By ED BARK
***Katie Couric will mark her first anniversary as anchor of the CBS Evening News by journeying to Iraq for the first time.
CBS announced Wednesday that she'll report and anchor the program from Iraq and Syria during Sept. 4-7. Couric took over the Evening News from Bob Schieffer on Sept. 5, 2006, the day after Labor Day. Her broadcast currently is running third in the dinnertime news ratings after an initial burst into first place.
There's other timing involved. Couric's reports will come a week before Gen. David Petraus' scheduled status report to Congress on the progress of the U.S. effort in Iraq.
***Two old Seinfeld castmates, Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, will reunite on her CBS show sometime in the coming season. Alexander is a cast as a "lizard handler" for children's birthday parties who ends up dating Louis-Dreyfus' title character on The New Adventures of Old Christine.
CBS has renewed the sitcom, but not as part of its fall schedule. It's supposed to return in midseason.
***Fox has a celebrity contingent ready to show how smart -- or dumb -- they are on its hottest new show. Set for November "sweeps" appearances on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? are Regis Philbin, Billy Bush, Tony Hawk, former American Idol stars Clay Aiken and Kellie Pickler and Miss America Lauren Nelson.
All will be playing for charity, Fox says.
By ED BARK
***What's a "Dicko" Dickson?
For the record, the "bawdy" judge from Australian Idol goes by the fuller name of Ian "Dicko" Dickson. But in Fox's wildest dreams, he'll be seen as a bigger dick than Simon Cowell shortly after the network launches The Next Great American Band. He's already been voted "Fave Old Fart" and "Fave Meanie" by Australia's version of Nickelodeon. That should count for something.
Dicko will join Sheila E. and Goo Goo Dolls lead singer/guitarist John Rzeznik as arbiters on the American Idol spinoff, which premieres on Friday, Oct. 19th. The show's host is another foreigner, New Zealander Dominic Bowden. He prepped by hosting that country's version of American Idol.
It's become clear, of course, that you can't have an American talent competition without a caustic imported judge. Besides, Cowell, there's Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli (ABC's Dancing with the Stars); Piers Morgan (NBC's America's Got Talent); Nigel Lythgoe (Fox's So You Think You Can Dance); Peter Jones (ABC's American Inventor) and Gordon Ramsay (judge, jury and executioner on Fox's Hell's Kitchen and the upcoming Kitchen Nightmares).
***Comedy Central has renewed South Park for three more seasons and also signed a long-term development deal with the show's creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker. It includes the formation of a digital studio that will extend South Park's reach well beyond that cobwebbed thing in your living room known as a television.
"Since Trey and I are in charge of the digital side of South Park, we can offend people on their cell phones, game consoles and computers, too," Stone said in a statement. "It's all very exciting for us."
***Nielsen Media Research says it is putting Spanish language programming on an "equal playing field" with English language TV by using the same National People Meter panel. In doing so, it's retiring a separate National Hispanic People Meter measuring system that's been used since 1992.
Nielsen notes that since the 1992-93 season the number of Hispanic viewers in the U.S. has gone from 22.2 million to 38.9 million, (9 to 14 percent of the total population).
By ED BARK
***CBS says that Drew Carey officially will take over The Price Is Right on Oct. 15th. Meanwhile, the network already is juicing up his other game show, Power of 10, by having two Big Brother 8 house guests square off Tuesday (Aug. 28th). They would be the constantly weeping Amber Siyavus and lithe blonde Daniele Donato, whose nefarious dad, Dick, also is still in the house.
CBS should understand something, though. ABC began leading Who Wants to be a Millionaire to ruination by junking it up with celebrity players. People want real people to win big money. And once on Big Brother, you're no longer a real person.
***The CW network has unveiled 13 finalists for the ninth "cycle" of America's Next Top Model. As usual the show adamantly refuses to give last names. But one of the contestants, 19-year old Ambreal, is a college student from Dallas. There's also Chantal, 19, a just plain "student" from Austin. Is this really worth investigating further? No.
***NBC is reviving American Gladiators, the cheesy but fun athletic competition that ran from 1989-97 in syndication and introduced the likes of Nitro, Turbo, Zap, Lace, Storm and Siren.
Craig Plestis, the Peacock's excitable head of alternative programming, claims the "Gladiator brand is unlike anything on television today, and is event programming at its biggest and best."
