing number of categories are dominated by AFTRA shows.

For instance, AFTRA now has top TV contenders such as "Modern Family," "The Good Wife," "Parks & Recreation" and "Community," the piece points out. AFTRA shows, the story notes, are increasingly dominating among comedy series, with three out of the five nominees for best comedy actress coming from AFTRA programs.

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FCC, CBS Continue to Duke It Out Over Janet Jackson's Super Bowl Wardrobe Malfunction

Janet Jackson's 2004 Super Bowl performance, during which she partially revealed a breast, is still being battled over by the Federal Communications Commission and CBS, reports B&C.

The FCC, which is backed by the Justice Department, argues that broadcasters give up full First Amendment status when they receive a government license, meaning that they should be subject to regulation of nudity and swearing when children might be viewing, the article says.

The agency made that point in a supplemental brief to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which is reviewing an earlier decision that the FCC's $550,000 fine against CBS for the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show was arbitrary and capricious, the story notes.

CBS said in a filing last week that the network didn't know about nor approved the incident, and argued that "The Court should vacate the forteiture." It argued that the court should also consider constitutional questions, "particularly in light of the FCC's zeal to prolong its investigation on remand," CBS said.

 

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Lawsuit Against CBS, CNET in the Works as Fight Over Digital Rights Heats Up

FilmOn founder Alki David says he plans to sue CBS and its CNET tech Web site, alleging the site allows "illegal distribution of DRM [digital rights management] removal software as well as the illegal distribution of file sharing software with malicious intent to infringe on copyright," according to B&C.

David last week posted a YouTube video that attacks CNET for what he claims is copyright infringement by the site, the story notes. CBS, which is suing David for copyright infringement on its side, responded to the video by saying the company respects intellectual property rights and suggested that David’s infringement charge was off base, the article says.

David's countercharge comes after a judge last month issued a temporary restraining order against FilmOn, which streams TV station signals online for $9.95 a month.

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Sir Elton John Becomes a Dad on Christmas Day

Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish became parents on Christmas Day, when they had a son born to a California surrogate, reports UsMagazine.com.

The baby boy, Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John, weighed 7 pounds, 15 ounces, the story says. It's the first child for both John, 62, and Furnish, 48.

The pair married in 2005 after being together for a dozen years, the article says. The couple said they intend to protect the privacy of their surrogate and won't be discussing details of the surrogacy arrangement, the story notes.

 

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MTV Caught in Abortion Debate Over New Show

With a new show that features a teen who was first seen on MTV's "16 and Pregnant," the network is now facing accusations that it's promoting abortion, reports the New York Post.

The show, called "No Easy Decision," features 19-year-old Markai Durham, who finds out she's pregnant again and deals with deciding whether or not to have the baby, the story says.

Because of the show's unusual content, MTV has scheduled it at 11:30 p.m., past the bedtimes of the network's younger fans.

Durham had a baby daughter in October 2009 and said she and her boyfriend had been using birth control when she got pregnant for the second time. Pro-life blogger Jill Stanek is criticizing the show's official Web site for only linking to pro-choice groups and says the program was done in cooperation with a support group for teens who have had abortions, called Exhale.

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Cable Operators Win Key Decision as Ohio Supreme Court Declares Satellite Sales Tax Legal

Cable-television operators won a major victory on Monday when the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a sales tax on satellite-TV customers doesn't violate the interstate commerce law, reports the Dayton Daily News.

Satellite-TV customers must pay a 5.5% sales tax, imposed as part of a budget-balancing tax package in 2003, the story says. But the state Legislature decided not to apply the tax to cable-TV operators, which instead pay local franchise fees in the 2% to 5% range.

Cable companies had argued that the satellite tax leveled the field, while satellite-TV companies had said the tax is an unfair burden and hinders fair competition, the article notes.

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Logitech Refutes Internet Rumors About Its Revue Set-Top Box for Google TV, Plans to Feature System at CES

The rumor that Google has asked Logitech to suspend production of its Google TV set-top box, the Revue, isn't true, according to the company, reports the Los Angeles Times' Technology Blog.

The Revue has been advertised on television with commercials starring Kevin Bacon playing a Kevin Bacon fan, who uses the Revue to search for online content starring the actor.

"Contrary to recent speculation, Logitech has not been asked by Google to suspend production of its Google TV products," said a spokeswoman for the Swiss tech company. "Suggestions that production of the Logitech Revue companion box might need to be halted to address software issues are unfounded."

Google officials weren't immediately available for comment, the story notes.

But the article adds that Logitech stopped short of disputing other rumors circulating on the Web that say the tech firm has decided to stop production of the Revue on its own.

According to a blog post Monday from Ashish Arora, vice president of Logitech's Digital Home Group, under the headline "All's Well With Logitech Revue," the tech company will be showing Google TV products at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January.

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Olympic Documentary Filmmaker Bud Greenspan Dead at 84

Bud Greenspan, the prolific filmmaker who was best known for his coverage of the Olympics, died Saturday at the age of 84, the AP reported. Greenspan had been suffering from Parkinson's disease.

For sixty years, he chronicled the greatest athletes of the Olympics and his films, seen primarily on television, won countless awards. Greenspan received lifetime achievement awards from the Directors Guild of America and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, as well as a Peabody and the Olympic Order award.

His best-known production was "The Olympiad," a 10-part series released in 1976 that capped 10 years of research and was televised in more than 80 countries.

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Lohan's Accuser Drops Out of Battery Case

Lindsay Lohan’s accuser in an alleged battery incident at the Betty Ford Center has decided not to pursue the case, the L.A. Times reports.

Medical technician Dawn Holland changed her mind after previously insisting that Lohan be charged with battery stemming from a Dec. 12 incident, the story says. Holland’s attorney indicated that Holland sympathizes with a recovering addict’s plight and does not want to see Lohan punished.

"She no longer wishes to cooperate with authorities in Palm Desert or Los Angeles,” said attorney Keith Davidson. “She believes in the recovery process. She wishes Ms. Lohan the best in recovery. Dawn Holland is a recovering addict herself."

Authorities continue to investigate the incident, the story says, and could still determine that Lohan violated her probation.

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ABC Scores Big With Lakers-Heat Showdown

With the star power provided by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, the Christmas Day NBA showdown between the L.A. Lakers and Miami Heat was ABC’s highest-rated holiday contest since 2004, reports TVbytheNumbers.com.

The game logged a 6.4 fast national rating, an increase of 45 percent over last year’s game between the Lakers and Cavaliers. The previous Christmas Day high, in 2004, was also a match between the Lakers and Heat.

In Saturday's first head-to-head battle between the NBA champion Lakers and the new-look Heat, Miami won the game 96-80.

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Fox Wins Slow Night in Ratings as Snowed-Out Football Game Dooms NBC

The overrun of the Giants-Packers game was enough to push Fox to a win in adults 18-49 on a night when NBC lost its NFL game to a snowstorm and the bulk of the prime-time schedule consisted of reruns, TVbytheNumbers.com reports.

NBC’s scheduled game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings was moved to Tuesday night, forcing the Peacock Network to rely on repeats of “Minute to Win It” and “Law & Order: SVU.” In the end it was Fox on top for the night with an average rating of 3.1 in the 18-49 demo, well ahead of CBS (1.6 rating), ABC (1.4) and NBC (1.4)

CBS took top honors in overall viewers with an average of 8.6 million to 8.2 million for Fox, 6.2 million for ABC and 4.4 million for NBC.

NBC's broadcast of the NFL show "Football Night in America" came in third at 7 p.m., bested by Fox’s NFL overrun and "The O.T." which had a 6.4 rating and a 3.8, respectively, in the 18-49 demo to NBC's 1.2 in the same demo. CBS's "60 Minutes" was second with a 1.9 in the 18-49 demo for the hour.

At 8 p.m. NBC's "Football Night In America" collected a 2.1 in the 18-49, up against all reruns. The only other new show of the night was Fox's "Running Wilde" at 9:30 p.m. ET, which had a 1.3 in the same demo.

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R&B Singer Teena Marie Dies

Singer Teena Marie has died, possibly from a grand mal seizure while taking a nap, TMZ reports. She was 54.

The R&B star had suffered other seizures, including a grand mal about a month before her death, the story reports. She died Sunday at her home in Pasadena, Calif.

A onetime protegee of funk singer Rick James, Marie, whose real name was Mary Christine Brockert, became an influential artist who played guitar, keyboards and congas and who also wrote, produced and arranged most of her material.

She was one of only a handful of white artists to succeed in the R&B field.

As a child, Marie made an appearance on the TV show “The Beverly Hillbillies.” She went on to do soundtrack work on numerous movies and TV series, and appeared over the years on shows such as “The Parkers,” “New York Undercover” and “The Steve Harvey Show.”

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Concert Tickets Will Be Cheaper in 2011

Concert promoters smarting from feeble ticket sales in 2010 are poised to reduce prices in the new year, Rolling Stone reports.

The 2010 summer touring season--a traditional boom time for the live music business--was marked by poor sales, empty seats and canceled tours. Now promoters are promising deep discounts--maybe not on the best seats, but on those closer to the back of the house.

As an example, the story reports that some ZZ Top tickets will go for $10 before service fees.

The discounts will mainly affect artists who have a hard time selling out large venues, the story says. In-demand acts such as Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift--all of whom are usually able to sell out their venues--will likely keep their prices high.

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Hugh Hefner, 84, Gets Engaged to Playboy Playmate Crystal Harris, 24

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner has confirmed that he and his girlfriend, Playmate Crystal Harris, have gotten engaged, MTV reports.

Hefner, 84, posted on his Twitter page on Dec. 24: "After the movie tonight, Crystal & I exchanged gifts. I gave Crystal a ring. A truly memorable Christmas Eve. ... When I gave Crystal the ring, she burst into tears. This is the happiest Christmas weekend in memory."

The following day, Christmas Day, Hefner added: "Yes, the ring I gave Crystal is an engagement ring. I didn't mean to make a mystery out of it. A very merry Christmas to all."

According to the MTV report: “Harris, 24, met Hefner in 2008 at the Playboy Mansion during one of the mag's famous Halloween bashes. The model/singer, who was Playboy's December 2009 Playmate and served as 2010's Miss January, also took to her Twitter to talk about their news. In response to well-wishes from the likes of former Playmate (and Hefner ex) Kendra Wilkinson, Harris noted, ‘Hef and I are Trending on @twitter:)’”

It will be the third marriage for Hefner, who was previously dating twins Karissa and Kristina Shannon while he was going out with Harris, the story notes.

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Business News Nets Thrived in 2010

Research firm SNL Kagan says 2010 was a good year for the business news cable channels, the New York Post reports.

The market-leading business news network remains CNBC, which had an 11% rise from last year with expectations of $273 million in ad revenue over 2009, the article says.

Fox Business News had an even bigger percentage increase, over 50%, with ad revenue of $25 million. Bloomberg TV is expected to bring in $80 million, up 19%.

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WikiLeaks Founder to Tell His Story--for $1.3 Million

Julian Assange, the embattled founder of WikiLeaks, has signed a $1.3 million deal involving publishers in the U.S. and the U.K. to write his autobiography, Digital Trends reports.

The deal is for $800,000 from Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and another $502,000 from Conongate Books in the U.K., the story says.

It’s all about the money, Assange says. “I don’t want to write this book, but I have to,” Assange is quoted as telling the Sunday Times in the U.K. “I have already spent £200,000 for legal costs and I need to defend myself and to keep WikiLeaks afloat.”

Assange is out on bail after his recent arrest on Swedish sex charges. WikiLeaks, meanwhile, is struggling to continue its news-leaking efforts despite the loss of support from major companies such as Amazon, PayPal, Apple, Visa and MasterCard.

WikiLeaks has also had internal turmoil, the story reports, with a group of dissident employees leaving the company to start a similar service called OpenLeaks. One of their biggest complaints, according to the report, was Assange’s inability to keep himself out of the news.

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$30 Million Deal in the Works for Star of CBS Hit

The star of a hit CBS show is working out the details of a $30 million deal with the show's producer, Warner Bros. Television, reports Deadline.com.

The deal would give Simon Baker, star of “The Mentalist,” one more year added to his current six-year contract and would give him an additional piece of the show's back-end, the story notes.

Baker would also get a producer credit on the program starting in the show's fifth season.

The series was sold in off-network syndication in November 2009 in a deal with TNT that gives Warner Bros. $2.2 million to $2.3 million per episode, the article adds.

 

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FCC Chairman Wants to Put Conditions on Comcast-NBC Merger

Comcast's goal of getting government approval for its $30 billion merger with NBC Universal got a boost when Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed to approve the deal--as long as the companies agree to conditions, the Los Angeles Times' Joe Flint and Meg James report.

Genachowski on Thursday circulated a proposed order to approve the deal to the four other FCC commissioners, who will review the proposal and vote on it in the next few weeks, the story notes. His proposed conditions would aim to keep Comcast from favoring its own content over that of competitors and would make it tough for the cable giant to keep its content from rivals, the story notes.

The conditions would apply only to Comcast, and not the industry as a whole. One requirement would force Comcast to provide programming to an online video service if competitors such as ABC or Fox were also providing content, the story says.

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TV's 'Dr. Kildare' Lashes Out at Homophobia, Advises Gay Actors Not to Come Out

Richard Chamberlain, who played the title role in television's "Dr. Kildare" and himself only came out of the closet in 2003, tells The Advocate Magazine that he wouldn't advise a "gay leading man-type actor to come out.

"There’s still a tremendous amount of homophobia in our culture. It’s regrettable, it’s stupid, it’s heartless, and it’s immoral, but there it is. For an actor to be working is a kind of miracle, because most actors aren’t, so it’s just silly for a working actor to say, ‘Oh, I don’t care if anybody knows I’m gay’--especially if you’re a leading man," Chamberlain tells the magazine.

Asked when a leading man should come out, he responded, "I have no idea. … Please, don’t pretend that we’re suddenly all wonderfully, blissfully accepted."

Chamberlain, who has appeared in guest spots on shows such as "Will & Grace" and "Nip/Tuck," came out in his autobiography when he was 69.

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New York Stations Readying for Changes in News Lineups

New York's local stations are preparing for some changes in their news teams starting Jan. 3, as one station prepares for an anchor to return and another gets ready for a new lead anchor, the New York Daily News reports.

WNBC-TV will see anchor Sue Simmons return after eight weeks away following surgery that has kept her off the air since October, the story notes. And WCBS-TV is preparing for Maurice DuBois to begin his run as the station's lead anchor, where he will be paired with Kristine Johnson, the article says.

DuBois has been with WCBS since 2004, although the shift creates a new team on the city's newscasts.

At WABC-TV, meanwhile, sports anchor Scott Clark is retiring after a more than 20-year run, the story says.

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Get Ready for a New Annoyance on Your Mobile Phone

A new type of mobile-phone ad may soon hit your mobile device, reports The Wall Street Journal. (Note: The WSJ is behind a pay wall and not all readers may be able to access this article.)

Called "intercept campaigning," the ads appear when a person uses a competitor's phone or network or browses the Web on their phone, the story says. The ad pops up and essentially tells the user, "You're still using THAT?," the article notes.

For instance, Nokia has targeted ads for users of Motorola's Razr phone, with ads popping up that read, "Are you really still rocking' a flip phone?" Then the ads suggest upgrading to the Nokia Twist, the article notes.

Research in Motion is using a similar technique to get people to switch to its BlackBerry devices, with ads that ask users of rival devices to "See the difference."

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Interactive TV Guide Provider Rovi to Buy Sonic Solutions for $775 Million

Rovi Corp., which provides interactive television guides for cable and satellite services, has agreed to buy Sonic Solutions, which provides streaming services of shows and movies, for $775 million, reports Bloomberg News.

The goal of the combined company is to sell services to companies such as Best Buy and Blockbuster that will allow them to compete with Netflix and Amazon.com by offering TV shows and movies online, according to Sonic Chief Executive David Habiger.

“You’ve got a dramatic shift going on in the way people access content. They are moving from physical discs to streamed digital content," Habiger said, according to the story.

Rovi licenses its TV guides to partners such as pay-TV services, while Sonic has deals with Hollywood studios, the story says.

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Signs of Trouble for Netflix? High Stock Price, Accolade for CEO and Debate Over Short-Selling Could Make Investors Nervous

Netflix may be heading for a fall--at least in terms of its share price, according to The Wall Street Journal's Brett Arends. (Please note that the WSJ is behind a pay wall and not all readers may be able to access the story.)

"These are boom times for Netflix. It's been one of the big winners from the recession. Last quarter's revenues were 31% higher than a year earlier. Earnings were up 35% and had doubled since the summer of 2008," Arends writes.

But there are three things that may make investors nervous about the stock: that it's become expensive in relation to earnings; that CEO Reed Hastings was named "businessman of the year" by Fortune; and that Hastings got into a public debate with a hedge fund manager who is shorting his stock.

The latter is "never a good sign," Arends writes. "I remember watching Overstock.com Chief Executive Patrick Byrne rage against short-sellers while his stock tanked. The only correct way for a chief executive to handle the bears is to make them lose money by keeping the share price rising."

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Report: Nielsen Aiming for Initial Stock Offering as Early as January

Nielsen Holdings may prove to be one of the big initial stock offerings of 2011, as the media-measurement company is preparing for a $1.7 billion IPO as early as January, CNBC.com reports.

Nielsen has been waiting for more than six months for the right market conditions in which to offer stock, the story notes. With investors appearing more interested in new stock issuances, the company and its investors are eyeing early 2011 as the right time for the IPO, the story says.

That means that Nielsen and its investment bankers may begin a road show the week of Jan. 10, ending in a late-January initial stock sale. A Nielsen spokeswoman declined to comment, the article says.

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'Brrrricane' Forces Postponement of Eagles-Vikings Game, Causes Hassles for TV News Reporters

The East Coast blizzard is earning all kinds of cutesy nicknames, such as the "brrricane," but the result for TV is that Sunday's Philadelphia Eagles-Minnesota Vikings game was postponed until Tuesday and local national TV news reporters and crews have been working overtime, reports TVNewser.com.

Several TV news people were stranded by the storm, with FBN's Liz Claman anchoring her show from Los Angeles today and returning to New York on Tuesday, the story notes. CNN correspondent Jim Acosta suggested the term "brrrricane" because "snowpocalypse and snowmaggeden" are already dated.

The New York Giants, meanwhile, were stuck in Green Bay after losing to the Packers and weren’t expected to be able to return to New York until today, the story notes.

 

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Christmas Program Tops Thursday Night Ratings

Deadline.com reports that ABC's rebroadcast of the Jim Carrey film "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" won Thursday night as the highest-rated program with viewers between the ages of 18 and 49.

'The Grinch" earned a 2.1 rating with viewers between 18 to 49, while drawing 6.6 million viewers, the story notes. It was paired with the animated "Grinch," which ran for the half-hour before the movie and which earned a 2.0 rating with the demographic and 6.5 million viewers, the story says.

Fox tied for second place with CBS among viewers 18 to 49, with Fox's game show "Million Dollar Money Drop" airing a two-hour block against CBS' reruns of "The Big Bang Theory" and "The Mentalist."

Univision finished fourth while NBC was fifth with all comedy reruns, the article notes.

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PBS Shakeup in L.A. Sparks Criticism of Programming Decisions

As Los Angeles-area residents prepare for a shift in their local PBS outlet, the programming choices made by KOCE-TV, the Orange County station that will become the city's main PBS outlet on Sunday, are raising some eyebrows, reports Elizabeth Jensen in The New York Times.

For instance, KOCE has decided not to carry some popular PBS programs, including "Independent Lens," "Charlie Rose" and "Nightly Business Report," the article says. That means that Los Angeles viewers will have to tune in to either of two other stations, KLCS-TV in Los Angeles or KVCR-TV in San Bernardino, to view those shows.

KOCE opted not to air "Need to Know," a Friday newsmagazine, to avoid shifting its popular British sitcom programming and as it awaits permission from PBS to move it to Sunday, the article says.

“We think separating ‘Independent Lens’ from the rest of the PBS schedule sends the wrong message to the Southern Californian audience about the kinds of audiences that public television should be serving,” said Dennis Palmieri, the director of communications for Independent Television Service.

But KOCE President Mel Rogers responded that many of the station's decisions were made because of existing commitments that couldn't be shifted. KOCE was forced to quickly shuffle its schedule after KCET-TV, Los Angeles' main PBS station, announced in October it would quit PBS.

“Up to the last minute, I didn’t think KCET would go nuclear. I just thought it would get resolved,” Rogers said, according to the article.

 

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Study Finds DVR Owners Are Young, Upscale

Nielsen research shows that wealthier consumers tend to be users of digital-video recorders, reports MediaPost.com's MediaDailyNews.

Adults in homes with incomes of $75,000 or more account for almost half of all DVR users, the story says. And adults in homes with incomes of $100,000 or more account for 29% of DVR users, the most of any income segment, the article notes.

Most of the DVR users are younger than 45 years old, although 38% were older than 45 as of May, when the data was collected. About 38% of all homes had a DVR as of September.

 

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TVWeek Exclusive: Inventor for 3M Offers Physical Proof That Post-its Were Sold First, Meaning Couple on Fox Show 'Million Dollar Money Drop' Robbed of $800,000 [Article Now Updated Wt. Latest Show Statement, Issued Hours After This Story Was Published]

By Chuck Ross

TVWeek has spoken to Arthur Fry, the retired 3M employee who is the co-inventor of the Post-it, and his history of the Post-it is in direct contradiction to the written statement made Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010, by “Million Dollar Money Drop” executive producer Jeff Apploff that Post-its were first sold in 1980 and before that were only given away for free.

Apploff’s statement, according to Fox News' Fox411 blog, was: “The integrity of the questions and answers on our show are our No. 1 priority. In this case, our research team spoke directly with 3M, and they confirmed that although they had given out free samples in test markets in 1977 and 1978, it wasn’t until 1980 that Post-its were sold in stores. ‘Million Dollar Money Drop’ stands behind the answer that was revealed on the show.”

Apploff’s statement was in response to a major brouhaha about the game show involving whether or not Post-its were sold before 1980. A couple said they were, and lost $800,000 when told that was the wrong answer.

However, according to Fry, that’s not true. And, in fact, he has proof beyond just his memory. There have been a number of other accounts, including an earlier interview with Fry, that Post-its, under the name “Press & Peel,” were test-marketed in 1977. But it’s unclear from those accounts whether or not the product was sold in those markets or given away for free, as Apploff claims.

Fry is unequivocal about that. He tells TVWeek, “In 1977 we went to four markets. Richmond, Virginia; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Tampa, Florida; and Denver, Colorado. Salesmen in each market sold them and then they were sold to the public. We offered two sizes. The three-by-fives were a dollar. And the ones that were one and a half inch by two were 35 cents. That’s to the public. We sold them at wholesale. It was a 50 percent mark-up and then 10 percent for the distributors.”

Later Fry told TVWeek, “Could you hold on a minute? I have a framed copy of the first order. I’ll go get it and read it to you.”

When Fry returned to the phone he said, "May 26, 1977, in Denver." The order was to Kistler and Quill. According to the Rocky Mountain News of April 27, 1996, “The W.H. Kistler Stationery Co. was renowned through the Western states as a supplier of high-quality stationery and office supplies.” The story was written on the occasion of the company's closing after 123 years in business.

Since sales in the test markets did not go well, 3M was not going to go ahead with the product, Fry said. He then convinced them to do another test--in 1978, he says, in Boise, Idaho. In that test the product was indeed given away, ensuring that lots and lots of people would try it. They did, and liked it.

Now Fry had shown 3M that perhaps the product could be successful.

Next, a slow roll-out of again sellling Post-its was planned, Fry said. “We started that in 1979 in the Western states--California, Oregon and Washington.” He said he wasn’t absolutely sure of the month, but he thought it was in April. Fry said some distributors on the East Coast started selling Post-its in 1979 as well. “It took off so well that we did a major national roll-out in United States and Canada in 1980,” Fry said.

As recounted by Fox411, here are the details of the controversy:

On Monday night’s episode of the show, a couple lost $800,000 when they answered a question about which item was sold in stores first: the Macintosh computer, the Sony Walkman or Post-it Notes.

Gabe Okoye and Brittany Mayi bet their money on Post-its, but were told they lost $800,000 by host Kevin Pollack, who said the answer was incorrect. While Mayi initially argued it was the Walkman, which was the correct answer according to producers, Okoye convinced her to go with the Post-it notes answer.

Okoye was moved to tears when he was told he had given the wrong answer.

But on Wednesday, the website Gawker.com refuted claims that the Post-it answer was incorrect. The website linked to the Post-it Facebook page, which said Post-it Notes didn’t go on sale nationally until 1980, but were market tested in four cities back in 1977.

On the show, when the apparent correct answer was revealed to be the Sony Walkman, the show said the Walkman was first sold in 1979.

However, any reading of Fry’s chronology of the Post-it shows that at the least a major sales push for the product also took place in 1979, and that the product was indeed sold to the public in 1977.#

UPDATE: More than two hours after we published this story, on Dec.. 23, 2010,  Endemol USA released a second statement, again from “Million Dollar Money Drop” executive producer Jeff Apploff: “Unfortunately, the information our research department originally obtained from 3M regarding when Post-it notes were first sold was incomplete. As a result of new information we have received from 3M, we feel it is only fair to give our contestants, Gabe and Brittany, another shot to play 'Million Dollar Money Drop' even though this question was not the deciding question in their game. The revised information regarding the Post-it is as follows: the product was originally tested for sale in four cities under the name ‘Press 'N Peel’ in 1977, sold as ‘Post-its’ in 1979 when the rollout introduction began and sold nationwide in 1980. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to the viewers who brought this to our attention, and we're thrilled to give Gabe and Brittany the opportunity to return to play the game."

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First 'Jersey Shore' Cast Member Scores a Spinoff--And It's Not Snooki or The Situation

The first spinoff of "Jersey Shore" has been announced--and the star isn't Snooki or The Situation, reports the New York Daily News.

DJ Pauly D has scored the first spinoff of MTV's hit show, the story notes. He beat out Snooki and Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, who have also been negotiating for spinoff programs, the story notes.

MTV has already shot a pilot in Pauly D's home state of Rhode Island, although a debut date hasn't yet been set. The next season of "Jersey Shore" begins Jan. 6.

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Cable Gained Strength in 2010, Putting Broadcast Networks on Notice

This year has put the broadcast networks on notice, perhaps more than ever before, about the strength of cable television shows, reports USA Today.

While the top 4 broadcasters and basic cable gained 1% in 2010 in terms of overall viewing, the fall season has proved tough for some networks, with Fox down 15% and ABC off 5%, the story notes. A few cable hits are beating many of their rivals on broadcast, with TNT's "Rizzoli & Isles" averaging 8.8 million viewers during its 10-week run.

Five other shows topped 6 million viewers, the story notes. "Viewers don't differentiate whether it's broadcast, top-tier cable or middle tier," notes Jon Marks, senior vice president of research at Turner.

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Multimedia Project Takes duPont Award for First Time; Other Winners Include '60 Minutes,' '20/20'

The winners of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards for broadcast journalism include "60 Minutes" and "20/20", although a multimedia project took one of the top awards, the first time that has ever happened, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The Las Vegas Sun newspaper won for its "Bottoming Out: Gambling Addiction in Las Vegas," which was a multimedia report including a video diary and Internet chat, the story notes. The project was one of 13 winners of the duPonts, which honor excellence in broadcast journalism. The winners were announced Wednesday.

"60 Minutes" won for a two-part report on the Deepwater Horizon explosion, while "20/20" was awarded for its investigation into sexual misconduct by swim coaches, the story says.

 

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Sinclair, Mediacom Come to Terms on Retransmission Consent

A two-year retransmission consent agreement has been reached between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Mediacom Communications, reports Multichannel News.

The deal ensures carriage for 22 stations in 16 markets, the story says. The agreement means that the companies will avoid what has proved in the past to be contentious negotiations, the story notes.

In 2007 Sinclair pulled its stations from Mediacom for several weeks, the article says.

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Spanish-Language Series Is Most-Watched Show in Key Demo

The most-watched show on Tuesday night among viewers between the ages of 18 and 49 years old wasn't an English-language show, but a Spanish-language telenovela on Univision called 'Soy Tu Dueña, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The result underscores the growing power of Hispanic viewers, as the show beat out Fox's "Million Dollar Money Drop" and programs on other English-language networks.

As previously reported, ratings on Tuesday night were lackluster, with most networks airing repeats. The telenovela drew 3.7 million viewers in the demographic, the story notes, while NBC's "Saturday NIght Live: A Very Gilly Christmas" scored the closest with 3.1 million viewers in the demographic.

The telenovela focuses on a woman who vows never to love again after being ditched at the altar, the story notes.

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Writers Guild Sends Out Its Wish List for TV and Film Negotiations, Set to Begin in Early 2011

The Writers Guild of America on Wednesday sent out to its more than 10,000 members its "pattern of demands," or its bargaining goals that members will vote on by Jan. 24, reports the Los Angeles Times' Company Town blog.

The demands will set the union's goals for television and film negotiations with the studios, which are expected to begin in early 2011, the story notes. The guild's current contract expires on May 1.

Previous negotiations ended in a 100-day strike, as the sides struggled to agree on how to pay for work distributed over new media.

The guild's goals this time around focus on what the article says are more traditional union priorities, such as increases in wages and improved working conditions.

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Newest Cast Member of 'Real Housewives of New York' Has a Client List That Includes The Situation, Pauly D

The newest cast member of Bravo's "Real Housewives of New York" is the owner of a chain of day spas whose clients include "Jersey Shore" cast members Pauly D and Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, reports the New York Post.

Cindy Barshop runs the Completely Bare chain of spas, which are located in Manhattan, Palm Beach and Scarsdale, the story notes. She's a single mother of twin girls who were born last year. She "has made some really bold, daring lifestyle choices," says Bravo programming Vice President Christian Barcellos.

Barshop is replacing Bethenny Frankel, who left the show to appear in her own Bravo reality series, "Bethenny Getting Married?," which will come back for a second season, the story notes.

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'Hi-Yo, Silver'--Fred Foy, Announcer for 'The Lone Ranger' on Radio and TV, Dies at 89

His voice is familiar to millions of Americans who grew up first listening to "The Lone Ranger" on radio and then watching it on television: Fred Foy, whose voice called out, "A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver!" has died, The New York Times reports. He was 89.

Foy died Wednesday at his home in Woburn, Mass., of natural causes, according to his daughter, Nancy Foy, the article notes. While Foy wasn't the only announcer for the program, he was the last and best known, according to The Times. He joined the show in the late 1940s, when the show was still on radio, and remained on the program until the late 1950s, when the television program went off the air.

The article notes that even though "The Lone Ranger" lived on in TV reruns, Foy didn't receive extra compensation because his work was performed before the era of mandatory residuals.

"We had no idea we were creating something that would become an American icon,” Foy said in a 2003 interview with the Daily News of New York.

On television, Foy's other work included a stint as staff announcer for ABC in New York, where he worked on "The Dick Cavett Show."

The article notes that Foy played the role of the Lone Ranger just one time, when Brace Beemer, who acted the part on radio, was suffering from laryngitis. “I guess I did all right,” Foy said in 2003, “because we didn’t get any complaints.”

Foy is survived by his wife, whom he married in 1947, two daughters, a son and three grandchildren.

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Most Americans Don't Want Online Advertisers to Track Them

Most U.S. consumers don't want online advertisers to track them on the Web, a trend that has been on the rise as marketers try to deliver specific ads to certain types of people, reports Advertising Age, citing a new Gallup poll.

Behavioral targeting has come under government scrutiny, by both the Federal Trade Commission and the Obama administration, the story notes.

The poll asked Americans if they felt advertisers should be allowed to match ads to people's interests based on other sites they've visited, and 67% said no, with 30% saying yes, the article notes. Asked whether tracking people is justified because it keeps costs down "so users can visit websites for free," 61% of respondents said no, with 35% saying yes, the article notes.

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De Niro Working on Chicago-Based Gangster TV Series

Success breeds success so it shouldn't come as a surprise that HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" is spawning similar projects, including one from Robert De Niro's production company, reports Chicagoist.com.

Reportedly, the book "Lords of the Levee: The Story of Bathhouse John and Hinky Dink," which chronicles Chicago circa 1892, when colorful characters ruled the city’s First Ward, is being turned into a television series.

The time period extends to 1938, the time of Al Capone. In the Brian De Palma feature "The Untouchables," De Niro played Capone, so is it possible he would do it again?

De Niro's company is planning to shoot in 2011 in Chicago.

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Comcast-NBCU Deal Stalls as Regulators Sort Out Details

Approval of the Comcast acquisition of NBC Universal is taking longer to work its way through the federal regulatory process than the companies had hoped, and now the word is the deal will be delayed at least until next month, Reuters reports.

NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker reportedly sent around a staff memo Wednesday in which he said: "We have made substantial progress this month with both the FCC and the Department of Justice, and expect that we will get a 'green light' in January."

Zucker is expected to depart the company after the deal goes through.

Comcast initially hoped to complete the acquisition this year, the story says. But the company--the largest cable firm in the U.S.--confirmed the delay.

"Because of the lead time required to prepare for a close, it now appears that we will not be able to close the transaction with GE relating to NBC Universal by year-end," a Comcast spokeswoman said in a statement. "We have notified our transition teams that there will not be a Dec. 31 closing."

The story cites sources saying that the areas that are causing regulators to take a closer look at the deal include online video, program access and program carriage.

Among other issues, regulators reportedly have concerns about whether Comcast might wield too much influence over the increasingly important online video market through Hulu, which is a joint venture involving NBCU, News Corp. and Disney.

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Diner That Inspired Scorsese Film, Long-Running TV Show Is Being Turned Into a Tourist Attraction

A diner that inspired both a feature film and a television sitcom has received a makeover that pays tribute to its role in pop culture, USA Today reports.

The site of the restaurant that inspired Mel's Diner on the CBS sitcom "Alice" will become a real-life tourist attraction, the story says.

The series, which starred Linda Lavin and Polly Holliday and ran from 1976-85, was based on the Martin Scorsese film "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore." In both the TV show and movie, the action was set in Phoenix's Mel's Diner.

Emmanouil Stivaktakis and his wife bought the place six years ago, but it's only been recently that they embraced the history of the restaurant.The waitresses began dressing like the show, they decorated the walls with clippings about the TV show and they are planning for a memorabilia case.

Stivaktakis has rechristened the place as the "world famous" Mel's Diner, hoping, "Maybe the people will like it more."

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MTV U Makes an Unexpected Choice for Man of the Year

If you're thinking that MTV U might be expected to choose a popular singer such as Justin Bieber as its Man of the Year, think again.

MTV's college network made a political choice and named Robert Gates, secretary of Defense, as the Man of the Year, according to The Huffington Post.

In a statement released Wednesday, MTV U recognized Gates as "a role model for public service, proving that it's possible to work within an institution to impart change."

On the distaff side, rapper Nicki Minaj was named Woman of the Year.

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Underwhelming Numbers for 'Skating' Finale on a Night of Lackluster Overall Ratings

NBC’s ratings were the “least bad” among the broadcast networks on a Tuesday night marked by mostly repeat programming and weak numbers overall, TVbytheNumbers.com reported.

NBC wound up with an average rating of 2.3 for the night in the 18-49 demo, beating out CBS (1.9 rating), Univision (1.8), Fox (1.7) and ABC (0.8). In total viewers it was CBS on top with an average of 10.1 million, ahead of NBC (6.3 million), Fox (4.8 million), Univision (4.2 million) and ABC (3.7 million).

At 8 p.m. NBC’s "Minute to Win It" had a 1.9 rating and a 2.4, respectively, in the 18-49 demo for the top and bottom half-hours. The finale of ABC's "Skating With the Stars" managed only a 0.8 in 18-49 for the hour.

The only new show at 9 p.m. was Fox's "Million Dollar Money Drop," which managed an average of 2.0 in the 18-49 demo for the hour. Reruns completed the night.

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TVWeek Announces Holiday Schedule

TVWeek will publish its newsletters as usual during the holidays, with the exception of Friday, Dec. 24, and Friday, Dec. 31. The TVBizwire, E-Daily and Viral Video newsletters will be put out as usual Monday-Thursday during these two weeks.

As always, will will update you with breaking news when it happens, with our TVWeek Extra Alert.

Check the Web site, TVWeek.com, for more coverage of television and media.

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A Program on Cable This Week Cracks the Top Ten of Most-Viewed Programs EVER on Cable

One of the programs on cable this week has cracked the top ten of most-viewed programs EVER on cable, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

According to the article, the "Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings match up on ESPN's 'Monday Night Football' [on Dec. 20, 2010] was the most-watched primetime program on broadcast and cable, attracting 17.1 million viewers to a blow-out 40-14 victory by the Bears....The game ranks as the ninth most-viewed program in cable history (excluding breaking news), said Nielsen."

The story also notes that so far this season, "ESPN's 'MNF' is trending slightly higher than last season. Additionally, ESPN.com had 164 million page views, for a 12% bump, and 237 million minutes, up 24%, generated by NFL content on Sunday and Monday."

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Could Sarah Palin Earn $1 Million Per Episode for Second Season of 'Alaska'?

TLC's "Sarah Palin's Alaska" has been successful enough that the network is trying to convince the former Alaska governor to sign up for a second season, reports Rob Shuter at the AOL-owned PopEater Naughty But Nice blog.

Writes Shuter: " 'Sarah knows to strike when the iron is hot and started talking about season two right after the show debuted to huge numbers,' a friend of Palin tells me. 'She knows that celebrities get millions of dollar for each episode of their shows and thinks she's worth it too. Jennifer Aniston took home millions from 'Friends' and in Sarah's eyes, she's no different.' "

We will dispense with the "Palin is no Aniston' line and continue with Shuter writing, "Now before we get carried away, Sarah must remember 'Friends' delivered way more than 4.96 [viewers] million a week. Still, she does have a point. One TV expert told me if Palin plays her cards right, it would not be impossible for her to get $1 million an episode for a second season."

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'Fran Drescher' Test Run Results in Ratings Drop; Show Not Expected to Go to Series

The three-week test run of Debmar-Mercury and Fox's "Fran Drescher" ended last week, with an average 0.6 rating and 2 share in metered markets, representing a 25% drop from its time period and lead-in a year earlier, reports B&C.

The article adds, "In New York, the show averaged a 0.5 rating/2 share, down 29% from last year's year ago time period average. "Fran Drescher" is not expected to be picked up to go to series."

The story also says that across syndicated shows, the holiday season is taking its toll as programs had flat ratings for the week ended Dec. 12.

"Oprah" was tied at a 4.5 live plus same day household rating with "Judge Judy," with "Oprah"'s ratings holding steady while the courtroom show's ratings dropped 2%, the story notes. "Dr. Phil" and "Live with Regis and Kelly" tied for second place at a 2.7, with "Phil" keeping level with households and "Live" adding 4% to reach a new season high, the article notes.

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Woman With a Gun Walks Into TV Station's Studio, Forcing Newscast to Go Off the Air

WSOC-TV, an ABC-affiliated station in Charlotte, North Carolina, had its 5 p.m. newscast forced off the air for almost an hour after a woman walked into the studios and put a gun to her head, reports the Charlotte Observer.

Anchor Natalie Pasquarella twice heard her producer yelling into her earpiece to get off the air, when she said, "We'll be right back." The station then aired a series of commercials and then the screen went black.

A distraught woman, identified by police as Wendy Cosby Naidas, 51, had entered the studios moments earlier with the gun and said she wanted to talk. The standoff lasted until just before 6 p.m., when police persuaded her to surrender. Officers said her gun wasn't loaded, and no one was injured at the studio.

