Idol finale: Paula salutes Simon; Casey James duets with Bret Michaels; Janet Jackson returns to the stage (and oh yeah, Lee won)
05/27/10 08:18 AM
By ED BARK
Befitting a lackluster season, dishwater dull Lee DeWyze won the Season 9 American Idol crown Wednesday during a finale that had lots more going for it than him.
Principally, it was signature judge Simon Cowell's last call, and the show couldn't have gone on without constant references to that sobering fact.
Cowell was twitted in a recurring series of clips and also ribbed via a Dane Cook ditty -- "Simon's Greatest Insults" -- that fell lamentably flat. But the big finish was inspired. One by one, seven of Idol's eight past champs appeared onstage to sing "Together We Are One" while former judge, foil and punching bag Paula Abdul sat in Cowell's lap. Missing from the roll call was Season 7 winner David Cook, who had a charity event commitment in Kansas City, his representatives said.
The seven standardbearers, starting with inaugural victor Kelly Clarkson of Burleson, TX, were soon joined by various and sundry Idol castoffs for a group-sing that seemed to make the flinty Cowell just a tad misty.
Host Ryan Seacrest then coaxed him to the stage, where Cowell said that no one should be unduly concerned about any difficulties in replacing him.
"The truth is, you guys (Idol fans who vote) are the judge of this show," he said. "And you've done an incredible job over the years."
His final Idol words, followed by a commercial break, were short and pretty sweet. "It's been a blast," he said. "Thank you."
A beaming Abdul, splendorous in pink and recently named producer and lead judge of an upcoming CBS dance competition show, earlier saluted Cowell, his fellow judges and Seacrest.
"You're so cute," she told the host. "I want my lip gloss back."
She then addressed Cowell: "My darling Simon, no, American Idol's not gonna be the same without you. But as only I can tell you, it will go on."
Yes, Idol will be back for a 10th season. But whether it's now ripe for the kill is a major open question. Ratings sagged this season, which many blame on a lackluster field of contestants, an unwieldy mix of judges and the age of the franchise itself. Fox already is taking steps to juice up the field with a Thursday announcement that Idol will be teaming up with MySpace to "expand audition opportunities across the country."
Wednesday's two-hour finale, which actually ran seven minutes long, was the climactic capper of both the 2009-10 TV season and the May "sweeps" ratings period. And it didn't lack for star power, even if many of the acts were from yesteryear and beyond. Performing with varying combinations of Top 10 finalists were Hall and Oates, Chicago, The Bee Gees, Michael McDonald, Joe Cocker and Alice Cooper, all of whom have moved well north of the show's advertiser-favored target audience of 18-to-49-year-olds.
Christina Aguilera, Alanis Morissette, Season 4 Idol queen Carrie Underwood and Janet Jackson in a full-blown return to the stage served to lower the median age a bit. But the night's biggest surprise was 47-year-old rocker Bret Michaels' performance of "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" with No. 3 Idol finisher Casey James of Cool, TX.
Michaels, who won NBC's The Celebrity Apprentice on Sunday night, has been battling a well-documented series of serious health problems. But he looked fit and strong in tandem with James, who in this view will have the most gainful post-Idol career.
DeWyze in the end took the show's grand prize in competition with fellow Final 2 survivor Crystal Bowersox. He won despite being buried by her in Tuesday night's final sing-off. Even DeWyze's most ardent fans had to admit that he pretty much came up empty against her in each of the three songs they performed. But his overall fan base prevailed, raising the question of whether it really mattered what happened during Idol's much-hyped final showdown.
A sobbing DeWyze had to be propped up by Bowersox even before the final verdict came in. And her Wednesday night performances of "Ironic" and "You Oughta Know," in tandem with Morrissette, clearly outshone DeWyze's stint with Chicago.
Still, DeWyze is the champ, and his version of U2's "Beautiful Day" will be the first record under his name. But will storm clouds have gathered over his career a year from now? And what shape will Idol be in? Whatever happens, it's not Simon Cowell's problem anymore.
05/24/10 01:27 PM
By ED BARK
NBC's Law & Order got by for 20 seasons with minimal gunfire and maximum by-the-book crime-solving.
Fox's 24 blasted, tortured and killed its way through eight seasons of freewheeling counter-terrorism.
Both justice-seekers are being terminated after tonight. 24's two-hour series finale (7 to 9 p.m. central) ends the small-screen career of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), with plans to make a big-screen feature set in Europe.
Law & Order's comparatively quiet exit follows at 9 p.m. central. Producer/creator Dick still hopes to make a deal with a cable network. But whatever happens, S. Epatha Merkerson's Lt. Anita Van Buren is bowing out after 17 seasons.
The shows' respective networks made both finales available for review, although not all that much can be said about 24 without compromising its twists and turns.
It's not giving too much away, though, to note that Bauer survives because you could hardly transition to theaters without him. He also has a satisfying, climactic scene with true-blue Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), 24's unquestionable MVP among all the supporting characters it's added and subtracted over the years.
Overall, though, the resolution of Season 8's suitably dire predicament is both pretty predictable and surprisingly non-violent. Jack does, however, receive the quickest and most unbelievable suture job in even this show's far-fetched history.
Sutherland has played Jack as a super-vengeful killing machine throughout the latter quarter of this season. Saving the earth is secondary to annihilating anyone who had a hand in the murder of ex-FBI agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching), whom Jack loved so much that he even found time to bed and board her.
President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones), whose moral center has seen its bottom drop out, can still do the right thing, of course. But can she bear to come clean and save Jack after super-weasely former president Charles Logan (more tasty work from Gregory Itzin) warns her of his proven ability to "rise up from the deepest hole in the ground?"
For the record, 24's last words on Fox are "shut it down." Enough said, and frankly it's past time.
The Law & Order finale, subtitled "Rubber Room," includes a cameo by U.S. Olympic skiing gold medalist Lindsey Vonn. She plays a bespectacled unnamed union secretary whose speaking lines come and go in a flash.
Mainstay Sam Waterston, who joined the series in 1994 as prosecutor Jack McCoy, likewise has little to do in what wasn't planned as the series finale until NBC decided to rather abruptly pull the plug earlier this month. Waterston does get to blow up a last time, though, telling a teachers' union attorney, "So my advice to you is get out of my way!!!"
