Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ahoy, Ye Maties!

Argh, there be pirates on your wee talking box, ye scurvy-filled wretches!

(Honestly, that sounds so much cooler in my head, when I do it in the voice of the Sea Captain from "The Simpsons.")

If Jack Sparrow and his lot hasn't sated your taste for high-seas adventure, perhaps you should catch "Pirate Master" (CBS, 8 p.m.), the heavily hyped new reality series from "Survivor" creator Mark Burnett, in which 16 would-be pirates compete for buried treasure. (Please God, let the loser each week walk the plank into shark infested waters!)

Perhaps because of my innate Britishness, I've always loved stuff set on the oceans, with the tallships, cutlasses, and so forth, so I'll be watching tonight with some interest, hoping that the show is less dull than "Survivor" came to be.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: I was pretty underwhelmed by last week's return of "Studio 60" (NBC, 10 p.m.), but probably it was because of the absence of series stars Amanda Peet, Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford. With that trio back, hopefully the show will return to its stride in its remaining few episodes.

Also on hand is the "Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee" (ABC, 10 p.m.), which is reality programming in its truest form. Interest in the bee has grown exponentially over the last few years, so tune in to see what the fuss is about.

Everything else is a rerun, but Thursday has some of the best programming for the week, so now is your chance to catch up on some shows you might have heard of but have missed out on, such as "Supernatural" (CW, 9 p.m.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Serials Worth A Taste?

Though the serial is nearly dead among new TV shows, that doesn't stop the networks from burning off the few they have remaining in their vaults.

Viewers who missed the pilot for "Traveler" a few weeks ago can catch it again when it reruns tonight (ABC, 9 p.m.), followed by a new episode at 10 p.m.

In addition, the pilot for a mystery series aimed at "The O.C." crowd debuts tonight with "Hidden Palms," (CW, 8 p.m.). The show is produced by "Dawson's Creek" exec Kevin Williamson, who knows something about appealing to the teen market.

IS YOUR FIFTH GRADER SMART?: If so, you may want to take him or her to Atlanta on Tuesday. The Fox smash hit game show "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" is holding open casting calls around the country, including at America's Mart at 240 Peachtree Street, beginning at 8 a.m.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Most of the new stuff is so-called reality based. ABC offers "Who Is The Greatest Celebrity Impersonator?" at 8 p.m., while Fox offers a two-hour "So You Think You Can Dance."

"One Tree Hill" (CW, 9 p.m.) is also new. The CW is going to let this show advance four years into the future next season in order to save the series, but the network wouldn't do the same thing with "Veronica Mars."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Save 'Jericho' Campaign

Every year, one TV show that doesn't survive the networks' axe usually inspires a campaign to save it.

And it's not just tilting at windmills, either. The fervent devotion of fans over the years helped save shows like "Cagney & Lacey," "Quantum Leap," and others, and gave shows like "Farscape" a miniseries that allowed the producers to provide some closure.

This year's cause is "Jericho." On the local level, I got a call from a very nice woman named Mary Katherine Scroggs, who provided several links to a national effort to save the CBS series about a midwestern town that survives a nuclear holocaust.

"Jericho's" story - off-camera - is an interesting one. CBS went away from its standard procedural fare by producing a drama that told its story in serialized form. "Jericho" debuted to strong ratings initially, but suffered after a prolonged hiatus.

Scroggs, however, pointed out that "Jericho" also suffered from recent phenomena plaguing other series - that of timeshifting and downloading. Scroggs said if you count the downloaded episodes and the ones that were recorded on VCRs and DVRs - and "Jericho" appealed to the audience that does just that - the show's ratings were stronger than appeared.

"CBS needed to count the new media viewers, not just the Nielsens," she said. "They didn't take those viewers into consideration."

Today's posting coincides with an ad in Variety that fans of the show have bought in order to promote their campaign, called "Nuts" after a line by series star Skeet Ulrich, said in defiance over an attack on the fictional Jericho by a neighboring town.

CBS president Nina Tassler has already said she wants some sort of closure to the series, but doesn't know what form that will take. Fans like Scroggs want a second season.

"A TV movie is not acceptable," she said, adding she was hoping that "Jericho" would be brought back as a 13-episode midseason replacement, or get bought by another network, such as TNT.

My thoughts: A second season is very unlikely, but a TV movie or even a miniseries, a' la "Farscape," would provide fans some closure and be doable by network standards.

Here are some of the Save Jericho links:

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Speaking of ratings, Fox didn't do itself any favors by pulling "House," its highest-rated drama in favor of the bloated "American Idol" finale. By airing the season finale of "House" (Fox, 9 p.m.) tonight, the network doesn't get the benefit of the show's ratings for the May sweeps.

Also new tonight is "On The Lot," (Fox, 8 p.m.), the results show after last night's final 18. Personally, that special effects guy is so far ahead of the rest of the field, the show for me is pretty much decided, but we'll see how it plays out over the next few weeks.

"Boston Legal" (ABC, 10 p.m.) also wraps up its season tonight, while "The Shield" (FX, 10 p.m.) still has a few more weeks to go.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Breaking News: Rosie Is Done

A quick update to let you know that Rosie O'Donnell has been given an early release from her contract with "The View."

According to AP reports, ABC granted O'Donell her release Friday, presumably meaning that she has recorded her last appearance on "The View." On Wednesday, O'Donnell and co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck got into a heated exchange over the war in Iraq.

O'Donnell was originally supposed to leave in mid-June.

No word on her replacement, either permanent or on an interim basis.

'Lost's' Game-Changer

OK, here is the wrap-up to "Lost," as promised. With spoilers a-plenty, feel free to skip to the Best Bets at the end if you haven't seen this season's finale yet.

Still here? Good.

So, um, WOW! Frak-tastic is all I can say.

"Lost" truly shifted gears by offering a flash forward rather than a flashback. I had an inkling they were doing this early on, because of the flecks of gray in bearded Jack's hair made him look a bit older. Also, he kept using one of the new, ultra-thin phones that weren't out when Oceanic 815 supposedly crashed. (I thought that this could also be a props gaffe).

But then Jack kept referring to his father as if he were alive, and Sarah (Julie Bowen) looked pretty much the same, except for being pregnant, so it made it seem like it was a flashback. So kudos to the producers for keeping me guessing.

Kudos also to Michael Emerson, who keeps us guessing as to Ben's true motivations. Is he the good guy he keeps claiming to be? Is he nuts? Is he evil? We know Ben gave the order to only pretend to shoot his hostages in order to trick Jack into giving up the satellite phone because he's desperate to keep this mysterious other group from finding the island.

The finale had a lot of great moments, including dialogue:

Kate: Why are you defending Sawyer?
Jack: Because I love you.


Alex: You locked him up in a cell and tried to brainwash him!
Ben: I was trying to make sure he didn't get you pregnant. It's possible I may have gone too far.


Rousseau (her first words to her daughter): Would you like to help me tie him up?
Alex: OK.

While I knew Hurley was going to come through for Sawyer in the end, I didn't know he'd use the van to do it, so that was a stand-up-and-cheer moment.

And Charlie, who usually annoys me, was great throughout the episode. I couldn't understand why he just didn't leave the room and seal it from the outside when the grenade went off, but looking back, I'm guessing he did so because he felt it was the only way to ensure Claire got rescued; if he had changed the outcome of Desmond's vision and survived, then perhaps Claire would still be trapped.

Of course, now there are burning questions for next season: If the ship wasn't sent by Penny, then who did send it? Why was the communications relay set to a channel to communicate with Penny, and why does she seemingly spend her days waiting by the console waiting for the signal to be unjammed? Why did Ben lie to The Others and keep the underwater station manned? Who was the body in the coffin? What was so terrible about the rescue that Jack seeks to return to the island, and what happened to everyone else besides him and Kate? Is the show going to continue on the island or the real world?

The last one is a very interesting question. "Lost" could go the "Battlestar Galactica" route and jump ahead into the future, then show what happened during the missing time via flashback. Or, it could be going the "Heroes" route and being showing only a possible future.

