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The Last Picture Show

Here's a closing quartet of homemade unclebarky.com shots from the midseason TV "press tour" in Pasadena.
Ed Bark


Merrily rolling along at a closing night Fox party, the cast of The Shield gives a shout-out to Bob and Dan of The Ticket's BAD Radio.


She still knows how to work it. Rapper Lil' Kim will be a judge on CW's upcoming Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll.


Supernatural heartthrobs Jared Padalecki and Dallas-bred Jensen Ackles feign paying rapt attention during a red carpet interview.


7th Heaven's Stephen Collins: All this fame can turn your head.

Paula faces the music (Press Tour/Final Day)

What, them worry? American Idol's Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell.


By ED BARK
PASADENA, Calif. -- Paula Abdul didn't play chicken with TV critics this time. Unlike last January, she showed up Saturday to address her latest mess.

Abdul's discombobulated satellite interviews with Fox TV stations have been a YouTube smash, particularly the one in which she seemed smashed while talking to a Seattle outlet. Seated next to a supportive Simon Cowell Saturday, Abdul still contends she was on the receiving end of technical difficulties that had her hearing voices from both Seattle and San Francisco.

"It's so silly. It's hard to explain unless you're in there," Abdul said after unclebarky.com opened the line of questioning in a packed hotel ballroom. "But it's very simple. I had two different cities in my ear. I was answering questions to -- apparently it didn't make sense to the person who was asking them."

Abdul also was swaying on camera and slurring her words. Here's her verbatim explanation: "I had no idea that there were two different cities. So when they started to have technical difficulty, I was holding on, waiting. And I'm in a swivel chair and I'm swiveling and I'm very animated with my hands. And had I known that, you know, it's cropped here and that I'm actually, oh, answering questions. It was very weird, because what you're hearing is not exactly who I was answering questions to. And I was waiting for the glitch to get better."

Let's not even try to make sense of that. At one point in the Seattle interview, Abdul blurted, "Any publicity is good publicity." And in fact that may be the case in her case. Idol was hotter than ever last week, opening its sixth season by averaging 37 million viewers for both its Tuesday and Wednesday audition editions.

"America loves her," Fox entertainment president Peter Liguori said earlier Saturday. "She's successful on the show. We're pleased with what Paula does for American Idol."

Liguori suggested that Abdul also might have been fatigued from three consecutive hours of satellite interviews with 30-some Fox stations.

"After that amount of time and questions coming from all angles, personally, I would probably be a little slap-happy at that point as well," he said.

So is she being worked too hard?

"One thing about Paula, she does a great job about managing her schedule," Liguori demurred.

Last January, Fox said that a last-minute eye infection prevented Abdul from participating as announced in an Idol panel. Critics had been prepared to ask her about allegations she'd had an affair with an Idol contestant who was still on the show at the time.

This time Abdul gamely hung in there, taking more questions from a gaggle of critics after the interview session ended. She even shooed away a Fox publicist, telling him, "I'm OK. I'm OK."

Abdul said it would be "a little paranoid and over the top" to think that people are out to get her. "But I do feel that somehow being nice has turned into a disease. My parents are nice. I'm a relatively decent human being."

The View's Rosie O'Donnell has been ragging on her, too, giving Donald Trump a rest for a while.

"It's one of those things," Abdul said. "She doesn't know the truth. And I don't have any apologies to make. I didn't do anything wrong. If she wants to take shots like that, I can't make her not do that. I don't care. I really don't care. I work my butt off. I'm proud of what I've done, who I am."

Cowell said he wouldn't do American Idol without Abdul, fellow judge Randy Jackson and host Ryan Seacrest.

"We're all a bit nuts occasionally," he said. "We all say things we're going to get criticized for. But don't condemn someone for being a bit wacky occasionally, or whatever, because it makes it interesting. Otherwise it's going to be just a boring show, and I don't want to work with boring people . . . To me the whole thing (with Abdul) was overblown. I've done it so many times, these public interviews. By the end I'm talking complete and utter rubbish. And if anyone had put the same clip as me on YouTube or anything else, it would have been even worse."

Cowell and Jackson figure that Idol will survive because it's not Survivor -- or The Bachelor.

"It is a real reality show," said Cowell. "I mean, we're not handing out weird roses or talking about 'journeys'. "

"Nobody's eating any weird bugs in any weird jungle that none of us will ever be in," Jackson added.

Now if they can just work out the technical bugs on those satellite interviews. Not that anyone entirely believes that story.

Pussycat Dolls: "It is empowering to just chill out" (Press Tour/Day 11)


P-r-r-r-fect embodiments of today's "third wave feminism" or just six brazen Booby Dolls? Clockwise from top left: Pussycat Dolls sextet Jessica, Ashley, Melody, Kimberly, Carmit and Nicole

By ED BARK
PASADENA, Calif. -- Cats got your tongues? Not at this "press tour" classic pitting promoters of the CW network's upcoming hunt for a seventh Pussycat Doll against TV critics with their claws out.

A colleague from Canada led the charge Friday after den mother Robin Antin essentially portrayed the Pussycats as veritable Carrie Nations exemplifying every woman's search for her "inner doll."

McG (real name Joseph McGinty Nichol), best known for directing the two Charlie's Angels movies, didn't help by earlier extolling the Dolls as "powerful, sexy and sort of like a snapshot of the contemporary woman being everything she can be."

Frankly, what a load of McCrap. So from the lion's den came this: "My daughter's almost 17, and just to be devil's advocate, she sees this all as like a giant step back for women. Why should young girls aspire to dress up like 'skanks' and sing 'Don't you wish your boyfriend was hot like me?' "

Antin, who launched the Dolls concept in 1995, preferred to call their outfits "cute." Then co-executive producer Ron Fair invoked the name of existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre in explaining that "there's a lid for every pot. Not everybody's going to respond to it in the same way. We're in the entertainment business and we've made great strides and been very, very careful to not make this into a burlesque show . . . So I applaud your daughter for her position, but it just might not be for her."

To which the unmoved critic retorted, "You've been using words like 'empowering,' and it sounds like these girls are running for president."


Pussycat Dolls founder Robin Antin and TV producer McG.

Fair, Antin and ex-con rapper Lil' Kim will be the three judges on CW's eight-episode Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll, which doesn't have an air date yet. The singing, dancing, writhing sextet's debut CD has sold nearly six million copies worldwide and spawned five hit singles ranging from Don't Cha to StickWitu. They'll be in Dallas at American Airlines Center on Feb. 21.

The Dolls didn't attend Friday's festivities, but Lil' Kim says they're "one of my favorite groups ever." Not only that, they are "everything that I've developed myself into being. Just the allure of being in front of that camera and able to show your sexiness and your sensual side is something that all women like to kind of bring forward at one point in time."

Another critic wondered about that. "I'm just always puzzled by this thing about how it's celebrating women," he said before repeating one of the Dolls' song lyrics -- 'Don't you wish your girlfriend was like a freak like me?' In what sense does that celebrate other women?"

McG gazed upon the questioner and saw a middle-aged man with a thick beard, a thicker physique and a what-the-hell-do-I-care-what-I-look-like wardrobe. So he McPounced.

"You must understand the fundamental paradox of a gentleman of your age demo asking that very question," he sniffed. "Naturally this isn't in the wheelhouse of what you may find compelling on television or in your CD changer right now. And that is the vernacular, contemporary colloquialisms of how kids interact. I don't know if you two-way your friends on your Sidekick."

Oh, this was getting good. Gabby Hayes fired back, saying, "I think hot girls are tremendous." But he still wondered about that "freak like me" riff.

"It's very simple," said Fair. "It's just a word. And what we mean by empowering is putting catchy songs into the universe that become hit records that people can cut loose to on Friday after a long week at work. It is empowering to just chill out and dance to the song. . . And that is a celebration when you can do that freely and get out of the constraints of your own brain for three minutes and 25 seconds."

All concerned got out of the constraints of their own brains for a full 40 minues before CW head of communications Paul McGuire drily called it quits.

"But you know how Jean-Paul Sartre was known as a 'freak' in his day," he said. "On that note, we gotta wrap this up."


Happy together: Producer Chris Rock and star Tyler James Williams.

Later Friday, Chris Rock and fellow cast members and producers of Everybody Hates Chris met with critics to talk about CW's early third-season pickup of the Monday night comedy series.

Rock, who co-produces the show with Ali LeRoi and also provides its narrative voice, mostly threw out a series of sharp one-liners. Fasten your seat belts because some of them get pretty dicey.

On whether he now can rest on his laurels -- "I don't relax. We're already on the CW. What's next? BET?"

About the initial scheduling on Sunday nights before CW quickly switched Chris back to Mondays -- "My TiVo wouldn't even watch the show on Sunday nights. Every week, 60 Minutes. Damn."

What he might do to "create more awareness" for the show -- "Well, in about a week I'm going to have Terry (cast member Terry Crews, who plays little Chris's dad) run through a club screaming (the n-word). Gonna generate some buzz."

How he feels about efforts by the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to stop use of the n-word by people of all color -- "Oh man, I don't know. I just told my broker to buy me 80 shares of 'Coon'. "

On whether they could get Michael Richards to guest-star in atonement for his racial tirade at a comedy club -- "He's busy working on Apocalypto II."

Would he actually offer a job to Michael Richards? -- "Wow, I don't know. I mean, I'd have to make sure all the other non-(n-word) screaming people didn't need jobs first."

