By ED BARK
The new fall season, calming down at last, has occupied most of our time in the past few weeks. Now that there's a little breathing room, here's a catchup round of odds 'n' ends.
Austin-based businessman and bar owner Brad Womack will be the first rose-bearer to get a "second chance at love" on ABC's next edition of The Bachelor, due in January.
Womack, 37, became a pariah in the eyes of some by rejecting both Jenni Croft and De Anna Pappas on the November 2007 Bachelor finale. In the almost three years since then, Womack "has undergone intensive therapy, looking at who he was in a quite painful journey of self-awareness," according to an ABC publicity release.
The network says viewers should "get ready to see a changed, revitalized man who is still optimistic and confident about finding love" on a TV show. Yeah, well, good luck with that. Bachelor viewers currently are on the rebound from the tattered "love" story of Dallas flyboy Jake Pavelka and Vienna Girardi, who broke up bitterly shortly after giving their hearts to one another.
***A slew of cable series have been renewed for more seasons.
Showtime has picked up both The Big C, starring Laura Linney, and Weeds, fronted by Mary-Louise Parker. It will be a second season for Big C and a seventh for Weeds.
HBO has ordered a second season of Boardwalk Empire, which is still early in its first season. The Prohibition era gangster drama stars Steve Buscemi.
Lifetime has picked up Army Wives and Drop Dead Diva for their fifth and third seasons. And TNT has renewed Hawthorne for a third season.
***Fox has delayed the season premiere of Human Target, originally set for Friday, Oct. 1st, to Wednesday, Nov. 17th. House repeats instead will be paired with The Good Guys on Friday nights.
*** One of ABC Family's three new shows in development is Strut, a scripted one-hour drama series set in a small Texas town.
Publicity materials say the series "revolves around a showgirl named Roxy who marries a stranger after a wild evening, and overnight finds herself living in a small town in Texas and reinventing the high school's struggling drill team." In the process, "she turns the town upside down."
The go-ahead for Strut is "cast-contingent," meaning that the series might not get made if ABC Family doesn't sign the actors it wants.
TV Bulletin Board (Tues., Sept. 14) -- NBC has ratings kill shots with two doses of prime-time football
By ED BARK
NBC clearly fumbled the ball by putting Jay Leno in prime-time last season. But the Peacock also deserves some credit for a programming masterstroke known as Sunday Night Football.
The Sept. 12th SNL opener between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins had the biggest national audience for any Week 1 Sunday or Monday prime-time game in 14 years, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Cowboys-Redskins drew 25.3 million viewers; ABC's Sept. 2, 1996 Monday Night Football matchup between the Cowboys and Chicago Bears had 27.7 million viewers.
NBC's Thursday night NFL kickoff game between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings did even better than Cowboys-Redskins with 27.5 million viewers nationally. The two games gave the Peacock total dominance on both nights, with this Sunday's prime-time rematch between the Manning brothers -- Peyton's Indianapolis Colts and Eli's New York Giants -- also likely to be a bellringer.
NBC secured the Sunday Night Football franchise in 2006, taking it from ESPN, which in turn took Monday Night Football from ABC. The Sept. 12th Cowboys-Redskins game was the most-watched Sunday night game under the NBC banner, beating last season's Sept. 20th debut of Jerry's Palace, which had 24.8 million viewers witnessing the Cowboys' last second loss to the Giants.
The Cowboys have participated in five of Sunday Night Football's 10 most-watched games.
***Mondo Joaquin Phoenix will make a return visit on Wednesday, Sept. 22nd to CBS' Late Show with David Letterman.
Phoenix's Feb. 11, 2009 appearance on Late Show was one of the year's most talked-about TV moments. In case you somehow missed it -- online or otherwise -- it will be repeated on the Thursday, Sept. 16th Late Show.
Phoenix this time ostensibly will be promoting his new documentary film I'm Still Here, which was released last week by Magnolia Pictures. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban co-founded Magnolia Pictures with business partner Todd Wagner.
On his earlier Letterman appearance, Phoenix supposedly was helping to publicize another Magnolia film, Two Lovers, in which he co-starred with Gwyneth Paltrow. But it didn't quite work out that way.
