Thursday, January 31, 2008

Michael Emerson Interview, Part 2

Wednesday's blog had our interview with "Lost" star Michael Emerson, who plays Ben Linus, villainous leader of The Others. Emerson talked about the effects the strike had on the show.

In today's posting, Emerson gives the viewers a little bit of insight into the end of Season 3 and the eight completed episodes of Season 4. "Lost" debuts tonight with a one-hour recap (ABC, 8 p.m.), followed by the season premiere at 9 p.m.

TVGuy: Where do we pick up the action? At the end of Season 3, you had just gotten beaten up by Jack (Matthew Fox).
Michael Emerson: It picks up exactly there. It's the next tick of the clock. By no means has Ben reached the bottom yet. It's an interesting season for Ben. He's always been accustomed to having resources - guns, people to do his bidding. Now, he's just a beaten refugee with nothing to play with except his own wits.

TVG: Do we learn about the people on the boat?
ME: It's going to be a violent Season 4. I like the show when it's darker, bloodier. It was about these two opposing camps, the Losties and the Others. Now, a third camp is introduced. We have five new series regulars. It's excellent, certainly very dangerous. ... Scarier people (than Ben) are coming, and it becomes the villain we know rather than the villain without. There's going to be a softer attitude toward Ben in Season 4.

TVG: We're going to be seeing more flash forwards as we did in the Season 3 finale. You said (during our spring interview) you had no idea about the flash forward.
ME: It was a great idea. All our scripts, everyone but the people involved Matt and Evageline (Lilly), we all had blank pages for those scenes. I got to see it at the same time as the rest of America. I thought it was a stroke of genius. Matt said, "Now 'Lost' is the show we all hoped it would be," and I think I agree with him. Showing there's no happy ending post-island, it's very grown up.

TVG: There's the scene in the Season 3 finale where Jack goes to a funeral, but we don't know who is in the coffin. There's been some speculation that it's Ben.
ME: Who is in the coffin is one of the great mysteries of Season 4. It wouldn't occur to me that it's Ben. The way the scene has power, it's someone who we care about, someone Jack feels loyalty to but Kate doesn't. Whoever it ends up being I think it's someone we care about, and I don't currently think that's (Ben).

TVG: There are rumors of the return of cast members previously killed off.
ME: Yes, we see the return of more than one dead character. There are a lot of characters we know who appear in flashbacks. People keep cycling back from the past.

TVG: Some people were disappointed that it was revealed to be on an island and not purgatory.
ME: Well, it's not a literal purgatory, it's a figurative one. It's very much purgatory. This is a place where people revisit the sins of the past and try to find atonement or redemption. It still is purgatory. It works on all levels.

TVG: Last season, your wife (Macon actress Carrie Preston) guest-starred during the episode that gave Ben's story. Will we see more flashbacks involving Ben?
ME: Not in the first part of Season 4 (the eight completed episodes). But I've been told by the producers the events in episode 320 will be revisited in the future and recontextualized.

TVG: Last year, we talked about how from a certain point of view, Ben is the hero of the piece, not the villain.
ME: Will we see Ben in a heroic light? That's a thought to hang onto.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Following the "Lost" recap and season premiere, ABC is also debuting the new quriky drama "Eli Stone" at 10 p.m. Jonny Lee Miller plays the title character, a lawyer who suffers from a brain aneurysm and begins to see things that others don't. Is he a nutcase or a modern-day prophet? The series has been compared to the likes of "Ally McBeal" and "Pushing Daisies" in its whimsy. The talented supporting cast includes Victor Garber ("Alias") as Stone's boss and Natasha Henstridge ("Species") as his girlfriend, so it might be worth a look.

NBC is countering "Lost" by running a two-hour "Apprentice," (NBC, 9 p.m.) which involves some sort of convuluted subplot in which Vincent Pastore pretends to go over to the women's team after a falling out with his teammates, but is really a double-agent. ... Yeah, I didn't get it, either.

An additional belated birthday present for moi is an all-new CW schedule tonight, including a new "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.), featuring the return of Braniac (James Marsters), and a new "Supernatural" (CW, 9 p.m.), one of TV's most underrated shows.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Michael Emerson Interview, Part 1

After talking with the Emmy-nominated Michael Emerson about the new season of "Lost" (which kicks off Thursday night), I had so much good stuff that I decided to spread it out over the next two days.

For the regular loyal dozens of readers of this blog, you'll remember that Emerson was gracious enough to talk to The TV Guy back in the spring, for the Ben Linus-centric Episode 20. Emerson's wife, Carrie Preston, a Maconite herself, guest-starred in that episode as Ben's mother.

Since then, Emerson has not been busy working, since "Lost," like every other show in Hollywood, has been shut down because of the writers strike. The "Lost" crew got eight episodes in the can before production was shut down, and Emerson has no more idea than anyone else in the business when things are going to start up again.

Emerson has been staying in the cold weather of New York during the hiatus.

"There have been a few days I've missed Hawaii," he said with a chuckle. "At dusk, it's the perfect temperature. My body loves being there. At the same time, I do like the different seasons."

TVGuy: So, what have you heard about the strike?
Michael Emerson: I gather the parties are talking again. The news of the Directors Guild making an amicable deal (with the studios), you hope it either motivates the two sides or shames them (into negotiating). Hopefully, they'll negotiate in good faith. I don't want to read later on that it could have been solved much faster but wasn't because of the personalities. The repercussions have been wide-reaching; it floats down all the way to the animal wranglers and car rental people.

TVG: With the actors' union deal running out (next summer), do you worry we may have to go through this again?
ME: Some of the issues are the same as with the writers, like base pay and new media. I think the foundation the writers work out will help the actors work out an agreement. They can use the same formula. This strike has been long and painful. It's going to take a whole lot for me to strike again.

TVG: Have you kept busy in the meantime?
ME: Well, I can't do plays right now, and there's very little filmwork that's new, and of course, there's no TV work. I had some halfway plans to do some plays, because originally we were supposed to complete filming in February, but now everything has been bumped back.

TVG: How quickly can things get going once a resolution is reached?
ME: I've heard unofficially it would take three weeks (to resume production) from the time of a resolution. They have no scripts right now; they'd have to be written. And they have to hire an entire company. All those guys - the cameramen, the grips - have all been let go.

TVG: There were supposed to be 16 episodes this season, and 16 each for the final two seasons. If there are only eight episodes, or if you guys fall short of the 16 this year, do those episodes get added on to one of the later seasons, or will we just lose out on those episodes?

ME: Good question. If Season 4 turns out to be a short season, I don't know how (the producers) will resolve that. ... But what we've shot is pretty darn good. Even if it is an eight-episode season, I think the "Lost" followers will take it. ... The last scene of the eighth episode has a catalyclismic cliffhanger. It's one of those scenes that make you say, "Oh, my God!" There's a huge plot development in the middle of a scene of carnage. It's going to wig the audience out!