Showcasing Bob Barker (Press Tour/Day 10)


Game show legend Bob Barker still knows how to use his right.

By ED BARK
PASADENA, Calif. -- Life goes on, but can The Price Is Right? After 35 years of wheeling, dealing and Plinko, game show legend Bob Barker will be stepping on down this June. Don't underestimate his actual retail value.

"Oh, I'm going to miss it. Of course I am," Barker, 83, said at his "Farewell Press Conference" Thursday. "But this is an appropriate time for me to retire."

He looked dapper and fit as ever in a checked shirt, charcoal sportcoat and light gray slacks. But his timing indeed is impeccable. Barker is in his 50th year as a game show emcee after breaking in as host of Truth or Consequences. His stat sheet also says he holds the record for "continuous performances on the same network television show" after surpassing Johnny Carson's 29 years, seven months and 21 days with NBC's Tonight Show. The CBS studio where he works is named after him. He's in the Television Academy Hall of Fame. And no on-camera performer has more Emmys (17).

"And we're way up there in the ratings, right on top," Barker added. "And we have people lined up, sleeping out there on the sidewalk, to see our show. I want to go out on top."

His only smudge is a sexual harassment suit filed in 1993 by one of his "Barker's Beauties," with whom he acknowledged having an affair. Several others joined in before the company that owned Price chose to settle out of court.

Barker says he wanted to go to trial because "these were frivolous lawsuits based on distortions, exaggerations or outright falsehoods . . . But it's good business to settle when you can settle for far less than the lawsuit would cost."

He didn't blanch when the matter was raised anew Thursday. Barker outwardly remains one of earth's most unflappable inhabitants, a self-described "old-fashioned guy doing an old-fashioned show."

"Had I not enjoyed it so much I probably would have retired a long time ago," he said. "And then I'm blessed as far as genes are concerned . . . I eat properly and I exercise. I'm a vegetarian. I don't know how many of you are. But if you're not, you should give it a go."

Barker also is an avowed animal activist who once aspired to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals. He recalls the time that future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens stopped to help an injured dog on a freeway and "got it off to a veterinarian. And someone interviewed him about it. He said, 'I'm just a regular Bob Barker.' I thought that was the greatest compliment."

His last taping of Price is Right is scheduled for June 6. There also will be a prime-time special during the May "sweeps" ratings period, with ample time for "a lot of good nostalgic moments."

"I don't know how I will react" on the finale, Barker said. "I am emotional, yes. You might not get that impression, but I am. And I cry very easily. We'll just have to wait and see."

Barker also is known for punching out Adam Sandler in the 1996 film Happy Gilmore. It helped bring him a new, younger fan base, even if many college kids already were lazing in dorms watching Price is Right.

"When they come to the show they will start saying 'Do the line, Bob. Do the line.' "

It's a good line. After decking Happy, Barker stood over him and taunted, "The Price is Right, bitch."

Clearly he's irreplaceable, but CBS will try anyway. Barker said he hasn't been consulted on his successor, and it seems to rankle him just a bit. Still, he's got a ready one-liner.

"You haven't been told?" he asked. "When I leave, not only is The Price is Right ending, all television is ending."

The End.


CBS Corp. prez Leslie Moonves and news/sports head Sean McManus

Don't mess with Les -- We're later at the "CBS Super Bowl Happy Hour" party. But corporation president Leslie Moonves isn't amused when told that a rival network executive who asked not to be named claims CBS is losing money on Late Show with David Letterman.

"Whoever said that is a (expletive) liar!" Moonves boomed. "Would I have re-upped him (Letterman) for the same money if I was losing money? Would I have done that? It's obviously making money for me because I'm not a stupid businessman."

CBS will make big money on next month's Super Bowl, its first since the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" debacle. Moonves is pleased with the four finalists playing this weekend. "I think we're very happy with how last week's games turned out," he said, referring to eliminations of the San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks.

CBS has Sunday's AFC championship game between the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. He'll be behind whoever wins that one.

"We're rooting for the AFC. We're the AFC network," Moonves said. "That's all I can tell you."

Envision the headline: "Les Moonves rooting against New Orleans." He laughed before adding, "Don't give anybody here that idea."

Standing by Katie -- The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric remains in third place and doesn't seem likely to improve that standing any time soon. Sean McManus, president of the network's news and sports divisions, said he anticipated nothing more.

"None of us are losing patience because none of us expected to be in much of a different position than we are right now," McManus said in an interview Thursday with unclebarky.com. "And we said that from Day One. All of our research said there would be a surge in the ratings, and then they'd go back down."

McManus acknowledged that the content of Couric's newscast "may have been a little soft" in the early weeks. "If you look at our show now, the mix is exactly what it should be. It's every bit as hard as any other newscast . . . The show that you're seeing now is pretty much the show you're going to see in the future."

Couric may simply be the wrong sex for some network newscast viewers. The bulk of the dinner hour audience is either nearing retirement age or already on Social Security.

"There are probably people out there, both men and women, who perhaps are uncomfortable having a woman anchor the news," McManus said. "But on the flip side, there probably are some people who like a different approach and like the fact that Katie is not the 'traditional' anchor. So how much that balances out, I don't know."

But McManus said the telescoped "scrutiny" of Couric has a lot to do with gender.

"She has to worry about a lot of things the male anchor doesn't have to worry about. How she looks or what she's wearing or how her makeup is or how her hair is. She's under enormous, enormous scrutiny on the peripheral elements of what she does. And then there are the core elements -- her interviewing skills, her delivery. For someone who's been under that much scrutiny, I think her performance has been outstanding."

Moonves said he's "very pleased" with Couric, and "the ratings are going to follow behind her. I think we're going to be fine."

Then he got combative again.

"Why don't you take a week of her show and put it up against the others in terms of hard news and soft news? And you'll find they're very comparable. I think the perception comes from the fact that she's a woman. Charlie (Gibson) can do a softer piece and Brian (Williams) can do a softer piece. But when Katie does it, they say it's a softer newscast. We don't feel it is."

Press tour snack bar (Day 9)


Beamers: NBC entertainment prez Kevin Reilly, Today's Matt Lauer.

By ED BARK
PASADENA, Calif. -- FLYING COLORS -- Re-embracing quality has made NBC feel wanted again, says entertainment president Kevin Reilly.

"I do think we brought the love back this year to the network," he says, citing critically acclaimed series such as The Office, My Name Is Earl, Heroes, Friday Night Lights, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and 30 Rock.

The first three already have been renewed for next season, along with Law & Order: SVU. But the others still represent uphill battles in the Nielsen ratings despite the Peacock's best promotional efforts. The onetime network of Fear Factor won't retrench, though, Reilly pledges.

"Going back to the NBC playbook" makes it paramount to "stick with quality," he says. "It's paid off for us historically. When you get under fire it's very hard to walk the walk. But God bless The Office," which now is close to being prime-time's No. 1 comedy among advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds.

Reilly is particularly pumped about NBC's newly infused Thursday night comedy block, which also includes Scrubs.

"They speak to who we are . . . This was a year that could have easily collapsed for us on Thursday. You could be on a slippery slope to hell on this night. And the fact is we have not done that."

Heroes, the season's biggest freshman hit, returns Monday (Jan. 22) with a "pod" of six new episodes. It also will face tougher competition from Fox's newly installed 24 and, later this season, ABC's transplanted Dancing with the Stars performance show.

"We're not going to blink on that. We're not going to move that show or run," Reilly says.

SPECIAL NEEDS CASE -- Friday Night Lights still is being tackled for little gain in the ratings despite a heavy promotional campaign tied to the tagline "It's About Life."

"We have a marketing and an image issue with that show," Reilly says in a separate interview. "It's a soap but it's not as frothy as soaps usually are. It's a family show but it's as soft as family shows usually are. It's about football but it's not about football. The viewers who see it love that complexity. But it's clearly confusing a lot of people. And it's not getting enough women (viewers)."

The show's new time slot, Wednedays at 7 p.m. central, does a disservice to Lights, which likely will be moved again, Reilly says. But cost isn't an issue, despite the on-location shooting in Austin.

Heavily fortified with a cast of young newcomers, "it's actually one of our moderate dramas from a cost perspective," Reilly says. "And the advertisers love it."

JAY WALKING? -- NBC's announced plan to have Conan O'Brien replace Jay Leno in 2009 is still on track, says Reilly. But the Peacock worries that the jut-jawed workaholic may bolt to a rival network after leaving Tonight behind.

"I'd hate to see that," Reilly says. "Jay is still the reigning champion. We've already started talking to him about ways to keep him around. He's a creature of habit and likes to do a specific thing. He's not really that interested in doing some newfangled version of the show. But he has been a company guy and a team player for a long time. So I hope we can find the right arrangement."

Still, late night isn't the profit center it used to be, Reilly says. The network's Today, which will expand to four hours next September, is the Rajah of Revenues. Tonight is in the black, but not entirely in the pink anymore.

"I can guarantee you that our competitors, if not losing money, are feeling a huge pinch" in late night, he says. "So that's going to weigh in. I don't think it's as simple as, 'Jay has an audience, so let's grab him'."

O'Brien later says he'll go where NBC tells him, which means relocating from New York to Burbank when Leno's day is done. The heir to Tonight's throne also is co-producing Andy Barker, P.I., starring his former sidekick, Andy Richter, as an accountant turned inept detective. The comedy will get a test slot on Thursday nights later this season.