Meanwhile, Merkerson's character is quietly battling cervical cancer -- and the high costs of medical procedures -- while her two main detectives are constantly thwarted in their efforts to track down a potential terrorist bomber going by the blog name of "Moot."
Law & Order has had more cast changes over the years than the road company of Grease. So in case you haven't watched for a while, Jeremy Sisto and Anthony Anderson do most of the legwork these days as detectives Cyrus Lupo and Kevin Bernard.
Along the way we get the usual side orders of social commentary. This time it's on the plight of New York's hard-pressed public school teachers, who strive to survive indignities and licentious, unruly students.
Law & Order doesn't throb with the pulse it once did. In later seasons it became a workmanlike, cost-efficient, crime-solver that retained its signature theme music but not its overall high caliber.
Its passing will still leave two offshoots on NBC -- Law & Order: SVU and next fall's Law & Order: Los Angeles -- in addition to Law & Order: Criminal Intent on the NBC Universal-owned USA cable network.
The mothership had quite a run, though. And its uniformly better reruns from earlier seasons can still be seen here, there and everywhere.
05/24/10 12:38 PM
By ED BARK
Hardly a blockbuster but definitely a talker, ABC's two-and-a-half-hour Lost finale drew 13.5 million viewers nationally Sunday night.
Those numbers will fall well short of the same week's performance episodes of both ABC's Dancing with the Stars and Fox's American Idol. But Lost did win its time slot, beating NBC's runner-up season finale of Celebrity Apprentice by 4.2 million viewers while also dominating among advertiser-favored 18-to-49-year-olds.
It's a sign of Lost's declining popularity, though, that the May 23, 2007 Season 3 finale drew more total viewers, as did the Feb. 21, 2008 episode, says ABC.
Sunday's preceding two-hour Lost recap had 9.8 million viewers. And a late night Jimmy Kimmel Live special attended by most of the principal male cast members drew 4.9 million viewers.
***Relegated to the likes of the CMT and TLC cable networks in recent years, the Miss America pageant will be returning to ABC in January 2011, the network announced Monday.
ABC had relinquished Miss America in 2005 after low ratings and older audience demographics. But the network says it's "thrilled" to have the pageant back for what will be its 90th anniversary.
No host or hosts have been named yet.
05/24/10 05:50 AM
By ED BARK
And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.
The Beatles preached this gospel decades ago on Abbey Road. And now so has Lost, which ended Sunday night with what amounted to a beatific cast reunion in a glowing, healing church of the hereafter.
Meanwhile, back on the island, a mortally wounded Dr. Jack Shephard heroically and peacefully breathed his last in the company of a comforting Vincent the dog. The camera closed in on an eye closing -- a reverse Avatar ending -- as Jack watched a flyover of a plane carrying some of his island comrades. His inner and outer peace commanded the screen. And that's all, folks.
Whether Lost ended classically -- or with a clunk -- likely will be a hotter debate than The Sopranos could ever have hoped for. But after watching its denouement several times, I'm satisfied if not overwhelmed. To quote the wisdom of Jimmy Kimmel on his late night Lost post mortem, "If you're expecting it all to get wrapped up tonight, you're probably missing the point of the show."
The final tableau had a central character other than Jack (Matthew Fox). In his vision of eternal peace, Jack's estranged and self-destructive father, Dr. Christian Shephard (John Terry), essentially served as pastor at an idealized Church of the Lost and Found. Jack opened a casket that turned out to be empty before an immaculate Christian came into view.
"Dad, you died." (Dad agreed).
"Then how are you here right now?" Jack asked.
"How are you here?"
"I died, too."
"It's OK. It's OK. It's OK, son."
Their redemptive, tearful embrace was six long and winding seasons in the making. Father also assured son that "everything that's ever happened to you is real" before they walked into the church and its congregation of beaming couples destined and meant to be together. Sawyer and Juliet. Sun and Jin. Charlie and Claire. Desmond and Penny. Sayid and Shannon. Hurley and Libby. Pause, one-two. Jack and Kate.
Their Christian Shepherd -- named Christian Shephard -- finally walked between two angels and into a blinding white light before earthly Jack at last let go and expired from his wounds after saving the island from destruction. You'd need a machete to cut through the symbolism -- but Lost's biblical bent has been in overdrive during this sixth and final season. Way too much so at times. Still, millions kept the faith, as was evident from the opening Kimmel Live shot of studio audience members weeping while watching Lost's closing seconds.
Kimmel said he was eager to ask cast members, "What the hell just happened?" But his theory, floated in the presence of first guest Matthew Fox, seemed as plausible as any. The entire Lost experience was "Jack's Test," he said. And when he overcame all obstacles and inner demons, his own personal heaven opened wide to him.
Recent episodes also positioned Jack as a veritable Christ figure who willingly went into battle with the seemingly invincible "Man In Black" (the devil in John Locke/Terry O'Quinn trappings). In that context, he ascended into heaven and finally sat at the right hand of his father while apostles gathered 'round. But maybe that's stretching it.
As an overall viewing experience, the two-and-a-half-hour Lost dragged far more than it should have. The commercial breaks at times seemed longer than the content that interrupted them. Target even chipped in with a Smoke Monster-themed ad.
Speaking of old SM, why in the end was he so relatively easy to kill? It was a titanic, picturesque struggle, all right, with Jack and SM squaring off on a mountaintop in a driving rainstorm while the Earth shook around them. Then Kate (Evangeline Lilly) finished off the previously all-powerful despot with a single bullet to the back before Jack kicked him off a cliff. Earlier in the finale, she had fired a series of gunshots at him, but to no avail.
Lost also dawdled during its frequent Purgatory-esque "Flash Sideways" interludes, with one character after another at last getting that old island tingle during the course of being made whole again. Worst contrivance: Charlie Pace (Dominic Monahan) with his old Driveshaft bandmates at a benefit concert accompanying classical pianist Daniel Faraday/Widmore. It was all a device to reunite him with island mate Claire Littleton (Emilie de Ravin), who delivered her son, Aaron, for a second time in his presence.
