Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fox 'Connected' With Family Comedy From 'American Dad' Producer Nahnatchka Khan

After a bidding war, Fox has handed out a put pilot commitment to Connected, a single-camera family comedy from from American Dad! executive producer Nahnatchka Khan and documentary filmmaker R.J. Cutler. Khan will write and executive produce the project, an edgy family comedy about two families linked by their teens’ romantic relationship. She will executive produce with Cutler and Mosaic's Ann Blanchard. Connected is produced by 20th Century Fox TV where Khan is under an overall deal.

Khan, who has been on Dad! since the beginning, has both live-action and animation background. She got her start in kids animated series at Walt Disney TV Animation after graduating from USC's film school. She worked her way into primetime with gigs on such series as Fox's Malcolm in the Middle, WB's What I Like About You and NBC's Good Morning, Miami. This represents Cutler's first major foray into scripted TV. In February, the documentarian and reality producer inked a first-look deal with 20th TV's corporate sibling Fox TV Studios with a focus on scripted development.

Lifetime Greenlights 'Meet Jane' Pilot

Lifetime has handed out a pilot order to Meet Jane, a drama from writer Andi Bushell and executive turned producer Mark Pedowitz. This is the first pilot order for Pedowitz, who segued into producing early this year with a first-look deal for his Pine Street Entertainment at Warner Bros TV. Before that, he spent 19 at Disney-ABC, including a stint at ABC Studios which he ran as president for for 5 years until he was pushed out by Steve McPherson.

Meet Jane centers on Jane Bilinksi, whose stale life as an unhappily married mother of two daughters in the Washington, DC area is suddenly re-energized and empowered when the FBI enlists her to spy on her husband, a computer technician the government suspects is selling top-secret information to Russia. Bushell wrote Meet Jane on spec and will executive produce the pilot with Pedowitz. Warner Horizon is producing.

Bushell serves as a co-executive producer on the new ABC drama My Generation. Her resume also includes writer-producer gigs on CBS' The Mentalist and Criminal Minds and NBC's Crossing Jordan. This is Lifetime's fourth pilot order this year. The other 3 pilots, Against the Wall, Exit 19 and an untitled Josh Berman project, are in various stages of casting.

Ryan Murphy Dishes on Glee’s Biggest Guest Star Ever—and the Answer on Kurt’s Boyfriend!

Britney Spears may have high-kicked Glee to its highest ratings of all time this week, but a little-known secret is this:

This coming Tuesday, Glee has someone even bigger appearing on the show—Shhhh!—in what many are calling the best episode yet of the entire series.

I just spoke with Glee mastermind Ryan Murphy and here's the huge, supersecret guest-star reveal:


Yes, the big G-man is front and center in Glee's "Grilled Cheesus" episode, which is a provocative, emotional (you will cry) and sometimes hilarious look at faith and spirituality—representing multiple points of view with heart and humor. (The catalyst is that Finn discovers the face of Jesus burned into his grilled cheese sandwich.)

It's arguably Glee's most controversial episode yet—and according to Murphy, brings this season's major story arc front and center.

"The core of the show is really about tolerance," Murphy explains. "I think that's the legacy of Glee more than anything else. So as we began the year we were very conscious of that. Last year the throughline was about teenage pregnancy. And the throughline this year is really about Kurt (Chris Colfer) and his feelings about tolerance, not only in high school and in the world, but also the ripple effect it has on everybody around him."

In this Tuesday's episode, Kurt struggles to accept the religious beliefs of those around him while dealing with some serious issues of his own. "[Tolerance] is a very powerful thing to write about," Murphy adds, "because this week alone three gay teenagers have killed themselves and committed suicide, and we just got asked today to do a PSA on it because it's becoming such an epidemic because of the bullying."

Passionate discussion of dueling religious beliefs is not exactly common fare for prime time, and Murphy credits Fox for believing in this "throwback." "When I was growing up," he says, "I was very inspired by all of the Norman Lear episodes. Like on Maude and All in the Family, which were comedies, he would write about socially relevant issues, be it rape or abortion, and suddenly they don't do that anymore...Everybody at Fox that I've spoken to says this is their favorite episode that we've ever done, and they're all very moved by it and proud of it...It's an odd episode where I think that both Democrats and Republicans could watch together, and at the end of it say 'I agree with it.'"

So now that we know Kurt's story arc is the major throughline for the new season, how about we clear up the conflicting rumors that either Chord Overstreet (Sam) or newcomer Darren Everett Criss (Blaine) will play his new love interest?

Hope you're on your knees because...Praise "Grilled Cheesus!" Finally, an answer!

"It's definitely not Chord," Ryan tells me of Kurt's love interest. "It's not Chord. And the new character [Darren Criss] is certainly an option. I'm not sure how soon I want to [reveal] that information because it's such a big storyline of the year—I want there to be some surprises. But Darren has a major, major arc. He sort of becomes Kurt's mentor and then maybe love—he had to leave his own school because of bullying and goes to an all-boys academy and finds acceptance because that school has a no-bullying, zero-tolerance policy. So Kurt really admires him and respects him. He plays someone who's one year older than Chris' character, so he's the old pro."

And in case you hadn't heard, Darren's now a clean-cut pro, too! When I (jokingly) asked if Darren Criss recently chopped off all his long, moppy locks because the budget couldn't support enough hair gel for him and Matthew Morrison, Ryan gasped:

"What?! I have not heard this! Did he really cut off all his hair? He did not do that for the show! But we cast Darren for his exceptional voice and talent, so if he shows up with a bald head, I guess I'll have to make it work…As for Matthew, you know, he just uses Lubriderm, so that won't break the bank." Love. It.

This was part one of my interview with Ryan. Stand by for part deux, with more scoop on the relationships, returning guest stars and more—and don't forget to tune in this Tuesday for Glee's most emotional episode yet. Let it be said now ('cause everyone will be saying it then): Chris Colfer's performance will knock the wind out of you.

The Whole Truth Stages ER Reunion

Parminder Nagra, who played ER's Dr. Neela Rasgotra, will be reuniting with her old County General colleague, Maura Tierney, on an episode of ABC's legal drama, The Whole Truth. Parminder will appear in the eighth episode (air date TBD) as Pilar Shirazeem, described as a beauty who comes to her best pal's defense when she is charged with killing her husband. From 1999-2009, Maura appeared on ER as Dr. Abby Lockhart, while Parminder's run extended from 2003-2009. 

'HIMYM': Kyle MacLachlan joins cast

Kyle MacLachlan is the mother!!!

Sorry, couldn’t resist. All kidding aside, the ex-Desperate Housewives hubby may have a major connection to How I Met Your Mother‘s titular mama. Details below…

Sources confirm to me exclusively that MacLachlan is set to appear in at least two episodes of the CBS comedy as the ex-husband of Jennifer Morrison’s Ted-crushing architecture buff, Zoey—a character who may or may not turn out to be you-know-who.

Morrison’s first episode airs Oct. 18, while MacLachlan is set to debut in early November.

Thoughts? Theories? Random musings? Hit the comments!

Ratings: 'Law & Order: LA' Solid In Debut, 'Undercovers' Takes Plunge

The new Law & Order spinoff Law & Order: Los Angeles did OK in its debut on what was a down night all around, with all other series except Fox's Hell's Kitchen posting double-digit declines from last week. Topping the list was NBC's freshman spy drama Undercovers, which was down an alarming 24% from its soft premiere last week. (the rest of the drops were between 10-19%) Also hitting dangerously low levels is ABC's new 10 PM legal drama The Whole Truth.

Law & Order: LA (3.1/9 in adults 18-49, 10.5 million viewers overall), won the 10 PM by a wide margin but was down 11% in the demo from what Law & Order: SVU did in the slot last week, while matching its total viewer delivery. Still, LOLA was up 19% from SVU's premiere in the slot in March and up 63% vs. what Jay Leno did in the hour last fall. As for SVU (2.7/7, 9.2 million), it was down 16% at 9 PM from last week despite featuring a publicized guest appearance by Jennifer Love Hewitt. The J.J. Abrams-produced Undercovers opened the night with a 1.6/5 and 7.1 million viewers, finishing distant fourth in the hour in 18-49.

The truth about new legal drama The Whole Truth is not pretty. The Jerry Bruckheimer-produced series posted a 1.3/4 in 18-49 and 4.7 million viewers. While its decline from the premiere was relatively modest (13%), since it started off pretty low, the series is fast approaching Lone Star cancelation zone ratings. ABC's new comedy Better with You (2.1/6) was down 16% from the premiere but benefitted by its hammock position between The Middle (2.4/8, down 11%) and Modern Family (4.5/12, down 12%). Modern Family once again ranked as Wednesday's top program in 18-49. Cougar Town (2.9/8) at 9:30 PM was off 16% from its season premiere.

After flying high for two weeks in its new Wednesday 8 PM slot, CBS' Survivor: Nicaragua (3.4/11) fell down 15% week-to-week to post its lowest-rated regular episode ever. Criminal Minds (3.6/10) didn't get a boost from the final episode of exiting regular A.J. Cook, down 10% from last week but drew the night's largest audience, 14.4 million. The network's new legal dramedy The Defenders (2.5/8, 10.4 million) was down 14% from its premiere and finished second in the 10 PM hour behind LOLA in 18-49 while virtually tying the NBC drama in total viewers. CBS won the night overall in 18-49 (3.2/9) and total viewers (12.3 million)

Fox's two-hour Hell's Kitchen (2.9/9) is chugging along, even with last week and delivering another second place finish for the network.

CW's America's Next Top Model continues to grow after its record-low premiere. Last night, it drew the cycle's largest audience (2.9 million) and drew 1.4/5 in adults 18-34, beating Undercovers in the young demo. Hellcats held steady in all key categories.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NBC and Bryan Fuller remaking 'The Munsters'

Consider this an early Halloween present from me to you: Pushing Daisies mastermind Bryan Fuller is toiling away on a modern-day reboot of the creepshow classic The Munsters!

So far, NBC, with whom Fuller has an overall deal, has only ordered a pilot. But since the potential series is being described to me as “Modern Family meets True Blood,” I have a good feeling about it.

Not only that, but rumor has it no less than Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy) is eyeing a behind the scenes role in the project.