JOY TO THEIR WORLD -- Today co-host Matt Lauer, recently feted for his 10th anniversary with the show, suggests a headline for Wednesday's session with TV critics.

"Today show team boringly happy," is his version of recent events, which included the departure of Katie Couric and the arrival of Meredith Vieira.

"You've seen other transitions," he says. "They don't always go well, and we're not faking this one."

Vieira, who left ABC's The View, initially is more concerned about going ape earlier in the day.

"I need to apologize at this point because I can't get over the fact that I kissed a monkey this morning on the show, and I initiated it. And quite frankly, I can't stop thinking about it."

Lauer and Vieira are joined by weatherman Al Roker and Today news anchor Ann Curry, who likely will be working overtime when Today's expansion plan hits home. Lauer usually signs off after 9 a.m. and Vieira is contractually prohibited from working past that hour because she might find herself competing in some markets against Who Wants to be a Millionaire, which is produced by Buena Vista.

"For most of my childhood my dad drove a New York City bus for eight to 10 hours a day . . . I mean, there are people who really work hard, and this is not that," Roker says.

Stations owned by NBC, including KXAS-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth, will have no choice but to carry the extra Today hour from 10 to 11 a.m. NBC News president Steve Capus says he antcipates initial clearances in about 50 percent of the country. The Peacock's owned-and-operated stations currently cover 23 percent of that territory.

RETURN SERVE -- Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly lately is slamming NBC News. Capus says it's smallish of him.

"I think it's really kind of sad and pathetic, some of the things he's been lobbing at us these days," Capus says. "I don't quite understand it."

O'Reilly has an ongoing feud with MSNBC personality Keith Olbermann, who regularly includes him in Countdown's
"Worst Person in the World" segments. But he "keeps trying to draw NBC News into it," Capus says. "The more he does it, the more success we have, so he can do it anytime he wants as far as I'm concerned. I think the audience knows exactly what's at play here."


Meet the Trumps: Big Daddy, daughter Ivanka and son Donald Jr.

ROSIE OUTLOOK -- Donald Trump again laid into Rosie O'Donnell at Wednesday's session on The Apprentice. Not that he had much choice. Ask him a question and he'll answer it. Not that he doesn't enjoy calling her a "slob" anew.

"She's a bully," Trump says of O'Donnell's making fun of him on The View. "When you're attacked by a bully, you hit the bully hard right between the eyes. Hard and fast. And that's what I did."

"The Donald" says his image has been enhanced by the feud, which began when he announced he would give hard-drinking Miss USA Tara Conner a second chance to redeem herself. Trump owns both the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, which are televised on NBC.

"The reason that this feud became so big is that I was so unpolitically correct," Trump says. "I said it like it is and I think people liked that, and that's why it kept going . . . It will die when people stop asking that question."

For a change of pace, unclebarky.com tries to include the Trump children, both of whom are participating in the new edition of The Apprentice. What do they think of O'Donnell? Here's how it went:

Ivanka Trump: "I think everyone has said all that there is to possibly say about Rosie O'Donnell, so . . . "

Donald: "That's the best answer."

Donald Trump Jr.: "I think ultimately we're always going to defend our father no matter what he does. That's what family is about. That's the way we were brought up. And you know, in our eyes he can do no wrong, and I think he handled himself perfectly. But let's leave it at that."

Ivanka Trump: "And with that said, we're not going to give a good 'sound bite'."

Dad predicts a meltdown on The View after a recent surge in popularity.

"I feel badly for me," he says. "The ratings went up because of me . . . But let me tell you what's going to happen. In two weeks you people won't be asking this question anymore, and the ratings on The View will tank. Barbara Walters hates Rosie O'Donnell. There will be turmoil, and it will go back to where it was.

"I watched it the other day for the first time in a long time. And I've been on The View many times, unfortunately. In fact, Barbara Walters chose me last year as one of her 10 most whatever-the-hell people . . . Watch that show without all the turmoil. It's a very boring show. Is that a nice answer?"

He then winks at unclebarky.com. Donald Trump may be a big boor at times. But boring he's not.

Press tour picture book

PASADENA, Calif. -- NBC's red carpet gateway to Wedneday night's "All-Star Party" allowed unclebarky.com to make a few snap judgments. Take a look:


Nothing says dot.com like Today's Meredith Vieira. Photos: Ed Bark


Milo Ventimiglia of Heroes takes a serious approach to stardom.


Definitely save this cheerleader. Say hi to Heroes' Hayden Panettiere.


Ringwise red carpeter: Jeff Goldblum of NBC's upcoming Raines.

Ugly Betty's post-Globes glow (Press Tour/Day 8)


The sleek corporate offices of Mode magazine clash culturally with...


...the eclectically decorated Suarez family kitchen. Photos: Ed Bark

By ED BARK
HOLLYWOOD -- It's the morning after Ugly Betty's big Golden Globe wins, and Dallas-born Michael Urie is still in a trance. He felt like a Little Dipper among an array of A-list Hollywood stars. But hey, at least he made the cut.

"It was s-o-o-o only my first one," he says from the set of ABC's breakout comedy hit. "A year ago I was sitting on the couch in my underwear eating popcorn and watching the Globes. And on Monday night I was there. I was like 10 feet from Jack Nicholson. I saw Meryl Streep and I literally lost my breath. "Brangelina' went right by me. And 'McDreamy' (Patrick Dempsey of Grey's Anatomy) almost McPeed on me. Yes, it was in the restroom. It was an awesome night."

Urie, 26 and a graduate of Plano High School, plays flamboyantly gay suck-up assistant Marc St. James on Betty. He had been primarily a Shakespearean stage actor before landing his first TV series roll. From the Old Globe to the Globes is quite a trip, especially when you're standing onstage with fellow cast members after Betty's victory as best comedy series.

"I didn't want to go up to Clint Eastwood and be like, 'Hey, I'm the colorful one from Ugly Betty'. But after you've won, it's nice. You feel like you can kind of hold up your head a bit, which is really great."

Initially signed as a recurring guest star, Urie now is a full-fledged regular on Betty, which is a cinch to be renewed for next season. His calling card is an ultra-vivid wardrobe that stands out like a traffic light on a hiking path.

"Oh, forget it," he says. "Generally I don't know what it is until I get here. And then there's this gorgeous, colorful, who-knows-what it is. It's pretty fun every week to get surprised by them. And they have so much effect on my physical life as Marc. When you wear pants that tight, it just gives you a certain physicality."

Urie will be back in Dallas on Feb. 26 to co-host the annual Column Theatre awards. This time he'll be one of the cheeses, a Hollywood success story coming home again. Otherwise he'll be plotting and scheming against title character Betty Suarez, who's still pegged as Mode magazine's resident eyesore.

Marc and his boss lady, fashionista Wilhemina Slater (Vanessa Williams), "are 'frenemies' with Betty," Urie says. "You can't help but like her sometimes. But generally, she's gotta go."


Contrast in styles: Marc St. James and Betty Suarez

Tucked away in a corner of Ugly Betty's workplace, a yet to be transformed America Ferrera is still a bit dazed by her Globe win as best actress in a comedy series. She's been up most of the night and into this next morning.

"It's very overwhelming and I'm still trying to take it all in," Ferrera says amid a semi-circle of inquiring minds.

Her entire immediate family attended the Globes with her. A big head isn't an option with them.

"When things are happening so fast in such a big way, you tend to lose sight of just how wonderful it really is," she says. "And my brother reminded me that this was an extremely special moment and he didn't want me to lose sight of how proud it made them of me."

Ugly Betty is another prime-time TV beacon for Latinos on a network that also houses the George Lopez show and Eva Longoria of Desperate Housewives.

"I just playing a regular girl who appeals to different races and all kinds of audiences," Ferrera says. "For a Latina character to be out there in a mainstream way without a banner on her head is a true success and a step forward."

Her Betty Suarez won't be getting a makeover any time soon, she says. For now, braces and oversized glasses are too much of a part of the character's makeup.

"I think they're much more involved in mapping out the evolution of Betty's character and how she kind of grows internally. And I don't know if the outside evolution will come -- if ever."

As if on cue, a handler intervenes. "Thank you so much. She's gotta get 'Betty-fied'."

It's the America way.

24's back in action, but movie's on hold (Press Tour/Day 8)


24's CTU headquarters is a cool place to hang out. Photo: Ed Bark

By ED BARK
CHATSWORTH, Calif. -- It turns out there just aren't enough hours in a day to make a 24 movie and do the series, too.

Plans for a feature film have been waylaid until the show ends its run on Fox, says executive producer Howard Gordon. Under the original schematic, production on a big-screen 24 would have started immediately after the final "Cut!" on Season 6, which began Sunday.

"We felt right now, and I think Fox agrees, that while the franchise was on the air, it was going to be competing," Gordon says on the set of the real-time thriller. "We're still talking about it, but we missed the window to 'prep' it this year between new seasons."

Star Kiefer Sutherland, who plays agent Jack Bauer, says that a 24 movie would fast-forward through a 24-hour day in roughly two hours time.

"Realistically it's gonna probably happen when the show is finished (as a TV series)," he says.

The ongoing sixth season already is four hours old. Its first and fourth chapters ended with big jolts even by 24 standards. First Jack escaped death at the hands of terrorists by biting through the carotid artery of a captor. Later he had to fatally shoot fellow CTU agent Curtis Manning (Roger R. Cross) in the neck to preserve the life of a terrorist who lately is acting like an ally. Minutes later a nuclear bomb was detonated, ramping up the stakes as never before on 24.