The only negative to all this is that ABC is waiting until February to bring the series back so as to avoid the troubles the show had during its long hiatus this year. (Note to ABC: Just bring it back in the fall, and don't air a crappy show in "Lost's" timeslot for nearly two months).

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Between the end of the TV year and the holiday weekend, pickings are slim. However...

One of my favorite series from this season was "Life On Mars" and BBC America is giving you the chance to catch up by airing the first four episodes during two mini-marathons on Saturday. If cool, weird shows like "Lost" and "Heroes" are your cup of tea, then "Life On Mars" is for you. (Not to mention its terrific 1973 soundtrack).

You can also catch the season finale of "Robin Hood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.), which should be interesting considering the cliff-hanger the producers left us with last week.

"The Sopranos" is pre-empted this week, a little frustrating considering how good the last two episodes have been.

I'll be back on Tuesday, so enjoy the long weekend and drive safe.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

'Studio 60' Returns Tonight

Welcome to post No. 200 here at the TV Guy. I'm going to wait until No. 201 for the post-"Lost" commentary tomorrow.

Meanwhile, welcome back "Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip" (NBC, 10 p.m.) to your TV screens for a few more weeks, not that you'd know it from NBC's lack of promotion. You'd think that with the lack of anything else new on the tube, the network could throw at least one advert letting fans know it was back, but I guess it was too much to ask.

It's not surprising, really. When I blogged initially about "Studio 60," I raved about its sensational pilot. Has the show lived up to the potential it showed early on? No. Was it still one of the better shows on the air when it was on?

In my opinion, yes.

Sure, the Matt-Harriet subplot never worked for me, and it was a mistake to do the Danny-Jordan show when they were stuck on the roof, and the two-parter in Utah with John Goodman was a dud, and some of the characters like D.L. Hughley were underused, and the characters of Jack (Steven Weber) and Jordan (Amanda Peet) spent more time hanging out on one set than any network executives normally would, but...

There was something to this show. It had charm, it had humor, it had intelligence. The episode with the New Orleans musicians was a great hour, and like most Aaron Sorkin shows, I think it takes the better part of a season for it to find its sea legs. Look at the first seasons of "SportsNight" and "West Wing" and see how up-and-down they were.

I think there was enough of "Studio 60," had it aired on a different night, that it might have sustained a second year, but it was also a very expensive show to produce with all of the talent attached, so I can understand NBC's decision to end it. And if it came down to "Studio 60" and another season of "Friday Night Lights," then NBC made the right call.

But I don't understand NBC's need to bury the remaining few episodes (hopefully, they won't pull a "Kidnapped," and air the rest on after poor initial ratings on the show's return.

Sometimes, writers like Sorkin come up with great ideas, and sometimes, networks like NBC give them a chance. And sometimes, these things just don't work out. Hopefully, that doesn't mean the networks and producers won't try again in the future.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Other than NBC burning off the remaining few "Studio 60s," there isn't a whole lot new airing right now.

There is the second episode of "On The Lot" (Fox, 9:30 p.m.) as the network will run it in a similar format to "American Idol" with twice-a-week airings. Hopefully, you caught Episode 1 on Tuesday, in which candidates had to pitch an original script based upon a logline they were given. Having actually taken part in a pitch contest, I can say it's the most miserable experience imagineable if you suck at it like I did. The first guy on "On The Lot" who pitched pretty much sounded exactly the way I did when I attempted to pitch at the Austin Film Festival last year, so that brought back some painful memories.

Fox is airing the debut of "So You Think You Can Dance" at 8 p.m. Also, for people who missed out on one of TV's best new shows, you can catch the re-airing of the "Ugly Betty" pilot (ABC, 8 p.m.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

'Heroes' Wrap-Up

I wanted to give everyone who needed it a day to catch up if you hadn't seen the finale of "Heroes" yet.




For the most part, I loved the finale for several reasons. For one, it wrapped up Season 1's storylines, as the producers promised it would. For another, it contained solid twists. And finally, we got a lot of great moments of interpersonal relationships (Peter-Nathan; Peter-Charles; Claire-HRG aka Noah Bennet; Hiro-Ando; Niki-D.L.). Not to mention the symmetry that ran from the pilot to the ending, such as the eclipse, Hiro and Ando returning to the office cubicle, and Nathan flying in to save Peter.

Some people have complained that the fight at the end wasn't big enough; maybe that's a valid point, but I think people were expecting X-Men-style teamwork among characters who barely knew each other.

For me, the producers could have solved some of the complaints with a few pieces of dialogue. Some people are asking why Peter needed Nathan to fly away at the end when he should have been able to do it himself, but I'm guessing Peter was expending all his energy to keep from not exploding and couldn't fly. And it allowed Nathan his nice moment of redemption.

What I liked was the way the show ended Chapter 1 and began Chapter 2, making that the cliffhanger, which I found to be inspired. We still have a lot of questions from Season 1 - who survived, who didn't, who is the new Big Bad that the little girl was referring to that is worse than Sylar - but one thing "Heroes" has done throughout its run has been to set up the various plotlines by asking questions that it will answer later down the line.

I'm not really sure what people expected from the finale - or the finales of any show, for that matter - but if there was disappointment among some viewers, it's only because "Heroes" has set the bar so high.

Anyway, feel free to post your thoughts about this, or any other finale.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: And, speaking of finales...

"Lost" (ABC, 9 p.m.) wraps up Season 3 with what critics are saying is one phenomenal plot twist. Expect certain characters to die is all I really know. With a reported four deaths still to come this season, I'm really worried they're going to kill someone I really like. After a slow start, "Lost" has been very strong this season (minus the Jack's tattoos episode). Tonight's two-hour finale follows a rerun of the "Lost: Answers" special in which the producers of the show look at some of the key plot points over the life of the series.

Also tonight, we learn who the newest "American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) will be. Though she has left The Telegraph for hopefully bigger and better things, Maggie Large is continuing to blog about "AI" on her music blog, Amped.

NBC is running a two-hour special looking at "Saturday Night Live" in the 1990s.

You may also want to check out PBS tonight with a couple of shows. The first is a documentary looking at Tony Blair's term as Britain's prime minister at 9 p.m., followed by a rerun of "Nova" at midnight I forgot to mention yesterday. It's a special about the robots that university teams are building in the annual DARPA competition, which is always cool.

Finally, "Hustle" (AMC, 10 p.m.) is also new and has picked up after what has been a slow start.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A 'Lot' Of Interest In This Show

Hello, I'm Phillip, and I'm an aspiring screenwriter. (Everyone: "Hi, Phillip!")

Being an aspiring screenwriter is almost like an addiction. (I qualify myself by saying "aspiring," since I've yet to earn $1 from doing it.) Like any addiction, it's often a pointless, self-destructive, waste of time. Honestly, all the hours I've spent pecking away at my computer on weekends would probably be spent better if I was playing online poker.

Yet I still do it. Like the gambler with a problem, one thinks that the next roll of the die, the next turn of the roulette wheel will be the winning roll that makes all of the losing worth it.

A quarter-century ago, legendary screenwriter William Goldman wrote the book "Adventures In The Screen Trade," which helped birth a nation of aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers, all with the same notion of walking out of a bad movie and saying "I can do better," then trying to do so.

Screenwriting has become a modern-day lottery. People imagine earning millions of dollars by selling that one script, because they heard of some housewife in Tacoma who did just that. What people never hear about are the millions of people waiting tables for the rest of their lives, piling up rejection letters from the companies courteous enough to send them.

I've quit screenwriting several times, but for various reasons, it didn't take. My first script, "1066," was a finalist for a Disney Fellowship in 2003 and won a bronze medal for Best Historical Screenplay at WorldFest, the Houston Film Festival. I even optioned it (though I never got paid for it.) I had enough of a success with it that it got me through two more scripts which no one in Hollywood cared about.

After that, I tried to write something more commercial, and you can't get more commercial than animated movies. The one I wrote, about dragons, didn't win any awards, but every company in Hollywood is looking for the next "Shrek," so I got a lot of looks everywhere (except the granddaddy of them all, Pixar). I even had a manager take it specially to Sony Animation; after they showed no interest in it, neither did the manager.