My head's hurting at this point. Lost indeed left many loose ends, with those far more fanatical than yours truly no doubt ready and willing to point out every last one of them. And I'm not at all convinced that its two principal shepherds, executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, really knew where they were going in the very early stages of the series. Even though they say they did.
But as a fantastical journey with a fantasy ending, Lost spiked more devotion and debate than any series in TV history, including The Sopranos. It stands as a once in a lifetime pilgrimmage/amusement park ride with a menagerie of characters who emerged through their various looking glasses after years of microscopic scrutiny.
Trying to divine the meaning of it all can range from a waste of time to a life's quest. With plenty of room in between.
05/20/10 08:20 AM
By ED BARK
The CW's comedy-less fall lineup, announced Thursday, adds two new girly-girl hours while prepping an exit strategy for its long-running man in tights.
Smallville, birthed a decade ago on the defunct WB network, will launch its 10th and final season with an eye toward a "classic reuniting of the timeless romance" between Clark "Superman" Kent (Tom Welling) and Lois Lane (Erica Durance) during their grownup stint at The Daily Planet.
CW also is renewing the amazingly resilient One Tree Hill, billed as "the show loyal viewers demanded back." So it's getting an eighth season after hitting the 150-episode mark earlier this year. Let's go out on a limb and say that One Tree Hill eventually will outlast Law & Order. Hoo hah.
The most notable cancelation is Melrose Place, launched to much fanfare last season. But two fellow freshmen, Vampire Diaries and Life Unexpected, are getting sophomore years. 90210, Supernatural, One Tree Hill and Life Unexpected all will have new nights in the fall.
Here are the two fall newcomers:
Hellcats (drama) -- Newcomer Aly Michalka stars as Marti Perkins, a pre-law student who's "cool, hip and alt" but loses her scholarship anyway. So she re-charges her teen gymnastic skills to win a spot on Memphis-based Lancer University's vaunted Hellcats cheerleading squad. Her new roommate, Savannah Monroe, is described as a "petite peppy Texan." Together they brave backstabbing and big-money temptations on the "sprawling campus of a powerhouse college football program in the deep South."
Nikita (drama) -- On the lam from a secret and sinister U.S. agency known as Division, emotionally scarred Nikita (Maggie Q) is re-determined to "stop at nothing to expose and destroy their covert operation."
Here's The CW's night-by-night fall lineup, which always is subject to change: (New series are marked by an asterisk, and the network still sits out Saturdays and Sundays.)
One Tree Hill
America's Next Top Model
The Vampire Diaries
CBS' new fall colors include a quartet of high-profile show shifts, new Hawaii Five-O and the returns of Shatner, Selleck
05/19/10 10:02 AM
By ED BARK
Rampant show-shifting and an influx of familiar recycled TV stars characterize CBS' new fall lineup.
No. 1 in total viewers during this past season, CBS nonetheless has engineered a big shakeup for next fall. Just five new series are being added, but four veteran returnees are getting new nights and times, including two of the three CSI series.
Cancellations include Ghost Whisperer, Cold Case, Numb3rs, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Gary Unmarried, Accidentally On Purpose and Miami Medical. New series are fronted by the likes of Tom Selleck, William Shatner, Jim Belushi and Australian Alex O'Loughlin, who's getting a third shot after his previous CBS series, Moonlight and Three Rivers, came up empty.
CBS also has announced a midseason spinoff of Criminals Minds starring Forest Whitaker.
Here are the five new CBS series:
Hawaii Five-O (drama) -- A spinoff of the old Jack Lord crook-catcher stars O'Louglin as taciturn Steve McGarrett. James Caan's son, Scott Caan, plays his right-hand man, Danny "Danno" Williams.
Blue Bloods (drama) -- Selleck, who once trod the sands of Hawaii in CBS' Magnum, P.I., is back on duty as New York City police chief Frank Reagan, whose oldest son, Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) is also a cop. Len Cariou, who plays the Selleck character's "unapologetically bold" pop, likewise used to be NYC's top cop. There's also a daughter who's an assistant D.A. and a "golden boy" son who's new to the police force after coughing up a lucrative law career.
The Defenders (drama) -- This will be nothing like the taut-jawed evergreen original series. Belushi and Jerry O'Connell star as colorful Vegas defense attorneys named Nick Morelli and Pete Kacamarek. In out-of-court activities, Nick's trying to re-stitch his unraveling marriage while playboy Pete cruises the Strip.
$#*! My Dad Says (comedy) -- Adapted from a Twitter feed by Justin Halpern, it stars Shatner as "a forthright and opinionated dad who relishes expressing his unsolicited and often wildly politically incorrect observations to anyone within earshot." Shatner should be good at this. A pair of TV sons absorb much of his guff.
Mike & Molly (comedy) -- CBS sitcom potentate Chuck Lorre (Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory) notches another one with this saga of a working class Chicago couple whose eyes for each other turn out to be bigger than their stomachs when they first meet at an Overeaters Anonymous session. The stars are newcomers Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy, with TV vet Swoosie Kurtz chipping in as Molly's mother.
Now to the high-profile time-shifting.
***The new version of Hawaii Five-O will supplant CSI: Miami on Monday nights at 9 (central). Its new night and time will be on
Sundays at 9 p.m., following Undercover Boss.
***CSI: NY also gets a new night. It shifts from Wednesdays at 9 p.m. to Fridays at 8 p.m., with The Defenders getting its old slot.
***Survivor, a staple on Thursdays at 7 p.m., will move to Wednesdays at the same hour.
***The Big Bang Theory, which had been safely nestled behind Two and a Half Men on Mondays, will have to fend for itself as Thursday night's new leadoff hitter, with the Shatner comedy following. Lorre's Mike & Molly supplants Big Bang on Mondays.
Here is CBS' night-by-night fall lineup, which always is subject to change: (New shows are marked by an asterisk.)
How I Met Your Mother
Rules of Engagement
Two and a Half Men
Mike & Molly*
NCIS: Los Angeles
The Good Wife
The Big Bang Theory
$#*! My Dad*
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
48 Hour Mystery
The Amazing Race
05/18/10 09:57 AM
By ED BARK
It was Austin's turn Tuesday after NBC and Fox greenlighted three made-in-Dallas series for the fall earlier this week.
