By ED BARK
Shaquille O'Neal apparently is bored, even though he'll be joining LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the upcoming season.
In his spare time, Shaq will be training for six matchups with prominent athletes in other fields. His new playground, Shaq Vs., is set to premiere Aug. 18th on ABC, the network and Media Rights Capital announced Monday.
O'Neal plans to "train hard and win, so look out," he says in press materials. He'll also level the competitions by negotiating handicaps with opponents.
Perhaps Shaq can vow to swim 10 feet before Michael Phelps covers an entire pool length. That's one of his foes. He'll also be competing against tennis star Serena Williams; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger; St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols; boxer Oscar de la Hoya and Olympic beach volleyball gold medalists Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor, who was injured last season competing on ABC's Dancing with the Stars.
"Shaq is the only one with the athletic skills and personality to carry this unique project," say ABC programming execs. Take that, Terrell Owens.
By ED BARK
TBS, the self-dubbed "Very Funny" network, has notably adjusted its color scheme in the past year.
Its ratings success with Tyler Perry's House of Payne prompted the network to recently add a spinoff, Meet the Browns. TBS also is readying a late night talk show for this fall starring comedian George Lopez.
This week's 10-episode order of Are We There Yet? -- with an option for 90 more episodes -- further solidifies TBS as a destination for "urban comedy" that used to have homes on the now defunct UPN and then The CW. The latter network's new fall schedule is barren of such shows after the cancellations of Everybody Hates Chris and The Game.
Drawn from the same-named 2005 feature film, Are We There Yet? is produced by Ice Cube's Cube Vision. Former Everybody Hates Chris co-star Terry Crews stars in the role Cube played on the big-screen. And one of the series' executive producers, Ali LeRoi, was the hands-on show-runner for Chris.
Are We There Yet? "will fit extremely well within TBS's popular and diverse comedy lineup," programming exec Michael Wright says in a publicity release.
House of Payne and Meet the Browns are this year's "top television programs in delivery of African-American viewers," TBS says.
The network's roster of homegrown comedies also includes My Boys, The Bill Engvall Show and The Very Funny Show. The latter two programs feature former Saturday Night Live regular Tim Meadows, respectively as a supporting player and host.
It should be noted that Fox, the onetime network of In Living Color, Living Single and Martin, also has decided to make space this fall for urban comedy.
The new series Brothers, slotted for Fridays, co-stars former New York Giants star Michael Strahan and Daryl "Chill" Mitchell. And The Cleveland Show, which will join Fox's Sunday night "Animation Domination" lineup, is built around a fractious black family.
Fox also has tabbed Wanda Sykes to host a new late night Saturday show that will replace the canceled MADtv.
By ED BARK
Neil Patrick Harris, the new golden boy of awards show hosting, has been tabbed to preside over CBS' Sept. 20th telecast of the 61st Primetime Emmys.
Harris, who co-stars in CBS' How I Met Your Mother as horndog Barney Stinson, recently hosted the Tony Awards on CBS. Earlier this year he also hosted the annual TV Land awards show.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge of the show -- adding my own voice to it while honoring the nominees and the entire year in television," Harris says in a CBS publicity release. "But which voice to choose? I'm torn between gangsta, foppish Brit and robot. Really proud of my robot."
Harris, who came to fame as the child star of Doogie Howser, M.D., is the secondly openly gay performer to host the Emmys. Ellen DeGeneres has hosted two Emmy ceremonies as well as the Oscars.
Nominations for this year's Emmys will be announced on Thursday, July 16th.
By ED BARK
Comedy Central has signed Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) to star in a new 10-episode sitcom from a production company headed by Will Ferrell.
The network says Heder will play an unemployed computer specialist who moves back to his small-town birthplace to live with his parents. It's still untitled, with Ferrell co-producing and writing the series with Gary Sanchez Productions mates Adam McKay and Chris Henchy.
Ferrell and Heder co-starred in 2007's Blades of Glory.
***National Nielsen ratings are in for Tuesday afternoon's coverage of the Michael Jackson memorial service at L.A.'s Staples Center.
Nielsen says that 31.1 million watched on 19 networks. That's a smaller haul than the 35 million who watched Ronald Reagan's burial in prime-time on eight networks or the 33.3 million viewers for Princess Diana's early Saturday morning funeral, also on eight networks.
The audience for Jackson's funeral does not include Web site viewership, which wasn't a factor in 2004 for Reagan or in 1997 for Princess Diana. But Nielsen says that Jackson's death and related coverage had "the most online buzz in Internet history, capturing nearly 8 percent of all conversations." Talk amongst yourselves.
***Cable networks are still playing the acquisitions game when it comes to landing rights to broadcast comedies.
In that vein, Lifetime announces it has bought off-network rights to the 88 existing episodes of CBS' The New Old Adventures of Old Christine. It also has dibs on future episodes.
Meanwhile, Comedy Central has the cable rights to NBC's first five seasons of 30 Rock, which it will begin reprising in fall 2011.
By ED BARK
Sunday night's annual BET awards show, largely devoted to a Michael Jackson tribute, topped the week's cable charts and almost ranked as the most-watched program on any network.
Hosted by Terrell native Jamie Foxx and featuring an unbilled appearance by Janet Jackson, the show drew 10.7 million viewers nationally, edging The Learning Channel's heavily publicized episode of Jon & Kate Plus 8 (10.6 million) for the week of June 22-28.
Only two TV programs did better. NBC's Tuesday, June 23rd edition of America's Got Talent had 11.5 million viewers and a rerun of CBS' NCIS on that same night drew 11.1 million viewers.
***On another ratings front, the Peacock's MSNBC is crowing about beating CNN for the first time ever in the national quarterly Nielsen ratings for weekday prime-time programming.
MSNBC averaged 946,000 viewers for the April-June period, edging CNN's 939,000. The left-leaning cable news network also out-pointed middle-of-the-road CNN among advertiser-preferred 25-to-54-year-olds, by a score of 289,000 to 261,0000. MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann was the network's top draw, averaging 1.159 million total viewers, with 350,000 of them in the 25-to-54 age range.
Right-leaning Fox News Channel continues to outdraw both networks in prime-time.
***it's always something with former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Melissa Rycroft. The latter day Good Morning America correspondent has announced her engagement to Dallas boyfriend Ty Strickland.
"Sometimes the stars align and the clouds part and everything works out the way it should," she told GMA co-anchors Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts on Tuesday's show.
Rycroft, 26, initially became famous for being jilted on ABC's The Bachelor by Jason Mesnick, who had given her his final rose, only to renege. She then immediately segued to the network's Dancing with the Stars, making the finals and placing third.