Fox's 'Terra Nova' Finds Female Lead

After an extensive search, British actress Shelley Conn has lnded the female lead opposite Jason O'Mara and Stephen Lang on Fox's upcoming adventure series Terra Nova. The project, produced by Steven Spielberg and Peter Chernin, follows Jim Shannon (O'Mara), Elizabeth Shannon (Conn) and their 3 kids - an ordinary family from 2149 who are transported back 85 million years to prehistoric Earth where they join Terra Nova, a colony of humans with a second chance to build a civilization. Production on Terra Nova, from 20th TV, Chernin Entertainment, Kapital Entertainment and DreamWorks TV, is scheduled to begin in October in Australia. The series will launch in fall 2011 after a preview in May. While she has an extensive TV series resume in the U.K., Conn, repped by Gersh, Management 360 and UK's United Agents, is virtually unknown in the U.S. She had a part in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and will next be seen in James L. Brooks' How Do You Know. 

'Lawyers' TV Drama Lands At Fox With Danny Comden, Happy Madison & Russo Bros

Fox is eyeing a new light legal drama franchise with Lawyers For Less. The network is developing the project, created by and to star Danny Comden and produced by Sony TV and studio-based Happy Madison. Sony-based Anthony and Joe Russo are on board to direct and produce. The Russos, Emmy winners for directing the Arrested Development pilot, are hot coming off the last development season when both of their pilots, Happy Endings and Running Wilde, got picked up to series. They executive produce 3 series this season, Happy Ending, Running Wilde and Community, whose pilot they also directed.

Lawyers For Less, which Comden will write and executive produce with Josh Pate, is a workplace comedic drama about two best friends - a white-shoe lawyer (Comden) coming back from disbarment for mixing business and pleasure and an enterprising black lawyer who takes him in as partner - who run a small storefront law firm specializing in ambulance chasing and defending the defenseless. "Their goal is to bring reasonable doubt at a reasonable price while making as much filthy lucre as humanly possible," Comden said. The project extends Comden's relationship with Fox. Last year, he landed a script commitment with penalty from the network for single-camera comedy The Intruders, which didn't go to pilot.

TV Guide Mega Buzz 9/29/10

What's this I hear about Brennan solving her own murder on Bones? — Maggie
ADAM: Well, Brennan obviously isn't the corpse, but her resemblance to the victim is uncanny. Executive producer Stephen Nathan says the experience will be educational for Bones. "Brennan gets to look at herself objectively, which is something she's never really been able to do," he says. "She sees herself in a new light, and that obviously will change her character to a certain extent."

So many answers on The Event this week! I can't help but think they're pulling a fast one on us. Have any scoop? — Martin
MICKEY: Go with your gut. We'll soon find out that at least one of the most fundamental parts of The Event's narrative is a big fat lie. Further, Sophia won't tolerate any leaks, even if people have to die to protect her secrets.

What else can you tell me about Katee Sackhoff's role on CSI? — Andrew
ADAM: She's a tough, stubborn woman, and that initially puts her at odds with George Eads' Nick Stokes. But she slowly wins him over. "She plays her character with a lot of bravado, which is something I think Nick really likes to be around," Eads tells us. Do we see sparks? "For Nick to have a relationship with anyone on the show, the genesis of it has to be mutual respect," Eads says, noting that the length of Sackhoff's arc has yet to be finalized. For his part, Eads is ready for something serious: "I would like to see her again."

Poor Artie! Will he find another love on Glee? —Amalia
MICKEY: I wouldn't call it love exactly, but on an upcoming episode, Artie will make a connection with a Cheerio that will make him feel special for a short while.

Got any new Grey's Anatomy information? — Bethany
ADAM: I hear that the show is looking for a middle-aged male doctor for a two-episode arc later in the season. In possibly related plot news, when a high-ranking Washington official checks into Seattle Grace, his Secret Service detail creates a logistical nightmare for the surgeons on duty.

I heard that the new Law & Order: Los Angeles gets rid of the theme song and the famous "chung-chung" sound. Say it ain't so. — Kathy
MICKEY: It ain't so. In fact, I think it's safe to say that the bouncing baby of the Dick Wolf family of television shows looks an awful lot like its parents. The first episode, "Hollywood," is a standard ripped-from-the-headlines gloss on the real-life Burglar Bunch. But there's a hilarious stage-mom twist.

I want to know if we will see a good emotional scene on NCIS between Abby and McGee during Season 8. — Marie-France
ADAM: Executive producer Shane Brennan wouldn't budge about any McGabby moments, but he did offer a cryptic tease about what's next for Abby. "Abby is caught up trying to solve a psychological mystery that centers around the death of an enigmatic young woman," Brennan says. Who's to say Abby won't need McGee's help?

I would think it would be easy for Walter and Peter to tell Olivia from Bolivia on Fringe. What gives? — Ted
MICKEY: Well, Bolivia's physical transformation is meticulous, and you'll see her come up with a very plausible explanation for her un-Olivia-like behavior. But Joshua Jackson points to a third factor. "I think there's something really cool about the idea that people from the same universe have some instinctual, animal level of connection to each other," he says. "The reason Peter responds to the other Olivia is because that would be his Olivia."

How much of Jane's backstory are we going to get on The Mentalist? — Hal
ADAM: You'll get some insight this week when Jane's brother-in-law shows up and forces him to confront his past. First, Jane revisits his carnival roots, but creator Bruno Heller tells us he'll later do something he hasn't done since his family died at the hands of Red John. "He goes on one of those Nancy Grace-type legal scandal shows," he says. "He swore he'd never go back on TV in order to catch the bad guy." Sounds pretty serious to us!

Help! I can't tell if the werewolves are the good guys or the bad guys on The Vampire Diaries. — Cory
MICKEY: I can't either, but perhaps a new addition to the cast will clarify everyone else's relative goodness. He's a man of few words who allows his piercing eyes to do the talking for him. I'm hearing him compared to the Haitian on Heroes, which means those peepers are probably good for more than just lookin'.

I really enjoyed the Brothers & Sisters premiere. Is this really the last season? — Katie
ADAM: Despite a reduced episode order and some siginifcant cast exits, executive producer David Marshall Grant isn't planning on going anywhere. "I've approached the show as if it's going to go on and on. I take my cue from the studio and the network, and they've given me no indication — not even a hint or a heads-up — that [cancellation is] a possibility," he says. "If and when I hear different, I will adjust and make sure that we take these Walkers off the air in the style that they deserve. But I have heard nothing to suggest that I should be planning for that."

I know it's a ways off, but can you give me any V scoop? — Kara
MICKEY: A major female character will lose her head in an early episode — which is to say, she'll be beheaded. I only mention the violent act because it will be as revealing as it is fatal.

Adam's Mega Rave: Thanks, Castle, for cooling it with the Beckett-Castle stuff for an episode. It gave Martha (Susan Sullivan) a chance to mourn her off-screen love interest, Chet, who succumbed to a stroke. Her musings about love after the thrill is gone were quiet but powerful.

Mickey's Mini Rant: Boo, Matt Damon, for being a fancy-pants movie star. We really like you as Liz Lemon's "inside spoon" on 30 Rock

Ask Ausiello 9/29/10

Question: Let’s assume Chord Overstreet’s Sam is not a love interest for Glee’s Kurt, and Darren Criss is. Well, who will Sam be paired with? —Jeff
Ausiello: I’m hearing single mom Quinn. But if you’ve got a better idea, the comments section below has your name written all over it, Jeff.

Question: Is Mike Chang going to get a solo on Glee? I’m swooning over his dancing (and now his abs!), but a solo would just be the icing on the cake. —Kraig
Ausiello: He’ll get the next best thing to a solo in episode 4: a duet with Tina!

Question: With the Britney tribute episode and talk of possible Michael Jackson or Bruce Springsteen episodes, when the hell are the folks at Glee going to do a second Madonna episode? I want my Madge! —Dan
Ausiello: Not this season, apparently. Word on the street is that the Super Bowl episode will be the last tribute we’ll see this season. Of course, given the record ratings the show got with last night’s Britneypalooza, the word on the street could change, and fast.

Question: Any truth to the rumor that Glee‘s post-Super Bowl tribute episode will be a sequel to Britney/Brittany? —Taylor
Ausiello: If by “any truth” you mean “no truth whatsoever,” yes. Otherwise, not so much. BREAKING GLEE NEWS: Sources confirm to me exclusively that Charice will reappear in episode 7!

Question: Weeds scoop? Pretty please? —Laura Mae
Ausiello: Okay, but it’s kinda gross. In episode 7 (airing Oct. 4), as Nancy’s worries about Andy grow, she takes him to a carnival to spend a little QT. Instead, he and Silas enter—I kid you not—a butter-eating competition.

Question: Weeds scoop. Now. —Susan
Ausiello: Okay, but it’s a little racy. In episode 8 (airing Oct. 11), Nancy knocks boots with guest hottie Mark-Paul Gosselaar. From what I hear, it’s the kind of scene that DVR rewind buttons were invented for. Meanwhile, in episode 9 (airing Oct. 18), Nancy’s second thoughts about her family’s life on the lam lead her to make what could be a fatal mistake.

Question: Any scoop on who Eliza Dushku is playing on The Big Bang Theory? —Jordan
Ausiello: Dushku will play an FBI agent named Angela tasked with giving Wolowitz a top secret security clearance. In related news, that sentence makes me happy on so many levels.

Question: Since it’s my B’Day today, I was hoping that you can give me some Bones scoop. —Ina B
Ausiello: An upcoming episode will be told entirely from Brennan’s point of view. “It’s a very stylized episode where Brennan is investigating a murder of someone who appears to be her,” explains exec producer Stephen Nathan. “It’s sort of Brennan examining her own life while examining the victim. We’ve never done anything this internal. It’s probably the most psychologically oriented episode we’ve ever done.”

Question: Which episode of Bones is Emily Deschanel directing this season? —Frankie
Ausiello: Episode No. 14. And so far, that’s all I know.

Question: Hawaii Five-O scoop? —Johanna
Ausiello: Newly unemployed Lone Star star James Wolk should call his agent, because the CBS reboot is casting the perfect part for him: a possibly two-faced old buddy of McGarrett’s who’s visiting the islands as a bodyguard for a controversial Third World leader.