But it was enough to keep me going. The latest one I've written, "Nightstrike," was a quarterfinalist at last year's Austin Film Festival, then made it to the quarters of Creative Screenwriting's AAA contest. Right now, it's with a bona fide producer who wants to buy it, and has sent it to directors and actors you've actually heard of.

Yet while my family and friends are very excited about the prospect, I spend half my time waiting for the other shoe to drop because we writers are intrinsically a miserable lot, perhaps genetically incapable of optimism. Until I am holding a check that contains a life-changing amount of zeroes on it, I'm holding my breath, hoping against hope that this is truly the one and not another mirage.

I write this long preamble because tonight Fox airs its new reality show, "On The Lot," (Fox, 9 p.m.), which is co-produced by Steven Spielberg. Somewhat akin to the defunct "Project Greenlight," "On The Lot" is a chance for 50 writer-directors to compete for one of those rare Hollywood opportunities. The twist is, the audience at homes gets to see the filmmakers' work and vote for the contestants to advance, a' la "American Idol."

I have no idea about "On The Lot's" quality, but I enjoyed "Greenlight" a great deal and I'm looking forward to tonight's episode, in which the contestants have to pitch their ideas. Having done a pitch session in Austin (and humiliating myself), I can tell you it's one of the hardest aspects of filmmaking.

I wish them all luck. In Hollywood, it's usually the only factor that matters.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Speaking of "American Idol," it wraps up its final hour of competition (Fox, 8 p.m.) before tomorrow night's results show.

Speaking of reality, ABC has a night full of it (well, full of something) with a wrap-up to "The Bachelor" at 8 p.m., followed by the final "Dancing With the Stars" at 9 p.m.

"NCIS" (CBS, 8 p.m.) wraps up its season, followed by a new "Jesse Stone" movie, starring Tom Selleck.

"Veronica Mars" (CW, 8 p.m.) wraps up the series with a two-hour finale, ending what has been a slow, painful death for its fans.

Finally, "The Shield" (FX, 10 p.m.) continues what has been an exceptional run this year.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Call To Former "Price Is Right" Contestants

On an unrelated note to the regular blogging, I'm looking for Middle Georgians who have appeared on "The Price Is Right" over the years and would like to share their stories for "The Telegraph."

If you are a former contestant or know someone who was, please e-mail me at


Phillip Ramati

Big Finales

Two of TV's more interesting serialized shows - heading in vastly different directions - wrap up tonight.

"Heroes" (NBC, 9 p.m.) has been one of TV's most sublime efforts, a show that started strong and has raised its game every week. Part of the reason for its success is that the show moves at a rapid pace, setting up big plot themes then bringing along fairly quick resolutions. For example, the "Save the cheerleader, save the world" theme that marked the first half of the season had a definite resolution, and three weeks ago we learned why it was so significant in the first place (so that the show's villain, Sylar, didn't steal Claire's power and become invulnerable).

Tonight's finale is supposed to resolve nearly all of the plotlines (Season 2 will have a new arc). With a number of key deaths this season of full-time characters - including a couple last week - who survives and who doesn't is very much up in the air. Perhaps no other show on TV has been better with coming up with better plot twists. VCR ALERT: "Heroes" is supposed to run about five minutes or so longer, so you may want to let your VCR/DVR/TIVO record into the next program.

On the other end of the spectrum is "24," (Fox, 8 p.m.) which is even being bashed by the show's most fervent fans. I've never made a secret of the fact I've never been a huge "24" fan, but at least in previous years the show was entertaining. This year has been something I wouldn't have thought possible - dull.

Tonight's two-hour finale will presumably have some sort of confrontation between Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) and his dad (James Cromwell), the apparent mastermind for everything bad the past couple of seasons. In addition, there will be more White House intrigue centered around the Vice President (Powers Boothe, who along with Peter MacNichol, has been among the few bright spots this season).

"24's" producers have been pretty much tuned in to the fan pulse by following along on the Internet, so hopefully they will listen to some of the suggestions thrown out there by moving the show out of L.A. and changing up things a bit.

"JERICHO" WRAP-UP?: As TV Guide first reported, CBS president Nina Tassler has apparently listened to fans of the show "Jericho," who complained that the show was cancelled with a cliff-hanger ending that won't be resolved.

This was posted at

To the fans of Jericho:

We have read your emails over the past few days and have been touched by the depth and passion with which you have expressed your disappointment. Please know that canceling a television series is a very difficult decision. Hundreds of people at the Network, the production company and the incredibly-talented creative team worked very hard to build and serve the community for this show -- both on-air and online. It is a show we loved too.

Thank you for supporting Jericho with such passion. We truly appreciate the commitment you made to the series and we are humbled by your disappointment. In the coming weeks, we hope to develop a way to provide closure to the compelling drama that was the Jericho story.


Nina Tassler, President of CBS Entertainment

What that closure is remains a mystery. "Jericho's" low ratings at the end (the show was crippled by CBS's idiotic decision to split the season into halves and put a two-plus month break in the middle, killing its momentum) probably don't justify a TV movie, and doing an online-only episode would probably be cost prohibitive.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Now that summer is here and few of the shows on the air are new, I won't be posting the nightly Best Bets section as often.

ABC is all-new and all-reality, with a new "Dancing With The Stars" at 8 p.m., followed by the two-hour finale of "The Bachelor," in which another couple will get together in a doomed relationship. Seriously, almost none of the "Bachelor" couples have stayed together.

On NBC, "Deal or No Deal" is new at 8 p.m. Normally, I wouldn't highlight a game show, but the contestant tonight is real-life NYC subway hero Wesley Autrey Sr., which is kind of cool. After the "Heroes" finale, "Law & Order: CI" ends tonight with a 10:05 p.m. start time. In an unusual bit, "L&O:CI" moves to USA next season for first-run episodes, which will then be repeated on NBC. Since I used up my initials quota in that last sentence, that wraps things up today.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Network Upfronts V: CW

So, here we are, last and probably least, the CW.

The product of a shotgun wedding between the defunct WB and UPN networks, the CW managed to do even less ratings than either.

It's not as if the cupboard at the CW was completely bare coming in. I'm a big fan of "Veronica Mars," "Smallville" and "Supernatural," and shows like "Gilmore Girls" and "7th Heaven" had their own followings.

But, for whatever reason, the network just hasn't caught on, and I don't think there's much in the upcoming fall season that's going to change that.

As I posted yesterday, the CW ended "Veronica Mars," and it's unlikely the proposed spinoff of having Veronica become an FBI agent with a new supporting cast is going to happen. The network did say it wanted to do projects with both star Kristen Bell and series creator Rob Thomas, but it likely will not be anything involving our plucky teen detective.

But for me, Thursday's upfronts were a time to celebrate. "Supernatural," another CW with a cult following that was on the bubble, was officially renewed. Since I had already written off "VM," and since I think "Supernatural" is a more consistently entertaining show anyway, it was actually a pretty good day.

As for the new stuff, decide for yourself:

-"Aliens in America" (Mondays, 8:30 p.m.) is about a teenager who gets a Pakistani Muslim exchange student as his new best friend. It promises to explore issues of tolerance while presumably making us laugh.

-"Reaper" (Tuesdays, 9 p.m.) sounds like it would have been perfectly paired with "Supernatural." It's about a young man who finds out his parents sold his soul to the Devil and he must now serve as Satan's bounty hunter, capturing escaping demons.

-"Gossip Girl" (Wednesdays, 9 p.m.) is supposed to be the next guilty pleasure, in the vein of "The O.C." Based on the series of popular teen books, it focuses on the kids at an upscale Manhattan prep school.

-"CW Now" (Sundays, 7 p.m.) is an "Entertainment Tonight"-styled show that focuses on the youth market. Doesn't everything these days?

-"Online Nation" (Sundays, 7:30 p.m.) may be the CW's most innovative idea. It culls the best of homemade videos and serves as a kind of weekly YouTube.

-"Life is Wild" (Sundays, 9 p.m.) is based on a BBC series about a family that moves to South Africa. The series is shot entirely on location.