TVG: Has Carrie been busy?
ME: She's up to her neck in work. She generates her own work. She's in post-production on one movie and in pre-production on a movie that she wants to make later this year. She's really, really busy. She's the busiest unemployed person I know.

TVG: You were nominated for an Emmy (for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama) but lost to your castmate, Terry O'Quinn.
ME: I was delighted that someone on "Lost" finally got some recognition. Terry and I are a team, like Laurel & Hardy. We're joined at the hip. I was relieved he had the responsibility of making that acceptance speech, and he made a great speech. I've watched Terry on TV for years, and he's always so good. I'm delighted for him.

TVG: Are you surprised that "Lost" doesn't get more recognition with things like the Emmys?
ME: I am. There's a sort of fickleness with these things, they rise and fall a little bit by fashion. It becomes fashionable to say "Lost" wasn't as good as it once was. I made a point of reviewing the first season and I think it's been consistently tight and compelling. I think the last half of Season 3 it probably got even better.
In the beginning, there was kind of a soap opera feeling - who was going to get together with whom - and it lost some of that. It's become more militant, bloodier, more troubling. Some people might be turned off by that, but I think the core audience appreciates it.
Our technical people deserve things like Best Editing, Best Effects. This is a damn hard show to make, and no show shoots more in the outdoors than we do. Our technical people deserve their due.

COMING THURSDAY: Emerson gives his thoughts on Season 4 of "Lost."

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Need a refresher on how "Lost" ended Season 3? ABC is running the last season's finale beginning at 8 p.m. The extra good news? The episode is "enhanced," meaning there will be extra clues and hints provided to the viewer.

"Law & Order: CI" and "Law & Order" follow an NFL-themed "Deal or No Deal" on NBC.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Frakkin' Crazy Cuckoos

The initials for the above title? FCC.

In case you haven't heard, the FCC is proposing a $1.4 million fine aganst ABC and 52 of its affiliates for a nude scene during an episode of "NYPD Blue" - from five years ago.

The episode involved a nude scene from then-series regular Charlotte Ross, whose character was about to take a shower when Andy Sipowicz's young son, Theo, walks in on her. The FCC is objecting to what it characterizes as "panning down her naked back for a lingering shot of her buttocks." The images of Ross’ backside constitute "explicit and graphic depictions of sexual organs" and are "titillating and shocking," according to

First off, someone needs to give the FCC an anatomy lesson as to where the sexual organs on a woman are, because in reality, that, um, area, wasn't shown. Second, while a lot of the lovely Ms. Ross was shown, it wasn't really any more than what other episodes of what "NYPD Blue" showed in the past.

But finally, I'm glad the FCC was so on the ball that it waited FIVE YEARS to pursue this action. Their statement?

"Our action today should serve as a reminder to all broadcasters that Congress and American families continue to be concerned about protecting children from harmful material and that the FCC will enforce the laws of the land vigilantly," Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate said in a statement released by the FCC.

FIVE YEARS! Real vigilant.

Next up for the FCC? Who knows? I think someone objected to something that ran on "I Love Lucy" that the FCC is probably all over.

STRIKE UPDATE: The 50th anniversary of the Grammys will go on, with the show getting a waiver from the Writers Guild to continue. Still no word as to the fate of the Oscars, which producers have vowed will go on in some format.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Hey, what do you know? It's my birthday tomorrow and not only am I getting the return of "Lost" this week, but the first of three all-new episodes of "House" (Fox, 9 p.m.) beginning tonight. Tonight's episode, after "American Idol," features Janel Maloney ("The West Wing") as its newest patient.

ABC has new episodes of "According To Jim" and "Carpoolers" beginning at 9 p.m., which is a great way of getting people excited for the return of "Lost," I suppose.

Finally, the new HBO series "In Treatment" (HBO, 9:30 p.m.) continues tonight as it does every weeknight for the next several weeks.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Special 'Treatment'

There may not be a more ambitious concept on TV right now than the new HBO series, "In Treatment." (HBO, 9:30 p.m.)

Based upon a hit Israeli TV series, "In Treatment" follows the sessions of a psychoanalyst named Paul (Gabriel Byrne). And when I say follows, it goes full tilt.

"In Treatment" will air five nights a week, each night following a different patient: On Mondays, Paul will deal with Laura (Melissa George), a virtual nymphomaniac in love with him. On Tuesdays, Paul tries to help a Navy pilot (Blair Underwood). Wednesdays see Paul deal with a teenaged gymnast (Mia Wasikowska), while on Thursdays, it's a married couple totally out of love (Josh Charles, Embeth Davidtz). Finally, on Fridays, it's Paul who is the patient seeing his own therapist (Dianne Wiest) as he tries to deal with his wife (Michelle Forbes).

In this day and age, it might be a bit much asking the MTV generation to stick with a series five nights a week for several weeks, but you almost have to admire the commitment HBO is making. And with the strike still going on, "In Treatment" couldn't have asked for better timing, because hey, what else is on?

HBO has had a mixed bag of success in the arena of mental health. On the one hand, you have "The Sopranos," one of the greatest TV series of all time. On the other hand, you have "Tell Me You Love Me," one of the most dull looks at sexual relationships ever done. I'm guessing "In Treatment" will land somewhere in the middle, which certainly isn't bad.

COMING THIS WEEK: My treat for you "Lost" fans to get you pumped up for Thursday's opener? A two-part interview with Emmy nominee Michael Emerson, beginning Wednesday. Tell your friends!

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Well, thanks to the State of the Union (pick a channel, 9 p.m.), strike-starved networks won't have to worry about original programming for one night this week, so now's your chance to pop in some DVDs or clear out your DVRs just a bit.

You can catch a new "Dance War" (ABC, 8 p.m.) or "American Gladiators" (NBC, 8 p.m.) or even a new "Kyle XY" (ABC Family, 8 p.m.) If you missed the pilot to "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" (Fox, 8 p.m.), it's being repeated tonight.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Doubleshot of James Marsters

For all of the James Marsters ("Buffy," "Angel") fans out there, this week should be twice as nice.

On Saturday, Marsters shows up as Capt. Jack Harkness' former partner (in more ways than one) on the season premiere of "Torchwood" (BBC America, Sat., 9 p.m.) Then, on Thursday, Marsters reprises his role as Brainiac as "Smallville" returns with new episodes on The CW.

"Torchwood," BBC America's highest-rated show, returns for its second season as Jack (John Barrowman) returns after a mysterious absence. Where was he? Well, if you watched Season 3 of "Doctor Who" on Sci-Fi, you know the answer. If you didn't, now's your chance to catch up as BBC America will start showing the most recent season beginning at 7 p.m.

MORE DEALS REACHED: Some companies aren't sitting around waiting for the WGA and the AMTMP to reach an agreement. Lionsgate and Marvel Studios became the latest production companies to reach a deal with the WGA, allowing films in production such as "Thor" and TV series such as "Mad Men" to get back to work.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Smash has to deal with all sorts of fallout after his dustup with a group of white kids on "Friday Night Lights," (NBC, 9 p.m.) while Tammy takes over the women's volleyball program. For those Jason Street fans (Scott Porter) who have missed the former QB, he's found a new calling. It's followed by a new "Las Vegas" at 10 p.m.