The article says that reporters and other staff from the station began using cell phones and laptops to post updates and pictures on Twitter and the station's Website while they were off the air.

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Could New York's WNBC-TV Be Getting a New Anchor?

New York's WNBC-TV may be getting a new weekend anchor at the station,  reports our friend Richard Huff at  the New York Daily News.

According to the article WNBC is talking with Boston weekend co-anchor Shiba Russell, who has told her station, WCVB, that she is leaving.

Huff writes, that "there's been speculation that part of bringing Russell to Ch. 4 is about planning for the future. That could include, though not immediately, having her become one of the main weekday anchors at the station....Likewise, some of the speculation may stem from Sue Simmons' absence the past month. Simmons, who has been teamed with Chuck Scarborough for decades, was off during the sweeps period for back surgery, according to a station spokeswoman. She's scheduled to return to the anchor desk Jan. 3, the spokeswoman said Monday."

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Odd Non-TV Story: The Crosswalk Depicted on the Beatles' Abbey Road Album Cover Has Been Given Historical Protection Like Old Buildings Get. One Problem--The Newly Protected Crosswallk Most Likely NOT the Crosswalk Photographed on the Album Cover

The crosswalk depicted on the cover of the Beatles' Abbey Road album has been granted historical protection status in London, the UK's Press Association reports.

According to the article, "Sir Paul [McCartney] welcomed the news, saying: 'It's been a great year for me and a great year for the Beatles and hearing that the Abbey Road crossing is to be preserved is the icing on the cake.' It is the first such listing of its kind - such status is normally afforded only to buildings - and follows advice from English Heritage. The nearby [Abbey Road] studios were listed in February."

However, the article then goes on to say that the crossing is most likely not the original one."[A] comparison between the cover photograph and its present position suggests that it may have been moved a little to the north, closer to the studio gates, but it has not been possible to confirm this. Whether or not it is the same crossing depicted on the album cover or one very close to the original site, it remains a place of pilgrimage, with the studios, for Beatles fans from all over the world."

Not Quite as Famous Album Cover by Booker T and the MG's Also Not Real Abbey Rd. Crossing: Booker T and the MGs.jpg

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Mobster Sammy 'the Bull' Gravano's Daughter on 'Mob Wives,' Upsetting Relatives of Some of Sammy's Victims

Relatives of victims of Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano are upset that his daughter is starring in a new mob reality show, reports the New York Daily News.

Karen Gravano started taping "Mob Wives," with a potential 2011 air date on VH1, the story notes. The show includes one scene where she receives a prison phone call from her dad, who is serving 20 years for trafficking ecstasy, the story notes.

Relatives of the 19 victims of "Sammy the Bull" said she shouldn't be on TV. "We're the victims. My brother's kids grew up without a father," said Jackie Colucci, whose slain brother Joseph was Gravano's first victim in 1970, the story says.

Karen Gravano responded that her dad's past isn't her past. "I'm trying to get out of that shadow," she said, according to the article.

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People Still Watch Commercials on Time-Shifted Shows, Nielsen Report Finds

Viewers actually still watch commercials during time-shifted programs, reports MediaDailyNews, citing a new Nielsen report.

The report found that C3 ratings, which take into account live viewing as well as viewing over the next three days with a DVR, rise 16%, boosted by people who watch commercials while using a digital-video recorder, the story notes. The data tracks viewers between 18-to-49 years old who watch ABC, CBS, the CW, Fox and NBC combined, the story says.

The commercial viewing average for the networks' live feeds from April 29 to May 26 was a 1.78, but that jumped to a 2.06 rating for C3 ratings, the story notes. Nielsen said that in homes with DVRs, commercials watched in time-shifted mode increase C3 ratings by 44%, the story notes.

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Is Disney Getting Low on Lifelines? Judge Denies Disney's Request to Overturn Verdict in 'Millionaire' Case That Awarded $319 Million to the Show's Creators

Walt Disney Co. was rebuffed in its efforts to overturn a verdict awarding $319 million in damages and interest to the creators of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," reports the Los Angeles Times' Company Town blog.

Federal district court judge Virginia Phillips denied Disney's motion to either throw out the verdict or order a new trial, the story says. Disney has 30 days to appeal the decision, and the company pledged to continue to litigate the dispute, the article notes.

The case stems from 2004, when the British creators of the show, Celador International, sued Disney, claiming that it had been denied its ability to profit from the game show's success. Celador claimed that the show only appeared to be losing money because of a series of "sweetheart deals" struck between Disney-owned companies, even though the program became ABC's first top-rated show in more than a decade, the story notes.

Disney had argued in its attempt to either throw out the verdict or get a new trial that the judge made errors while admitting or excluding evidence, including one email from former Disney Chairman Michael Eisner, in which he estimated the show's value to ABC as "$1 billion, wild guess, maybe more," the article says.

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The Best Non-TV Trivia Question of the Day. What Do the Following Words Have In Common? Furtive, Dissent, Ebullient, Shellacking, Doppelganger, Bigot, Socialism, Moratorium, Pragmatic and Austerity

This one isn't really obvious. What do the words in our headline have in common?

They are the ten most looked-up words on the website of the Merriam-Webster dictionary (Merriam-Webster.com) this year, reports the New York Post. The headline lists them in reverse order, with "furtive" being No. 10 and "austerity" being No. 1.

According to the Merriam-Webster site, here are the top words of the year since 2003, which was the first year the site started tracking what words users were searching:

2009: Admonish
2008: Bailout
2007: w00t [No, this isn't a typo. Click here to see Merriam-Webster's explanation of this word]
2006: Truthiness
2005: Integrity
2004: Blog
2003: Democracy

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Report: Broadcast Network Entertainment Chief Expected to Leave Job at End of the Season

One of the broadcast network entertainment chiefs is expected to leave that job at the end of the TV season in May 2011, reports Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com

Writes Andreeva: "After almost a decade in Hollywood as the head of UPN and its successor broadcast network, CW entertainment president Dawn Ostroff may be going back to New York. I hear Ostroff would be leaving the CW at the end of her contract in June to relocate to New York with her kids. While the decision is not final, sources indicate that Ostroff is leaning heavily in that direction and is expected to make it official early next year."

The story says it's stictly a personal decision, precipitated by the fact that Ostroff's husband now works primarily in New York and is commuting between coasts.

The article notes that before coming to L.A. at the beginning of 2002 to run the CW, Ostroff and her family were based in New York.

The story adds that as much as management would love to keep Osrtoff, the job is here in L.A. and not New York, so she would have to resign.

Andreeva closes the article by quoting Ostroff from this past July, when she was asked about Steve McPherson's departure from ABC: "I always say these jobs are rented chairs. I've been sitting here for 9 years, having seen a lot of people come and go."

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CBS Announces Midseason Lineup

CBS has announced its midseason changes.

Says our  good friend Joe Adalian at Vulture.com: "The most interesting move? New half-hour comedy 'Mad Love'-- starring the awesome Judy Greer and Sarah Chalke, along with Jason Biggs-- is getting the plum 8:30 p.m. Monday timeslot behind 'How I Met Your Mother,' starting Feb. 21. Rules of Engagement will shift to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays on Feb. 24, mercifully ending the shortened first season run of '$#*! My Dad Says.' Meanwhile, CBS has pretty much given up on 'The Defenders': The Jim Belushi legal dramedy will give up its 10 p.m. Wednesday slot and move to the death zone known as 8 p.m. Fridays on Feb. 4, replacing the canceled 'Medium.' Then, on April 1, CBS will take 'The Defenders' off the air altogether and fill its Friday timeslot with the new CIA drama 'Chaos.' "

Tom Selleck's "Blue Bloods" will get an upgrade to Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. 

Now, from CBS, here's its midseason lineup:

Wednesdays, Effective Jan. 19

8:00-9:00 PM LIVE TO DANCE

9:00-10:00 PM CRIMINAL MINDS

10:00-11:00 PM BLUE BLOODS (ntp)

Fridays, Effective Feb. 4

8:00-9:00 PM THE DEFENDERS (ntp)

9:00-10:00 PM CSI: NY

Fridays, Effective Feb. 11

8:00-9:00 PM THE DEFENDERS

9:00-10:00 PM CSI: NY

10:00-11:00 PM BLUE BLOODS

Wednesday, Effective Feb. 16

8:00-9:00 PM SURVIVOR: REDEMPTION ISLAND (Premiere)

9:00-10:00 PM CRIMINAL MINDS

10:00-11:00 PM CRIMINAL MINDS: SUSPECT BEHAVIOR (Series Debut)

Monday, Effective Feb. 21

8:00-8:30 PM HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER

8:30-9:00 PM MAD LOVE (Series Debut)

9:00-9:30 PM TWO AND A HALF MEN

9:30-10:00 PM MIKE & MOLLY

10:00-11:00 PM HAWAII FIVE-0

Thursday, Effective Feb. 24

8:00-8:30 PM THE BIG BANG THEORY

8:30-9:00 PM RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (ntp)

9:00-10:00 PM CSI

10:00-11:00 PM THE MENTALIST

Friday, Effective April 1

8:00-9:00 PM CHAOS (Series Debut)

9:00-10:00 PM CSI: NY

10:00-11:00 PM BLUE BLOODS

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Apple Pulls WikiLeaks App From iPhone Store

Apple has pulled an iPhone app from its App Store that enabled users to read secret U.S. diplomatic cables published by the controversial organization WikiLeaks and to follow the group’s Twitter feed, Computerworld reported.

The move was the latest in a series of similar steps by American companies, such as Amazon, B of A, MasterCard and PayPal, which have ceased WikiLeaks-related services, the story reports.

The report adds: “In late November, the organization began publishing U.S. State Department messages. Since then, WikiLeaks shifted its site to new hosting providers several times; its founder, Julian Assange, was arrested in the U.K. and then posted bail; and pro-WikiLeaks activists launched distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against the firms that withdrew services.”

According to the report, Igor Barinov, general manager of Moscow-based Hint Solutions, which has been selling the WikiLeaks app, said Apple notified him of the action and referred him to a number of passages in the App Store developer guidelines, including one that says in part: "Any app that is defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harms [sic] way will be rejected."

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Report: Why YOU Need to Pay Attention to Today's Net Neutrality Ruling

Forget that you work in the industry. Jeremy Kaplan, who writes about technology at FoxNews.com, says there's a reason Jane and Joe Consumer need to pay attention to the Federal Communications Commission ruling on net neutrality:

Kaplan writes, "Thanks for watching that YouTube video! That will be 50 cents, please. Sound unrealistic? It's actually fairly likely, thanks to a ruling handed down Tuesday [Dec. 21, 2010] by the FCC that will allow Internet service providers to charge customers based on the amount of bandwidth they use. And some argue that it's the greatest threat to freedom we face today. Welcome to the complex world of net neutrality."

He continues, " 'Internet service giants like Comcast and Verizon want to offer premium and privileged access to the Internet for corporations who can afford to pay for it,' worried Minnesota senator Al Franken in an editorial at the Huffington Post. ISPs argue -- and the FCC just agreed -- that they should be allowed to charge based on the amount of bandwidth they use. It remains to be seen whether the type of content will be protected, however. The more people speculate, the more the nightmarish scenarios quickly pile up."

Kaplan's conclusion: "Net neutrality may be designed to allow for a tiered Internet. Or it may end up preventing one entirely. Who knows? The FCC held most discussions behind closed doors, until this morning's debate and final approval of the regulations.But either way, it's bound to end up affecting your wallet. And you should care -- if for no other reason than that."

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Univision Extends Important Programming Agreement

Univision Communications and Grupo Televisa have extended their long-term program license agreement through 2025, reports B&C.

The companies also signed a program license agreement giving Televisa the rights to broadcast Univision content in Mexico, the story notes. The agreement completes a deal made in October, when Televisa agreed to invest $1.2 billion in Univision, the story notes.

 

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Food Net Star's Ex-Housekeeper Headed to Prison After Admitting to Stealing From Boss

Mary Alice White, the former housekeeper of one of the stars of Food Network, has confessed to stealing from her boss and has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for her crime, reports The Huffington Post.

In court, White admitted that in her nine months of employment in the Savannah, Ga., home of Food Net star Paula Deen, she repeatedly stole jewelry from her boss. Deen reported that more than $100,000 worth of men's and women's jewelry had been taken from her home.

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NBC's 'Sing-Off' Finale the Top Show on a Night of Weak Ratings Across the Board; Few Stick Around for Peacock's New Sitcom

On a slow Monday night for the broadcast networks, NBC's season finale of "The Sing-Off" and preview of a new sitcom failed to made much of a splash in the Nielsen overnights, reports TVbytheNumbers.com. But the combination was enough to give NBC a ratings win for the night.

NBC finished with an average rating of 2.2 in adults 18-49 for the night, ahead of Fox and CBS (both with 1.9 ratings), Univision (1.6) and ABC (1.3). CBS won total viewers with an average of 7.4 million to 6.7 million for NBC, 5.8 million for ABC and 5.3 million for Fox.

At 8 p.m. the first hour of the finale of "The Sing-Off" averaged a 2.75 in the 18-49 demo for the hour, while the premiere of Fox's "Million Dollar Money Drop" had a mean score of 1.9 in the same demo. ABC's "Skating With the Stars" averaged a 0.95.

At 9 p.m. the second hour of "The Sing-Off" fell to a 2.55 average rating in 18-49 for the hour, while hour two of "Million Dollar Money Drop" was up slightly to a 1.95 in the 18-49 demo.

NBC previewed the new sitcom "Perfect Couples" at 10 p.m., where it managed only a 1.4 rating in the 18-49 demo up against all reruns.

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Pee-Wee Herman Returns to Cable

When Pee-Wee Herman first made a big splash almost 30 years ago, it was thanks to an HBO special based on his club act. Now Herman's latest big hit, the Broadway production of "The Pee-Wee Herman Show," will be broadcast on HBO, reports TheWrap.com.

The Broadway show starring Paul Reubens ends its run on Jan. 2, 2011. The HBO telecast is scheduled for later in the year. Marty Callner, who also directed Herman's 1981 HBO special, will reunite with the comic for the new TV production.

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Paris Hilton Caught Up in Airport Weapon Scare

Paris Hilton can’t seem to avoid drama, even though the latest incident presumably had nothing to do with her. She was among a group of passengers whose travel plans were disrupted today by a weapon scare on a plane at LAX, Us Magazine reports.

Hilton and her boyfriend, Cy Waits, along with other passengers, were evacuated from a plane after a knife was discovered in a seat pocket. A security sweep was performed, and the passengers were later allowed back on the plane for their flight from Los Angeles to Maui.

Hilton tweeted about the incident: "We were about to take off then security made everyone deplane because they found a big knife on board the plane. Scary that it got on plane."

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Lindsay Lohan Gets Into Trouble in Rehab

Lindsay Lohan has been named as a suspect in a criminal investigation into an incident at a rehab facility, TMZ.com reports, citing law enforcement sources.

The investigation concerns an alleged battery against a Betty Ford staffer, who reportedly wants Lohan prosecuted. The case is being investigated by the Palm Desert, Calif., Police Department.

Apparently an altercation took place early on Dec. 12 at the rehab house after Lohan and some other residents returned from a visit to a bar.

Police showed up after getting a call regarding what was described as “hand-to-hand battery,” and they interviewed both the staffer and Lohan, the story reports.

The case is expected to go to prosecutors after the police investigation is completed.

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Anderson Cooper's Low CNN Ratings--Will They Hurt Momentum for His Syndicated Talker?

While his syndicated talk show is receiving good interest from television stations, Anderson Cooper's prime-time program on CNN isn't faring well with viewers, reports Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com.

2010 is wrapping up as "Anderson Cooper 360’s" lowest-rated year ever in adults 25-54 and its second-lowest in total viewers since the show's debut in 2005, the story notes. The program is down 33% year-to-date in viewers 25 to 54 and down 32% in total viewers.

The article points out that this mirrors CNN's 34% year-to-year drop in both total viewers and the 25-54 demo.

"Still, Cooper's sharp ratings declines would probably give a pause to Warner Bros., which produces and distributes his daytime talk show, 'Anderson,'” Andreeva writes. She adds that Nancy Grace's prime-time show on HLN had been hitting all-time high ratings when she was signed to do a syndicated show last year.

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Report: Katie Couric and Her Agent Talking To CBS About What Her Role Would Be If She Stays at the Network. One Thing For Sure--No More $15 Million Salary. Syndication a Possibility? CNN Still Interested?

CBS and "Alan Berger, [Katie] Couric’s agent at Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles, began talks in early December," reports Bloomberg News.

The story notes, "Both sides recognize Couric’s salary must be reduced for her to remain at CBS, one of the people said. This season, the 'CBS Evening News With Katie Couric' is averaging 5.73 million viewers a night, according to Nielsen Co. data, behind NBC and ABC, and down 24 percent from when she took over in 2006."

The article adds, "One option for Couric would be to produce and host a show that New York-based CBS could syndicate, the person said. The anchor intends to continue her 40-minute online chats with guests that have included former Vice President Al Gore and pop- star Justin Bieber, said one of the people."

The story also notes that "Gil Schwartz, a CBS spokesman, declined to comment."

However the article does state that Couric spokesman Matthew Hitzik said that "Katie is enjoying herself at CBS and is proud of her award-winning show.”

The article says that CNN is also interested in Couric, who is 53.

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to Hedge Fund Manager: Stop Shorting My Stock

Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings has publicly asked a hedge fund manager to stop placing bets against his company, reports Bloomberg News.

Hastings wrote a posting on the Seeking Alpha Website responding to a report by Whitney Tilson, a co-founder of T2 Partners LLC, which was published on the same site last week, the story notes.

Tilson had written that Netflix was his biggest bearish bet and that he would stick with his position, comprising options and short sales, even though Netflix's stock has more than doubled this year, causing him to lose money.

' “It is possible that one could make money shorting Netflix today,' Hastings wrote. 'But shorting a market-leading firm as it is driving a huge new market is a very gutsy call.' "

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As Simon Cowell Readies U.S. Version of 'The X Factor,' U.K. Show Faces Investigation For Being Too Raunchy

As Simon Cowell readies a U.S. version of "The X Factor" for a fall debut, the U.K. show is facing an investigation from the country's media regulator Ofcom after more than 4,000 complaints were made over dance routines from Christina Aguilera and Rihanna, reports the Guardian.

The singers reportedly performed "raunchy" routines during the talent show, which was broadcast on Dec. 11, the article notes. Ofcom received 2,750 complaints, while 1,500 were received by ITV.

Photos from the routines were published in the Daily Mail and can be seen here.

The Daily Mail wrote that "horrified parents -- who watched the show with their sons and daughters – also accused ITV of breaking the bond of trust with viewers by failing to tone down the performances for younger fans."

The Guardian notes that Ofcom's broadcasting code aims to "protect children from sexualized content" and that it should protect children by "appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them." The show was watched by an average audience of about 14 million viewers.

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Tavis Smiley Finds New PBS Home

With Los Angeles TV station KCET leaving PBS, talk show host Tavis Smiley has had to find a new PBS staton to host his show.

He is shifting the co-producer of the weeknight PBS show to WNET.org starting Jan 1, 2011,  reports our good friend Elizabeth Jensen in the New York Times' Media Decoder blog.

WNET, the main public media outfit in New York City, will operate the Website for "Tavis Smiley," work to improve the program's time slot in some markets, help with fund-raising and work on the show's outreach to schools, the story notes.

The deal, however, is just for one-year, which Smiley said is "because I only do one-year deals."

While his shows will continue to be taped at rented studios at KCET-TV, it will be aired in Los Angeles on KOCE-TV starting next month, the story notes.

The switch to WNET.org “means more markets, it means better time slots, better marketing, more publicity, more prime-time specials, more collaborations with other NET talent,” Smiley said, adding that he hopes to tape his show in New York more often as well.

As for KCET's decision to leave PBS, Smiley had this to say," “I think KCET is making a grave mistake and I fret that this grand station will end up being sold for parts. That’s my greatest fear.”

tavis smiley.jpg

.

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The New Apple TV, On The Market Only Since October, Will Sell Its 1 Millionth Unit This Week

The new Apple TV, available just since October, will hit sales of over one million this week, the company has announced.

Here's the take on this news by Jay Yarow of Business Insider: Apple "probably wants to rub Apple TVs success in Google's face. We'll be curious to see if Google or its partners put out any numbers on Google TV. Apple also says people are renting or buying more than 400,000 TV episodes and more than 150,000 movies per day."

Yarow concludes, "This could also be read as a shot at the competition. As in: 'Hey big media companies, you want to make money on your content? Come to iTunes, come to Apple, we sell things.' "

The Apple TV device generally is available for $99.

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As Jeff Gaspin Prepares to Leave NBC, He Considers Taking a Board Seat at MGM, Which Is Just Emerging From Bankruptcy

Is Jeff Gaspin about to roar again?

Could be.

"Gaspin, who will soon exit NBC once its acquisition by Comcast Corp. is complete, would join several other experienced Hollywood hands on the MGM board, including former Pixar Chief Financial Officer Ann Mather, former CBS Chief Financial Officer Fred Reynolds and former MySpace President Jason Hirschhorn," writes the Los Angeles Times' Company Town blog.

MGM has raised $500 million and is emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The article says that "Gaspin declined to comment on whether he would join the board."

The story notes that the other MGM board seats "are held by representatives of MGM's largest stakeholders, which previously owned much of its debt. They include Anchorage Capital, Highland Capital Management, Solus Alternative Asset Management and billionaire investor Carl Icahn."

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ESPN Enables Its Popular Scorecenter Mobile App on Samsung TV Sets

Samsung has a new line of Internet-enabled TV sets, and ESPN will allow the sets to carry its popular Scorecenter mobile app, reports Mediaweek.

According to the article, Samsung "has introduced the Samsung Apps store—essentially a TV version of Apple’s mega-popular app store. Sports fans will be able to find ScoreCenter (which provides scores, news and statistics for free) there."

The story adds, "While ESPN doesn’t stream live content—or even full-length episodes of SportsCenter—on its flagship site ESPN.com, the company's move to bring its mobile app to TVs could be telling. Though the major broadcast networks have elected to block much of their programming from Web-TV platforms like Google TV—condensed apps, with limited video content, may serve as a more palatable means of approaching TV/Web convergence for TV companies."


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He's Baaaack: Olbermann Ends Twitter Exile After Three Days -- About as Long as his MSNBC Suspension

Keith Olbermann ended his self-imposed exile from Twitter, meaning that the host of MSNBC's "Countdown" missed out on just three days of tweeting, reports the Los Angeles Times' ShowTracker blog.

The story points out that Olbermann's Twitter exile lasted about as long as his recent suspension from the cable network for political donations.

As previously reported, Olbermann suspended his Twitter account after receiving a flood of angry tweets over an interview last week with Michael Moore http://www.tvweek.com/blogs/tvbizwire/2010/12/interview-with-michael-moore-a.php. The interview featured Moore defending WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is accused of sex crimes.

Olbermann apparently changed his mind by Sunday, writing "And we're back!"

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IPO For Hulu On Hold

After speculation that Hulu would raise money through an initial stock offering, those plans are now on hold, as its executives and board members weigh the service's next steps, reports the Los Angeles Times' CompanyTown blog. [The Wall St. Journal also has this story, but that site is behind a firewall and may charge you to read its stories.]

As previously reported, Hulu had been working on an IPO that would have valued the online-video service at $2 billion.

But that's on the back burner now as the company's management figures out whether it needs to acquire more content to compete with Netflix, since that will determine Hulu's capital needs, the article says.

Executives are also discussing whether Hulu should increase its number of ads to bump up revenue, and whether Hulu's owners (which include big media companies such as News Corp. and NBC Universal) could provide more funding or if it should seek outside investors, the piece notes.

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Tracy Morgan, After Undergoing a Kidney Transplant, To Miss Taping Some Episodes of '30 Rock'

Tracy Morgan had a kidney transplant earlier this month and will miss taping some episodes of NBC's "30 Rock" while he recuperates, reports EW.com's InsideTV blog.

Morgan's absence will be written into the show as his character having had a meltdown because of "a good thing that happens to him," the story notes. The episodes without Morgan, who was diagnosed with diabetes in 1996, will air in March. He will miss taping at least two episodes, the story says.

The article notes that the surgery was successful, with Morgan seen at a Knicks recenlty.

He's the second cast member of "30 Rock" to have a kidney transplant, since Grizz Chapman, a member of his entourage on the show, had the same surgery earlier this year, the story notes.

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Net Neutrality: Here Are the New Rules On Internet Access The FCC is Expected to Enact

Here are the new rules on Internet access that the Federal Communications Commission is expected to approve on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010, according to the Washington Post.

Says the article, "Under the regulations, companies that carry the Internet into American homes would not be allowed to block Web sites that offer rival services, nor would they be permitted to play favorites by dividing delivery of Internet content into fast and slow lanes."

The article adds, "The proposal, pushed by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, seeks to add teeth to a principle known as net neutrality, which calls for all legal Internet traffic to be treated equally. It means that a cable company such as Comcast could not slow traffic of Netflix video, while a wireless carrier such as Verizon Wireless could not block competing Web voice services, such as Vonage."

Furthermore, the story notes, "The proposal falls short of what some consumer advocates had sought. Although it would prevent wireless carriers from blocking competing voice services on smartphones, it would allow them to charge more for other types of Internet applications, such as video or social networking services."

The article also spoke to Rebecca Arbogast, an investment analyst for Stifel Nicolaus, who "said that the rules are written so they can be broadly interpreted and that questions remain about the real impact on Internet video. It's unclear whether a company such as Comcast could in effect give its video-on-demand service priority over competitors such as Netflix, YouTube and Amazon by charging them more to transmit high volumes of data, she said."

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Three-Time Emmy Nominated Actor in One of the Best Sitcoms of the Mid '70s--Early '80s, Dies

One of the actors in one of the best sitcoms on TV in the mid 1970s through the early 1980s has died, Deadline.com reports.

Steve Landesberg, who only turned 65 last month, has died of cancer, Deadline reports.

A stand-up comic, Landesberg became well-known playing the droll Det. Arthur Dietrich on the long-running "Barney Miller" (1975-1982).

He was nominated three times for the Emmy for best supporting actor in a comedy series for the role, but never won.

Says the article, "Landesberg passed away in New York. He is survived by his wife Nancy and his daughter."

stevelandesberg.jpg

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Best Non-TV Story of the Day: Is Our Tap Water Safe? Group Finds Hexavalent Chromium--the carcinogenic 'Erin Brockovich chemical'--in Tap Water From 31 of 35 U.S. Cities. Is Your City on the List?

"In 25 of 35 U.S. cities where tap water supplies were tested for hexavalent chromium [Chromium 6] -- deemed likely to cause cancer in humans in a U.S. EPA draft review this year -- levels of the chemical exceeded the minimum set by the state of California to protect public health, according to a report released today by an environmental group," says a Greenwire report published on the New York TImes website.

To see a full list of the 35 cities studied, and the results of how much Chromium 6 was found in the tap water of each city, please click here.

"The chemical hexavalent chromium got public attention in the 2000 film 'Erin Brockovich' and has been found to cause cancer in laboratory animals by the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health" The Washington Post says in its report, adding, "The analysis, released Monday by the Environmental Working Group, is the first nationwide look at hexavalent chromium in drinking water to be made public. The advocacy group sampled tap water from 35 cities and detected hexavalent chromium in 31 of those communities. Of those, 25 had levels that were higher than a health goal proposed last year by the state of California."

According to the Washington Post story, "Last year, California released a draft of a "public health goal" for a safe level of hexavalent chromium in drinking water: 0.06 parts per billion. If the state sets a limit, it would be the first in the nation."

The Post article adds later, "The American Chemistry Council, which represents the chemical industry, says the California goal is unrealistic because some water supplies have naturally occurring hexavalent chromium that is higher than .06 parts per billion. In a written statement, the group's senior director, Ann Mason, said that 'even the most sophisticated analytical methods used by EPA are not able to detect the extremely low levels that California wants to establish.' In her statement, she said that 'given that hexavalent chromium exists naturally in groundwater, it is not surprising that it was found in 31 of the 35 sites selectively targeted, which had previously reported the existence of chromium.' "

Again,To see a full list of the 35 cities studied, and the results of how much Chromium 6 was found in the tap water of each city, please click here.

To see the entire report by the Environmental Working Group, please click here.

 

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Oprah Reveals She Offered TV Show to Rock Superstar

With her OWN cable network about to launch, Oprah Winfrey says she is looking at everything as a potential TV show. With that in mind, she recently offered a show to Bono of the rock group U2, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

No word on whether Bono accepted the offer, according to the story.

“I look at everything now through the prism of, ‘This could make a very good TV show!'" Winfrey said.

She gave Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, a show after Ferguson did an interview on Winfrey’s syndicated show.

"I just had this epiphany,” Winfrey told Ferguson, according to the story. “You on that tape--that is a spiritually, morally bankrupted person.”

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Word That Larry Hagman Was Out of 'Dallas' Reboot Came as News to Hagman--He's Still Interested

Contrary to news that broke last week, Larry Hagman is still eager to play J.R. Ewing in the rebooted "Dallas" that TNT is launching, reports TV Guide.

Last Thursday, reports surfaced that Hagman had backed out of the project over money. When questioned by the publication, Hagman said, "I hadn't heard about that, huh! That's really interesting. We were talking about money, but I didn't know it was going to come to a crashing halt like that. You got a scoop for whatever that's worth: Larry Hagman doesn't know what's going on!"

Hagman went on to say that he would be disappointed if the "Dallas" relaunch went on without him, but he would survive.

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NBC Flip-Flops on 'Chuck' Mini-Marathon

Just days after NBC had decided not to rebroadcast "Chuck" for three hours on Monday, Dec. 27, the planned mini-marathon is on again, reports TVbytheNumbers.com.

NBC was going to air one "Chuck" episode followed by a rerun of the TV movie "A Walk in My Shoes." But now the network will air the three episodes after all. “Chuck” is now scheduled for 8-11 p.m. ET.

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Soap Star, Target of Twitter Attack, Says He's Not a 'D-Bag' and Has a Few Words of His Own for 'Adversary' Neil Patrick Harris

Last week the star of "How I Met Your Mother," Neil Patrick Harris, lashed out at soap star Eric Braeden for backing out of a guest role on the sitcom, calling him a d-bag on Twitter. Now Braeden has responded with an explanation and called Harris a "whippersnapper," reports New York Magazine.

According to Braeden, his reason for passing on the cameo guest role--which would have been a reprise for him since he originated the role of Robin's father--was that he has been recovering from hip surgery and the effort to appear for so small a part wasn't worth it.

Braeden said of being called a “d-bag”: "His choice of words bothered me. It seems to me like a young whippersnapper, having seen himself on a few covers, who's received a few awards, is now suddenly suffering from the first signs of hubris. I've been in the business for 50 years. I've seen people come and go and I'm still here. … If he is a worthy adversary, he'd better not cross my path."

Harris reportedly had a change of heart soon after sending the angry tweet, and tweeted that he felt bad about the d-bag comment. "Don't know the guy personally,” he wrote. “I'm just fiercely protective of our show.”

 

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'Desperate Housewives' Star Backs Down in $20 Million Suit Against ABC and Show's Creator

Actress Nicollette Sheridan has decided to withdraw some of the most explosive parts of the lawsuit she brought against ABC and "Desperate Housewives'" creator Marc Cherry, reports Reuters.

In a filing Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Sheridan dropped her claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress and agreed she won't make a claim for emotional or physical damages.

Sheridan apparently chose to withdraw the meat of the suit so that she would not have to submit to a mental or physical examination.

What remains of the suit, filed in response to her being kicked off the show, is still substantial, including claims of assault and battery, wrongful termination and sex and gender discrimination, according to the report.

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AP Names Its Entertainer of the Year--Hint: She's Over 40, and She Beat Out Conan, James Cameron, Jon Stewart, the iPad and the Cast of 'Glee'

One over-40 entertainer--WELL over 40--had a career year in 2010, and now she can add another feather to her cap, having been honored as AP’s Entertainer of the Year, the AP reported.

The honoree is 88-year-old actress Betty White, who has been piling up awards and accolades along with strong ratings for her TV Land sitcom, “Hot in Cleveland.”

Members of the Associated Press chose her as the most influential performer in entertainment for 2010. In addition to "Hot In Cleveland," White was recruited to host "Saturday Night Live" following a Facebook campaign, and snagged an Emmy for her appearance.

White bested the cast of "Glee," Conan O'Brien, James Cameron, Jon Stewart and the Apple iPad, among others, for the honor.

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Ad Spending Projected to Continue Rising, But Rate of Growth Will Slow

There's good news and bad news on the advertising front, with ad sales expected to rise next year, albeit at a slower rate than in 2010, reports Advertising Age.

Marketers in 2011 will increase their U.S. ad spending by 2.8%, based on the average of forecasts from three top media agencies. That's down from the 3.2% growth rate seen this year, the story points out.

Worldwide ad spending will jump 5.3% next year, but that's below the 5.9% seen in 2010, the story says.

The averages come from forecasts from Interpublic Group of Cos.' MagnaGlobal, Publicis Groupe's ZenithOptimedia and WPP's Group M. Still, 2010 turned out to be a healthier year than many had thought a year earlier, when forecasters had predicted 2010 would provide flat to slightly down ad spending, the article notes.

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Big Bump for 'Big Bang' Co-Star--And a Look at All the Salaries

After most of his co-stars received substantial raises, the last of the original stars of CBS's "The Big Bang Theory," Kunal Nayyar, has received a major salary bump, reports Deadline.com.

Nayyar, who plays Raj, will reportedly go from making about $25,000 per episode to about $75,000 per show. That's still less than co-star Simon Helberg, whose latest raise reportedly puts him over $100,000, but Nayyar’s deal may include a bonus that brings him closer overall to Helberg, the story says.

After earlier negotiations, co-stars Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco reportedly all make about $200,000 per episode, with built-in $50,000 raises each year for the next three seasons.

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All-Time Low for 'Survivor' Finale as NFL Dominates Sunday Ratings

National Football League action gave NBC another win Sunday in the Nielsen overnights, while CBS notched an all-time low for a “Survivor” finale, according to TVbytheNumbers.com.

NBC finished the night with a 6.1 average rating in adults 18-49, to a 4.4 rating for CBS, followed by Fox with a 2.0 and ABC at 1.8, with the latter two networks airing all repeats. NBC’S margin over CBS was narrower in total viewers, but the Peacock Network came out on top with an average of 17.5 million for the night to CBS’s 15.7 million.

At 7 p.m. the overrun from the late CBS NFL broadcast combined with the start of "60 Minutes" for an average rating of 5.5 in the 18-49 demo for the hour, while NBC's pre-game earned a mean score of 3.4 in the same demo for the hour.

At 8 p.m. the NBC broadcast of the New England Patriots vs. the Green Bay Packers kicked off with an average 6.2 in the 18-49 demo for the hour. The first hour of CBS's "Survivor" had a 4.25 average in the 18-49 demo for the time slot.

The 9 p.m. hour saw NBC's game collect a 7.3 rating in 18-49, while "Survivor" slipped to a 4.1.

At 10 p.m. NBC's football game wrapped the night with a 7.55 average in the 18-49 demo. CBS's "Survivor" reunion episode managed a 3.8 in the 18-49 demo for the hour.

Overall, "Survivor" was down 7% from last season and the preliminary ratings had it as the show’s lowest-rated season finale in the 18-49 demo.

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Format Changes For Next Arc of 'Survivor'

The next arc of the CBS/Mark Burnett mainstay "Survivor" premieres Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2011, and it contains a twist, according to EW.com's Inside TV.

The arc, titled "Survivor: Redemption Island," will give an extra chance to some of those voted off the show, the article says.

Show host Jeff Probst told EW: “ 'How it works is very simple. When you’re voted out at Tribal Council, you don’t go home. You’re not out of the game. You go to Redemption Island and you live alone. And at a certain point in the game another person will join you. You will compete in a duel. The winner stays. The loser goes home. So you’re continuing to live out there on your own with very basic supplies. But you’re still in the game. And at a certain point you’ll be allowed to reenter the game and have a shot at the money.' In other words, people that are voted out will compete against each other for a chance to later rejoin the game."

As the article notes, "The concept of being voted out and then reentering the game is something of a sore spot for Survivor fans, after voted out 'Outcasts' Lillian “Lil” Morris and Burton Roberts came back into the game in Survivor: Pearl Islands, with Lil making it all the way to the final two. Probst insists this time will be different. For starters, the voted out contestants will not be eating lots of food with a roof over the heads, but will still be stuck out in the elements like everyone else. For another thing, this time everything will be out in the open."

Furthermore, the article explains, "In another format switch, since each episode will include a Redemption Island duel, you can expect there to be just one combined reward/immunity challenge per episode for the players that have yet to be voted out."

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Well-Known Veteran Cable Executive Crowns Career By Becoming President and COO of Retirement Living TV

Retirement Living TV has picked a well-known cable veteran to be its new president and COO.

It's Paul FitzPatrick, who has been at a number of cable entities serving in that same capacity.

He's a former president and COO at Crown Media Holdings, The Golf Channel, The Weather Channel and C-SPAN.

The announcement of FitzPatrick's appointment at Retirement Living TV was made by channel founder John Erickson, who continues as Retirement's chairman and CEO.

Immediately before his appointment, "FitzPatrick had served as a senior strategic consultant for RLTV since September and in that capacity he led Prime Votes, the network’s mid-term elections initiative, which was available in 100 million homes," the announcement said. 

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DirecTV Close to Hitting Subs With Very Targeted Commercials

Under a new partnership with Starcom MediaVest, DirecTV may be soon rolling out advertisements specifically targeting households based on their demographics, reports the Wall Street Journal. (Please note that the Journal is behind a pay wall and may want to charge you to read this article.)

For instance, if a dog-owning household may see ads about dog food, while families with children may see minivan commercials, the story notes. Starcom plans to spend $10 million to $20 million on the service in 2011, while DirecTV expects to roll out the service in August or September of next year, the piece says. "Advertisers' biggest complaint so far has been that many tests of this service haven't been big enough in terms of scale," said Laura Desmond, chief executive of Starcom Media Vest. DirecTV has about 19.1 million subscribers. 

Under the plan, an advertiser would tell DirecTV what type of consumer it wishes to reach, and then DirecTV will sift through data from third-party providers to find households that fit the description, the story says. That data may include income, whether the household recently had a baby, or if the household recently purchased a product from the advertiser, although it won't include viewing habits, the article notes.

That data will be loaded into the DirecTV box in the home, and then the box will "vote" for the most likely targeted commercial out of a range of ads that should be shown to the household, the article says.

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Anderson Cooper's New Daytime Talk Show Getting Enthusiastic Response from TV Stations; New Debmar-Mercury Talk Show Also Getting Good Response

Anderson Cooper's new syndicated talk show is receiving an enthusiastic response from television stations, with at least 80 of them across the country signing up to air the fall-debuting show, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

About 40 stations have signed on for "Anderson" in the last 10 days alone, giving the show 70% coverage, the article notes.

The program is said to be similar to Phil Donahue's provocative show with a bit of the emotionality delivered by Oprah Winfrey. "Anderson" plans to target women who want to be both entertained and informed, the article adds.

The story, by Elizabeth Guider, adds, "The only other talk show with significant clearances for next season is Debmar-Mercury's "Jeremy Kyle," which has been cleared in 70% of the country, mostly on indie stations."

Kyle is a popular (and populist) daytime talk show host in the U.K.

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New Show From Shonda 'Grey's Anatomy' Rhimes Gets Green Light

Shonda Rhimes' project about a crisis management guru has received a pilot order from ABC, marking the network's first pilot order for the development season, reports Deadline.com.