-So far, the CW has made its bread-and-butter some really awful reality series. In addition to the return of "Pussycat Dolls" in midseason, the network is also offering "Farmer Wants a Wife," which sounds pretty self-explanatory, and "The Mother of All Pageants," in which mother-daughter teams compete in a pageant.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: This one is almost worthy of its own blog posting. ABC is trying to find the next craze that will match Texas Hold 'Em. Unfortunately, all the network suits could come up with is "National Bingo Night," (ABC, 9 p.m.), quite possibly one of the dumbest ideas in recent memory. Of course, these were the same suits that decided to yank "Lost" for two months in favor of "Daybreak."

Supposedly, "Bingo" will have a few tweaks and a more interactive element so that someone who is not in the studio audience might actually watch. Why don't the networks get it? Poker has certain elements, certain strategies, that makes it watchable at home; in bingo, all you're waiting for the little ball to roll out and say "B-12" and for someone to show bingo.

CBS continues to celebrate veteran TV personalities by honoring Walter Cronkite at 8 p.m., followed by a Dr. Phil special and the season finale of "Numb3rs" at 10 p.m.

"Law & Order" (NBC, 10 p.m.) also wraps up tonight.

On Saturday, "Robin Hood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) begins a two-part season finale. Also, you can catch up on one of TV's best new and talked-about shows with a marathon of "Heroes" on the Sci-Fi Channel beginning Saturday morning. It will give you enough time to catch up before Monday's season finale.

On Sunday, I'm actually looking forward to the adventures of Jack Bauer. No, not the "24" season finale, but rather Kiefer Sutherland's guest star role on the 400th episode of "The Simpsons" (Fox, Sun., 8 p.m.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Network Upfronts IV: Fox

Technically, I have the upfronts for both Fox and the CW today, but I'll just focus on the former today and the latter tomorrow. (Sneak peek for tomorrow - "Veronica Mars" is 99.9 percent dead.)

Say this for Fox. It knows its audience. The networks upfronts show probably the broadest mix of shows that will be added to a pretty strong roster (ratings wise) already.

Fox being Fox, the new shows contain a higher mix of reality-based shows than the other networks, but considering Fox's bread-and-butter is "American Idol," this probably doesn't come as a shock.

Among the new reality shows is an "AI" spinoff, tentatively titled "The Search For the Next Great American Band" (Fridays, 8 p.m.), getting an odd timeslot considering the audience it's targeting. One would have presumed it would be in "AI's" slots, but hey, what do I know? It will be joined by "Nashville," (Fridays, 9 p.m.), from the producers of "Laguna Beach," about presumably very good looking people trying to make it on the Nashville music and social scene.

Gordon Ramsay will have a second show with the network, called "Kitchen Nightmares," in which he tries to turn around struggling restaurants.

On the scripted front, Fox has one of the more highly anticipated sitcoms for next year, "Back To You," starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton as newscasters.

Drama-wise, Fox is offering "K-Ville," (Mondays, 9 p.m.) starring Anthony Anderson and Cole Hauser as cops in post-Katrina New Orleans, and "New Amsterdam," (Tuesdays, 8 p.m.) about an immortal detective in New York, produced by Lasse Hallstrom.

Fox has probably done a better job than most networks in dividing up its fall and midseason schedules. After getting killed early on, Fox was able to ride out "AI," "24" and others to ratings victories. In fact, its midseason replacements look more intriguing than the stuff this fall. Among those shows are:

-"Canterbury's Law," starring Julianna Margulies as a win-at-all-costs defense attorney. The show is produced by Denis Leary and Jim Serpico of "Rescue Me" fame, so I have a lot of high hopes with this one.

-"The Sarah Connor Chronicles" picks up in the timeline between "Terminator 2" and "T3." Lena Headey ("300") takes over in the Linda Hamilton role.

-"Return of Jezebel James" is a comedy starring Parker Posey and Lauren Ambrose as sisters.

-"Starting Over," starring Rashida Jones of "The Office" is a sitcom produced by the Farrelly brothers.

On the bright side, Fox isn't foisting any more shows like "Vanished" upon us.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Season finales galore tonight.

ABC leads things off with the final episodes this season of "Ugly Betty" at 8 p.m., followed by Christina and Burke's wedding on "Grey's Anatomy" at 9 p.m. At 10 p.m. is the intriguing "Lost: Answers" in which producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindleof attempt to answer some of the shows questions before next week's finale. My guess is that very little will be revealed.

"The Office" (NBC, 8 p.m.) wraps up its season with an hour-long finale. Two endings were filmed with this one, so don't necessarily believe anything you read about it on the Internet. It's followed by the season-finale of "Scrubs," in which presumably J.D. will choose between Kim and Elliott. "ER" also wraps up at 10 p.m.

"Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) wraps up its season on an awesome note, bringing back the Martian Manhunter (Phil Morris), while "Supernatural" has been awesome all season, so I expect nothing less out of tonight's finale.

CBS continues the Bob Barker celebrations by looking back at his 50 years in TV at 8 p.m., while "CSI" finishes up tonight at 9 p.m.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Network Upfronts III: CBS

I'm pleased to report absolutely legendary news, that CBS will renew "How I Met Your Mother" for next season.

For me, the show is in a tie with "The Office" as TV's best sitcom, so this is great news.

As for the rest of the network's new fall lineup, it will look much the same as last year's. Notable cancellations include "The Class" and "Jericho," which started out to strong ratings but was killed by the network's stupidity with a long break of over two months between the first and second halves of the season.

Other bubble shows that survived the cut are "The Unit," "The Amazing Race" and "New Adventures of Old Christine."

CBS will likely have the fewest changes of any of the networks. There are only five new scripted shows and two reality/game shows.

Most notable among the new crop is "Viva Laughlin" (Sundays, 8 p.m.) Executive produced by Hugh Jackman, who will occasionally appear in the series (similar to Salma Hayek and "Ugly Betty"), the show is based on the BBC musical series "Viva Blackpool." It's a musical-romance-mystery, about a gambler who buys a casino. Jackman plays the gambler's main rival.

CBS' other big drama is "Cane," (Tuesdays, 10 p.m.) starring Jimmy Smits and Hector Elizondo in a multi-generational story about a Cuban-American family and their sugarcane business. It also stars Rita Morena, Nestor Carbonell and Polly Walker.

Other shows announced by CBS:

-"Moonlight" (Fridays, 9 p.m.) is the tale of a vampire who uses his powers for good by battling other vampires, starring newcomer Alex O'Loughlin. I liked this show the first time around - when it was called "Angel."

-"Big Bang Theory" (Mondays, 8:30 p.m.) is CBS' lone new sitcom, about two geniuses who lack social skills. I've been told that I could be classified in such a way, though not so much with the genius part.

-"Swingtown," starring Molly Parker, is a midseason replacement about the swinging lifestyle in a suburban neighborhood in 1970s Chicago. Sounds like a premise that would work better on HBO or Showtime, but we'll see.

-"Power of 10" is a game show hosted by Drew Carey, in which contestants battle for a $10 million prize by guessing statistical facts about the average American.

-"Kid Nation" sounds like "Survivor" crossed with "The Twilight Zone." Forty kids will be sent to a New Mexico ghost town and be given six weeks to turn the town around by running it completely - no adults are present. They must cook, clean, govern, run the businesses, etc.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Though Bob Barker isn't retiring until the summer, the venerable game show host gets a big sendoff tonight with "The Price Is Right Million-Dollar Spectacular" (CBS, 8 p.m.) One can only hope Neil Patrick Harris makes a cameo, in case you missed the instant classic "How I Met Your Mother" three weeks ago. It's followed by the season finales of "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY."

In case you haven't caught up on "Lost" (ABC, 10 p.m.) yet on your DVR, I won't spoil last week's killer (pun intended) ending except to say we won't find out the fate off that specific character this week. Make a note, though, that TV Guide has reported that four characters are supposed to die at some point before the end of the season. I'm just saying...