ABC announced that My Generation, centered on a group of grads from Austin's fictional Greenbelt High School, will be among the seven new series coming this autumn. As production winds down on NBC's made-in-Austin Friday Night Lights, it's all systems go for the formerly titled Generation Y.
Slotted to lead off Thursday nights, My Generation stars an ensemble cast of relative unknowns, including Daniella Alonso (pictured above). Premise: A group of 2000 high school grads were filmed by a documentary crew. Ten years later, they return to Austin en masse to be filmed anew.
ABC rather clunkily explains further: "These students couldn't wait to graduate and head out into the real world. But the world they were entering got very real very fast. As these classmates return home to revisit their old hopes for their future, they'll discover that, even if you don't get exactly what you thought you wanted out of life, it's not too late to get what you need."
Series creator Noah Hawley also helmed ABC's short-lived The Unusuals, a 2009 serio-comic cop series set in New York.
As previously reported, NBC's Chase and Fox's Lonestar, whose pilots were filmed in Dallas, are now part of their respective networks' new fall lineups. A third series, Fox's The Good Guys, has been filming in North Texas since late January. It sneak-previews on Wednesday, May 19th before beginning its scheduled summertime run in June. Extra episodes have been ordered after Fox announced on Monday that Good Guys also will be part of its fall lineup -- on Fridays at 8 p.m. (central).
ABC's Tuesday morning announcements earmarked five new dramas, a comedy and a reality series for the fall. Cancellations include FlashForward, Scrubs, Romantically Challenged, Better Off Ted, Wife Swap and Shark Tank.
The network has renewed V, although it won't be back until sometime in midseason. As will the inevitable Supernanny.
Besides My Generation, here are ABC's six other newbies:
No Ordinary Family (drama) -- Michael Chiklis, whose career was reborn with The Shield, gets another shot as a family man whose marriage is getting stale. A remedial vacation with his wife and two kids takes an abrupt detour when their plane crashes into the Amazon River. The Powells all mysteriously resurface with "unique and distinct superpowers." ABC describes them as a "totally relatable family who happen to be a little amazing." Julie Benz, who played Dexter Morgan's wife on Dexter before being murdered in last season's closing episode, returns to prime-time as Chiklis' spouse.
Detroit 1-8-7 (drama) -- Michael Imperioli of Sopranos fame takes a break from pitching 1800 Silver Tequila to star as "damaged but driven" homicide detective Louis Fitch. Like the characters in My Generation, Fitch and his unit are being followed by a documentary film crew. This makes for "moments of raw exposure when they address us directly, as well as private moments when they forget they're being filmed."
Body of Proof (drama) -- Dana Delany segues from Desperate Housewives to playing a "brilliant neurosurgeon at the top of her game" until a car wreck waylays all that. She reboots as a crime-solving medical examiner with the generic name of Megan Hunt.
The Whole Truth -- Rob Morrow, former star of CBS' soon-to-be-officially-canceled Numb3rs, immediately rebounds as a rising criminal defense attorney whose chief adversary is a deputy DA played by Joely Richardson from Nip/Tuck. This is yet another Jerry (CSI) Bruckheimer production, with weekly up-close looks at how both the prosecution and defense prepare their cases.
Better Together (comedy) -- One couple, Maddie and Ben, have been dating for nine years, remaining committed but unmarried. But Maddie's younger sister, Mia, announces that she and her boyfriend of seven weeks are both getting hitched and having a baby. The sisters' parents side with Mia, prompting spasms of laughter if this thing is done right. The best known cast member is Jennifer Finnigan, who starred in Bruckheimer's Close to Home crimesolver a few seasons back.
Secret Millionaire (reality) -- Rich people go undercover to "live and volunteer in some of the most impoverished and dangerous communities in America." In the big finish, they hand out "at least $100,000" of their own money to deserving angels of mercy who "continually sacrifice everything to help those in need."
ABC also announced three midseason replacement series Tuesday. The highest-profile one is Mr. Sunshine, with former Friends star Matthew Perry playing the "self-involved manager of a second-rate San Diego sports arena." Turning 40, he decides to re-assess. Also included is Allison Janney (The West Wing and last week's weird episode of Lost) as Perry's boss.
Here is ABC's night-by-night new fall lineup, which of course is subject to change: (New shows are marked by an asterisk.)
Dancing with the Stars (performance show)
No Ordinary Family
Dancing with the Stars (results show)
The Whole Truth
Body of Proof
Saturday Night College Football
America's Funniest Home Videos
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Brothers & Sisters
05/17/10 08:42 AM
By ED BARK
Fox is adding just three new series to its fall lineup, but one of them is the made-in-Dallas Lonestar.
Starring newcomer James Wolk, whom Fox executives envision as a "huge, breakout star," the hour-long "provocative soap" will air after House on Mondays. In other words, it's getting 24's high profile spot.
"This is a very cool show. It's got a little bit of modern day Dallas in it," Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly told TV writers during a teleconference Monday.
Wolk, starring in his first TV series, leads two lives as "charismatic and brilliant schemer" Robert/Bob Allen. Bob resides in Houston and has a wife named Cat (Adrianne Palicki from Friday Night Lights). But in oil-rich Midland, Robert shacks up with "sweet, naive" girlfriend Lindsay (Eloise Mumford) while bilking local investors on the side.
Cat's daddy is an oil magnate named Clint Thatcher(Jon Voight), who'd be pretty unhappy if he knew about his son-in-law's secret life. One of Clint's sons, Trammell (Mark Deklin), already is suspicious. But another son, Drew (Bryce Johnson), is a devoted acolyte of Bob.
Dallas was home to the pilot episode of Lonestar, with the series also being shot in the North Texas area. It joins Fox's ongoing The Good Guys, which set up shop in Fair Park early this year. Good Guys, which launches with a preview episode on Wednesday, May 19th before beginning a summertime run on June 7th, will then move right into Fox's fall lineup. It could be a tough go, though. The action-cop drama, starring Bradley Whitford and Colin Hanks, is destined for Fox's long lost Fridays, to be paired with the returning Human Target. Extra episodes being made beyond the original 13-episode order will keep the show in Dallas longer than originally anticipated.