The untitled project is based on the career of crisis management consultant Judy Smith and is written by Rhimes, marking her first pilot script since the 2007 "Grey's Anatomy" episode that led to the spinoff "Private Practice," the story notes.

Judy Smith will be a technical consultant and co-executive producer, while Rhimes will executive produce with her Shondaland partner Betsy Beers, the article says. The project got a quick turnaround, with ABC executives greenlighting the pilot just 24 hours after reading the script, it notes.

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Cast Options on 'Mad Men' Set to Expire at Month's End -- But Signs Point to a Fifth Season

The options of the cast of "Mad Men" are set to expire at month's end, but Lionsgate intends to exercise the actors' options before the deadline,reports Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com.

Her article points out that indicates the drama will return for a fifth season.

Meanwhile, there may be another long negotiation between AMC, Lionsgate and "Mad Men" creator and showrunner Matthew Weiner, the story notes. During negotiations for Weiner's earlier deal with Lionsgate, negotiations lasted into January and closed days after "Mad Men" won its third consecutive Golden Globe as best drama series, according to the piece. 

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L.A. Congresswoman Maxine Waters Checks In About the Pending Comcast-NBC Universal Deal

The office of Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters has released this statement about the pending Comcast-NBC Universal deal:

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) [has written a] letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski today, which she asked to be included in the public record of the merger along with a congressional transcript and a report prepared by her office. In the letter, Congresswoman Waters urges the FCC to: ensure that Comcast and NBC file their memoranda of understanding as official amendments to their merger application; clearly define diversity and justify the approval of the merger using its own precedent regarding the public interest and diversity; recognize that Comcast and NBC have failed to present diversity commitments in conformity with FCC standards; and impose spectrum subleasing conditions to allow for new market entrants.

To see the full letter by Congresswoman Waters, please click here

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Net Neutrality: What to Expect From the FCC on Tuesday; Also, Check Out All the Lobbying That's Being Done to Influence What Happens

With the Federal Communications Commissioon expected to finally tackle net neutrality tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010, here's what to expect regarding Internet traffic rules.

"The rules would ban high-speed Internet providers like Comcast Corp. and Verizon Communications from blocking lawful traffic, but are expected to acknowledge their need to manage network congestion and possibly charge consumers based on Internet usage. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski's plan will likely attract the grudging support of his two fellow Democrats, analysts say, overcoming opposition from the agency's two Republicans."

So writes Reuters. The article continues, "The Republican commissioners have said they prefer that Internet traffic remain free of regulation. 'But I still think it's more likely that they will work something out,' said Rebecca Arbogast, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus and a former division chief at the FCC. Internet providers say they should be free to manage their networks for the benefit of all users, but content providers fear disruption of access and anti-competitive behavior."

Equally fascinating is all the lobbying that's gone on about the rulemaking.

"Over the past three years, more than 150 organizations hired at least 118 outside lobbying groups to influence the outcome of the vote currently scheduled for the commission's open meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 21, a Capital Business analysis of congressional lobbying records shows," Amanda Becker at The Washington Post writes.

After detailing some of the lobbying efforts, Becker writes, "The work of these firms and others was crucial to Genachowski's recent indication that his proposal will ultimately include a usage-based pricing provision that grants Internet service providers 'meaningful flexibility' to manage their networks--a victory for ISPs. AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable have collectively employed more than 60 firms for net neutrality-related work, including shops such as Capitol Solutions, Crossroads Strategies, Ogilvy Government Relations and Quinn, Gillespie & Associates."

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Google Asks Some TV Manufacturers to Delay Announcements on Google TV Hardware

Google is asking some television set manufacturers to hold off on announcing hardware based on its software, reports The New York Times

The move comes as some additional TV set makers were expected to use the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January to debut new Google TV products, the story notes. But Google asked the manufacturers to hold off so it can work on the software, which has seen mixed reviews.

The request both caught the TV set makers off guard and shows the struggles Google is facing as it attempts to expand into the consumer electronics market, the story points out. While Google has often improved new products after introducing them, that's trickier with consumer electronics, where companies make big bets at specific times, such as at back-to-school season or the holidays, the article notes.

A Google spokeswoman declined to discuss "rumors and speculation," it says.

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CEO of Sir Simon Cowell's Production Company Unexpectedly Exiting. Wait a Minute: 'Sir' Simon? Yes, There's a Report That's in the Cards For 2011

Ellis Watson, the chief executive of Simon Cowell's Syco production company, is leaving after 10 months at the company, reports Deadline.com.

While there are reports that the split comes amid Cowell's reputation for being a hands-on manager, Watson said that the pair "got on bloody beautifully." He added, "The idea that Simon has been micro-managing is bollocks." Watson said he was leaving for family reasons. Sony Music Entertainment, which co-owns Syco, isn't presently looking to replace Watson, the story notes.

Separately, Cowell is in line for a knighthood, reports U.K. publication the Mail on Sunday.

Says the article, "The Mail on Sunday understands that the 51-year-old X Factor judge and media mogul is being lined up for the title when the 2011 Honours list is unveiled on December 31....The knighthood is primarily an acknowledgment of Cowell’s charity fundraising for victims of the Haiti earthquake earlier this year."

That story adds, "Last year Cowell put his chances at getting a Knighthood at ‘less than zero’ but admitted that ''Sir Simon' has a nice ring to it'. He added: ‘I never did all this to get a knighthood. I am very lucky to do what I do and feel privileged.’

Cowell Cleans Up Nicely--Here he meets the Queen at a Royal Variety performance: simoncowell.jpg


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Latest 'Jersey Shore' Developments: 'The Situation' Doesn't Have the Right Abbs-lication For Gym in Plaza Hotel; Ronnie Indicted on Assault Charge

Looks like putting on your applicaton to own a gym that you are a national celebrity on a popular TV show doesn't always hold much sway.

Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino has been barred from getting involved with a high-end gym that's slated to reopen in New York's pricey Plaza Hotel reports The New York Post's Page Six.

The reason? The hotel's management doesn't believe that the "Jersey Shore" star reflects the right image for the type of clients it hopes to attract, the story says. The Post had previously reported that the Situation was in talks to become a partner and the face of the Plaza's new gym, which is slated to open in the space formerly occupied by the Radu Fitness center.

Separately,  Ronald "Ronnie" Ortiz-Magro, a cast member of "Jersey Shore," was indicted on one count of assault related to an incident during the show's first season of filming, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

A New Jersey grand jury indictment alleges that Ortiz "did purposely or knowingly cause significant bodily injury to Stephen Izzo by striking him in the face with a closed fist, causing him to lose consciousness." While the punch wasn't shown on "Jersey Shore," the events leading up to the fight were broadcast, as well as Izzo lying face down on the ground afterwards, the story notes.   

The offense is punishable by up to five years in state prison, according to the Asbury Park Press.

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Larry King Finale Last Thursday Drew Twice The Number of Viewers Than His Show Did the Night Before

Larry King's last episode of "Larry King Live" on CNN was watched by 2.25 million viewers, reports TVByTheNumbers.com.

That represents a more than 100% jump in audience from the night before, the story says.

King's show drew more total viewers than "Hannity" on Fox News, which drew 2.16 million viewers, although "Hannity" attracted more adults in the 25 to 54-year old demographic, the story notes.


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Interview With Michael Moore Angers Viewers, Prompting Olbermann to Bail Out on Twitter

After receiving a flood of angry tweets over a Tuesday interview with Michael Moore, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has suspended his Twitter account, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The host of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" spoke with Moore about his $20,000 contribution to bail out WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is accused of sex crimes, the story notes. Moore said Assange is a "pioneer of free speech" for putting thousands of secret documents on his WikiLeaks site. Moore also called the charge against Assange "a bunch of hooey."

That led to angry tweets from viewers, who said the pair had been flippant when talking about the sex crimes accusations.

Olbermann said he's done with Twitter--for now. "I'll suspend this account until/if this frenzy is stopped," he said in a tweet. The article said he didn't respond to a request for comment.

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Cablevision Board OKs Spinoff of Rainbow--Including AMC, Sundance

The spinoff of its Rainbow unit was approved by Cablevision's board, meaning that channels including AMC and Sundance will be spun off to Cablevision shareholders in a "tax-free pro rata distribution," reports Bloomberg News.

The transaction should be completed by midyear 2011, the story notes.

Cablevision said it's not considering a sale of Rainbow or its cable and telecommunications business, with the Rainbow spinoff allowing the cable operator to focus on its telecommunications operation. The article says the latter accounted for 94% of Cablevision's operating income last quarter.

The Rainbow unit also includes IFC.

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On a Night of Mostly Reruns, CBS Coasts to Ratings Win While Univision Surges to No. 2

CBS coasted to a Thursday night win in the ratings on the strength of "The Big Bang Theory" and “$#*! My Dad Says,” TVbytheNumbers.com reported. But the big news of the night may have been Univision’s surge, as the Spanish-language broadcaster beat NBC, ABC and Fox in the key 18-49 demo.

CBS wound up with a 2.4 rating for the night in adults 18-49, followed by Univision (1.5), NBC (1.4), ABC (1.4) and Fox (1.3). In total viewers it was CBS with a huge lead with an average of 10.4 million to 5.2 million for Fox, 4.5 million for ABC, 3.8 million for Univision and 3.4 million for NBC.

At 8 p.m. "Big Bang" logged a 4.1 and "$#*! My Dad Says" had a 3.0, both in the 18-49 demographic. CBS faced all reruns in that hour, and the rest of the night was wall-to-wall reruns on CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC and CW.

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Study Reveals Which Cable News Net Has the Most Misinformed Viewers

A new study from the University of Maryland concluded that viewers of one cable news network were "significantly more likely" than other news consumers to believe misinformation about politics, reports the Huffington Post.

The network is Fox News, whose critics have blasted its news coverage as slanted while mocking the channel’s long-running “Fair and Balanced” slogan. Now those critics may have some numbers to back up their claims.

The research also determined that increased viewership of Fox News led to increased belief in false stories.

Among the false statements presented in the survey were claims that President Obama may not have been born in the U.S., that the auto bailout occurred only under Obama's tenure, and that most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses.

One statement where Fox viewers were considerably more likely to believe misinformation--31 points higher than the rest of respondents--concerned health care, with the survey statement saying falsely that most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit.

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'Real Killer' Surfaces in Morgan Freeman Death Hoax--And It Wasn't CNN After All

CNN says it was not the source for an Internet rumor that circulated Thursday saying that Oscar winner Morgan Freeman was dead, reports E! Online.

Internet tweets and posts began appearing at about 5 p.m. ET that said CNN had reported that Freeman, 73, was dead.

Someone tweeted this message, according to the story: "RT @CNN: Breaking News: actor Morgan Freeman has passed away in his Burbank home<< wow legendary actor #RIPmorganfreeman." However, it was not true.

The cable network immediately denied the story, via Twitter. "CNN did not report Morgan Freeman death. Rumor is false. CNN will aggressively investigate this hoax."

The original tweeter, identified in the story as C.J. Wiley, apparently felt some remorse over the incident, later writing, “It was a joke that got too out of hand,” and adding, “I’m a huge fan of Morgan Freeman and I wish him the best in all future endeavors.”

The story points out that other celebrities--including Jeff Goldblum, Miley Cyrus, Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks--have also been prematurely “killed” on the Internet.

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Sitcom Star Lashes Out at Soap Star on Twitter

A soap opera star was the subject of an angry tweet by a sitcom star who apparently felt spurned when the soap star backed out of a cameo on the sitcom, Deadline.com reports.

When Eric Braeden, star of the CBS soap opera "The Young & the Restless," allegedly opted not to appear on "How I Met Your Mother" as Robin's father, Neil Patrick Harris was ticked off, the story reports. Harris said on Twitter, "Eric Braeden is a D-Bag. He agreed to a cameo as Robin's dad, then last night he bailed, saying the part wasn't 'substantial' enough."

In March 2008, Braeden appeared on the CBS sitcom as Robin's dad, so this would have been a return engagement. Harris tweeted that Ray Wise, of "Twin Peaks" fame, was hired in Braeden's stead.

No word yet from Braeden or CBS about their take on the story.

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Ratings Plunge for Presentation of Controversy-Plagued Heisman Award

Judging by the dismal ratings for ESPN's broadcast of the 2010 Heisman Trophy presentation, most people either didn't care or didn’t want to watch Auburn's Cam Newton, the odds-on favorite to win, receive the honor, according to SportsNewser.com.

The ratings for last Saturday’s broadcast were the lowest in four years. The question remains, did viewers stay away because Newton, who has been playing under a cloud of controversy, was expected to win the prize, or is there diminishing interest in the college award in general?

This year's broadcast was ESPN’s lowest-rated Heisman Trophy telecast since 2006, drawing just 3.784 million viewers--down 37% from last year.

The Heisman recently received negative publicity when former USC player Reggie Bush, who won the award in 2005, was retroactively stripped of his eligibility and returned his trophy.

Newton has been in the news not just for his play on the field, but also because it has been alleged that his father solicited compensation to have his son pick a particular college--an allegation that is reportedly under investigation.

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Final 'Larry King Live' Most Notable For Its Oddness

Larry' King's final talk show on CCN after 25 years may best be remembered for its collection of awkward moments, from King's mis-timed introduction of guest Bill Maher ("these words are not easy to say--Bill Maher is the host...") to a live satellite interview with former President Bill Clinton that played like a a comic throw-back to the early days of TV when the technology never quite worked.

Our friend Tom Shales, in his Washington Post review of the show wrote about another awkward moment: "When the ineffably affable Regis Philbin offered cheerful salutations from New York, King barely registered a reaction. Although Philbin praised King's aptitude for remembering very old songs, King sat there like a lump when Philbin launched into the old closing theme from 'Your Hit Parade': 'So long for a while, that's all the songs for a while.' Poor Philbin was left dangling, with professional celebrity Donald Trump at his side."

One of the true highlights of the show was a poem Katie Couric read about King. It really captured King's 25 year career at CNN.

Click on the picture below to watch and listen to Couric's poem.

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Former 'Melrose Place' Star Indicted on Aggravated Manslaughter Charges

A  former star of "Melrose Place" was indicted in New Jersey on charges of aggravated manslaughter and assault by auto after she was involved in a deadly crash earlier this year, reports TMZ.com.

Amy Locane, who played Sandy on the original 'Melrose Place,"  crashed into the side of another car in Montgomery, New Jersey, in June, killing a woman in the front seat, the story notes.

Locane allegedly told police she had several glasses of wine before driving. The story says she may face 10 to 30 years in prison for the manslaughter charge and five to 10 years for the assault by auto charge.

Her attorney said he was surprised by the manslaughter charge and added, "I think it constitutes over-reaching by the prosecutor's office," the article notes.

amy-locane1.jpg

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Shouldn't Time's Person of Year Have Been Wikileaks founder Julian Assange? Time Magazine's Managing Editor Explains Why They Didn't Pick Him

"Digital whistleblower and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was Time's readers’ choice to be the magazine’s 2010 Person of the Year with 382,206 votes, but [Time's Managing Editor, Rick] Stengel said he considered the long-term impact of the Harvard-dropout-turned-social-network-mogul [Mark Zuckerberg]—not just the past year’s," Mediaweek reports.

Thus Zuckerberg was named Time's Person of the Year and not Assange.

According to the article, Stengel added, "When I make the choice, I think of [what] has actually affected people’s lives the most [in] the past year. Five years from now, who’s going to look smart? Julian Assange has been in the news a lot lately. I think five years from now, he’ll been an asterisk. If you really wanted to, [you would] make [leaker] Bradley Manning. Julian Assange was the wine bottle, and Bradley Manning supplied the wine. In the grand scheme of things, it will be a footnote to history.”

Stengel continued, the article said, that "Zuckerberg, meanwhile, created a new system of connecting people that 'is the connective tissue for nearly a tenth of the planet. Facebook is now the third-largest country on Earth and surely has more information about its citizens than any government does.' "

One misconception some members of the public have is that Time's Person of the Year is a designation honoring someone for a positive contribution to society. In fact, it is the person who has had the most significant impact. Thus Hitler was a Time Person of the Year--then called Man of the Year--for 1938.

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With KCET in L.A. No Longer Part of PBS, a Major PBS Program Will No Longer Be Available on Public TV for Most in L.A.; But the Show Can Be Seen on Cable

With KCET no longer a PBS outlet in Los Angeles, one of the signature PBS shows will not be available to be seen by most Angelenos by tuning into public TV. But the show will still be able to be seen on cable.

Here's what's going on. Taking over from KCET as the area's primary PBS outlet will be KOCE, which is based in Orange County and is carried by most TV distributors in the area. KOCE will be rebranding itself PBS SoCal, reports the Los Angeles Times Showtracker blog.

However, the article says, KOCE was not able to pick up the rights to broadcast PBS staple "Charlie Rose" because an earlier programming commitment has the show airing on KVCR-TV, a secondary PBS station based in San Bernardino, Calif., the article notes. " 'It's probably my favorite show, so it's personally painful,'  [said president and chief executive Mel] Rogers, noting that the station hopes to snag the show 'in a matter of months.' "

The problem is that some distributors, such as Time Warner Cable in most of Southern California, do not carry KVRC.

However, TVWeek notes that Time Warner Cable and most other distributors in the area DO carry Bloomberg TV, where "Charlie Rose" also appears.

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Our TVWeek Best Bet Movie to Watch at Home This Weekend

By Chuck Ross

In between watching sports and last minute holiday shopping, we have a terrific movie recommendation for you to watch at home this weekend.

With the death of Blake Edwards this week, we dove into his film oeuvre and have come up with a goodie.

Edwards made some wonderful movies, from "Breakfast at Tiffany's" to "The Pink Panther" to "Victor/Victoria."

But we thought we'd pick one out that was a bit unusual for Blake. From 1962, it's "Experiment in Terror." It's a noir thriller, shot in gorgeous black & white.

The movie stars Lee Remick and Glenn Ford, but the person you'll never forget from the film is Ross Martin--years before he became a household name on TV  from co-starring in "The Wild Wild West"-- playing the creepiest of creeps. In fact, maybe the two best creeps in movies is Martin in this film and Andy Robinson's performance in "Dirty Harry."

"Experiment  in Terror" will have you on the edge-of-your-couch, not least because of one of the best scores ever in this kind of a suspenseful picture. It's by Henry Mancini, but pretty much unlike anything else he ever did. 

He uses an offbeat instument--the autoharp--to achive the same kind of feel Bernard Herrmann had using strings two years before this film was made in Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho."

Since "Experiment in Terror"  is available to stream from Netflix, there shouldn't be a problem getting a hold of it to watch this weekend.

Enjoy!  If you see it (or have seen it), let us know what you think!

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Local TV Ad Sales Jumped by Almost One-Third in the Third Quarter, Outpacing Network TV

Local television advertising sales jumped by 31.7% in the third quarter compared with a year earlier, far outpacing network television ad sales, which grew at just 2.7%, reports B&C.

The numbers come from a survey from TVB and Kantar Media, which also showed that ads on syndicated television slipped 1.2% during the period. Local television got the boost from political spending, the article adds. But 22 out of the top 25 advertising categories were also up at local stations, with automotive ads jumping 74.1% from a year earlier.

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New Showrunner for 'Dexter'

There's a new showrunner coming on board for the sixth season of "Dexter," reports Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com.

The show's executive producer Scott Buck will succeed Chip Johannessen, who ran the series last season, the article notes. The fifth season of "Dexter" was the highest-rated season of the drama series so far, with an average of more than 5 million viewers each week for TV and on-demand viewing.

The article says that the feeling was that Buck, who has worked on the show since the second season and had been Johannessen's second-in-command, was ready to take on the role. Buck has written or co-written the last three season finales, including Sunday's, the article notes.

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Last Season's 'American Idol' Runner-Up, Crystal Bowersox, on Track to Outsell the Show's Winner in Album Sales

The runner-up in last season's "American Idol," Crystal Bowersox, is on track to outsell the season's champ, Lee DeWyze, in first-week album sales, the New York Post reports.

Bowersox's first album, "Farmer's Daughter," sold as many as 50,000 copies in its first day, more than the opening day sales of DeWyze's "Live It Up," which sold 39,000 copies on its debut day earlier this year, the story notes.

If sales projections hold up, it's likely that Bowersox's album will surpass the sales of DeWyze's.

The article points out that it's not the first time a runner-up on "Idol" has beaten the program's winner in album sales: Both Clay Aiken and Adam Lambert outsold albums from the winners of their respective seasons of "Idol" (those were Ruben Studdard in 2003 and Kris Allen in 2009).

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Would You Buy a Rover From This Man? Michael Vick Gets Back Into the Ad Endorsement Business

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who spent 21 month in prison after pleading guilty to running a dogfighting ring, has gotten his first post-prison ad endorsement deal. It's for a New Jersey car dealership, reports Advertising Age.

According to the article, "There is no cash involved; Mr. Vick is being compensated by having the use of a $54,000 Nissan Armada." [Though in the commercial, below, it makes it seem that Vick is driving a much less expensive Nissan.] The dealership is Woodbury Nissan.

The story says reaction to Vick's new endorsement deal has been mixed: "On Yahoo Sports, the public debate raged with nearly 400 comments. The Football God wrote, 'Thanks Woodbury Nissan for showing a side of Vick we the public forgot. This ranks right up there with your showing Leona Helmsley helping us to save on our taxes. Or Lindsay Lohan looking for crack in the windshield, Or Susan Smith showing us how to buckle children in a car. And finally O.J. slashing prices. Keep up the good work.'

"But a poster named Duke replied: 'To all concerned, Michael Vick, is not a thief,a rapest [sic], a murderer, a terrorist, and any other type of person who would commit a crime against humanity. In my opinion, his only crime was poor judgment and being under influence of so call [sic] friends. He deserves a chance to be a member in society again. So far, he is doing just that.' "

To read the entire Ad Age story, please click here.

Here's the commercial:

more »

Best Article We've Seen Yet About Why the Networks Are Reluctant To Deal With Google TV

Bloomberg has a lengthy piece by Sarah Rabil and Ian King about why the TV broadcast networks are reluctant to deal with Google TV.

According to the article, "One sticking point is ads, which accounted for 63 percent of the $13 billion in revenue last year at New York-based CBS.Prime-time shows seen over the Internet have about four minutes of ads per hour, compared with 16 minutes on broadcast. That suggests networks lose about 75 percent of sales per viewer when programs are seen on the Web instead of TV, said Laura Martin, a Los Angeles-based analyst for Needham & Co."

The article adds, "The networks say Google hasn’t presented a plan to close the ad-sales gap or fully explained its business. They are mindful of losses the music and newspaper industries sustained online. They can avoid that fate if they refuse to give products away or sell them too cheaply, according to analyst Martin.'We need to understand better what they’re going to do,' Carey, chief operating officer at New York-based News Corp., said in an interview."

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Looks Like TNT's Remake of 'Dallas' Is Finally Moving Forward, Without J.R.

TNT has been trying to get a remake going of the classic primetime soap "Dallas," and hoped it would include the iconic J.R., as played by actor Larry Hagman.

Now, writes Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com, "After one of the longest courtships in recent TV history, TNT is prepared to proceed with its 'Dallas' reboot without original star Larry Hagman over salary issues."

With TNT having a rewritten script in hand, Andreeva writes, "Negotiations with Hagman continue and there is still a good chance that he will ultimately sign on, but he doesn't have a big leverage anymore as the producers and the network are moving to cast the other roles and shoot the pilot with or without him."

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Clark Kent Pal Pete Ross Turns Out to Be a Drug Dealer. Sam Jones III Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy To Sell 'Hillbilly Heroin'

Sam Jones III, who played Clark Kent's pal Pete Ross on "Smallville," has "pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court to conspiracy to sell more than 10,000 oxycodone pills," EOnline reports.

According to the article, "Jones, 27, was busted at his Canoga Park, Calif., home last year for allegedly trying to sling the painkiller otherwise known as 'hillbilly heroin.' Today [Thursday, Dec, 18, 2010]  he pleaded guilty as a co-conspirator in the drug ring, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office."

Jones will be sentenced in June, and is facing up to 20 years in prison.

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Syfy Cancels One of Its Signature Series

Syfy has canceled one of its signature series that has been on the channel--in some form--since 2002, Deadline.com reports.

The umbrella franchise is "Stargate," the current iteration being "Stargate Universe."

According to the article, "The upcoming 10 episodes of "Stargate Universe's" second season, which will air in the Spring, will be the series' last. The news follows the recent cancellation of another franchise Syfy series, the 'Battlestar Galactica' prequel 'Caprica.' "

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Blake Edwards, the Man Behind 'The Pink Panther,' 'The Party' and '10' and One of the Pioneers of Early Television, Dead at 88

Blake Edwards, a prolific writer and director known as a master of the screwball comedy, has died, The New York Times reports. He was 88.

Edwards reportedly died of complications from pneumonia in a hospital in Santa Monica, Calif. His wife, actress Julie Andrews, and other family members were at his side, his publicist said.

Edwards worked as a producer, writer and director in the early days of television before making a mark with a string of big-screen films including the “Pink Panther” series, “Breakfast at Tiffany's” (1961), “Days of Wine and Roses,” (1962), “The Great Race” (1965), Peter Sellers’ “The Party” (1968), the Bo Derek showcase “10” (1979), “Victor/Victoria” (1982) and “Blind Date” (1987).

Early in his career he worked as a director on 1950s televsion shows such as “Four Star Playhouse,” “Peter Gunn” and “The Dick Powell Theatre.” He also had a long run as a writer and producer on “Peter Gunn” in the late 1950s, and wrote extensively for both “Mr. Lucky” and “Richard Diamond, Private Detective” before shifting his focus to feature films.

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'Survivor,' 'Criminal Minds' Push CBS to Wednesday Ratings Win

The penultimate episode of "Survivor" and a strong ratings performance by “Criminal Minds” helped CBS win Wednesday night in the Nielsen overnights, according to TVbytheNumbers.com.

CBS won the adults 18-49 demo for the night with a 2.9 rating, followed by NBC (2.6), Fox (2.1), Univision (1.8) and ABC (1.6). CBS’s margin in total viewers was huge, with an average of 12.1 million to NBC’s 7.9 million.

At 8 p.m. "Survivor" collected a 3.5 rating in the 18-49 demographic, while NBC's "The Sing-Off" had a 2.7 and Fox's "Human Target" managed only a 1.5 in the same demo.

At 9 p.m. CBS's "Criminal Minds" held a lead over NBC's "The Sing-Off," 3.2 to 3.0 in the 18-49 demographic. Just behind was Fox's season finale of "Hell's Kitchen" with a 2.6 in the same demo.

Wrapping up the night, CBS's "The Defenders" had a 2.0 rating in the 18-49 demo at 10 p.m., tied with a repeat episode of “Law & Order: SVU” on NBC.

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Cowell Reportedly Has Troubled '80s Pop Icon Set to Take 'X Factor' Judge's Chair

A singer who rose to fame with a string of 1980s hit singles as part of the pop duo Wham! but more recently has made headlines mostly in the tabloids is apparently lined up to be a judge on Simon Cowell's American version of "The X Factor," reports the New York Post.

The Sun in England initially put forth the idea that the panel for "The X Factor" would include ‘80s pop icon George Michael, along with Simon and singer Cheryl Cole.

Michael's camp has denied the story, but the Sun quotes a source saying, "George is going to take the job. It's an amazing opportunity to get back in the limelight and reverse his recent bad spell. Simon knows that Americans love him. He is as big in the U.S. as he is over here. He is a true star and has the wit and experience for the job. It's the perfect platform to resurrect his career."

Michael could have trouble with his U.S. visa after spending time in jail earlier this year for driving under the influence of drugs, the Post reports.

Other stars who were contacted about the job, according to the Post, included Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger and Noel Gallagher of Oasis.

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The Percentage of U.S. Who Subscribe to Wired Cable is Lowest It's Been Since November 1989

"[W]ired-cable penetration represented 60.7% of households in November 2010, down from 61.7% in November 2009. The only time it had been lower was in November 1989 when wired-cable penetration was at 59.7%, writes TVNewsCheck, citing data from Nielsen.

At the same time, the story notes, "national alternate delivery system penetration reached 30.5% of television households last month, an all-time high that represents 33.7% of subscription television customers (those paying for video delivery), another all-time high.

Furthermore, the article quotes Susan Cuccinello, SVP, research, TVB (a TV station advocacy group) saying, ""In fact, in 34 markets, a majority of those paying for video programming are now getting that programming via ADS rather than from a wired-cable system. Local cable commercials are not seen in ADS homes, and so local advertisers need to deduct the ADS percentage of the audience if they are included in the cable systems’ submissions.” 

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Traditional Holiday 'Yule Log' Telecast Gets an Upgrade

A big change is in store this year for the annual holiday telecast of the “Yule Log.” For the first time since it began its annual broadcast in 1966, the "Yule Log" will be available in 3D, reports UPI.com.

The traditional holiday programming will be carried on Comcast, Cox Communications, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks systems.

In a statement about the new 3D version of the "Yule Log," the producers said, "Cable raised the bar a few years ago with the first high-definition crackling fire. Now this year for the first time, many systems are also showing the 'Yule Log' in 3D, in addition to high definition and standard definition."

For viewers to see the 3D "Yule Log," they will need a 3D TV with compatible 3D glasses and an HD set-top box connected according to their system's specs.

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Aretha Franklin Back Home Following Surgery

The Queen of Soul, legendary singer Aretha Franklin, is home from a Detroit hospital following surgery that was believed to be for pancreatic cancer, Reuters reports.

Franklin's publicist has not confirmed that the singer has pancreatic cancer, although numerous sources have said that is her diagnosis.

In a statement, Franklin, 68, said of her illness, "I've been at home for almost three days now. My family and friends who brought me home are taking great care of me. I also have a private nurse who visits on a daily basis."

A spokeswoman said the singer is “in great spirits.”

Franklin has canceled her performances for the next several months.

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HBO Hoping the 'Hard Knocks' Behind-the-Scenes Approach to Sports Will Also Work With Hockey

HBO is banking on fans of the National Hockey League to be as ardent as football fans with the new sports show “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic,” reports TheWrap.com.

HBO has been successful with "Hard Knocks," focusing on an NFL team each season. The four-episode hockey series premiered Wednesday night and will conclude with footage from the NHL Winter Classic--the annual outdoor game that will take place Jan. 1. The game will be televised on NBC, live from Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field.

Ross Greenburg, HBO sports president, told TheWrap.com, “I think what we’re proving is that showing a side of a professional sport that’s never been seen before--that’s fascinating to the average fan.”

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Competitor Pays Tribute to King as His Run on CNN Comes to an End

Among the many tributes to Larry King on the day of his final CNN episode of "Larry King Live" was a full-page ad in USA Today from one of CNN's chief competitors in cable news, reports TVNewser.com.

The stark, bold ad from MSNBC read, “53 Years of Broadcasting. 50,000 Interviews. 75 Pairs of Suspenders. One of a Kind. Larry, thank you for everything you’ve done to advance cable news.”

In addition to the ad, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said of King, "The Larry King interview is an American institution, and nothing about the ups and downs of the cable industry and its competition from broadcast and all the other developments in our business can change that. He is an institution for a reason.”

The final installment of "Larry King Live" is scheduled to air tonight on CNN.

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WABC Suspends Weather Reporter Over Alleged False Rape Claim

After police arrested a WABC-TV weather reporter who allegedly falsely reported that a man had tried to rape her in Central Park, the station has suspended her pending an investigation, the New York Post reports.

As previously reported, Heidi Jones, 37, was arrested for allegedly making the false claim, which could result in as much as a year in jail or a fine of $1,000.

Jones fills in on "Good Morning America" and anchors the New York station's weekend evening weather coverage. The story says that Jones allegedly made up the story in a move to garner sympathy while she was dealing with an unknown setback in her personal life.

According to the Associated Press, her attorney, Paul Callan, said Jones would plead not guilty to any charges.

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Sony, Discovery and Imax Joint-Venture 3D Channel to Add Six New Series

The 3D channel that's slated to debut in early 2011 as a joint venture between Sony, Discovery Communications and Imax is adding six series, including three original programs and three acquisitions, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

The three original series have the working titles "Bullproof," "High Octane" and "Making the Brand," while the three acquisitions are Discovery's "Ghost Lab," Sony Pictures' "Open Season" and Imax's "Space Station."

One of the challenges for 3D channels is to tap into a reliable stream of content, and the venture says it expects to have about 200 hours of 3D programming by the end of 2011, the article says.

"The big complaint that most people have about 3D is that there is just not enough to watch, so part of the mission of the channel is to fill that gap," said Tom Cosgrove, the president and chief executive of the venture, which is now focused on creating 3D content rather than converting existing programming to 3D.

more »

Wanted: Katie Couric to Create Syndicated Daytime Talk Show

Multiple syndicators are talking with Katie Couric about creating a daytime show, Page Albiniak is reporting for B&C.

As Couric's $15 million annual contract with CBS News expires in May, she's considering her options, the article notes.

While daytime couldn't pay her as much as her current contract, it could bring her as much as $5 million a year plus a piece of her show, the story notes, adding that 2012 would be a good time for her to debut a syndicated program. That's because the impact of Oprah Winfrey's departure from daytime should be known by then and stations will have more cash, while Comcast should have completed its purchase of NBC, possibly lending NBC-owned stations to become more interested in buying daytime shows, the article adds.

Nevertheless, the story points out that Couric is likely to stay at CBS News if she can negotiate an attractive package there.

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Former Baywatch Star Hospitalized with MRSA -- the Antibiotics-Resistant Staph Infection

The former "Baywatch" star Donna D'Errico has been hospitalized with a MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), a very serious staph infection that's highly resistant to antibiotics, reports TMZ.com.

D'Errico played Donna Marco on the series from 1996 to 1998.

D'Errico, who is also a former Playboy playmate, contracted the MRSA from a relative who was in an ICU unit, the story says. Now D'Errico is also hospitalized, where she's expected to stay for a few more days, the article notes. Her Facebook page has the status update, "Prayer request - this time for me - a serious medical issue has arisen. Thank you for any and all prayers."

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The Complete List of Primetime TV Nominees for the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Released Dec. 16th 2010

To see ALL of the nominees, movies followed by TV, please click here.

PRIMETIME TELEVISION

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
JOHN GOODMAN / “You Don’t Know Jack”
Total nominations in this category:  1
Previous Actors®:  0
Total Actor® nominations:  2
Previous Actor® nominations:
   1995 – MALE COMEDY SERIES – “Roseanne”
  
AL PACINO  / “You Don’t Know Jack”
Total nominations in this category:  2
Previous Actors®:  1
Total Actor® nominations:  2
Previous Actors®: 
   2004 – MALE TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES – “Angels In America”

DENNIS QUAID  / “The Special Relationship”
Total nominations in this category:  1 
Previous Actors®:  1
Total Actor® nominations:  3
Previous Actors®: 
   2001 – MOTION PICTURE CAST – “Traffic”
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2003 – MALE SUPPORT – “ Far From Heaven”
  
ÉDGAR RAMÍREZ / “Carlos”
Total nominations in this category:  1
Previous Actors®:  0
Total Actor® nominations:  1
This is Édgar Ramírez’s first Actor® nomination.

PATRICK STEWART / “Macbeth (Great Performances)”
Total nominations in this category: 2
Previous Actors®:  0
Total Actor® nominations:  3
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2000 – MALE TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES – “A Christmas Carol”
   1995 – MALE DRAMA SERIES – “Star Trek: The Next Generation”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
CLAIRE DANES  / “Temple Grandin”
Total nominations in this category:  1
Previous Actors®:  0
Total Actor® nominations:  2
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2003 – MOTION PICTURE CAST – “The Hours”


CATHERINE O’HARA  / “Temple Grandin”
Total nominations in this category:  1
Previous Actors®:  0
Total Actor® nominations:  1
This is Catherine O’Hara’s first Actor® nomination.