"That was just something that was so 'animal'," Sutherland says of his vampire turn. "I'm looking for a piece of cantaloupe to chew in my mouth. And when I spit that out, that's gonna be his Adam's apple. That's when we all started acting like we were seven year olds. How gross can we make it? But it had to be something quite dynamic and really animalistic and guttural."

Killing agent Manning didn't suit the actor who played him. Gordon says.

"He told me, 'You're making the biggest mistake of your life.' But we needed something that would make Jack really want to throw it in and give up. Curtis in a sense was the sacrificial lamb. It keeps reminding us of the stakes of this series."

24 got off to a solid start in the Nielsen ratings, averaging about 15.5 million viewers for its first four hours. As usual, Gordon and the show's writers still aren't sure how they're going to end this season's festivities.

"I know what we're doing up until Episode 18," he says. "And after that, I honestly don't."

Sutherland has a lifetime contract, more or less, as the now indelible Bauer.

"The deal is simply that they have the option to use me if they choose," he says. "It doesn't mean that anything is etched in stone. If there's a moment where it would make sense to kill Jack, then yeah, I'm game."

He inadvertently killed his own action figure. It soon will be in stores, but was supposed to be on the market at least a year earlier.

"I had one in The Three Musketeers, but he was much smaller and he only had a sword," Sutherland says. "My new one's got a cell phone and a gun."

An earlier toy version of Jack Bauer was sent to him in 2005 during filming of The Sentinel with Michael Douglas and Eva Longoria. But it met an untimely end after Sutherland and a production assistant on the film went out "for a couple of drinks and dinner."

A bit lit up, they then disposed of the miniature Jack Bauer by lighting it on fire in the restaurant parking lot, Sutherland says. The next day he was asked if he "approved the figure" for mass production. Sutherland gave his OK and was told to send it back to Japan. It wasn't just a protototype. It was the only copy. Oops.

"It then took another year for them to remake it," according to Sutherland. "I don't think they were thrilled."

Despite any meltdowns, Sutherland now is as closely tied to Jack Bauer as Carroll O'Connor was to Archie Bunker, or Larry Hagman to J.R. Ewing. Is he OK with that?

"Well, I'm not dead yet, mate," he says. "But yes, this is a character I'm absolutely proud to be identified with."

Press tour snack bar (Day 7)


Lost's Jorge Garcia ("Hurley") and Daniel Dae Kim ("Jin") assume the position before joining ABC's jammed "All-Star Party." Photos: Ed Bark
By ED BARK
PASADENA, Calif. -- Enjoy these tidbits while also checking out a few of Uncle Barky's homemade photos at the midpoint of the networks' midseason TV press tour.

***It wasn't supposed to happen until next season, but FX's new Dirt drama has squeezed in Jennifer Aniston as a guest star on the show's spring finale.

She'll play magazine editor Tina Harrod, rival of muckraking Lucy Spiller, played by series star Courteney Cox. The two haven't worked together since Friends left NBC in 2004. Aniston's episode, which begins filming Thursday, will air on March 27.

***Fox's two-hour, sixth season premiere of 24 opened big Sunday night, averaging 15.7 million viewers in the national Nielsens.

That was nearly enough to outpoint ABC's Desperate Housewives, which drew 16.7 million viewers opposite 24's second hour (16.2 million). 24 also finished close behind DH among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds.

Left for dead were NBC's new reality combo of Grease: You're the One That I Want (8.2 million viewers) and Donald Trump's The Apprentice (7.3 million).


Brothers & Sisters star Patricia Wettig and real-life husband Ken Olin, who co-produces the series, make merry on the red carpet.

***ABC's lively "Showrunners" panel kicked into a higher gear when Lost co-executive producer Carlton Cuse said it "wouldn't be half the show it is if it wasn't for the willingness of the studio and the network to embrace the crazy ideas that we've come up with. When you say, 'Oh, we're going to have Michael (Harold Perrineau Jr.) shoot two of our other characters. He's one of our leads, and he's going to murder two of our other leads. How do you feel about that?' And they . . .

Co-producer Damon Lindelof then interjected, "They're like, 'As long as one of them is Michelle Rodriguez, we're cool."

His reference to the trouble-prone Rodriguez (who played Ana-Lucia Cortez) got a mega-laff and a quick backpedal from Lindelof.

"And that's a joke," he said, prompting Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry to jab, "Tap dance, baby. Go."

Cherry said a showrunner is "like the captain of a ship. And sometimes you have bad days. As adorable as I am, my writing staff could just tell you tales."

As for ramrodding the talent, "you have to be strong," Cherry said. "Part of my job is hugging, where you just have to kind of just smooth out the tortured egos of some fragile artists at times . . . Then every once in a while you come across a monster who is impossible to deal with. And you start saying 'Life is too short' and phone calls to the network are made and that kind of thing."

***ABC's oft-politically incorrect Boston Legal continues to draw big enough crowds to ensure another season. ABC entertainment president Stephen McPherson says he's still a big fan.

"I mean, any show where the lead of the show can say, 'I think that midget I'm dating is my daughter' . . ."

"That's good television right there. It doesn't get better than that."


Face in the crowd: Donal Logue, star of The Knights of Prosperity, tries to sell the electronic press on his ratings-hungry new comedy.

***We'll close with some cheery words on the future of newspapers from former 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman, who was portrayed by Al Pacino in the acclaimed feature film The Insider.

Now an investigative reporter with The New York Times, Bergman is the principal correspondent on Frontline's four-hour News War, set to premiere Feb. 13 on PBS.

"The economic foundations of the news-gathering organizations that most of you work for are in question," Bergman told TV critics. "As are your jobs, the salaries, your perks and your future. And that, in turn, has an effect on the ability of the organizations to actually do the kind of watchdog reporting that we like to think is the foundation of our business."

Still, most newspapers "are great businesses producing tremendous amounts of cash," said Bergman. Unfortunately, many of those same newspapers are now bowing to the dictates of Wall Street.

"It appears that at one time (privately owned) newspapers were making 50, 60, 70 percent profit. They were huge cash cows," Bergman said. "So they went public. Now it's the other end of that bargain. The investors don't see the 30 to 40 percent profits they were getting every year . . . And you have somebody like Warren Buffett (a major shareholder in The Washington Post and owner of The Buffalo News) saying at his shareholders' meeting that newspapers are not only in decline, it's an industry that may go out of business."

"So the investors are scared, and are wondering where their 30 or 40 percent profit is. That's what their expectation was."

For what it's worth, unclebarky.com may hit the the wall at some point. But it won't ever be because of Wall Street.

The show must go off: Lost and ABC planning exit strategy (Press Tour/Day 6)


Full house: The Lost team picture numbered 14 Sunday. Can you find Matthew ("Jack") Fox? OK then, how about Evangeline ("Kate") Lilly?

By ED BARK
PASADENA, Calif. -- It would be the end of their world as we know it. But when?

The creators of Lost and ABC executives are wrestling with that multi-million dollar question even as the show gets set to return on Feb. 7 with an uninterrupted 16-episode run that will ring out Season 3.

"That's one of the things we're in discussions with the network about right now, is picking an end-point to the show," co-executive producer Carlton Cuse said Sunday during a packed session with TV critics. "Once we do that, a lot of the anxiety and a lot of these questions like, 'We're not getting answers,' will go away. They really represent, I think, an underlying anxiety that this is not going to end well or that we don't know what we're doing."

"None of us want to be doing a show that is the stalling show," added Cuse's creative partner, Damon Lindelof.

Knowing when to fold 'em is critical to the show's legacy. Many fans already are complaining about a sometimes snail-paced progress toward resolving all those myriad unsolved mysteries, even if Cuse says Lost at its core is a "character show with a mythology frosting over the top."

Or to use another metaphor, "the show has always been much more about the monster inside our characters than the monster outside our characters." That's from co-executive producer Jack Bender, who runs Lost's day-to-day operations in Hawaii while Cuse and Lindelof play its mad scientists in Hollywood.

Pinning any of them down on a specific timetable is akin to asking President Bush to set a withdrawal timetable for Iraq. But Cuse said it won't be a secret when an accord is reached.

"I think we would work it out with the network and then make an announcement," Cuse said.

The best-guess scenario is a five-season run, which also conveniently is the time when contracts with many of the show's major stars hit their expiration dates. Still, the show's helmsmen seem sincere in saying they don't want to stay too long at the party

The X-Files, which mixed monsters of the week with mythology revelations, "was a great show that probably ran two seasons too long," Cuse said. "That show was a bit of a cautionary tale for us."


Lost mainstays Evangeline Lilly, Matthew Fox, Josh Holloway

Meanwhile, the Feb. 7 episode, made available to critics, sets an escape mechanism in motion that will reunite Dr. Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox), Kate Austen (Evangeline Lilly) and "Sawyer" Ford (Josh Holloway) with their original plane crash mates. Most of them have been largely invisible in the season's first six episodes, which focused on the trio's imprisonment at the hands of "The Others" on a separate island.

"I think it was a really riveting six episodes," ABC entertainment president Stephen McPherson said with due diplomacy. "But I like it when they're all together."

What McPherson likes generally is what ends up happening on any ABC show. You're living on Fantasy Island if you think otherwise.

"You go to the grocery store and you buy seven things to eat for dinner," said Cuse. "Then you come home and you eat, like, one of them. We sort of found ourselves in that situation. We had to service the story of Jack and Kate and Sawyer in captivity. By the time we did that, we ran out of time to do a lot of other stuff."

