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Jan 31, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Keaton set to guest-star on ‘Frasier’

Michael Keaton, best known in the film world for his roles in “Batman” and “Beetlejuice,” is returning to TV as a guest star on “Frasier” on Feb. 26. Mr. Keaton plays Frasier’s (Kelsey Grammer) scheming, scamming ex-brother-in-law, Blaine Sternin, half-brother of Frasier’s icy former wife Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth). Before his movie success, Mr. Keaton was a series regular in the 1970s on “All’s Fair,” “Mary” and “Working Stiffs.”

WPIX-TV scores first 10 p.m. news ratings victory: For the first time ever, Tribune-owned WB affiliate WPIX-TV, New York, was No. 1 in ratings in the 10 p.m. news race. For the month of January WPIX, which was in third place a year ago, earned a 3.5 Nielsen Media Research rating and 5 share. It eked out Fox-owned WNYW-TV, which had a 3.4/5 while the UPN affiliate, now owned by Fox, WWOR-TV got a 2.8/4.

Lifetime renews ‘Strong Medicine’: Lifetime Television, basic-cable’s current rating leader, has renewed “Strong Medicine,” its highest-rated original drama, for a third season of 22 episodes.

The series, from Columbia TriStar Domestic Television, focuses on two female physicians who run a women’s clinic. “Medicine” is executive produced by actress Whoopi Goldberg and Tammy Ader (“Party of Five,” “Sisters”). It airs as part of Lifetime’s Sunday night programming block.

Doebler to helm WVTM in Birmingham: David Doebler has been named president and general manager of NBC’s owned-and-operated station, WVTM, in Birmingham, Alabama. The announcement, effective immediately, was made Thursday by Jay Ireland, president, NBC Television Stations.

Mr. Doebler will be responsible for all management aspects of WVTM and will report directly to Mr. Ireland.

Mr. Doebler joins WVTM from WNCN/NBC17, NBC’s owned-and-operated station in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he has been vice president of sales and creative services since 1999.

Donohoe to star in telefilm for Pax: Amanda Donohoe, a co-star in NBC’s former “L.A. Law” drama series, has been cast to star in “Mary Higgins Clark’s Lucky Day,” the last of six made-for-TV movies for the Pax TV network. The original two-hour mystery is scheduled to premiere within the “Pax Big Event” original movie showcase in May, 2002.

Based on the works of suspense novelist Mary Higgins Clark, the six telefilms for Pax have been shot in Toronto, with producers Sonny Grosso (“The French Connection”) and partner Larry Jacobson (“The Big Easy,” “Top Cops”) behind the movie series. Also executive producing is John Laing, chairman and CEO of Rigel Entertainment.

“Mary Higgins Clark’s Lucky Day” is produced by Justin Bodle of the UK-based Alltime Entertainment and Lisa Parasyn of Lucky Day Productions, and directed by Penelope Buitenhuis.

Shapiro, Grodner partner under new production banner: Veteran reality series producer Arnold Shapiro (“Big Brother 2,” “Scared Straight” “Rescue 911”) and longtime partner Allison Grodner (“The Teen Files,” “Flipped”) have formed a new production banner, Arnold Shapiro & Allison Grodner Productions, to develop new alternative series projects for the networks.

Mr. Shapiro and Ms. Grodner, along with development executive Amy Bailey, are said to be developing several reality series and specials for the broadcast and cable networks.

“Our experience on past projects under the Shapiro banner have shown us that we are stronger and more creative working together than separately,” said Mr. Shapiro, who also won an Academy Award for the documentary film “ScaredStraight.” Ms. Grodner added: “We look forward to a long and productive partnership.”

The pair have been frequent collaborators over the last 13 years. Ms. Grodner was a producer-director on the long-running CBS series “Rescue 911” and the producer-director-writer on “The Teen Files” for UPN — the latter of which earned Emmy Awards for the producing duo. Last summer, Mr. Shapiro and Ms. Grodner executive produced CBS’s reality series “Big Brother 2” or Endemol USA. They recently completed “On Parole,” a reality pilot for Columbia TriStar Domestic Television, in association with Angry Dragon Entertainment.

Currently, Mr. Shapiro and Ms. Grodner are executive producing the series “Flipped” for MTV; “Parole Board” for A&E; a 90-minute special, “Small Town Ecstasy,” for HBO (premiering April 28); two specials for CBS titled “DNA: The Final Truth”; and several specials for MSNBC.

Viewers pay attention to Super Bowl ads, study shows: How much bang for the buck are Super Bowl advertisers getting? A 500-respondent online survey by Initiative Media North America suggests that respondents are “seven times more likely to pay ‘full or most’ attention to Super Bowl XXXVI ads vs. ads running on regular primetime programming,” and that respondents are “six times more likely to pay ‘full or most’ attention to Super Bowl XXXVI ads vs. ads that ran during the AFC/NFC championship games.” More than nine out of 10 respondents (93 percent) expect to watch “some or most” of the Super Bowl ads.

ABC’s Touchstone for pilots: ABC has unveiled its first pilot development slate under new Entertainment President Susan Lyne, and it relies heavily on projects from Touchstone Television, the Alphabet Network’s corporate sibling. The new projects include:

Four comedies from Touchstone: “Regular Joe,” a family comedy; an untitled interracial family comedy; an untitled couples comedy; and a comedy based on the book “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.”

Six dramas from Touchstone: “EIS,” an hour focusing on medical investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; “The Oath,” about doctors battling HMOs; “Paranormal Girl,” about a crime-fighting teenager with special powers; a backdoor pilot about “Indiana Jones”-style archeologists; an untitled Larry Gelbart project; and an untitled project about a big-city mayor.

Two dramas from outside suppliers: “Astronauts,” from 20th Century Television, about astronauts training for a Mars mission, and “Homeward Bound,” from Studios USA, about a young woman who returns home to her family.

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications

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