Question: Gossip Girl has been amazing this season! It feels like the show has hit its stride! What’s coming up for these amazing Upper East Siders? —lec
Ausiello: Something wicked their way comes, I’m afraid. Juliet’s butting in is going to lead to a major couple breaking up. Guesses below…

Question: I’m intrigued about Community‘s Mean Girls homage with Hilary Duff. Tell me more. — Connie
Ausiello: Try this — an actual exchange from the show:

Hilary: You’re dead.
Abed: You’re bowlegged.

But wait, there’s more. When Britta and her fellow female coeds become the new Mean Girls, they take advantage of Abed’s ability to zero in on a person’s weakness for their own nefarious purposes. Oh, and two words: illegal trampoline.

Question: Olivia Munn was awesome on Chuck last week. Any chance she’s going to be a series regular? —Jeni
Ausiello: I hear they wanted her to stick around, but she has a full plate, what with The Daily Show and NBC’s Perfect Couples. But maybe this will cheer you up: An upcoming Chuck—or an upChuck, if you will—will be set in Thailand. Not the REAL Thailand, though. A sliver of the Warner Bros. backlot made to look like Thailand.

Question: What more can you tell us about the looming Private Practice tragedy? —Cline
Ausiello: It involves a major female character. Don’t give me that look, Cline. You asked what I could tell you, not what I knew.

Question: Not one image or spoilery tidbit has been released regarding Julia Stiles’ “emotionally battered” character on Dexter. Can you please give me something?! —Dana
Ausiello: We’ll finally meet her in episode 3, and if her story is going where I think it’s going, I’m going to be very intrigued. So intrigued, in fact, that it’ll more than make up for the uninspiring first two episodes.

Question: Loving Grey’s at the moment. Would love a bit of Teddy goss. — Sophie
Ausiello: You got it: When Jackson tries to flirt his way up the food chain at Seattle Grace, Teddy will have none of it. And I mean NONE. Speaking of which, pick up this week’s EW, head home, draw a warm bath, light some candles, climb into the tub, and turn to page 29. You’ll be glad you did.

Question: Any word on who Grey’s is going to pair Jackson with? —Meg
Ausiello: No official word, but there are rumblings it’s this person.

Question: In a recent interview, Ellen Pompeo mentioned that fans will be treated to some overdue sister scenes on Grey’s Anatomy between Meredith and Lexie. Any news on the nature of this potential sisterly bonding? —Dana
Ausiello: Okay, Dana, since it’s two-for-one question day, I’ll tell you that the nature of the scenes isn’t bonding per se. Rather, when Mer starts forming a sibling-ish kinship with former nemesis Sarah Drew, it brings out the green-eyed monster in Lexie.

Question: James Tupper as Dr. Chris Sands was fabulous on Mercy. I am so thrilled to see him on Grey’s Anatomy, but I’m disappointed that he is only on two episodes. Anyway, can we get him on for more episodes later in the season? —Jeannie
Ausiello: Grey’s boss Shonda Rhimes wants that to happen too. “We’d love to have him back,” she tells me. So what’s the problem? “He’s playing a trauma counselor. There’s not a lot of room for a trauma counselor on a show about surgeons on a weekly basis.” Poop.

Question: Olivia’s been brainwashed. Peter’s canoodling with Fauxlivia. Yes, Fringe is awesome this season, but it’s also pretty depressing. Got any scoop that will cheer me up? —Emily
Ausiello: Walter breaks wind this week in his lab in front of Peter and Astrid. That help?

Question: I need a Fringe scoop like a cocaine test monkey needs its next hit. When will Olivia get back where she belongs? —Tommy
Ausiello: Exec producer Jeff Pinkner would say only that “Olivia’s journey will not be an easy one, and it will require help from unexpected sources.”

Question: 30 Rock live episode. Go. — Marc
Ausiello: Sounds meta. It’ll revolve around a TGS live show, be skit-driven (with some BTS elements), and it’s being shot at the SNL studios.

Question: Can’t wait for Candice Bergen on House. What is her first encounter with House like? —Joel
Ausiello: He doesn’t know she’s Cuddy’s mom when they first meet, so I’m guessing it’s going to get awkward quick. BTW, two other notes about Candice: She arrives for Cuddy’s birthday, and her two episodes will be nonconsecutive.

Question: Should we read anything into Chase’s sexual overture to Thirteen on House last week? Was he really interested in her, or is it just a case of a horny single doctor? —Elizabeth
Ausiello: Let’s ask exec producer David Shore, shall we? David, should we read anything into Chase’s sexual overture to Thirteen on House last week? Was he really interested in her, or is it just a case of a horny single doctor? “If there is something more going on there, you won’t see it for a while,” he says, “because of Olivia [Wilde]‘s movie schedule [taking her off the canvas].”

Question: Got any NCIS: LA scoop? — Justin
Ausiello: The show is on the lookout for a sixtysomething with a slight German accent to play the recurring role of a retiree who, though blind, still sees the fun in manipulating people. And since the character is named Burgess, I’m thinking the show is a fan of the Penguin.

Question: Any idea when Lily and Marshall will see a positive pregnancy test on HIMYM? —Claire
Ausiello: No clue. What I do know is that in episode 7 the wannabe dad dreams of his little girl growing up to be a high school student and a stripper.

Question: Mindy Kaling tweeted that last week’s opening musical number on The Office was done in one take. I find that a little hard to believe. I mean, they’re talented and all, but one take? —Brett
Ausiello: She later clarified: It was one long uninterrupted shot, but they did it a total of three times. Still, it was quite an impressive feat, no? “We were a well-oiled machine, as much as a group of nondancing comedy actors can be,” she tells me with a laugh. It took “three hours to learn the choreography from Mary Ann Kellogg, who incidentally did Ed [Helms] and my amazing Cafe Disco dance-off a few years back. I had a bit of trouble staying perched on the slippery counter and had to hold myself up. I had to take my shoes off. BJ [Novak] stepped on my foot
once accidentally — it was painful. This cannot be interesting to you.” Actually, she’s right. Let’s move on…

Question: Ausiello! Any idea if there’ll be an Ugly Betty movie?! — Abida
Ausiello: Abida! Let it go! Not happening.

Question: On a scale from 1 to 10, how crazy will the final scene in Smallville‘s 200th episode drive Clois fans? Any chance you can give us a little more on it? — Geff C.
Ausiello: Nine. Can’t say more except that it’ll take your breath away.

Question: Do you have any updates on the possibility of Michael Rosenbaum returning to Smallville? — Denny
Ausiello: I hear episode 10 may be titled “Luthor,” so draw your own conclusions. Actually, let me help you: I’m guessing that ties in with his pa Lionel’s return. But I could be wrong!

Question: Do you have any scoop on why/how Robert Wagner is coming back to NCIS? —Lyss
Ausiello: Tony Sr. gets caught up in a case that requires him to go on a date with (wait for it) Ziva!

Question: Is Stana Katic pregnant? Don’t get me wrong, she is as stunning as ever; her wardrobe choices on Castle, on the other hand, are suspicious. — Peter
Ausiello: She is not pregnant. In related news, the puffy blouse Katic was wearing in Monday’s episode released the following statement exclusively to Ask Ausiello: “My bad.”

Tim Roth 'sad' that 'Lie to Me' is replacing 'Lone Star'
I know. Fox killed and buried Lone Star so quickly that it’s almost hard to be happy that its demise has led to the third-season premiere of Lie to Me being bumped up from Nov. 10 to…um, Monday (when it assumes the DOA drama’s time slot). But try to be happy anyway, okay? Series lead Tim Roth and I have even come up with five excellent reasons why you should forgive his show for jumping into Lone Star‘s grave.

5. He feels funny about the situation too. “What happened to Lone Star…I’m sad for those guys,” he says. “A lot of passion goes into making a TV show, [so] it must be very heartbreaking to have that happen.”

4. He truly feels that season 3 of Lie to Me “will be our strongest,” he says, adding that his character, profiler Cal, may look back as he moves forward. “We’ll go into his past more, and there are women who are going to come up in his life. The relationship he has with his daughter opens up as well as his relationship with Foster.”

3. In the wake of Ben’s shooting, the Lightman Group is playing a whole new ballgame. “Lightman cuts ties with the FBI,” Roth reveals. Luckily, “Ben is not dead…or is he?”

2. “The crooked cop played by Monique [Gabriela Curnen] comes back,” Roth says. And when she does, the question becomes, will Cal use their relationship to help Internal Affairs bust her?

1. There are guest stars galore—including a Gilmore Girls alum. David “Rory’s Dad” Sutcliffe has just sealed a deal to appear in episode 7 as a Tony Robbins type, Annette “Clark Kent’s Mom” O’Toole pops up in episode 4 as a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s, and in episode 5, Battlestar Galactica‘s Tricia Helfer passes through as…actually, I don’t care what she passes through as. If she’s passing through, I’m there.

Sam Raimi's Stars Road Sets 3 TV Projects

In its first development season since focusing on primetime TV with a first-look deal at Sony TV and the hire of CBS' Robert Zotnowski as TV head, Sam Raimi and Joshua Donen's Stars Road Entertainment has sold 3 hourlong projects to 3 networks, Fox, ABC and CBS.

While the company plans to develop across all TV, the the primary focus leading into its first year "was to find early success (on broadcast)," said Zotnowski, who was SVP drama at CBS, co-heading the network's drama department before he left in August 2009 to join Stars Road. The auspices involved in the company's 3 series projects, all produced by Sony TV, represent a mix of existing relationships Zotnowski has with TV writers and feature and comic book talent brought in by Raimi.

The ABC project hails from Dee Johnson, with whom Zotnowski worked on The Good Wife. Last year, Johnson served as executive producer/showrunner on the first 13 episodes of the CBS legal drama. The new project centers on a top female prosecutor in Los Angeles, whom Zotnowski describes as a "female vigilante with a law license."

The Fox project, Smokers, comes from comic book and TV writer Brian K. Vaughan, best known for creating the comic book series Y: The Last Man, and for his work as a writer on ABC's Lost. The high-concept drama, based on an original idea by Vaughan, is about a documentary crew following working class heroes who exterminate alien threats in deep space.

The third project, set at Zotnowski's former home, CBS, is Lancaster, from writer Andrew Lipsitz (CSI, CSI:NY). It centers on a Scotland yard detective who joins the LAPD. With broadcast selling season wrapping up, Stars Road is turning its sights on cable where it plans to pitch next.