Sci-Fi begins the two-part season finale of "Flash Gordon" at 8 p.m., followed by a new "Stargate: Atlantis" at 9 p.m. On sister network USA, "Monk" and "Psych" are all-new, beginning at 9 p.m.

As for the rest of the weekend, the best bet is the phenomenal new series "Breaking Bad" (AMC, Sun., 10 p.m.) While some people have compared the show to a darker version of "Weeds," I think this truly might end up being the successor in spirit to "The Sopranos."

COMING NEXT WEEK: "Lost" fans, I've got a special interview for you guys that will run just before Thursday's season premiere.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

'Chuck' Returns

One of my favorite freshman shows of the season returns tonight for what will hopefully NOT be the final two first-run episodes of the season (pending the strike).

"Chuck," the show about a mild-mannered computer repairman who has the entire U.S. intelligence database downloaded into his brain, returns with new episodes on NBC at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., sandwiching a new "Celebrity Apprentice."

"Chuck" deftly mixes comedy and action as the reluctant hero (Zachary Levi) tries to balance his normal life while dealing with his two secret agent handlers (Adam Baldwin, Yvonne Strahovski). Levi brings a terrific, everyman appeal in a starmaking turn. It's a very easy show to catch on with, so tonight might be a good chance to check it out.

Speaking of "Celebrity Apprentice," as critical as I've been of the show the past few seasons, I have to admit that few things will ever compare to the bizarreness of last week's boardroom, as Donald Trump finally encountered a man in Gene Simmons whose ego dwarfed his own.

My guess is that Simmons had gotten sick of appearing on the show and wanted to leave, and this was his best shot. How else to possibly explain his bizarre decision not to bring back TV exec Nely Galan to the boardroom, when Trump was practically begging to fire her and spare Simmons?

Hopefully, the acerbic brit Piers Morgan will stick around a while longer and Omorosa will go sooner rather than later.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.) is all-new as our heroine (America Ferrera) tries to pick between her two suitors. The afformentioned Gene Simmons and Gabrielle Union guest star. Following a "Grey's Anatomy" rerun, what is hopefully the last-ever "Big Shots" airs at 10 p.m.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Strike: A Glimmer Of Hope?

The studios and the WGA released a joint statement Tuesday night saying they were about to resume negotiations.

Word is the WGA is pulling the issues of animation writers and reality show writers off the table, something they were willing to do weeks ago had the producers not walked away. But with a framework of a contract between the AMTMP and the Directors Guild of America in place, it gives the two sides a jumping off point.

If they can resolve something by the beginning of February, it should mean that most series can salvage part of the remainder of the season. None of the shows on the air will be able to fill their original orders, but we might see five or six extra episodes for each series.

Meanwhile, the studios continue to cut episode orders and drop potential pilots for next season.

BTW, in case you were wondering, the strike could have been settled for about $151 million over three years with one of the WGA's earlier proposals. Considering the studios have lost considerably more than that, their negotiation tactic of walking away from the table for a month worked out real well.

R.I.P. HEATH LEDGER: The actor, 28, died Tuesday of an apparent accidental drug overdose, though police haven't concluded anything yet. It's a shame that the talented young actor died in such a way, but what is even a bigger shame is that his death won't likely serve as a lesson to anyone in the future.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: We've kind of reached the real dregs here with the debut of the new game show, "The Moment of Truth" (Fox, 9 p.m.), in which contestants must answer embarrassing questions about themselves while hooked to a polygraph. (Personally, I'm waiting for the celebrity edition of this show, starring Roger Clemens). This show is so bad it was actually pulled off the air in South America after a contestant admitted hiring a hitman for her mother-in-law. But as Fox reality guru Mike Darnell knows, there's no limits to the bad taste shared by the American TV viewing audience.

"Cashmere Mafia" (ABC, 10 p.m.) is also new, as are "Criminal Minds" (CBS, 9 p.m.) and "CSI: NY" (CBS, 10 p.m.)

On PBS, the documentary "The Jewish Americans" wraps up at 9 p.m.

Two new series debut on Starz tonight, with "Head Case" airing at 10 p.m. about a shrink with celebrity clientele, followed by "Hollywood Residential," at 10:30 p.m., about the host of a home makeover show.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

'Life' Doesn't Go On

Today's a sad day for me, as one of my favorite shows of 2007, "Life On Mars" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) wraps up the series with the finale tonight.

It's a good news/bad news type of deal.

The good news - we finally find out if Sam Tyler (John Simm) is a time traveller, in a coma-induced nightmare, or just plain mad. In addition, there is already a sequel to the series already airing in Britain called "Ashes To Ashes," focused on Sam's boss, DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister), which takes place in 1982 in a slightly more politically correct England of Margaret Thatcher.

The premise of "Life On Mars" involved Sam, a cop in 2006, who gets hit by a car while working on a case. When he wakes up, it's 1973. He doesn't know how he has travelled back in time (or if he indeed has) and doesn't know if he can get back to his own time. Meanwhile, he must deal with the antiquated police methods and attitudes (and horrible fashions) of the 1970s, embodied by the old-school Hunt.

The bad news about "Life On Mars" - no idea when or if "Ashes To Ashes" starts airing on BBC America. In addition, the DVDs for both seasons of "Life On Mars" are being held up here because of music rights to all of the great music from the early '70s the series uses, so no idea when those will be out, either.

Finally, the really bad news is that my least-favorite TV hack, David E. Kelley, owns the American rights to "Life On Mars" and is re-doing the series for ABC. Given the fact that a) I hate everything Kelley has ever done, and b) nearly all British dramas that are remade by American TV networks tend to suck (comedies, from "Sanford & Son" to "The Office," have fared much better as US remakes), my expectations are nearly zero, although I do like the casting of Colm Meaney in the Gene Hunt role for the American version.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: It's reality, mostly, as a one-hour "American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) squares off against a two-hour "Biggest Loser" (NBC, 8 p.m.), which is followed by a new "Law & Order: SVU" at 10 p.m.

My buddy David E. Kelley's "Boston Legal" (ABC, 10 p.m.) is also new, as is "Nip/Tuck" (FX, 10 p.m.)

Expect the weekly blog postings to come after lunch this week, since my work schedule has been adjusted slightly.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Oscars - Will The Show Go On?

With Academy Award nominations set to be announced Tuesday, it's becoming an interesting game of chicken between the WGA and the Academy.

The WGA has yet to grant a waiver to allow the show to go on with writers working on the program and nominees to cross picket lines in order to receive their statuettes.

Producers for the Oscars have said the show will go on regardless of whether they get the waiver or not, but seeing what a fiasco the Golden Globes were when it was boycotted last week, it's hard to imagine what the producers could do to fill air time successfully.