"Bones" (Fox, 8 p.m.) wraps up its sophomore year with another case, and more importantly, the wedding of Hodgins and Angela. It was kind of ingenious how the writers diverted the attention between a Booth-Bones romance by shifting gears with these two characters. It's followed by the "American Idol" voting results show, in which fans of the show get down to the final two.

NBC airs the series finale of "Crossing Jordan" at 9 p.m. and the season finale of "Medium" at 10 p.m.

Finally, "Hustle" (AMC, 10 p.m.) is also all-new.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Network Upfronts II: ABC

Sorry for the late update, I had newspaper work to do. Then I saw what ABC is presenting for next season, and I didn't feel so bad.

Of course, the big hope for the network is "Private Practice" the spinoff to "Grey's Anatomy" that was introduced as a backdoor pilot two weeks ago. It focuses on Dr. Addison Shepard (Kate Walsh) and stars the likes of Tim Daly, Amy Brennaman and Taye Diggs. Interestingly, ABC is using the show to establish a strong beachhead on Wednesdays, giving it the 9 p.m. slot that has been a black hole for the network since it moved "Lost" out of there.

"Private Practice" will be joined by two other new shows on Wednesdays: "Pushing Daisies," about a kid who can revive the dead (one-upping Haley Joel Osment), and "Dirty Sexy Money," a prime-time soap opera.

Besides "Private Practice," the other series that is drawing a lot of attention is "Cavemen." Based on the Geico commercials, it's about Cro-Magnons in modern-day Atlanta ( It's hard to think of another series for next fall that got as much panning as "Cavemen," but I suppose I could have missed one. ABC pretty much axed all of its other comedies, except for "According to Jim," which hasn't gotten a decision either way.

In a good news/bad news scenario, "Lost" won't be returning until midseason as ABC continues to kill a golden goose, but at least it will air uninterrupted over the course of next season.

Other shows on the schedule this fall:

-"Big Shots" stars Dylan McDermott, Michael Vartan, Christopher Titus and Josh Molina as dysfunctional CEOs who are also all buddies.

-"Eli Stone," about a lawyer who suffers a brain aneurysm, then starts to have visions.

-"Carpoolers," a sitcom focusing on four men from different lifestyles who bond together on the way to work.

-"Cashmere Mafia," about four women professionals in the "Sex & The City" model. NBC is also trying to rip off that formula.

-"Women's Murder Club" is based on James Patterson's books. It's about four women (a cop, a D.A., an M.E. and a reporter) who work together to solve murders. I guess if the "Sex & The City" gals were moved to "CSI," it'd look something like this.

-"Miss/Guided" is a sitcom about a former geek becoming the guidance counselor at her old school, where she must work beside her former nemesis, the popular cheerleader who is now a teacher.
-"Sam I Am," starring Christina Applegate, is about a woman with amnesia who finds out she was a lousy person in her former life.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: "Gilmore Girls," one of the few signature shows from the old WB that made the leap to the CW, ends its run tonight with the series finale (CW, 8 p.m.) The bad news is that it breaks the hearts of "GG's" small, but fanatic followers, but gives hope that "Veronica Mars" (CW, 9 p.m.) may stand a better chance of being renewed.

"American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) gets down to the nitty-gritty with its final three. Incidentally, "AI" is holding a charity auction beginning Monday in which its hosts and famous alums are donating clothing to charity. Visit for more details. It's followed by a new "House" at 9 p.m.

Before turning to cavemen, ABC will air two hours of "Dancing With The Stars" at 8 p.m., followed by a new "Boston Legal" at 10 p.m. Continuing with a musical theme, you can catch the Country Music Awards (CBS, 8 p.m.) tonight.

Last, and certainly not least, "The Shield" (FX, 10 p.m.) is all-new. It's one of the few shows you can make a case for that has never suffered a drop in quality in any season.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Network Upfronts I: NBC

No network this season came through with better quality programs than NBC - and none had more blow up in their face.

"Kidnapped," "Studio 60" and "The Black Donnellys" were just some of the shows the network had high hopes for, only to see them fizzle out with the ratings. Even some of the new shows that did make it, such as "30 Rock" and "Friday Night Lights," were more critical successes than commercial. Only "Heroes" qualifies as a genuine bona fide hit for NBC.

As the network announces its new shows for next season today, the questions are, will the quality still be there? And, can NBC find some ratings success this season?

With NBC, it's hard to tell. I thought "Kidnapped" and "Studio 60" would be the next big things for the network, and neither was a ratings smash.

On the drawing board for the Peacock are:

--"Journeyman," which gets the post-"Heroes" timeslot Monday. Starring Kevin McKidd ("Rome"), it centers on a reporter who travels back in time to help people. (Insert "Quantum Leap" allusion here.)

--"Chuck," which will air Tuesday at 9 p.m., is a lighthearted look at a techie who accidentally becomes a spy.

--"Bionic Woman." Snicker all you want about remakes of 1970s TV shows, but look at well "Battlestar Galactica" has turned out. It's being produced by BSG's David Eick and "Kidnapped's" Jason Smilovic, so I actually have high hopes for this.

--"Life" (Wed., 10-11 p.m.) stars Damian Lewis of "Band of Brothers" as a cop wrongly jailed for seven years returning to the force.

--"Lipstick Jungle" is the newest opus from "Sex & the City's" Candace Bushnell, airing Sundays at 10 p.m. It could, in theory, pick up some of the post-"Desperate Housewives" crowd from ABC.

--"The IT Crowd" is a remake of a British sitcom focusing on tech guys in an office. NBC tends to be real hit ("The Office") and miss ("Coupling") when it remakes Britcoms.

--Also on the schedule are a worldwide dance contest show from "American Idol's" Randy Jackson; "Singing Bee," a game show in which the contestants must sing the lyrics to popular songs; and a project from Jerry Seinfeld. In addition, "Heroes" will expand to 30 episodes with a project called "Heroes: Origins," in which people can go to and vote in new characters and backstories for familiar ones.

NBC is also either very likely, or already has, renewed "Scrubs" (yay!) and the "Law & Order" franchise for additional seasons.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: TV's current longest-running sitcom takes a final bow tonight with the final two episodes of "King of Queens" (CBS, 9 p.m.) It follows what may be the series finale (hopefully not) of "How I Met Your Mother" at 8 p.m. and "2 1/2 Men" at 8:30 p.m. "CSI: Miami" is also new tonight.

George Takei returns as Hiro's father in the penultimate "Heroes" (NBC, 9 p.m.), which will be followed by a new "Law & Order: CI" at 10 p.m. "24" (Fox, 9 p.m.) is also new. How can we go on without Milo?

"The Riches" (FX, 10 p.m.) is nearly done with its first season, but has already been renewed for a second one.

Finally, "American Experience" (PBS, 9 p.m.) profiles Alexander Hamilton, who I personally think is the most fascinating figure in American history, though most people seem to prefer his rival, Thomas Jefferson.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Get To The Whacking, Already

Mob shows, like the men they portray, ought to go out with a bang and not a whimper.

Yet as we hit the midpoint of the final season of "The Sopranos" (HBO, Sunday, 9 p.m.), the show seems to be trotting to the finish line rather than sprinting.

After starting off the season with a very underrated and strong episode focusing on Bobby selling his soul to Tony, the rest of the season has been pretty uneven. I enjoyed the Junior-centric episode about life in a mental hospital and how fall Junior had fallen, but did we need an episode devoted to Vito Jr.'s Goth phase?

There are only 10 episodes for the show's final season, and half have been squandered to an extent by centering on A.J.'s failed romance with a divorced woman and his subsequent moping. There was some potential last week between Paulie and Christopher and the feud that has been brewing between them, but I'm guessing that came to end when Chris chose another target to take out his frustrations upon (why does Hollywood always have nasty fates for screenwriters?)

Hopefully the show gets back on track this weekend with the promise of some conflict between Tony and Phil Leotardo. It's time for some whacking.

'LIGHT' IT UP!: This week's Woo-Hoo! award goes to NBC, which will give the critically acclaimed "Friday Night Lights" a full order renewal for next season, multiple sources reported Friday.

"Lights" is arguably TV's best new drama this season, and despite mediocre ratings, NBC elected to do the right thing and opt for quality, something it owed the public after foisting "Real Life Wedding Crashers" upon us.