No hosts or combatants have been named yet.
***MyNetworkTV, which flopped with cheap, recycled English language telenovelas last season, will be rebooting with new series such as Celebrity Expose and Control Room Presents. Both premiere on Oct. 1st.
Expose, as you might deduce, will expose celebrities. There's no host or targets yet. Control Room offers concert performances in HD, with the first show presenting Maroon 5, John Mayer and Mandy Moore.
By ED BARK
***Add the Emmys to Ryan Seacrest's already bulging resume.
The American Idol fixture will host the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards Sept. 16th on Fox after signing earlier this month to emcee the entertainment portions of Fox's Super Bowl telecast. He'll also do some red carpet action for both attractions, marking the first time the S Bowl has succumbed to the see-and-be-seen flashbulb pop-alooza.
Television Academy chairman and CEO Dick Askin describes Seacrest as "charismatic and talented, and he will be very comfortable in the production environment that has been created for this year's telecast."
***Kristen Bell, who played the title role on CW's recently canceled Veronica Mars, has scored a "multiple episode arc" on NBC's Heroes. The Peacock says she'll play "Elle," described as a "sexy, intriguing, mysterious young lady who has ties to Peter's apparent death." Her episodes begin in October.
***CBS has expanded its Power of 10 game show to two nights a week for the rest of the summer after solid early ratings.
The Drew Carey-hosted quiz, which has a $10 million grand prize, will air on Tuesdays as well as Wednesdays at 7 p.m. (central) both nights. The show's season finale is set for Sunday, Sept. 23rd so that it won't conflict with the scheduled premiere of CBS' controversial reality series, Kid Nation. Don't be surprised, though, if CBS finds a way to insert Power of 10 into its fall lineup. Hmm, how about ejecting Kid Nation? Guess not.
NCIS fans will have to stay up later in upcoming weeks for that show's summer repeats. It's moving to Tuesdays at 9 p.m. (central) to accommodate Power of 10.
By ED BARK
***One's a no-brainer, the other might have prompted some head-scratching.
HBO has picked up its highest-profile comedy, Entourage for a fifth season while renewing the cultish Flight of the Conchords for a second.
The latter wasn't doing any better audience-wise than HBO's just-canceled John From Cincinnati. But it has a much bigger presence on the Internet and a substantially younger audience, too. Reviews also were largely laudatory for these quirky, burst-into-song New York adventures of New Zealanders Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie.
*** ABC has finally found a slot for its musical Raisin In the Sun, which was filmed in Canada last year with a cast that includes Phylicia Rashad, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, John Stamos and Audra McDonald. It's now set for Feb. 25, 2008 on the day after ABC's Oscar telecast.
Another ABC movie, For One More Day, will premiere on Dec. 9th. Adapted from the Mitch Albom bestseller and made by Oprah Winfrey's production company, the film stars Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos and Ellen Burstyn. Imperioli also appeared in ABC's other Albom adaptation, 2004's The Five People You Meet In Heaven.
ABC didn't air any original TV movies last season.
By ED BARK
***The top 10 finalists from Fox's So You Think You Can Dance will be sweatin' and writhin' in Grand Prairie on Nov. 12-13.
A second show has just been booked for Nokia Theatre, so there must be more than passing interest. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, with prices set at $37.50, $47.50 and $54.50. The show's winning dancer will be announced Thursday (Aug. 16) on a two-hour finale airing in D-FW from 7 to 9 p.m. on Fox4.
***Monday Night Football will have Hank Williams, Jr. in the saddle for a 19th year when the second season of games on ESPN kicks off on Sept. 10th.
Only Bootsy Collins of Parliament Funkadelic is returning from last year's so-called All-Star band. The new members are Brian Setzer, Richie Sambora, Gretchen Wilson, Cindy Blackman, John Ondrasik and Drake Bell from the Nickelodeon series Drake and Josh.
***Production has started in Australia on HBO's planned 10-hour The Pacific, a long-awaited companion to the network's heralded Band of Brothers. The executive producers again are Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman. A cast of mostly newcomers is in place, with the premiere expected sometime in 2009.
HBO says the miniseries "tracks the intertwined odysseys" of three World War II U.S. Marines "across the vast canvas of the Pacific."