TV Casting Roundup: New Additions To 'Criminal Minds', 'The Cape' & 'KROG'

In notable recent TV castings, Rachel Nichols has joined CBS' Criminal Minds as a recurring, Izabella Miko has boarded NBC's The Cape and Cartoon Network has assembled the cast of its live-action comedy pilot KROG.

Rachel Nichols (Star Trek) has been tapped for an arc on Criminal Minds later this season. Criminal Minds had been planning to add a new female regular cast member in the wake of the A.J. Cook's departure. I hear the character Alias alumna Nichols will play, FBI cadet Ashley Seager, was originally envisioned as a new regular but that has changed, and Nichols will now appear in 3 episodes. Seager is invited by Agent Hotch (Thomas Gibson) to consult on a case after learning her family history will bring a unique insight into the mind of a serial killer.

Izabella Miko (Coyote Ugly) is set for a five-episode arc on midseason drama The Cape, which stars David Lyons as a cop framed for a crime who becomes a masked hero. Miko, who guest starred in the pilot, plays a skilled and alluring circus performer. She is repped by Fortitude and Affirmative Entertainment.

KROG, created by Mark Rivers, centers on KROG, an awesome monster costume band sent from Middle Earth who loved by their fans but in fact, they are indeed monsters sent to conquer mankind. Cast in the pilot are James Adomian (repped by ICM), Josh Fadem (Paradigm), Will Harris (Stone Manners Salners), Zooey Hall, Julian Works and Justin Castor.

Fox's 'Human Target' Moves To Wednesdays

In the fallout of the Lone Star cancellation, Fox's drama Human Target will move from Fridays to Wednesdays, taking over the slot originally given to Lie To Me. Lie to Me was to premiere on Nov. 10 and run in the Wednesday 8 PM slot, leading into an one-hour Hell's Kitchen. But as the crime procedural was summoned yesterday to take over the Monday 9 PM period vacated by the cancelled Lone Star staring next week, Human Target will now take its place on Wednesdays. It will premiere Nov. 17. A two-hour Hell's Kitchen will air on Nov. 10. Instead of launching Human Target's second season this past Friday as first planned, Fox held back, airing a Human Target rerun instead, followed by the season debut of The Good Guys. The network will now run House repeats in the Friday 8 PM hour. 

Marty Adlestein And Shawn Levy Set Up Projects At Fox & CBS

Marty Adelstein and Shawn Levy’s recently launched TV production company, 21 Laps/Adelstein, has sold its first two projects. Both will be produced through 20th Century Fox TV, where the company is based with an overall deal.

The first project from the company, which is run by former Brillstein TV executive Becky Clements, is a drama at Fox based on Neil McMahon’s series of novels about sleuthing physician Carroll Monks. Cane creator Cynthia Cidre is writing. Cidre also recently penned the Dallas reboot at TNT, which has been picked up to pilot.

21 Laps/Adelstein’s second project is a Kung-Fu cop series from writer Neil Tolkin, which has been sold to CBS. Tolkin co-wrote another cop drama for 20th TV, Blue Blood, 3 years ago. It was picked up to pilot at NBC with Brett Ratner directing and producing.

Britney Spears’ ‘Glee’ episode hits series high; ‘No Ordinary Family’ opens strong

 ABC's "No Ordinary Family" got off to an impressively strong start Tuesday night while Fox's "Glee" rose in the ratings to a series high thanks to its eagerly anticipated tribute to Britney Spears.

"Glee" drew 13.3 million viewers and a 5.8 preliminary adults 18-49 rating -- dominating the night, rising 4% from its mammoth premiere last week and scoring the pop-drama's biggest rating ever (yes, higher than the show's Madonna-themed episode).

"Glee" led into the second episodes of "Raising Hope" (7.5 million, 3.2), which climbed a tenth of a point, and "Running Wilde" (4.7 million, 2.1), which widened the gap between the comedies, falling 13%.

Here's interesting factoid about "Glee" from the Fox ratings department: "This is the first time in 17 years that the highest-rated entertainment program of premiere week grew in Week 2 among adults 18-49 and total viewers (since Fall '93, 'Seinfeld')."

"No Ordinary Family" (10.5 million, 3.1) is ABC's biggest new series premiere this season and performed well airing against stiff competition from "Glee."

Fox won the night. CBS was next, with the second rounds of "NCIS" (18.7 million, 4.0) and "NCIS: LA" (16.4 million, 3.7) demonstrating the sort of stability that CBS dramas are known for. "NCIS" was flat with last week's debut, while "LA" improved 9%. The second season premiere of "The Good Wife" (12.9 million, 2.5), however, slipped 19% from last year.

ABC ranked third, with "No Ordinary Family" leading into "Dancing With the Stars" results show (3.7), dropping 16%. The second week of "Detroit 1-8-7" (9.2 million, 2.2) was down a tenth.

NBC had "The Biggest Loser" (2.7), down 7%. At 10 p.m., "Parenthood" (4.8 million, 2.0) is on a worrisome trend, falling 20% to a series low.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

'Shield' vet Catherine Dent joins 'NCIS'

It looks David McCallum is about to receive the highest of honors from NCIS: An origin episode for his character Ducky!

Sources confirm to me exclusively that ex-Shield cop Catherine Dent is joining the CBS smash for at least two episodes as Whitney Sharp, a former NCIS agent who shares a past with Ducky.

Dent’s character is described as an educated, bright, and extremely capable federal agent who had an eye for talent and a tongue for persuasion back in the day.

Both of Dent’s episodes will air during November sweeps.

Fox cancels 'Lone Star'

Fox just adminstered some cruel Texas justice on "Lone Star."

The critically acclaimed drama received this fall's first bullet, succumbing to ratings so low that even Fox's spinmeisters couldn't find the silver lining.

"The viewers have spoken," said one network insider.

Fox will now air "Lie to Me" in the Monday 9 p.m. slot starting Oct. 4. "Lie to Me" wasn't originally scheduled to return to the air until November, when it was set for Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Few expected Fox to hold on to "Lone Star" beyond this week. Fox execs were worried that they might be faced with a dilemma, had "Lone Star" shown a slight uptick over its dismal 1.3 rating among adults 18-49 last week.

Turns out there was no need to worry -- according to final national ratings, "Lone Star" averaged just a 1.0 rating and 3 share on Monday night, down 23% from week one.

"Lone Star" also appeared to be dragging its lead-in, "House" (3.8/10) down. And even as "House" declines, "Lone Star" still just held a stunningly low 25% of the "House" lead-in audience.

In its second half hour Monday night, "Lone Star" posted just a 0.9 rating with adults 18-49 -- below the CW's "Gossip Girl."

That was the final straw for Fox execs, who had seen enough.

Fox had to act fast: It's shaping up to be a competitive fall, and Fox wound up in fourth place this premiere week, narrowly behind ABC and NBC. In a world where a tenth of a rating's point can make a huge difference in primetime standings, Fox couldn't afford to keep "Lone Star" around any longer.

It won't be for lack of trying on the part of critics -- who gave "Lone Star" some of the best reviews of any new show this fall -- or creator Kyle Killen, who took to the Internet last week in a last-ditch effort to stir up support for the show.

"For us to survive we're going to have to pull off a minor miracle," Killen wrote on his blog. "Statistically, new shows tend to lose viewers in their second week. We're aiming to gain them. In fact, screw it, let's just double our audience. The good news is, our audience was so small that if my Mom and my Dad watch it we'll pretty much be there."

Unfortunately for Killen and fans of the show, it didn't quite get there.

"Lone Star" reps one of the earliest fall TV cancellations in recent memory -- but it likely won't be the last in the coming weeks, as the networks mull other changes to their skeds. ABC, for example, may want to do something with "The Whole Truth" if it posts another low number this week, while it's pretty much a given that NBC will shift "The Apprentice" to another night -- likely Friday -- after this week.

Five episodes of "Lone Star" have already been produced; it's unclear whether the three remaining segs will be screened elsewhere (perhaps online). The show centered on con man Bob Allen (James Wolk), who manages to infiltrate a Houston oil company, get in good with the boss (Jon Voight) and marry his daughter (Adrianne Palicki). While playing that ruse, dreamt up by his dad (David Keith), Bob is also living a double life in small town Midland, Texas, where he's got a girlfriend and more marks.

From 20th Century Fox TV, "Lone Star" comes from exec producers Killen. Chris Keyser, Amy Lippman, Kerry Kohansky, Paul Weitz and Peter Horton. Marc Webb directed the pilot.

Ex-Hero Jack Coleman takes 'Office' job

The buzz around the Dunder Mifflin watercooler is that Heroes vet Jack Coleman is nearing a deal to guest-star in an upcoming episode of The Office.

The Dynasty alum would play a government official who possesses a “Jon Hamm-esque wholesomeness,” per a source. No other details were available.

Coleman recently shot an episode of The Mentalist to air Oct. 14. He’ll play a man accused of murdering his wife’s killer.

Ratings: 'Dancing' Wins, 'Event' Drops, No Miracle Bounce For 'Lone Star'

Here we are in the oh-so-important week 2 of the season. On the first night, it was great news for ABC, pretty good news for CBS, and not so good news for NBC and Fox.

NBC's flagship drama The Event (2.9/7 in adults 18-49, 9 million viewers overall) was down 19% from its promising premiere last week. The number will go up - NBC points out that the supernatural thriller was the most time-shifted series on the first 3 nights of last week. Still, a worrisome sign for the serialized series. Also down, 9%, was NBC's new 10 PM drama Chase (2.1/5), which finished third in the hour. At 8 PM, Chuck (1.9/5) was down 5%.

Lone Star creator's Kyle Killen prayers for a miracle ratings rebound in Week 2 were not answered. The soap (1.0/3) fell 23% from its disastrous premiere rating and tied the CW for fourth place in the 9 PM hour. What's worse, the numbers fell precipitously from the first to the second half-hour, by almost 50%. There is no chance the series would continue at these levels. House (3.8/10) was down 10% from its disappointing season premiere and is now running neck-and-neck with CBS' comedies for second place behind ABC in the 8 PM hour. (Fox's fast national ratings are time-adjusted)

Dancing with the Stars featuring Sarah Palin cheering for her daughter, drew a 4.8/8, down a modest 6% from last week's premiere. Castle (3.2/8) is runnig 19% higher from last week but will likely go down in the finals because of a Dance overrun and ABC's preemption in Milwaukee for the NFL game. ABC won the night in both adults 18-49 (3.7/10) and total viewers (11.1 million).