Fox also made other news Monday by announcing that Glee will be next year's post Super Bowl attraction when the NFL's super-powed end game makes its inaugural appearance at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
Also, the American Idol Wednesday night results show will be sliced from an hour to a half-hour while the Tuesday performance edition will weigh in at 90 minutes. Both shrinkages will make room for two new fall comedies set to carry over into 2011. They are:
Running Wilde -- Will Arnett (Arrested Development, 30 Rock) stars as "filthy rich, immature playboy" Steve Wilde, who yearns to win or buy the heart of child sweetheart Emmy Kadubic (Kerri Russell from Felicity). Steve's the spoiled son of an oil tycoon while Emmy is described as "an earnest do-gooder who has spent her adult life trying to save the world." Emmy also has a 12-year-old daughter named Puddle (Stefania Owen), who hasn't spoken in years.
Raising Hope -- Twenty-three-year-old loser Jimmy Chance (Lucas Neff) is a pool-skimmer and party hound who still lives at home with his family. But he may have to grow up in a semi-hurry after a chance romantic encounter yields a baby daughter. Mom's in prison, so she's no help. Neither is Jimmy's family, which includes Cloris Leachman in the role of batty Maw Maw.
Fox also announced four new midseason series, including Steven Spielberg's Terra Nova, billed as "an epic family adventure 85 million years in the making." Originating in 2149 on a dying planet earth, Terra Nova soon takes advantage of a "fracture in the space-time continuum" to journey to prehistoric times in hopes of righting past wrongs. There's no casting or air date yet.
Likewise slotted for midseason -- and the Sunday night animated block -- is the new cartoon Bob's Burgers, about "a man, his family and a burger joint."
Midseason berths also are awaiting the Chicago-based cop drama Ride-Along (from The Shield creator Ryan Murphy) and the sitcom Mixed Signals, about three longtime pals trying to balance relationships with their needs to be free.
Here's Fox's night-by-night lineup, always subject to change, of course: (New series are marked by an asterisk.)
Lie to Me
The Good Guys
America's Most Wanted
The OT (NFL post-game show)
The Cleveland Show
05/16/10 09:24 PM
By ED BARK
NBC's new fall prime-time lineup has both a made-in-Dallas drama and Jimmy Smits in a legal series from the banished Conan O'Brien's production company.
Seven of the eight entries announced Sunday evening already had been embraced last week via a flurry of program pickup news releases. The only suspense was whether they'd debut in the fall or be held back for midseason.
The big news in these parts is autumn's Monday, 9 p.m. (central) berth for Chase, whose pilot episode recently was filmed in Dallas. The series itself also will originate in North Texas, with hitmaker Jerry Bruckheimer (the CSI franchise) at the throttle. Kelli Giddish, from the shortlived Fox series Past Life stars as U.S. marshal Annie Frost, described as a "cowboy boot-wearing deputy whose sharp mind and unique Texas upbringing her help track down violent criminals on the run."
As previously detailed, two Fox prime-time newcomers, The Good Guys and Lone Star, also are being filmed in the Dallas area.
Here's a clip from Chase, in which Annie both subdues a bad guy and fires off a wisecrack:
The Smits series, titled Outlaw, finds the former L.A. Law and NYPD Blue star playing a U.S. Supreme Court justice who abruptly resigns in the interest of returning to private practice and representing "the little guy." The character's name is Cyrus Garza. And no, it's not a comedy.
Asked during a Sunday evening teleconference about O'Brien's reaction to the pickup, NBC entertainment president Angela Bromstad said she hadn't talked to him.
"I speak to his (O'Brien's) head of development for his company all the time, and they're thrilled with the pickup," said Bromstad, referring to Conaco president David Kissinger, son of Henry Kissinger.
As previously reported, NBC is canceling Law & Order after 20 seasons, but will add yet another spinoff, Law & Order: Los Angeles to this fall's lineup. No casting has been announced yet. The Peacock also is dropping Heroes after four seasons of diminishing returns ratings-wise. But both series could get final sendoffs via two-hour "event movies" at some point next season.
NBC Universal chairman Jeff Gaspin, in a printed statement preceding the teleconference, said the new fall schedule brings the network "back to basics with its commitment to quality scripted programming." It's a stark departure from last year, when The Jay Leno Show took up all of the network's 9 p.m. weekday spots. Scripted series, four of them newcomers, will fill those slots this fall.
The only new fall show not detailed last week is School Pride, a reality series "that tells the stories of communities coming together to renovate their aging and broken public schools," NBC says. A team of four "experts" will help them along, including for some reason a SWAT commander named Tom Stroup.
Here are the four other new series:
Undercovers (drama) -- Lost architect J.J. Abrams eases up a bit with a "sexy, fun, action-packed spy drama" starring relative unknowns Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. They were crack CIA spies before falling in love, dropping out, getting married and starting a small L.A. catering company. But the disappearance of a friend and spy thrusts them back into the game. Prime-time graybeard Gerald McRaney plays the pair's boss.
The Event (drama)-- This sounds more like a steeped-in-intrigue, serial-minded Abrams series. Jason Ritter (The Class) stars as commoner Sean Walker, who stumbles into "the biggest coverup in U.S. history" while investigating the sudden disappearance of his fiancee. Co-stars include Blair Underwood as the president of the United States and Emmy-winner Zeljko Ivanek (Damages) in a so far unspecified supporting role.
Outsourced (comedy) -- Yo ho ho, what happens when a heartland company called Mid America Novelties has its call center transported to India? Newcomer Ben Rappaport stars as the transported head of a new "eclectic sales team."
Love Bites (comedy) -- Modeled after ABC's old Love, American Style series, this hour-long "romantic comedy anthology" features three loosely connected stories "illuminating the theme of love with an edgy, irreverent spin." Becki Newton (Ugly Betty) and Jordana Spiro (My Boys) co-star as lovelorn singles Annie and Frannie.
NBC also announced Sunday that Amy Poehler's Parks and Recreation will be held off the schedule until midseason, but will remain on Thursday nights.