"What the audience wants is more beach stories," Lindelof said. "More sort of Season One stories, a return to the sort of early Charlie, Claire, Sun and Jin of it all . . . That is the drum that is beating the loudest for us in terms of what the audience craves."

The producers did most of the talking Sunday, largely because a large majority of questions were aimed at them. The actors are pretty much kept in the dark anyway -- on Lost more than most.

"I still don't know who the baby's father is for my character," said Yunjin Kim, who plays Sun Kwon. "That's how little we all know."

Holloway's acerbic Sawyer endured beatings and a filthy cage for much of the first season's opening arc. He's reconciled to getting less screen time after the Feb. 7 episode plays out.

"We love coming out of the gate working hard every day," he said. "And now we know the storyline is going to switch."

Lilly's character, Kate, remains torn between Jack and Sawyer.

"Who do I want to end up with?" she asked when asked. "I think the writers have a very tricky job in dealing with the romance on the show and when to bring people together and bring them apart. And I wouldn't claim to be smart enough to figure out which is the best answer for that."

Jorge Garcia, who plays oversized Hugo "Hurley" Reyes, is happy that his time is coming again -- and soon. Still, it's also nice to sleep late.

"As actors we like to act," he said. "So we like when we get our chances to do it. But like any job, sometimes you also like a week off.

Dancing quick-steps to Mondays (Press Tour/Day 6)


Smile when you say that. Or maybe not. ABC entertainment president Stephen McPherson parries and thrusts with TV critics Sunday.

By ED BARK
PASADENA, Calif. -- Sidestepping American Idol, ABC's Dancing with the Stars will take its "performance" edition to Monday nights this spring, the network announced Sunday.

"We wanted people to not have to choose" between the two reality blockbusters, entertainment president Stephen McPherson said. "I think fans would have been upset if we just put them head-to-head."

Instead Dancing will brush up against another Fox hit, 24, when it returns on Monday, March 19 with a two-hour fourth season kickoff (7 to 9 p.m. central time). The following Monday's edition also will take up two hours before Dancing contracts to 90 minutes. Results shows are scheduled on Tuesdays from 8 to 9 p.m. central, starting March 27.

Dancing's other competition in the competitive Monday night mix includes NBC's Deal or No Deal and Heroes and CBS' Two and a Half Men, prime-time's most popular comedy series.

Casting on Dancing, which is "about halfway there," will be announced at some point on Good Morning America, McPherson said.

November's third season finale of Dancing, won by former Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith and pro partner Cheryl Burke, drew 27.7 million viewers to rank as the show's biggest draw to date. Overall, the third season averaged 20.7 million viewers for the performance show and 19.1 million for results editions. In the pre-Idol season-to-date ratings, that makes Dancing the No. 2 and No. 4 attraction in prime-time.

***McPherson danced around a question on the Rosie O'Donnell-Donald Trump feud, which has helped spike ratings for ABC's The View in recent weeks.

O'Donnell started it, but "to me, the entire thing is just a publicity stunt for Trump to try to get stuff for The Apprentice," McPherson said. "You look at the news right now, that's all he's trying to do is sue people and make waves. So me commenting just kind of feeds into his desire."

***ABC's The Nine has gone out of production after completing 13 episodes. The serial drama "has a shot" at getting back onto ABC's schedule at some point, but viewers shouldn't expect any closure if it does.

"It wasn't designed to end at the end of the 13 (episodes), so it doesn't answer that specific question," McPherson said, referring to what actually happened inside the bank during a prolonged hostage crisis.

***Actress Marcia Cross's real-life pregnancy -- she's expecting twins -- will find Desperate Housewives in bed with her character, high-maintenance Bree Van De Kamp.

"We'll see her through 14 or 15 episodes," McPherson said. "She went on bedrest slightly prematurely from where we had planned. We're actually shooting some of the episodes to finish up her arc at her home in her bed. And then you'll probably see her come back at the end of the year."

***Mick Jagger might not make any return appearances on ABC's The Knights of Prosperity, but other prominent names will be dropping in, including Ray Romano, Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa. Sting also "may do something," McPherson said.

The comedy originally was titled Let's Rob Mick Jagger, but "he asked that it not be called that, so we obliged," McPherson said.

Jagger had several scenes in the recent premiere episode but since has "been on tour doing his thing . . . I would love to see Mick come back and reprise his role (as himself)," McPherson said. "He was really funny."

Comedy otherwise hasn't been paying big dividends on ABC, where none of the five half-hour series currently on the air is a solid bet to have a slot next fall.

"It's frustrating. It's challenging," McPherson said. "We definitely want bigger audiences for them. I believe that comedy is due to kind of explode."

Or implode, ha-ha.

Performing ye olde classics: Sting goes medieval (Press Tour/Day 5)


Sting cradles his lute. Next, he jokes, the Abyssinian nose flute.

By ED BARK
PASADENA, Calif. -- The strumming down of Sting turns out to be perfect for PBS' Great Performances series. Better yet, it birthed an intimate performance Saturday night on a candlelit hotel ballroom stage.

We are not worthy, but the television critics of America were allowed to enter anyway.

"This looks like a wedding," said Sting before doing his new thing. "Is that the groom's family?"

What he's up to lately are the melancholy, lilting songs of 17th century troubadour John Dowland. They've resulted in a bestselling classical CD, Songs from the Labryinth, and a same-named PBS special premiering on Feb. 26. Sting and his acoustic lute, which he learned to play from scratch, are joined by a longer-playing lutenist name Edin Karamazov.

They were like the Brothers Karamazov during Saturday's 50-minute concert, playing as one while Edin otherwise took on the role of silent straight man to Sting's gentle needling.

"I trust you all know I was playing the difficult part," he said after they laid down a pretty melody opposite the crash-banging fourth quarter of the New Orleans-Philadelphia playoff game.

A brief instrument malfunction later prompted Sting to jab, "Every time you break a string, a sheep dies. You know that."

Dowland's lyrics often aren't the cheeriest. Come Again Sweet Love Doth Now Invite found Sting refraining, "I sit, I sigh, I weep, I faint, I die in deadly pain and endless misery."

Still, it sounded great coming from him. And as Sting says in the PBS special, "There's a kind of beautiful sadness about it, which I respond to."

He agreeably took questions after Saturday night's magical, mystical tour de force, even responding to a query on whether he feared that someone else in the pop world would beat him to a lute album.

"You haven't heard Van Halen's version," Sting deadpanned.

He also had a quick comeback when asked whether there are any other offbeat instruments in his future.

"My next instrument is the Abyssinian nose flute," he said.

The Police also came up, of course. Might there be a reunion or even a concert tour? Sources say it's already a done deal, but Sting isn't saying quite yet.

It will, however, be the band's 30th anniversary this year, and that "seems like an organic time to celebrate the past," he agreed. "I'm deeply, deeply fond of the both of them (former Police mates Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers), and very fond of the band we were in . . . We are discussing something. Don't know what, but it is something. I definitely don't hate them."

After the Q&A came a bonus round of three more contemporary songs, all performed on lutes. Bluesman Robert Johnson's Hellhound on My Trail came first, followed by Fields of Gold (recently performed on NBC's Studio 60) and The Police's Message In a Bottle.

Message to self: You're a most lucky man to have been there.

Hopelessly devoted to you: Ken Burns & PBS re-up to 2022 (Press Tour/Day 5)


Ken Burns is pledging allegiance to PBS for another 15 years.

By ED BARK
PASADENA, Calif. -- Job security isn't what it used to be, but Ken Burns definitely has it. Public television's Steven Spielberg has inked an exclusive 15-year deal with the network, which would make him 68 when it expires in 2022.

"He's planning to spend the rest of his professional life working in public television," PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger told TV critics Saturday.

Burns, whose grand achievements for PBS include The Civil War, Jazz and Baseball, is now immersed in The War, a 14-hour WWII epic tentatively scheduled to premiere on Sept. 17. He filmed it with expletives undeleted, and Kerger said she's determined to keep it that way. But upcoming Federal Communications Commission rulings on pending "indecency" cases will play a key role in this particular war of words.

"We are spending a tremendous amount of time on this issue," Kerger said. "I'm going to continue to press forward until we come out on the right side."

The colorful language comes from interviews with WWII veterans, but the documentary is "not littered with bad words," Kerger emphasized. In her view, its artistic integrity would be compromised if the threat of heavy fines intimidates PBS stations into airbrushing The War.

Dual feeds are a possibility, Kerger said. PBS chose that option with 2003's The Gin Game in which stars Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore occasionally worked blue.

"If we have a better sense of the FCC, that won't be necessary," said Kerger, who hopes that PBS stations will be emboldened to air The War with salty language intact.

On another front, some critics questioned the wisdom of PBS premiering The War during the official first week of another new fall season.

"What's the definition of insanity in Public Broadcasting?" Kerger and "chief content officer" John Boland were asked.

Boland said the premiere isn't set in concrete, but "PBS cannot go into hibernation every time a commercial season breaks."

Burns' The Civil War and Baseball likewise launched during the heavily trafficked start of a fall season.

Boland earlier announced that Bill Moyers yet again will come home to PBS, this time with a rebooted weekly version of Bill Moyers Journal, which got its start on public television 35 years ago. The program will be back in play on April 25 with "Buying the War," a look at the role of the media in the months before the invasion of Iraq.