CBS' comedies held well, with freshman Mike and Molly posting the biggest week-to-week decline, a very modest 5%. How I Met Your Mother (3.8/11) was actually up 6% and beat Fox's House in the 8-8:30 PM slot. Rules of Engagement (3.2/8) at 8:30 PM was also slightly up, by 3%, while Two and a Half Men (4.8/12) was virtually flat, down 2%. Hawaii Five-0 (3.5/9) was down 10% but still won the 10 PM hour in all categories.

'CSI': Dita Von Teese to 'tantalize, torment'... Sanders?

How’s this for a major CSI, um, teese: Burlesque beauty and international style icon Dita Von Teese is set to guest star in an early ’11 episode, sources confirm to me exclusively.

The occasional actress will play a classic Hollywood femme fatale in a throwback to “the glory days of L.A. film noir,” explains exec producer Carol Mendelsohn. “Her character is absolutely unlike what she seems. Prepare to be tantalized and tormented.”

Mendelsohn adds that the case “will get personal” for Eric Szmanda’s Sanders—which makes sense since Szmanda and Von Teese are pals off screen.

Von Teese’s episode is tentatively scheduled to air in January.

‘Eastbound & Down’ ratings surge; ‘Boardwalk’ dips

The second season return of "Eastbound & Down" posted big gains for HBO. The Danny McBride comedy returned to 1.7 million viewers -- 150% higher than its first season premiere. This is great news for HBO, though not hugely surprising given the show's snowballing cult status among fans and clever relocating of the show's setting to Mexico for the second season.

"Eastbound" improved greatly on its "Bored to Death" (1.1 million) lead-in, which was up 2% from last year.

The second week of "Boardwalk Empire" continued to perform strong, 4.4 million viewers. That's a non-alarming dip -- 8% -- from its first week.

If you include their first repeats, "Eastbound" had 5.5 million viewers, "Bored" had 1.5 million and "Eastbound" had 2 million. The first episode of "Boardwalk" has surpassed 11 million viewers for its first episode, with OnDemand and DVR data still coming in.

Fancast Big Tease 9/28/10

Do you have any hints as to why Robert Wagner is coming back to ‘NCIS‘? – Carlee
I turn this first question over to the Hintmaster himself, Shane Brennan. “R.J. Wagner’s return as the charming Anthony DiNozzo Sr. recaptures all the fun and chaos that resulted from his last visit,” the ‘NCIS’ boss tells the Big Tease. What’s more, he says the encore “reveals an emotionally charged moment between father and son that’s not to be missed.” So hinty!

I’m obsessed with what ‘Fringe’s Anna Torv said about Olivia finding a new ally in the alternate universe. Did she give any other clues? – Deb
Did Anna? No. John Noble? Maybe. When I questioned alt-Broyles’ allegiance to the Secretary of Defense, Noble responded, “Broyles is a strong character. Now, how much he’ll go along with things is to be revealed.”

Are we going to see more of the hybrid baby when ‘V‘ returns? – Susan
“Ohhh yeah,” exec producer Steve Pearlman told me during my visit to the ABC series’ Vancouver set last week. “You’ll see the hybrid in Episode 1″ (premiere date TBD). As for the little one’s appearance, “It won’t necessarily look very human,” he teased.

Did your visit to the ‘V‘ set turn up any scoop on what “red sky” is or does? – Greg
Though Elizabeth Mitchell wouldn’t spill any specifics, she said the answer “definitely satisfied me” and it “happens in the first five minutes…. all kinds of really horrifying things.” And yet, somehow, Anna will spin it as a good thing for humanity. Somewhere in outer space lays a very savvy publicist.

Please give me some scoop on ‘The Good Wife‘! – Karen
Oh, tonight’s season premiere is a fine hour. That “intimate” scene that made headlines a few weeks back? Well-played. Also, the way Kalinda meets her new rival (’FNL’s Scott Porter) is pretty awesome, as is their ongoing prickly banter (he knows a secret of hers that she very much doesn’t like him knowing); Eli acquires a new cohort; Michael Ealy (’Sleeper Cell’) fits in smoothly as a new partner with big ideas; and Will has been named one of the area’s most eligible bachelors (ouch, Alicia!).

Thank you so much for the ‘CSI: NY‘ Q&A. Did Pam Veasey say nothing about Adam, though? – QueenLillith
Well, she offered this: “Adam gets a little hair on his chest in Episode 2,” which airs this Friday at 9/8c. The storyline: A woman appears to be strangled while participating in a live online chat that Adam witnesses. Ah, the perils of this Internet thing.

I hope Claire Forlani is coming back to ‘CSI: NY‘ as Mac’s love interest. Any hints? – starskybabe
As revealed in last Friday’s Q&A: Madchen Amick, maybe. Claire Forlani, no.

Do the folks at ‘Human Target‘ feel like they’re shooting a James Bond film with every episode? Because it sure feels like one! – Joel
Exec producer Matt Miller must agree. “Between our incredible stunt coordinator (Emmy nominee Dean Cho) and our producer-director Steve Boyum, who spent the majority of his career as a stunt man, we have the best stunts on television,” he boasts. And what sort of explodey goodness is on tap for Season 2, premiering this Friday at 8/7c? “For our eighth episode, our kind of ‘holiday ‘episode, we really wanted to destroy a mall,” Miller says. “We wanted a cool set piece where Chance is just wreaking havoc in a mall.” I suggested the episode title “A Very Human Target Christmas” – cross fingers!

Will ‘Smallville’s Clark ever say to Lois the words, “I love you”? – Nicole
First, let’s ask Clark himself. “I would think so,” Tom Welling told me Saturday night at the show’s 200th episode party. “I’m not sure what exactly they have in store for [the final season], but Lois is definitely a part of Clark’s future.” And now, the executive producers. “There will be epic romance, that we can say,” teases Brian Peterson. Adds Kelly Souders: “Definitely watch the 200th episode” (airing Oct. 15).

How about some scoop on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’s Meredith? – Kazzer
This is the week Mer tells Derek that she had a miscarriage. But also on the horizon are some powerhouse scenes on the sisterly front. As the aftermath of the shooting continues to play out and “Meredith begins mothering everybody, Lexie is like, ‘Hey, what about me? I don’t understand where you’ve been for me in this,’” Chyler Leigh previews. That leads to “several really great scenes between the two of us, where we really define what our relationship is.”

Any info on Jensen Ackles‘ ‘Supernatural‘ directorial debut? – DeanGirl1 via Comments
If by info you mean raves, here’s one castmate’s take on Jensen’s turn behind the camera: “The truth of the matter is he’s a natural,” Mark Sheppard (Crowley) tells Fancast. “He was extraordinarily well-prepared, and he’s very good at getting what he wants. It was fun for me and Jim [Beaver] to….” To what? Frak, Mark caught himself and stopped short of spoiling. But he did share this about the Crowley/Bobby teaser shown at Comic-Con this summer: “That is a fabulous, really fun scene – and that’s not all of the scene either. There’s a lot of stuff going on.”

Do you have any new scoops for ‘Sons Of Anarchy’s Gemma? – Evee
You know how nothing comes between Ms. Teller-Morrow and her brood? Well, I hear that later this season, as part of a plan to find grandson Abel, Gemma’s allegiance to her family is demonstrated via a desperate act that is her most shocking exploit yet. When I asked my source if it’s the same “shocking act” that I Big Tease’d a ways back, I was laughed at and told that that act is “sooooo tame” compared to the one teased here.

Please tell me that Marti and Savannah’s ‘Hellcats‘ friendship will not devolve into a catty thing over Dan! I love those girls together, and I don’t want to see their friendship torn apart over a guy. – VM
It might not get downright catty, but envision more of a small kitten. As Ashley Tisdale notes, “There’s a bit of a flirtation there between Dan and Marti – you just know they have a history – so for Marti and Savannah it’s going to be up and down.” And what might said “history” entail? When we saw Matt Barr (Dan) last week, he cryptically shared, “I just got some big news [from the producers] about Marti and Dan’s background [and] it’s something that really does define their relationship.”

You seem to be the only source of ‘Make It Or Break It‘ news – whatcha got? – Irena
What I’ve got is a correction to my scoop on Sean Maher’s guest-starring role. Turns out the ‘Firefly’ alum is going to be playing a National Gymnastics Organization official who starts poking around Emily’s life. Though I’m sure he would’ve done fine as a gymnast.

Last week’s ‘Terriers‘ – WTF?! – Joe
I’m assuming that’s a request for scoop on the shadowy figure seen slinking into the crawl space of Hank’s house? That out-of-left field mystery “is resolved pretty quickly,” says Donal Logue. “You’ll find out who it is, and to me a really cool aspect of this show is what it means getting to work with that person.”

What's Next for Huddy?

First the kiss and now this! It's wedding day and House and Cuddy are shaking booty on the dance floor. She's in a slinky backless gown. He's in a tuxedo (and sneakers, naturally) and they're talking guest lists and chocolate fountains. For reals, as House likes to say. Fox would kill us if we spilled too much about this upcoming House episode but, OK, House and Cuddy aren't the ones tying the knot just yet. Of course, the way their romance is plowing ahead after six seasons of platonic simmer, it might be wise to keep your Monday nights free just in case.

So far this season, House (Hugh Laurie) and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) have cuddled, snuggled, snogged, fondled like 10th graders and played a hot round of sexy Boggle (i lobe you? Really, House?).

Since House and Cuddy have answers for everything, TV Guide Magazine barraged the actors who play them with snoopy questions in a penthouse suite of the Los Angeles hotel where the wedding scenes were being shot. There was plenty of giggling and flirty repartee, even as we asked the snoopiest question of all: Was consummating Cuddy and House's relationship the kiss of death for the series?