Likewise awaiting mid-season berths are returnees The Marriage Ref and Who Do You Think You Are? The Peacock also has two new drama series -- The Cape and Harry's Law -- slotted for midseason. The new comedies Perfect Couples, Friends With Benefits and The Paul Reiser Show are being held back as well. And after Sunday Night Football goes away in January, NBC will send in Dateline, Minute to Win It and Celebrity Apprentice.
Two first-year dramas that made it through much of this season -- Mercy and Trauma -- have been canceled.
Here's NBC's night-by-night fall lineup, always subject to change, of course: (New series are marked by an asterisk.)
The Biggest Loser
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Law & Order: Los Angeles*
"Encore programming" (code name: reruns)
Football Night in America
Sunday Night Football
NBC cancels Law & Order, keeps Chuck, orders a Law & Order spinoff and a new drama series co-produced by Conan O'Brien (double huh?!)
05/14/10 03:20 PM
By ED BARK
NBC continues to overwhelm TV writers with a flurry of news releases prior to announcing its new fall schedule Sunday evening.
The Peacock struck twice Friday, first with news that Law & Order is being canceled after 20 seasons. Its last episode will be on Monday, May 24th. L&O will bow out at the end of a season in which it tied CBS' Gunsmoke as the longest-running drama series in TV history.
But wait. NBC thinks it has a better idea with LOLA --- Law & Order: Los Angeles, which will premiere sometime next season and "follow the theme and storylines similar to the Law & Order brand." No casting has been announced yet. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will be returning for a 12th season.
Later Friday, NBC announced that Chuck will be back for a fourth season. Network entertainment president Angela Bromstad says that Chuck has proven its enduring appeal and we love the new creative direction."
Oddly enough, Conan O'Brien also is proving his enduring appeal with NBC, even after leaving in disgust earlier this year rather than have The Tonight Show pushed back a half-hour to make room for a half-hour Jay Leno program that never materialized.
No hard feelings, though. NBC has ordered Outlaw, a Conaco production (that's O'Brien's company) starring Jimmy Smits in a drama about a Supreme Court justice who abruptly quits and returns to private practice.
Now that Cyrus Garza has quit the bench, "he's determined to represent 'the little guy' and use his inside knowledge of the justice system to take on today's biggest legal cases," says NBC. That kinda sounds like a premise that O'Brien would have an easy time making fun of. He's a day late on his tweets, though. The latest one addressed Thursday's comedy tour stop at SMU's McFarlin Auditorium: "I'm performing tonight in Dallas. Interesting thing about this town; no one really dresses like this.
He included a link to a picture -- and here it is:
Meanwhile, another new NBC legal drama for next season, Harry's Law, stars Oscar-winner Kathy Bates (Misery) as a "curmudgeonly ex-patent lawyer" who forms a practice with two younger dudes. It's from producer/creator David E. Kelley of Boston Legal, The Practice and Ally McBeal fame.
A third newbie, The Cape, is about "an honest cop on a corrupt police force." Of course he's framed for a series of murders and forced into hiding. So he takes the law into own hands as his son's fave comic book hero, "The Cape." David Lyons (ER) stars, with the welcome addition of Summer Glau (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) as an investigative blogger.
There are two new comedies, too.
Friends With Benefits, from Ron Howard's co-collaborator, Brian Grazer, is about a batch of twentysomething singles who "navigate the difficult, and often confusing, world of dating." And Perfect Couples chronicles the "misadventures of three engaging twosomes as they struggle to find out what makes the ideal relationship." NBC describes their travails as a "heroic journey," which makes me want to puke rather than laugh. But whatever.
The Peacock, still the fourth place network in prime-time, has now announced a total of 11 new scripted series for the 2010-11 TV season. Plus it's already renewed Law & Order: SVU, Chuck, Parenthood, The Office, 30 Rock, Community, Parks & Recreation, The Biggest Loser, The Marriage Ref, Who Do You Think You Are?, Minute to Win It a non-celebrity version of The Apprentice, a Dateline or two and Woody the Upchucking Woodchuck.
Just wanted to see if you were still paying attention on that last one.
05/11/10 03:46 PM
By ED BARK
Many of us played The Doors' first LP to death well before lead singer Jim Morrison self-destructed.
It skipped, popped and crackled from repeated use while Morrison bent and finally broke from constant abuse.
PBS' latest American Masters presentation, When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors, can't help but be mostly about Morrison, who died in a Paris bathtub in 1971 at age 27. Problem is, he never dried out. Estranged from his parents and eventually from his bandmates, too, Morrison remains a larger enigma than any of the others of his era who died young and still live on. Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin all expired at the same age in less than a 10-month span. Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Over and out.
"To some, Jim was a poet, his soul trapped between heaven and hell," narrator Johnny Depp says near the end of the 90-minute When You're Strange (Wednesday May 12th, 9 p.m. on KERA13). "To others he was just another rock star who crashed and burned. But this much is true. You can't burn out if you're not on fire."
That sounds good, even if it's not really true. It also jibes with The Doors' "Light My Fire," their first hit and everlasting anthem. Morrison wailed it, and Ray Manzarek took an enduring solo flight on the keyboards while drummer John Densmore and the song's writer, lead guitarist Robby Krieger, kept pace and collected the same $50,000 individual royalty check after the song hit No. 1 on the pop charts.
When You're Strange, drawn entirely from period footage, is one of the best and most imaginative American Masters presentations in quite some time. There are no new interviews or reminiscences. It's more than enough to just see The Doors as themselves, onstage, backstage and in the studio.
The film's writer/director, Tom DiCillo, got an assist from Law & Order creator Dick Wolf, who as a co-producer helped enlist Depp as narrator while also shepherding the project to PBS. DiCillo did the voiceover for an earlier screening at the Sundance Film Festival. But Depp adds his own brand of sinewy narrative muscle while also personalizing the film via the simple decision to call all of The Doors by their first names.
Wolf, during a January session with TV critics, termed it "a magnificent shift in the emphasis of the film from being a true documentary and one step removed to (being) personalized and empathetic. And that's something you can't buy."
Densmore, now 65 and still playing music with a band called Tribaljazz, said the remaining members of The Doors made two albums after Morrison's death before collectively asking themselves, "What are we doing? Our focal point is gone. This is not The Doors. Goodbye. We had played together for so long we didn't want to give up the musical synchronicity. But oh, without that spearhead in the front, you know . . ."