By ED BARK
Larry King's days are officially numbered at CNN, although he'll be sticking around a bit longer than initially anticipated.
The all-news network officially named Britisher Piers Morgan as King's replacement Wednesday. He'll begin hosting a "candid, in-depth newsmaker interview program" on a still to be determined date in January while King, 76, will be signing off on Dec. 16th after a quarter-century at CNN.
King's departure date wasn't specified in the official CNN publicity release. But network president Jon Klein disclosed his mid-December exit in a memo to staffers while also describing Morgan, 45, as "the tough but playful judge" on NBC's America's Got Talent, which will retain his services.
Morgan also is known in his native United Kingdom as the host of Piers Morgan's Life Stories, an interview program. "We are delighted that he will now bring his dynamic, probing interview style to American television and to CNN viewers around the globe," Klein told staffers.
King's name was mentioned just once -- by Morgan -- in CNN's companion publicity release.
"I have watched Larry King Live for much of the last 25 years, and dreamed of one day filling the legendary suspenders of the man I consider to be the greatest TV interviewer of them all," Morgan said in a statement.
Morgan's CNN program will air in King's old 8 p.m. (central) spot, sandwiched between Anderson Cooper 360 at 9 p.m. and an upcoming 7 p.m. program to be co-hosted by former New York governor Eliot Spitzer (who resigned over a prostitution scandal) and conservative commentator Kathleen Parker.
Klein described Morgan as a "natural fit" with Cooper and company, and "the ideal choice to update the storied tradition of newsmaker talk on CNN."
CNN has been in the throes of a ratings slump that has the original all-news network trailing both Fox News Channel and MSNBC in prime-time.
Morgan, also a winner of Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice, will continue to write two weekly columns for London's The Mail on Sunday newspaper, one on sports and the other a "diary of his life," CNN said. He'll also contribute to cnn.com.
By ED BARK
Judge Kara DioGuardi's long-rumored ouster from American Idol became official over the weekend. As with Ellen DeGeneres, though, Fox is pretending it was her decision.
DioGuardi says in a publicity release that "I felt like I won the lottery when I joined American Idol two years ago, but I feel like now is the best time to leave Idol . . . I look forward to my next challenge, and want to thank everyone who has supported me."
One who didn't back her is restored executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, who has returned to that realm after two seasons as head judge and maestro of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance. Lythgoe's name just happens to be missing from among the four executives wishing DiGuardi well and saying they'll miss her. Typical is this prepared statement from Fox alternative programming president Mike Darnell, who says, "Kara was a great addition to our Idol family. I've been fortunate to get to know her well, and have always been amazed by her eye for talent and her commitment to developing and mentoring artists. She will be missed, and we wish her continued success."
Among last season's Idol judges, only Randy Jackson apparently will be among the living when the show returns for a 10th season in January. Lythgoe, a foe of the four-judge system, is expected to reduce that number to a trio, with names such as Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, Shania Twain, Elton John and Harry Connick Jr. still being floated as possible replacements.
***ABC News president David Westin will be leaving that post at the end of this year after a reign that began in March 1997.
Westin isn't leaving completely by choice either after presiding over a 25 percent work force reduction -- roughly 400 employees -- in 2010. ABC's owner, the Walt Disney Company, remains displeased with the news division's profit margins, according to a report in The New York Times.
In a Monday evening email to staffers released by ABC, Westin said in part, "I've always admired those few who know when it's time to move on. This is the right time for me. Over the last nine months, we've put in place new anchors on all of our programs (including Diane Sawyer on World News and George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America). At the same time, we went through a very difficult transformation made necessary by changes in our business and its economics . . . As rewarding as I've found my time here, there are some other things I want to do professionally -- things that I cannot explore while fulfilling my responsibilities here."
***The Kennedy Center Honors have announced their latest list of inductees, with Oprah Winfrey and Paul McCartney among those making the cut. They'll be joined by Merle Haggard, composer/lyricist Jerry Herman and choreographer/dancer/director Bill T. Jones for a ceremony to be telecast Dec. 28th on CBS.
Winfrey's induction comes while she presides over the 25th and final season of her syndicated talk show. CBS has taped and telecast the Kennedy Center Honors in each year since their debut 33 years ago. This year's ceremony is scheduled for December 5th.