TV Guide Magazine: Isn't this what killed Moonlighting all those years ago? The two main characters got it on and their chemistry died, right?
Laurie: That show was different, as I recall. Those characters hated each other and didn't want to be together. House definitely wants to be with Cuddy and Cuddy is right there with him.
Edelstein: Right. House and Cuddy have worked together but never felt handcuffed. Though handcuffs are an interesting idea.
Laurie: Careful. I smell a land mine.
Edelstein: Besides, this isn't just the simple release of sexual tension.
Laurie: Not at all. It's the beginning of something and actually can bring much, much greater tension than a simple... release, as Lisa so bravely put it.

TV Guide Magazine: How shocked were you when executive producer David Shore shared the top-secret script pages that ended last season with your characters finally hooking up?
Laurie: We had a bit of a suspicion, didn't we?
Edelstein: Yeah, yeah. Cuddy and House couldn't just keep dancing around it forever and ever.
Laurie: But we didn't actually know how the scene was going to go.

TV Guide Magazine: Did it go awkwardly? You've worked together for so long, it's the equivalent — in the real world — of having to kiss one's office manager or something.
Laurie: I was going to say it was like sleeping with my sister, but that just...
Edelstein: That's just wrong in so many ways.
Laurie: In so many ways.
Edelstein: We had kissed before on the show, so we sort of got that out of the way several times. Like, OK, that's done. But the whole taking someone's pants off, as I had to do in the opening episode this season, was a bit more extreme.
Laurie: And you're doing it in front of 30 or 40 people, rather than just the two of us.
Edelstein: That's a lot of guys in jeans, arms folded, waiting for the scene where I have to take my robe off and stand there in a pair of nude-colored panties. I'd have to yell, "Private moment!" and they'd all sort of avert their gaze.
Laurie: Except that one guy.
Edelstein: Oh, God. This one random security guard showed up and had no purpose other than to stare straight at us.
Laurie: He was a fireman, actually, and he seemed certain a fire would break out right there between my...
Edelstein: Um, land mine!

TV Guide Magazine: Well, thank goodness for the laptop this season that kept you from showing us the full House, so to speak.
Laurie: It was a 17-inch laptop, by the way. Write that down. I don't want your readers to think I could get away with the 13-incher.
Edelstein: Can you write down that I'm blushing?

TV Guide Magazine: So what happens now? Given your characters are dancing at this wedding for an episode airing in January, it's safe to assume this isn't just a two- or three-episode fling.
Edelstein: They don't tell us. But yes, we know the relationship continues through a good part of the season. This is real for them. For Cuddy, certainly, it's something she couldn't avoid, though she's been trying to avoid it for a long time. For a while, she thought the one-night stand she and House had ages ago had dealt with this issue, but after House came out of rehab and was coming at her so strong, it changed something in her.

"I went on a European adventure," says Edelstein. "Five days in, I broke up with a boyfriend, then a volcano erupted. But I made myself live through it even though there were times I was feeling quite homesick. In the end, it was a very special trip that a lot of people never ever get to do, and I felt grateful." For Laurie, it was all work and no play. "I was an idiot and spent the summer making a movie," Laurie says about his forthcoming indie comedy, The Oranges, in which he has a May-December romance with Gossip Girl Leighton Meester. "I would be December," he says.

ABC Family Picks Up Four Pilots

New ABC Family president Michael Riley is making his first development move a month after he took over the cable network following Paul Lee's move to ABC. ABC Family has greenlighted 3 pilots, Strut, Nine Lives and Switched at Birth. I hear the pickup of a fourth pilot, The Lying Game, is imminent. Two of the pilots, Nine Lives and The Lying Game, hail from Alloy Entertainment, the company behind ABC Family's freshman hit Pretty Little Liars.

Strut, whose order is cast-contingent, centers on a Las Vegas showgirl who unwittingly gets married to a Texan and becomes a high school instructor for a misfit drill team. Lamar Damon wrote the script and is executive producing with Anna Mastro, Karey Burke, Charlie Stratton and Norman Buckley.

Nine Lives is based on Alloy's Nine Lives of Chloe King series of 3 young-adult novels by Celia Thomson. Alloy Entertainment is producing the pilot, about Chloe King, a teenager with such super powers as super speed, agility and hearing. Dan Berendsen (Hannah Montana: The Movie) penned the script and is executive producing with Alloy's Leslie Morgenstein and Gina Girolamo.

Switched at Birth, written and executive produced by Elizabeth Weiss, centers on 2 teenagers who discover that they were switched at birth.

The Lying Game, which Alloy is producing with Warner Horizon TV, is based on the upcoming Alloy book series of the same name by Pretty Little Liars author Sara Shepard, which will be released in December. It centers on twin identical sisters separated at birth - one rich and one poor. When the rich one goes missing the poor sister sets out to find her. Chuck Pratt Jr. (Ugly Betty) wrote the script and is executive producing with Morgenstein and Girolamo.

NBC Snags 'Ghost' Romantic Comedy From Josh Schwartz Starring Rachel Bilson

It's an O.C. reunion at NBC! The O.C. creator/executive producer Josh Schwartz has a hot new hourlong project in the works, which will star O.C. alumna Rachel Bilson. After a heated bidding, the show, a supernatural romantic comedy titled Ghost Angeles, has landed at NBC with a pilot production commitment, a rare feat for a project that has not been written yet. Schwartz and Henry Alonso Myers (Ugly Betty) co-created Ghost Angeles and will write it together. Details on the project are being kept under wraps but, according to a concept circulated around, it centers on a young woman in Los Angeles who can talk to the dead, helping the spirits as much as they are helping her. Ghost Angeles hails from Fake Empire, Schwartz's recently launched company with Stephanie Savage, and Warner Bros. TV where the company is based with a five-year deal. Schwartz, Myers, Savage and Fake Empire's Leonard Goldstein are executive producing. In its first development season, Fake Empire has already sold 2 projects, Ghost Angeles and an ensemble show about young people in DC from writer Will Fetters, which is set up at ABC. Ghost Angeles marks the first hourlong project created by Schwartz in 4 years, since he sold Chuck, co-written with Chris Fedak, to NBC and Gossip Girl, co-penned with Savage, to the CW in 2006. It also extends Schwartz's relationship with NBC where Schwartz's spy dramedy Chuck just kicked off its fourths season.

The O.C. marked a career breakthrough for both Schwartz, who at the time became the youngest TV series creator, and Bilson, who had only done small guest roles until then. Bilson's character on the show, Summer Roberts, was also originally written as guest star but, after it popped, she was made a series regular, and Summer's romance with Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) became one of O.C.' key plotlines. Bilson, who is friends with Schwartz and his wife (she served as maid of honor at their wedding), did an arc on the first season of Schwartz's NBC dramedy Chuck. Bilson, whose feature credits include Jumper and New York I Love You, guest starred on the season premiere of CBS' How I Met Your Mother last week, reprising her role as a love interest for Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) from the show's 100th episode last season. Myers is currently a consulting producer on Chuck.

Treat Williams To Star In Lifetime Pilot

Treat Williams has been tapped to star opposite Rachael Carpani in Lifetime's drama pilot Against the Wall. Written by Annie Brunner and to be directed by Dean Parisot, Against the Wall is a family drama set in Chicago following policewoman Abby Kowalski (Carpani), who causes a rift with her three cop brothers when she decides to join the department’s Internal Affairs division. Williams will play Abby's dad, an old-school career Chicago cop who is rough around the edges but has a real soft spot for his only daughter until she tells him of her new gig, news that makes him feel hurt and angry. Universal Cable Prods. is producing. Williams, whose series credits include the WB's Everwood, TNT's Heartland and ABC's Brothers & Sisters, on which he had a recurring role, is seen in 2 movies this fall: Howl and Danny Boyle's 127 Hours. He is with APA and the Schiff Co. 

CBS wins premiere week; Fox in fourth (chart)

Ratings for the first full week of the broadcast season are in and there's a clear winner: CBS took the crown for Week 1 among both total viewers and adults 18-49.

NBC showed the most year-to-year growth among the major broadcast networks, thanks to replacing "The Jay Leno Show" with original dramas. Last year NBC averaged a 1.9 adult demo rating in the 10 p.m. hour, this year the network pulled a 2.1.

With time-period declines among its Monday and Thursday dramas, Fox not only earned the lowest score, but also dropped the most of any network year over year. The Fox drop was despite having the week's highest-rated entertainment program ("Glee").

Despite high-flying "Dancing With the Stars," ABC dropped due to some aging hour-long dramas and a couple weak premieres.

The CW's Friday night performance of "Smallville" and "Supernatural" helped raise the network's average.

Premiere week results (adults 18-49):


CW…1.0…1.1. ...10%

Premiere week results (total viewers):


CW....2177...2470... +12%

Top 10 Programs (adults 18-49):


Monday, September 27, 2010

'Chuck' enlists Rob Riggle

Actor-comedian-ex-Daily Show correspondent Rob Riggle is headed to Chuck, sources confirm to me exclusively.

The shocking twist? He’s not playing a character named Greta. I swear!

Riggle will instead guest star as Jim Rye, a super smart, intensely positive, and slightly crazy CIA agent who’s brought in to help Chuck become an even better spy.

He’ll appear in this season’s eighth episode, which also features a guest turn by fanboy icon Summer Glau—who will be playing a character named Greta.

Is Jennifer Morrison HIMYM's Mother?
Spoiler Alert! Jennifer Morrison is back on the lot where she spent more than five seasons as House's Dr. Cameron — but this time she's in a new role that showcases a killer comedic side we never knew she had. Jennifer joins CBS' How I Met Your Mother on October 18 as Ted's new love interest, a mischievous architecture nerd named Zoey Van Smoot — the most likely candidate yet to be the titular mom.

"Without giving anything away, it's a very, very big character who influences Ted's life quite a bit, so we were being very picky with who we cast," reveals creator Craig Thomas. "We'll see Zoey become a fixture of this group's world."

During a break in filming with Josh Radnor (Ted), Jennifer tells me, "It feels natural to be here." A rabid HIMYM fan, she campaigned hard for the role. "I was in Dallas playing a delusional killer on an episode of [NBC's] Chase [costarring real-life boyfriend Amaury Nolasco] when they called for me to come read with Josh." Adds Josh, "She was the unanimous choice" for the part.

Zoey and Ted hit it off when they meet on the streets of Manhattan and start talking architecture. But the budding flirtation sours when she discovers he's been hired to design a new building in the place of the historic one she's protesting to preserve. "She'll be making his life hell," assures Thomas.