His voice trailed off. Densmore said he sees Morrison's death through a different prism with the passage of time.
"Creativity sometimes comes in the same package with self-destruction," he said. "It doesn't have to. Picasso lived to 90. In Jim's case, 27 was it. As the years go by, the more I feel that it was just his destiny to have this quick shooting star and make a big impact. And it's all tangled up, you know, his self-destruction."
Densmore is a fan -- but Manzarek is not, he said -- of Oliver Stone's 1991 movie about The Doors. He had a bit part near the end as a recording engineer.
Val Kilmer's portrayal of Morrison "gave me the creeps on the set," Densmore recalls. "He was so Morrison-like. I mean, I love Oliver for giving it a go . . . I mean, it's excessive. Oliver says, 'If you don't like my foot on your chest, don't go see my movies.' So I like it. Ray went to film school, so he doesn't like it."
Densmore has seen When You're Strange "a zillion times." Not surprisingly, he likes the early parts. "You see a young Jim, and that pleases me. Because he was a blast in the beginning, before his self-destruction kicked in. . . It's some kind of beautiful dream I had, and now here it is right there on the screen again."
When You're Strange also shows the disintegration, with Morrison eventually charged and convicted of profanity and indecent exposure onstage. The Doors had become a "dirty and dangerous band" in the eyes of some, with crowds massing to see Morrison go crazy rather than groove on the music. He regularly complied, once proclaiming onstage, "I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames!"
Two well-reviewed and commercially successful albums, Morrison Hotel and L.A. Woman, were still on the horizon, though, before Morrison abruptly quit the band, headed to Paris, developed a persistent cough and died. His father, a stern Navy admiral, had told his son in a letter that he had no talent at all for singing. A decade after the singer's death, he steeled himself to admit, "My son had a unique genius, which he expressed without compromise."
I saw The Doors once, in San Diego while still in the Marines. The staged was ringed with uniformed police officers. At one point Morrison used his long microphone cord as a noose that he dangled within the vicinity of several cops' necks. The house lights came up and the concert was temporarily stopped. Morrison screamed a hard-core profanity before the show was allowed to resume. No one wanted a riot. Well, maybe Morrison did.
"Jim relishes the attention," Depp says during When You're Strange. "He seems to have been born instantly ready for fame. Everything he does seems either brilliant or brilliantly calculated for effect."
Or maybe he was just a narcissistic drunk with stage presence and a singular voice.
05/06/10 04:28 PM
By ED BARK
Having run its course earlier this season on DirecTV, Austin-made Friday Night Lights at last is returning to home base NBC to repeat its fourth season.
Stripped of his Dillon Panthers by a power play, Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) now is stuck with the ramshackle East Dillion Lions while wife Tami (Connie Britton) remains as the embattled principal of his old school.
Season 4 has 13 episodes, all of which are scheduled to run on Fridays at 7 p.m. central, beginning May 7th. Unclebarky.com reviewed the Season 4 opener when it launched on DirecTV. Here's a link.
***Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo will make a guest appearance on the Tuesday, May 11th edition of NBC's The Biggest Loser (7 to 9 p.m. central). The network says Romo will surprise contestants while they're out shopping. He then "talks about the inspirational role models they have become before taking them on a hike" with trainer Bob Harper.
05/06/10 08:15 AM
Previewing: Wednesday, May 19th at 7 p.m. (central) on Fox before moving to Mondays at 8 p.m. on June 7th.
Starring: Bradley Whitford, Colin Hanks, Diana Maria Riva, Jenny Wade
Produced by: Matt Nix, Mikkel Bondesen
By ED BARK
From the very first frame, Dallas is written all over Fox's The Good Guys.
"5327 Elm St., Dallas, TX, 11:27 p.m." it says on home screens before a cat burglar busts into a vacant home, deflects a cell phone call ("Can I call you back? I'm just steppin' into work") and makes off with a humidifier. This triggers a succession of serio-comic events involving a plastic surgeon, former Big Fat Greek Wedding star Nia Vardalos, a drug lord's "second-best assassin in the world," etc. There's a little to-and-fro time traveling, too. Enjoy. And you very probably will.
Previously titled Code 58 and busily filming in the Dallas area since late January, Good Guys doesn't have its sneak preview until Wednesday May 19th before relocating to Mondays on June 7th. But there's obviously considerable interest in these parts. So we're giving you an early review of the first episode, which arrived this week along with a picture of star Bradley Whitford affixed with a stick-on 'stache and real sunglasses.
Created and produced by Matt Nix (Burn Notice), Good Guys tracks the misadventures of a hard-drinkin', computer-phobic, grandiose old school cop and his young suit-and-tied, mostly by-the-book partner. Dan Stark (Whitford) and Jack Bailey (Colin Hanks) have been exiled to the penny ante crime division after rubbing too many superiors the wrong way.
But inconsequential humidifier thefts have a way of morphing into bigger fish -- in this case a Peru-based drug cartel whose U.S.-based dealer is weary of staying in cheap motels and driving budget rental cars. His game plan includes shooting the drug lord's henchmen and then strong-arming a plastic surgeon into making him look like Erik Estrada. The latter's not a guest star, though, so this doesn't quite work as planned.
Dallas is a key player in the proceedings, whether it's opening episode visions of the Cotton Bowl, Reunion Tower, City Hall Plaza or the South Dallas Value Inn. The city never looked so good/seedy.
Whitford, stuck in a suit and tie for seven seasons as The West Wing's Josh Lyman, seems to be having a grand time here as the slovenly Stark. His home is an Air Stream trailer in the near vicinity of the Fair Park ferris wheel, where he lovingly combs his mustache and hits the bottle.
A lone claim to fame barely keeps him afloat in the Dallas PD. Half a lifetime ago, Stark and his old partner saved the governor's son. This sentences new partner Bailey into what must seem like a lifetime of enduring Stark's recycled tales of yore and aversions to modern technology. Such as: "Computers. Can't get used to 'em. Aren't you worried they're gonna, you know, turn on ya?"