"I'm as eager and charged as I was . . . when I entered this game," Moyers said in a statement. "Ponce de Leon would still be around today if he had given up his search for the fountain of youth and just entered journalism."

Press tour snack bar--Day Four (Fri., Jan. 12)


HBO leading men James Gandolfini and Bill Maher are soon to return.

By ED BARK
PASADENA, Calif. -- HBO served up a big platter of programming announcements and full-bodied quotes during its three hours with TV critics Friday. Let's get to it.

BADA BANG: It's official. The second half of The Sopranos' sixth and final season will fire up on Sunday, April 8, with the grand finale tentatively scheduled for June 10. Creator David Chase has written an extra episode, making it nine instead of the previously announced eight. HBO insiders say there will ample death and destruction before the most heralded series in cable history blacks out.

Entourage likewise is set for an April 8 return, with new episodes immediately following The Sopranos.

Star James Gandolfini, who plays Tony Soprano, quickly will return to HBO on the Fourth of July as executive producer of the documentary Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq. He also will interview U.S. soldiers who have returned from the front after suffering severe injuries in combat.

THE ADAMS FAMILY: Oscar nominees Paul Giamatti (Sideways, Cinderella Man) and Laura Linney (Kinsey) have been cast as John and Abigail Adams in a seven-hour miniseries drawn from the acclaimed David McCullough biography. Tom Hanks is co-executive producer of the adaptation, scheduled to premiere in 2008.

MAHER STILL THROWING HARD: After time off since the mid-term elections, Real Time with Bill Maher returns to the living with a fifth season premiere on Feb. 16.

The self-described "comedian with a point of view" warmed up during an interview session by assailing President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq. He sees Bush as a foreign policy idiot using God as a facilitator.

"That is monumental ego," Maher said. "That is arrogance on the level that could only be based on faith . . . I understand that George Bush prayed a lot about Iraq. But he didn't learn about it."

He defends his friendship with hardline conservative Ann Coulter, however, even though he hasn't seen much of her lately.

"I think she has security issues, and she's kind of gone underground," Maher said. "I think she literally is in an undisclosed location."

Still, he admires "her balls. She's not afraid to get booed."

Conservatives often get jeered by the studio audience on Real Time. Maher concedes it's a problem, but "we can't get the conservatives to come out . . . It's very tough being a conservative these days, on my show or anywhere."

Fox News Channel personality Bill O'Reilly bucked his bosses to appear on Real Time, Maher says. But no one else from the network has dared to enter his lair.

"Fox News hates us, for good reason," he said. "I'm constantly making fun of them. They suck."

HELL TO PAY: Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, will train her documentary cameras on evangelical Christians in Friends of God: A Road Trip with Alexandra Pelosi.

This time, however, she'll mostly stay off-camera and won't even narrate her film, which premieres on Jan. 25.

"I wasn't trying to make an ego-mentary," she said. "I felt like I was on an archaeological dig."

One of her principal on-camera guides is the since disgraced Pastor Ted Haggard, who recently resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals after allegations that he had sex with a male prostitute and also purchased illegal drugs. The completed film had been delivered to HBO just before Haggard went down. She hopes its credibility won't be "undermined" as a result.

Pelosi was joined onstage by ordained minister Dr. Larry Poland, who keeps tabs on media portrayals of Christians as CEO of Mastermedia International. He has seen Friends of God and thinks it's fair.

"Every constituency has its 'jerk factor', " Poland said. "And we have ours."

Pelosi said she hasn't discussed the documentary with Madame Speaker, an outspokenly liberal Democrat.

"My real-life mother has a complete separation of church and state," she said. "We leave my work alone."

She encountered some resistance from the subjects of her documentary. But her surname wasn't the principal cause for concern.

"It was a lot harder to walk into the doors of that church and say HBO," she said. "They call it Hell's Box Office. And yes, I did get 'saved' many times every day."

HELL OF AN EXPERIENCE: Law & Order series creator Dick Wolf worked with HBO for the first time as co-executive producer of the film Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, adapted from the 1971 Dee Brown bestseller and set to debut in May.

His "amazing experience" with HBO made him long for the same latitude at NBC, his principal employer.

"I would love to send some network people to intern for a while (at HBO)," he said.

Wolf later said he'd been "a little bit flippant." But working at a premium cable network gave him a respite from the constant pressure to perform in the Nielsen ratings.

"They're (broadcast networks) in the numbers game, the daily numbers game," he said. "And that leads to decisions that aren't necessarily artistic, or the best."

MILCH MULCH: The long and winding mouth of David Milch kept critics mostly in the dark during a session for his new HBO series John From Cincinnati. The creator of Deadwood mostly reduced the actors on stage to dead wood during long discourses on whatever popped into his head.

"To my mind, reality is a shifting and elusive condition," Milch said before later dubbing himself a "sociopath." Oh well, he still mostly does great work.

John From Cincinnati, scheduled to premiere this summer, is about a California surfing family that receives a visitation from a mysterious stranger named John. Strange happenings ensue, with veteran actors Bruce Greenwood and Rebecca De Mornay among those along for the ride.

Milch still intends to make two concluding Deadwood movies after HBO rejected the idea of a full fourth season.

"Certainly it was kind of an abrupt rupture that occurred," Milch said, marking one of the few times he made complete sense.

HBO said the movies won't air until sometime in 2008, provided they indeed get made.

A new season of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm also won't be ready until next year, an HBO spokesman said. It will begin with the Davids taking in a black family made homeless by "Hurricane Edna."

Press tour snack bar--Day Three (Thurs., Jan. 11)


Jennifer Lopez and Heather Locklear: Dancing to different beats.

By ED BARK
PASADENA, Calif. -- J-LO ON THE DOWN LOW: At least temporarily out of the tabloids, Jennifer Lopez says she's intentionally kept an uncommonly low profile in the past two years.

It doesn't stop MTV entertainment president Brian Graden from describing her as both "spectacular" and "magnificent" before she arrives onstage. Still, subtract booty-licious, even if Lopez still looks marvelous in a mustard-colored, high-cut top and light brown skirt.

"My life for me had become uncomfortable in the way it was affecting my personal life," she says, referring to her very public carrying-ons with Ben Affleck and Sean "P Diddy" Combs. Marriage to singer Marc Anthony in June, 2004 has been a very private affair.

Going underground is relatively easy, says Lopez, whose eight-episode DanceLife series premieres Jan. 23 on MTV. "You don't go out as much . . . If you want to be in those magazines, you can."

DanceLife, being produced by Lopez's company, Nuyorican, follows six young hoofers hoping to make a living with their feet. Lopez, who also will appear in the series, is a former In Living Color Fly Girl. At age 37, though, she doesn't even go out dancing with her husband.

"We don't. We're homebodies," she says. "We're not big club people. Not anymore. I had my day."

WHITHER HEATHER: Longstanding sex symbol Heather Locklear is back in play and quite playful at a Lifetime cable session devoted to the network's new relationship with mega-selling author Nora Roberts. Four of her novels are being made into Lifetime movies, with Locklear co-starring in Angels Fall on Jan. 29.

She's in the process of divorcing rock star Richie Sambora after her previous marriage to rock star Tommy Lee.

"How are you doing these days?" she's asked.

"Well, let me just tell you, I'm single," she says. "I still like rock stars, and like, any man is good for me."

Locklear, 45, gets even friskier after a questioner wants to know whether anyone took home any props from their movies.

Former Northern Exposure star John Corbett, who will be in Montana Sky, says he kept a $500 cowboy hat.

"It's called a 20-beaver," he says.

When the subject abruptly shifts to Locklear's TV movie credits, she deadpans, "Oh, I thought you were going to say, 'On the subject of beavers . . . No, I took home my co-star (Johnathon Schaech). Just for a minute. I mean, no, for more than a minute. I'm teasing. Really I'm teasing. I'm just trying to be clever."

She had us at beavers.

CHANGING REELS: The 2007 MTV Movie Awards on June 3 will get a "facelift," in the network's words, from reality maestro Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Apprentice).

"I want to do some great live things that you've never seen before," says Burnett, who promises the show also will be inventively interactive to reflect the Internet's increasing influence on home audiences.

Burnett is still in business with Donald Trump, whose sixth edition of The Apprentice premiered Sunday on NBC. Has he tried to counsel the billionaire blowhard during his still-simmering feud with Rosie O'Donnell?

"You think he'd (f-word) listen to me?" Burnett retorts.

Their verbal brickbats are more bemusing than horrifying, he says. "This is not that mean. When he starts talking about me, it'll be horror. Right now it's bemusement."

Might it be a ratings masterstroke if Trump and O'Donnell were to present an MTV award together?

"I'd do almost anything for gangbuster ratings," Burnett says. Then again, "I don't know if they would necessarily fit the MTV brand at all."

PARTY FARE: MTV Networks hosted Thursday's free food/free drink "Evening Event" in a cramped, ear-pounding hotel ballroom. Here's a breakdown:

Menu: Beef tenderloins with maytag blue cheese, grilled breast of chicken with sun-dried tomato and garlic corn, vegetable lasagna, garden vegetables with pesto vinaigrette, lobster and orzo pasta salad with lemon ginger dressing, crackers, cheeses, assorted mini-desserts.

Grade: C

Comment: Off-color concert by the stars of Comedy Central's upcoming The Naked Trucker and T-Bones series includes song titled "Two Dollars and a Hand Job." Clashes with presence of reigning, tiara-wearing Miss America Jennifer Berry, who leaves early. Why's she there? Because Country Music Television, part of the MTV Networks family, is airing the pageant on Jan. 29. Alas, the oft-deafening decibel level works against efforts to interview anybody. Comedy Central clip reel also runs too long and loud.