But it turns out Zoey isn't all Ted first believes her to be, with one whammy revealed in her first episode. "That complicates things," says Josh. An additional surprise comes a few episodes later when Ted attends a gala event at the American Museum of Natural History and encounters a woman in a sparkling ball gown who turns out to be Zoey. "He gets a completely different version of this girl," says Thomas. "Maybe there's a little rich princess side to her."

So what's the chance of Jennifer becoming a series regular? "I wouldn't rule anything out," says Thomas. "There's something very kindred about them. In the middle of the season, this takes a big, interesting turn. We will be flashing forward to Ted's wedding day throughout the season. We're talking about seeing Zoey's house, and she'll become part of Ted's Thanksgiving Day, much to his chagrin. And I can tell you she's in our season finale. But whether Jennifer's the mother, I just can't say."

‘Royal Pains,’ ‘White Collar,’ & ‘Psych’ All Renewed

USA has renewed Royal Pains, White Collar and Psych. With those renewals, all of USA Network’s scripted shows have now been renewed – Royal Pains and White Collar for third seasons and Psych for a sixth season.

According to reports, Royal Pains is being picked up for a 16-18 episode season, and Psych and White Collar for 16 episode seasons.

Premiere week ratings: Comedies king, dramas dip

If the opening of the fall TV season has proved one thing so far, it’s that comedy has reclaimed the broadcast throne.

After the genre made promising gains last season with the launch of game-changers “Modern Family” and “Glee,” this year’s premieres are forming a consistent pattern: Popular comedies are returning to steady or better ratings than last year, and top dramas are coming back to lower numbers — sometimes, a lot lower.

Of the seven highest-rated premieres so far, five were comedies.

There was Fox’s “Glee” (5.6 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic, up 60%), ABC’s “Modern Family” (5.1, up 21%), NBC’s “The Office” (4.4, up 7%) and “CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” (4.9, up 4%) and “Two and a Half Men” (4.9, up 10%). Of the two other top premieres, one was a drama (ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy”; 5.4, down 21%) and the other was a reality show (ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars”; 5.1, up 24%).

The “Grey’s” slump was not without company. Part of the issue is the oft-reported observation that many of TV’s dramas are a bit long in the tooth. Veteran series “House” (4.2) was down 37%, “CSI” (3.4) — despite a guest appearance by Justin Bieber — fell 17%, and “NCIS” (4.0) was down 17%.

Ratings for new shows followed a predictable bell-curve pattern of a couple delivering truly impressive opens, several performing solidly and a handful that blew up at the starting gate.

“Everybody has something to feel good about,” CBS scheduling chief Kelly Kahl said.

Especially CBS, which is off to a great start. On Monday, “Hawaii Five-0” (3.9) didn’t create quite the splash that many expected, though its rating is formidable, and freshman “Mike & Molly” (3.9) managed to be the second-highest-rated comedy in the network’s block. Tuesday legal drama “The Defenders” (2.9) wasn’t spectacular but didn’t embarrass either. Thursday’s “$#*! My Dad Says” (4.0) opened terrific. And on Friday, despite rumors of a troubled production, “Blue Bloods” (2.2) performed solidly in a very tough time period and even won the night.

“All our new shows so far have at least gotten off the ground and look to have every opportunity to succeed,” Kahl said.

Much has been made of CBS’ bold scheduling shakeup for fall. And although at least one move clearly has paid off — “Survivor” (4.0) is rocking its new Wednesday time period — the jury is still out on the others. "Big Bang" delivered even better ratings on Thursday in a tougher time period, though whether the critically panned “$#*!” will maintain its numbers and continue to supply a fully functioning comedy block on the evening is still a question. “Hawaii” was below “CSI: Miami” in its time period, and on Friday, “CSI: NY” drew a tad less than “Medium” at the post last year.

NBC has enjoyed a couple positive headlines. Monday’s mystery thriller “The Event” (3.6) had a head-turning opening for the network in a competitive time period, and insiders hope audiences stick around for the next couple episodes, which critics say improve creatively on the pilot. At 10 p.m., action-thriller “Chase” (2.3) wasn’t able to catch up with competitors. New spy dramedy “Undercovers” (2.1) underwhelmed, and Friday’s Jimmy Smits legal drama “Outlaw” (1.1) looks DOA against “Blue Bloods.”

“It’s still the top of the first inning, but I’m happy with our start,” NBC scheduling head Mitch Metcalf said. “We’ve set out what we planned to do, and that’s to patiently hour-by-hour lay the foundation for a long-term turnaround.

Many expected NBC’s “Community” (2.2) to get crushed by “Big Bang” on Thursdays, but the comedy ended up delivering a typical number.

“They’re different types of comedies,” Metcalf said. “It’s not an election where the winner takes all.”

Thursday’s new comedy “Outsourced” (3.6) was impressive. But the return to a civilian version of “The Apprentice” (1.4) is not doing the network any favors on the night.

With “Glee,” Fox is able to tout last week’s highest-rated show. The rest of the network’s news is mixed. Critically well-liked comedy “Raising Hope” (3.1) launched fine, though there was a worrisome step down to “Running Wilde” (2.4). The network’s freshman tentpole “Lone Star” (1.3) had such as spectacularly dismal premiere that it spawned a slew of stories debating its fate and prompted creator Kyle Killen to write an open letter to fans to rally support.

“We’ve seen several episodes of ‘Raising Hope’ and we think we have a show there,” Fox’s scheduling chief Preston Beckman said.

ABC is pacing to land in second place for the week but had a couple misfires. Arguably its best bet, “No Ordinary Family,” doesn’t bow until Tuesday. “Dancing” and “Modern Family” dominated their respective nights, with the network’s Wednesday comedy block continuing to generate solid numbers. “The Middle” (2.7) showed particular spunk leading off the night and represents another comedy that returned to improved ratings. The debut of “Better With You” (2.5) was very OK.

There might be trouble among the network’s other new shows, though. Tuesday’s “Detroit 1-8-7” (2.3) underperformed, but the cop show looks towering when stacked next to Wednesday’s legal drama “The Whole Truth” (1.5) and Thursday’s “My Generation” (1.6), which join “Lone Star” and Outlaw” on the shortlist of insta-bubble shows.

“More than ever, you have a lot of time periods where you have two [or] three shows actually doing well,” ABC’s scheduling chief Jeff Bader said. “Some shows launching are not getting sampled because there’s so much going on.”

Neither of the CW’s freshman shows is blowing viewers skirts up like last year’s “The Vampire Diaries” (1.6), which continued to perform strongly. Wednesday’s “Hellcats” (1.0) and Thursday’s “Nikita” (1.1) are slipping from their lead-ins, though “Nikita” ranks as the network’s second-most-watched show among total viewers. More urgently worrisome is the return of low-show-on-the-totem “Life Unexpected” (0.7).

One bright spot: Friday’s premieres of the final season of “Smallville” (1.3) and “Supernatural” (1.3) landed the network a rare bronze medal for the night.

All of the networks had a win or two to call their own, through broadcast overall continues to erode as DVR penetration increased 6% over last fall. Through the first four days of the season, the five broadcast networks were once again down a collective average of 9%. As DVR date comes into play during the next few weeks, there’s sure to be more headlines about record-setting numbers that demonstrate how many viewers didn’t watch these shows the same night they aired

Another Twitter feed gets CBS comedy deal

Call it "$#*! My Roommate Says."

CBS is developing two new comedies, including a project based off a Twitter feed produced by social-media master Ashton Kutcher.

Following on the successful launch of its Twitter-inspired comedy "$#*! My Dad Says" last week, CBS has made a script deal for "Shh … Don't Tell Steve," based on a Twitter feed by the same name.

The CBS version of "Don't Tell Steve" is about man who deals with an immature roommate. Like "$#*! My Dad Says," the Twitter feed's premise is a guy who secretly Tweets the actions of somebody he lives with (in this case, his jobless, drunken roommate). The feed has drawn more than 13,000 followers.

Samples from the feed: "Steve loudly challenging people to a drinking contest. Nobody biting, so he's just doing shots and declaring himself the winner" … "Steve, just now, yelling from our bathroom: 'Total Asparagus pee bro! Come smell!'" … and his latest Tweet, fittingly for a feed that just landed a CBS sitcom deal: "Steve on TV Premiere Week: You are not making me watch the 'Dancing Washed Up Stars' results show. We're watching 'NCIS.'"

If "Don't Tell Steve" makes it to air, it could serve as a possible companion series to "$#*! My Dad Says" -- a sort of Must-Tweet TV.

CBS TV Studios and Katalyst will produce the project. Andrew Waller and Mike Gagerman are the writer-executive producers. Ashton Kutcher, who has an astounding 5.8 million followers on the popular social media site, and his producing partner Evan Goldberg are executive producers.

The second deal is for "Murses," a multi-camera comedy which follows two male nurses.

Jake Lentz and David Weinstein are the writer-executive producers. CBS TV Studios and New Wave are producing.

‘Dexter’ scores most-watched premiere yet

Another year, another record premiere rating for "Dexter."

The serial killah thrillah came back to 1.8 million viewers, up 16% from last fall.

Combined with its repeat airing, "Dexter" was seen by 2.3 million viewers on Sunday night. The premiere ranks as Showtime's top telecast for the year.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Darren Criss joins 'Glee' as...Kurt's new BF?

The plot surrounding Kurt’s first boyfriend on Glee thickens: Actor-singer-songwriter Darren Criss—best known to TV audiences as Matt Dallas’ bro on Eastwick—has landed the much-talked-about new gay role on the Fox phenom.

But will he have eyes for Kurt? Maybe. Maybe not. Allow me to explain…

Per a Glee source, Criss’ character, Blaine—a cute and charismatic gay student from a rival Glee club named the Dalton Academy Warblers—will maintain a strictly platonic friendship with McKinley High’s most out and proud pupil. But could that change as the season progresses? Yes, it could.

Sounds to me like series creator Ryan Murphy is keeping his options open.

Ever since Murphy announced that Kurt would be getting a love interest in season 2, speculation about the identity of his suitor has run rampant. The casting of pretty boy Chord Overstreet led some to speculate that his quarterback character Sam would play that role, a theory Chris Colfer all but shot down when he informed us that there’s no sign of romantic tension between Sam and Kurt in the first four episodes. “Maybe it is too obvious,” he theorized. “Our writers have a way of avoiding the obvious and throwing curveballs.”

