Archive for NBC

Scrub In

“Scrubs” fans get an early holiday present Thursday when the series returns for what is rumored to be the final season.
The whimsical hospital comedy was scheduled to return in early 2007, but NBC has decided to spring its new lineup early. “Scrubs” airs at 9 tonight, followed by “30 Rock” and “ER.” The night begins, as always, with “My Name is Earl” and “The Office.”
So why do we love “Scrubs” so much?

1. You almost always get a lively musical number. Check out the ode to Justin Timberlake.

2. Fantasy excursions like JD’s onstage hijinks with the Blue Man Group. OK, it was slightly ripping off “Arrested Development,’’ but I still liked it.

3. Broship between JD and Turk so close that they were called an adorable interracial gay couple by a character early in the show’s run.

4. While some TV writers like to say they never watch the tube, creator Bill Lawrence is a TV fanatic. We love that “Scrubs” has lines like Turk telling J.D. “Season 5, Episode 3, Marcia gets creamed. Don’t ever question me on the Bunch.”

5. And the producers never play down to the fans. As a little fan perk, you can call Turk’s cell phone number (1-916-CALLTURK, and yes we know you don’t have to put the K in, but it’s easier to remember and the phone doesn’t care). One of the show’s characters answers with a message, but since the phone is placed on the set, sometimes the cast or crew will pick up and chat with the caller.

It’s been a long time since we last saw the docs, so it might be good to brush up on a few pregnant facts.
After a one-night stand with another doctor (Elizabeth Banks), JD (Zach Braff) discovers he’s about to be a daddy. Meanwhile Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) gets a wake-up call about his anger issues as he readies himself for baby number two, while dealing with his precocious toddler Jack, and Turk (Donald Faison) and Carla (Judy Reyes) prepare for their little bundle of trouble.
In tonight’s stellar episode, JD, Cox and the Janitor (Neil Flynn) all the doctors begin to see a little bit of themselves in the patients.

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The Peacock Network Gets Plucked

Too many TV choices?

NBC may have found a way for you to cut back on your must-see TV. On Thursday, the once-mighty peacock network announced it would be backing off of scripted series programming in the 8 p.m. hour time slot next fall.

And who can blame them given the fact that Americans flock to such cheaply made shows as “American Idol,” “Survivor,” “Dancing with the Stars” and “Wife Swap”

These days, an hour-long drama costs between $2.5 and $3.5 million per episode to make. A reality show goes for about a million bucks an episode, and has the same or better chance of grabbing viewers than NBC’s fall ratings flops “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” “Kidnapped” and “Friday Night Lights.”

Every one of those series earned lavish reviews from critics, but viewers were less enthralled. And NBC fared even less well with its comedies, “30 Rock” and “Twenty Good Years.”

The problem may be an isolated one, however. There’s plenty of thriving scripted shows in that 8 p.m. slot, including Fox’s “House,” CBS’ “NCIS” and even the new fall hits, ABC’s “Ugly Betty” and CBS’ “Jericho.”

The fault of the 8 p.m failure may fall more on the fact that NBC hasn’t been able to generate much in that slot except for “My Name is Earl” and “The Office” for several years.

The peacock fell off its No. 1 perch to become a fourth-place runner. In NBC’s powerhouse years, they had such hits as “Friends,” “Frasier” and “Seinfeld.” During those lucrative years, insiders referred to the network as Never Been Cockier, and executives began making some programming mistakes.

Jeff Zucker, former entertainment president and now the chief executive of the NBC Universal television Group, could never get a break-out hit from the cozy slots between shows like “Friends” and “Seinfeld.”

And during that time, NBC didn’t even seem to be trying, instead letting such place-holder shows as “Veronica’s Closet” and “Caroline in the City” ride the lucrative coattails of what was known as the NBC Thursday night stronghold.

It’s interesting that the man behind those decisions – Zucker – is now at the helm of this new plan to save the company.

The 8 p.m. programming decision is the one spot viewers will immediately notice in the wake of NBC Universal’s restructuring plan announced on Thursday. Company spokespeople say the overhaul will save $750 million in the next two years.