JULIA ORMOND  / “Temple Grandin”
Total nominations in this category:  1
Previous Actors®:  0
Total Actor® nominations:  2
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2009 – MOTION PICTURE CAST – “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”


WINONA RYDER / “When Love is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story”
Total nominations in this category:  1
Concurrent nominations this year:
   MOTION PICTURE CAST – “Black Swan”
Previous Actors®:  0
Total Actor® nominations:  3
Previous Actor® nominations:
   1996 – MOTION PICTURE CAST – “How To Make An American Quilt”


SUSAN SARANDON / “You Don’t Know Jack”
Total nominations in this category: 2
Previous Actors®:  1
Total Actor® nominations:  4
Previous Actors®:
   1996 – FEMALE LEAD – “Dead Man Walking”
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2009 – FEMALE TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES – “Bernard and Doris”
   1995 – FEMALE LEAD – “The Client”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
STEVE BUSCEMI / “Boardwalk Empire”
Total nominations in this category:  1
Concurrent nominations this year:
    DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Boardwalk Empire”
Previous Actors®: 0
Total Actor® nominations:  3
Previous Actor® nominations:
    2005 – DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “The Sopranos”

BRYAN CRANSTON / “Breaking Bad”
Total nominations in this category:  2
Previous Actors®: 0
Total Actor® nominations:  2 
Previous Actor® nominations:
    2010 – MALE DRAMA SERIES – “Breaking Bad”
 
MICHAEL C. HALL / “Dexter”
Total nominations in this category:  5
Previous Actors®:  3
Total Actor® nominations:  13
Concurrent nominations this year:
   DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Dexter”
Previous Actors®:
   2010 – MALE DRAMA SERIES – “Dexter”
   2004, 2003 - DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE- “Six Feet Under”
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2010, 2009 - DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Dexter”
   2009, 2008, 2007 - MALE DRAMA SERIES- “Dexter”
   2006, 2005, 2002 - DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE– “Six Feet Under”

JON HAMM / “Mad Men”
Total nominations in this category:  4
Previous Actors®:  2
Total Actor® nominations:  8
Concurrent nominations this year:
   DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Mad Men”
Previous Actors®:
   2010, 2009 - DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Mad Men”
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2010, 2009, 2008 – MALE DRAMA SERIES – “Mad Men”
   2008 – DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Mad Men”

HUGH LAURIE / “House”
Total nominations in this category:  6
Previous Actors®:  2
Total Actor® nominations:  7
Previous Actors®:
   2009, 2007 – MALE DRAMA SERIES – “House”
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2009 – DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “House”
   2010, 2008, 2006 – MALE DRAMA SERIES – “House”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
GLENN CLOSE / “Damages”
Total nominations in this category:  3
Previous Actors®:  1
Total Actor® nominations:  6
Previous Actors®: 
   2005 - FEMALE TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES – “The Lion in Winter”
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2010, 2008 – FEMALE DRAMA SERIES – “Damages”
   1998 – FEMALE TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES – “In the Gloaming”
   1996 – FEMALE TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES – “Serving in Silence”

MARISKA HARGITAY / “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”
Total nominations in this category:  6
Previous Actors®:  0
Total Actor® nominations:  6
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2004 – FEMALE DRAMA SERIES – “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”

JULIANNA MARGULIES / “The Good Wife”
Total nominations in this category: 5
Previous Actors®: 7
Total Actor® nominations: 14
Concurrent nominations this year:
   DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “The Good Wife”
Previous Actors®:
  2010 – FEMALE DRAMA SERIES – “The Good Wife”
  1999, 1998, 1997, 1996 – DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “ER”
  1999, 1998 – FEMALE DRAMA SERIES – “ER”
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2010 – DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “The Good Wife”
   1996 – FEMALE DRAMA SERIES – “ER”
   2001, 2000, 1995 – DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “ER”

ELISABETH MOSS / “Mad Men”
Total nominations in this category:  2
Previous Actors®: 2
Total Actor® nominations: 6
Concurrent nominations this year:
   DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “ Mad Men”
Previous Actors®:
   2010, 2009 – DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Mad Men”
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2009 – FEMALE DRAMA SERIES – “Mad Men”
   2008 – DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Mad Men”

KYRA SEDGWICK / “The Closer”
Total nominations in this category:  6
Previous Actors®: 0
Total Actor® nominations:  11
Concurrent nominations this year:
   DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “The Closer”
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 - FEMALE DRAMA SERIES – “The Closer”
   2010, 2009, 2008, 2006 - DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “The Closer"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
ALEC BALDWIN / “30 Rock”
Total nominations in this category: 5
Previous Actors®: 5
Total Actor® nominations: 14
Concurrent nominations this year:
   COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “30 Rock”
Previous Actors®:
   2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 – MALE COMEDY SERIES – “30 Rock”  
   2009 – COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “30 Rock”
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2010, 2008 - COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “30 Rock”
   2007 - MOTION PICTURE CAST – “The Departed”
   2005 - MOTION PICTURE CAST – “The Aviator”
   2004 - MALE SUPPORT – “The Cooler”
   2001 - MALE TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES – “Nuremberg”
   1996 - MALE TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES – “A Streetcar Named Desire”

TY BURRELL  / “Modern Family”
Total nominations in this category:  1
Previous Actors®:  0
Total Actor® nominations:  3
Concurrent nominations this year:
   COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Modern Family”
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2010 – COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Modern Family”
  
STEVE CARELL / “The Office”
Total nominations in this category:  5
Previous Actors®:  3
Total Actor® nominations:  11
Concurrent nominations this year:
   COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “The Office”
Previous Actors®:       
   2008, 2007 - COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “The Office”
   2007 – MOTION PICTURE CAST – “Little Miss Sunshine”
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2010, 2009 - COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “The Office”
   2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 - MALE COMEDY SERIES – “The Office”

CHRIS COLFER  / “Glee”
Total nominations in this category:  1
Previous Actors®:  1
Total Actor® nominations:  3
Concurrent nominations this year:
   COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Glee”
Previous Actors®:   
   2010 – COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Glee”

ED O’NEILL  / “Modern Family”
Total nominations in this category:  1
Previous Actors®:  0
Total Actor® nominations:  3
Concurrent nominations this year:
   COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Modern Family”
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2010 – COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Modern Family”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
EDIE FALCO / “Nurse Jackie”
Total nominations in this category:  2
Previous Actors®: 5
Total Actor® nominations:  15
Previous Actors®:
   2008, 2000 – DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “The Sopranos”
   2008, 2003, 2000 – FEMALE DRAMA SERIES – “The Sopranos”
Previous Actor® Nominations
   2010 – FEMALE COMEDY SERIES – “Nurse Jackie”
   2007, 2005, 2002, 2001 – DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE – “The Sopranos”
   2007, 2005, 2002, 2001 – FEMALE DRAMA SERIES – “The Sopranos”

TINA FEY / “30 Rock”
Total nominations in this category:  4
Previous Actors®: 4
Total Actor® nominations:  8
Concurrent nominations this year:
   COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “30 Rock”
Previous Actors®:
   2010, 2009, 2008 – FEMALE COMEDY SERIES – “30 Rock”
   2009 - COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “30 Rock”
Previous Actor® Nominations:
   2010, 2008 - COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “30 Rock”

JANE LYNCH / “Glee”
Total nominations in this category: 1
Previous Actors®:  1
Total Actor® nominations: 3
Concurrent nominations this year:
   COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Glee”
Previous Actors®:
    2010 - COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Glee”   

SOFIA VERGARA / “Modern Family”
Total nominations in this category:  1
Previous Actors®: 0
Total Actor® nominations:  3
Concurrent nominations this year:
   COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Modern Family”
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2010 - COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Modern Family”

BETTY WHITE / “Hot In Cleveland”
Total nominations in this category:  1 
Total Actor® nominations:  2   
Concurrent nominations this year:
   COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE – “Hot in Cleveland”
These are Betty White’s first Actor® nominations.
Betty White was the recipient of Screen Actors Guild’s 46th Annual Life Achievement Award.

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
BOARDWALk EMPIRE
Total nominations in this category:  1
Total Actor® nominations:  1
This is the “Boardwalk Empire” ensemble’s first Actor® nomination.

THE CLOSER
Total nominations in this category:  5
Previous Actors®:  0
Total Actor® nominations:  5
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2010, 2009, 2008, 2006 - DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE

DEXTER
Total nominations in this category:  3
Previous Actors®:  0
Total Actor® nominations:  3
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2010, 2009 - DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE
“Dexter’s” stunt ensemble is also nominated for the second consecutive year.

THE GOOD WIFE
Total nominations in this category:  2
Total Actor® nominations:  2
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2010 -  DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE

MAD MEN
Total nominations in this category:  4
Previous Actors®:  2
Total Actor® nominations:  4
Previous Actors®:
   2010, 2009 - DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2008 - DRAMA SERIES ENSEMBLE

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
30 ROCK
Total nominations in this category:  4
Previous Actors®: 1
Total Actor® nominations:  4
Previous Actors®
   2009 - COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE
Previous Actor® nominations:
   2010, 2008 - COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE

GLEE
Total nominations in this category:  2
Total Actor® nominations:  2
Previous Actors®:  1
   2010 - COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE

HOT IN CLEVELAND
Total nominations in this category:  1
Total Actor® nominations:  1
This is the “Hot In Cleveland” ensemble’s first Actor® nomination.

MODERN FAMILY
Total nominations in this category:  2
Previous Actors®:  0
Total Actor® nominations:  2
Previous Actor® nominations
   2010 - COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE

THE OFFICE
Total nominations in this category:  5
Previous Actors®:  2
Total Actor® nominations:  5
Previous Actors®:
   2008, 2007 - COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE
Previous Actor® nominations
   2010, 2009 - COMEDY SERIES ENSEMBLE

more »

'Hey, Turn the Effin Volume Down!': It's Now the Law that TV Broadcasters Have One Year to Make Sure Commercials Aren't So Loud. We Think It Should Be Forever Known as the Streisand Statute

Television broadcasters and cable operators have one year to comply with the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (or CALM), after President Barack Obama signed the act into law, reports B&C.

The law directs the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the volume of commercials, meaning that consumers shouldn't be startled by the sudden blasting of ads during commercial breaks, the story says. "The country will now get the relief they deserve from the annoyance of loud television commercials. Consumers will no longer need to dive for the ‘mute' button during commercial breaks," said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.).

We here at TVWeek think the law should be dubbed the "Streisand Statute," based on Barbra Streisand's famous call to NBC 15 years ago regarding that network's airing of a movie in which she had both directed and starred. Here's how the Associated Press wrote it up on February 9, 1995:

Shortly into NBC's airing of "The Prince of Tides" the phone rang at the network's Manhattan headquarters.

Yes, it was Barbra Streisand. And could somebody turn down the volume on those commercials?

Streisand, the film's star and director, told The New York Times that she called NBC during the Sunday night broadcast and had an engineer lower the commercial sound by two decibels.

She was upset because volume on the commercials was much louder than the sound of her movie - a frequent problem when films are brought to the smaller screen, the network said.

"It's true she called, but it's a fairly standard thing," NBC spokesman Flody Suarez said Thursday. "We have producers call during shows all the time."

Streisand told the Times that the unidentified engineer followed her orders, although only after receiving assurance that she would assume full responsibility.

"He said they raise the volume all the time," Streisand said. "And I said that doesn't make it right."#

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Comcast-NBC Universal Deal Gets Support of Asian-American Groups

The proposed Comcast-NBC Universal merger has received support from five Asian-American organizations after Comcast agreed to expand Asian-American programming in a 16-page memorandum of understanding, reports Mediaweek.

The groups include the Asian American Justice Center, Organization of Chinese Americans, Japanese American Citizens League, East West Players, and Media Action Network for Asian Americans, the story notes.

They had been working with Comcast since the deal with NBCU was announced and amid their concerns after Comcast terminated one of the few Asian-American channels, it adds. Comcast's agreement to expand programming includes either debuting a new channel or increasing distribution of an existing channel, as well as the start of Cinema Asian America, which is a new On Demand channel, the story says.

Comcast said it will also invest "substantial funds" to develop talent streams for Asian-American-themed content, the article adds.

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Seeking Original Content, YouTube Is In Talks to Buy Video Production Company

Google's YouTube is in talks to buy a video production company, The New York Times reports.

The company YouTube is targeting is Next New Networks, a web video production house, the article says.

The proposed price wasn't disclosed and the companies haven't yet signed an agreement, the story notes. The discussions come as Google is increasingly trying to convince consumers to watch YouTube on their televisions and through its Google TV software, the article points out.

That's leading to an emphasis on providing professional content and attracting advertisers to YouTube's offerings. New York-based Next New Networks was founded in 2007 and has created two of YouTube's most-watched videos in 2010, the article notes. Both are embedded below.

The first is the now famous Bed Intruder Song, based on video taken for a newscast. This video now has more than 51 million hits.

The second one is a parody of the singer Kesha called "Glitter Puke." It's also a viral phenom, with more than 53 million hits.

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How Much are 140 Characters Worth? Investors Say $3.7 Billion (Which Breaks Down to $26.4 Million Per Character)

How much are 140 characters worth? In the case of Twitter, which received a new round of funding led by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, it's now valued at $3.7 billion, Bloomberg News reports.

The social-networking service, which has more than 175 million users, can use the new round of financing to hire more staff for its advertising service, the story says.

The company, which started in 2006, has more than 350 employees, compared with 130 staff a year earlier.

When Twitter raised $100 million in Sept. 2009, the round of financing led the company's valuation to be placed at about $1 billion, the article notes.

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You Have To Admire the Risks They Take At AMC. Their Latest: Giving A Full Series Order To a Post-Civil War Western

The post-Civil War Western "Hell on Wheels" received a full season order from AMC, adding to the network's line-up of genre series, reports the Los Angeles Times' ShowTracker blog.

The show is about a Confederate soldier who goes west to get revenge for his wife's death and finds work on the first Transcontinental Railroad, the story says. The soldier will be played by Anson Mount, while rapper Common will play a freed slave looking for a job.

"AMC's commitment to the western is long standing, and the genre is an important part of our brand and history as a channel," said AMC senior vice president of original programming and digital content Joel Stillerman in a statement, referring to the movies AMC shows.

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Unexpectedly, Facebook Likely to More than Double Ad Revenue This Year, To About $2 Billion. It's On the Same Revenue Pace as Google. Interesting, Since Google Had a Clear Ad Strategy, While Many Were Not Sure of Facebook's Utility For Ads When It Started

Facebook will more than double its revenue this year, reaching $2 billion in ad sales, a number higher than projected earlier, reports Bloomberg News.

Facebook's sales last year were between $700 million to $800 million, and its earlier projected revenue for 2010 was pegged at $1.5 billion, the story reports. Because Facebook is private it doesn't release its ad sales numbers and declined to comment to Bloomberg about this story.

According to the article, "Facebook’s more than half a billion users have made it an attractive target for advertisers, including Coca-Cola Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Adidas AG. In October, Facebook surpassed Yahoo! Inc. when ranked by the number of global users, making it No. 3 behind Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp., according to ComScore Inc., a research firm in Reston, Virginia. 'The love affair of consumers with social networks is an abiding one,' said Karsten Weide, an analyst at IDC in San Mateo, California. 'All the big brands are there.' ”

The story adds, "Facebook, founded in 2004, would reach $2 billion faster than Yahoo and at almost the same pace as Google."

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Time-Shifted Viewing Through DVRs Is Up

Time-shifted viewing through DVRs is up this season, writes our good friend Wayne Friedman in the MediaDailyNews.

The article says, "Brad Adgate, senior vice president and corporate media director for Horizon Media, says throughout the season so far there are 19 shows that witnessed 3 million or more viewers after seven days of time-shifted viewing. By comparison, in 2009, there were 11 shows and in 2008 there were only 3 shows."

One reason is the increase in DVRs--which hit 37.2% of U.S. households in November, up 5% from November, 2009.

"The Office" gets 38.5% more viewers who have time-shifted the program and watch it within seven tapes of recording it, the article notes. No other show gets more time-shifted viewers on a percentage basis.

Another NBC show, "The Event," leads all freshman series in the percent of viewers it gets on a time-shifted basis: 34%, which translates into 3 million more viewers, the article says.

The story also notes that "One of the biggest upward movers was ABC's 'Modern Family,' which doubled its time-shifted viewership to 5.465 million in 2010, from 2.613 million in 2009. Fox's 'Glee' also climbed high -- to 4.8 million from 2.969 million. And CBS' 'How I Met Your Mother' doubled its time-shifted viewers over the last two years."

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With Success of 'Sing-Off' on NBC, Producer Joel Gallen Signs First-Look Deal with Sony Pictures TV

Joel Gallen, the executive producer of the NBC series "The Sing-Off", has signed a one-year first-look deal with Sony Pictures TV, the studio that's producing the hit singing competition show, reports Deadline.com.

Gallen moved into television series with MTV's reality show "America's Best Dance Crew" after spending 25 years working in specials, such as producing the last seven Comedy Central Roasts and the "MTV Movie Awards" from 1995-2006, the article notes.

"America's Best Dance Crew" is heading into its sixth season, it adds.

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Mandy Patinkin Joins Claire Danes in Showtime Pilot from '24' Alumni

Mandy Patinkin has signed up for a high profile Showtime pilot, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

According to the article, Patinkin, the former "Criminal Minds" star, "He joins previously announced Claire Danes, who plays CIA officer Carrie Anderson, and will fill the role of Saul, a veteran CIA Division Chief who is Carrie’s boss and mentor. "Homeland," a Fox 21 production, is loosely based on Gideon Raff’s Israeli television series Prisoners of War, and will be executive produced by Raff, 24’s Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa (24, The X-Files).

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CNN to Post Lowest Full Year Ratings in Total Viewers in More Than a Decade and MSNBC Will Beat It in Total Viewers For the First Time Ever. As Usual, Fox News Is the Ratings Leader--By Far--Among Cable News Channels

CNN did not have a stellar year in the ratings, Deadline.com reports.

According to the article, citing preliminary Nielsen estimates, "2010 will mark CNN's lowest rated year since at least 1997 in total viewers and the target demographic of adults 25-54 after the beleaguered news network posted steep double-digit year-to-year declines. More bad news for new CNN chief Ken Jautz: In 2010, MSNBC will beat CNN in primetime for the first time ever in total viewers and for the second consecutive year in adults 25-54. (MSNBC will also log its first ever demo victory over CNN in total day.)

The article adds, "Overall, Fox News Channel was once again head and shoulders above the cable news competition, drawing more viewers than its three competitors, CNN, MSNBC and HLN, combined."

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SyFy Channel to Make Theatrical Movies

"The channel, part of NBC Universal, said Wednesday it will join with sister company Universal Pictures to release one to two films a year with budgets between $5 million and $25 million starting in 2012. The joint venture will be called Syfy Films," the Associated Press reports.

According to the story, " 'First and foremost we're looking for new projects,' said Syfy president Dave Howe. 'A Bryan Singer blockbuster movie is not within the remit of this partnership.' "

Then, according to the article, Howe added that "there is plenty of opportunity to make sci-fi movies without resorting to huge budgets. He cited movies such as 'District 9,' ''Cloverfield,' ''Paranormal Activity, and 'Pan's Labyrinth,' as models. 'That's a level and quality of production values that is very achievable with what we're working with,' he said."

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Praise the Hollywood Gods: Marc Cherry, Ensconced on Wisteria Lane, Next Takes on Hallelujah, Tennessee

"Desperate Housewives'" creator Marc Cherry has decided that his next project for ABC will take place in the small town of Hallelujah, Tennessee.

 According to TVGuide, "The show will revolve around the town of Hallelujah, Tenn., which is being torn apart by the forces of good and evil. Its fortunes change when a stranger comes to Hallelujah, bringing justice, peace and faith."

[TVGuide credits this story to Daily Variety. We are using the TV Guide version because Variety is bhind a firewall and may charge you to read its story]

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The News Gets Worse for Fox's Ratings-Challenged 'Running Wilde'

The cancellation of viewer-starved “Running Wilde” by Fox was already a done deal, but the network initially announced that it planned to air the remaining five episodes this month. Now that’s not going to happen, Entertainment Weekly reports.

Weeks after star Will Arnett tweeted that Fox had canceled the low-rated sitcom, Fox has yanked the program from the schedule and has no current plans to televise the remaining five shows--including the one-hour season finale. The network does continue to say it will eventually air--burn off-- those unaired episodes, but it is not saying when that will happen.

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Time Warner-Sinclair Dispute Could Go to Arbitration

Both sides in the retransmission consent battle between Time Warner Cable and Sinclair Broadcast Group have talked about going to arbitration to settle their dispute, a positive sign ahead of a Jan. 1 deadline when Sinclair's 10 markets will otherwise go dark on Time Warner Cable's systems, reports Multichannel News.

The markets that would be affected include Dayton and Columbus, Ohio; Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, New York; and San Antonio, Texas, the story says. Sinclair hasn't offered what type of arbitration it would accept, when the process would start or who the arbitrar would be, although Time Warner Cable is amenable to settling the dispute through arbitration, the article adds.

Time Warner Cable declined to comment and Sinclair general counsel Barry Faber didn't return a call for comment, the story notes.

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'Biggest Loser' Finale Lifts NBC to Win in Tuesday Ratings

The two-hour season finale of NBC's "The Biggest Loser" was a winner for NBC in Tuesday night’s Nielsens, tying CBS's "NCIS" for top show of the night in the 18-49 demo and helping NBC finish at No. 1 for the night in 18-49, TVbytheNumbers reports. However, CBS wound up with a huge win in total viewers.

NBC finished the night with a 3.4 average rating in adults 18-49, ahead of CBS (3.1 rating), Fox (2.1), Univision (1.7) and ABC (1.1). Fox and ABC aired all repeats.

CBS was well out front in total viewers with an average of 16.1 million to 9.9 million for NBC, 5.5 million for Fox and 4.3 million for both Univision and ABC.

At 8 p.m. 'NCIS' logged a 4.0 in the 18-49 demographic, while NBC's "Minute to Win It" trailed with a 2.3 in the same demo.

At 9 p.m. the first hour of "The Biggest Loser" reached a 3.8 in the 18-49 demo, besting "NCIS: Los Angeles," which had a 3.2 in the same demographic.

The 10 p.m. hour was won by "The Biggest Loser" with a 4.2 in the 18-49 demo. That was twice as good as CBS's "The Good Wife," which had a 2.1 in the same demo.

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Kids Exposure to Alcohol Ads On TV: Prestigious Group Says It's Way Up, Which Can Lead To More Drinking. The Spirits Industry Calls the Report 'biased advocacy research'

"Youth exposure to alcohol advertising on U.S. television increased 71 percent between 2001 and 2009, according to a report released today by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health," an announcement by the Center says.

The announcement continues, "Despite efforts by alcohol companies to strengthen their self-regulatory standards, the average number of ads seen by youth watching television increased from 217 in 2001 to 366 in 2009, or one alcohol ad per day.'One a day is great for vitamins but not for young people being exposed to alcohol advertising,' said David H. Jernigan, PhD, CAMY director. 'This is a significant and troubling escalation, and shows the ineffectiveness of the industry’s current voluntary standards.'

According to an article in Advertising Age: "The Distilled Spirits Council, which represents the spirits industry, called the report 'biased advocacy research,' saying its claim that 'an increase in alcohol advertising is causing teens to drink is undercut by the federal government data.' And in fact, earlier this week DISCUS has been touting the 2010 Monitoring the Future study released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan that found underage drinking rates among 8th, 10th and 12th graders are at their lowest levels."

To read the entire annoucement by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, please click here.

To read the entire Advertisng Age story about this titled "Fight Erupts Over Rules to Keep Booze Ads From Teens,"  please click here.

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Quite a Year for Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg. First, He's Vilified in Acclaimed Movie That Could Win The Oscar For Best Picture. And Now He's Been Named Time Magazine Person of the Year

Time Magazine, in naming Facebook founder its 2010 Person of the Year said it picked him "For connecting more than half a billion people and mapping the social relations among them; for creating a new system of exchanging information; and for changing how we all live our lives."

At 26 years old, he is the second youngest recipient of the Time honor. The youngest was Charles Lindbergh, who was 25 when he received the designation in 1927.

It's been quite a year for Zuckerberg. Besides the huge success that is Facebook, he was unflatteringly portrayed in the movie "Social Network," which many film critics say will be a contender for the Academy Award for Best Picture of the year.

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WABC-TV Weather Reporter Arrested, Charged with Allegedly Fabricating Rape Claim

WABC-TV weather reporter Heidi Jones was arrested for allegedly falsely claiming she was raped while jogging in Central Park, reports the New York Post.

After her arrest the station suspended Jones pending the outcome of an internal investigation of the incident, the Post reported in a second story.

Jones, who fills in on "Good Morning America" and anchors the New York station's weekend evening weather coverage, was charged with filing a false report, which could result in as much as year in jail or a fine of $1,000, the story notes.

Jones, 37, told police in November that she had been attacked in the park while jogging, saying that a Hispanic man had dragged her into the woods and had attempted to rape her, the article says.

Police noticed inconsistencies in her stories and the first clue was that she waited nearly two months until after she had said the alleged crime took place in September to make the report, the story says.

The article adds that when she was confronted with her story's holes, she allegedly admitted she had made it up.

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Tribune Lender Group Withdraws Reorg Plan; Creditors Have Other Options

"A group of lenders to bankrupt Tribune Co withdrew its reorganization plan for the media company, leaving creditors with three other options when they begin voting on how to end the two-year-old Chapter 11 case," Reuters reports.

According to the story, the group is called the Step One Lenders and holds about $768 million of Tribune debt.

Says the story, "The Step One Lenders said in their amended plan filed last week that their approach was faithful to the findings of the court-appointed examiner. The examiner found that a court would likely determine the second part of [Sam] Zell's buyout was an 'intentional fraudulent conveyance.' "

But according to the story, "Evan Flaschen, an attorney representing the group, made up of 14 hedge funds, including GreyWolf Capital Management and billionaire George Soros' Soros Fund Management" said today "Pursuing the plan 'was not the best focus of our resources.' "

The story said Tribute did not comment the group withdrawing its reorg plan.

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To Settle Consumer Complaints About Advertising, DirecTV Agrees to Pay $14.25 Million

In a settlement agreement with the 50 States Attorney Generals over its advertising policies, DirecTV has agreed to pay $14.25 million for court costs and an as-yet undetermined amount for consumer restitution, reports B&C.

The complaints stem from January 2007 and relate to allegations of deceptive and unfair business practices, the story says, citing an emailed release from Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray.

He said his office received 1,714 complaints over the time period, ranging from issues such as allegations that DirecTV didn't clearly disclose prices to automatic renewals on at least one seasonal deal, the story says.

DirecTV said it's made many of the improvements that are part of the settlement.

"But in a business where we serve more than 19 million customers and take more than 120 million phone calls a year, we recognize that we don't get it right every single time," the company said on its Website.

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Jane Lynch To Guest On 'The Simpsons' as Homer's Undermining Assistant at the Nuclear Plant

Jane Lynch, who stars as Sue Sylvester on "Glee," will be taking on an animated role for an episode of Fox's "The Simpsons," reports EW.com.

Lynch will play Homer Simpson's new assistant at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, a woman named Roz who seems very nice but turns out to be undermining Homer with the goal of getting his job, the story says.

Lynch "can do edge, sweetness, and a mix of both,” said executive producer Al Jean. "“I’m just embarrassed we didn’t ask her before she was so successful because she’s funny in everything she does. We were very happy when she said yes.”

The episode is called "Replaceable You" and will air early next season, the article notes.

[Note: This is a replacement story for one that, due to technical difficulties, displayed incorrectly. In replacing this story we lost a commenter who complained about the fact the first story displayed incorrectly and that we had not yet caught the mistake.]

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Holiday Season Isn't Inspiring Consumers to Buy 3D Television Screens, Web TVs

The holiday season isn't getting consumers thrilled about buying new television screens with fancy extras like 3D capability and Internet connectivity, reports Reuters.

Best Buy Chief Executive Brian Dunn told analysts on Tuesday that 3D TV sales have fallen short of industry expectations. the story says.

Part of the problem with 3D television may be the lack of content available for viewers, with the story noting that some consumer electronics executives believe TV sales may improve once more 3D content is produced and consumers begin taping with their own 3D camcorders.

But others aren't as sanguine, the article explains. "When you get into $2,000 TVs, you start thinking: 'At what point do I really need this, and is it going to make my viewing experience that much better?'" notes Frank Ingarra, a co-portfolio manager of Hennessy Funds, which owns shares of Best Buy.

Instead of special features, consumers are more interested in TVs with bigger screens, the article notes.

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Our Favorite Story of the Day: Festivus, the Made-up Holiday from 'Seinfeld,' Accepted as Legit By California Prison System -- Until Someone Looked it Up on Wikipedia

A prisoner in California used a made-up holiday from "Seinfeld" to get a judge to approve pre-packaged kosher meals be served to him while behind bars, reports the New York Post.

Festivus, a holiday described by Frank Costanza as an alternative to both Christmas and Hanukkah and which is marked by an airing of grievances and the Festivus pole, was put down as the inmate's religion by attorney Fred Thiagarajah, the article notes.

Thiagarajah says that his client, 38-year old drug felon Malcolm Alarmo King, was convinced that kosher meals would keep him healthier while behind bars, and a judge told him to put a religion down on the order.

"I'm not sure why it popped into my head, but in truth I think Festivus does constitute a legitimate religion. More people subscribe to Festivus than to so-called legitimate religions like Zoroastrianism," the attorney said.

According to the story, Judge Derek Johnson ruled in May, when King was incarcerated in an Orange County jail, that the  "Court orders that the defendant is to receive a high protein no salami diet three times per day for 'Festivism.' "

The ruse was caught when the Orange County sheriff's office looked up Festivus on Wikipedia, the story notes. Then it took several months to get the order overturned for the kosher meals, which cost twice as much as regular prison food.

Commander Dave Wilson of the sheriff's office said, according to the story, "This guy doesn't need a kosher diet for Festivus. But any inmate is free to observe the holiday. We don't have Festivus poles, but plenty of our housing locations have bars in them."

Members of the "Seinfeld" cast and the Festivus pole:festivus.jpg

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ESPN and Xbox Team For New Interactive Features For College Bowl Games

"ESPN and Xbox 360 are delivering a new and unique interactive experience for college football bowl season," ESPN announced today.

The announcement continues, "In a new software update to ESPN on Xbox LIVE available today, sports fans will be able to engage in this year’s bowl games – available live on ESPN3.com – by playing the College Bowl Showdown pick ‘em against other friends on the Xbox 360 console. Users predict who will win each game, earn a score for predictions and compete against friends to determine a winner."

The annoucement adds, "Xbox LIVE Gold members who are customers of an affiliated service provider will have access to 32 bowl games live this season on Xbox 360 via ESPN3.com – ESPN’s 24/7 broadband sports network – including all five BCS bowl games highlighted by the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game, #1 Auburn vs. #2 Oregon."

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Comcast Writers Vote To Be Represented By WGA

"Writers on Comcast’s entertainment networks E!, Style, and G4 have voted to be represented by the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW)," the Writers Guild has announced.

The announcement continues, "Tuesday’s secret ballot election was monitored and certified by the office of L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti, and the results were announced by the councilmember today at City Hall."

The vote was 46 to 1, the announcement said.

The announcement ended with "Therefore, we call on Comcast Entertainment Group to live up to its pledge and immediately recognize and negotiate with the Writers Guild of America, West.”

According to Daily Variety [which is behind a firewall and may charge you to read its report], veteran labor reporter Dave McNary writes, "The WGA announced last month that 80% of the writers on the shows -- including 'The Soup,' "The Dish,' 'Attack of the Show' and 'E! News' – had signed authorization cards for the guild to serve as its bargaining representative. Comcast has rejected that request and asserted that the writers should ask for the National Labor Relations Board to conduct the election.”

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New 'Biggest Loser' Includes an Olympic Gold Medalist Who Ate Until He Weighed 474 Pounds

The 11th season of "The Biggest Loser" will feature its most famous competitor yet:, an Olympic gold medalist who packed on the weight and ended up with 474 pounds on his 6'1" frame, reports the Los Angeles Times' ShowTracker blog.

It's Rulon Gardner, a Greco-Roman style wrestler who won a gold in 2000 and a bronze medal in 2004. He says he caught a look at himself on television and couldn't believe his size, the story says. ""I kept denying it until I couldn't deny it anymore," he said.

Gardner, 39, will appear on the show with his business partner Justin Pope, also 39, with whom he owns the Rulon Gardner Elite Training Center in Logan, Utah, according to the Logan, Utah-based Herald Journal. The pair had to go through the same casting process as everyone else, the story notes.

The Los Angeles Times notes in its story that among the season's other contestants are twin brothers and law enforcement officers, a health club general manager who is ashamed to tell people what she does for a living, and an opera singer who said she doesn't want to lose out parts to slimmer rivals.

The story notes that the competitors will face a Season 11 twist: a choice of whether to stay at "The Biggest Loser" ranch and work out for a week with Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels and face getting booted off the show then, or to leave for a secret location where they will work with two unnamed trainers for a month before returning to the ranch for the elimination round.

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The King Steps Down: Streisand Guest on Penultimate Show. As For Thursday Night, One Critic Has Some Ideas In His Column Titled 'What Happens On the Last 'Larry King Live'?'

Tonight, Wednessday,  Dec. 15, 2010, the next to the last night of CNN's "Larry King Live," the host visits Barbra Streisand at her Malibu home

But what about tomorrow night, his last show?

"Here’s what CNN is saying about the last show: Ryan Seacrest and Bill Maher will be on set with King. There will be 14 other guests from various cities across the country." So writes longtime TV critic Hal Boedeker in the Orlando Sentinel.

As you'll recall, King had publicly supported the picking of Seacrest as his successor. But CNN chose Piers Morgan to replace King.

Boedeker adds that those 14 other guests "are politicians, comedians, journalists, television personalities and musicians, CNN says. Promos suggest those people include Barbara Walters, Katie Couric and Brian Williams.CNN says there will be a surprise performance, too."

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In the End It Was Just damsEL nOISE: Charlie Sheen Will Not Face Criminal Charges for His Infamous Incident With a Porn Star at the Plaza Hotel in New York

Charlie Sheen, the star of " Two and a Half Men" "will not face criminal charges over his October freakout at New York's Plaza Hotel, E! News has learned," EOnline reports.

Adccording to the story, " 'There have been no arrests. That case is closed,' said an NYPD spokesman. Police began probing the incident after Sheen's escort for the evening, porn star Capri Anderson, filed a criminal complaint claiming she was the victim of assault and harassment. She alleged that 45-year-old thesp got drunk and began yelling and throwing furniture, prompting her to lock herself in the bathroom.Cops were called to the scene and reported an 'emotionally disturbed individual' in the suite and carted Sheen off to a nearby hospital for observation."

The story added that "According to an NYPD insider, the fact that his Plaza pal waited a full month to file the police report and said at the scene that she was never in any physical danger was a big factor in declining to refer the case to prosecutors."

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Sexy Star of 'Matrix' To Star in Cable Pilot

One of the sexy stars of the "Matrix" films is set to star in a cable pilot, reports Nellie Andreeva of Deadlne.com.

carrieannemoss.jpg

Carrie-Anne Moss will play the lead in an untitled pilot for Lifetime from writer-executive producer Michael Sardo, the article says.

According to the story, Moss will play "New York's premiere celebrity psychologist. With her life and marriage in shambles, she leaves town to join her sister, the Dean at a teaching hospital, to become the chief of staff of the hospital's psych ward. There, she rediscovers her love for helping people while reconnecting with her sister, despite their volatile history."

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You Suspected This Was True, Didn't You? Study Says We Spend As Much Time Online as We Spend Watching TV [We Can All Thank Our Smartphones For This]

Look like that nagging suspicion most of us have about how consumers spend their time turns out to be true.

Americans are spending as many hours online as they are watching television, Media Daily News reports, citing a Forrester study.

The average U.S household watches 13 hours a week of traditional TV, equal to the same amount of hours spent online, according to a Forrester survey called "Understanding The Changing Needs Of The US Online Consumer, 2010."

While the amount of television time has been constant over the last five years, Internet use has more than doubled during that time, the study found.

Gen Xers, those between the ages of 31 to 44, for the first time are spending equal or more time with the Internet, something that Gen Yers (those between 18 to 30) have done before, the story notes.

Younger Boomers, people between 45 to 54, are spending an equal amount of time with both media, the story notes. Much of the jump in Internet usage comes from mobile devices, the story points out.

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Syndie Shows Had Big Ratings Week After Thanksgiving

"Many entertainment magazines, courtrooms, games and off-net sitcoms and dramas delivered strong showings in the week ending Dec. 5," reports TVNewsCheck.

For example, the article says that "In the first full week following the end of the November sweep almost every news mag was up from the week before."

The article added, "Among the new syndicated entries in first run, 'Swift Justice with Nancy Grace' (CTD) made it a dozen straight weeks as the highest rated rookie strip, holding firm at 1.3 and more than 1.7 million viewers. In second place, 'Don't Forget the Lyrics' (Twentieth) was unchanged at a 0.9 rating and 1.3 million viewers, while 'Nate Berkus' (Sony) dropped into third with just under 1.2 million total viewers while remaining flat at a 0.9 household rating. 'Judge Karen's Court' (Litton) picked up 17% to a 0.7 and 'America's Court with Judge Ross' (Entertainment Studios) was unchanged at a 0.4."

To see how syndicated shows fared in other categories,please click here to read the entire story.

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Viacom Tells FCC Commissioners It's Worried About Comcast-NBCU Merger and Effect on Independent Programming

Viacom has told Federal Communications Commission commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn that it's concerned about the Comcast/NBC Universal merger, according to an ex parte filing on meetings between the parties, according to B&C.

Viacom reps said the company is concerned about how independent programming would be impacted by the merger, with fears that the new company would have "increased incentive and ability to impede competition in the markets for linear and over-the-top video programming by favoring its own content to the detriment of independent programmers," the story says.

These concerns are the same raised by some congressional Democrats, who have asked the FCC to place conditions on the merger.

Antoinette Cook Bush, Viacom counsel, and other executives asked the FCC to consider taking steps to protect independent content providers from anticompetitive measures, the story notes.

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Former Television Chef Sentenced to Nine Years in Prison in Plot to Kill His Wife

 A former television chef was sentenced to nine years in prison on Monday, Dec. 17, 2010 for his role in a plot to kiss his wife, the Associated Press reports.

Juan-Carlos Cruz, who was once a chef on "Calorie Commando,"  gave his wife a wink and a smile as the sentence was handed down, the story reports.

Jennifer Campbell, his wife, was seated in the front row of the courtroom with her attorney during the brief hearing.

Cruz, 48, had pleaded no contest to a charge of solicitation of murder for trying to hire two homeless men to kill her, the article says.

Cruz, a former pastry chef at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, starred in "Calorie Commando" on the Food Network, although the show ended in 2006, the story notes.

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Comcast Testing Set-Top Box that Delivers Both TV and Internet

"Comcast is trying out a new service that would provide both TV and Web content through a single set-top box,CNET reports. [CNET is expounding on a story first reported by the Wall St. Journal. We are linking to the CNET story because the WSJ is behind a firewall and might charge you to see its story.]

Says the CNET article, "The service, codenamed Xcalibur, would outfit subscribers with a set-box that lets them watch certain Web videos and search for live, on-demand, and recorded shows, according to The Wall Street Journal. Currently being tested by Comcast customers in Augusta, Ga., the service is seen as Comcast's response to competitors such as Google TV and Apple TV as well as subscribers cutting the cord on their cable TV subscriptions in favor of online content."

But, initially at least, the service does not allow consumers full access to the Internet. Instead, says the CNET article, the service "offers access to limited Web programming and basic connections to social networks."

The CNET piece also states that the set-top boxes used by Comcast in the test "receive TV programming through traditional cable but get their Web content via IP technology. That same IP technology could also help Comcast deploy new interfaces and other changes to the system more quickly, added the Journal."

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Will Men Go Mad When They See January Jones Mostly Naked For Versace? See the Picture and Decide

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According to UsWeekly, January Jones, 32, "poses nude — accessorized with just a sexy pair of shoes and a well-placed purse — in the spring/summer 2011 ad campaign for the luxe designer label" Versace. Picture taken by the well-known photographer of celebrities Mario Testino. 

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Hugh Jackman, Making a Dramatic Entrance, Is Injured in Taping of 'Oprah' in Australia

Aussie actor Hugh Jackman was making a dramatic entrance on Oprah Winfrey's Australian show using a harness and wire set called a flying fox when he injured himself, causing the taping to be suspended while he received medical attention, reports the Hollywood Reporter.

The star of "Wolverine" was bleeding from underneath his right eye, and later appeared on his scheduled interview segment with a fresh black eye and a bandage on the wound, the story says.

The accident happened during one of two shows scheduled for production in and around the Sydney Opera House. "Oprah's Ultimate Australian Adventure" is a partnership between Winfrey's show and Tourism Australia to boost the number of Americans who travel to Oz, the story notes.

[If you are a subscriber to our free Daily Viral Video e-newsletter you would have gotten the video of the accident as reported by an Aussie newscast. To see that video, please click here.]

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The Golden Globe Nominations: Best Series, Drama Nominees Are 'Boardwalk Empire,' 'Dexter,' 'The Good Wife,' 'Mad Men,' "The Walking Dead.' For Nominees For Best Series, Comedy or Musical, and ALL TV Nominees, Read This Story

Below please find  a complete list of all  Golden Globe TV nominees, announced this morning, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010.

To see a complete list that includes the Motion Picture nominees, please click here.