Ryan Seacrest: What a rush


American Idol host Ryan Seacrest and "lovable diva" Jennifer Hudson

By ED BARK
PASADENA, Calif. -- They're goin' to Hollywood. He's already there as a major player whose biggest talent still escapes him.

"Clearly I can't sing. I don't play an instrument. I don't plan on doing any of that," American Idol mainstay Ryan Seacrest said during a Thursday morning pit stop on behalf of E! Entertainment Television. "I've always believed, from the first day I got to L.A., if you just get up early and work hard, at some point that's going to pay off. Every day I get up at 4 in the morning (to do his radio show). And I run as fast as I can."

Seacrest has showed up to promote Paradise City, an upcoming E! reality series chronicling a batch of young Vegas singles "trying to find love and fulfill their dreams in Sin City." Premiering in March, it's being made for E! by Ryan Seacrest Productions in partnership with Go Go Luckey Productions.

As if you really cared. Beginning Tuesday and continuing all the way through the May "sweeps," the toothsome 32-year-old will be presiding over a sixth edition of the all-powerful Idol. Fox's ratings bulldozer returns with another gold star to its name. The third season's 6th runnerup, Jennifer Hudson, is a likely Oscar nominee for her show-stopping turn as Effie Melody White in the acclaimed feature film Dreamgirls.

"In hindsight, it's all about growth and what you can do after the show," Seacrest said in a separate interview. "She's a great example of taking what American Idol gives you and kind of giving it the finger and saying, 'All right, I'll show you.' "

He recalls Hudson as having "great attitude" on Idol. "She's a diva in the movie, and she was a little bit of that on American Idol. But it was the lovable diva."

Judge Simon Cowell didn't think so. He ripped and tore in his usual fashion, prompting Seacrest to lick his chops in anticipation of what the new season will bring.

"Personally, I love the fact that Simon kind of condemned her," he said. "And now she's achieving great success, which I promise I won't bring up this season."

Which means, of course, that he will, with Cowell taking a few lumps in their continuing battle for an upper hand. First though, come the already taped auditions, which begin in Minneapolis Tuesday and will hit San Antonio on Jan. 31. Seacrest said there were more cringe-worthy applicants than ever, not that Idol will downplay them.

"Some of the contestants are so bizarre and so naive," he said. "You really experience some awkward moments with the judges. This year more so than ever, the strange showed up."

Seacrest puts in ample time on E!, too, where he hosts a variety of red carpet awards arrival shows and has a big say in the network's never-ending "news" coverage of celebrity ups and downs.

Hiring Seacrest last January "is the best thing that has happened to the company since I joined up two-and-a-half years ago," said E! president and CEO Ted Harbert, who used to run ABC's entertainment division.

"We must email each other 100 times a day," Harbert said. "I've never seen a guy with more ideas. But also he's just laser-driven . . . He's truly got a really sharp instinct for what makes sense, what people like."

But is burn-out a risk for a guy who's also ABC's junior Dick Clark on New Year's Eve?

"Yes," said Harbert, "but he's smart about that. They schedule him to take vacations. If you let him, he would not sleep and he'd work 24 hours a day. But I've seen his assistant literally take him by the arm and make him get into his car and go home."

That's how it eneds on Thursday morning. His assistant literally took Seacrest's arm and pulled him off a hotel ballroom stage and away from a small circle of reporters. Gotta sing, gotta dance? Not him. Just gotta go.

Press tour snack bar--Day Two (Wed., Jan. 10)


Eddie George is all smiles. The new Robin Hood is not.

By ED BARK
PASADENA, Calif. -- BE GONE, BILL: Former Dallas Cowboys running back Eddie George thinks there's no future with the team for Bill Parcells, for whom he played -- more or less -- in the 2004 season.

"I think Parcells is gone," he tells unclebarky.com. "I can see that he's tired. The ups and downs of the season weigh on you and I believe that has a lot to do with the players that he's dealing with, just accommodating them. So I don't think he comes back."

George also expects receiver Terrell Owens to be an ex-Cowboy next season. The former Pro Bowler, who had his best seasons with the Tennessee Titans, is otherwise occupied with a fledgling TV career. George and his singer wife, Taj Johnson-George will be starring in I Married a Baller, a reality series premiering in April on the TV One cable network.

She dreams of doing Dancing with the Stars. He doesn't, but says it'd be no contest if he did.

"I would bust Emmitt's behind," George says of reigning champ Emmitt Smith. "I would go on there and 'break shop.' I mean, I'm a good dancer. I was one of the best breakers on my block back in Philadelphia."

Says Taj: "We usually slay other couples on the dance floor. So Dancing with the Stars is not ready."

AT LEAST HE'LL STILL USE ARROWS: "A Different Kind of Hood" is coming to BBC America, whose 13-episode series on Sherwood Forest's finest premieres March 3.

"Adventure, derring-do and not a pair of tights in sight," says longtime BBC America general manager Kathryn Mitchell.

The latest Robin is 25-year-old newcomer Jonas Armstrong. In a clip from the series, Maid Marian (19-year-old Lucy Griffiths) tells him to "grow up."

Executive producer Foz Allen says he's "peppered it with a sensibility for now . . . So Little John having a giant stick and his ability to beat everybody else up in sight isn't there. But Little John leading a gang of thugs who are robbing people for no good reason is there. Robin giving them an ideological view of the future and having to sit on Little John because he's much too big to fight is the way we've told the integration story. Does that make sense?"

As for Maid Marian, "she is very strait-laced" by day. "By night she's kind of Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, kicking ass and feeding the poor," says Allen.

FOR THE CURE: The Discovery Channel is teaming Ted Koppel and champion cyclist Lance Armstrong in Living with Cancer, a documentary premiering April 29 during Cancer Awareness Month.

Discovery Networks president Billy Campbell says a live town hall meeting will follow. One of the scheduled participants is Koppel's former Nightline executive producer Leroy Sievers, who currently is fighting cancer.

PARTY FARE: BBC America hosted Day Two's "Evening Event," a medieval-themed deal in a white tent built on the Horseshoe Gardens grounds of the headquarters Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Here's a breakdown:

Menu: Baked salmon with coco bean and white clover honey, whole roasted pig, roasted chicken legs with fricasse of wild mushroom and green bean, country pate terrines, sauteed whole baby carrots and asparagus, two-tone sugar beet salad, marinated leek and mushroom salad, young green herb salad, red grapes, skewered artichoke hearts with mozarella cheese, bread pudding, orange apple tarts, simnel cake, honey mead.

Other attractions: A woman on stilts, wenches calling TV critics "master" and a five-piece medieval band in tights.

Grade: C+

Comment: Medieval band declines to play any Springsteen. Mead tastes a little sour-pussy. Carved-out pig a bit off-putting, as is whole fish head in the midst of baked salmon. Style points, though, for handing out brown Robin Hood hoodies on a crisp night by Southern California standards.

Unscripted: Tori and Randy Spelling face new realities


Big sis, little bro: Randy and Tori Spelling keep the name in play.

By ED BARK
PASADENA, Calif. -- Oh those Spelling kids. Their late, legendary father, Dallasite Aaron Spelling, took a dim view of unscripted "reality" television. In fact, he never really grasped the concept before his death on June 23 of last year.

Now both of his progeny are playing themselves in new cable series designed to capitalize on the Spelling name.

Tori, 33, will go first. Her Tori & Dean: Inn Love, co-starring new husband Dean McDermott, premieres March 21 on Oxygen. The two of them are opening a bed & breakfast in Southern California wine country. In another co-production, she's expecting their first child, a son, in March.

Her brother, who's still single, weighs in 10 days later with A&E's Sons of Hollywood. Randy, 28, will be romping through life with pals Sean Stewart (son of Rod) and David Weintraub, a young talent manager who's no relation to big-time Hollywood producer Jerry Weintraub (Ocean's Eleven).

Making separate appearances on the first two days of the mid-season network TV "press tour," both Spelling siblings were cheery and expansive, with one predictable exception. Tori has been on the outs with mother Candy ever since the death of her dad, who left his only daughter a comparatively paltry $800,000 inheritance. It's understandably tough to talk about.

"Well, you'd probably know as best as I do," Tori said Wednesday of any fence-mending with mom. "Unfortunately, I wish things were different. But they are pretty much what they are at the moment."

Tori and Candy make separate appearances in Randy's show. He wants to leave it at that.

"In terms of all the family drama and everything, I'd would rather not discuss it," he said during a Tuesday afternoon appearance on behalf of Sons of Hollywood.

A clip from the 12-episode series includes a cell phone conversation with his then ailing Dad. Randy tells him to eat and keep his strength up.

"He was so into scripted television for basically a generation . . . When I told him I was doing a reality show, he said, 'Well, that's great. That's good. When do you shoot? Do you have to go out of town?' And I said, 'No, we're shooting it here.' And he asked all these questions that had nothing to do with 'reality,' and it was hard to explain to him exactly what I was doing."

Tori came of age as Donna Martin on one of her father's many prime-time hits, Beverly Hills, 90210. She's been doing television ever since, and met her husband on the set of the cable movie Mind Over Murder.

"That wasn't a choice I was given," she said of her TV omnipresence. "My life is a reality basically. I mean, it's out in the media every day. So why not put the truth out there and put ourselves out there, and at the same time open up a successful business?"