The impact on viewers reaches even further, however, as NBC’s surrender of the 8 p.m. timeslot means fewer shows ordered for next season. NBC could probably keep proven shows in the 9 and 10 p.m. hours, therefore buying fewer series and saving more money.

In the past few years, all of the networks have waved the white flag when it comes to Saturday night programming and have filled the time either with unscripted programming or reruns.

It wasn’t that long ago that Saturday night was a time viewers sat with their families to watch such shows as “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” “JAG,” “Sisters,” “Touched by an Angel” and even “The Love Boat.”

But as viewing habits changed, the networks discovered they could not lure viewers to that night, which has the fewest number of viewers of any day of the week.

Of course, it could be argued that as quality slipped on Saturday night, so too did viewer levels.

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“Heroes” penned by Bryan Fuller

OK, so this may sound way too geeky for you, but I couldn’t believe it when I read that tonight’s tight episode was written by Bryan Fuller.

You know Bryan, right?

Besides being a fantastic person, he also is the creative genius behind Showtime’s “Dead Like Me” and the too-good-for-Fox series “Wonderfalls.”

Oh, “Wonderfalls,” we hardly got to know you before Fox ripped you from the air. Thank god for DVDs. The truly nerdy will remember Bryan from his time on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek: Voyager.”

Anyway, Bryan’s episode tonight was one of the best yet, filled with ominious overtones and some cool revenge.

And how much did we love Hiro (Masi Oka) popping on board the subway with Peter (Milo Ventimiglia), speaking perfect English and saying that he was from the future?

Did you hear Peter when he finally realized what his power was?

Love it.

“Heroes” just keeps getting better and better.

And we look forward to even more Bryan episodes.

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Amazing Racers should have heeded warning

When I saw Erwin and Godwin Cho break out the squirt guns at the Seattle airport at the beginning of Sunday’s “Amazing Race,” it was deja vu all over again.

Obviously, the boys hadn’t read my August column when I’d been put on the terrorist list for trying to bring water guns on a Southwest flight.

We reprint it here for the health and safety of all:

Burbank airport is kind of a throwback, a place where you still walk up ladders to board the planes both front and rear. I don’t think it has changed decor since the 1960s. The baggage claim area is on the outside of the building, where anyone could grab your luggage.

Who knew this would be the place where I was destined to become America’s Most Wanted?

But let’s start at the beginning.

Years ago, networks used to shower TV critics with promotional items, like “Murder She Wrote” jackets and “Everybody Loves Raymond” silver-engraved toasters. A few years ago, though, the “no tchotckes rule” was instituted.

Networks were restricted from giving out everything except support items, things like books, DVDs and, for some reason, anything edible.

Of course, a few goodies sneak through, like a stuffed penguin (Hallmark Channel is promoting the network airing of “March of the Penguins”) or a “World News Tonight with Charles Gibson” mug placed with the other coffee mugs in the back of the room.

Hey, if you take it, you take it.

For NBC’s party, the theme was a Texas barbecue, tying into the new series “Friday Night Lights” and football games on Sunday night. At the party, you could grab a hat and a bandana filled with items like a small football, a squirt gun and so on.

It was the “so on” I forgot to check out.

I was so busy working the party, it was only after it was over and I was leaving that someone handed me the hat with a blue bandana filled with goodies and tied with twine. With so many leftovers, a red one was thrown in as well.

I carried them up to the hotel room, tossed them in a corner and promptly forgot about them.

After 18 sleep-deprived days, I packed to go home. All the clothes in the suitcase and my few tchotckes in a PBS “Frontline” duffle bag with the PBS kid’s luggage tag. Inside was thechocolate bar from “Gold Rush,” some Loretta’s authentic pralines from two Hurricane Katrina sessions, a CW bright green T-shirt saying “Free to be Critical,” a small bottle of the blue liqueur Hpnotiq from the “Rock Star: Supernova” party and some assorted DVDs.

And, OK, my picture with Curious George. I mean, please, you need something to amp up your image with the kids.

Oh, and the hat and two bandanas. One red. One blue.

Later, as I walked toward the screening station in the airport, I dutifully took off my shoes, removed my laptop from the case and placed my “Frontline” bag on the conveyor belt.

