By ED BARK
Jerry Seinfeld is returning to NBC with a show about nothing but marital strife.
Titled The Marriage Ref, it's "not a therapy show, it's a comedy show," Seinfeld says in a network press release. "After nine years of marriage I have discovered that the comedic potential of this subject is quite rich."
Seinfeld, whose Seinfeld left NBC's prime-time lineup in May 1998, is the show's creator and co-executive producer along with Oprah Winfrey Show veteran Ellen Rakieten. NBC says Marriage Ref will "feature opinionated celebrities, comedians and sports stars who will candidly comment, judge and offer different strategies for real-life couples in the midst of a classic marital dispute."
There's no air date yet.
***Fox's Homer and Marge Simpson so far have done all right without any help from Marriage Ref. So much so that the network has ordered two more seasons of The Simpsons. That will make it a minimum total of 22 seasons and 493 episodes, with no end in sight.
***Another long-distance runner, CBS' Survivor, has been picked up for two more editions that will air in the 2009-'10 TV season. That'll make it an even 20 far-flung, cutthroat adventures for a show that's currently in the early stages of Survivor: Tocantin.
***George Strait will be warming up with a prime-time "ACM Artist of the Decade" special on CBS before joining fellow country music deity Reba McEntire to open the Dallas Cowboys' new Arlington playpen on June 6th.
CBS says it'll be taped on April 6th in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Vegas, with scheduled performers to include Faith Hill, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and Sugarland. The shebang doesn't have an air date yet.
By ED BARK
Giving Conan O'Brien the Tonight Show may not turn out to be such a good idea. We'll see.
But re-teaming him with former sidekick Andy Richter seems like a great idea.
NBC announced their second coming Tuesday, with the cherubic Richter to serve as the show's announcer while also participating in comedy bits. For the first seven seasons of Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Richter was the host's couch-sitting sidekick. He left in May 2000, and has had sporadic success since in sitcoms and small movie parts.
"Andy is one of the funniest people I know and we've maintained a close friendship since he left Late Night," O'Brien said in a statement. "I'm looking forward to working with Andy on a daily basis again, particularly since he owes me $300.
Richter joined O'Brien on Feb. 20th for his final Late Night from Manhattan. O'Brien will begin hosting the Tonight Show on June 1st, with Jimmy Fallon succeeding him on March 2nd in the Late Night chair.
Current Tonight host Jay Leno will move to prime time in the fall, hosting a new 9 p.m. (central) talk show that will air Monday through Friday.
***The CW has picked up six series for next fall, including one of this season's newcomers, 90210. The other returnees are America's Top Model, Supernatural, Smallville, One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl.
By ED BARK
NBC is loading up for the first week of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, with Robert De Niro and Van Morrison booked for the March 2nd premiere.
Also set for the show's first week:
Tina Fey and Jon Bon Jovi on March 3rd
Cameron Diaz on March 4th
Donald Trump, Serena Williams and Ludacris on March 5th
Drew Barrymore and Mario Batali on March 6th
Fallon is replacing Conan O'Brien, whose last Late Night is Friday, Feb. 20th. O'Brien then will journey West to prep for The Tonight Show, which he'll first host on June 1st.
O'Brien's farewell Late Night lineup is still a secret, save for The White Stripes as the show's last musical guest. But it seems all but certain that his original sidekick, Andy Richter, will be joining in.
We'll miss Conan's New York show for many, many reasons, not the least of which is his recent "interview" with Alex Rodriguez, who also admits to taking "Confessorex." Read his lips in this clip:
By ED BARK
Don't touch those rabbit ears.
The digital conversion deadline has been extended from Feb. 17 to June 12th, giving non-cable/satellite subscribers or owners of ancient TV sets almost four more months to put off buying a converter box or applying for a coupon. Maybe there'll also be a brief respite in all those dopey ads and urgent on-air tests.
***The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has decided to expand nominees from five to six in 10 prime-time Emmy award categories, including best drama and comedy series.
This is being done to "accommodate an abundance of outstanding programs and performances," the Academy says in a press release. It's also a "strong statement about inclusivity," expounds chairman/CEO John Shaffner.
Alas, this is all all too late for HBO's The Wire, which went without any Academy recognition during its five seasons.
***HBO commendably has picked up Big Love for a fourth season, even though it so far hasn't received much Emmy love. The series currently is in the midst of its third season.
Surviving Suburbia, a no-go for the CW network, has resurfaced to claim a plum spot on ABC's spring schedule.
The Bob Saget sitcom will premiere on April 6th following Monday night editions of Dancing with the Stars, ABC announced Wednesday.
Surviving Suburbia, in which Saget plays a cynical husband and father of two children, originally was tabbed for CW's outsourced Sunday night schedule as part of an arrangement with Media Rights Capital. But CW dissolved the relationship with MRC before Surviving Suburbia could premiere.
***TNT has picked up a second season of Leverage, a Mission Impossible-ish action drama starring Timothy Hutton. The series premiered in early December and continues to air on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. (central).
***The CW will be returning Reaper to its schedule earlier than announced. Its second season, 13-episode premiere now is set for Tuesday, March 3rd at 7 p.m. (central), with 90210 pushed back an hour to 8 p.m. on that night. The first-year series Privileged will have its "season finale" -- and possibly series finale -- on Feb. 24th at 8 p.m.
TV Bulletin Board (Feb. 3rd) -- ABC to drop Dancing names opposite Grammys; Costas touches base with MLB Network
By ED BARK
ABC hopes to put a few scratches on CBS' Sunday night Grammys telecast with an "All-Night Name Drop" of the next Dancing with the Stars cast.
Host Tom Bergeron will unveil the Season 8 field in one-by-one fashion during breaks from ABC's Sunday night lineup of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters. The whole list will then be available on abc.com.
Dancing resumes on Monday, March 9th.
***Bob Costas will be reunited with his first love, baseball, as part of a cable-exclusive deal with the fledgling MLB Network, which launched on Jan. 1st in 50 million cable and satellite homes.
This means that Costas will leave HBO but stay with NBC, where he'll still host the Sunday Night Football pre-game show as well as carry the torch for future Olympics telecasts.
On MLB, Costas will preside over the weekly Studio 42 with Bob Costas, which premieres on Thursday, Feb. 5th (7 p.m. central) with guest Joe Torre, who has a new book out on his years with the Yankees. Costas also will host periodic MLB specials and do the play-by-play on a "select number" of the 26 regular season games to be presented this season.
***Let's see, where haven't the Jonas Brothers been yet? On Sunday they'll do the Grammys on CBS. Then on Valentine's night they'll be the musical guests on NBC's Saturday Night Live, hosted for the 14th time by Alec Baldwin.
Oh yeah, Babs Walters will interview Kevin, Joe and Nick on her annual 28th annual pre-Oscars special, set for Feb. 22nd on ABC. Because after all, Oscars spelled backwards is Jonas -- if you add and subtract a few consonants.
Additionally, the Jonases will "rock the CW" on Feb. 10th by hosting 90210 and Privileged in addition to offering a peak at their new Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, coming to theaters on Feb. 27th.
All of this doesn't leave a lotta down time for the boys at their new Westlake, TX home. Nor are there many more significant TV specials, series or awards shows to conquer. Maybe Costas can work in a baseball angle on MLB. When you're hot, why not?