But the WGA is in a tight spot as well. Though most polls indicate the public is on the side of the WGA, the guild could lose a lot of public goodwill if the ceremony is boycotted or cancelled. The Oscars are typically the second-most watched TV event each year, behind only the Super Bowl.

On the other hand, if the WGA wants to deliver a swift kick to the groin of the AMPTP, the group negotiating on behalf of the studios, deep-sixing the Oscars would be a giant blow. It would be crushing to Disney/ABC to lose all of those ratings and ad revenue, and all of the studios would suffer since they wouldn't be able to use the bump of an Oscar nomination in their marketing schemes.

There are flickers of hope around Hollywood that the recent AMTMP deal with the Directors Guild of America might provide a spark between the studios and the WGA, but it's important to note that the DGA conceded a lot of points that the WGA is striking over in the first place, so the DGA deal hardly provides much of a framework for the WGA to use.

In the end, like the strike itself, no one is going to be the winner in this fight: not the writers and actors, who lose out on a career-making night; not the studios, who lose millions in revenue; and not the public, which loses its traditional night to celebrate the motion picture industry.

R.I.P. SUZANNE PLESHETTE: The actress, who died over the weekend, would have turned 71 on Jan. 31. Pleshette, a veteran performer for both films and television, was the linchpin of the one of the single greatest moments in the history of TV when she reprised her role in 1990 from "The Bob Newhart Show" for the brilliantly conceived series finale of "Newhart," Bob Newhart's second TV series. No TV series before or since has ever touched that twist of an ending (which probably wouldn't have been possible in today's era of Internet spoilers).

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" (Fox, 9 p.m.) suffered a big dropoff in ratings from its pilot to the second episode, but here's hoping viewers give it another chance. It follows a new "Prison Break."

"Medium" (NBC, 10 p.m.) follows reality game show hits "American Gladiators" and "Deal Or No Deal." While I'm personally glad that "AG" has returned to the air, the Hulk Hogan/Laila Ali interviews are coming off as insipid. And the play-by-play voiceover guy makes me long for the days of Mike Adamle and Larry Csonka. But some of the new games are cool and the Eliminator has been pretty interesting, plus I like all of the pools the competitors keep getting dunked into.

ABC follows its newest "Dance War" (ABC, 8 p.m.) with new episodes of "Notes From The Underbelly" and "October Road."

Tonight marks the return of the very popular teen series, "Wildfire" (ABC Family, 9 p.m.), following an all-new "Kyle XY."

If you missed AMC's much-anticipated pilot for "Breaking Bad," you can catch it again tonight at 10 p.m.

Friday, January 18, 2008

An Awesome Combination

It's hard to argue AMC's taste when it comes to original programming.

First, the network brought the slick con show "Hustle" to our shores. Later, it produced the Golden Globe-winning "Mad Men," the most critically acclaimed show of the year.

So when the news hit that it would be producing a new dark comedy called "Breaking Bad," starring one of my favorite TV actors in Bryan Cranston ("Malcolm In The Middle"), well, let's just say I know where I'll be when the show debuts Sunday night at 10 p.m.

"Breaking Bad" tells the tale of a high school chemistry teacher Walt White (Cranston) who has just turned 50. He's in a rut in life when he learns he's terminally ill. So he decides to start making crystal meth with a former student and selling it in order to provide a future for his family.

Some people are comparing the show to Showtime's "Weeds," about a suburban housewife that gets involved with selling marijuana, and hopefully, "Breaking Bad" will reach that level of success. Its creator is former "X-Files" scribe Vince Gilligan.

STRIKE UPDATE: The WGA issued a statement a few hours after the Directors Guild and the AMTMP reached a preliminary agreement.

"Now that the DGA has reached a tentative agreement with the AMPTP, the terms of the deal will be carefully analyzed and evaluated by the WGA, the WGA's Negotiating Committee, the WGAW Board of Directors, and the WGAE Council," the statement said. "We will work with the full membership of both Guilds to discuss our strategies for our own negotiations and contract goals and how they may be affected by such a deal.

For over a month, we have been urging the conglomerates to return to the table and bargain in good faith. They have chosen to negotiate with the DGA instead. Now that those negotiations are completed, the AMPTP must return to the process of bargaining with the WGA. We hope that the DGA's tentative agreement will be a step forward in our effort to negotiate an agreement that is in the best interests of all writers."

While the new agreement may provide a framework for the WGA and the AMTMP to work with, it's important to remember that the DGA had a better deal with the producers to begin with, what with proprietary credit on movies and all. But hopefully this is a step in the right direction in terms of ending the strike soon.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: I'm pretty sure CBS burns up all its new episodes this weekend with a whole-new night of "Ghost Whisperer," "Moonlight" and "Numb3rs."

Also new are "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 9 p.m.) and "Las Vegas" (NBC, 10 p.m.)

Over on cable, Sci-Fi has new episodes of "Flash Gordon" beginning at 8 p.m. and "Stargate Atlantis" at 9 p.m., while sister network USA is airing new installments of "Monk" and "Psych" beginning at 9 p.m.

On Sunday, for those with no interest in the NFL playoffs, "The Amazing Race" (CBS, 8 p.m.) concludes while there's more Jane Austen on "Masterpiece: Northanger Abbey" (PBS, 9 p.m.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Breaking: Directors, Studios Reach Tentative Deal

The Associated Press is reporting the Directors Guild of America and the AMTMP (the studios) have reached a tentative agreement for a new contract.

This may be a big step into bringing a close to the writers guild strike, in that the DGA deal may provide a framework for the WGA and the AMTMP to return to the negotiating table.

Details of the deal, which presumably includes some of the same issues the WGA is striking over, weren't released Thursday.

I'll have more on this when details develop.

Some Quick Notes

I don't have a bunch of time today, so here are a few things of interest:

--"X-Files" creator Chris Carter told USA Today that the new movie, due out this summer, would be a standalone piece and have nothing to do with the series' unbelievably dense mythology. Good call by Carter, since I don't think there's a single person out there who could explain the mythology anyway. If you want to see some stills from "X-Files 2," you can visit

--Paramount has set up an official Web site for newest "Star Trek" movie, due out this Christmas, at There's not much on the site right now, but rumors are there will be a short preview during "Cloverfield," the J.J. Abrams-helmed feature debuting Friday.

--It's a good news/bad news deal for "American Idol." The good news was that, with 33 million viewers, it was the most watch show on TV this season. The bad news? That's down 4 million from last year's debut.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: The TV schedule continues to be hit-and-miss as networks try to hold onto new episodes as long as they can.

On ABC, both "Ugly Betty" and "Big Shots" are new, sandwiching a rerun of "Grey's Anatomy.

"Without A Trace" (CBS, 10 p.m.) anchors a night of reruns, while NBC has a new "Celebrity Apprentice" at 9 p.m. and "ER" at 10 p.m.