The blond woman next to me with the toddler and I chatted as the belt came to an abrupt halt. Soon, every Transportation Security Administration cop was at the scanner, surveying the bag.

I turned to the woman and said, “Could it be the liqueur?”

“I hope not,” she said with a bit of a worried look. “I’ve got a bottle of wine in mine.”

Within seconds, the cops were swarming, the lane was shut down and the woman and her child were escorted away — from me.

“Ma’am, you have breeched security,” said the TSA guy.

Still unsure of the offense, I stammered, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“Are these your bandanas?” he said, looking like Jack Bauer right before he takes out a guy on “24.”

“Sort of,” I said, ready to give up NBC in a heartbeat. “I got them as a party favor at an NBC party.”

At this point, I put on my sweet, middle-aged woman smile hoping it would serve me as well with the Feds as it does with unsuspecting network executives.

Well, he says, you are transporting contraband, which is punishable under Federal Law. You are subject to up to five years in jail and more than $250,000 in fines.

“I’m going to arrest you,” he said flatly, impervious to my middle-aged chunky woman charm.

Thank god, at that point a petite LAPD officer showed up and told me that inside the bandanas were a plastic water gun and a cap gun (“I swear officer, I thought it was candy.”)

She said she understands it was an honest mistake and that next time I really need to exercise common sense.

Actually, I added the common sense remark. She said to be careful about what I bring on board a plane. But I knew what she meant. My crime was being stupid and careless.

But that wasn’t enough for TSA guy, who took his Homeland Security quite seriously. He made me move over to another area, took my driver’s license and my contraband.

“Just because that cop doesn’t want to take the time to arrest you doesn’t mean you are out of trouble,” he said with all the intensity of Mackey taking down a perp on “The Shield.”

Then I did what any strong woman would do. I started tearing up. Please, officer, don’t throw me into jail. I’ve seen “Oz.” It isn’t pretty.

He held up the blue and red bandanas and said, “Where are you traveling to?”

“Oakland,” I reply.

You could almost see the wheels turning as he pondered if I was providing the guns to gangs.

“I’m putting you on the list,” he said.

It isn’t the one you got on when your parents caught you sneaking out at night as a teen. No. He decided to put me on the terrorist watch list. Or at least that’s what he told me he was doing as he put down my vitals for his report.

“You will now be marked,” he said, almost growling the words.

Oh, and by the way, would you like me to put these items in baggage for you so you can pick them up in Oakland?

It turns out if I had just put them in the old suitcase I checked, things would have been fine.

“I never want to see those things again,” I said, bolting as soon as I got my driver’s license back.

My husband is happy beyond words. Now he’s off the hook for that trip to Hawaii. I, on the other hand, feel like this is just the pilot episode of “The Fugitive.”

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Carol Burnett still rocks

She may be a little frail, but the first lady of TV comedy Carol Burnett still knows how to rock the house.
Burnett was honored by the Television Critics Association on Sunday night at the annual TCA awards for Career Achievement. She got a standing ovation from an audience that included producers and stars from “House,” “Lost,” “The Office,” “My Name is Earl,” “West Wing,” “High School Musical” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
When she accepted the award, Burnett says she’s still open to playing other TV roles after a great experience on “Desperate Housewives.”
“So, if you have anything for me at ‘The Office,’ ” she said, looking over at the elated cast and crew.
After the ceremony, Steve Carell and the producers went over to talk some business with Burnett.
But it was in the queue to get their cars after the event that the stakes went up. “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes and producer Betsy Beers took the opportunity to tell Burnett how much she had meant to them.
“You are the reason we are in this business,” Beers said. “Really. You have been my inspiration.”
Beers and Rhimes said that after her speech, they already started thinking about at least one episode written just with Burnett in mind.
I think she was talking to “The Office” people, I told them.
“Not if we get her first,” says Rhimes.