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA

a. BOARDWALK EMPIRE (HBO)

Leverage, Closest to the Hole Productions, Sikelia Productions and Cold Front

Productions, HBO Entertainment

b. DEXTER (SHOWTIME)

Showtime, John Goldwyn Productions, The Colleton Company

c. THE GOOD WIFE (CBS)

CBS Television Studios

d. MAD MEN (AMC)

Lionsgate Television

e. THE WALKING DEAD (AMC)

AMC

 

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – COMEDY OR MUSICAL

a. 30 ROCK (NBC)

Universal Media Studios in association with Broadway Video and Little

Stranger Inc.

b. THE BIG BANG THEORY (CBS)

Warner Bros. Television

c. THE BIG C (SHOWTIME)

Showtime, Sony Pictures Television, Perkins Street Productions, Farm Kid,

Original Film

d. GLEE (FOX)

Ryan Murphy Television, Twentieth Century Fox Television

e. MODERN FAMILY (ABC)

Twentieth Century Fox Television

f. NURSE JACKIE (SHOWTIME)

Showtime, Lionsgate Television, Jackson Group Entertainment, Madison Grain

Elevator, Inc. & Delong Lumber, Caryn Mandabach Productions

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES –

DRAMA

a. JULIANNA MARGULIES THE GOOD WIFE

b. ELISABETH MOSS MAD MEN

c. PIPER PERABO COVERT AFFAIRS

d. KATEY SAGAL SONS OF ANARCHY

e. KYRA SEDGWICK THE CLOSER

 

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA

a. STEVE BUSCEMI BOARDWALK EMPIRE

b. BRYAN CRANSTON BREAKING BAD

c. MICHAEL C. HALL DEXTER

d. JON HAMM MAD MEN

e. HUGH LAURIE HOUSE

 

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES –

COMEDY OR MUSICAL

a. TONI COLLETTE UNITED STATES OF TARA

b. EDIE FALCO NURSE JACKIE

c. TINA FEY 30 ROCK

d. LAURA LINNEY THE BIG C

e. LEA MICHELE GLEE

 

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES –

COMEDY OR MUSICAL

a. ALEC BALDWIN 30 ROCK

b. STEVE CARELL THE OFFICE

c. THOMAS JANE HUNG

d. MATTHEW MORRISON GLEE

e. JIM PARSONS THE BIG BANG THEORY

 

BEST MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION

a. CARLOS (SUNDANCE CHANNEL)

Sundance Channel

b. THE PACIFIC (HBO)

Playtone and DreamWorks in association with HBO Films

c. PILLARS OF THE EARTH (STARZ)

Starz, Tandem Communications, Muse Entertainment Scott Free Films

d. TEMPLE GRANDIN (HBO)

A Ruby Films, Gerson Saines Production, HBO Films

e. YOU DON’T KNOW JACK (HBO)

Bee Holder, Cine Mosaic and Levinson/Fontana Productions, HBO Films

 

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MINI-SERIES OR MOTION

PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION

a. HAYLEY ATWELL PILLARS OF THE EARTH

b. CLAIRE DANES TEMPLE GRANDIN

c. JUDI DENCH RETURN TO CRANFORD

d. ROMOLA GARAI EMMA

e. JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT THE CLIENT LIST

 

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MINI-SERIES OR MOTION

PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION

a. IDRIS ELBA LUTHER

b. IAN MCSHANE PILLARS OF THE EARTH

c. AL PACINO YOU DON’T KNOW JACK

d. DENNIS QUAID THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

e. EDGAR RAMIREZ CARLOS

 

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A

SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION

a. HOPE DAVIS THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

b. JANE LYNCH GLEE

c. KELLY MACDONALD BOARDWALK EMPIRE

d. JULIA STILES DEXTER

e. SOFIA VERGARA MODERN FAMILY

 

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION

a. SCOTT CAAN HAWAII FIVE-O

b. CHRIS COLFER GLEE

c. CHRIS NOTH THE GOOD WIFE

d. ERIC STONESTREET MODERN FAMILY

e. DAVID STRATHAIRN TEMPLE GRANDIN

To see a complete list that includes the Motion Picture nominees, please click here.

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'How many times can I scream last chance workout?': Jillian Michaels Explains Why She's Leaving 'The Biggest Loser'

Jillian Michaels explained why she's leaving "The Biggest Loser," and it has to do with being tired of the format and wanting to adopt a child from Africa, according to the Los Angeles Times' ShowTracker blog.

According to the article, "Michaels talked about her decision to leave earlier this year, when a media day was held at the new Biggest Loser Resort in Malibu, not far from the ranch were the NBC weight-loss show takes place. The media in attendance was barred from discussing the departure until Monday's formal announcement of Season 11. But that didn't stop Michaels from scooping everyone last week, when she tweeted that she was leaving."

"How many times can I scream last chance workout?" she said earlier this year, although the media was barred from reporting her departure until her formal announcement this week. "This job is all consuming. It's seven days a week. I want to start a family. It's time."

She said she plans to adopt a child from Africa soon (why Africa? "I loved being there, I loved the people, I want Africa to be part of my life.") She said she was misquoted when she was quoted as saying she didn't want to have children of her own because it would ruin her body; instead, she said she's not sure she can have her own children because of lifelong medical issues. She said she preferred not to go into details, the article notes.

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Match On: 'Jeopardy' to Pit Two of its Most Successful Players -- Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter -- Against a Machine

"Jeopardy" will match-up human wits against artificial intelligence when it pairs the show's two most successful players ever, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, against "Watson," the IBM supercomputer that uses artificial intelligence to understand human language, reports the New York Times' Media Decoder blog.

Jennings and Rutter will play against Watson in three episodes that will be broadcast Feb. 14, 15 and 16th, the story says. If the computer beats the human champs, it will be a huge leap for artificial intelligence -- and a boon to charity, since IBM plans to donate the $1 million pot to charity.

The story notes that if one of the humans wins, only half the money will be donated. The computer is coming to the match prepared: it passed the test that people must master to get on the show, and it's also been sparring with former contestants for practice. IBM plans to place some of the highlights from those sparring matches on its Website, the story notes.

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'Dexter' Heartbreak: Stars of Show, Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter Met on the Set. They Fell in Love. They Married Two Years Ago Come This New Year's Eve. They Fought Hall's Cancer Successfully. And Now They Are Divorcing

The fairy tale looks like it's turned into a bad reality show.

michaelchallandjennifercarpenter.jpg

Says EW, "After nearly two years of marriage, Dexter stars Michael C. Hall, 39, and Jennifer Carpenter, 31, are divorcing."

The article continues, "An exclusive joint statement to EW from their representatives read: 'Having been separated for some time, Jennifer Carpenter and Michael C. Hall have filed for divorce.' "

EW was following up on a story broken earlier today by Access Hollywood. That report said, "A source tells Access that, according to a person very close to the production, the real life husband and wife, who play brother and sister Dexter & Deborah Morgan on the hit Showtime show, haven’t been getting along on set all season and that it’s widely known an official separation announcement is imminent...Additionally, our source was informed that Hall, Carpenter and the rest of the show’s cast are very worried about how the two of them are going to work as closely together on set next season as they’re usually required to do."

Of course showbiz marriages, seemingly more than most marriages, are particularly fragile. The most famous couple in TV history, both off-screen and on-screen, was Lucy and Desi. After they filmed their last TV episode as husband and wife on their TV show, they filed for divorce in real life, though, in reality, they hadn't lived together for an entire year at that point. 

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Actress Announces She's Leaving 'Gossip Girl'--Just Not Right Away

A “Gossip Girl” actess says she is leaving the show, according to The Hollywood Reporter--but not until her contract is up. And that’s going to be in about two years.

Leighton Meester told E! Online she “enjoys working on the show and living in New York,” but is also interested in trying out other projects, the story says.

She also hinted that the show may go off the air sooner rather than later, the story reports.

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Cheadle Tackles Pay-Cable Project

 Actor, author and activist Don Cheadle, who earned an Oscar nomination for best actor for his role in “Hotel Rwanda,” has a new project in the works, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Cheadle will star in the Showtime pilot “House of Lies,” based on the book “House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Tell You the Time.”

The show, created by Matthew Carnahan (“Dirt”), is described as a half-hour dark comedy. It is slated to begin production in February, the story says.

“Don Cheadle is one of the great dramatic actors of our generation,” said Showtime Entertainment President David Nevins. “He also happens to be an extremely funny man. ‘House of Lies’ is the perfect show to take advantage of both sides of him. Honestly, I would have been happy just to get his autograph.”

Cheadle has been active in campaigning against the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, and co-wrote the book “Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond.”

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Late-Night Talk Show Host Re-Ups for Two Years

One of the fixtures in the late-night talk show wars served notice that he’s not going away any time soon, signing a two-year extension with his network, Deadline.com reports.

Jimmy Kimmel signed the deal with ABC to stay on as host and exec producer of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” the story says.

The show will remain in the 12:05 a.m. time slot for now, with the new contract taking it into its 10th season. “Kimmel” has been consistently growing its audience year by year and has been edging out rival shows hosted by Jimmy Fallon and Craig Ferguson in the ratings.

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CW Shakes Things Up With Midseason Lineup

The CW Network rolled out its midseason schedule today, and some key changes are in the works. Most of the net’s prime-time shows return with original episodes the week of Jan. 24, with “Hellcats” moving to Tuesdays at 9 p.m.

The network announced a new cycle of “America’s Next Top Model,” premiering Wednesday, Feb. 23. It will be followed that night by the premiere of a new show, “Shedding for the Wedding,” hosted by Sara Rue.

The new schedule kicks off Monday, Jan. 24, with new episodes of “90210” and “Gossip Girl.”

The network also announced the season finale of “Life Unexpected,” with back-to-back episodes airing Tuesday, Jan. 18.

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'Idol' Faces a New Challenger--With Heavyweight Reality Veterans Behind It

A new competitor to “American Idol” and the upcoming “The X Factor” is waiting in the wings, and the team behind it includes some of the heavy hitters of reality television, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The show is NBC’s “The Voice of America,” which the network is fast-tracking after getting the rights to the Dutch format.

There’s talk that the new show, whose format is not far from that of “American Idol,” could go head-to-head with the Fox hit.

Mark Burnett and John de Mol are on board, with an aggressive timetable that has the show lined up for a spring 2011 debut--ahead of “X Factor’s” scheduled fall 2011 premiere.

Burnett has had a hand in a series of major U.S. reality shows, including “Survivor,” “The Apprentice” and “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” De Mol’s Endemol production company was behind “Big Brother” and “Fear Factor.”

De Mol is also credited with creating “The Voice of Holland,” the template for the new NBC show.

Casting is reportedly already under way, with Mark Burnett Productions in charge of creating the show. Warner Horizon, the company behind “The Bachelor,” is also involved.

There’s talk that the new show, whose format is not far from that of “American Idol,” could go head-to-head with the Fox hit.

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Academy Names Names: Oscar Presenters Unveiled

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has revealed the names of the first few Oscar presenters who are lined up for the upcoming ceremony, and to no one’s surprise, the presenters include a number of former Academy Award winners.

Former Oscar winners Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock and Marisa Tomei are among the first names announced for ABC's Feb. 27 broadcast of the Academy Awards. In addition, TV mogul and talk show diva Oprah Winfrey is also committed to being a presenter.

Don Mischer and Bruce Cohen are producing the 83rd edition of the Oscars.

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More Legal Problems for 'Survivor' Winner

Richard Hatch, the first person to win CBS's "Survivor"--who was later convicted of tax evasion for failure to pay taxes on his $1 million prize--has been accused of violating his probation, reports the AP.

Hatch was ordered to appear in Rhode Island federal court on Wednesday to answer charges he violated terms of his three-year probation.

Hatch has claimed that he was wrongly convicted and never owed the IRS for taxes. Just last month he provided evidence, in the form of two refund checks from the U.S. Treasury, continuing to defend his position.

The probation officer would not reveal how Hatch allegedly violated the terms of his probation.

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Zombies, Cancer Patients and Gangsters: See Who Made the List of the 10 Best TV Shows of 2010

The American Film Institute has named the 10 best television shows of the past year, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Emmy winner "Modern Family" is one of the 10, along with "The Walking Dead," "The Big C," "Breaking Bad," "Mad Men," "30 Rock," "Boardwalk Empire," "The Pacific," "Glee" and "Temple Grandin."

The AFI will host a luncheon Jan. 14 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles to honor the creative talent behind these programs.

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Paltrow to Return to 'Glee'

When Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow appeared on "Glee" earlier this year, the producers left it open for her character--substitute teacher Holly Holiday--to return sometime in the future. The future will take place in 2011, reports TV Guide.

"Glee’s" producers confirmed that Paltrow will be back as Holiday in 2011, likely after the Super Bowl episode. Paltrow called the experience of guesting on the Fox musical series her best job ever.

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FCC Commissioner Clarifies Comments for a Congressman and Says the Fairness Doctrine Should NOT Be Reinstated

Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps told Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) that the agency shouldn't reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, reports B&C's John Eggerton.

Barton had asked Copps to clarify some comments the chairman had made at Columbia University, when he talked about the government putting a tougher public interest test on broadcasters, the story notes.

The FCC dropped the doctrine in 1987 as unconstitutional. "As I said in a speech over a year and a half ago, the Fairness Doctrine is long gone and it's not coming back," Copps said, the story notes.

Copps said that broadcasters need to serve their communities, but that some "larger media conglomerates" aren't as frequently in touch since they operate from different locations.

"I do not think it is onerous to expect broadcasters, in exchange for free use of the airwaves, to engage in some level of dialog with citizens of a community of license about how issues of interest are being covered," he said.

The article concludes: "Barton had said in his letter that Copps was free to hold and express his opinions, but wanted to make sure that Copps was not suggesting it was the government's job 'to determine the content that is available for Americans to consume.' Copps has consistently championed shorter license renewal periods, more detailed reporting requirements, and more specific public interest obligations for broadcasters."

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Celebrities Who Give the Most: No. 3 Is Meryl Streep. No. 2 Is Romance Novelist Nora Roberts. And No. 1 Is This TV Celebrity, Who Gave $40 Million to Charity

The list of most charitable celebrities, from national philanthropic group The Giving Back Fund, tracks contributions made in 2009, the most recent year for which financial information is available, according to People

Third on the list is actress Meryl Streep, who donated $4 million to the Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts, it says.

The second most charitable celebrity is the Nora Roberts Foundation, which supports literacy in underserved communities, the story notes. 

And No. 1 is Oprah Winfrey. She gave away $40 million primarily through her Oprah Winfrey Foundation, the story says.

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Non-TV Story of the Day: Grocer Founded in 1800s and Once the Largest in the Country Files for Bankruptcy (Yes, This WAS Where Most of our Grandparents Shopped. Trivia--'Woman's Day' Started as a Free In-House Mag for This Chain)

A grocer founded in the 1800s and once the largest grocery chain in the country has filed for bankruptcy, Bloomberg reports.

It's the A&P, officially known as the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.

According to the article, "Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., which operates almost 400 supermarkets under the Waldbaum’s, The Food Emporium and Pathmark names, sought bankruptcy protection after failing to successfully compete with wholesale clubs and drugstores.The retailer had $8.8 billion in sales for the year ended in February, according to its website. Yesterday, it listed assets of $2.5 billion and debt of $3.2 billion in a Chapter 11 filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, New York. "

The article adds, " 'The company couldn’t compensate for the combination of high debt and the suddenly fading purchasing power of the customers,' Karl-Erivan Haub, chief executive officer of Tengelmann Group, A&P’s biggest shareholder, said in an e-mailed statement today. The insolvency will help A&P to get a 'solid financial basis, to advance necessary restructuring,' he added. Tengelmann, which owns Germany’s biggest home-improvement retailer, OBI, and the Kaiser’s supermarket chain, sees no impact on its other business from A&P’s insolvency, spokeswoman Jutta Meister said in an interview. The closely held retailer has previously written down the value of its A&P stake in the past and will now cut it to zero, she added."

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Studios Concerned About How Netflix Is Changing Their Home Entertainment Business Model

While Netflix was once viewed as a harmless DVD-rental operation by the television and cable industries, that viewpoint has sharply changed as the company has seen its stock nearly quadruple this year while hastening the decline of DVD sales, according to The New York Times' Tim Arango.

Time Warner Chief Executive Jeffrey Bewkes, for one, says Netflix's growing influence has changed the way the media company approaches it. For instance, Bewkes now personally makes decisions about Netflix deals, while two years ago a junior employee would have signed off, the article points out.

With cable subscriptions in the U.S. down this year, a trend some blame on Netflix expanding its television offerings, some studios may become reluctant to make any deals, the story says. "Once you put it on Netflix, you really can’t sell it anywhere else,” Bewkes said.

Ted Sarandos, the chief content officer for Netflix, said the concerns reflect the media industry's attempts to understand how television will be watched. "“They are not very sure of the outcome of what appears to be a very major shift in consumer behavior," he said.

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Warner Bros. Nixes Rumor That 'Glee' Star is Up to Play Lead Character in Remake of 'Buffy'

Warner Bros. "insiders" are denying a report that's hit the Internet that one of the stars of "Glee" is being considered to play the title role in the remake of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

The rumor is that Heather Morris, who plays Cheerleader Brittany, is being considered to play the title role in the remake of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

The article says, "When asked directly about the Morris casting rumor, first reported by sci-fi blog Blastr.com, [the screenwriter of the remake, Whit] Anderson replied: 'We're not even *thinking* about casting yet. The script isn't even written!' she said in a tweet that was later deleted."

Well, the "insiders" might be denying the rumor, but Anderson seems to have delivered ye ol' classic non-denial denial.

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'Sunday Night Football' Ties Ratings Record

"With a 16.5/25 overnight rating, the game delivered the best overnight rating in the five-year history of Sunday Night Football, tied with last fall's Week 2 game between the Giants and the Cowboys that marked the debut of the new Dallas Cowboys stadium," reports Deadline.com.

Also on Sunday, the article says, "Following America's Funniest Home Videos (2.2/6 in adults 18-49), which hit a season high, ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (2.4/6) was up 9% from last week, but the fall finale of Desperate Housewives, which featured a Dallas-style (Who shot Paul Young?) cliffhanger was down a tenth to tie its season low."

Over on CBS the story says, "From 8-9 PM, 60 Minutes/The Amazing Race fall finale did a 3.7/9. From 9-10 PM, the conclusion of The Amazing Race finale and Undercover Boss averaged a 3.2/7, and from 10-11 PM, Boss/CSI: Miami posted a 2.7/7. According to estimates, Amazing Race is running 5% lower than last fall's finale."

At Fox, Sunday's ratings were up and down: "The SImpsons" down 21% from last week when football ran long. "Family Guy" and "American Dad" were up 21% and 24% , respectively, from when they last aired original episodes, the article said. 

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Screen Actors Guild Says It's Investigating Allegations of Financial Impropriety by Former Manager

The Screen Actors Guild said on Sunday that it's investigating alleged financial impropriety by a former manager, reports the Los Angeles Times' Company Town blog.

According to the article, a person familiar with the investigation said the alleged impropriety involved between $200,000 and $250,000, although the guild declined to name the individual or specify how much money was involved.

The story says that the former manager was fired last month and worked in the residuals estates and trusts department, which attempts to distribute unallocated residual payments to the estates of members who can't be found or those who are deceased. "Once this investigation is complete, we will work with local and federal law enforcement agencies on further actions to be taken as appropriate," the guild said in a statement.

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Friends of Ronni Chasen Concerned Police Investigation Into Her Murder Doesn't Answer All the Questions

Friends of murdered publicist Ronni Chasen say they're concerned about the police investigation into the crime, noting that there are too many unanswered questions for them to be convinced the crime is solved, reports the Los Angeles Times' Harriet Ryan and Andrew Blankstein.

"It's ridiculous, just ridiculous. It doesn't add up and I haven't talked to anyone who thinks it does," said Kathie Berlin, a friend of Chasen's for four decades and a publicist. Police say that ballistic evidence links Harold Martin Smith to the gun that killed Chasen, and department spokesman Lt. Tony Lee on Friday called the investigation's findings "very plausible and very real."

Nevertheless, many people, from Chasen's friends to neighborhood residents, say they don't believe that a small-time criminal on a bike was solely responsible for the crime. One reason for the skepticism seems to be that Smith had told people he would be getting a windfall of $10,000. "So who was paying him that $10,000 if he acted alone?" Berlin said. Lee declined to comment on specifics of the case, although police have described the killing as a robbery gone wrong.

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Open Happiness or Refresh: Pepsi and Coke Are Battling in a $50 Million to $100 Million Auction for Sponsorship Rights to 'The X Factor'

Since Pepsi passed on a sponsorship of "American Idol" back when the singing competition was unknown to U.S. viewers, the soft-drink company doesn't want to make the same mistake again, reports Deadline.com.

With Simon Cowell gearing up for the U.S. version of "The X Factor," Pepsi and Coca-Cola are going head-to-head in a $50 million to $100 million auction for sponsorship rights, the story notes.

Coke has one year left on its contract with "Idol," which it initially secured for less than $10 million, the article adds. "It makes sense that Coke would want to jump on 'The X Factor' bandwagon as well. But even though I hear Coke is offering more money, my sources say Cowell et al think Pepsi would make a better fit."

The article points out that by tapping different sponsors from "Idol," the new show would also be able to differentiate itself.

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After Its Next Season in 2011 'The Closer' Will Reach the Magic 100 Episodes and Call It Quits

The stars are aligning to wrap up TNT's acclaimed series "The Closer" next year.

First, star Kyra Sedgwick's contract will come to an end after season seven, which will begin in the spring of 2011. At the end of that season "The Closer" will also have wrapped 103 episodes.

And that's a magic number, as Washington Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes observes: "Do you have a favorite show and wonder how much longer it's going to be around? Check to see if it's about to hit its 100th episode. That's the dangerous age when a show has amassed enough episodes to be a strong player in syndication, etc., and executives at the studio producing the show begin to mutter under their breath about the salaries being paid to the cast."

The story add, " 'Kyra blazed a new trail in the television landscape with her performance as Brenda Leigh Johnson,' Michael Wright, executive vice president and head of programming for TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies intoned sadly Friday [Dec 10, 2010] in a statement. 'Like her many fans, we will miss her terribly, and we will be forever grateful for the time we got to spend with her,' he added."

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New Show From J.J. Abrams and Fox Locks up Sam Neill, 'ER' Actress Parminder Nagra, With Negotiations Ongoing for Oscar Nominee to Join Cast as Well

A new show from J.J. Abrams and Fox has tapped veteran actor Sam Neill to star with Sarah Jones in the project about a team of FBI agents tracking down missing prisoners, reports Deadline.com. Neill will play Emerson Hauser, the chief of a government agency who the story says "radiates authority and piercing intelligence."

The project has also cast "ER" actress Parminder Nagra as Hauser's lab technician, while Robert Forster, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in "Jackie Brown," is in negotiations to play retired detective Ray Archer, according to a separate Deadline.com story

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Slight Pay Bump for CBS News Writers, as New Three-Year Contract Ratified

CBS News writers will be getting an annual 2% pay increase for those working in television and radio on local and national levels in New York, Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles, reports the Los Angeles Times' Company Town blog.

The pay rise comes after members of the Writers Guild of America ratified a new three-year contract on Saturday, the story notes. Guild members voted 83% in support of the contract, which also allows CBS News employees to join the guild's pension fund for the first time and sets negotiated minimum pay levels for writers-producers.

CBS writers had been without a contract since April, and the new three-year contract takes effect retroactively, the story notes. 

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DirecTV Looking To Make Up To $400 Selling Local Ads in 50 Markets

Over the next two years DirecTV plans on selling local ads in 50 markets, prognosticating that will bring in up to $400 millon in ad revenue,  Multichannl News' Todd Spangler reports

The ads will appear on about 50 channels, the article says.

According to the article, DirecTV chairman and CEO Mike White said, "While we do a great job on ad sales, we’ve historically not had a capability to do local advertising."  The story added, "Cable companies get around $5 per sub per month for advertising, whereas DirecTV gets around $2 per sub per month, he noted"

The technology used in delivering the ads will be from Invidi Technologies, the article said, adding, "As described by the companies, the various TV spots — sold in the local inventory available to DirecTV — will be delivered via satellite to subscribers’ DVRs. The Invidi software then determines based on different criteria which ad to serve in a given time slot."

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Solved or Not, Chasen Killing Leaves Questions Unanswered

For those in Southern California and in particular in the entertainment industry, the Ronni Chasen killing hit home. Now that Beverly Hills police have declared that they have essentially solved the case, TVWeek blogger Hillary Atkin reviews the latest twists and turns and discovers that not all the questions have been answered. Read her re-examination of the story here.

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CBS Wins Bidding War for Sitcom From 'Sex & the City' Creator

Michael Patrick King, the creator of HBO's "Sex & the City," has developed a new sitcom with comic Whitney Cummings called "Two Broke Girls,” which has been snatched up by CBS, reports Deadline.com.

The story reports fevered bidding for this property, which Cummings and King wrote on spec. CBS has reportedly committed to producing the pilot for the multi-camera show.

The New York City-based comedy tells the story of two poor girls in their early 20s trying to make it in the Big Apple.

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Which Channels Are Considered 'Must-Have' Before Viewers Would Be Willing to Cut Off Cable? Only One Cable News Net Makes the List, While Broadcast Nets Lead the Way; Survey Reveals a Number of Surprises

In a survey by Needham & Company asking which television networks viewers ”must have available online for you to turn off your TV subscription,” only one cable news network cracked the top 20, reports TVNewser.com.

CNN was tied for 12th place in the survey with MTV, CW, PBS, Lifetime and other networks, all of which finished just behind No. 11 TBS. The list was led by CBS, followed closely by ABC, with Fox and NBC tied at No. 3. ESPN, the highest-ranked cable network, rounded out the top five.

The rest of the top 10, in order, consisted of Discovery, History, HBO, Comedy Central and Food Network.

The results of the study bear some relationship to network ratings, but the story points out that in some cases--such as Comedy Central and Food Network cracking the top 10--there are significant differences.

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After 70 Years on the Job, Famed Comic Strip Reporter Will Join Ranks of Unemployed Journalists

For 70 years, one comic strip reporter has been consistently on the story--and now that run is coming to an end. Tribune Media Services, which owns the strip, announced Thursday that ace reporter Brenda Starr will be retiring, The Huffington Post reports.

The “Brenda Starr” comic strip will end its newspaper syndication run, with the last column set to run Jan. 2, 2011.

Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich and artist June Brigman chose to end the run rather than have the strip closed down. The late Dale Messick created the character and the strip in June 1940.

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Playboy TV Series Coming to NBC

In the spirit of AMC’s "Mad Men," NBC is developing a one-hour drama set in the early 1960s about the life of women working in the Playboy Club, reports Entertainment Weekly.

"Playboy" will be set in New York and reflect the changing times through the eyes of the Playboy Bunnies. "Tru Calling" writer Chad Hodge is writer/executive producer.

During the past season on "Mad Men," a couple of episodes included scenes set at The Playboy Club because one of the Sterling Cooper execs was a "key holder."

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Reality Star Sentenced on Heroin Charge

A reality show star who has been in the headlines more for her criminal activities than her television credits has added another line to her list of legal problems, The Huffington Post reports.

Alexis Neiers, 19, one of the stars of E!'s "Pretty Wild," was sentenced to a year in a residential rehab facility after being found in possession of black tar heroin, according to the story. She was previously convicted of burglarizing Orlando Bloom's home and has been on probation for that crime after serving 30 days of a six-month sentence.

Neiers' probation officers discovered the drugs and arrested her in her home. When she faced the judge, Neiers was allowed to enter rehab for her drug addiction instead of prison.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza told the reality star that this was her last opportunity for treatment rather than prison. Neiers told the judge that her addiction to heroin has been a lifelong problem.

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Three Networks in Tight Battle for Thursday Ratings

The tight season-long battle continues for the top spot in the always closely watched Thursday night Nielsens, with CBS, ABC and NBC finishing the night closely bunched in the 18-49 demo, TVbytheNumbers.com reports.

CBS, led by “Big Bang Theory,” came out a little bit ahead of the others with a 2.9 average rating in 18-49, followed by ABC (2.7 rating) and NBC (2.6). Fox was a respectable fourth with a 2.1 average.

In total viewers it was CBS, with an average of 12.4 million, and ABC, with 10.8 million, well ahead of the pack. Fox finished a distant third with 7.0 million, followed by NBC with 5.7 million.

At 8 p.m. "Big Bang" scored a 3.8 in the 18-49 demographic, while CBS’s "$#*! My Dad Says" earned a 2.7 in the same demo at 8:30 p.m. Fox's "Bones" averaged a 2.35 in the 18-49 demo, while NBC's "Community" and "30 Rock" had a 2.0 rating and a 2.2, respectively, in that demo. CW's "The Vampire Diaries" was last with a 1.25 in the 18-49 demo.

A one-hour "The Office" on NBC averaged a 3.75 in the 18-49 demo for the 9 p.m. time slot, while CBS's "CSI" had a 3.05 in the same demo. ABC's "Barbara Walters Special" netted a 2.95 in the 18-49 demo and Fox's "Fringe" had a 1.95 in 18-49, with CW's "Nikita" in last place with a 0.8 in the same demo.

At 10 p.m. "Barbara Walters Presents" earned an average 3.2 rating in the 18-49 demo for ABC, while CBS's "The Mentalist" was second with a 2.45 in the demo and NBC's season finale of "The Apprentice" managed just a 1.8 in the 18-49 demo for the hour.

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Costco, Fed up With Lack of Apple Cooperation, to Get Rid of iPods and iTunes Products

Costco, the giant discount retailer, said it's getting rid of Apple products such as iPods and pre-loaded iTunes cards because the technology company never allowed Costco to sell its products online or at large discounts, according to the Seattle Times.

The decision to phase out Apple products comes after Costco was snubbed when it came to the iPad, since Target, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club were allowed to carry the devices but not Costco, points out the New York Post.

 It's a similar tactic to a fight over pricing with Coca-Cola a few years ago, when Costco stopped ordering the soda for more than three weeks, posting signs that it wanted to "pass along the value our members deserve," the Post story points out. Costco and Coke settled the dispute without comment, the Post adds.

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Biting News For One NBC Series, Which Gets Its First-Season Order Cut to Nine Episodes

The NBC series inspired by "Sex and the City" has seen its first season order cut to nine episodes from 13,reports The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed blog. The show is "Love Bites."

The anthology series had already been pushed from the fall season to midseason, the story points out. NBC insiders say the reason for the order change was to make room for other midseason shows, the article notes.

The series, inspired by "Sex and the City," stars Becki Newton and tracks singles looking for love.

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'The Hoff' Is Off: A&E Pulls Reality Series 'The Hasselhoffs' After Two Episodes. But It Looks Like David Hasslehoff Has a New Gig Lined Up Anyway

"The Hoff" is off the air, after A&E pulled the reality series "The Hasselhoffs" after just two episodes, reports the Hollywood Reporter.

The show debuted Sunday with 718,000 viewers, although that audience dropped sharply for its second half-hour episode, which drew only 505,000 viewers, the article notes.

The show tracked the former Baywatch star David Hasselhoff as he helped his daughters in their entertainment careers. The story notes that there are eight unaired episodes of the show.

Separately, EW has reported that "A publicist for [David Hasselhoff] confirmed the former 'Baywatch' star is currently 'in talks' to" be a judge on "Britain's Got Talent." Other reports say the judge Hasselhoff might replace on that show is Simon Cowell.

It was about a year ago that Hasselhoff left "America’s Got Talent." 

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Discovery Trying to Get Distributors to Pay More Money to Carry the Oprah Winfrey Network; Some Are Fighting Increase

Even though Oprah Winfrey usually turns everything she touches into gold, some pay-television carriers are resisting demands for higher fees for her new Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), which debuts Jan. 1, reports Ronald Grover and Andy Fixmer at Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

According to the article, "Discovery, which has agreed to loan OWN $189 million, is pressing cable and satellite TV systems to pay three times the 7 cents per subscriber it was getting monthly for Discovery Health. DirecTV (DTV) has so far refused, waiting for its existing deal with Discovery to expire in more than two years, says a person with knowledge of the talks. [OWN CEO, Christina]Norman says some operators are indeed waiting out their existing Health channel contracts, but may end up paying more if they wait...."

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A Streak Worth Celebrating: For 15 Straight Years, One Morning Show Has Been Atop the Nielsen Ratings

It's a milestone worth celebrating: for 15 years in a row, one morning show had been No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings.

NBC's "Today" show will celebrate Saturday as marking 15 uninterrupted years as the country's top-rated morning broadcast, reports TVNewser.com.

The winning streak started Dec. 11, 1995, when the show was anchored by Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel, the story notes. Matt Lauer was the show's news reader and its executive producer was Jeff Zucker, then 30 years old.

The closest "Today" got to slipping from its No. 1 perch for wn entire season was in 2004-05, when ABC's prime-time schedule including "Desperate Housewives" was on a winning streak, giving a boost to "Good Morning America," but the lead for "Today" has grown since, the story notes.

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'It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.' Actor Who Played Dumbledore Chooses First U.S. Series Role

Marking his first U.S. series role, British actor Sir Michael Gambon -- perhaps best known to U.S. audiences as Albus Dumbledore in the "Harry Potter" films -- has signed on with the new HBO drama "Luck," reports Deadline.com

In "Luck," which stars Dustin Hoffman and is a David Milch/Michael Mann collaboration, Gambon will play an as-yet unnamed character who's the nemesis to Hoffman's character, named Ace Bernstein. The story revolves around the world of horse racing, including the owners, gamblers, jockeys and industry participants, the story says.

The series also added Patrick J. Adams, who will play Nathan Israel, an associate to Hoffman's character, the article adds.

Though this would be Gambon's first U.S. series role, he is no stranger to TV. Among other TV projects, in 1986 Gambon starred in one of the most acclaimed TV mini-series of all-time, the BBC production of Dennis Potter's "The Singing Detective."  

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Spanish-Language Broadcaster Univision Upends News Division Leadership

Spanish-language broadcaster Univision is switching leadership in its news division, with its 26-year veteran Alina Falcón stepping down and journalist Isaac Lee joining as president of news, reports TVNewser.com.

Falcón, who had been in charge of both news and sports, will remain as a special advisor to the company, the story notes.

Lee, 39 and a native of Colombia, was most recently the founder and editor-in-chief of the magazine PODER, a business magazine targeted toward the U.S. Hispanic population, the story notes.

In addition, the company is placing Alexander "Sandy" Brown as president of sports. Brown, 48, was previously the chief executive of media representation firm Petry Holding, the story notes.

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As Los Angeles Former PBS Giant KCET Prepares to Be an Indie, It Releases Its Forthcoming Programming Schedule

As KCET-TV prepares to break from PBS on Jan.1, it's making more of its plans public, with the biggest news being that the station will divide each night into themed blocks touching on subjects such as movies and science,reports the Los Angeles Times' ShowTracker blog.

 Sundays: Hollywood and movies, with shows such a "Roger Ebert Presents at the Movies" and "First Works," about how directors approach their vocation.

Mondays: Devoted to action and travel, with the British spy drama "MI5" and three documentary shows including "Globe Trekker."

Tuesdays: Focused on science, with the Canadian series "The Nature of Things."

Wednesdays: Drama night, with the British crime shows "Prime Suspect" and "Hustle."

Thursdays: a "grab-bag," the article says, with the station's public-affairs show "SoCal Connected" and the British series "Doc Martin."

 Fridays: Primarily news programming.

KCET didn't say what it was scheduling Saturday nights.

The station will continue to air children's programming on weekday mornings, including two shows from Jim Henson Co., "The Wubulous World of Dr. Seuss" and "Construction Site," the article notes.

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ABC Prepping TV Version of One of the Most Popular Stories of All Time, 'The Count of Monte Cristo' (With, Of Course, Some Requisite Changes. It All Happens to a Woman, Not a Man. And It Takes Place In...the Hamptons)

ABC has signed on the production company of the hit "Twilight" movie franchise, Temple Hill, to a two-year overall deal, reports Deadline.com.

The first project from the nearly five-year old Temple Hill company will be a remake for TV of "The Count of Monte Cristo," the famous Alexandre Dumas novel about a young man wrongfully imprisoned who vows revenge on his enemies.

In the TV version, the story will track a young woman who comes to the Hamptons to get revenge on the people who hurt her family, the story notes.

The project will be written by "Swingtown" creator Mike Kelley, and the project is executive produced by Kelley and Temple Hill founders Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen.

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Syndicated Court Show Gets Two-Year Renewal

One of the syndicated court shows has just received a two-year renewal, reports B&C.

It's "America's Court with Judge Ross" from Entertainment Studios.

The show has been renewed from groups ranging from Belo to Tribune, the story says. The half-hour show debuted this fall in syndication and on Entertainment Studios' HD cable networks and has averaged a 0.4 live plus same day national household rating in national syndication, the article adds.

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Despite Lindsay Lohan's Treatment Team Saying Going on 'Dancing with the Stars' Would Be Good For the Troubled Star, Lohan's Reps Say She Won't Do It

After a report said troubled star Lindsay Lohan may appear on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" as part of her comeback, the actress' representative said the star isn't appearing on the show,reports the New York Daily News.

As previously reported, Lohan's treatment team at the Betty Ford Center believed the show would provide a good transition for her return to work, since the show would provide a daily schedule and keep her occupied, according to RadarOnline.com.

But her publicist told the Daily News that Lohan "isn't doing 'Dancing with the Stars'," according to the latest article. Lohan has been undergoing treatment at the Betty Ford Center since October.

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Oops: Ed O'Neill WAS Rooting For his Co-Star To Win an Emmy, But Did NOT Say About Jane Lynch Winning For Her Performance in 'Glee' that 'I don't think she should have gotten the Emmy for that part.'

So what DID O'Neill say?

According to AOL's Popeater, TV Guide Canada, which issued an apology for misquoting O'Neill, wrote that this is what the actor actually said: "I'm one of Jane Lynch's biggest fans. I love Jane Lynch. She is a genius. But at the same time I said 'Sofia could win' because ... and I've only seen Glee a couple of ... I've only seen Glee once. But I thought Jane's role is rather one-dimensional. It's kind of strident. It's always kind of the same. I've seen her be much better. So I thought 'Sofia's funnier,' and I think she is in these two comparative roles. Anyway, Jane won. But I was hoping that Sofia would."

As previously reported, TV Guide Canada had quoted O'Neill as saying, "I love Jane--honestly, I do. I'm dying to star in one of [screenwriter and director] Christopher Guest's movies alongside her. But I don't think she should have gotten the Emmy for that part."

According to the Popeater story, in a statement issued to Entertainment Weekly, O'Neill said, in part, "Of course I root for my dear friends Sofia Vergara and Julie Bowen (and all of my colleagues on our show) at Emmy time, but I absolutely never said, nor do I believe that Jane - whom I think is an enormous talent - was undeserving of the award. I reached out to her yesterday to ensure she knew I'd been misquoted but I wanted to clear this up publicly as well."

In its apology TV Guide Canada said, " "Earlier this week, TV Guide Canada published a story misquoting Ed O'Neill's recent comments about Jane Lynch's Emmy win. Our writer did not mean to misrepresent Mr. O'Neill or anyone else involved in the story. He and TV Guide Canada sincerely apologize for this error."

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Oprah Describes Her Greatest Fear--Over Starting Her OWN Cable Net

Oprah Winfrey says the greatest fear she has ever felt in her life was over starting the OWN cable network, Reuters reports.

Winfrey revealed her fears in an interview with her own O magazine.

“I have never felt such fear in all my life,” she tells the magazine. “I was afraid of failing. ... I was afraid it wouldn’t be what ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ has been, and has meant, for all these years. What I realized is that I’ve never been afraid before. Not with any decision I’ve ever made.”

OWN is scheduled to launch Jan. 1 as a joint project of Winfrey’s Harpo Inc. and Discovery Communications. It will be distributed on the former Discovery Health Channel, and will initially be available in 80 million homes, the story says.

Winfrey’s long-running syndicated talk show will wind down in May 2011.

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Programmer Behind 'Weeds,' 'The L Word' Leaving Showtime

Showtime Senior VP of Original Programming Danielle Gelber will leave the pay-cable network when her contract runs out at the end of this month, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Gelber had a hand in bringing “The L Word,” “Weeds” and “The Big C” to life at Showtime. It was reportedly her decision to leave, and she has been rumored to be headed to NBC to rejoin Bob Greenblatt after the Comcast takeover of NBC Universal.

She has been with Showtime since 2002, rising to her current position in 2004 under Showtime’s then-entertainment chief Greenblatt.

THR reports: “Gelber's departure comes several months after David Nevins joined the network as president of entertainment, replacing Greenblatt. But Gelber is said to have a good relationship with Nevins, who she worked with at Fox. However, Gelber's name has been mentioned as a possible addition to Greenblatt's team at NBC.”

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After Playing a Role in Solving the Murder, 'America's Most Wanted' Plans Second Episode on Ronni Chasen Case

“America’s Most Wanted” plans to go ahead with a second episode devoted to the slaying of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen, according to The Hollywood Reporter, even though the case has reportedly been solved thanks to a tip that came in through the show.

