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TV Bulletin Board (Thurs., July 31) -- NBC picks its Pan

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Mary Martin as iconic Peter Pan; Allison Williams will be the new one. NBC photos

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
NBC’s surprise pick to play Peter Pan is Allison Williams, co-star of HBO’s Girls and daughter of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.

The network announced its choice Wednesday after earlier failing to land Kristen Bell of Frozen, whose schedule wasn’t compatible. Williams will star opposite the previously announced Christopher Walken as Captain Hook in a Dec. 4th production. NBC hopes to make live musicals an annual holiday event after last year’s The Sound of Music with Carrie Underwood became an unexpected hit.

Executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron said in a publicity statement: “Allison Williams is a major find. “She will reinvent the iconic role of Peter Pan with her wit, her warmth, her dynamic flying and her wonderful musical abilities.”

Williams’ rhetoric was a bit less soaring. “I’ve wanted to play Peter Pan since I was about three years old,” she said. “And besides, what could go wrong in a live televised production with simultaneous flying, sword fighting and singing?”

Williams is a “classically trained singer” who has performed several song for a Girls soundtrack CD, NBC noted. The network’s original 1955 live production of Peter Pan starred the late Mary Martin in a reprise of her previous year’s Broadway show. Sandy Duncan and Cathy Rigby also have played the character on Broadway. All risked being Panned by critics

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TV Land is taking an edgier approach to its original sitcoms by signing acerbic standup Jim Gaffigan to star in The Gaffigan Show. Its executive producer, Peter Tolan, previously helmed FX’s Rescue Me.

The Gaffigan Show also will be TV Land’s second single-camera comedy, following June’s premiere of Jennifer Falls with Jaime Pressley. This means it’ll be shot without a live studio audience or, presumably, a laugh track. Episodes of the series, due in 2015, will be shown a week later on Comedy Central.

TV Land says The Gaffigan Show is “inspired by” the comedian’s real life, “exploring one man’s struggle in New York City to find a balance between fatherhood, stand-up comedy and an insatiable appetite.” The last reference is to Gaffigan’s bestselling book, Dad is Fat. But the entire description very much smacks of FX’s Louie.

Adam Goldberg, Michael Ian Black and Ashley Williams will co-star in The Gaffigan Show, which has a 10-episode order. It was originally developed -- and re-developed -- for CBS, which passed on it twice.

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CBS’ classic, Texas-filmed Lonesome Dove miniseries, which premiered on the network in 1989, is newly available for free on Hulu. Subscribers to Hulu Plus also can access it.

The not-so-classic trio of Lonesome Dove sequels also is housed on Hulu and Hulu Plus. Namely, Return to Lonesome Dove, Streets of Laredo and Dead Man’s Walk.

The mothership Lonesome Dove, adapted from Larry McMurtry’s best-known book, had perhaps the best cast ever assembled for television. Its ensemble included Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Anjelica Huston, Diane Lane, Danny Glover, Chris Cooper, Steve Buscemi, Frederic Forrest, Margo Martindale, D.B. Sweeney, Robert Urich, Ricky Schroder, Barry Corbin and Barry Tubb.

Lonesome Dove deservedly received 19 Emmy nominations. But on the big night it was shut out in all of the acting categories while also losing the “Outstanding Miniseries” Emmy to ABC’s War and Remembrance. All of these years later, the defeat of Duvall as best actor, by James Woods for his performance in CBS’ My Name Is Bill W, is still one of the biggest misappropriations in Emmy history.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

TV Bulletin Board (Tues., June 25) -- Idol will stand pat despite singing the blues with Season 13 ratings

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All for one and all back for more. Host Ryan Seacrest and judges Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. will regroup for Season 14 of the slumping but still profitable American Idol. Fox photo

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Fox’s American Idol won’t change any horses next season despite record low ratings for its Season 13 finale and its weakest overall season performance since the summer 2002 launch.

The network announced Monday night that judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. will all return, along with charter host Ryan Seacrest.

Fox’s publicity release made no mention of the show’s continued ratings slide, which now has it running well behind NBC’s The Voice among prime-time singing competitions.

David Hill, senior executive vice president of 21st Century Fox instead praised the foursome as “the very best in the business at what they do. Each brings unique qualities and expertise to the team, but they all share the same passion for helping undiscovered singers achieve the American dream.”

Fox also announced that Season 14 of Idol, due in January, will inaugurate a “True Believers” gimmick in which each contestant names a single person as their most fervent backer. The “True Believer” behind the eventual winner will receive a $50,000 cash prize.