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Delroy Lindo packs up

Delroy Lindo plays tough guys and once you go toe-to-toe with him, you can quickly figure out why.
The East Bay resident plays a hard-edged FBI agent in the new NBC series “Kidnapped,” and when I walked up to him he stared at me like I was a dog about to desecrate his manicured lawn.
“You look like Estelle Parsons,” he pronounces.
I’m hoping he meant the young Estelle, who is now fast approaching 79. It’s been a long tour, so I might just be flattering myself.
So, I ask, you live in Berkeley or Oakland?
“Yes,” he says, the subject to be closed to further discussion.
So, this show tapes in New York. Isn’t that going to be hard on the family life?
“We’re moving to New York for five and a half months, then we’ll be back,” he says, with the expression on his face never changing and, in fact, getting a tad more intimidating.
So I continue.
Planning on doing any theater in the Bay Area?
“I’m directing ‘The Blue Door’ at Berkeley Rep,” he says. “But this is the third time I’ve tried to do something for them and it always falls through. Maybe third time’s the charm.”
Sensing I had pressed my luck enough, I quickly made my exit.

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Hot Time

It was the hottest party of 2006 press tour.
NBC did a barbecue-themed party out on the lawn of the Ritz-Carlton for their final night of press tour, but they found it hard to round up the talent and push those cattle out of the air-conditioned Ritz.
Temperatures soared to around 115 degrees, and no one was eager to get out.
Milo Ventigmiglia and Adrian Pasdar said they already put in more than a pound of sweat promoting their show, “Heroes” about ordinary people with extraordinary powers at San Diego’s Comic Con on Friday.

“The whole cast, except Greg Grunberg and Hayden Panettiere who had to work that day, went down to San Diego on a bus,” said Ventigmiglia. “This thing was falling apart and the air conditioning went out. So we were trapped in this thing for two hours, baking. We spent the time laughing and joking about it.

As Pasdar said, “You get to know really fast just what kind of people you are working with you get stuck in that situation. And we’ve got some great people on the show.”

The series is created and produced by Pittsburg native Tim Kring.

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NBC’s Watching YouTube

Somebody was watching.

A while ago, someone put up bootleg copies on of a 2005 WB comedy pilot that wasn’t picked up, produced by Bill Lawrence (“Scrubs”). The innovative series is about two guys who want to become sitcom writers and end up being part of a reality series.

The series pilot, which is shown in three parts, was downloaded more than 600,000 times from the San Mateo-based YouTube Web site. People started writing about it. (see for Susan Young’s column on it.)

On Friday, NBC announced that it will pick up the series, first airing as webisodes, then later on the network. The stars, Paul Campbell and Taran Killam, will return to their roles as best pals from the Midwest who get the call from a network to come work for them “if they think they can do a better job.”

The two try to develop a great TV sitcom, unaware that the network is actually manipulating and recording their every move for a reality series.

“This comedy pilot has generated a life of its own and we are intrigued by its potential to develop into a series,” says NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly. “Sometimes, if you show it, they will come. We’ve seen how people have responded on the Internet, plus we always bet on Bill Lawrence’s work.”

Lawrence says he’s always been passionate about the project and “I think we will see more launched on the Internet in the future.”

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A pox on Earl

Jason Lee, star of “My Name is Earl” couldn’t make the press session for his show because he had the chicken pox.

The chicken pox?

Yep, it seems Lee never had chicken pox. Although we’re a bit confused on the timing. On Sunday Jan. 15, there was a segment on “Desperate Housewives” about a parent trying to avoid the chicken pox.
On that Monday, Jason Lee was at the Golden Globes _ where the cast of “Desperate Housewives were also in attendence _ and on Tuesday, he says he was covered in bumps that turned out to be chicken pox.
Coincidence? Maybe.
All we know is that it won’t throw the series off schedule.

“No, no, no. He’ll be in all the
episodes,” creator Gregg Garcia assured the critics at the winter press tour. “We’re just shut down until he is feeling better and is presentable to put on TV again. “

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It’s a deal

For all you briefcase addicts, NBC announced the Howie Mandel hosted game show “Deal or No Deal” will be back on the air in March after the Winter Olympics.

So just what is the draw of a show in which all the contestants have to do is whittle down briefcases to win money.

“There’s nothing else on television that allows you to go home with a lot of money with absolutely no skill,” Mandel told critics at the winter press tour. “And I think it’s really obvious there’s no skill. You can be a rock and move into another tax bracket.”

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