The best bets of the night? Turner Classic Movies will show "Casablanca" at 8 p.m., followed by "From Here To Eternity" at 10 p.m.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More Strike Fallout

The latest round of casualties during the current strike are writer-producers on TV shows as the studios have used the strike to cancel contracts with many of them.

Even though the studios have contracts with the producers to create 'X' amount of episodes per year, the studios are able to get away with this because of a "force majeure" clause in the contracts - in this case, the strike is out of the studios' control.

According to Variety, some 75 deals got cancelled on Friday. Some were deals with producers of shows currently on the air, while others were deals for shows that were in development.

In essence, it's the studios' saying there will be no more new TV for the rest of this season.

In related news, producers for both the Oscars and the Grammys have said in various media outlets that those programs will still go on in some form, and they were exploring various options in producing those shows. The Grammys shouldn't be affected too much, since most of the ceremony involves musical performances from the nominees, but no doubt the Oscars took note of the Golden Globes fiasco from Sunday night and will try to avoid that if it can't reach an agreement with the Writers Guild.

Some people seem to think that because the Directors Guild of America has begun negotiations with the AMTMP on its own deal, it may spark something getting the WGA and the studios back to the table. But there's no reason to think that the directors will want to give up residuals on new media any more than the writers would, so there's not too many reasons to be optimistic, especially since the AMTMP refuses to go back to the negotiating table.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: "Comanche Moon" (CBS, 9 p.m.) wraps up with Part 3 tonight, while "Cashmere Mafia" (ABC, 10 p.m.) is also new.

Ellen Degeneres guest stars on "Deal Or No Deal" (NBC, 8 p.m.), followed by "Law & Order: CI" and a new "Law & Order."

"American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) continues its auditions tonight as more and more people seem to want their 15 minutes of fame, regardless of the fact they have no talent for anything other than bufoonary.

Finally, "Pioneers of Television" (PBS, 8 p.m.) looks at variety shows, followed by part 2 of "The Jewish Americans" at 9 p.m.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's Ba-ack!

Tonight marks the return of the phenomenon that keeps the good folks at A.C. Nielsen busy as "American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) returns for its seventh season.

Have the show lost any appeal, or in this strike-filled TV season, will it be more popular than ever? I'm betting on the latter. "AI" draws huge ratings anyway, and with the lack of competition among other networks, it could draw new viewers.

Of course, this comes on the heels of the announcement last week that three former "AI" stars - Katharine McPhee, Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks - lost their record deals, not a good way to kick off the new season of trying to create the next pop sensation.

Tonight begins with the auditions process in San Diego. Depending on your point of view, this is either the best or the worst part of "AI," since most of the hopefuls are appallingly bad. But I and others took "AI" to task last season when the judges seemed particularly cruel in their remarks. The one that stands out was Randy Jackson's belittling of a singing coach who wasn't terrible, but no doubt lost a lot of business due to Jackson's remarks. It was unnecessary; the guy wasn't a joke like William Hung was.

That being said, I do wonder why friends and family members let some of these people humiliate themselves in front of millions of people on national TV. I'd think it'd be better to do the quick hurt of letting someone know they're bad rather than having Randy or Simon rip into them.

And, of course, "AI" hasn't worked out its voting problems. Despite having more voters than those who will pull levers for Super Tuesday (a sobering thought), all it takes is one Web guy to rig a site where someone like Sanjaya gets a ton of votes and a more-deserving contestant is sent packing. Not too mention the poor taste of the viewing public, when they vote for the likes of Hicks or Fantasia Barrino as the winners. (I've listened to more renditions of the national anthem during my days as a sports writer, and Fantasia's performance was the worst by far by anyone claiming to be a professional singer).

Last year, our former music writer, Maggie Large, tracked the progress of "AI" after each installment. But since Maggie moved on to bigger and better things, The Telegraph is without a full-time music writer (and no more Amped blog) and I'm not really inclined to follow the weekly travails of "AI," so expect the occasional update rather than regular ones.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: "NCIS" (CBS, 8 p.m.) is supposedly new this week, but I'll believe it when I see it. It's followed by Part 2 of the miniseries "Comanche Moon."

NBC is counterprogramming "AI" with its exploitive reality show, "The Biggest Loser" (NBC, 8 p.m.) It's followed by a new "Law & Order: SVU" at 10 p.m.

"Boston Legal" (ABC, 10 p.m.) is supposedly new, but it was supposed to be new last week and got yanked for a repeat of "Cashmere Mafia," so who knows?

If you missed the pilot of "Reaper" (CW, 8 p.m.) the first time, now is your chance to catch up. It's followed by a new "One Tree Hill" at 9 p.m.

On cable, A&E is airing its own new reality series called "Parking Wars" at 9 p.m. You guessed it, it's about meter maids vs. illegal parkers. Man, I swear I remember a time when A&E stood for quality TV, but I'm fairly certain it was in the previous century.

Also on cable, "Nip/Tuck" (FX, 10 p.m.) is new, as is the penultimate episode of the wicked cool series "Life On Mars" (BBC America, 9 p.m.)

Monday, January 14, 2008

David Duchovny, Why Don't I Like Thee?

First off, in case you missed the so-called "press conference" last night, here are the Golden Globe winners for television:

—Series, Drama: ‘‘Mad Men,’’ AMC.
—Actress, Drama: Glenn Close, ‘‘Damages.’’
—Actor, Drama: Jon Hamm, ‘‘Mad Men.’’
—Series, Musical or Comedy: ‘‘Extras,’’ HBO.
—Actress, Musical or Comedy: Tina Fey, ‘‘30 Rock’’
—Actor, Musical or Comedy: David Duchovny, ‘‘Californication.’’
—Miniseries or Movie: ‘‘Longford,’’ HBO.
—Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Queen Latifah, ‘‘Life Support.’’
—Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Jim Broadbent, ‘‘Longford.’’
—Supporting Actress, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Samantha Morton, ‘‘Longford.’’
—Supporting Actor, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Jeremy Piven, ‘‘Entourage.’’

For all but one category (and if you read the title to this thread, a play on old pop song, you can guess which one) I think the foreign press association did a decent job. Most of the picks you can make a solid argument for even if you wanted someone else to win. And I was glad to see Jon Hamm and "Mad Men" get their due.

Which brings us to David Duchovny, an actor I've usually liked since his "X-Files" days. But on this insipid show "Californication," Duchovny is reduced to smirking for the camera and dispensing snarky witticisms in between bouts of sex. It's a two-dimensional character on a pointless show.

Meanwhile, any of his competition in the category would have been a better pick. Alec Baldwin is generally considered to be the funniest actor on TV right now; Steve Carell already has an Emmy; Ricky Gervais continues to craft terrific characters for himself; and Lee Pace is one of the best things about TV's best new show.

I mean, maybe this is what happens when you give foreign journalists votes. Maybe they thought, "it should be anyone on this list BUT David Duchovny," and for some reason decided to write his name down. I'm guessing the Foreign Press Association members are mostly French, anyway.