Now, we just have to wait to see if Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton get the Emmy nominations they so richly deserve.

GRACE ON 'THE VIEW'?: Rumors from The New York Daily News have Maconite Nancy Grace replacing Rosie O'Donnell on "The View." More on this as it develops.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: CBS winds down its season with new episodes of "Ghost Whisperer," "Close To Home" and "Numb3rs." On NBC, it's another two-hour "Dateline," followed by "Law & Order" at 10 p.m.

Yet another pitch for "Robin Hood" (BBC America, Sat., 9 p.m.), a ripping good yarn about the old legend, and new Fox animation episodes on Sunday.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Traveler Blues

I'm really not sure about the marketing strategy over at ABC. They certainly seem to repeat the same mistakes over and over.

Take the new series "Traveler" (ABC, 10 p.m.), which sat on the shelves at the network for nearly a year. It's got a similar premise to the fugitive. Two friends are framed for a terrorist bombing. While on the run from the law, they must find their third friend, who apparently is the one who set them up. The show follows the serialized nature of other shows like "Lost."

Despite its long time on the bench, "Traveler" couldn't ask for a better debut spot: Right behind new episodes of "Ugly Betty" and "Grey's Anatomy." But after tonight, "Traveler" returns to the bench for a couple of weeks and doesn't air its second episode until the end of the month. Part of the reason is that the series underwent a lot of re-shoots.

Still, ABC seems to have learned nothing from the damage it did to "Lost," or what CBS did to "Jericho" by scheduling long breaks between episodes, thus killing any momentum for the show.

I don't know if "Traveler" is worth an hour of your time (ABC doesn't send me preview DVDs), but just be warned, if you get hooked tonight, it's going to be a wait for Episode 2.

DRIVE FINALE: In the latest "What's the point?" move from Fox, Ain't It Cool News is reporting the final two episodes of "Drive" will finally air - on July 4. Yup, speaking of serialized shows and waiting time, that's over two months to air two episodes. What, Fox couldn't throw them up on a Friday or Saturday and just get rid of them? Even fans of the series will have a hard time remembering what is going on if they have to wait until July to see the episodes.

Of course, this is the same network that couldn't even be bothered to air the final episode of "Tru Calling" a couple of years ago. One final episode, and it sat on the shelf in lieu of some rerun. Nice, Fox.

'BAND' AID: Speaking of Fox, the producers of "American Idol" are expanding their repertoire by launching a new show that will do for bands what AI has done for singers.

Fox announced the new series will air over the summer as judges scour the country and accept DVDs of would-be contenders. For more information, visit

Frankly, I'm surprised no one came up with this idea before, given the success of "AI." Searching for a great band seems like the next logical step.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Another week of Jeff Zucker's legacy - NBC airs more super-sized episodes of its Thursday sitcoms, beginning with "My Name Is Earl" at 8 p.m. and followed by a new "Office" at 8:39 or whenever the heck it's supposed to start. "Scrubs" starts around 9:20, I think, followed by a new "ER" at 10:01 p.m. It's not that I don't appreciate a few extra scenes among my favorite group of sitcoms, but it really is annoying.

CBS airs its all-new lineup of shows in one-hour allotments, beginning with "Survivor" and followed by "CSI" and "Without A Trace."

Fox can't find an hour to air "Drive," but it's giving "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader?" a two-hour block tonight as someone goes for $1 million.

Finally, "Battlestar Galactica's" Tahmoh Penikett guest-stars as a super soldier on tonight's "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) and is followed by a new "Supernatural," which has been awesome the last few weeks.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

'Lost' Is Finishing, Not Ending

By now you've heard the announcement from ABC that "Lost" will conclude in the 2009-10 season.

Some fans of the show are in a panic, and some critics point to declining ratings as a reason for the announcement. But the truth is, the show's creative staff have always said the show would end with a natural conclusion after roughly five seasons.

I see the announcement as good news. As much as I don't want to see the show leave, knowing how many episodes are left gives the writers a way to outline exactly how they will finish telling their story. There won't be any sort of "X-Files" dragging it out for yet another season, never answering the questions the show puts out there.

The only downside to the announcement is that ABC is giving the show an order of 16 episodes for the next three years, not the usual 22. The upside is that the network will air the episodes consecutively, so we won't have sit through a six-week gap while the network foists another "Daybreak" on us.

Meanwhile, rumors of "Lost's" demise have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, the show's ratings are down, but the Nielsens have found it's one of the most recorded shows on the air, which significantly alters the so-called audience loss that has been reported much of the year. Many of those viewers are simply recording the show on DVRs or VCRs and watching at their convenience.

Tonight's episode, entitled "The Man Behind The Curtain" (ABC, 10 p.m.) gives the origin story of Ben Linus (Michael Emerson), leader of The Others. For Emerson's thoughts on being part of the series, you can click on my interview with him, cleverly entitled Interview With Michael Emerson, on the right hand side of the page. Emerson's real-life wife, Macon actress Carrie Preston, appears in the flashback sequence as Emily, Ben's mother.

Speaking of renewals, NBC announced it is renewing "Medium" (NBC, 10 p.m.) for another year. Seriously, has anyone met anyone else who actually watches "Medium?" Just curious.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Perhaps "Lost's" ratings would be better if ABC didn't air sitcoms the likes of "According To Jim" and "Notes From The Underbelly" ahead of it. But hey, they're all new as well.

CBS counters with its all-new episodes of the ratings-challenged "Jericho" at 8 p.m., followed by "Criminal Minds" (another head-scratcher of a hit) and "CSI: NY," in which John McEnroe is supposedly a suspect, in case you believe the ads. I'm going out on a limb and guess he didn't do it.

NBC offers "Thank God You're Here" and "Crossing Jordan"; the former is a likely renewal candidate, the latter, not so much.

"Bones" continues a strong second half of its sophomore season with an episode that allows viewers to follow tonight's case online for clues. Check out "Bones" precedes the "American Idol" voting results show.

"Hustle" (AMC, 10 p.m.) is also all-new.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Showrunner Must Go On

CBS made it official this week, announcing series creator Don Bellisario will be leaving "NCIS," effective immediately, several media outlets are reporting.

Bellisario and series star Mark Harmon reportedly weren't seeing eye-to-eye about how the show was being run.

It's kind of an interesting situation. Bellisario has had a long TV resume, creating the likes of "Magnum, P.I.," "Quantum Leap" and "JAG" before creating "NCIS," (CBS, 8 p.m.) one of the network's better procedurals in a network full of procedurals.

Harmon revitalized his career leading his team of agents as LeRoy Jethro Gibbs, the no-nonsense ex-Marine. What made the situation on the set interesting was that the Gibbs character was written out briefly at the end of last season, and wise-cracking senior agent Tony DiNozo (Michael Weatherly) filled in ably as the team leader. The show, in theory, could have gone on without Gibbs, so it was interesting the network chose to replace Bellisario.

Don't feel too bad for Bellisario, however - he has two series in development right now. "NCIS" will continue to be run by the show's remaining producers.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: "Gilmore Girls" (CW, 8 p.m.) fans only have a couple of episodes left before the May 15 series finale. That show's cancellation hasn't really increased the chances of "Veronica Mars" (CW, 9 p.m.) to return, however.

In full ripped-from-the-headlines mode, "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (NBC, 9 p.m.) offers its take on the Anna Nicole Smith case, with guest star Kristy Swanson in the faux Anna role. It's followed by "L&O: SVU," because I really like typing initials.

It's down to four on "American Idol," (Fox, 8 p.m.) While she is still with us, catch all of the "AI" post-game analysis on Maggie Large's music blog, Amped. A brand-new "House" follows at 9 p.m.

ABC rolls out two new episodes of "George Lopez" at 8 p.m., followed by Nelly Furtado appearing on "Dancing With the Stars" and a new "Practice."

And, saving the best for last, "The Shield" (FX, 10 p.m.) is all-new tonight as well.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Mother vs. Christine Death Match

CBS hasn't come out and said anything one way or the other, but it's looking as if the network will only keep either "New Adventures of Old Christine" or "How I Met Your Mother" next season, but not both.