In addition to his TV work, Criss has built quite a Web following as a member of the University of Michigan theater company Team StarKid. The group’s spoof, A Very Potter Musical, went viral and turned Criss (who plays the title role) into a bit of an Internet star.

Thoughts? Do you think Criss, Overstreet, or a third yet-to-be-cast actor will turn out to be Kurt’s BF? Speculate away in the comments section.

'Spartacus' may 'close up shop' in wake of Andy Whitfield's cancer relapse

Although Starz execs have yet to decide how Andy Whitfield’s cancer relapse will impact the future of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, exec producer Steven S. DeKnight reveals that one of two things will likely happen: a new actor will be brought in to replace Whitfield or the series will end.

“The two main options are to close up shop or recast,” says DeKnight. “I want to talk to Andy and find out how he feels about the options. That’s obviously very important to us.

“We’re still absorbing what’s happened,” adds DeKnight. “I think it’s going to be a little while before we reach any conclusions.” (Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, a prequel to the series, will still air as scheduled in January 2011.)

DeKnight says his primary concern remains Whitfield, who bowed out of the show’s second season after doctors advised him to resume “aggressive treatment” for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. “He’s a trooper,” marvels DeKnight. “He has a very positive outlook.”

Friday, September 24, 2010

'Heroes' baddie Zachary Quinto 'bummed' about wrap-up movie's demise

Heroes‘ fans aren’t the only folks miffed by NBC’s decision not to move forward with plans for a wrap-up movie. The show’s brain-eating baddie Zachary Quinto is also disheartened that closure won’t come to the Heroesverse.

“It’s disappointing that there was such a lack of resolution,” sighs the actor. “But unfortunately that’s just the nature of network television….Nothing really surprises me in terms of network and studio bureaucracy. It’s the way it goes.

“If it was in their best interest I’m sure they would have done it,” he adds. “And for whatever reason, they didn’t think it was. So that’s a bummer. But we have to just accept it and move on.”

Quinto—who’s currently headlining an Off-Broadway revival of Angels in America—isn’t allowing the show’s unhappy ending to taint an otherwise “phenomenal” experience. “I have nothing but fond memories and fondness for the people who gave me that opportunity,” he says. “I miss everybody, but I’m also glad to know that everybody is moving forward with as much momentum as possible.”

'Buffy' alum Marc Blucas suits up for 'Necessary Roughness'

Buffy grad Marc Blucas has landed the male lead opposite Callie Thorne in the USA pilot Necessary Roughness, sources confirm to me exclusively.

Roughness centers on a female shrink (Thorne) who becomes the therapist for a professional football team. After succeeding beyond expectations, she is sought after by other athletes, musicians, politicians, and those living in the spotlight who all want her unique brand of tough-love therapy.

Blucas will play the team’s hunky trainer and a romantic foil for Thorne.

JEFF ZUCKER FIRED BY STEVE BURKE: "They Wanted To Move On" After Merge; Sends Email To NBCU Staff That He'll Exit When Comcast Takes Control

Jeff Zucker this morning is telling reporters that the decision for him to leave as head of NBC Universal was made for him by Comcast COO Steve Burke 2 weeks ago during a face-to-face meeting. “He made it clear that they wanted to move on at the close of the deal and I was completely comfortable with that,” Zucker told his favorite journalist, Bill Carter of The New York Times. “We had both gotten to the same place.” It has long been expected that the savvy Comcast brass would recognize how badly the NBCU topper had "Zucked-up" his job. Still, the timing is a shocker. How bizarre that NBCU topper Jeff Zucker made the announcement to his staff this morning because Comcast won't clear regulatory hurdles until First Quarter 2011 at the earliest. (There've been considerable delays dragging out the deal approval process.) "We're all in shock," an insider tells me. "They must have fired him. He sent out a note to the staff along the lines of 'I've loved my time here and it's time for me to go.'" In fact, senior staff received word directly from Zucker about 30 minutes before the email went out wide to NBCU. (See email below.) One NBCU exec I spoke with this morning had just dealt with Zucker the day before. "I spoke to him on other topics and he gave no indication. He didn’t seem depressed. It was business as usual." The news first broke early this morning on CNBC which reported that Jeff Zucker will step down as CEO of NBC Universal after the merger with Comcast. CNBC has a history as the in-house clearinghouse for news about NBCU, GE, and now Comcast.

Here's the email that Zucker sent to NBCU staff:

From: Zucker, Jeff (NBC Universal)
Sent: Friday, September 24, 2010 10:58 AM
To: NBC Universal Employee Communications (NBC Universal)
Subject: A Note from Jeff Zucker

September 24, 2010

Well, the time has come. This time, to tell you a little news about me.

When Comcast assumes control of NBC Universal, I will leave the company.

It has not been an easy or simple decision. I have spent my entire adult life here, more than 24 years. This is the only place I have ever worked. The only professional thing I have ever known. I met my wife here, enjoyed the birth of our four children in that time, worked in almost every division of the company. And forged relationships, both professional and personal, that will last a lifetime.

I remember, vividly, the first day I came to work here in August, 1986. I walked to work at 30 Rockefeller Plaza that day; it was humid and my shirt was soaking by the time I got there. In the years since, I have enjoyed nothing but sheer pleasure in having the names NBC and Universal on my business cards. Sure, there have been ups and downs in the last quarter century. But when I step back, and think about what we've been through, I feel nothing but pride and joy. It has been a great run and I've been incredibly fortunate.

Now, it is clear to me that this is the right decision for me and for the company. Comcast will be a great new steward, just as GE has been, and they deserve the chance to implement their own vision.

I am proud that they will inherit a company in very good shape, with almost every one of our divisions enjoying their best year ever. The current strength of the company is a tribute to every one of you and the terrific leadership team that is in place.

We'll talk more about the shape of the company in the months ahead. For now, I just wanted you to know my plans. I won't be going anywhere until the day the deal closes, and that day is still months away. There is plenty left to do, and we have an obligation to each other to maintain what we have already built. I will continue to approach everything we do with the long-term interest of the company in mind, just as I always have; I know no other way.

I don't yet know what my future will bring. I've spent the last 24 years thinking only about NBC Universal, and never contemplated anything else. I haven't even begun to think about the next chapter. But I wanted to be honest with you about this news as soon as I could.

I love NBC Universal. And always will. And I am grateful to each of you.

My most heartfelt thanks.

‘Big Bang Theory’ conquers Thursday comedies; ‘My Generation’ flops

The results of the most eagerly anticipated ratings match-up are in: The premiere of CBS' "Big Bang Theory" made a dramatic ratings splash in its new time period last night.

"Big Bang" delivered 14 million viewers and a 4.8 preliminary adults 18-49 rating, that's actually up a tenth of a point from its cozy position in CBS' Monday comedy block last year.

NBC's rival "Community" (5 million, 2.2) fell 42% from last year's debut. But don't go blaming "Big Bang" just yet. Last year, "Community" aired at 9:30 p.m. and benefited from an "Office" lead-in. Last night's "Community" is on par with the show's usual 8 p.m. performance last season, and improved upon last fall's "Saturday Night Live" special in the time period.

"Big Bang" led into the debut of CBS' "$#*! My Dad Says" (12.5 million, 3.9), which retained an impressive percentage of its "Big Bang" lead-in. "$#*!" trounced NBC's "30 Rock" (5.8 million, 2.6), which was down 13% from last year ("30 Rock" was also launched at 9:30 p.m. with an "Office" lead-in).

"The Office" (8.4 million, 4.3) improved slightly for NBC, which then introduced "Outsourced" (7.4 million, 3.5). The India-set comedy was down 8% from "Community" in the time period. The comedy block fed into the second week of "The Apprentice" (3.8 million, 1.4), which declined a tenth. Can't see "Apprentice" staying in this time period for long with these numbers.

Overall, CBS won the night despite the premieres of procedurals "CSI" (14.6 million, 3.4) and "The Mentalist" (15.3 million, 3.3) slouching, the former down 17% and the latter falling 8%.

ABC placed second, with the meager series premiere of "My Generation" (5.2 million, 1.6) tying The CW at 8 p.m. for last place in the hour. "My Gen" was down 60% from the debut of "FlashForward" in the time period.

ABC's other soaps also posted losses. "Grey's Anatomy" (14 million, 5.3) fell 21% and "Private Practice" (9 million, 3.3) dropped 28%. Nonetheless, "Grey's" ranked as the evening's top-rated show.

In fourth, Fox's premieres for "Bones" (9.8 million, 2.7) and "Fringe" (5.8 million, 2.1) felt the heat. "Bones" was down 13%; "Fringe" was off 30%, though Fox premiered the show a week earlier last year.

The CW's "Vampire Diaries" (3.6 million, 1.6) actually flourished despite the added competition, up 14%. But while its lead-in climbed, "Nikita" (3.2 million, 1.1) slipped.

How CSI Nabbed Ann-Margret

What did it take to get Ann-Margret to appear on the October 14 episode of CSI? A plea from Anthony Zuiker, the creator of all things CSI, who personally wrote the episode after stepping away from his mother ship several seasons back.

"Ann-Margret is very, very difficult to woo, so I called her up personally to tell her about the episode," says Zuiker, whose new book, Dark Prophecy, is also in stores October 14.

"She was on the Queen Mary making a voyage from London to New York, and the Queen Mary was gracious enough to print out the script out for her to read. And it scarred the crap out of her!"

Margret's character is a philanthropic woman named Margot Wilton who raised an ill son confined to a wheelchair before deciding to end his suffering. She is stalked by a forensic-proof serial killer named Sqweegel, who is also the central antagonist in Zuiker's novel.

But did the still stunningly beautiful actress, who remarkably turns 70 next year, really count on being put through the tortures Zuiker whipped up for her?

"She's incredibly fit," Zuiker praises. "It was a very physical role — almost as many constraints as my villain, who is played by an actor who is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's most flexible man. She had to fall out of an attic, fall down stairs and crawl across the floor with bloody hands. She was game to do every bit of it — with a little assistance from a stunt double — all with a blade-wielding villain in her face. It was very taxing and she did a phenomenal job."

Phenomenal enough to win her another Emmy to place alongside the one she just collected for Law & Order: SVU? We shall see....
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