As for the awards show itself, the writers strike may have done everyone a favor by reducing it to a manageable hour rather than the overblown mess most awards shows devolve into. (That being said, if I'm ever nominated for an Oscar, I want the orchestra, the red carpet, the whole nine yards).

And once again, foreign French press guys, take five minutes to expand the supporting characters category. How you can compare someone who is a supporting actor in a TV movie to someone who is a regular in a sitcom or hour-long drama is the ultimate apples-vs.-oranges. It's unfair to all of the performers.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Hopefully, you caught last night's "Sarah Connor Chronicles." Tonight, the series airs in its regular timeslot (Fox, 9 p.m.) as Sarah, John and Cameron adjust to life in the 21st century. It follows an all-new "Prison Break," in which T-Bag insinuates himself into the escape plan. (Um, wasn't that a big part of the plot in Season 1?)

"Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann" (ABC, 8 p.m.) provides us with alternate strike-style programming, and it's followed by new installments of "Notes From The Underbelly" and "October Road."

Elizabeth Berkeley guest stars as the mother of David Caruso's son on a new "CSI: Miami" (CBS, 10 p.m.). With those parents, I'm betting the kid is going to be pretty messed up.

"Kyle XY" (ABC Family, 8 p.m.) returns for an all-new season beginning tonight, while "Medium" (NBC, 10 p.m.) is all-new. BTW, Patricia Arquette didn't win a Golden Globe last night (Woo-hoo, foreign press guys!)

Finally, "American Experience" (PBS, 9 p.m.) takes a new look at the Kennedy assassination. Hopefully, Oliver Stone isn't involved in the documentary.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Busy Weekend

It's hard to remember that there's a writers strike going on with the plethora of new stuff this weekend.

Chief among the offerings are two miniseries with excellent pedigrees.

PBS is bringing back a new season of "Masterpiece Theatre," though the new title of the series is now simply "Masterpiece." With new hostess Gillian Anderson ("The X-Files") in place, the series airs a new adaptation of Jane Austen's "Persuasion," (PBS, Sun., 9 p.m.) with Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot and Anthony Stewart Head as her boorish father.

Opposite "Persuasion" Sunday night is "Comanche Moon," (CBS, Sun., 9 p.m.) the prequel to the immensly popular "Lonesome Dove" miniseries, based upon the work of Larry McMurtry. "Comanche Moon" follows the adventures of Gus (Steve Zahn) and Woodrow (Karl Urban) with their work as Texas rangers.

Either is a quality pick to spend Sunday night with.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: The Dillon Panthers face their unwanted locker roommates on the gridiron tonight on "Friday Night Lights," (NBC, 9 p.m.) as Riggins continues his topsy-turvy life while recruiters continue to dog Smash. It's followed by the 100th episode of "Las Vegas" at 10 p.m.

CBS is supposed to be all-new tonight, with new episodes of "Ghost Whisperer," "Moonlight" and "Numb3rs."

USA returns with new episodes of its hit detective series, "Monk" (USA, 9 p.m.), which guest stars Howie Mandel, and "Psych" (USA, 10 p.m.)

On Sunday, you can catch a new episode of the acclaimed series "The Wire," (HBO, 9 p.m.) or check out the debut of the new "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" at a special time at 8 p.m. before the series moves into its regular Monday night at 9 p.m. timeslot.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Sarah Connor Chronicles

So Fox came through in a big way yesterday, sending me the first two episodes of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" in time for this review after participating in a teleconference with star Lena Headey ("300") and producer James Middleton the day before.

Frankly, I was a bit worried about seeing the pilot after Middleton said on the call to ignore "Terminator 3."

"We create an entirely new timeline," he said. "In terms of the show, the premise it establishes with a new timeline is more informed wih 'Terminator 2' than 'Terminator 3.' "

Of course, in T3, it establishes that Sarah was dead and we see John Connor as a young man in his 20s. In "SCC" we see John as a 15-year-old played by Thomas Dekker ("Heroes"). The action is set a couple of years after the events of T2, where Sarah, John and the Terminator destroyed the lab that creates Skynet, the system that builds the Terminators and initiates Judgement Day.

John and Sarah are living off the grid, and Sarah is engaged to an EMT (Dean Winters, "Rescue Me"). But Sarah decides that she has been in one place too long and decides it's time to return to the road, trying to stay one step ahead of both the authorities and the Terminators.

At his new school, John meets a classmate named Cameron (Summer Glau, "Firefly") who turns out to be a Terminator sent by his future self to protect his young self. She gets put to work early, as an evil Terminator shows up immediately after. (BTW, nice move, future John, in sending a hot teenage woman to be your protector rather than an oversized Austrian.)

Not to give too much away, but future John hasn't just sent back Cameron for his protection, and the Hail Mary she pulls at the end of the pilot to allow the three of them to escape the assassin helps establish the new timeline.

Time travel in sci-fi shows is a bit of a mixed bag: On the one hand, alternate realities allow for some great storytelling, like on "Heroes" in Season 1; on the other hand, it brings out all sorts of logical inconsistencies in plots, plus allows writers a loophole to change storylines or hit the rewind button in order to say "it was only a possible future."

Despite my initial misgivings, the SCC writers use the time travel aspect of the Terminator franchise pretty well, I think. And there are some moments in Episode 2 that indicate that viewers may not want to ignore aspects of T3 so quickly.

Headey makes the role of Sarah her own, despite the almost iconic status of Linda Hamilton's portrayal. Headey said she tried to approach the part from her own perspective, and the bond between her and John is explored a lot more in SCC than it was in the movies.

"It's such an ongoing evolution," Headey said. "I think her relationship with John is reaching new depths. ... I took from the movies what was undeniable - a strength and instinct, and an absolute sense of right and wrong."

Middleton said that events from SCC would be tied into "Terminator 4," which has cast Christian Bale as the future John Connor. He added that while none of the actors from the movies, such as Robert Patrick, have been approached to reprise their roles, he didn't close the door on the possibility, either.

So, what's the final verdict on SCC? Definitely worth an hour of your time. The action sequences are very strong, and Headey brings a lot of depth to Sarah (though she looks a little young to have a teenage son.) Glau is terrific as the new good Terminator, while Dekker is solid as John, though the writers need to have the character whine so much.

"Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" debuts Sunday night at 8 p.m. on Fox before settling into its regular slot on Monday nights.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Huzzah! A new episode of a show I actually watch! "Ugly Betty" is supposed to be all-new tonight (ABC, 8 p.m.) though I qualify it by saying read yesterday's posting. It's followed by a new "Grey's Anatomy" and "Big Shots."

CBS will supposedly run new episodes tonight for "CSI" at 9 p.m. and "Without A Trace" at 10 p.m. And NBC is all-new with "My Name Is Earl," "30 Rock" (Kenneth the page learns the joys of coffee), "Celebrity Apprentice" and "ER."