The May 21st Season 13 finale of Idol drew 10.53 million viewers, smallest in the show’s history. The previous year’s season finale had 14.31 viewers, marking the first time Idol had dipped below the 20 million mark for its climactic announcement of the show’s winner. For the entire Season 13, Idol averaged 11.94 million viewers for its performance shows and 11.43 million for its results editions.

The sixth edition of The Voice averaged 14.57 million viewers for the entire season. Its season finale audience of 11.69 million viewers on May 20th wasn’t that much bigger than Idol’s, though. And The Voice likewise has been losing viewers.

***AMC has renewed its Revolutionary War drama Turn for a second season of 10 episodes.

The series, which received mixed reviews, averaged just 2 million viewers for episodes and repeats shown across a full week. But AMC’s publicity release cited its “passionate core audience” and the potential to build on it.

“AMC and its creative partners have a track record of nurturing programs we collectively believe in, patiently growing viewership and engagement over time,” said AMC president Charlie Collier.

On another AMC front, the network is all in and then some with its Breaking Bad prequel, Better Call Saul. Although a 10-episode Season 1 won’t premiere until early next year, the network already has ordered a 13-episode Season 2 (which is scheduled to launch in early 2016).

The series stars Bob Odenkirk reprising his super shady attorney character, Saul Goodman. Odenkirk is coming off a much-praised performance in Season 1 of FX’s Fargo as sheriff department chief Bill Oswalt.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

TV Bulletin Board (Thurs., March 20) -- NBC renewals a boon for network's still potent big bad Wolf

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Chicago Fire and spinoff Chicago P.D. get new seasons. NBC photos

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
One of his long-running drama franchises has wound down to the still surviving Law & Order: SVU. But producer Dick Wolf is now happily immersed in another one.

NBC has renewed both of Wolf’s latter-day creations, Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D., while still holding back on an expected go-ahead for Wolf’s SVU, currently in its 15th season.

The Peacock’s package of official returnees for next season also includes Grimm, Parks and Recreation, The Blacklist, Celebrity Apprentice and The Voice. On the sports front, Sunday Night Football of course is a lock. That still leaves a number of series awaiting their fates, including Community, Hannibal, About a Boy, Growing Up Fisher, Parenthood and Revolution.

NBC still ranks No. 1 this season among advertiser-prized 18-to-49-year-olds. It’s been 10 years since the network has been ahead this late in the season among viewers who comprise TV’s most sought-after demographic.

NBC also continues to roll in late night, particularly with Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show. For the week of March 10-14, Fallon crunched runner-up Jimmy Kimmel in total viewers by a score of 4.260 million to 2.830 million in the national Nielsens, with CBS David Letterman at 2.778 million.

Among 18-to-49-year-olds, Fallon led with 1.676 million, with Kimmel (965,000) and Letterman (699,000) both far behind.

Seth Meyers’ NBC Late Night also beat CBS’ Craig Ferguson in both ratings measurements.

It’s still been just a month since Fallon took over from Jay Leno. But so he’s been an unqualified success story, exceeding NBC’s expectations.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

TV Bulletin Board (Wed., March 19) -- Fonda, Tomlin re-team in Netflix sitcom from Friends creator

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The 9 to 5 crew: Tomlin, Parton and Fonda circa 1980.

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Audience demographics be damned -- especially if you’re Netflix and you don’t release audience figures anyway.

The “world’s leading Internet television network” announced Wednesday that it’s teaming golden agers Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in Grace and Frankie, a sitcom set to premiere next year.

The head executive producer is Marta Kauffman, who created Friends and hasn’t done a whole lot else since that hit series left NBC in 2004. A Netflix publicity release describes Grace and Frankie as “warm, very funny and anything but wholesome.”

Fonda, 76, and Tomlin, 74, play wives whose husbands “announce they are in love with each other and plan to get married.” Uh-oh, Grace (Fonda) and Frankie (Tomlin) “find their lives both turned upside down and to their dismay, permanently intertwined. Eventually, to their surprise, they find they have each other.”

The premise isn’t entirely unlike TV Land’s Happily Divorced, whose star, Fran Drescher, learned that her husband is gay. Drawn from her real-life experiences with ex-hubby Peter Marc Jacobson, the comedy ran for two seasons before being canceled in August of last year.

Tomlin recently played Reba McEntire’s crotchety mom in the since canceled ABC comedy Malibu Country. Fonda recurrently has played the powerhouse CEO of a communications conglomerate in HBO’s The Newsroom, currently in production on its announced final season. Tomlin and Fonda last acted together in the 1980 feature film 9 to 5, which oddly is not mentioned in the Netflix release despite a headline touting them as “Back Together Again.”