By ED BARK
***Old reliable Joe Mantegna will replace unreliable Mandy Patinkin on the third season of CBS' Criminal Minds.
Patinkin, who left the show without explanation last month, is expected to appear in one more episode to explain the departure of his tightly wound character, Jason Gideon. Mantegna, who previously co-starred on CBS' Joan of Arcadia, has been cast as FBI special agent David Rossi, who comes out of early retirement to rejoin the show's Behavioral Analysis Unit.
Mantegna's first appearance is scheduled for the fifth episode. CBS' official announcement made no mention of Patinkin. The actor previously abruptly left the network's Chicago Hope before returning four years later for the series' final season.
***Expanding like The Blob, Today's fourth hour -- from 10 to 11 a.m. beginning Sept. 10th -- will be tri-hosted by (from left to right above) Natalie Morales, Ann Curry and Hoda Kotb. Fill-in hosts include former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber, who joined NBC last year.
In D-FW, the extra hour of Today will displace a 10 a.m. local newscast on NBC5, which is owned and operated by NBC Universal.
***The TNT and USA cable networks respectively have ordered second seasons of Saving Grace, starring Holly Hunter, and Burn Notice, with Jeffrey Donovan in the lead.
***KFWD52's The Gordon Keith Show will get at least a one-time upgrade to Belo8. The KTCK ("The Ticket") personality's renegade comedy show will air on Saturday (Aug. 18) at 11:35 p.m. on the single-digit channel. Belo8 sports anchor Dale Hansen is the featured guest.
"This is an opportunity to expose The Gordon Keith Show to an even broader audience," says Belo8 vice president and station manager Mike Devlin.
KFWD52 is co-operated by Belo8, which produces Keith's show out of its new Victory Park studios. The half-hour program airs on Thursdays at 10 p.m. on the double-digit station. Its latest edition drew 11,900 homes, holding its lead-in from a Charlie's Angels repeat.
By ED BARK
Fox became the second network Friday to elevate a summertime singing competition to its fall schedule.
The rise of Wayne Brady's Don't Forget the Lyrics! means at least the temporary demise of the cop drama New Amsterdam (pictured right), which will be benched for now.
Last month, NBC promoted Joey Fatone's The Singing Bee to its autumn lineup after it came out swinging in the Nielsens opposite Fox's baseball All-Star game.
Lyrics! will follow Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? on Thursdays at 8 p.m. (central), beginning Sept. 6th. That displaces the previously announced Kitchen Nightmares, which goes to Wednesdays at 8 p.m. This means that Bones will shift from that slot to Tuesdays at 7 p.m., preceding House.
All of this leaves New Amsterdam, the previously announced Tuesday 7 p.m. show, on the outside looking into a possible void. Might it become the latest Fox series to be announced for fall and then never air at all? Previous shows meeting that fate include Manchester Prep, The Grubbs and The Ortegas.
Fox also has firmed up its Friday lineup, with Are You Smarter doing double duty at 7 p.m. for the first four weeks of the season. The new reality series Nashville follows at 8 p.m., starting Sept. 14th. Then the American Idol-inspired American Band gets a two-hour Friday premiere on Oct. 19th.
But wait, there's more.
Fox has re-positioned its premiere of Anchorwoman, featuring the TV news exploits of model and former wrestling vixen Lauren Jones at KYTX-TV in Tyler, TX. The "comedy/reality hybrid" now will start at 7 p.m. on Aug. 22nd instead of the previous day.
For your edification, here's archival video of Jones' inaugural grand entrance as a wrestling villain. Even then, the transition to TV news seemed inevitable.
By ED BARK
Another of America's open secrets became official Wednesday when Whoopi Goldberg appeared on the The View as a warmup for her new duties as the show's moderator.
Known for bluntly speaking her mind, Goldberg is hardly a subdued replacement for foghorn Rosie O'Donnell.
"The hot topics thrill me," she told grande dame Barbara Walters and holdover View panelists Joy Behar and Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
Walters duly encouraged her to be at least a "little edgy," but Goldberg promised, "There are words you cannot say. I will not say them."
Set to join The View on the day after Labor Day, Goldberg continues to host Wake Up with Whoopi, a Manhattan-based morning radio show whose Web site has the slogan, "She does what she wants to do. She says what she wants to say."
That's what led to the premature evacuation of O'Donnell, who regularly warred with the Bush administration and Donald Trump among others.
But Goldberg said she sees The View as "a great opportunity to have some fun with folks and with you guys."