Finally, if you enjoy "Project Runway," Bravo is bringing viewers "Make Me A Supermodel" tonight at 9 p.m. The title is pretty self-explanatory and is hosted by models Niki Taylor and Tyson Beckford.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Baiting And Switching

I'd apologize for some of the recent mistakes I've had in my Best Bets sections, but you know something, it's not really my fault.

I check the pre-printed TV page in The Telegraph for new episodes, and cross-check them with to make sure what is listed is what is correct.

But these days, because of the strike, networks are constantly pulling new episodes so that they will have their new stuff to air during sweeps next month.

I don't mind that strategy, but there's really no point in waiting to the last minute to pull an episode that is already advertised as new. CBS did this for the umpteenth time last night once more with "NCIS," while ABC re-aired the pilot of "Cashmere Mafia" (a show they've chosen to send me no advance materials for, never a good sign) last night instead of "Boston Legal."

The big things on the networks - the return of "Lost," for example - and the reality shows are pretty safe, because the networks are promoting the heck out of those. But all I can say is set your DVRs with a grain of salt as to other network offerings.

COMING TOMORROW: I took part in the conference call for "The Sarah Conner Chronicles" with star Lena Headey earlier this week and I'll have a recap for the loyal dozens. I was hoping Fox would send me a pilot for review, but it's looking like I'll have to wait until Sunday like everyone else.

WEDNESDAY'S BETS: One thing you can count on schedule-wise is PBS, which offers viewers a couple of insightful documentaries tonight. The first, "Pioneers of Television" (PBS, 8 p.m.) looks at late-night TV through the years, certainly a timely topic of late.

The second, "The Jewish Americans" (PBS, 9 p.m.) is the first of a three-part examining the roles of Jews in American history, covering everyone from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Hasidic rap star Matisyahu.

As for the networks, a bunch of so-called reality tonight, plus some dramatic shows. CBS will supposedly offer new installments of "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY," but they may not, either. ABC is airing the second episode of "Cashmere Mafia," (ABC, 10 p.m.) the "Sex & The City" rip-off from SATC producer Darren Star.

NBC returns new episodes of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" followed by the original "L&O" beginning at 9 p.m. "Gossip Girl" (CW, 9 p.m.) is also new.

By the way, I forgot to note over the weekend the return of Showtime's "The L Word." You can catch a rerun of the season premiere tonight at 8 p.m.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

More Strike Fallout

My brother asked me a relatively complex question last night: If I were Jay Leno, how would I have handled the current WGA situation?

It's a fair question. Leno has essentially been forced to return to work on "The Tonight Show," with NBC threatening to fire the below-the-line talent (the cameramen, the sound guys, etc.) if he didn't. But doing so means cross the Writers' Guild picket lines and producing a less-than-stellar product, since he has no writers and much of Hollywood's A-list stars are boycotting the talk shows that haven't worked out a deal with the WGA.

Leno, who has been pretty vocal in his support of the union, made headlines yesterday when it was announced that he and fellow late-night host Jimmy Kimmel will be appearing as guests on each other's show Thursday night. (Kimmel has been far less supporting of the union.)

It's difficult to answer as to what Leno should have done. By staying off the air, he strengthens the union's position but puts a lot of people out of work. By going on the air, he keeps the show going, but undermines the union's position - the more shows returning to the air without the WGA's waiver, the weaker the WGA's bargaining position is.

Fellow late night host David Letterman owns his own production company, Worldwide Pants, which produces both "The Late Show" and "The Late, Late Show" with Craig Ferguson. Worldwide Pants struck a deal last week with the WGA that allows both shows to go back to work with full writing staffs, meaning both shows not only return to the air at full strength, but are in prime position to get the biggest names in show business as their guests.

So what would I have done in Leno's position? I'd have sat down with the union and explained the dilemma. I'd have said that my hand was being forced and I had to return to work. But what I would have done would have been to make WGA president Patric Verrone my first guest and said he had the whole first segment of the first show back to defend the union's position - essentially 10 or 15 minutes of free air time on TV's No. 1-rated talk show to plead his side's cause.

Maybe the network wouldn't have gone for this, and perhaps the union wouldn't either, but that might have been a compromise to offer.

All I know is that there really are no winners in this clash - not the viewers, not the WGA, not the networks even, since they risk devaluing their own products by putting them out there with no writers and few guests to choose from.

Meanwhile, it was made official yesterday when the Golden Globes awards show was cancelled. Instead, there will be a one-hour news conference that will announce the winners and allow them to speak with the media. On the one hand, we really don't need another awards show, and as I've pointed out here numerous times, the Foreign Press Association makes some pretty lame picks anyway.

On the other hand, the Globes are pretty prestigious, and if you win one, this might be the only time in your life you ever do. It might be nice to put on a tux or a gown and receive your statuette in front of 20 million people.

No word yet on how talks between the WGA and the producers for the Oscars are progressing.

RETURNING TO WORK: Two of TV's biggest hostesses returned to work Monday after maternity leave. Elisabeth Hasselbeck is back on "The View," while Macon's own Nancy Grace is back on her CNN Headline News program.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Last spring, the CW was floated an idea about advancing the plots of two of its series ahead four years in time as a means of avoiding cancellation. One series was the highly acclaimed "Veronica Mars." The other was the teen soap opera "One Tree Hill." Guess which one the CW decided to keep?

"One Tree Hill" airs two new episodes tonight, including the season premiere which finds Chad Michael Murray & Co. out of high school and moving on with their lives. Meanwhile, the cool mini-episode of "Veronica Mars," which found our plucky heroine as a rookie FBI agent, is condemned to float for eternity around the Internet.

OK, folks, fair warning: CBS continues to plug new episodes of its shows only to yank them for reruns at the last minute. So tonight's "NCIS" (CBS, 8 p.m.) is supposed to be a new one; whether it is or not remains to be seen. It's followed by the most ridiculous awards in show business, the People's Choice Awards, which are quite literally a popularity contest and nothing more.

ABC is all-new with "According To Jim" at 9 p.m., followed by "Carpoolers" and "Boston Legal," proof that the writers need to return to work pretty darn quick.

NBC is kicking off its newest edition of "The Biggest Loser" at 8 p.m., still for me TV's most offensive show, followed by a new "Law & Order: SVU" at 10 p.m.

The pick of the night, as always, is "Life On Mars" (BBC America, 9 p.m.)

And finally, if you missed them the first time around, now is the time to catch up with some hit shows you may have heard about. Fox is re-airing the pilots of "Bones" and "House" at 8 and 9 p.m., respectively, so now is your chance to catch them.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Softballs Instead Of Fastballs

Remember when Mike Wallace of "60 Minutes" would show up at some corporation and the executives would soil themselves?

Anyone hoping for the same effect on baseball's Roger Clemens last night was surely disappointed. (I know I was).

The Clemens interview, in which he discusses the claims of the Mitchell Report that he used performance-enhancing drugs, has been hyped for the past week.

But what it essentially turned out to be was a 15-minute puff piece in which Wallace lobbed a few softballs toward Clemens (the two are good friends off-camera) and Clemens, in this rather controlled environment, was able to answer the various charges leveled at him.