Both Whitford and Hanks are a bit mechanical in some early scenes, but seem to have settled in by episode's end. Meanwhile, bullets fly, tires squeal, quips keep coming and a big vegetable truck is upended. Stark also mixes business with pleasuring himself. The humidifier owner, played by Vardalos, is instantly smitten with him after recognizing Stark as the once heroic governor's son saver. They get busy off-camera before Vardalos fixes his tie and wonders whether he might want to do a "little more investigating."
Good Guys is demonstrably light on plausibility, and presumably proud of it. There are elements of Lethal Weapon, 48 Hrs. and certain Coen brothers movies. This is the kind of series where Stark mainlines cottage cheese and washes it down with a beer in order to puke all over a crime scene in his clandestine pursuit of evidence. He's also capable of stopping a speeding bullet with his vest pocket flask.
The principal supporting players are Lt. Ana Ruiz (Diana Maria Riva) as the detectives' hard-bitten boss lady and Southern drawling assistant D.A. Liz Traynor (Jenny Wade), who used to date Bailey. They're not all that much in evidence in the premiere episode, but look as though they could wear well.
Energetic, entertaining and laugh out loud funny in spots, Good Guys potentially is summertime's signature bright spot amid the usual assembly line of brain-decaying reality concoctions and a handful of not-ready-for-prime-time scripted throwaways. Fox isn't merely going through the motions here. The scheduled 13 episodes of Good Guys, with the first directed by veteran actor Tim Matheson, look as though they're going to be both a boon for the Dallas economy and a bracing departure from broadcast TV's annual hot weather drought.
Take it from Dan Stark: "There are no small crimes. There are only small cops. Put that in your computer circuit."
And while you're waiting for May 19th, go ahead and click onto Fox's official Good Guys page for a lot of stuff that Stark wouldn't know or care how to access.
GRADE: B+/A-minus (just couldn't make up my mind)
05/05/10 01:23 PM
By ED BARK
The Sunday, May 23rd Lost finale now will weigh in at two-and-a-half hours, ABC has decided.
Its new running time is 8 to 10:30 p.m. (central), with a two-hour recap acting as appetizer.
The 2004 two-hour Lost pilot also will be re-airing, on Saturday, May 22nd from 7 to 9 p.m. It'll include those handy pop-up sniglets, such as, "This is Hurley. He ate an entire chicken in Episode 8 of Season 5, titled "Hurley's Fowl Play."
***Saturday Night Live's May 15th season finale will be hosted by Alec Baldwin, allowing him to tie Steve Martin's record of 15 such appearances. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are the musical guests. It'll be the band's eighth appearance on SNL, according to an NBC publicity release.
05/02/10 09:50 PM
By ED BARK
Well, he wasn't about to choose Dateline. So Conan O'Brien picked 60 Minutes Sunday for his first permissible TV appearance since NBC paid him $32 million to go away and give The Tonight Show back to Jay Leno.
O'Brien, bearded for the first time since returning to his old NBC Late Night show after the 2007-'08 writers' strike, also had a can't miss vein protruding from just below his right eye. But his 60 Minutes sit-down with correspondent Steve Kroft was relatively stress free. He obviously enjoyed O'Brien's company and regularly cracked up at the comedian's bemused reactions and riffs.
Still, this was fairly serious business, too, with O'Brien walking a fine line between not playing the victim while also making it clear that his old network wounded him to the core.
"You must have been miserable for the last couple of months," Kroft told him early in the interview.
"I went through some stuff," O'Brien said. "And I got very depressed at times. It was like a marriage breaking up suddenly, violently, quickly. And I was just trying to figure out what happened."
His anti-depressant became a recently launched comedy tour that comes to Dallas on May 13th at a long-sold out McFarlin Auditorium on the SMU campus. Then in November, O'Brien will join TBS cable's late night comedy lineup, bumping incumbent George Lopez back an hour to 11 p.m. (central).
Lopez keeps saying he's completely on board with that, but Kroft should have asked him about it anyway. Nor did Kroft mention that Leno's Tonight Show has been beating CBS' Late Show with David Letterman in the ratings ever since O'Brien left rather than be bumped back a half-hour. During O'Brien's tenure, Letterman returned to late night dominance for the first time in well over a decade. Kroft, of course, is a CBS employee. And Letterman's second string of defeats at the hands of Leno isn't something the network particularly wants to talk about.
O'Brien is still contractually prohibited from "disparaging" NBC, but managed to make it clear that he doesn't think much of the way Leno handled matters after NBC canceled his failed weeknight prime-time show.
"Has Jay reached out to you?" Kroft wondered.
"No," said O'Brien.
"No, I do not think I will be hearing from him. We should get him in here."
In previously released excerpts from the 60 Minutes interview, O'Brien said he wouldn't have taken the Tonight Show back the way Leno did.
"But that's me, you know," he said. "Everyone's got their own, you know, way of doing things."
"What would you have done?" Kroft asked.
"Done something else," O'Brien replied. "Go someplace else. I mean, that's just me."
O'Brien also disagreed with NBC executives' contention that the Tonight Show was losing money for the first time ever during his brief tenure, which began on June 1st and ended on Jan. 22nd.
"I honestly don't see how that's possible," he said. "It's really not possible."
In the end, NBC bought out O'Brien for $32 million in walking away money rather than pay Leno a reported contractually mandated $150 million to leave NBC.
"I honestly believe everybody knows that's what happened," O'Brien said when Kroft brought up the Leno figure. "They did what they had to do, and OK, I get it. And the only thing I take exception to is subsequently people saying, 'Well, you know, Conan was losing money and you know, actually he was murdering cats.' "
Kroft noted near the end of their sit-down that O'Brien is hardly hurting financially and now has a new show on another network, too.
"That's the point I keep making . . . I'm fine. I'm doing great," O'Brien told him. "I hope people still find me comedically absurd and ridiculous. And I don't regret anything."
The O'Brien segment closed with an excerpt from his comedy tour, which includes a fair amount of singing and guitar playing. To the tune of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," he sings in part, "They threw me out, it happened fast. They said please don't let the door hit your freckled Irish ass . . . Yeah, they kind of tried to kill me, but I made it out alive. I've got all my life to live, I have so many shows to give. Yeah, I'll survive."
We should all be so incredibly lucky.