Crime really doesn't pay. The E! cable network apparently has no interest in helping rehabilitate grizzled ex-con Paris Hilton and soon-to-be-grizzled-ex-con Nicole Richie: It's canceled their reality show The Simple Life, a mere five years too late.
The hot story in Hollywood Monday is that NBC is courting Saturday Night Live alum Jimmy Fallon to replace Conan O'Brien when he moves from his late late show to replace Jay Leno on Tonight in 2009. Fallon already has a development deal with NBC, and SNL producer Lorne Michaels is a part owner of Late Night. So many of the financial pieces are already in place. Here's a story from the trade journal Broadcasting & Cable.
O'Brien's scheduled move is starting to look like it will set off the show-biz equivalent of a nuclear chain reaction, with the potential casualties ranging from ABC's Nightline to David Letterman. Leno isn't ready to retire, and if NBC can't figure out a way to placate him, he might jump to ABC or Fox to start a new late-night show. ABC, which nearly dumped Nightline five years ago when it thought it had a shot at signing Letterman, may pull the trigger this time. And what happens to Letterman, already a distant second to Leno, when he's got two late-night competitors instead of one? Stay tuned.
Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story (10 p.m. Wednesday, WPBT-PBS 2) -- When soul music burst onto the scene in the 1960s, its DNA had two strands. One was the polished urban sound of Motown Records in Detroit. The other was the raw rural shriek of Stax Records in Memphis. If you've never heard of Stax screamers like Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and Sam and Dave, this documentary is a good way to learn what it was all about. And if you remember them, well, I don't have to tell you why you'll want to watch, do I?
People often ask me what it's like covering television. The answer is, like this...
At a panel for ABC's Grey's Anatomy spinoff Private Practice, a critic asked cast member Tim Daly -- who last season starred in The Nine, a serialized drama quickly yanked by ABC -- if it was deflating to work on a show built around a mystery that's never resolved. "Is it frustrating to do that kind of series and then realize there's never going to be a payoff?" the critic asked.
Daly, looking thoughtful, began to reply. "Well, first of all --" and then suddenly he stopped, eyes staring off into the distance. After a lonnnnnnnnnng pause, he continued: "I'm trying to think of a way to congratulate myself on my Emmy nomination."
Chi McBride, one of the stars of the new ABC comedy Reaper, was asked what it's like working for Executive Producer Barry Sonnenfeld. Explained McBride: "Barry's the kind of guy that would say, 'You know, some people see the glass half empty. Some see it half full. I see half a glass of poison.'"
When it comes to picking the most despised pilot of the upcoming fall broadcast season among critics, it's no contest: everybody hates ABC's Cavemen, which expands those Geico commercials into a half-hour sitcom. (Personally, I think Fox's belligerant cop drama K-Ville is worse, but I'm in the distinct minority.) So when the producers of Cavemen showed up on the press tour, it was a little bit like a parade of baby seals entering a Canadian village: The clubs were swinging from all directions. Here's my story.
CBS News has just posted an interview with a South Korean hostage being held by the Taliban. The catch: It's conducted in Farsi and Korean.
You probably think television critics lie around all day eating chocolates and watching TV. Well, yeah, but we're also trained journalism professionals. We get our teeth into the story. We can scream confirm or deny! just as good as Woodward, Bernstein or Carl Kolchak.
Don't believe me? Listen to the coverup we sniffed out and busted Wednesday. ABC programming boss Stephen McPherson had the misfortune to be on the morning panel after a night with no catered dinner (that's what it means when they say a reporter is hungry, right?, and he paid the price. It started with a critic confronting McPherson with a rumor she'd heard that an announcement will be made Thursday at a San Diego comic book convention ("Comic-Con," we call it in our secret hip newshound lingo) about a cast change on Lost. "They do have some announcements," McPherson admitted nervously.
"Well, can you tell us?" the critic demanded. "No," McPherson said, beads of sweat breaking out on his forehead.
"I don't think my editor is going to be very happy," another critic interjected. Threats are never pretty, but sometimes they're the only way.
Shouted a third, brandishing a copy of the First Amendment like a crucifix to a vampire as McPherson cowered back from the podium: "What's the point of having 150 reporters with access to millions of readers sitting here?"
McPherson, whimpering, tried another tack. "Okay, I'll give you the announcement," he said. "I cast Don Imus on Lost." Ha! Like we don't have a million years of collective experience at shrugging off sarcasm from editors. "Are we not important enough for you?" a critic thundered. "Or do you just not want to talk to us?"
The tearful McPherson cracked. "Harold Perrineau is returning to the show," he screamed as a phalanx of ABC publicists threw their bodies into the line of fire, protecting him from the baleful glances we fired his way. It was too late; American journalism had once again afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted. We had our story. Man, if we'd been on Watergate, it would have been over by the first weekend.
PPS: Hey, all you geeks who paid $200 to get into Comic-Con for an exclusive news break on your favorite show, nyah-nyah-nyah.
Dana Delany and Nathan Fillion are joining the cast of Desperate Housewives this season, which pretty much dooms it. Delany is a terrific actress -- she won two Emmys for China Beach -- but her last three series (Pasadena, Presidio Med and Kidnapped) have lasted a total of something like 15 episodes, less than a full season. Fillion, meanwhile, has joined two series that promptly died (Two Guys, A Girl And A Pizza Place and Buffy The Vampire Slayer) and starred in two more that didn't make it through a full season (Firefly and Drive). About the only hope for Desperate Housewives is that the ancient Nielsen curses on Delany and Fillion will cancel each other out.
Wondering why female movie stars like Holly Hunter and Glenn Close are suddenly turning up in TV series? Julianna Margulies, who's also returning to TV on Fox's legal drama Canterbury's Law six years after she left E.R., says television is more female-friendly. The meaty roles are increasingly for women, she says, with men relegated to nice but piffly background parts.
"Nothing personal, but it's about time. I am so sick of every script I get for a film, it's the girlfriend of, the wife of," Margulies says. "It's always the shadow... Women aren't seen for their full potential in film the way they are in television. So to be in the company of Holly Hunter and Glenn Close, I get why they're doing their shows. They're not getting offered that in film."
Margulies said she was reluctant to take the role in Canterbury's Law because weekly hour-long dramas are done on a killer schedule. But she eventually concluded that even if TV is a grind, it's the best place for her. "If you're artistic and you want to work and you want to work with good people, for women, television is a great medium," she said. It's the real gift of television -- that it celebrates women."