If Wallace was truly committed to find out about Clemens, he should have turned the assignment over to another journalist. As Clemens himself can tell you, it doesn't matter how good your fastball is, the hitter is going to catch up with it if he knows it's coming. With the "tough" questions Wallace asked, Clemens already had his stock answers ready.

The only time the interview really had something to say was when Wallace asked Clemens if he would take a polygraph, and Clemens fumbled around an answer that implied that he wouldn't.

Clemens has been on his heels since the Mitchell Report broke, and what amounted to a press conference Sunday night didn't do anything to help his reputation. Or Wallace's, for that matter.

WGA UPDATE: United Artists, one of the mini-studios in Hollywood a' la Miramax or New Line, has brokered a temporary deal with the Writers' Guild that allows the studio to get back to work. It's the second such deal in a week as UA joins David Letterman's Worldwide Pants Production Company in striking an agreement with the WGA.

Though this will have little impact on the state of TV, since UA doesn't produce any television shows, it could lead to a flood of production companies reaching their own agreements and getting back to work, which would undermine the AMTMP and force the studios finally to return to the bargaining table.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: The so-called national championship, which pits computer favorites Ohio State and LSU against each other tonight in New Orleans (Fox, 8 p.m.)

I've made my feelings known already about the validity of this game and why college football needs a playoff system, so I won't rehash that here.

If you can care less about this game, ABC is giving you "Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann" (ABC, 8 p.m.) in which the two dance instructors put together their own teams of dancers. It's followed by a new "October Road" at 10 p.m.

"Medium," (NBC, 10 p.m.) featuring Emmy fave Patricia Arquette, is back with all-new episodes, following "American Gladiators" and "Deal Or No Deal." Not to discourage viewership or anything, but I'll be a little disappointed if this lineup does better ratings-wise than "Chuck," "Heroes" and "Journeyman" did.

Finally, "Great Performances" (PBS, 9 p.m.) does a salute to Irving Berlin.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Gladiators Ready!

This weekend sees the revival of one of the guilty pleasures of my youth - the return of "American Gladiators" (NBC, Sun., 9 p.m.) to the airwaves.

Yes, I was a fan of the original "AG." And why not? If shows like "Jeopardy" can test the minds of the average American, why not have a show that tests them physically? Besides, seeing the average American get pummelled by 250-pound guys named Laser and Nitro is a helluva lot of fun.

I remember one episode of the old series in which they had international contestants and there was this 275-pound Olympic weightlifter from Sweden or Norway who absolutely flattened the gladiators. Ah, memories.

I worry that the new version, with hosts Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali, will be too glitzy because it's now on network TV rather than syndication, and with the Hulkster on board, the gladiators might become wrestling-like caricatures where half the show is people yelling into the camera.

I hope not. It would cut down on the pummeling time.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: There may be a writers' strike going on, but some of TV's most talked-about shows are starting the weekend with new episodes.

"Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 9 p.m.) is new tonight and next week, as the Dillon Panthers get some unwanted guests as a rival team's school is destroyed by a tornado and the teams must share facilities. Needless to say, that doesn't go over well. Meanwhile, Landry continues to try to define his relationship with Tyra, and Tim Riggins moves in with the Taylors, leading to a lot of fun moments. And, next week, Smash and his family continue to be overwhelmed by college recruiters. It's followed by a new "Las Vegas" at 10 p.m.

"Women's Murder Club" (ABC, 9 p.m.) is brand-new tonight.

Also new tonight is the return of "Flash Gordon" (Sci-Fi, 8 p.m.) and "Stargate: Atlantis" (Sci-Fi, 10 p.m.) Meanwhile, Lifetime reveals its all-new reality lineup with "Look Good Naked" (Life, 9 p.m.), followed by "Matched in Manhattan" at 9:30 and two episodes of "Top This Party."

As for the weekend, one of TV's most acclaimed dramas is back as "The Wire" (HBO, 9 p.m.) kicks off its final season.

While I believe its the only new episode left in the can, "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 9 p.m.) answers who lived and who didn't in the aftermath of the tornado cliffhanger (what is it with tornado subplots? Do the housewives also move in with the Dillon Panthers?)

Also on Sunday, Fox gives us a new "Simpsons," "King of the Hill" and "American Dad," but not a new "Family Guy." CBS is brand-new with "The Amazing Race," "Cold Case" and "Shark." VCR ALERT: With the NFL playoffs, expect all of these shows to not start on time.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Please Just Say 'You're Fired' Already

It's almost become mandatory that reality shows must produce a so-called "celebrity" edition.

Tonight, "The Apprentice" (NBC, 9 p.m.) is no exception.

Of course, there are no celebrities people might want to see, no Brad Pitt, no George Clooney, hell, no Lindsay Lohan (who'd at least keep things interesting).

Instead, we get country artist Trace Adkins; rocker Gene Simmons; actors Stephen Baldwin and Marilu Henner; model-actress Carol Alt; boxer Lennox Lewis; and reality figures Omarosa and Piers Morgan, among others.

"The Apprentice" has really been on the decline for the past few years. Starting with Donald Trump making his kids his sidekicks, and introducing gimmicks like having the losing team sleep in tents and not replacing project managers, this show really fails to live up to earlier editions.

And with celebrities playing for charity rather than a job with Trump, how much motivation will there be among the contestants, especially since none of them have a business background.

And before anyone blames the writers' strike, this show has been on the books for months.

Time for NBC to tell Trump he's fired.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: For old school "ER" (NBC, 10 p.m.) fans, tonight's episode marks a return to the old days, as Gloria Reuben reprises her role as HIV-positive physician's assistant Jeannie Boulet.

Tonight marks what should be another thrilling bowl, as Virginia Tech battles Kansas in the Orange Bowl (Fox, 8 p.m.) C'mon, guys, let's have at least one interesting and close BCS game.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy 2008 (To Everyone But The Fox Commentators)

Hope everyone had a good New Year's. I sure did, what with the Dogs' big win over Hawaii and all.

But, holy crap, Fox doesn't need to be doing any more college football games. Between the start of the game being delayed until nearly 9 p.m. EST and the god-awful commentators, it nearly spoiled what was a great UGA win.

I mean, there is something wrong when a college game is ending after 1 a.m. And there is something wrong when the commentators criticize the backups on Georgia trying to make plays, as if they are running up the score. What, the Dogs are supposed to lay down on the job just because Hawaii can't make a play on either side of the ball? I realize that it must have been an awfully difficult job to comment on a game that was so one-sided, but that doesn't mean you have be one-sided for the other team in your comments.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: The bowl season continues tonight with the Fiesta Bowl, as Oklahoma battles West Virginia (Fox, 8 p.m.) Let's hope the Fox guys are a bit more balanced.

If football isn't your thing, you may want to check out "Pioneers of TV" (PBS, 8 p.m.), which takes a look at the history of TV. Tonight's installment deals with some of the great comics from TV's history.