Both shows are solid, but unspectacular in the ratings, and neither approaches the numbers of "2 1/2 Men" or "Rules of Engagement." Since CBS seems to be limiting its comedy offerings to Monday nights from 8-10 p.m. and the rest of the time devoting itself to procedurals, there is very limited space for a sitcom to make it with them.

It's a shame really, since both "Christine" and "HIMYM" have a lot to offer and are two of the better sitcoms on TV. "Christine" offers the inimatble Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who deservedly earned an Emmy last season, with a solid supporting cast. The structure of the show is vaguely reminiscent of early "Frasier," with the supporting cast playing off the featured star.

But "HIMYM" has now moved into a tie with "The Office" as my favorite sitcom. When the show first came out, I thought the producers made a mistake by introducing the Ted-Robin romance early on, only to throw in the twist that Robin was the titular mother the show is supposed to be about.

The show, however, deftly handled the romantic complications of the main couple while building a terrific supporting cast that soon evolved into a "Friends"-like structure. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the show is the pop culture status it's attaining through certain plotlines - Robin Sparkles, the slap bets, the Barneyisms.

CBS was kind enough to send me the season finales for both shows, and each is in rare form. Christine faces the consequences of sleeping with her ex-husband, while Marshall and Lily's wedding on "HIMYM" attempts to take place despite numerous glitches. And the Ted-Robin romance undergoes a significant change.

"Christine's" finale feels like a season finale, as if the show could return next season. "HIMYM" acts as both a season finale and a series finale in case the show isn't renewed. If it is the end, it would be a shame, because there is a lot of territory for these characters to explore.

Here's a suggestion for CBS: Keep them both. If there isn't enough room on the fall schedule, air one and let the other serve as a midseason replacement. With the year-round programming the networks now face thanks to the challenges presented by cable TV, neither CBS nor anyone can afford to dump a quality show even with a full schedule.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: "Heroes" (NBC, 9 p.m.) is going to have a hard time topping last week's trip to the future, but I have faith in the producers to keep the show as riveting as it has been all season. It's ironic that the one complaint I hear about this series - that it's giving away too many answers too early - is the exact opposite complaint of "Lost." Make up your minds, people.

"24" (Fox, 9 p.m.) continues to stumble its way through the season, with its producers already promising sweeping changes for next season. We'll see.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Interview With Lost's Michael Emerson

I always thought Michael Emerson was a good actor and a great villain ever since he joined the cast of "Lost" as Ben Linus, leader of The Others.

But Emerson is a better actor than I thought. If you expect him to be creepy and evil like his alter ego, you couldn't be more wrong — he's a very pleasant fellow with a good sense of humor.

I spoke with Emerson because his wife, Macon-born actress Carrie Preston, will appear in the May 9 episode of "Lost," in which she plays Emily, the mother of the Ben character in a series of flashbacks. My full interview with Preston can be found at or in Friday's edition of The Telegraph.

But I took advantage of the opportunity to speak to Emerson about what it was like to be a member of the cast of one of TV's most talked-about shows, especially since he started out as a guest star whose part grew and grew.

Emerson got the role in part because of his Emmy-winning work in 2001 on "The Practice."

Though Preston was reluctant to do an interview initially because she was worried she might reveal too much of what happens, Emerson was more comfortable talking about the show, although he said revealing something is also in the back of his mind.

"It's hard to tell," he said. "I'll say something, then I always wonder, 'Can I say that?' But I've never heard of a big reveal anywhere."

Perhaps part of the way the producers of the show ensure its secrecy is by keeping the rest of the cast as in the dark as the viewers. Emerson said he and the other stars have no idea what is coming up next, and often spend as much time trying to figure out the show's meaning as do the fans.

"It's very much a mystery to the cast," he said. "We only know what is going on when we get the script in our hands. We don't know what is going to happen in two or three or four episodes. The writers might give you a clue, but they tease you with it. They'll say something cryptic like 'Be ready for a big change.' You get greedy to get your hands on a script, because you want to see if you live or die."

Death has been a big part of the series during its three seasons, killing off castaways Boone, Shannon, Mr. Eko, Ana Lucia, Libby and Arzt. TV Guide is reporting four more deaths this season on "Lost" following the killing of Locke's father this past Wednesday night. Is Emerson worried about Ben's survival?

"Luckily, the season finale is pretty much in the can," he said with a laugh. "Anyone who is alive in the finale will probably live on into next season."

Just because the finale is shot, however, doesn't mean that what will happen still isn't a mystery to Emerson. He said only the actors involved in the final scene know how the season ends for sure - the rest of the cast has a blank page on their scripts.

"Only the regulars involved know," he said. "We're sitting around trying to figure out what is going on. I can say there is a big revelation in the final episode this season, but only the actors involved have seen it. I'm going to have to tune into the season finale!"

Emerson and Preston met 12 years ago working in a production of "Hamlet" together as part of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. As a couple, they worked together in "29th & Gay," which Preston directed, and "Straight-jacket." Other movies Emerson has done include "Saw," "Unfaithful," and "The Laramie Project." On the TV side, he has had guest roles on "Law & Order: SVU," "Without a Trace" and "The X-Files."

Emerson said he and most of the cast try to avoid reading the various Web sites and message boards devoted to "Lost."

"I think most of the cast tries to keep their distance from that," he said. "It kind of blurs the boundaries a little bit. If you go there, you have to use your e-mail address, and suddenly you're a pen pal to the world. It raises some privacy issues. Most of us have friends who check on things.

"One of the reason I don't look at the chat spaces is that even if you look at just one, it can be annoying or discouraging. There might be a thread saying, 'Is Michael Emerson the second- or third-ugliest man on TV?' Who needs to hear that?" Emerson added with a laugh.

The only problem with Emerson's success on "Lost" is that it ties him up for long periods of time, making it difficult to do other work.

"It's interesting to have a stable job after having an unusual life as a gypsy actor," he said. "The show shoots in the mid-Pacific, away from other opportunities. It's all 'Lost,' all the time. It's a little bit of a tradeoff."

But for Emerson, playing Ben has its own rewards. Even though the character is shrouded in mystery, he is able to take a straight approach into playing him.

"I'm surprised such a thing has happened for me," he said of Ben's popularity. "I knew it was a good character from the first time I read it. But I was surprised the way he took off.

"(The writers) came up with a good thing, because they had not put a face on the enemy. It was something people craved. ... I play pretty much everything straight. The story is the context on how they apply the mystery."

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Sorry, a little bleary from catching a midnight showing of "Spider-Man 3." AWESOME, by the way. If you want to refresh your memory of the series, you can catch "Spider-Man 2" (FX, 8 p.m.) tonight before you hit the theatres this weekend.

If you missed the backdoor pilot for the Addison spinoff on "Grey's Anatomy," (ABC, 8 p.m.) you can catch it again Friday night.

CBS is all-new, with "Ghost Whisperer," "Close To Home" and "Numb3rs." On NBC, "Dateline" is two full hours tonight, followed by a new "Law & Order."

Saturday's highlights include my weekly pitch for "Robin Hood," (BBC America, 9 p.m.), a ripping good yarn. I've had some people ask me when BBC America is re-running the series, because they missed the beginning. I'll post here when they do.

Sunday includes the wrap-up of "The Amazing Race" (CBS, 8 p.m.).

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Addison's Anatomy

"Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 9 p.m.) fans will get a sneak peek at the new untitled spinoff for next season that will feature Kate Walsh's character of Addison.

Since the rumors of this project first came out a few months ago, things have developed very quickly. Big-time actors like Taye Diggs and Tim Daly have been added to the cast, and it should get a plum time-slot on the schedule when ABC announces its new series for next season in a couple of weeks.

Tonight's episode is a two-hour affair that will continue "Grey's" normal plotlines, but also contain what is called a "backdoor pilot." Addison will attend a reunion where she will meet up with the other characters of the new series, which is to be set in L.A. and revolve around a private plastic surgery practice.