A viewer's call to the Fox show led police to Harold Smith, whose gun matched the weapon used in the Nov. 16 shooting of Chasen in Beverly Hills. Smith used the gun to kill himself when he was confronted by police investigating the Chasen case at his Hollywood apartment.

Investigators announced Wednesday that, in effect, the case was solved, and that they now believe Smith acted alone and killed Chasen in an apparent robbery gone bad.

“America's Most Wanted” already had a second Chasen episode in the works and plans to go ahead with it, airing it this Saturday, Dec. 11, at 9 p.m. ET.

Fox said in a statement, "America's Most Wanted has once again proven that one person can make a difference."

"The Hollywood community reached out to ‘AMW’ and host John Walsh to help find Chasen’s killer," the statement says. "’AMW’ immediately began working closely with the Beverly Hills Police Department, and profiled the case on its Nov. 20 broadcast."

Added Walsh, the show’s host, "I’m very proud that this loyal ‘AMW’ viewer had the guts to call our hotline to help solve this case. After 23 years on the air, it reconfirms my belief that an average person can make a difference. It’s my hope that the Chasen family will now have some answers."

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Familiar Names Plentiful Among Nominees for Writers Guild Awards

The Writers Guild of America has announced its nominations for the annual Writers Guild Awards for television and radio programming, TVNewser reports. With dramas such as "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" and comedies "30 Rock" and "Modern Family" among the notables, the nominations look largely like a roundup of the usual suspects.

In the drama series category the WGA nominees are "Breaking Bad," "Mad Men," "Boardwalk Empire," "Dexter" and "Friday Night Lights." The nominees for comedy series are "30 Rock," "Glee," "Modern Family," "Nurse Jackie" and "The Office."

The news and documentary categories are dominated by PBS programming, with all six nominations in the Documentary-Current Events category going to the PBS show “Frontline.”

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Have You Heard What's Next on Lindsay Lohan's Road to Rehab?

With the backing of her treatment team at the Betty Ford Center, Lindsay Lohan is apparently ready to take the next step in rehabilitating her career, RadarOnline.com reports.

Lohan is in discussions to join ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," a move designed in part to improve her image, according to the story.

Lohan's treatment team at the rehab facility believes joining "DWTS" would be a good transition for her back into work, since the show would provide a daily schedule and would keep her occupied, the story reports.

As for "DWTS," the producers have wanted to have Lohan join the cast for a long time, the article notes. A representative for "DWTS" said the show doesn't comment on casting.

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Aretha Franklin Reportedly Has Pancreatic Cancer

Following undisclosed surgery last week, word has surfaced that Grammy Award-winning singing legend Aretha Franklin has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the “Today Show” Web site and other media outlets are reporting.

Franklin is said to be in good spirits today, although she has reportedly canceled all appearances through May 2011.

Pancreatic cancer is known to be an aggressive form of cancer. The disease has taken the life of other stars, including Patrick Swayze and Michael Landon.

The "Queen of Soul" is 68 years old. Rolling Stone magazine declared her the No. 1 singer of all time.

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Showtime Slates Preview of William H. Macy Series

When Showtime's "Dexter" has its season finale on Sunday, Dec. 12, at 9 p.m. ET, immediately following the broadcast will be a preview of the new William H. Macy comedy "Shameless," Multichannel News reports.

"Shameless" officially premieres on Showtime Jan. 9 at 10 p.m. ET.

"Shameless" is based on a British comedy. In the U.S. version set in Chicago, Macy plays a hard-drinking, working-class father of a bizarre group of kids.

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ABC's 'Modern Family' Tops Wednesday Ratings; CBS Wins Night Overall

ABC’s “Modern Family” continued its strong ratings performance Wednesday night, finishing as the night’s top-rated show in the 18-49 demo, TVbytheNumbers.com reported. But CBS easily won the night overall, on the strength of “Survivor” and “Criminal Minds.”

For the night, CBS was No. 1 in adults 18-49 with an average rating of 3.0, beating out NBC (2.4 rating), ABC (2.4), Fox (1.9) and Univision (1.6). CBS had an even wider margin in total viewers, averaging 12.3 million for the night, well ahead of NBC (7.1 million), ABC (6.9 million), Fox (5.5 million) and Univision (3.97 million).

At 8 p.m. "Survivor" averaged a 3.55 rating in the 18-49 demographic, up against ABC's "The Middle" and "Better With You," which had a 2.5 rating and a 2.2, respectively, in the same demo. NBC's first hour of "The Sing-Off" averaged a 2.4 in the 18-49 demo, and Fox's "Human Target" averaged a 1.6 in the same demo for the hour. Trailing was CW's "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show" with a 0.95 average in that demo.

At 9 p.m. ABC’s "Modern Family" collected a 4.1 rating and "Cougar Town" a 2.6 in the 18-49 demo. CBS's "Criminal Minds" logged a 3.45 average rating in 18-49, while hour two of "The Sing-Off" had a 2.85 in the same demo. Fox's "Hell's Kitchen" averaged 2.3 in the same demo for the hour and CW's "Fashion Forward: Making It" only managed a 0.35 average in the 18-49 demo.

The 10 p.m. hour was won by CBS's "The Defenders" with a 2.05 in the 18-49 demo, airing against repeats on ABC and NBC.

 

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'American Idol,' Reading the Playbook of Reality Shows Such as 'Real World,' 'Big Brother' and 'Jersey Shore,' Adds Another Element to Show This Season

It looks like "American Idol" is adding an element to its show this season that's similar to one used by a number of  other reality shows.

"American Idol" producers and Fox are planning to have the top 12 finalists in the competition live together in a house in the Hollywood Hills, reports James Hibberd in the Hollywood Reporter's The Live Feed blog.

It's unclear whether the house will become a visible part of the show, with behind-the-scenes footage and confessionals becoming part of "Idol,"  the story notes.

But the producers do plan to allow the Top 12 to chat with fans through Twitter while living in the house, the story says.

They also may give "Idol" contestants a break with a road trip to Las Vegas, with a potential integration with Cirque du Soleil's "Love" show, which is inspired by the Beatles, the story notes.

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Howard Stern Renews at Sirius XM; Key to Deal Is That He Moves From Satellite Only to Smartphone App

Howard Stern announced on air today, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010, that he's renewed with Sirius XM for another five years.

Though terms of the deal were not revealed, Stern's first five years at the satellite radio outlet made him $500 million.

One key to Stern's renewal is that he'll become part of the Sirius XM app, "which is available on various platforms such as the Apple’s iPhone, Android devices and the BlackBerry," reports ZDNet.

According to the article, "Due to contractual hang-ups, Stern wasn’t [previously] on the Sirius XM app. That reality kept the Sirius XM app from being a must have. With Stern on the Sirius XM app downloads are likely to pick up."

The story concludes, "The big picture here is that Sirius XM isn’t necessarily about satellite radio anymore. Sirius XM is about content on any platform.Stern staying with Sirius XM and appearing on mobile apps should accelerate the day where pricey satellites aren’t the main distribution method for the company."

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Super Bowl Ultimately Going to Pay-TV? That Could Happen, Warns the President of the National Association of Broadcasters

National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) President Gordon Smith warned that the Federal Communications Commission's move to issue a broad notice of proposed rulemaking on retransmission consent could ultimately push the Super Bowl away from free TV, reports B&C.

According to the article,  the NAB " 'strongly endorses educating consumers with the multiple options available to them in the exceedingly rare instance when a retransmission consent dispute arises, including the antenna TV option. In the final analysis, injecting Washington into private business negotiations that have a 99% success rate only serves to embolden pay-TV companies,' said Smith."

Furthermore the story says Smith warned that "If the pay-TV giants succeed there will be further migration of premiere sporting events like the Super Bowl away from free TV, and a reduction in financial resources that sustain quality foreign language programming, local news and entertainment to a growing audience of more than 30 million Americans who rely exclusively on over-the-air television."

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Project That Went To Pilot on HBO Not Picked Up

HBO has not been able to find a spot for a project that it had picked up to pilot in July, reports Deadline.com

It was a dark comedy based on Charlie Huston's 2009 crime noir novel "The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death." The HBO verson was to have been called All Signs of Death."

The pilot was written by Huston and used smaller, portable cameras for a cinema verite style. It joins "Miraculous Year" as another 2010 HBO pilot that didn't make it to series, the story adds.

For HBO's remaining crop of pilots, "Luck" has been ordered to series, while "Tilda" is waiting while reshoots are being done on the pilot and backup scripts are written. "Documental" and "Girls" are in post-production, while "Veep," starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, is casting, it adds.

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Awesome Threesome to Work Together: 'Desperate Housewives' Creator Marc Cherry, the 'View's' Joy Behar, and Actress Marilu Henner

Come January, Marc Cherry, Joy Behar and Marilu Henner will all be working together, reports the Associated Press.

The occasion is the 90th (!) Miss America pageant on ABC.

The show is returning to ABC as part of a three-year deal, the story notes, which hasn't aired the competition since 2004, when it dropped the program after record-low ratings.

Cherry, Behar and Henner will be judges. Other judges for the Jan. 15 event include "Dancing with the Stars" choreographer Tony Dovolani and shoe designer Taryn Rose, as well as 1990 Miss America Debbye Turner Bell, the story notes.

The show's hosts will be Chris Harrison, the host of ABC's "The Bachelor," and "Dancing with the Stars" co-host Brooke Burke.

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Jason Alexander in Talks with CBS About Hourlong Drama Starring the Actor as a Struggling Actor

Jason Alexander is working on an hourlong drama and in talks with CBS for the unnamed show, reports Daily Variety. [Note: Variety is behind a fire wall and may charge you to see this content.]

Alexander would play a struggling actor who joins his former wife's detective agency, using his acting skills to become a master of disguise, the story says.

CBS TV Studios is behind the project, with Simon Barry writing and co-executive producing and Carol Yumkas producing, the story says.

Alexander', best known for playing George Costanza in the long-running "Seinfeld" series, was last seen on series TV starring role was in the 2005 CBS comedy "Listen Up," although he's been supplying voices for animated series such as "American Dad" and "Fairly Odd Parents," the article notes.

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Anderson Cooper's Talk Show Sold in 21 Major Markets

TV stations in 21 major market stations have signed on to carry Anderson Cooper's one-hour talk show, reports the Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed blog.

Says the article, "According to Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution, 21 major market stations have lined up to carry the one-hour daily strip hosted by the CNN anchor. Last week, initial clearances for the show were announced in key hubs New York (WPIX), Los Angeles (KTTV), Chicago (WFLD) and Boston (WFXT)."

The show still doesn't have a name, the article adds.

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How Are Your Interactive Chops? CBS May Want YOU

There's an opening at CBS for an interactive guru, and the job's a biggie.

CBS Interactive President Neal Ashe is leaving the company, and CBS has begun a search for a replacement, reports Michael Learmonth at Advertising Age.

Ashe is the longtime chief executive of CNET who became president of CBS Interactive after engineering CBS' $1.8 billion purchase of CNET in 2008, the story says.

As head of the unit, he oversaw CNET, CBS.com, TV.com, Chow and Urbanbaby.

Internal candidates to succeed him include CBS Senior VP of Strategic Development Zander Lurie, another longtime CNET executive, and Anthony Soohoo, who heads the entertainment division, the story notes.

It wasn't immediately clear where Ashe is going after leaving CBS.

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Writers Guild Locked in Dispute with Comcast Over Organizing Efforts on Shows Including 'Chelsea Lately'

The Writers Guild of America, West is locked in a dispute with Comcast over its efforts to organize more than two dozen writers who work on shows that air on Comcast-owned networks,reports the Los Angeles Times' Company Town blog. 

The shows include "Chelsea Lately" on E!, "The Dish" on Style, and "Attack of the Show" on G4, the story says.

The conflict comes at a delicate time for Comcast, which is aiming to complete its merger with NBC Universal soon.

The guild says that while 80% of the writers who work on the shows have signed authorization cards requesting to be represented by the union, Comcast has refused to join the bargaining table, the article notes.

Comcast called the union's demand "unfair to employees" and wants the National Labor Relations Board to oversee a vote on whether the Writers Guild should represent the writers, the story notes.

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Former Disney Chief Michael Eisner Teaming with Alums of 'Lost,' 'Northern Exposure' and 'Caprica' on New Show

 Michael Eisner, the forrmer CEO of the Walt Disney Co. is teaming with alumni of "Lost," "Northern Exposure" and "Caprica" on a new TV project, reports Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com.

The show is a single-camera comedy about a 25-year old reporter in the style section of a newspaper who ends up on the obituary desk.

The project is written by Josh Brand of "Northern Exposure" and will be directed by Tucker Gates of "Lost" and star "Caprica" actress Alessandra Torresani as the reporter, the story says.

The 8- to 10-minute presentation will start filming on Monday, with the project being executive produced by Eisner, Brand, Gates, Steve Cohen and Noel Bright, the article adds.

The idea for the project, called "Circling the Drain," was first envisioned as a cable show, but the producers are now planning to shop it to a wider audience, the story says.


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Police Link Gun Used in Suicide of 'Person of Interest' Harold Smith to Killing of Hollywood Publicist. Say They Believe, Basically, That Case is Solved--Smith Did It, Alone

[UPDATED Dec. 9, 2010, 7:16 AM, Pacific Time. Headline changed to more accurately reflect staus of case]

Beverly Hills Police investigating the shooting death of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen now say they believe the gun ex-convict Harold Smith used to kill himself last week is the same weapon used to kill Chasen, TMZ reports.

Investigators say they think Smith acted alone and killed Chasen in a robbery attempt, according to the report. The attempted robbery, they say, was committed by a man riding a bicycle.

The latest information reverses theories that surfaced after Smith shot himself when he was confronted by police. After the suicide, reports circulated that Smith’s gun was not a match with the one used to kill Chasen.

Police got a break when a tip from the show “America’s Most Wanted” led them to Smith, who had reportedly been bragging to neighbors that he had shot Chasen for $10,000. Authorities say they do not believe Smith was working for anyone when he allegedly killed Chasen.

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Donald Trump Says He's 'Seriously Considering Running' for President

Donald Trump told “Extra” he’s “seriously considering running” for president in 2012, the show’s Web site reports.

“I hate what’s happening tour our country,” Trump said. “Our country is being ridiculed all over the world.”

Trump had positive things to say about one possible opponent, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. “I like Sarah Palin,” Trump told the show. “I respect Sarah Palin.”

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New Dramas on Tap at Fox, CW

New dramas are in the works for the CW and Fox, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Both shows come from Vin Di Bona and Bruce Gersh’s new FishBowl Worldwide Media.

Fox's new project is called "The Danger List," from writer/producer Stephen Gallagher, best known for "Dr. Who." "The Danger List" follows the adventures of a doctor with a complicated past who uncovers medical abuses, crimes and conspiracies.

CW purchased "Beautiful Strangers," about two young criminals who are given a second chance when they’re drafted as informants for the FBI, the story reports. Exec producer Rob Thomas (“Veronica Mars”) and writer Dan Thompsen are on board.

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Cable Channel Orders Three New Shows

With three new original series--"Pretty Hurts," "Setup Squad" and "Be Good Johnny Weir"--joining the lineup for 2011, cable channnel Logo is continuing its push to get people talking, UPI.com reports.

"Pretty Hurts" and "Setup Squad" are described as docu-soaps set in the workplace. "Be Good Johnny Weir" is moving over to Logo from the Sundance Channel, where it rolled out its first season. The show focuses on the life of three-time national champion ice skater Johnny Weir.

"Logo is in the business of creating fierce, original programming that gets everyone talking,” said Dave Mace, Logo’s senior VP of programming, in a statement this week.

In addition to the new original programs, Logo began airing reruns of "Nip/Tuck" this month and will broadcast "Will & Grace" episodes in 2013.

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With 'Parker Spitzer' Ratings Stagnant and Rumors of Backstage Tension, CNN May Be Ready to Kick Off One of the Co-Hosts

After two months on the air, CNN's political talk show "Parker Spitzer" has failed to turn around the network's prime-time ratings. Instead, the show's own ratings are stagnant there’s talk of tension behind the scenes of the show, The New York Times reports.

There’s also speculation that CNN could make co-host Eliot Spitzer the sole host of the program, the article notes.

That's something that CNN executives and the show's co-hosts--Spitzer and Kathleen Parker--denied, the story says. Instead, they stressed that the show was still finding its footing.

During the show's first seven weeks, it has averaged just 140,000 viewers between the ages of 25 and 54, which represents a drop of 2,000 from the seven weeks before it started, the article points out.

Its competitors on MSNBC and Fox News, "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" and "The O'Reilly Factor," reach twice and five times as many viewers in that demographic, respectively.

Parker denied an intent to leave "Parker Spitzer," saying the show is "absolutely a work in progress."

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Depp Eager to Appear in Big-Screen Reboot of '21 Jump Street'--But Producers Aren't Calling

Actor Johnny Depp, whose early career got a boost from his role on the late-1980s TV show “21 Jump Street,” told MTV.com that he wants to do a cameo in the upcoming big-screen adaptation of the show.

Depp, who's doing a press tour to promote his new film "The Tourist," said he heard some time ago that a cameo was in the works, but he has become concerned because he has yet to be contacted by the film’s producers.

Depp told MTV that he went to Jonah Hill, who's starring in the picture, to use his influence on Depp's behalf. "I've said I'm into it, but no one's actually approached me,” Depp said. “I'm in. I think it'd be pretty easy."

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Host Is Named for Next White House Correspondents Dinner

A popular television personality has agreed to host and emcee the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner in 2011, reports TheWrap.com.

Seth Meyers, a writer for “Saturday Night Live” and anchor of the show’s “Weekend Update” segment, will do the honors. Meyers follows in the footsteps of notable hosts including Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson, Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart and Bob Hope.

The dinner will be held April 30, 2011, in Washington.

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Electronic Goodies High on the List of Presents People Want This Holiday Season--And Men and Women Have Different Desires; Guess Which Gadget Tops the List

According to a survey by CNET, the holiday gifts that people desire this year are heavily oriented toward consumer electronics, with differing choices for men and women, B&C reports.

The top item overall is the Apple iPad, according to the story. Specifically, an Apple iPad 3G that's loaded with unlimited music and apps was higher on the list of wishes than universal health care, maid service for a year, a lifetime membership in Netflix or an Amazon Kindle preloaded with 2,000 books.

Among male respondents, in the category of consumer electronics, high-end television sets were tops, followed by laptops and tablets. But among female respondents in the same category, tablets were on top, followed by smartphones and televisions.

The survey also revealed that respondents planned to spend an average of $815 on holiday gifts this year, 10% higher than in 2009. Consumer electronics accounted for 43% of the planned expenditures.

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'Glee' Christmas Ep Tops Tuesday Ratings, Pushes Fox to Overall Win

The final fresh episode of Fox's "Glee" until the Super Bowl, a special Christmas show, was a big hit in the Tuesday night Nielsens, reports TVbytheNumbers.com. “Glee” was the top show of the night in the 18-49 demo, and Fox won the night overall in the demo with an average rating of 3.3, beating NBC (2.7), ABC (2.0), Univision (1.7) and CBS (1.7).

CBS was No. 1 in total viewers for the night, fueled by strong turnouts for repeat episodes of “NCIS” and “NCIS: Los Angeles.” CBS averaged 9.7 million viewers for the evening, topping Fox (8.3 million), NBC (7.8 million), ABC (7.0 million) and Univision (4.2 million).

At 8 p.m. "Glee" averaged a 4.35 rating in the 18-49 demo for the hour, besting ABC's rebroadcast of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" with a mean score of 2.6 in the same demo. NBC's "Minute to Win It" had an average of 1.9 in the 18-49 demo and CW's "One Tree Hill" trailed with an average of 1.0 in the same demo for the hour.

At 9 p.m. the first hour of NBC's "The Biggest Loser" delivered an average of 2.95 in the 18-49 demo, while Fox's "Raising Hope" and "Running Wilde" logged a 2.9 rating and a 1.7, respectively, in the same demo. ABC's "No Ordinary Family" was steady with a 1.9 in the 18-49 demo for the hour, and CW's "Life Unexpected" had a 0.85 average rating in the same demo.

The top show at 10 p.m. was the second hour of "The Biggest Loser" with a 3.15 average in the 18-49 demo, ahead of ABC's "Detroit 1-8-7," which had a 1.4 mean score in the 18-49 demo for the hour.

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How One of TV's Most Beloved Holiday Specials Got on TV, Despite Creator's Doubts -- and CBS Execs' Apprehension

 It debuted 45 years ago and has become one of television's most enduring holiday shows, but at its debut the show created some apprehension with CBS executives, writes Beverly Gherman on AOL's Popeater.com.
The program, "A Charlie Brown Christmas," is no longer repeated on CBS, but it's still shown on TV.  "A Charlie Brown Christmas," aired laat night, Dec. 7, 2010 on ABC and will be shown again on ABC on Dec. 16.
 
Here's the back story, arccording to the article: Charles Schulz, who created the "Peanuts" comic stip, which featured Charlie Brown, was asked by kids for 10 years to create a TV program with his "Peanuts" characters. Schulz resisted until he noticed his own five children enjoying kids' television programs, Gherman writes. He finally agreed, but only if he could portray the meaning of Christmas as he saw it: "He didn't want a raucous laugh track like other shows used. He insisted they would employ real child actors, not merely adults who sounded like kids. And the last thing he wanted was to use traditional Christmas music," she writes.
 
Schulz wrote a script that includes Linus talking for a whole minute about the Nativity scene, which worried CBS executives about its religious context. "Instead, they discovered, 'all heaven broke loose.' People said they were touched by the simple story and loved the original music," the story says. That led to the creation of more Charlie Brown TV specials and an Emmy award, which prompted Schulz to say when receiving it, "Charlie Brown is not used to winning, so we thank you."
 
The original music for the show, written by Vince Guaraldi, has sold millions of copies and has forever after been associated with the Christmas holidays.
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Report: The Reality Stars Who Made the Most Money in 2010. Eight of the Top Ten Are Women (and Three of Them Are Related)

The Daily Beast reports on the reality TV stars that have earned the most money in 2010. Eight of the Top 10 are women, and three of those are related. Here's the top 10, according to the Beast:

Kim Kardashian..........$6 million

Lauren Conrad............$5 million

Bethenny Frankel........$4 million

Audrina Patridge..........$3.5 million

Kate Gosselin..............$3.5 million

Mike Sorrentino
(The Situation)..............$3 million

Khloe Kardashian........$2.5 million

Kourtney Kardashian...$2.5 million

DJ Pauly D......................$2 million

Kendra Wilkinson..........$2 million

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Emmy-Winning Actor (and Oscar Nominee) to Star in New Cable Series From Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun

A new series from Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun that will star an Emmy-winning and Academy Award-nominated actor has been given the green light, according to The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed blog.

"Alphas," an action show about apparently ordinary people with special abilities that will feature actor David Strathairn, has been given the green light by Syfy, the article says.

The project comes from writers Zak Penn of "X-Men: The Last Stand" and Michael Karnow, the story says. 

Syfy has ordered 11 episodes as well as the 90-minute pilot directed by "Lost" director and executive producer Jack Bender, the article adds. The production, from Universal Cable Productions and BermanBraun Television, will start in early 2011 in Toronto and the show will debut next summer, it adds. 

Strathairn won an Emmy earlier this year for Supporting Actor for his performance in the HBO movie "Temple Grandin." He was nominated for an Oscar as Best Actor for his portrayal of TV newsman Edward R. Murrow in the 2005 movie "Good Night and Good Luck."  

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Jane Fonda Tell Why She Wants to Star in a Cable Series

Jane Fonda, one of America's most acclaimed actresses--she's won two Oscars and an Emmy (the latter for the miniseries "The Dollhouse" on ABC back in 1984)--wants to star in a TV series on cable, reports the Associated Press.

Fonda, 72,  is playing her cards close to her chest, not revealing exactly what she wants to do, other than she wants to do it on cable.

She told the AP, "I have a sort of a vision of what it could be and that's all that I'll say. I think the best, edgiest writing is now on cable television. It's pretty exciting."

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Real-Life 'Baywatch' Coming to Cable

A real-life version of 'Baywatch' is coming to cable TV.

The name of the show is "Bondi Rescue," and it debuts in late-night this coming Monday, Dec. 13,  at 11 p.m. ET/PT on Fox Sports' Fuel TV.

"The mesmerizing 'Bondi Rescue' follows a real-life elite team of Australian lifeguards at one of the busiest and most dangerous beaches in the world," Fuel says in an announcement. "These lifeguards are tasked with keeping 40,000 daily beachgoers safe from pounding surf, poisonous jellyfish, nasty sharks and each other. From encounters with wildlife, to surf injuries, to fights, to drug busts, to celebrity visits, there’s no place on Earth like Bondi Beach.“

"’Bondi Rescue’ is a real-life ‘Baywatch’ where the risks are incredibly high and the stakes are life and death,” says Shon Tomlin, Fuel TV SVP of programming and marketing. “It’s a show that has had tremendous success overseas and we’re excited to have the exclusive rights to six seasons of this acclaimed series.”

No word if the show will have the real-life equivalent of 'Baywatch" hunks and babes such as Mitch Buchannon (David Hasselhoff) and C.J. Parker (Pam Anderson). 

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Report: TV Networks Have Failed to Improve Latino Diversity, Both in Front of the Camera and Behind It. 'This was a terrible year for Latinos at the networks,' Says Alex Nogales, Who Runs the National Hispanic Media Coalition

A coalition of Latino groups are charging four major TV networks with failing to improve diversity both in front of and behind the camera, reports the Los Angeles Times' ShowTracker blog.

"This was a terrible year for Latinos at the networks," the article quotes Alex Nogales, who runs the National Hispanic Media Coalition, as saying.

The coalition, which issued a "report card" on multiculturalism, said that ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox have bumped up the inclusion of African Americans and Asian Americans, although Latino diversity is on the wane.

Overall, CBS received the highest grade (B+), while Fox was given the lowest (C+), with both ABC and NBC receiving B-, the story notes.

Nogales said that he may consider charging the networks with racism or bigotry if progress isn't shown next year, the article notes.

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Report: FCC to Issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking About Retransmission Consent

The Federal Communications Commission is about is issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking about retransmission consent, John Eggerton at B&C reports.

Given the contentious retrans battles this year between distributors and programmers, this rulemaking procedure surprises no one. More directly, a number of cable operators have asked the FCC to step into this process, the article notes.

Writes Eggerton, "FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake is expected to announce the move at a Media Institute luncheon speech in Washington [today] Wednesday (Dec. 8). Industry sources were suggesting it would likely be a narrowly targeted proposal focused on better defining what constitutes good faith bargaining."

The story also says that "FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has made it clear he does not think the FCC has sufficient tools to protect consumers from the fallout of retrans impasses, but he has also looked to Congress for help. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski last month endorsed a congressional review of retransmission consent rules, suggesting changes could include mandatory mediation and binding arbitration."

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ABC Serious About Developing Musical Series. One Show Is Described as 'St. Elmo's Fire' Meets 'Rent.' Musical Talent Behind Show Include an Oscar Winner and an Oscar Nominee

One of the projects ABC has in development as a musical series is described as "St. Elmo's Fire" meets "Rent," reports Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com.

And that untitled project comes attached with four-time Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken ("The Little Mermaid," Beauty and the Beast," "Pocahontas" and "Aladdin") and two-time Oscar-nominated lyricist David Zippel ("Mulan," "Hercules").

The pair have teamed with writer Marco Pennette for the musical comedy, which would feature two to three original songs in each episode, the story says.

The story, based on Menken's daughter, tracks a young female musician as she and other young musicians try to find success, and will feature the characters breaking into song as well as performing set pieces, the article notes.

It marks one of three music-themed projects in development at ABC, which is also working on a drama with musical elements that stars Tony winner Idina Menzel and a musical comedy from "Sharpay Fabulous" writer Robert Horn, the story notes.

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Home Entertainment Story #1: Wait, Is This A Dream Within A Dream? No, It's Not. Some Rental Kiosks Bump First Night Rental Fee To $3 For 'Inception'

In a test of premium pricing, some  DVD rental kiosks have raised the first night rental price to $3, reports the Los Angeles Times' Company Town blog.

The kiosk's, found under the Blockbuster brand, on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010,  started renting "Inception" and "Knight & Day" for $3 for the first night, the article says.

After paying $3 for the first night, each subsequent night of the rental will cost $1, the story says.

Historically, the rental kiosks, which are operated by NCR Corp., and its rival Redbox have charged $1 per night for all movies. The premium pricing test is being conducted in four cities: Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix and San Francisco.

It comes after three of the six major studios in Hollywood, including "Inception" distributor Warner Bros., have complained that $1 per night is too low for new releases, the article adds. "Knight & Day" is distributed by 20th Century Fox.

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Home Entertainment Story #2: NetFlix in Talks With a Pay-TV Service To Expand Netflix's Streaming Service

Netflix is in early discussions with a pay-TV service to  extend Netflix's online-streaming arrangement, reports our friend Claire Atkinson in the New York Post.

Under Netflix'a current  deal with Starz, the pay channel  sold streaming rights to its movies for $30 million. A deal like that today would likely cost Netflix as much as $250 million, according to BTIG media analyst Richard Greenfield, the article says.

With the Netflix-Starz deal set to expire in 10 months, a pricier renewal might change the economics of Netflix's $8 monthly streaming service, it adds.

In separate news, Netflix yesterday said Chief Financial Officer Barry McCarthy is taking on a new role, with David Wells, who most recently was vice president of financial planning and analysis, taking on McCarthy's current  role on Dec. 10, reports Bloomberg News.

McCarthy's departure won't impact negotiations with content suppliers, the story says, citing a spokesman.

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Powerful L.A. Congressman Pushes FCC for Vote on Comcast-NBCU Merger by Year-End, Asks for Conditions

A powerful congressman representing part of Los Angeles is asking the Federal Communications Commission to vote on the Comcast-NBCU merger by year-end, albeit with several conditions, reports TheWrap.com.

Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman is asking for assurances that smaller cable and satellite companies have access to programming and channels in which Comcast has a compelling interest; guarantees that Comcast won't push ahead its own video-on-demand services over smaller companies; protection for unaffiliated programmers concerned about discrimination in channel placement; and measures that boost opportunities for independent writers, producers and directors, the story says.

Comcast was noncommittal about Waxman's proposed conditions, even though his push for a vote aligns him with Comcast's own desired timeline for the merger, the story says.

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Executive Producer of Popular HBO Series Wants To Do Movie Version

One of the executive producers of a long-lived, popular HBO series can't stop thinking about doing a movie version of the show, Entertainment Weekly's Lynette Rice reports.

Mark Wahlberg, whose life inspired the creation of HBO's "Entrourage' by TVWeek friend Doug Ellin, "acknowledged to EW that he hasn’t stopped thinking about a possible Entourage movie and 'we want it to happen,' " Rice reports. Wahlberg is an executive producer of the series.

Rice also quotes Wahlberg as saying, “We have one last season left on TV and then it would probably take place after the finale. There are places to go. I’m still here all these years later, aren’t I? My story didn’t end in my 20s.”

 

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Elizabeth Edwards, Estranged Wife of Former Presidential Hopeful John Edwards, Dies at 61

Elizabeth Edwards, the estranged wife of former presidential hopeful John Edwards, has died following a six-year struggle with breast cancer, ABC News reports. She was 61.

It was announced earlier this week that Edwards had stopped all cancer treatment. She was first diagnosed with cancer in 2004, the story says.

A friend of the Edwards family reportedly told ABC News that John Edwards was at her side during her final days.

Her family released a statement earlier this week that said in part: "Elizabeth has been advised by her doctors that further treatment of her cancer would be unproductive. She is resting at home with family and friends."

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Newsical Chairs: One CNN Anchor Leaving Network After Six-Year Run; Another CNN Anchor Gets a New Assignment

One of CNN’s anchormen is leaving the network after six years, TVNewser.com reports. Meanwhile, another fixture at the cable net is poised to take on a new assignment, according to the New York Post.

tonyharriscnn.jpg

Tony Harris, who anchors the 11 a.m.-1 p.m. stretch on "CNN Newsroom," is leaving CNN. He has yet to announce his next gig.

In addition, the Post is reporting that John Roberts, co-anchor of CNN's "American Morning" is relocating from New York to Atlanta to be a national correspondent. The latter news has yet to be confirmed by CNN.

johnrobertscnn.jpg

Roberts is engaged to Atlanta-based CNN anchor Kyra Phillips, and the couple are is expecting twins.

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No Lie: Fox Does Not Order a Back Nine Episodes of 'Lie To Me.' Thus Series Will Only Air 13 Episodes this Season. Fox Says No Decision Yet If Show Will Be Canceled

"Fox will not be giving a back-nine order to crime procedural "Lie to Me," whose current third season will consist of 13 episodes."

So writes Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com.

The article goes on to say that the decision on whether or not to continue the show next season will be made come spring.

So why no back-nine order for the show? That's because the series is only slated to run through Jan. 31st this season.

The article continues, "Last season, Fox ended up with 12 episodes of Lie to Me in the can after ordering 22 and only using the series for the fall. The network ended up airing those 12 episodes over the summer."

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New Showrunner for 'Law & Order: Criminal Intent'

A new showrunner will take over for Walon Green for the remaining run of USA's "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," reports Deadline.com.

The Dick Wolf show has eight episodes left before ending its run, and Chris Brancato will run those episodes.

The original stars of the series, Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe, will be back for the final stretch.

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CBS Tops Monday Ratings Despite Strong Season Debut for NBC's 'Sing-Off'

CBS had a solid ratings night across the board Monday, with "Two and a Half Men" leading all shows while the Tiffany Network had the best overall numbers for the night, TVbytheNumbers.com reported.

NBC got a boost from a strong two-hour season premiere for “The Sing-Off” to finish in the No. 2 spot for the night.

CBS wound up with a 3.3 overall rating in adults 18-49, topping NBC’s 2.4 rating. Univision placed third with a 1.6, ahead of Fox and ABC, both with 1.5 ratings.

CBS’s lead in total viewers was 10.5 million to 7.4 million for NBC, with ABC third (6.0 million) and Fox fourth (5.97 million). Univision tallied 4.1 million viewers.

In the 8 p.m. hour, CBS's "How I Met Your Mother" and "Rules of Engagement" had a 3.6 rating and a 3.1 in the 18-49 demographic, while NBC's first hour of "The Sing-Off" averaged a 2.75 in the 18-49 demo. Fox's first hour of "American Country Awards" had a 1.55 average in the 18-49 demo for the hour, while CW's "90210" just beat ABC's "Skating With the Stars" 1.05 to 1.0 in the 18-49 demo.

"Two and a Half Men" had the best rating of the night at 9 p.m. with a 4.1, paired with "Mike & Molly" getting a 3.4, both in the 18-49 demo. The second hour of "The Sing-Off" netted a 2.85 in the 18-49 demo, better than hour two of Fox's "American Country Awards" with a 1.45 in the same demo. The last half-hour of "Skating" managed a 1.0 in the 18-49 demo, which was behind CW's "Gossip Girl" with a 1.1 in that demo for the hour.

CBS's "Hawaii Five-0" was tops at 10 p.m. with an average of 2.7 in the 18-49 demo, while ABC's "Castle" had a 2.2 and NBC's "Chase" had a 1.5, both in the 18-49 demo.

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TV Execs Dominate List of Most Powerful Women in Entertainment

By Hillary Atkin

CBS News anchor Katie Couric gave the keynote address this morning in Beverly Hills at the 19th annual event honoring the 100 most powerful women in the entertainment industry, sponsored by The Hollywood Reporter and presented by Lifetime Television.

Couric quipped that she loves the smell of estrogen in the morning, but she conveyed a more somber tone when she reflected on the big news stories she has covered in Los Angeles--including the riots, the O.J. Simpson case and Michael Jackson’s death, as well as inspirational and uplifting pieces.

She also paid tribute to her sister Emily, a Virginia politician who died of pancreatic cancer.

Dame Helen Mirren received the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, presented by Halle Berry.

Disney/ABC Television Group President and Disney Media Networks Co-Chair Anne Sweeney was named the most powerful woman in entertainment. This was the second consecutive year that she wound up on top, after sharing the honor in 2009 with Sony’s Amy Pascal.

Of the top ten names, six others are in television: Bonnie Hammer, Oprah Winfrey, Abbe Raven, Nina Tassler, Dana Walden and Judy McGrath.

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Jeff Lucas Gets Major Promotion at MTV Nets Ad Sales

MTV Networks announced today that it has appointed Jeff Lucas to the expanded role of chief of ad sales for the Music and Entertainment Groups.

Previously, Lucas was executive vice president of the Entertainment Sales Group.

According to the annoucement, "In his role, Lucas will oversee all advertising sales and integrated marketing for the company’s Music & Logo Group; which includes MTV, VH1, CMT, and Logo; as well as its Entertainment Group; which includes COMEDY CENTRAL, Spike, and TV Land. Sean Moran, Executive Vice President for MTV, VH1, and Logo 360 Brand Sales, will assume an expanded role under Lucas. Lucas will fill out the rest of his core team in the coming weeks."

Since Hank Close left several years ago the MTV Networks has not had any kind of a consolidated ad sales chief. And in the reorg, the MTV Nets kids division still remains separate. 

Lucas will report to Rich Eigendorff, chief operating officer of MTVN, with additional reporting to Van Toffler, president of MTVN Music & Logo Group, and Doug Herzog, president of MTVN Entertainment Group, the company announced.

“This move addresses the evolving marketplace and puts us in the best possible position to meet the changing needs of our advertisers and agency partners,” Eigendorff said. “Jeff’s smart approach meets client needs at the corporate, planning, and buying levels, and we want to systematically apply that thinking across our teen and adult-focused brands. We’re excited to have Jeff’s leadership heading into the 2011-2012 upfront season, as we look to further monetize ratings gains and build on the momentum across our portfolio.”

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'Modern Family' Star Has a Few Unkind Words for 'Glee' Star

[UPDATED Dec 8, 2010 at 6:20 a.m. to credit the original source of this story, TV Guide, Canada.]

In a moment of unabashed loyalty to his "Modern Family" co-star Sofia Vergara, actor Ed O'Neill declared that "Glee's" Jane Lynch was undeserving of the Emmy she won over Vergara, TV Guide Canada reports.

O'Neill was not nominated for his role on “Modern Family,” but the show took the Emmy for outstanding comedy series over "Glee." He told a gaggle of international journalists that Lynch's “Glee” character is essentially "a one-note role."

He said, "I love Jane--honestly, I do. I'm dying to star in one of [screenwriter and director] Christopher Guest's movies alongside her. But I don't think she should have gotten the Emmy for that part."

When asked who should have won instead, O'Neill named his co-star, Vergara. "Sofia is just so, so funny,” he said. “I don't think people realize how hilarious she is. She's so sharp with her wit, it's amazing."

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Whatever Happened to Oscar Winner Jeremy Irons? He's Coming Soon to TV

Oscar winner Jeremy Irons, best known for his work in film and theater, is about to resurface on television. He will make a guest appearance on NBC's "Law & Order: SVU" in 2011, reports the New York Daily News.

Irons will play the director of a rehab clinic specializing in sexual addiction. In a statement, Neal Baer, executive producer, said, "We're elated to work with an actor of Jeremy's caliber. He brings depth, intelligence and charisma to all his varied roles, and we couldn't be luckier to have him guest-star on 'SVU.’”

Irons, a native of England, won an Academy Award in 1991 for his leading role in “Reversal of Fortune.”

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What Do Actresses Diahann Carroll and Cloris Leachman, Earle Hagen ('Andy Griffith' Theme), Game Show Guru Bill Todman, TV Execs Susan Harris and Tom Freston, and Peter Jennings Have in Common?