Thirteen episodes of Grace and Frankie have been ordered. As usual, Netflix will make them all instantly available for streaming on the series’ launch date.

*** CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman, being badly hammered among advertiser-prized 18-to-49-year-olds in its New York-based face-off with NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, does not seem overly concerned with skewing old.

The program has announced 89-year-old former president Jimmy Carter as its featured guest on Monday, March 24th. Carter will be touting his latest book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.

Fallon also is going the former politician route, booking Arnold Schwarzenegger, hardly a youngster at 66 but still young enough to be Carter’s son. The ex-California governor’s promotional considerations are less lofty. He’ll be plugging his new action movie, Sabotage.

***In another old-timer development, FX has inked Billy Crystal, 66, to star in his first prime-time TV series since Soap. He’ll join Josh Gad (The Book of Mormon) in The Comedians, playing a “superstar veteran” comic paired with an “edgier up-and-coming” one. It’s due in 2015, with a 13-episode first season planned.

Crystal was a regular on Saturday Night Live in the 1984-’85 season.

***Starting this fall, MyNetworkTV will be the exclusive broadcast network home for repeats of The Walking Dead. It’s currently the No. 1 scripted series in all of television among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds. In D-FW, MyNetworkTV programming is carried on KDFI-TV (Ch. 27).

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

TV Bulletin Board (Fri., March 14) -- slew of CBS renewals leaves only handful of shows on chopping block

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Robin Williams, Sarah Michelle Gellar of The Crazy Ones. CBS photo

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
CBS doesn’t mess around. The No. 1 network in total viewers banks on stability, not rampant change. So it’s renewed 18 prime-time series for next season, bringing the grand total to 20 after previous announcements on Survivor and The Big Bang Theory (which has a three-year deal that will take it all the way through the 2016-17 TV season).

In situations like this, it’s easier to spotlight the ongoing series that haven’t yet made the cut. And that basically boils down to The Mentalist (winding down its 6th season) and two first-year shows -- The Crazy Ones (starring Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Intelligence (with Josh Holloway of Lost fame). They’re still “on the bubble,” but in reality all but dead.

How I Met Your Mother also won’t be back, but CBS announced a while back that this is its last season, with the finale set for Monday, March 31st. And it’s a foregone conclusion that two shows no longer breathing CBS’ air space have also breathed their last. Namely Hostages and We Are Men.

The returnees include CBS’ most critically acclaimed drama, The Good Wife. Its ratings continue to be problematic but CBS still likes the show’s patina.

Two series that seemingly entered this season with very iffy futures -- Hawaii Five-O and Two and a Half Men -- also will be returning. Hawaii Five-, shifted from Monday to Friday nights, has proven to be surprisingly resilient in a slot between Undercover Boss and Blue Bloods.

One remaining new series, the comedy Friends With Better Lives, will be launched on March 31st after the How I Met Your Mother finale. Reckless, a freshman drama series announced as a midseason replacement last spring, has been pushed back to a June 29th premiere.

After all the dust clears, CBS will have a maximum of six casualties from the ongoing 2013-14 TV season, which ends in May. And that’s only if Friends With Better Lives doesn’t make it.

Says CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler in a statement: “The best way to launch new shows in the fall and throughout the season is to surround them with a strong and stable lineup of successful series.”

CBS has executed that game plan time and again while its rivals try to stop their merry-go-rounds. ABC in particular has been a revolving door of failure this season. The network has ample series still on the bubble. And its officially dead or intensive care list includes Lucky 7, Back in the Game, Betrayal, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Super Fun Night, Trophy Wife, Killer Women, The Neighbors, The Assets, Mind Games, The Taste and Mixology. That’s a lot of carnage.

QUICK HITS

***FX’s acclaimed Louie, starring Louis C.K., will launch its fourth season on Monday, May 5th with back-to-back episodes. FX says two new episodes will air each Monday through June 16th. Louie has been on a 19th month hiatus after Louie C.K. asked for more time to retool and re-charge.

***Another critically praised series, BBC America’s Orphan Black, will return on Saturday, April 19th with Season 2.

***Showtime has picked up the drama series pilot Billions, brainchild of Too Big to Fail author Andrew Ross Sorkin. Showtime says it deals with the “collision and, at times, collusion between an aggressive U.S. attorney in New York and some of the richest hedge fund billionaires in the country.” No cast has been announced yet.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net