While ABC is expecting the spinoff to bring in big numbers, thanks to the "Grey's" audience, spinoffs are kind of hit and miss in the annals of TV. For every "Frasier," the brilliant spinoff of the classic "Cheers," there's a lot more "Joeys," the disaster that came out of the megahit "Friends."

"All In The Family" was the king of spinoffs, producing "Archie Bunker's Place," "Maude," "Gloria" and "The Jeffersons" for CBS. Though none of them ever reached the popularity of the original, all were solid shows that had decent runs.

Today, networks are looking to come up with franchises, which is why there have been four "Law & Orders" and three "CSIs." Arguably the most successful spinoff on the air right now that isn't part of a franchise is "NCIS," which emerged from a backdoor pilot from the TV series "JAG."

The Addison spinoff is probably coming at the right time for ABC, which I'm guessing will air it with "Grey's" and "Ugly Betty" on Thursdays next season until it establishes its own audience, then likely move it to another night to establish a beachhead there.

IS YOUR FIFTH GRADER SMARTER THAN THE AVERAGE AMERICAN?: Fox's hit game show, "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" has been one of the surprise hits of the season. The show, hosted by Atlanta comedian Jeff Foxworthy, is looking for new fifth graders as presumably the current crop is graduating to the sixth grade. There will be tryouts all over the country, including Atlanta. For more information, go to

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: CBS was kind enough to send me tonight's season finale of "Shark" (CBS, 10 p.m.) It's a pretty strong finish to what's been an entertaining if uneven freshman year for the James Woods hit. In tonight's episode, psycho murderer Wayne Collison (Billy Campbell) returns. The episode features some great work from Woods, Campbell and Jeri Ryan, whose character of D.A. Jessica Devlin was criminally underused this season as she shows tonight. The ending is something you won't see coming. It's preceded by a new "Survivor" and "CSI."

NBC is supersizing everything again, which means extra minutes from your favorite shows while extra work for your VCRs. With weird episode lengths of 37 minutes for the sitcoms, you may want to let your tapes run long or record the following program if you have a DVR. If you tune in just for "ER," note that it will start at 9:53 p.m. tonight. Supersizing episodes has to be one of the more annoying trends in recent memory.

"Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.) is also new, preceding the "Grey's" two-hour event.

"Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) is built around a fantasy sequence set in the 1940s; they did something like this a few years ago when they did a 1950s episode, so we'll see. "Supernatural" follows.

COMING FRIDAY: The TV Guy interviews Michael Emerson, who plays the villainous Ben Linus on "Lost."

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Soupçon Of This & That

Just a brief update today, loyal dozens, but I promise to make up for it with a really cool exclusive I have from the "Lost" set that will run in some time this week in The Telegraph and

A&E appears to be getting back into the quality drama game with its announcement of a new adaptation of Michael Crichton's "The Andromeda Strain." The miniseries will be produced by Ridley Scott and Tony Scott and directed by Mikael Salomon. Production is set to begin this summer.

Meanwhile, TBS and TNT announced the return of their original programs for this summer. The Golden Globe-winning "The Closer," starring Kyra Sedgwick, returns June 18. It will be teamed with the new drama "Heartland," about a transplant surgeon, starring Treat Williams and Kari Matchett.

TNT will debut "Saving Grace," starring Holly Hunter as a detective in Oklahoma City who meets an angel that helps her put her life back together, on July 18. Perhaps the most interesting project from the network is "The Company," starring Michael Keaton, Chris O'Donnell and Alfred Molina. It's a miniseries that looks at the CIA during the Cold War. It debuts Aug. 5.

TBS' newest comedy is "Tyler Perry's House of Payne," which arrives June 6, and will be joined by "The Bill Engvall Show," starring Engvall and Nancy Travis, on July 17. "My Boys," a very clever comedy that got better each episode, returns on July 30.

R.I.P. TOM POSTON: The veteran comedy actor and Emmy winner died Tuesday from an undisclosed illness at 85. Poston was a master at playing goofy, clueless, loveable characters, most notably on "Newhart." He made his TV debut on "The Steve Allen Show," and had notable roles on a number of sitcoms over the years.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Fox really hasn't done "Bones" a whole lot of favors, constantly yanking it for "American Idol." Two weeks here, three weeks there, with long interruptions. I didn't mind the pulling of the original episode two weeks ago in wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, but the rest of the time it's been really annoying. Anyway, it's all-new tonight (Fox, 8 p.m.), followed by "AI," which features guest star Jon Bon Jovi.

Speaking of "Lost" (ABC, 10 p.m.) tonight's is new and is Locke-centric, always a good thing. By the way, the story I'm writing focuses on next week's "Lost."

CBS is airing a new "Jericho" at 8 p.m., a show that is really on the bubble last I heard for next season, followed by "Criminal Minds" and "CSI:NY," which are both safe bets to return. NBC is also all-new, with "Thank God You're Here," "Crossing Jordan" and "Medium."

As always, I must plug the best of the British stuff with a new "Hustle" (AMC, 10 p.m.) although I must say this series just isn't the same without Adrian Lester.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

He Was A Contenda

If you were a fan of the late Marlon Brando, then this is a good week for you.

Turner Classic Movies is airing a documentary entitled "Brando" in two parts tonight and Wednesday at 8 p.m. The network is also showing several Brando films this week, including "The Men" at 9:30 p.m.

Brando is the quintessential American actor, and his performances still serve as an inspiration to many performers today. Whether it's "Streetcar Named Desire," "On The Waterfront," "The Godfather" or "Apocalypse Now," everybody seems to have a favorite Brando moment. (Mine is "The Freshman," co-starring Matthew Broderick, in which Brando parodies his Godfather role).

People interested in acting as a craft or in the history of great cinema should check out the documentary.




OK, so how cool does "Heroes" continue to be? Last night's episode was a thrilling hour, full of the little twists and turns that has made this show so good since the beginning.

But perhaps what has made "Heroes" so special when similar genre shows like "Lost" have been struggling is that "Heroes" gives answers fairly quickly - but not too quickly - to the questions it raises.

Early on, the theme was "Save the Cheerleader, Save the World," but even after Claire was saved, we didn't understand why she was so significant. Now we know. With "Heroes," there is very little wasted time or action. The characters are constantly propelling the storyline forward.

Of course, you knew that last night's episode was just a possible future, showing Hiro and Ando what will happen should they fail in their mission. That doesn't mean the episode didn't rock, however. The dialogue of the two character, spoken in Japanese and presented as subtitles, continues to be one of the best things about the series.

Possibly more than any show on the air right now, "Heroes" is what I look forward to each week.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Huzzah! "Veronica Mars" (CW, 9 p.m.) returns for its final five episodes of the season, possibly forever. To be honest, it's been so long since the last "VM" episode, I can barely remember where the writers left the story. "VM" is about as on the bubble as you can get for renewal, and if it is renewed, it may not be back in the same form, since there is talk that next season might advance the show four years into the future, with Veronica (Kristin Bell) in the FBI. "VM" is preceded by a new "Gilmore Girls" at 8 p.m.

CBS may also have some changes in its Tuesday night lineup for next season. Rumors posted on say "NCIS" (CBS, 8 p.m.) star Mark Harmon may walk after this year, reportedly because he is unhappy with producer Don Bellisario. While the loss of Harmon could be a bad thing, the show proved it was still able to be creative when Tony (Michael Weatherly) ran the team at the beginning of this season.

Also, "The Unit" (CBS, 9 p.m.) is kind of on the bubble for next year. For me, this was a series that had a lot of potential when it first started but never lived up to it.

One thing that won't be changing on Tuesday's next year is Fox's powerhouse combo of "American Idol" at 8 p.m., which features Jon Bon Jovi as its guest tonight, and "House" at 9 p.m., starring the inimitable Hugh Laurie.

ABC knocks off one pair of dancers on "Dancing With the Stars" at 9 p.m., followed by a new "Boston Legal." NBC airs new "Law & Orders" from 9-11 p.m.

Finally, as always, the pick for Tuesdays is "The Shield" (FX, 10 p.m.) in which Shane reveals the truth about Lem's death to someone close to him.