Actresses Diahann Carroll and Cloris Leachman, composer Earle Hagen, game show producer Bill Todman, writer/producer Susan Harris, cable executive Tom Freston and the late ABC news anchor Peter Jennings will all be honored as new members of the Television Academy Hall of Fame, Deadline.com reports.

The induction ceremony is scheduled for Jan. 20, 2011, at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

In a statement, John Shaffner, chairman and CEO of the Television Academy, said, “This year’s group of Hall of Fame inductees continues to exemplify and define the accomplishments that we recognize with this honor. Each one of them has contributed enormously to the art of television and we are proud to induct them into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. We congratulate them on this occasion and thank them for brightening our television universe with passion and talent.”

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Bewkes: HBO Could Eventually Become a Standalone Channel

HBO could one day be offered as a standalone service, not tied to any specific level of pay-TV subscription, Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes said yesterday, the New York Post reports.

HBO has been a part of cable packages since it started 38 years ago, but with overall cable subscriptions falling, is expected to report the loss of 1.5 million subscribers this year.

Bewkes said at a UBS media conference in New York that if HBO was "overly hindered by having to be part of $60, $80 or $100 packages, we could [sell the channel] through existing distributors" or via new digital platforms, such as Netflix, Google TV and Apple TV.

Such an a-la-carte offering by the leading premium pay-TV channel could boost HBO's subscriber level above its stagnant 30 million and add some profits to its bottom line, the report said.

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ABC Shakes Up Wednesdays With Midseason Plans

ABC has scheduled Matthew Perry's new comedy "Mr. Sunshine" and Elisha Cuthbert's sitcom "Happy Endings" for midseason slots, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"Mr. Sunshine" will replace for "Cougar Town"  on Wednesdays for nine weeks starting Feb. 9, with a "Modern Family" lead-in. "Cougar Town" returns April 13 and will run the rest of the season.

Also, after the last airing of the new drama "Off the Map" April 6, "Happy Endings" and a "fan favorite" episode of "Modern Family" will run in the 10 p.m hour.

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Grammatical Faux Pas? Kelsey Engaged To Girlfriend While Still Married to Wife No. 3

Having been married a few times before, Kelsey Grammer certainly realizes that, generally speaking, one needs to be divorced before one can marry a next time.

In confirming that Grammer, 55 is engaged to  flight attendant Kayte Walsh, 29, Us Magazine reports that   "In July, Grammer filed for divorce from third wife Camille, 41, currently starring in 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.' Married for 13 years, Kelsey and Camille have a daughter, Mason, 9, and son Jude, 5. (The end of their marriage is set to be documented on future episodes of the Bravo hit.) The former Frasier star met flight attendant Walsh in NYC; she sadly suffered a miscarriage in September."

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A Trio of Men Set Guinness World Record by Watching Every Episode of Fox's '24'

Three men set a Guinness World Record Monday for the longest continuous TV-watching period as part of a marathon event put on by Fox for the show “24,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

 Kevin Coon, Farris Hodo and Victor Lopez won $10,000 each for for watching every season of the series, an ordeal that lasted 86 hours, six minutes and 41 seconds, the report says.

They were the remaining three of a group of 100 who had signed up for the marathon on the event’s Facebook page. The group began watching Thursday night in a makeshift room created in the middle of the Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, the report says, adding that by Friday afternoon, 49 had dropped out of the contest, all of them receiving copies of the complete series DVD (which will be released Dec. 14). 

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'The View' Co-host Wins Plagiarism Suit Brought by Health Book Author

"The View" co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck won a plagiarism lawsuit Monday, absolving her of charges that she lifted passages from a book on the digestive disorder celiac disease, the Huffington Post reports.

A judge in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, where the suit was filed, found no evidence of plagiarism, HuffPo says. 

Author Susan Hassett had claimed she sent Hasselbeck a book she wrote on the disease in 2008. When Hasselbeck, who suffers from the disorder, released her own book on the same subject, "The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide," a year later, Hassett took her to court.

This is Hassett's second suit against Hasselbeck on the book; the first was dismissed by a federal judge last year, the report said.

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'Oprah' Giveaway Trip Audience Arrives in Australia

A 300-member Oprah Winfrey audience has landed in Sydney to begin enjoying the talk show's gift of an eight-day journey across Australia, The Hollywood Reporter reports..

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" kicked off her 25th and final season in September by surprising audience members with the trip, during which they will explore the Great Barrier Reef, the Outback and the country's wine regions, take surfing lessons, observe kangaroos and koalas on Kangaroo Island and enjoy beachside barbecues, THR said.

"Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure" will tape two episodes at the Sydney Opera House and a third episode at a yet-to-be-disclosed location, rumored to be somewhere in the Outback, the report said.

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Tribune Lenders Race the Clock to File Suit Against Sam Zell

Tribune lenders are racing to file a lawsuit by tonight's midnight deadline against real estate mogul Sam Zell, alleging the leveraged buyout of the company he engineered caused the business to quickly collapse, the New York Post reports.

Lawyers for the lenders will allege, sources told the Post, that Zell's Tribune took on too much debt and made the company immediately insolvent.

The report said that any recoveries from the Zell suit will be combined with the proceeds, if any, from related cases and will be placed in a litigation trust to be paid out to creditors, citing a person close to the situation.


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'CSI' Creator Anthony Zuiker Has Three Projects at CBS, One at The CW

"CSI" creator Anthony Zuiker, through his Dare to Pass Productions, has four projects sold to the networks, Dateline.com reports.

Three of the projects have landed at CBS: "Detail," "Desperado," and "Treadstone."

Over at the CW, which is co-owned by CBS, Zuiker is preparing "Spirits." 

According to the article, "Spirits" "is a paranormal procedural described as 'Paranormal Activity' meets 'CSI' with a little 'Charmed' mixed in and centers on a team of three young women who solve paranormal mysteries."

The story also says that "Treadstone" is about "the workings of the Robert Ludlum-created fictional division of the CIA and chronicles how real spies live and operate in today’s world." 

"Desperado" focuses on  "a modern-day lawman," and "Detail" "is inspired by top celebrity bodyguard Kim Maree Penn and follows a private female security expert."

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Discovery Networks Looking for an 'Economic Goodie' From Distributors if It's Going to Embrace TV Everywhere; Separately, Discovery Has Strategy to Get Higher Ad Rates for Investigation Discovery

Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav says the company needs an incentive if it is to embrace the TV everywhere concept, writes our friend David Goetzl in MediaDailyNews.

According to the article, "It may be a while and take some serious money before Discovery Communications makes its networks available via a TV Everywhere-type model. All agreements with distributors for Discovery's 13 networks call for TV-only distribution and don't allow for multiplatform extensions."

The story goes on to quote Zaslav speaking on Monday, Dec. 6, 2010, at a UBS investor's conference saying that the reason distributors do a TV Everywhere type deal is to attract and keep customers by allowing them to watch programming on the Internnet as well as on TV. "'That's a goodie for them, and that means there should be some economic goodie for us,' Zaslav said."

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As FX Chief John Landgraf Cancels the Highly Acclaimed, Low-Rated 'Terriers,' He Says Don't Blame The Marketing Campaign Which Led Many to Believe the Show was About Angry (or Fighting) Dogs

As FX President John Landgraf canceled "Terriers" he explained that the low ratings for the show were not the fault of the marketing campaign, reports Deadline.com

Terriers.gifAccording to the article, "A lot had been said about the marketing campaign for the show, with some complaining that the billboards featuring the gnarling dog may have been misleading and thus responsible for the buddy detective show's low-rated launch. Landgraf said that those billboards were only used in Los Angeles and New York, and, 3 weeks into the series' run, he ordered a study with 600 people who had not seen the show that examined the effectiveness of 'Terriers' TV promos that had dominated the series' marketing campaign.

The result? According to the story, "The testing showed that the promos 'represented the show extremely well and explained very well what it was about,' Landgraf said. 'From my standpoint, the marketing department of FX has taken a little bit of unfair knocks for the lack of performance of the show. I don't think there is anybody to blame. It's hard to explain why people didn’t watch.'"

One reason the show didn't click with viewers, Landgraf said, is that the series' "subtle charm" was 180 degrees from the pop culture sensibility of such shows as "Jersey Shore," "The Walking Dead" and FX's own "Sons of Anarchy," the article said.

One of the show's executive producers, Shawn Ryan, who created the hit "The Shield" for FX, said in a tweet, according to the story, "Thanks for all the condolences, Terriers fans. Ultimately, we couldn't get enough people to watch. Don't blame FX. They're still 1st class."

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Comic Dane Cook Wins $12 Million in Restitution After Family Members Embezzled From Him

The brother and sister-in-law of comedian Dane Cook have been ordered to repay him $12 million, reports TV Guide.

Cook’s half-brother, Darryl McCauley, and his wife, Erika McCauley, were accused of embezzling money from Cook when Darryl acted as Cook’s business manager. The pair pleaded guilty to stealing from Cook, and will serve time for their crimes.

Darryl received a sentence of five to six years in prison and Erika was sentenced to two-and-a-half to three years in prison.

The order for restitution was made by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.

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Now That 'Boardwalk Empire' Has Ended Season One, Here's Why and How It Dazzled, Making Sparkling TV

One of TVWeek Open Mic blogger Hillary Atkin's favorite shows this season has been HBO's "Broadwalk Empire."

In her latest entry she explains why the show has been brilliant. And yes, there are spoilers galore if you haven't seen the entire season.

Please click here to read Hillary's very perceptive observations.

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'Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.' Oprah Picks Two Classics as her Next Book Club Selection

Oprah Winfrey has gone back to the 1800s for her latest book club selection. It's a dual selection by the all-time master of popular fiction---and an author who Oprah said she hasn't read before.

On today's show--Monday, Dec, 6, 2010--Oprah chose two classic novels written by Charles Dickens as her dual book club selection: "A Tale of Two Cities" and "David Copperfield."

Oprah told her audience, ""Normally, I only choose books that I've read, but I must shamefully admit to you all that I have never read Dickens," according to National Public Radio.

Oprah has chosen older novels before, particularly during a stretch between 2003 and 2006, when some of her selections were "East of Eden," "Anna Karenina," "The Good Earth" and "The Sound and the Fury." 

We love it that Oprah picks both older books as well as new ones. The best news Oprah delivered on her show today is that she'll continue her book club selections when she moves to the Oprah Winfrey Network in January.

Authors who Oprah has never chosen who we'd urge Oprah to consider in the future include three of our favorites, Somerset Maugham, Walter Mosley and Robert Stone.

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Legendary Counterculture Comic Joins Fox Sitcom Pilot; 'Seinfeld' Veteran Set to Direct

The latest addition to the Fox pilot "Outnumbered" is an actor who carved out a stoner identity as part of a popular counterculture comedy team in the 1970s before going on to a solid career in television and film, reports Deadline.com.

The actor is Cheech Marin, who gained fame as half of the comedy duo Cheech & Chong. The pilot, which stars "Ugly Betty's" Ana Ortiz and Cliff Chamberlain, will be directed by Larry Charles, who was one of the main writers on “Seinfeld.”

The Fox show is a sitcom based on a BBC comedy about a couple who are in over their heads caring for their three kids.

Marin recently reunited with partner Tommy Chong for a major comedy tour, but in the past few decades he has become known more for his work on TV shows such as “Nash Bridges” and the “Golden Girls” spinoff “The Golden Palace,” and in Robert Rodriguez films including “Machete.”

Marin will play Ortiz's father, who believes in taking pills for all ailments. Most recently, Marin had a recurring role on ABC's "Lost."

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Neil Patrick Harris--Star of Video Games, Award Shows and a Successful CBS Sitcom--Adds Another Credit to His Resume

Neil Patrick Harris, one of the stars of CBS's "How I Met Your Mother" and a veteran host of award shows--including the Tonys and the Emmys--will be adding another award gig to his resume, reports the AP.

Spike TV announced Monday that Harris will host the eighth annual Video Game Awards. In addition to honoring the best video games, the broadcast will feature 13 world premieres of games scheduled for release in 2011 and beyond.

Harris is a star of video games in his own right, providing voiceover for a number of games, including most recently “Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions” and “Rock of the Dead.”

Spike TV presents the awards on Saturday, Dec. 11, at 8 p.m. ET.

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NFL Broadcasts Again Dominate Sunday Ratings

The NFL delivered strong Nielsen numbers Sunday for both Fox, with its late game overrun, and NBC, with a prime-time showdown between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, reports TVbytheNumbers.com.

NBC easily won the night overall, finishing with a 5.7 average rating in adults 18-49, to Fox’s 4.6. CBS trailed with a 2.6 rating in 18-49, followed closely by ABC with a 2.5

In total viewers it was NBC by a wide margin with an average of 16.1 million to Fox’s 11.6 million, CBS’s 10.9 million and ABC’s 8.7 million.

At 7 p.m. Fox's NFL runover produced a 9.3 rating and a 5.8, respectively, in the 18-49 demographic for the top and bottom halves of the hour. NBC's "Football Night in America" averaged a 2.2 in the same demo, and CBS's "60 Minutes" had a 2.05 mean in that demo for the hour. ABC's "America's Funniest Home Videos" averaged a 1.9 rating for the hour in the 18-49 demo.

At 8 p.m. the first hour of NBC's game coverage collected a 5.0 rating and a 7.2, respectively, in the 18-49 demographic. Fox's "The Simpsons" and "The Cleveland Show" had a 4.2 and a 3.2, respectively, in the same demo, while CBS's "The Amazing Race" pulled in a 3.0 in that demo for the hour. ABC's "Extreme Makeover" averaged a 2.2 in the 18-49 for the hour.

NBC's NFL broadcast was tops for the 9 p.m. hour with a 7.25 average in the 18-49 demo. ABC's "Desperate Housewives" followed with at 3.5 in the 18-49 demo, while a second ep of "The Cleveland Show" on Fox, followed by "American Dad," had a 2.8 rating and a 2.5, respectively, in that demo. CBS's "Undercover Boss" had a 2.7 average in the 18-49 demo for the hour.

At 10 p.m. Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore averaged a 7.4 in the 18-49 demo for NBC. CBS's "CSI: Miami" had a 2.5 mean score for the hour in the 18-49 demo, while ABC's "Brothers & Sisters" had a 2.2 average in the 18-49 demo for the hour.

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'Dr Oz' Sold in Seven More International Territories

Sony Pictures Television has sold "The Dr. Oz Show" to seven countries in Asia Pacific, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The health-oriented talk show will be broadcast on free-to-air networks including Seven Network in Australia, TV3 in New Zealand, Brunei’s RTB2, Malaysia’s Hijrah TV, Indonesia’s B Channel, and Thailand’s TPBS starting this month and in early 2011. Pay channels Foxtel’s W Channel in Australia, and Korea’s ELLE atTV had also licensed the show.

The show had been already picked up in Croatia, Portugal, Moldova and Latin America, while its format had been adapted in China, Russia and Turkey.

 

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Ronni Chasen's Brother, Larry Cohen, Thinks the Man Who Killed Himself In Front Of Police Probably Had Nothing To Do With Her Death; Larry Does Have His Own Theory of What Happened

Larry Cohen, the filmmaker brother ("It's Alive," many others) of murdered Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen, thinks the man who killed himself when police went to question him about the murder probably had nothing to do with it,The New York Times reports.

The article, by Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes, does quote Cohen with his theory about what happened.

Cohen says that the man who killed himself, Harold Smith, "was a deranged person who just made that up; no way he was involved. I still think this was most likely a case of road rage.”

Authorities are also increasingly wondering whether Smith was involved, according to numerous media reports. One reason, as ABC News notes, is that "Ballistics tests do not link Harold Smith's gun to shots that killed Chasen."

In that same article, Robin Sax, a former prosecutor, said, on "Good Morning America" that she finds Cohen's comments of interest: " 'Family members are always going to be of importance. Our biggest clue is to look in the will. Who was left out? Ronni Chasen's brother. It doesn't seem that they've had a very close relationship until their mother died in 2000. Why is it that he is so hung up on this road rage theory when no one supports that theory? Clues are making us wonder what involvement, if any, does he have.' "

According to the article, Dana Cole, a defense attorney. added this: "If this was a professional hit, then you can usually trace it back to some sort of financial issue, and the fact that she was a spendthrift at some point and time may actually become an important clue."

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One of the Big Reasons 'Monday Night Football' Became Not Only Popular, But a Cultural Touch Point in the 1970s, Was The Banter Between Howard Cosell and Don Meredith; 'Dandy' Don Dead at 72

Don Meredith, early Dallas Cowboys quarterback and an original member of ABC's "Monday Night Football" team, died of a brain hemorrhage Sunday in Santa Fe, N.M., according to the Associated Press. He was 72.

"Dandy Don," as he came to be known, played for the Cowboys from 1960-1968, becoming the starting quarterback in 1965. 

Two years after retiring unexpectedly before the 1969 season, Meredith joined Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell on ABC's "Monday Night Football" commentator team, his folksy sayings and country humor quickly endearing him to sports fans , the report says.

Jackson was replaced after the first season as the play-by-play announcer by Frank Gifford.

Meredith left ABC for a three-year stint at NBC after the 1973 season but returned to "MNF" in 1977 before retiring in 1984, a year after Cosell's departure from the team. Cosell died in 1995.

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The New York Times Says Under What Conditions the Government Should Approve the Comcast-NBC Universal Deal

The New York Times, in an editorial, called on the government to impose certain conditions if it is to approve Comcast's takeover of NBC Universal, writes John Eggerton in Multichannel News.

According to Multichannel, the Times' editorial, published today, Monday, Dec. 6, 2010, "The New York Times editorial page argued Monday that the proposed Comcast/NBC Universal merger needs online access conditions and should be forced to provide "reasonably priced" standalone broadband.The newspaper talks ominously of the combined company being able to stamp out online innovation without 'precise conditions on access to online content.' "

The editorial goes on say: "The merged company must be made to provide content not only to rival cable systems but also to Internet-only rivals, on reasonable terms. And it should also commit, in a legally binding way, to offer reasonably priced broadband subscriptions independent of its TV bundles. "

Says Eggerton, "The Washington Post in an editorial in October also suggested there could be conditions on the deal, but advised to avoid network neutrality conditions, which would include nondiscriminatory access to content and applications if the FCC gets its way later this month. But the bottom line of the editorial was that the deal should go through with the companies watched carefully."

To see the entire New York Times editorial, click here.

If you wish to read the entire Washington Post editorial of October 25th, 2010, click here.

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Some Theories About Why the NFL Is So Popular On TV This Season

"Since the TV season began last September, there has been only one game in town — the NFL. It’s no longer just the players on the field shattering records. A dramatic increase in viewers has given football its highest ratings in a quarter century."

So begins a story in the New York Post by Mike Rubin.

According to Mike's story, one reason for the ratings surge is that there are "no shortage of compelling storylines, both on and off the field."

Another reason he cites in his story: "Three-quarters of all the teams in the NFL are still alive for a playoff spot."

He also mentions another reason: HDTV.

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ESPN Study Throws Cold Water on 'Cord-Cutting' Fears

A new ESPN study of "cord-cutting," or consumer disconnection from cable TV service, has concluded that such cancellations are currently a “very minor” phenomenon, the New York Times reports.

"The study provides a new answer, or at least a new set of data, for a question that looms over the television industry: how many Americans are dropping their costly cable subscriptions and watching TV on the Internet instead?" the Times said.

ESPN's study, being released today, found that cord-cutting has occurred 0.28% of U.S. households in last three months, However, it also found that 0.17% of households that had been broadcast-only signed up for pay TV and broadband, offsetting the cord-cutting, the Times said.

“So the net amount of cord-cutting for one quarter was just one-tenth of 1 percent,” the report quoted ESPN VP for Integrated Media Research Glenn Enoch as saying.

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What Happens When Subscribers to Cable or Satellite or Phone Company-Supplied TV Cancel Those Services and Go Back to Receiving Over-The-Air Stations With Rabbit Ears

In a feature article about consumers who have abandoned pay TV services to return to getting over-the-air channels there is some evidence pointing to the folks who do this are "20-somethings who pair over-the-air and Internet programming," reports The New York Times.

For example, in the article a young couple, the Bayerls, are interviewed: " ' husband’s best friend thinks we’re big dorks for having rabbit ears and not cable,'Ms. Bayerl said. But when their introductory price for cable TV and Internet access expired this year and the bill soared to $150, the couple halved it by cutting TV. 'It wasn’t something we were willing to pay for,' he said.' "

The article adds, "The only thing they do not love is how a low-flying plane, heavy rain or just a little too much movement in the room can wipe out the picture. 'If someone is changing in there, it messes up your reception,' said Ms. Bayerl, a legislative assistant. 'We try to stay very still when we watch television.' "

Says the story, "Many pay TV customers are making the same decision. From April to September, cable and satellite companies had a net loss of about 330,000 customers. Craig Moffett, a longtime cable analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein, said the consensus of the industry executives he had talked to was that most of these so-called cord-cutters were turning to over-the-air TV. 'It looks like they’re leaving for the antenna,' he said."

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Show Can't Go On: Stunt Mishap Thwarts Justin Bieber Appearance on German TV

Performances by Justin Bieber and Take That on "Wanna Bet?," Germany's top TV variety show, were canceled after an amateur stuntman was severely injured during a stunt staged during the live show's broadcast, The Hollywood Reporter reports.

The 23-year-old man was trying to jump over a speeding car driven by his father when he hit the windshield and crashed to the ground. He was taken to hospital and is in a medically induced coma undergoing treatment for a severe spinal injury, the Reporter says.

The longrunning show was immediately canceled by broadcaster ZDF, the report says.

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Hedge Fund Willing to Fund a Borders Buyout Attempt of Troubled Barnes & Noble. Dunno About You, But of These Two Giants, We've Always Liked the Gestalt of Barnes & Noble Better

A hedge fund is willing to help the Borders book chain bid for its troubled rival, Barnes & Noble, Bloomberg reports.

According to the article, "Williamn Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management LP said they may collaborate on an offer for the bookstore chain. Ackman’s New York hedge-fund firm is willing to help Borders fund an offer of $16 a share, according to a regulatory filing today."

Bloomberg continues, "The offer price would value Barnes & Noble at about $960 million, based on the shares outstanding. The proposal from Pershing, the largest Borders holder after Chief Executive Officer Bennett Lebow, would combine the two biggest bookstore chains in the U.S. as sales of paper books slump further.

It's a bit like the pot trying to save the kettle. Neither chain is doiing well. Louis Meyer, an analyst for Oscar Gruss & Son Inc. in New York, told Bloomberg, "“We have a totally failed bookstore essentially trying to merge with a bookseller that’s the largest in the market that is having a hard time maintaining traction.”

According to the story, "Last month, New York-based Barnes & Noble forecast a wider annual loss than initially projected. The company also said then that it’s still completing a strategic review of its options, including a possible sale."

As far as Borders' ledger goes, the article notes, "Borders is scheduled to report third-quarter results Dec. 9. The bookstore chain, which has posted four straight annual losses, had $25.1 million in cash and cash equivalents in the quarter ended July 31."

A bit of editorializing here. As was the case when Tower records went out of business, we really hate it when  these big chains that carry books and music go out of business. It's bad enough that the ranks of all the independent sellers have been decimated. 

It's a tough dilemma. We like using Amazon and its online brethren as much as anyone. But we also love the joys of browsing in brick and mortar stores.   

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Is Online Voting Coming to 'American Idol?'

Rumors started flying on the Internet last week that there will be online voting on "American Idol" this season.

For example, TVSquad reports that "According to Reality Blurred, some intrepid 'AI' sleuths have deduced how the field will be narrowed down to the finalists now that the semi-final rounds are out: online voting."

The article continues. "Just to be clear: This is not official news from Fox, but it is a likely (and probable) explanation for several clues floating around the internet right now. 'Idol'-tracking website AI Now noted that the Twitter bio for an account titled 'AI10 Contestants' reads 'Voting begins Thursday, February 24 at ATT.com/Idol.' Plus, an insider told Vote for the Worst that 40 to 50 contestants will be prominently featured during the five Hollywood episodes, with viewers voting online for the top 12 contestants. Three more finalists will be chosen via a judges' wild card."

While TV Squad says that online voting might be a good thing, it also cautions, "Online voting is open for scandal. There are plenty of hackers who could do some damage, voting the worst candidates through (hm, a familiar concept) or rigging the process in favor of specific singers. Just look at the whole Bristol Palin/Tea Party conspiracy theory from this season of 'Dancing With the Stars.' Did the Tea Party actually vote Palin to the finals? Another downside: It's way easier for lusty viewers to click a couple thousand times for the attractive yet mediocre performers. Tim Urban, anyone?"

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As 'Dexter' Continues to Kill in the Ratings, Showtime Renews Series for Season Six

Showtime has renewed its hit series "Dexter" for another season, the show's sixth.

Meanwhile, "The fifth season of the series is on pace to set a Nielsen-best for the show, reports our friend Tom Umstead in Multichannel News. Dexter's Nov. 28th episode drew 2.54 million viewers, the series' second biggest audience since the season four finale in 2009, which drew 2.57 million. The fifth-season finale airs Sunday (Dec. 12)."

Umstead adds, "Director Steve Shill won the Emmy for outstanding directing for a drama series [this year]" and "The show has received numerous Golden Globe nominations, as well as the Peabody Award in 2008 and was twice named one of AFI's top 10 television series."

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Actors Unions Approve New Film & TV Contract

The joint board of the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists overwhelmingly approved a recently negotiated film and TV contract on Saturday that will provide members with modest pay raises and an increase in employer contributions to their health and pension plans, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The combined board of the two main actors unions voted 89% to 11% to approve the contract. SAG has 125,000 members and shares about 40,000 members with its smaller sister union, which also represents broadcasters and performers.

The three-year contract is still subject to approval by a majority of union members before it can go into effect July 1.

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Bristol Palin Denies Her Mother Made Her Do 'Stars'

Bristol Palin denied on her Facebook page Sunday that her mother Sarah Palin pressed her take part in the reality competition series, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

In response to a blog by comedian and fellow dancer Margaret Cho last week, Bristol Palin wrote, "Let me be blunt: my mom did not 'force' me to go on DWTS. She did not ask me either. The show approached me. I thought about it. I made the decision."

Cho had blogged that the "only reason Bristol was on the show was because Sarah Palin forced her to do it." 

Bristol Palin's response also said, 'Let me shamelessly steal from Saturday Night Live: 'Really, Margaret? Really? It is this type of hurtful and false narrative that people promote to make my mom look bad."

Palin ended the letter with a joke about Cho's bisexuality, saying that if she truly understood conservative values, "you would embrace us faster than KD Lang at an Indigo Girls concert," THR said.

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Cherished, Emmy-Winning Casting Director Dies Suddenly, Just a Week After Being Diagnosed with Cancer

One of TV's cherished casting directors has passed away, just a week after being diagnosed with cancer, reports Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com.

"Emmy-winning casting director Peggy Kennedy died today at Cedars-Sinai" hospital in Los Angeles, the article says.

According to the story, Kennedy and Debi Manwiller won an Emmy in 2004 for their work on "24." That long-running show was particularly praised by many--including TVWeek--for its casting.

Kennedy also worked on "Reservoir Dogs,"  "L.A. Law,"  "Chicago Hope," "Level 9,"  "Wolf Lake," and "Human Target," the article says.

peggykennedy.jpg

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Only Known Footage of Chasen Crash Reveals Other Car

Beverly Hills Police investigators have reviewed footage from two private surveillance cameras at a house near the scene of the shooting death of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The footage shot early Nov. 16 shows Chasen’s car colliding with a light pole, the story says. The video reportedly also shows a black Lincoln Town Car driving past the scene moments after the crash. However, experts are saying the Lincoln is probably not related to the shooting, according to the story.

The Beverly Hills Police have said they are unwilling to disclose any information about the investigation, including the contents of the surveillance video.

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Famed Restaurateur, Host to Countless A-List Celebs, Elaine Kaufman Dead at 81

Elaine Kaufman, who gained fame in her own right while playing host to countless literary and entertainment figures during her long tenure as owner of the New York eatery Elaine’s, has died, the New York Daily News reports.

Kaufman, whose longtime customers included Jackie Onassis, Frank Sinatra, Jack Nicholson, Woody Allen, George Steinbrenner and Lauren Bacall, died Friday afternoon at a New York hospital due to pulmonary problems, the story reports. She had been in poor health for five years.

Kaufman’s Upper East Side restaurant was a gathering place for the literary elite, including Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, Tennessee Williams, Gay Talese and Hunter S. Thompson, the story reports.

Countless stories of offbeat celebrity moments are set at Elaine’s, including Jackie Gleason unexpectedly slipping behind the bar to do his Joe the Bartender bit and Steinbrenner, a regular at the restaurant, being turned away at the door the night his Yankees beat the Mets in the Subway Series.

The opening to Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” was shot in the establishment, and Baryshnikov and Nureyev once performed an impromptu dance number there, the story says.

Kaufman befriended many of her celebrity customers, and once traveled through France with Oscar-winning director Sydney Pollock, the article reports.

Plans for a memorial in the new year are pending.

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ABC, 'Grey's Anatomy' Top Thursday Ratings

ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” claimed the top spot in the 18-49 demo in Thursday’s overnight ratings, helping to push the Alphabet Network to an overall ratings win for the night, according to TVbytheNumbers.com.

ABC finished the night as No. 1 in viewers 18-49 with a 3.1 average rating, ahead of NBC (2.2 rating), Fox (2.1) and CBS (1.9). In total viewers, CBS, despite airing all repeats, squeaked out a win for the night with 9.1 million to 8.8 million for ABC.

At 8 p.m. Fox's "Bones" had a 2.35 average rating in the 18-49 demographic, the same as ABC's rebroadcast of the holiday classic "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town." NBC's "Community" and "30 Rock" drew a 1.9 rating and a 2.3, respectively, in the same demo for the top and bottom of the hour, while CW's "The Vampire Diaries" had a 1.55 in the 18-49 demo.

"Grey's Anatomy" was tops at 9 p.m. with a 3.95 in the 18-49 demo, while NBC's "The Office" and "Outsourced" had a 3.7 and a 2.5, respectively, in the 18-49 demographic. Fox's "Fringe" averaged a 1.85 in the 18-49 demo for the hour, and CW's "Nikita" was steady with a 1.0 in the same demo.

At 10 p.m. ABC's "Private Practice" had a 2.9 average in the 18-49 demo for the hour, easily besting NBC's "The Apprentice," which averaged a 1.4 in the same demo for the hour.

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LeBron James' Return to Cleveland Hauls In Big Numbers for TNT

As expected, the return of NBA superstar LeBron James to Cleveland in a Miami Heat uniform was a big ratings draw for TNT, which earned its second-highest NBA overnight of the season, TVbytheNumbers.com reports.

The game drew a 4.2 household rating, according to figures reported by the cable network, with 7.1 million total viewers and 4.9 million households. The top-rated NBA game on TNT thus far this year was the Miami Heat vs. the Boston Celtics in the season opener.

In Thursday’s game James led the way with 38 points as his new Miami team easily beat his old Cavaliers team, 118-90.

TNT reported that its NBA ratings for the season to date are up significantly from last season, with increases of 38% in household rating, 45% in total viewers and 41% to 51% in several key demos.

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AMC to Rebroadcast Complete Run of Emmy-Winning Drama

All three seasons of an Emmy Award-winning drama will be rebroadcast on AMC beginning Dec. 8, with back-to-back episodes every Wednesday night, the cable network has announced.

The show is “Breaking Bad,” and AMC will go back to the beginning, televising all 33 episodes in order, two shows every Wednesday night, between December and March 2011.

The special run of the popular show will give viewers a chance to catch up with the story of chemistry teacher Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, who becomes a notorious meth “cooker” and gangster while trying to maintain his life as a husband and father.

The show is due back for a fourth season later in 2011.

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MTV, VH1 and Viacom Sued Over Reality Show

New York Daily News gossip columnists George Rush and Joanna Molloy have filed a $30,000 lawsuit against MTV, VH1, their parent Viacom and two production companies for breach of contract, reports Deadline.com.

According to the suit, Rush and Molloy pitched a reality TV show about their assistants at work, Sean Evans and Shallon Lester, which evolved into the show "Downtown Girls." The show focused on Lester and a few other female assistants not connected to Rush and Molloy.

Rush and Molloy allege they did not receive the producer credit or fees they were promised. The show ran for six episodes on MTV during summer 2010.

MTV said through a spokesperson that the network had not yet reviewed the claim.

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Howard Stern Poised to Move His Show to iTunes--If You Believe Rumors That Start With a Mysterious Tweet

With Howard Stern’s Sirius XM radio deal running out soon, rumor has it the shock jock will take his show to Apple’s iTunes.

At least that's the story that was circulating on the Web today, when Rolling Stone, BizJournals.com, the New Jersey Star-Ledger and at least 50 other outlets picked it up.

It originated with a tweet Thursday, the source of which no one seemed able to fully identify. It apparently came from the Twitter account SIRI_STOCK, which Rolling Stone reported is not connected with Sirius.

The various reports handle the information in different ways, with many sources making the point that anyone can say just about anything on Twitter.

Stern's deal with Sirius will be over at the end of the year, and a variety of rumors have been swirling around the fate of his popular show. The rumor that surfaced in the tweet has Stern poised to sign a three-year, $600 million dollar deal to transfer his program to iTunes and set up shop with a new Internet, TV and radio venture.

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ESPN Veteran Takes Key Post With CBS Sports

ESPN veteran David Berson has been hired by CBS Sports as executive vice president of CBS Sports and president of CBS College Sports Network, reports SportsNewser.com.

In a statement, Sean McManus, CBS News & Sports president, said, “David’s fresh perspective and distinguished record of success will be a tremendous asset to CBS Sports’ industry-leading portfolio. He has expertise across the many disciplines of sports media and has launched the kind of collegiate sports programming channels that will help CBS College Sports achieve even greater success.”

Berson was previously at ESPN as executive vice president of programming planning and strategy.

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Bristol Palin Defends Herself Against Olbermann's 'Worst Person' Attack

Bristol Palin defended herself Thursday against an attack from Keith Olbermann, who called her “the worst person in the world” because she preaches abstinence to teens even though she was an unwed teenager when she became a mother, The Hollywood Reporter reports.

The recent "Dancing With the Stars" contestant said on her Facebook page that she won’t let Olbermann,  the host of MSNBC’s "Countdown With Keith Olbermann," distort her message about the difficulties of teen pregnancy and that he is confused about what constitutes hypocrisy, the report said.

“In order to have credibility as a spokesperson, it sometimes takes a person who has made mistakes,” she wrote, according to THR. “Parents warn their children about the mistakes they made so they are not repeated. Former gang members travel to schools to educate teenagers about the risks of gang life.”

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Author of 'Charlie St. Cloud' Named President of ABC News

The man who has been an executive producer of "Good Morning America" and is the author of the best-selling novel that was the basis of the movie "Charlie St. Cloud" has been named president of ABC News, ABC has announced.,

He's Ben Sherwood, who ran "GMA" back in 2004. Sherwood was also a producer at NBC's "Nightly News With Tom Brokaw" for at least four years. At the time of the attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, he was the newscast's senior broadcast producer.

Sherwood replaces David Westin, who left his post as president of ABC News in September after 13 years.

Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group, said in a statement, “Ben’s proven success in the news business, along with his entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, and keen intellect, make him the ideal choice to lead ABC News into the future. His previous tenure at ABC led to the most successful seasons in' GMA’s' history, and his success as a bestselling author and digital entrepreneur demonstrate a unique skill set that is as valuable as it is diverse."

Said Sherwood in a statement, "It’s a great honor and privilege to be asked to lead this amazing news organization and I am humbled by the opportunity. For more than 20 years, I’ve known firsthand of the passion, excellence and integrity of the people who work for ABC News. I am thrilled to be coming back home, and look forward to harnessing our innovation and creativity to build on our great history of success.”

In the bio released by ABC about Sherwood it says: "He is also the author of two critically acclaimed best-selling novels: 'The Man Who Ate the 747' (2000) and 'The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud' (2004). His fiction has been published around the world. In July 2010, 'The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud' was adapted as a feature film starring Zac Efron and was released by Universal Pictures under the title 'Charlie St. Cloud.'  'The Man Who Ate the 747' is also being developed as a major motion picture and Broadway musical."

A native of Los Angeles, Sherwood, 46, graduated from Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles in 1981. He went on to college at Harvard and later became a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.

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DirecTV Threatens to Keep Dropping Weaker Networks to Fight Price Increases

DirecTV executives said Thursday that they are prepared to drop smaller, less popular channels--as the company recently did with Comcast's G4 network--in order to combat continued program fee increases, reports The Hollywood Reporter

Executive VP of Content Strategy and Development Derek Chang said at the company's investor day in New York that DirecTV and other distributors continue to face program fee increases, which in the case of sports often run in the double-digit percentage range, and have noticed a "clear shift of leverage" to content owners, which are often part of major conglomerates, THR said.

He added that distributors don't have "a bottomless pool of money," the report said, and as a result, DirecTV in certain cases will not renew carriage deals with channels that are "not necessary or not worth" their cost.

 

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Latest in Chasen Murder Investigation: Police Reportedly Checking To See If Past Burglary at Chasen's Residence Is Connected To Her Death. Another Report Says Cops Still Considering Road Rage As Reason For Attack on Chasen

WIth the latest twist in the Ronni Chasen murder investigation having been a suspect, or person of interest, killing himself before he could be questioned, police are still trying to figure out a motive for her murder, according to various media  reports.

ABC News says, "About three years ago, Chasen's residence was burglarized, a case which police are now looking at more closely to see if Chasen testified against anyone who may now be out of prison, or if there is any other connection."

The article continues, " 'My LAPD sources confirm that Ronni Chasen, who lived in West L.A., not in Beverly Hills, was the victim of a burglary which wasn't just a run of the mill looking for cash kind of burglary, but it appears that it was also something that was very personal in nature in that the items that were stolen from her were not necessarily items of value but more like items of family heirlooms, things that would have emotional value,' said Robin Sax, a former prosecutor, in an exclusive GMA ['Good Morning America'] interview."

Over at TMZ.com, a report says, "Sources connected with the criminal probe into the Ronni Chasen murder tell TMZ Ronni had a temper and road rage is a scenario cops are seriously investigating. We're told cops are interested in the road rage theory as it relates to the suicide of the man last night who was the object of a search warrant connected to the murder."

Furthermore TMZ has reported that "the [full name of  the] man who shot himself in the head is Harold Martin Smith." 

E! Online has written about Chasen's will. To read a summary of her will, please click here. To read Chasen's entire will, please click here.

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Nickelodeon Settles Suit Brought by 'Dora' Voice

A 14-year-old girl who was fired from voicing "Dora the Explorer" after she reached puberty has withdrawn her lawsuit against Nickelodeon, MTV Networks and Viacom, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

According to the report, John Balestriere, the attorney for former Dora voice Caitlin Sanchez, said her multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the producers is over. He was quoted as saying, "After discussions, the lawsuit was withdrawn" and declining to go into further detail.

Sanchez sued Nickelodeon in October, claiming she was forced to sign an "unconscionable" contract, and was given just 22 minutes to sign her deal without an experienced lawyer or lose the job.

Sanchez also claimed that reps from the network had promised her substantial compensation from merchandising and residuals, but later cut her out and underpaid her for her work.

"After discussion, the suit has been withdrawn," David Bittler, a spokesperson for Nickelodeon, told THR. "We have always felt, and continue to feel, that Caitlin is a very talented performer. Our intention was always that Caitlin complete the episodes on which she worked and we are pleased that she has agreed to do so.”