There inevitably will be comparisons to MTV's Newlyweds, which starred the since splitsville Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey.

However, "I know what tuna is," said Tori, a reference to the magical moment in which Jessica puzzled over a Chicken of the Sea can.

In a separate interview, she giggled about being pregnant and transfixed.

"Every night when I walk by my mirror, I just stare at my belly. And I'm so impressed by it. I'm just like fascinated."

"Tori looks s-o-o-o good naked," her 40-year-old husband chipped in. "S-o-o-o sexy."

"I like being pregnant," she said. "I like this look."

Their son's middle name will be Aaron, in memory of her father. But he won't be born with a silver spoon in his mouth, unless the couple's B&B inn turns out to be wildly, stunningly successful.

"The only thing I can really spoil him with is love," Tori said. "And that's the most important thing."

It sounds surprisingly genuine coming from a much-lampooned child of privilege. So here's hoping that Tori Spelling at last will experience what her father peddled for years on confections such as The Love Boat, Fantasy Island and Hart to Hart.

Aaron Spelling also created Dynasty, of course, the saga of a filthy rich family torn from within. The Spelling kids know that story all too well. Maybe it's finally time for some new chapters.

Press tour snack bar--Day One (Tues., Jan. 9)


Meet the press: Danny DeVito and Courteney Cox are at home on FX.

By ED BARK
PASADENA, Calif. -- BAR TAB: A memorable late November appearance on The View still follows Danny DeVito to press conferences.

"Are you drunk right now?" a TV critic asks during a session for FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, in which he co-stars and produces.

"Absolutely," says DeVito, who had been up very late partying with George Clooney before slurring his way through a get-together with Rosie O'Donnell and crew. Video of his brew-ha ha quickly became an international hit on YouTube.

"You really get to see the reach of the Internet," he says. "I got congratulatory calls from all over the world. Yeah, it's a great thing that we're putting out our every breath."

DeVito slept all the way through a long, post-View flight from New York to L.A., and "didn't know what the hell everybody was talking about" upon his return. "Yeah, I took it in. You know, I don't get upset about stuff like that."

He doesn't want a dog in the ongoing O'Donnell-Donald Trump war of words.

They're both "very nice people," DeVito contends. "I know there's a lot of back-and-forth stuff going on between the two of them. I don't know. They should chill."

COX'S DIRT DISH: Former Friends castmate Jennifer Aniston very much wants to guest-star on FX's Dirt, says Courteney Cox, who plays ruthless gossip magazine editor Lucy Spiller in the new drama.

"Jennifer loves the show . . . All my friends that are in this business think it's fantastic and love it and are addicted. And they're asking me to slip them DVDs."

Aniston can't appear on the show this season because Dirt's 13 episodes are almost completed, Cox says. The two remain best friends off-camera and recently returned from a vacation in Cabo San Lucas.

"Jennifer just cracks me up. She has really funny one-liners," Cox says in a separate interview.

A Friends reunion special is very unlikely because "it's too hard to get everyone together. I just can't see it happening."

Cox says that her very adult role on Dirt has convinced her that "I'm not a girl anymore. I'm a woman. And you know what? I'm not gonna get a body double. I'm gonna be who I am. And that's kind of a big change for me."

Still, she didn't embrace a scene in which her character uses an electronic vibrator to help get her through the night.

"I was really nervous. For some reason that was very vulnerable and awkward. I don't even want to see it."

She and husband David Arquette have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter named Coco, whom Cox regularly brings to the Dirt set. Mom's pet name for her is Doogie Howser, title character in the old ABC medical dramedy.

They can't go to the Malibu beach anymore, she says, because the paparazzi will be on the prowl. It's much worse than it used to be, she says. Still, Cox gets the picture.

"If you're not in the magazines at all, it probably means you're not hot right now," she says. And that's not cool.

HALLMARK SENTIMENTS: TV graybeards Ken Howard and Barry Bostwick, both appearing in upcoming movies for the Hallmark Channel, are asked what legacies they'd like to leave.

Howard: "That I was the only actor to work nine decades in show business."

Bostwick: "That I was able to offer you a little diversion from your pitiful, mundane lives."

PARTY FARE: Fox's cable networks had the honor and privilege of fortifying critics with free food and booze at Day One's "Evening Event." Here's a breakdown:

Principal celebrity attendees: DeVito and Eddie Izzard, who co-stars in FX's upcoming and very noteworthy series The Riches.

Menu: Rigatoni with traditional marinara sauce, mac and cheese, Philly cheese steaks, french fries, fried chicken fingers, baby butter lettuce salad, mini- pecan pies, cheese cakes and German chocolate cakes, dark- and white chocolate-covered crickets and worms, deep fried cow testicles, crocodile filets with rosemary sauce, Asian braised chicken feet.

Grade: B

Comment: The bovine nuts are a nice touch, but the chocolate-covered stuff lacks authenticity. Crickets are tangier than that.

Ring in the King: CNN's Larry the Legend hits the half-century mark in broadcasting


Old school, new school: Evergreen Larry King and upstart Glenn Beck talk up CNN on Day One of the midseason network TV "press tour."

By ED BARK
PASADENA, Calif. -- And so it begins. Day One of a dozen-day TV "press tour" dawned Tuesday with 73-year-old Larry King still kicking and CNN planning a big blowout this April to celebrate his 50 years behind a mike.

Suspender-less in a dark suit and black mini-boots, King pronounced himself good to go for another decade or so. Or as CNN Worldwide president Jim Walton put it, "In 20 years time, when Larry retires..."

He's been doing CNN's Larry King Live since June 1985, and "some people say I look better now than I did 10 years ago," he opined. He did look pretty chipper, even if Walton pointedly referenced his age by telling TV critics, "There's no question that Larry can sit in his chair as long as he continues to perform."

King was followed by lion cub Glenn Beck of CNN's companion Headline News channel, where he's been a little sizzler since his show debuted in May. His Glenn Beck hour (6, 8 and 11 p.m. central) has jumped 65 percent in total viewers and 88 percent among advertiser-preferred 25-to-54-year-olds, says CNN. That makes the conservative but avowedly open-minded talker a hotter property at the moment than Headline's oft-lampooned Nancy Grace.

"I'm stupid enough to say what I actually feel," said Beck. "I wear it as a badge of honor that I'm not a journalist."

King has been making essentially the same declaration for years and years. Trained journalists in some ways are getting to be the mutts of the all-news cable networks. It works better, in the ratings at least, if you simply unleash yourself.

CNN's planned "King-Sized Week" (April 16-22) will include a roast hosted by Bill Maher, a 50 Years of Pop Culture special, an interview with Oprah Winfrey and King being interviewed by Katie Couric. He has definite ideas on what a good interviewer is and isn't. Make the questions short, don't overly prepare, listen intently to the answers and keep yourself at bay.

"The best way to judge an interviewer is how often does he or she say 'I'?" King said in a separate interview. "If they say 'I' a lot, they're not an interviewer. They're interested in themselves. I don't use the word 'I'. I never have all these years."

His "hands down" god of interviewers is Mike Wallace. "Mike's my favorite broadcaster. Mike's my favorite person"

King's not overly fond of USA Today, which several years back canned his weekly column via a form letter, he said

"Which was kinda cruel. They said they were looking for a different demographic and your appeal tends to skew a little older. You're writing about Frank Sinatra, and he's dead."

His CNN show now is outdrawn most nights by Fox News Channel's competing The O'Reilly Factor. Pish-tush, there's room for everybody, King said.

"They're (FNC) a brand. They represent a certain kind of thinking, and there's a place for all of it. They're pretty much an extension of the Republican Party, with some exceptions. But I don't begrudge them that."

A CNN promotional clip heralding King's arrival highlighted both his many and varied interviews, and roles as himself in 21 feature films. He'll add to that total with voiceover work in both Shrek 3 and Bee Movie with Jerry Seinfeld.

"I've never sought them out," King said. "But they're fun. They're all for the kick."

He yearns to star in his own one-man Broadway show, if only for a week. But that probably won't happen, King said.

Whatever his future holds, it won't be retirement unless he's physically or mentally infirm.

"I don't know what I would do being idle. I couldn't be idle."

Beck for his part was thrilled to be gabbing with King in a hotel "green room." Less than a year ago, he was just another radio host trying to make headway.

"It has been a wild, wild ride for me," said Beck, who professes to have found "eternal happiness" since becoming a practicing Mormon.

He'd like to see Americans "stop dividing ourselves" and disagree agreeably. One of his recent guests, the Rev. Al Sharpton, got that concept, Beck said. So they supposedly parted as friends despite being poles apart on just about every issue known to humankind.

Resembling a young Rush Limbaugh in both build and voice, Beck said he's not sure whether his show represents a "new evolution/revolution" or anything really pithy. But he's in there punching against posturers.

"The American people aren't stupid," he said. "They can spot B.S. just like that."

***So what's with Anderson Cooper continuing to sub as a co-host on Live with Regis & Kelly? Doesn't that detract from CNN's buildup of him as a dogged, serious news hound?

CNN International president Jim Walton said it's not a problem. Not in the least.

"It's a subjective thing," he told unclebarky.com. "It's our position that Anderson wanted to do it, was asked to do it. We thought it was OK. OK for people to know he's a human being."

Watch this space

Starting Tuesday, Jan. 9, unclebarky.com will be reporting from the annual midseason network TV press tour. It's going to be very busy here during the next two weeks.
Ed Bark