 

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Some Great Cult Classic TV--Including 'Larry Sanders,' 'Freaks and Geeks' and 'Action'--Coming to Cable

Some truly terrific cult classic TV series--including "The Larry Sanders Show," "Freaks and Geeks' and "Action." to just name three--will be part of a new comedy block debuting in January.

They'll all be on IFC and its 90-minute comedy block that debuts Monday, Jan. 3, 2011.

Said IFC in an announcement, "Continuing its successful strategy of returning 'slightly off' cult favorite shows to their loyal TV fans, IFC announced today that the network has acquired the complete series of 'The Larry Sanders Show,' 'The Ben Stiller Show,'  'Mr. Show with Bob and David' and 'Action.' The comedy series will debut on IFC in 2011, joining previously acquired viewer favorites 'Monty Python’s Flying Circus,' 'Arrested Development,'  'Freaks and Geeks' and 'Undeclared.'

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Time Warner Cable Media Sales Exec Tells Congress a 'Do Not Track' Online Behavior Regulation Could Hurt 'Vibrancy' of the Internet

Joan Gillman, executive vice president of media sales for Time Warner Cable, told a congressional subcommittee that if the government implements any kind of "do not track" regulation preventing companies from tracking user behavior on theWweb, it could hurt the vibrancy of the Internet, Multichannel News reports

According to the article, "Asked what the economic impact of do-not-track would be on her company, Gillman said she did not have specifics, and broadened the answer beyond economics. 'The risk one runs is that there are unintended consequences of a do-not-track policy in that it prevents companies like ours from innovating.' "

Furthermore, according to the article, "What should be explored, she said, were the consequences on smaller content providers and service providers, 'the small businesses in and around this ecosystem.' She said that, 'The smaller the Web site, the smaller the audience,' the more difficult it is to rely on contextual advertising. Those would be the ads directly related to the ones on a site being visited."

Countering Gillman's testimony, the article says, was Eben Moglen, Columbia law professor and Software Freedom Law Center founder, the story explains: "I think the attempt to connect the advertising business model to the importance of vibrant content on the Net or life-changing possibilities of expansion of access to underserved populations is poppycock," said Moglen, drawing some laughter from the hearing audience. He said that the purpose of advertisers was to "collect information concerning the capabilities of the potential buyer and to affect that buyer's behavior. That is also the definition of what intelligence services do."

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'America's Most Wanted' Tip Led to Chasen Suspect, Host Says

The host of the Fox series “America’s Most Wanted” said he believes a tip generated by an edition of his show helped lead Beverly Hills police to confront a man in the slaying of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen, the Los Angeles Times reports.

John Walsh told the Times that he was unable to provide specific details about the tip but said Beverly Hills investigators acted quickly on the information. "America's Most Wanted" aired a piece Nov. 20 about the murder of Chasen, who was shot to death early Nov. 16 while driving near Whittier Drive and Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills. 

“I believe they responded to a tip that we had passed on. BHPD reached out to us,” Walsh told the Times. “We have been working closely with Beverly Hills [police].”

Beverly Hills police had no comment on Walsh's statement, the report said.

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'Mike & Molly' Ranks as Top New Show in Viewer Engagement

CBS's "Mike & Molly" came out on top among new fall shows in Nielsen's viewer engagement ratings, according to The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed blog.

That "Mike & Molly" was trailed by "Raising Hope" and "Running Wilde" suggests new comedies may be showing better engagement than dramas, the report says, pointing out, "if that's the case, CBS's '$#*! My Dad Says' is notably absent."

Engagement ratings measure how much information a viewer recalls from a show, something that's important to advertisers, who want to reach viewers who are paying close attention, THR says.

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NBC Buys New Comedy From Steve Carell, Who Will Write Show as Well. Separately, Carell and David Steinberg Developing Another Project for TV

NBC "has bought a half-hour, single-camera project from the actor-comedian [Steve Carell] based on his early days working as a mail carrier in Littleton, Massachusetts," reports Michael Ausiello at Deadline.com.

Separately, Nellie Andreeva, also at Deadline.com, reports that Carell and David Steinberg--the once popular stand-up comic who's now a director--are working on a documentary about "the evolution of comedy over the past sixty years through the eyes of several generations of comedians." They hope to place this documentary on TV, the article says.

The Ausiello piece about the sitcom says that it's "titled 'The Post-Graduate Project.' It is described as a sweet and nostalgic take on the period of Carell’s early life as a mail carrier and centers on a small-town post office frequented by a quirky but tight-knit group of local twentysomethings."

The single-camera comedy will be executive produced by Carell and Thom Hinkle ("The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"), the article says.

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'Dancing With the Stars' Champ to Undergo Surgery After Injury Suffered During Competition

Just days after winning the "Dancing With the Stars" competition on ABC, actress Jennifer Grey has revealed that she was dancing hurt and will now have to have surgery, according to TV Guide.

Grey suffered a ruptured disc in her back during the "Dancing" season, but danced through the pain. The star of "Dirty Dancing," who has a history of back troubles, will have an operation on the disc this week.

Commenting on the procedure, Grey said, "It's just going to be like a little surgery where they take out the ruptured disc thing. Compared to the other surgeries I had on my neck, my doctor says it won't be a big deal."

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Wild and Crazy No More. Yes, Comedy Ain't Pretty, But Steve, You Couldn't Have Brought Along the Arrow That Goes Through Your Head? You Couldn't Have Broken Into 'King Tut'? Steve Martin Bores Audience So Venue Is Giving Everyone Their Money Back!

How embarrassing. Steve Martin--stand-up comic, actor, author, banjo player, raconteur and all-around funny man--was so boring during a live appearance recently that the venue is giving everyone their money back.

Martin was interviewed on Nov. 29, 1010, as part of the prestigious, lively interview series at the 92nd Street Y on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

It turns out that the evening was so boring that the Y has offered all 900 audience members a full refund of their $50 tickets, The New York Times reports.

Martin was interviewed by Deborah Solomon, who writes a weekly interview column for The Times.

According to the report, "Midway through the conversation, a Y representative handed Ms. Solomon a note asking her to talk more about Mr. Martin’s career and, implicitly, less about the art world, the subject of his latest novel, 'An Object of Beauty.'"

But apparently it was too late once the pair got around to talking about Martin's career.

The next day 92nd Street Y Executive Director Sol Adler sent out the following email to all of the night's ticket holders: “We acknowledge that last night’s event with Steve Martin did not meet the standard of excellence that you have come to expect from 92nd St. Y. We planned for a more comprehensive discussion and we, too, were disappointed with the evening. We will be mailing you a $50 certificate for each ticket you purchased to last night’s event. The gift certificate can be used toward future 92Y events, pending availability.”

Solomon told The Times in an email: “I had no idea that the Y programmers wanted me to talk to Steve instead on what it’s like to host the Oscars or appear in ‘It’s Complicated’ with Alec Baldwin. I think the Y, which is supposedly a champion of the arts, has behaved very crassly and is reinforcing the most philistine aspects of a culture that values celebrity and award shows over art.”

Martin told The Times that "he was taken aback by the Y’s response, describing it as 'discourteous' and adding, 'It seemed to me that a consultation was at least in order. As for the Y’s standard of excellence, it can’t be that high because this is the second time I’ve appeared there.”

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National Board of Review, The First Major Critics Association To Judge This Year's Movies, Gives 2010 Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Actor Award All to One Movie [Hint: The Few Good Men (and Women) Who Loved 'Sports Night' Will Be Pleased]

The National Board of Review has checked in with its choices for top movie kudos for the year, Deadline.com reports.

And the big winner is the Aaron Sorkin-penned "The Social Network."

The National Board of Review named the the Best Film Of 2010, Best Director for David Fincher, Best Adapted Screenplay for Aaron Sorkin, and Best Actor for Jesse Eisenberg.

In the film Eisenberg portrays Facebook founded Mark Zuckerberg, and the film gives a version of the social network's founding.

Sorkin who also wrote "A Few Good Men" for both stage an the big screen, is a well-known TV writer as well, having created "West Wing," "Sports Night" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip."

Here's a list of the winners designated by the National Board of Review, according to the Deadline.com article:

Best Film: The Social Network (Sony Pictures)
Best Director: David Fincher, The Social Network
Best Actor: Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Best Actress: Lesley Manville, Another Year
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter (Paramount/Relativity)
Best Supporting Actress: Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
Best Foreign Language Film: Of Gods and Men
Best Documentary: Waiting for “Superman”
Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3
Best Ensemble Cast: The Town
Breakthrough Performance: Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Debut Directors: Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, Restrepo
Spotlight Award: Sylvain Chomet and Jacques Tati, The Illusionist
Best Original Screenplay: Chris Sparling, Buried
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Special Filmmaking Achievement Award: Sofia Coppola for writing, directing, and producing Somewhere
William K. Everson Film History Award: Leonard Maltin
NBR Freedom of Expression: Fair Game, Conviction, Howl
Production Design Award: Dante Ferretti, Shutter Island

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NASA Announces Groundbreaking Development That Supports Theories of Life on Other Planets

Scientists working with NASA made an announcement today that may put to rest a flood of Internet rumors that followed the organization’s announcement Wednesday that it would be unveiling an “astrobiology finding," InformationWeek reports.

The discovery may not have been as dramatic as finding a real-life “ALF,” as had been rumored, but it is not insignificant in its own right. The scientists revealed that they had trained a bacterium--scraped from the bottom of California’s Mono Lake--to live on a diet that replaces one of the basic building blocks thought necessary for life, phosphorus, with arsenic — a development that opens the door considerably wider to the possibilityone of the bais that organisms may exist in places other than Planet Earth.

The results of the experiment, say the scientists, could expand on ideas about what life can be and where it can survive.

The story quotes Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a NASA astrobiology fellow at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., who led the experiment, saying, "[It grew and thrived. Nothing should have grown."

She added, "We've cracked open the door for what's possible with life elsewhere in the universe. What else might we find? What else might we want to look for?"

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What's the Most-Watched TV Show of the Season So Far? (Hint: It's Not Football)

Ten weeks into the fall television season, the battle for most-watched show of the season is about as close as it can be, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

The leader? CBS’s scripted drama “NCIS,” by a hair over ABC’s celebrity dance competition “Dancing With the Stars.”

“NCIS,” which stars Mark Harmon, David McCallum and Michael Weatherly, is averaging 21.30 million viewers to “Dancing’s” 21.26 million for its Monday performance show, the story reports.

Despite consistently strong numbers for NFL telecasts, NBC's Sunday night prime-time game has to settle for third place for now with an average of 20.21 million viewers.

The “Dancing With the Stars” Tuesday results show is in fourth place with an average of 18.55 million viewers, ahead of CBS’s “NCIS: Los Angeles” with 17.41 million. The rest of the Top 10 consists mostly of CBS scripted series — “The Mentalist,” “Criminal Minds,” “CSI” and “Two and a Half Men.”

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Suspect's Suicide Sparks Flurry of Theories in Publicist's Slaying

A number of theories have received attention in the wake of the news that a suspect in the killing of noted Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen shot and killed himself when confronted by police, as previously reported.

The suicide fueled a range of theories based on the belief that the killing was a hit.

Marc Malkin, writing for E! Online, spotlights three of those theories:

1. Chasen may have been paying off a gambling debt for a friend and decided to stop paying.

2. A movie or art deal went bad, triggering speculation that someone in the industry might be behind the killing.

3. Some have theorized that Chasen had a secret lover, a situation that could have sparked trouble in any number of ways.

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'Survivor' Leads CBS to Wednesday Ratings Win

CBS's "Survivor: Nicaragua" was the top-rated show on a generally sluggish Wednesday night, and CBS came out as the overall winner, according to TVbytheNumbers.com.

CBS won the 18-49 demo for the night with an average rating of 2.5, followed by Fox (2.1) and NBC (2.0), with Spanish-language broadcaster Univision (1.7) beating out ABC’s lineup of mostly reruns (1.5).

In total viewers it was also CBS on top, with an average for the night of 8.8 million, ahead of NBC (7.7 million), Fox (5.8 million), ABC (5.1 million) and Univision (4.2 million).

At 8 p.m. "Survivor" averaged a 3.55 in the 18-49 demo for the hour. Fox's "Human Target" averaged a 1.6 in the same demo for the hour, and CW's "America's Next Top Model" had a mean score of 1.5 in the 18-49, beating NBC's "Undercovers," which logged a 1.35 average in the same demo.

The 9 p.m. hour saw a close battle between Fox's "Hell's Kitchen" (2.55 rating in the 18-49 demo for the hour) and NBC's "Law & Order: SVU" (2.45). CW's "Hellcats" collected a mean score of 0.8 in the 18-49 in the time period.

NBC’s "Law & Order: LA" at 10 p.m. featured a Tiger Woods-esque ripped-from-the-headlines story and managed a time slot-winning 2.2 rating in the 18-49 demographic for the hour, up against CBS's "The Grammy Nominations Concert," which had a 1.7 average in that same demo. A fresh "The Whole Truth" on ABC averaged a 0.9 in the 18-49 demo for the hour.

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Suspect in Ronni Chasen Murder, Confronted by Police, Kills Himself

A suspect in the murder of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen, confronted by police, has killed himself, reports Andrew Blankstein in the Los Angeles Times.

According to the report, "A man described as a suspect in the slaying of veteran Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen fatally shot himself at a Hollywood apartment house Wednesday evening as Beverly Hills police were serving a search warrant there. The shooting occurred about 6 p.m. at the Harvey Apartments on Santa Monica Boulevard."

The suspect's name was Harold, the story said. No last name was given. It was not known if he was suspected of being the person who actually shot Chasen or suspected of being an accomplice, the story said. Chasen was killed at about 12:30 a.m. on Nov 16, 2010.

Here's what happened, the article said, "When police officers approached the man in the lobby of the apartment building, he backed up and refused their orders to raise his hands. He pulled out a pistol and shot himself in the head, the sources said. He died at the scene."

Furthermore, the article says, Harold told other tenants in the building that he was an ex-convict and said he'd never go back to prison.

According to the story, a man named Brandon Harrison (who is probably a tenant in the building, though the story does not make his identity clear) had this to say about Harold: "He said Harold told him that he was supposed to be getting $10,000, at one point saying it was for a job he did and on another occasion saying it was from a lawsuit. Harrison said he had no way of corroborating Harold's claims. 'I don't [know] if anything he told me was true,' Harrison said. "The man was very strange.' "

Other than saying that Harold was a suspect in the Chasen murder, the story gives no other details about why Chasen might have been killed.

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'Seinfeld' Online Spinoff

One of the "Seinfeld" gang is returning in an online spinoff of sorts, the Associated Press reports.

According to the story, "More than a decade after 'Seinfeld' ended, one of the TV series' most beloved characters has been reborn online. Jackie Chiles, the fast-talking attorney whose civil lawsuits were dependably foiled by Kramer, is starring in his own series on the comedy video website Funny or Die."

Chiles is played by Phil Morris, 41, who said he's always loved the character.

The AP article says,"In the Funny Or Die clips, Jackie has moved his practice to Los Angeles. He announces his return: 'Did you miss me? I knew that you did. But I'm back and I'm badder and madder than ever.' As for what he's been doing the last 12 years, Jackie only says 'none of your business.' But he does add another factoid from his past, claiming that Barack Obama was his paralegal before he went into politics and became president.

Though none of the writing team from "Seinfeld" will be involved in the Web spinoff, Morris did have to get permission from the show's co-creators, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, to do the spinoff with the Jackie Chiles character. According to the article, Jerry Seinfield said of the new project, "We always enjoyed Phil's ability to bring that character to life. Glad that it's living on." 

The spinoff will be written by Morris "along with actor-writer Whit Hertford," the article said.

Phil Morris as Jackie Chiles: jackiechiles-philnorris.jpg

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Report: Netflix Willing to Pay Studios Up To $100,000 Per Episode So It Can Rent-Out Current Episodes of TV Series

Netflix "is in talks with studios about gaining access to current episodes of primetime shows and is willing to pay between $70,000 and $100,000 per episode, according to a person familiar with the matter," reports our friend Claire Atkinson in the New York Post.

Atkinson notes, "Just last month, Netflix won a groundbreaking deal with NBC Universal to stream comedy show "Saturday Night Live" the day after it airs on the broadcast network."

One stumbling block is a dispute between the networks and the studios about who owns the rights to current series episodes. According to the story, " 'It's a big source of friction,' said one TV executive familiar with discussions. 'There are no agreements [on control of rights], but I think it will trend toward the networks being in charge of selling in-season in first run, and beyond that, the studio.' "

Atkinson adds, "Meanwhile, the more deals Netflix seals, the more uneasy Hollywood gets about the creation of a streaming giant. 'People are wondering if they did the right thing by selling to them,' said one Hollywood source. 'Are we mortgaging our future?' " 

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'CBS Morning News' Co-Anchor Wishes He Could Have Helped Ratings

"CBS Morning News" co-anchor Harry Smith, who was officially dismissed from the perennially third-place morning program on Tuesday along with co-anchors Maggie Rodriguez and Dave Price, says he is "disappointed that I wasn’t able to help CBS more from a ratings perspective,” The New York Times Media Decoder blog reports.

“It’s a tough racket. There’s only so much audience to go around,” he told The Times. 

“One of the givens is that the ‘Today’ show is as good at what they do as anybody--just about as good as anything in any business,” he told The Times, adding about the No 1-rated competition, “They are formidable. They are absolutely formidable.”

Second-place "Good Morning America,' he added, “is good at what they do, too.”

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FCC Commissioner Laments the State of TV News, Partially Blames Government

Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps is lamenting the state of television news, which he says is "in its hour of grave peril," Joe Flint reports in the Los Angeles Times Company Town blog.

Copps charges that the media is falling far short when it comes to serving the public, the report said, citing both a BBC World News America interview that aired yesterday and a speech Copps was scheduled to deliver today at Columbia University's School of Journalism. 

"American media is not 'producing the body of news and information that democracy needs to conduct its civic dialogue,' Copps said in an interview with the BBC's Katty Kay," the Times reported. "That trend, he added, has to be reversed or 'we are going to be pretty close to denying our citizens the essential news and information that they need to have in order to make intelligent decisions about the future direction of their country.'"

The report added, "But Copps, who has never been shy about criticizing big media, doesn't just point the finger at them. He says his own regulatory agency allowed much of it to happen through deregulation that cleared the way for a massive consolidation in the industry."

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Diller Steps Down as CEO of IAC; Company Buys Out Malone

Reuters reports that Barry Diller is stepping down as chief executive of IAC/InterActiveCorp, and that the company has bought out one of its largest shareholders, John Malone's Liberty Media Corp.

Liberty sold its equity stake in IAC for $220 million in cash and the Evite and Gifts.com businesses, the report said, adding that the online businesses will become part of Liberty's Interactive unit.

Liberty's stake included 60% of voting rights of all classes of IAC stock, which had been represented by Diller--a longtime business associate of cable pioneer Malone, with whom he had a falling out in 2008 over how Diller used Malone's voting rights in IAC, Reuters said.

Match.com Chief Executive Greg Blatt, 42, will take over as CEO from 68-year-old Diller, who remains as chairman and senior executive, the report said.

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International Press Academy Cites 'Glee,' 'Good Wife' With Satellite Award Nominations

The International Press Academy announced nominees for its 15th annual Satellite Awards on Wednesday, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The top contenders among TV shows were Fox's "Glee" and CBS' "The Good Wife" with five nominations each. The Satellite Awards feature 12 television categories, encompassing 38 programs.

As to motion pictures, Warner Bros.' "Inception" led the list with 11 nods among a field of 67 films in 22 categories. 

Winners will be announced at an awards luncheon Dec. 19 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Century City, THR said.

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Expect 'Dexter' Renewal to Come From Showtime in the Next Week

Showtime is getting ready to announce a renewal for "Dexter" within the next week or so, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The series had its second-highest ratings to date Sunday night, delivering 2.5 million viewers, an increase of 43% from the fifth-season premiere. That's an almost certain indication that the upcoming Dec. 12 season finale will set a new viewership record, the publication said.

While Showtime confidently renewed "Dexter" for two seasons back in 2008, THR points out that is not likely to happen this time, "since key talent deals will need to be renegotiated before the show's seventh season." 

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OWN Denies Courting Veteran CBS Syndication Programmer

Oprah Winfrey’s OWN cable network denied a New York Post report on Wednesday that it was in talks to hire  CBS Television Distribution's Terry Wood, according to The New York Times' Media Decoder blog.

“Absolutely not true,” Christina Norman, the chief executive of OWN, said about the Post report, The Times said.

Wood announced Monday that she would be leaving her longtime job as the president of creative affairs and development for CTD. At CBS she was involved in creating and managing syndicated franchises including "The Rachael Ray Show," "Dr. Phil,"  “Entertainment Tonight” and “Judge Judy.” 

The Post characterized her departure as abrupt and said she was “in talks to take over programming at OWN,” which The Times said "would be a significant development at OWN, given that the channel is coming on the air in exactly one month."

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Heather Locklear Hospitalized

Heather Locklear has been hospitalized, TMZ.com reports.

The article said that Locklear, 49, was suffering from a bacterial infection, was being treated with antibiotics and was NOT expected to stay in the hospital overnight. 

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Has NASA Found a Real-Life 'ALF'? (We Kid You Not ... The Web Is Rife With Rumors of What NASA Is Going to Announce on Thursday)

Has NASA found a real-life "ALF"--Alien Life Form? The Internet was rife with rumors Wednesday afternoon that that might be what NASA will reveal in a press conferece on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010.

Here's Leslie Horn's take on the hubbub at PCMag.com. First, he explains what NASA DID announce Wednesday: That it " 'will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. PST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life,' NASA said in a Wednesday statement. 'Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe.' "

Horn then said a Yahoo News report speculated that in the unlikely event alien life has been found, "it's probably from Mars, considering the Exploration Rover Spirit has been sitting idle on the red planet after getting trapped in sand about a year ago. This amount of time would allow the rover, which has been examining Mars since 2004, to monitor chemical changes that would imply the presence of life."

Horn then quoted blogger Jason Kottke as saying, ""If I had to guess at what NASA is going to reveal on Thursday, I'd say that they've discovered arsenic on Titan and maybe even detected chemical evidence of bacteria utilizing it for photosynthesis (by following the elements)."

The ALF that TV viewers know and loveALF1.bmp

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FTC Proposes That Consumers Get a 'Do Not Track' Option Online So Their Browsing and Buying Habits Cannot Be Monitored; Billions of Dollars Could Be Affected

The Federal Trade Commission has proposed that consumers be given the option to ensure that their browsing and buying habits online NOT be tracked, The New York Times reports.

Edward Wyatt and Tanzina Vega write in The Times that if consumers embrace the "do not track' option it "could directly affect the billions of dollars in business done by online advertising companies and by technology giants like Google that collect highly targeted information about consumers that can be used to deliver personalized advertising to them."

According to the article, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said, "“Despite some good actors, self-regulation of privacy has not worked adequately and is not working adequately for American consumers. We’d like to see companies work a lot faster to make consumer choice easier.”

Mike Zaneis, the senior vice president and general counsel of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, told The Times, "The online advertising industry ... would suffer 'significant economic harm' if the government controlled the do-not-track mechanism and there was 'a high participation rate similar to that of Do Not Call.' Mr. Zaneis said the industry would continue to build upon a self-regulatory framework and had recently implemented the use of icons on select online advertisements that allow users to opt out of targeted advertising. [He added] 'If your goal is to have a red flashing icon that says ‘click here to opt out of targeting’ and to incentivize people to opt out, then we don’t share that goal.'" 

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Perennial Holiday TV Favorite 'A Christmas Story' to Get Musical Adaptation

Peter Billingsley, who played the lead character as a child in the movie "A Christmas Story"--Ralphie--is overseeing a musical stage adaptation of the film, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Billingsley was just 12 when he starred as 9-year-old Ralphie, the kid who wanted a Red Ryder air rifle for Christmas. 

According to the report, Billingsley said about the 1983 film that it's "always meant a lot to me personally. I'm excited to bring this film to the stage because the story and the characters lend themselves so well to the world of musicals."

The Jean Shepard book on which the film was based will be fodder for the musical. At the time of its release, "A Christmas Story" was not a hit. However, the repeated showings on television every year since have made "A Christmas Story" a holiday classic.

The article says that "A Christmas Story: The Musical!" will play at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre and includes an original score from Broadway composing duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

Billingsley added, "I am honored to be a part of this project and look forward to bringing the play to more stages. Just think about the idea of a leg-lamp kickline."

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Spike Looks for Older Viewers, Orders 20 More Episodes of 'Auction Hunters'

Not only has Spike TV given "Auction Hunters" a second-season pickup, the network has ordered a whopping 20 episodes from the producers, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

That's the largest order ever for a reality TV series on Spike, and is seen as part of an effort by the network to attract older viewers.

Sharon Levy, executive VP of original series and animation for Spike, said in a statement, "'Auction Hunters' is among the new crop of Spike original series aimed at broadening the network’s audience. The show’s current median age is 39, five years older than the network’s current average age in 2010 for original series. The series is also bringing in new viewers [who] hadn’t watched Spike TV the week before."

 

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FCC Unveils Updated Net Neutrality Plan, Sets Vote for Dec. 21

The Federal Communications Commission today set a Dec. 21 vote on its new net neutrality proposal, which FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined this morning, PCMag.com reported.

The new plan mirrors the one proposed more than a year ago, without reclassifying broadband as a telecom service, the story says.

In a prepared statement, Genachowski said: "After months of hard work at the FCC, in other parts of government, in the private sector, and in the public interest community, and after receiving more than 100,000 comments from citizens across America, we have reached an important milestone in our effort to protect Internet freedom and openness.”

According to the PCMag story, “The plan outlined by Genachowski includes five basic points: meaningful transparency; a ban on blocking lawful apps and services; a ban on unreasonable network management; an allowance for a certain amount of ISP network management; and rules governing wireless that call for transparency and a basic no-blocking rule.”

One change for Internet service providers, according to the story, would be a requirement that they provide information to consumers about how their networks are managed, whether the service slows down at times, what usage caps are in place and so forth. This requirement, said Genachowski, would give consumers and innovators “the information they need to make smart choices about subscribing to or using a broadband network, or how to develop the next killer app."

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One of the Best TV Reporters in the TV Business Moving On: James Hibberd Exiting Hollywood Reporter for Entertainment Weekly

James Hibberd, the television editor for The Hollywood Reporter, has announced he will leave THR to join consumer magazine Entertainment Weekly, reports LAObserved.com.

Before he went to the Reporter, Hibberd was a terrific reporter for us here at TVWeek and we've never hid the fact that we are a huge fan of his.

THR Editorial Director Janice Min sent a memo to the staff confirming Hibberd’s exit and praising his dedication and professionalism.

Hibberd will write a TV blog for EW. He will remain with The Hollywood Reporter until Dec. 15.

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CBS Wins Close Tuesday Ratings Race as Nets Roll Out the Holiday Specials

CBS won a close ratings battle with Fox Tuesday night, using a combination of programming that ran the gamut from the holiday special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to a “Victoria’s Secret” fashion special, with a repeat of “NCIS” in between them, to eke out the top spot in the 18-49 demo, TVbytheNumbers.com reported.

CBS finished the night with a 3.4 rating in 18-49, followed by Fox (3.3), NBC (2.6) and ABC (1.9.)

The margin was more comfortable in total viewers, where CBS won the night with an average of 12.0 million to NBC’s 9.3 million, Fox’s 8.4 million and ABC’s 6.9 million.

At 8 p.m. Fox’s "Glee" averaged a 4.55 in the 18-49 demographic to wind up as the evening’s top-rated show. CBS's annual broadcast of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" scored a 3.85 in the same demo for the hour. ABC countered with "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Shrek the Halls," which had a 2.1 rating and a 2.4, respectively, in the 18-49 demo. NBC's "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" had a mean score of 1.9 and CW's "One Tree Hill" a 0.9 for the hour, both in the same 18-49 demo.

At 9 p.m. CBS’s repeat of “NCIS” was the top show, with a 3.05 average rating in 18-49. NBC's "The Biggest Loser" had a 2.9 in the 18-49 demographic for the hour, just ahead of Fox's "Raising Hope" with a 2.7 in that demo for the first half-hour, while Fox’s "Running Wilde" trailed with a 1.4 in the second half-hour. ABC's "No Ordinary Family" averaged a 1.85 in the 18-49 demo for the hour, and CW's "Life Unexpected" averaged a 0.75 in the 18-49 demo.

CBS scored again at 10 p.m. with "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show," which had a 3.4 average in the 18-49 demo for the hour, ahead of the second hour of "The Biggest Loser" with a 2.95 average in the same demo and ABC's "Detroit 1-8-7" with a 1.65 average in the 18-49 demo for the hour.

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WWE Exec Details Plans for Vince McMahon's 'All Wrestling' Network

In the world according to Vince McMahon, World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.'s chairman and chief executive, an all-wrestling television network is the way to go, reports Reuters.

McMahon will launch a cable channel that's all wrestling and wrestling personalities, all the time. The programming will feature matches, naturally, but also scripted storylines and shows for the stars.

The targeted launch date appears to be mid-2012 or early 2013, according to WWE Chief Operating Officer Donna Goldsmith. McMahon had a shorter timeline in mind when he talked earlier this year about plans for the network, but Goldsmith told Reuters this week, “ It’s taken us longer to galvanize the troops and figure out where we’re going.”

Goldsmith said the model for the WWE venture is likely to be similar to what Major League Baseball has done, involving pay-TV operators as part of the ownership of the network.

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Katie Couric Takes On Unusual Role

In a surprise appearance, "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric was on hand Tuesday night at a ceremony in New York to introduce the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, Drew Brees, reports TVNewser.

Couric emphasized Brees' contributions to the city of New Orleans, both on the field and off.

“This night was about much more than football,” Couric said in her introduction. “It was a new beginning for a city that still desperately needed a second chance, and in Drew ‘Breesus,’ they saw the second coming. You gave a reason for all of us to believe. Very simply put, Drew--on and off the field--you kick ass.”

Dan Patrick, star of the syndicated/DirecTV daytime sports talk show "The Dan Patrick Show," was the emcee for the night's festivities.

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More Veterans of Past J.J. Abrams Shows Have Been Cast in Abrams' New Fox Pilot

Two J.J. Abrams series veterans have been tapped to appear in "Alcatraz," the drama pilot the "Lost" executive producer is creating for Fox, Deadline.com reports.

Jonny Coyne, who appeared in two episodes of Abrams' canceled NBC drama "Undercovers" this fall, and Jason Butler Harner, who guest starred in Abrams' "Fringe" pilot, will have roles in the new project, from Warner Bros. TV and Abrams' Bad Robot.

According to Deadline, "Alcatraz" follows the efforts of a team of FBI agents tracking down a group of missing Alcatraz prisoners and guards. Coyne will play the warden and Harner will play his associate warden.

The two join previously cast Abrams vets Jorge Garcia and Sarah Jones in the pilot. 

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Leno Steals Bit, Then Gives Credit In a Way Few Would Know

Jay Leno stole a video bit he used  on the "Tonight" show recently, Tracy Phillips of Fancast reports.

According to the article, "On Monday’s episode featuring guest Taylor Swift, Leno aired a hilarious montage of the singer and her ’surprised’ reactions to winning her many awards. 'We put together a little montage of you being surprised,' Leno told the country sweetheart."

However, the article then goes on to say that the montage was actually found on the Internet and compiled by Rich Juzwiak and Kate Spencer. In a blog post Juzwiak wrote, according to the article, "Sean O’Rourke, a research coordinator for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno reached out to me for permission to show my Taylor Swift Is Surprised video during an upcoming sit-down interview with the pop star … Sean assured me I and/or my blog would get credit. What surprised me the most wasn’t so much that Kate and I weren’t mentioned, but that the video wasn’t credited as having originated on the Internet. This is not an obscure work — it’s racked up over 200,000 views in a week! I thought at the very least, he’d give and indication of this thing’s preexistence so that his viewers could hunt it down if they were so inclined. That was, apparently, expecting too much."

TVWeek would have assumed that once Leno was apprised of the situation that he would have apologized from his desk the next night and would have given credit where credit was due.

But that's not what happened. Instead, at the end of the next night's show the appropriate credit for the video montage was included in the end credits of the "Tonight" show. As most of us know, not a lot of folks who aren't in the business pay attention to those end credits. Here's Leno showing the video montage:

 

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TV Talk Show Host Hospitalized

A TV talk show host was hospitalized yesterday morning, and is expected to have an appendectomy.

It's daytime syndicated talk show host Nate Berkus, 39, who was stricken during an appearance on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010, on the "Today" show, reports People.

According to the article, " 'He was on the Today show [Tuesday] morning and he wasn't feeling well,' a rep for the company that produces "The Nate Berkus Show" tells People exclusively. "He powered through and then went straight to the hospital after that and they learned he had appendicitis."

The story added that Berkus, " '[H]ad to postpone tapings for now. He would have taped two shows today,' according to the rep. 't's anticipated that he will be back next week.

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Staff Writers of AMC Hit 'The Walking Dead' Are, Well, The Walking Dead. Series Creator Frank Darabont Reportedly Lets Writers Go

Frank Darabont, the creator of AMC's hit freshman show about zombies, "The Walking Dead," has dismissed the staff writers of the show, reports Nellie Andreeva of Deadline.com.

Furthermore, Andreeva writes, "I hear Darabont is looking to forgo having a writing staff for the second season of Walking Dead altogether and assign scripts to freelancers."

She adds, "The freelance model is employed by the Starz/BBC series 'Tourchwood,' which in turn borrowed it from the U.K. where the show originated. Having BBC as producer has allowed 'Torchwood' to proceed with no writing staff but I hear such a plan on an U.S.-based network series such as 'Walking Dead' may face issues with the Writers Guild."

The article concludes, "Sources tell me that no final decision has been made yet with all options open, including using some combination of a writing staff/freelances. There is time - AMC is mulling launching Walking Dead's second season the way it did the first one - in October during Fearfest."

 

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A True TV Legend, Who Created 'Entertainment Tonight,' Succumbs to Cancer. Al Masini, 80, Dies

The prolific television producer who created "Entertainment Tonight," "Star Search," "Solid Gold" and "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," Al Masini, has died at the age of 80, reports the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

According to the article he "died Monday {Nov. 29, 2010] of complications from melanoma."

The obituary said, "Masini once said he was not motivated to be rich -- just not poor. He said he was a simple person, remembered for his unassuming demeanor and deals sealed with a handshake."

The article explained how, among all his other accomplishments, he steered "Baywatch" to Hawaii:

"In 1999, when the popular lifeguard series "Baywatch" was looking to relocate from California to Australia, Masini engineered a deal that brought it to Hawaii.Greg Bonnan, executive producer of Baywatch,' said he had already spent months negotiating with government officials in Australia when he was approached by Masini.

"Sent by Cayetano, Masini sang the praises of Hawaii and the idea of keeping jobs in the United States, Bonnan said. But to Bonnan, Hawaii was a mystery and Australia a solid deal.'That's sketchy when you have to deliver a show to the world, but on the strength of Al's handshake and the look in his eye that it would work out, I went with it,' Bonnan said. 'Al was the guy that Hawaii trusted, and Al was the guy I trusted.'

Masini is survived by his wife Charlyn Honda Masini and his sister Melba Marvinny.

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ABC Developing Two Musical Series; One Would Star a Popular Tony Winner

ABC is developing two musical series, including one that would star a popular Tony-winning actress, reports Deadline.com.

According to the article, Idina Menzel, who won a Tony Award for her performance in "Wicked" as Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, "is headlining her own musical hourlong project, a mother-daughter relationship drama in the vein of 'Gilmore Girls.' It will star the Broadway actress as the single mother of a teenager who, to make ends meet, waits tables and performs at weddings and bar mitzvahs, odd jobs that Menzel herself worked early on while pursuing a Broadway career."

Menzel was recently on Fox's "Glee," whose success as a series with music is inspiring other networks to try the format.

Furthermore, the story says that "Bob Kushell ['Samantha Who'], who had been looking to do a musical series for the past 10 years, is writing the script for ABC Studios and will executive produce with David Knoller (Big Love). Menzel and her manager Heather Reynolds will serve as producers. 

The second project is a half hour musical comedy, the article says, written by Robert Horn, who also wrote the Disney Channel musical movies, "Sharpay Fabulous" and "The Suite Life: The Movie."

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'Ugly Betty' Actor to Star in Broadway Revival

An actor who starred in "Ugly Betty" will take over a top role in the current Broadway revival of "Angels in America," the New York Times reports. 

Michael Urie, who played Wilhelmina Slater's conniving assistant on the ABC series, and Adam Driver will play the lead roles in the revival, which is about AIDS and relationships in the 1980s, beginning Feb. 2, 2011, for a five-week extension through the end of March.

Urie earlier appeared in Off Broadway in 2008's The Temperamentals. 

 

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Why Google May Be Willing to Pay $5 Billion For Groupon

"Google may be on the verge of clinching its biggest deal yet with a reported $5-billion bid for Groupon, the fast-growing company that is blitzing the Internet with daily coupon deals."

So writes Jessica Guynn and Andrea Chang in the Los Angeles Times. Since that's an astounding amount of money, why would Google be willing to ante up so much dough?

Guynn and Chang explain why in their article: "Despite Google's success in selling text ads that accompany search results, it has missed out on online coupons that are influencing how people spend money offline."

The article continues, "That may help explain Google's apparent willingness to pay billions for Groupon. An estimated 42% of in-store sales are influenced by online research, but only 7% of purchasing takes place online, Susan Wojcicki, Google's senior vice president in charge of advertising products, said at a recent conference. Investors may be less certain. Google shares slipped 4.5% Tuesday over what analysts said was concern that the price tag may be too hefty."

And, as the article notes, " 'Google's got the cash to spend, and Groupon is one of the few properties worth hunting,' BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis said. 'If Google buys Groupon, we will have to wait and see if it's worth the premium Google has to pay.' "

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Study: Almost No One Cancels Subscription TV Services Because They Say They Want to Watch Video Primarily Online

A new study has found that practically no one cancels his or her cable or satellite subscription TV services so they can watch video primarily online, B&C reports

Says the article, "Frank N. Magid & Associates annual survey of consumer video consumption patterns found increased consumption of video on alternative platforms but uncovered little evidence of people abandoning subscription TV services. Only 1% of those survey reported dumping their pay TV provider in favor of accessing online video and only 2.5% of consumers claimed to be using Internet video content as their exclusive source of video."

Furthermore, according to the story, "The survey also found that 40% of consumers are watching TV shows and movies online using a laptop or computer at least occasionally but that consumers using the greatest number of alternative platforms also tended to spend the most money on traditional subscription services."

Magid surveyed 1,209 people in October 2010, the article says.

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Comcast Open To FCC Help in Level 3 Brouhaha; Dispute Centers Around Internet Interconnection Fees

"Comcast is willing to have the Federal Communications Commission oversee negotiations with Level 3 Communications to resolve their dispute over Internet interconnection fees, the cable operator said in a letter to the agency Tuesday," reports Multichannel News.

As the article explains, "Level 3 on Monday issued a press release complaining that Comcast had demanded a recurring fee to deliver Internet video to its customers. Comcast responded that Level 3 was trying to avoid paying standard content delivery network fees, after it recently inked a deal with Netflix to become a primary CDN provider." [To see our earlier story about Level 3's accusations, please click here.]

The article added, "In its filing Tuesday, Comcast said Level 3's position "is not based on any principles of fair-play on the Internet, but instead is merely the result of its rash bid to carry Netflix traffic at radically low rates, based on the flawed assumption that it could use its Tier 1 Internet backbone status to cram its CDN traffic onto others' networks on a settlement-free basis."

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