New “Dancing with the Stars” crew

Is it just me, or are the people being chosen for this show looking more and more like “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” rejects?

“DWTS” returns at 8 p.m. Sept. 21 on ABC with a politician, athletes, models and a buncha sorta stars, from Donny Osmond to Melissa Joan Hart. The two-hour performance show airs Mondays through Nov. 16, with the results show airing Tuesdays through Nov. 25.
According to the press release, this season features the Pro Dancer Competition, where world class professional dancers have the opportunity to compete live on the “Results Show” for a guaranteed spot on next season’s show. Also coming back is “Design-a-Dance,” where fans have the chance to select their favorite professional dancers, dance styles and wardrobe at
Four new dance styles — the Bolero, the Charleston, the Two Step and the Lambada — are also going to be introduced. The middle stages of the competition feature the return of the “Dance Off,” where contestants will perform a dance style of their choosing to fight for their spot in the competition, and three consecutive double eliminations.

Here are the 16 celeb dancers:

AARON CARTER — Triple platinum selling music artist/songwriter, producer, actor and younger brother of Backstreet Boys singer Nick Carter, Aaron Carter has established himself worldwide as a pop and teen sensation. Beginning his career at the age of eight, he is currently the youngest solo artist to have four Top 40 singles. He has released four studio albums since 1997, two of which have been certified platinum, and has appeared on several television series, including “Lizzie McGuire” and “7th Heaven,” as well as making his Broadway debut playing JoJo the Who in “Seussical the Musical” in 2001. He sang vocals on soundtracks for Disneymania (“The Lion King”), “Ella Enchanted,” “Pokemon” and “Rugrats the Movie.” In 2006 Carter starred in the E! reality show, “House of Carters,” which featured all five of the Carter siblings living in the same house.

NATALIE COUGHLIN — Olympic swimming gold medalist Natalie Coughlin is the most decorated female athlete of both the 2008 Beijing and 2004 Athens Games. Coughlin has won a medal in every single Olympic event that she has ever entered, for a total of 11 Olympic medals. In 2008 she became the first American female athlete to win six medals in one Olympiad, in addition to becoming the first woman to win consecutive individual Olympic gold medals in the 100m backstroke. She is also the most decorated female swimmer in World Championship history, with 16 medals. Born and raised in northern California, Coughlin attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned a BA in psychology in 2005.

MARK DACASCOS — Famously known as “The Chairman” and host of Food Network’s “Iron Chef America,” Mark Dacascos is also a trained martial artist and an actor. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, his passion for martial arts began at an early age under the tutelage of his parents, who are both former national champions and teachers. After being discovered in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Dacascos began to establish a film and television career playing not only martial artists but a wide arrangement of other characters before joining “Iron Chef America” in 2005. He has appeared in several feature films, including the internationally acclaimed French epic, “Brotherhood of the Wolf,” the cult classic “Only the Strong,” “Cradle to the Grave”, opposite Jet Li, “Only the Brave,” “Nomad” and “The Lost Medallion,” to be released later this year.

TOM DELAY — The former House Majority Leader is a prominent Republican and conservative firebrand. He was first elected to Congress in 1984, and when Republicans took control of the House, his colleagues elected him Majority Whip, and later Majority Leader. His leadership was characterized by his aggressive “Grow the Vote” method of party discipline, where he never lost a vote, leading the Washington Post to nickname him “The Hammer.” He and his wife, Christine, also served as foster parents and founded a community in Texas that serves as a safe, permanent home for abused and neglected children. DeLay is currently president of First Principles LLC, a strategic political consulting firm based in Washington DC and Houston, Texas.

MACY GRAY — Macy Gray first burst onto the music scene with her debut album, “On How Life Is,” and the hit single “I Try,” both of which went to number one. She has gone on to sell more than 20,000,000 albums worldwide and has won and been nominated for five Grammy Awards and six MTV Video Music Awards. She has collaborated on stage and in the recording studio with some of music’s greatest artists, including Justin Timberlake, Carlos Santana, Erykah Badu, Fergie, (Black Eyed Peas), John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers) Nas and Natalie Cole. Gray has also appeared in numerous films, including “Spider Man,” “Training Day,” “Idlewild” (with Outkast) and the award-winning HBO Film, “Lackawanna Blues.”

ASHLEY HAMILTON — Actor, songwriter, comedian and son of former “Dancing with the Stars” contestant George Hamilton, Ashley is a multi-talented, multi-hyphenate with experience in film, comedy and television. An accomplished singer, Ashley had a 2003 top 20 single released by Sony, and as a songwriter co-wrote the top 10 Robbie Williams hit entitled “Come Undone.” He has writing credits for Hillary Duff among other top acts. Hamilton has made various television and film appearances in his career, including a starring role in “Sunset Beach.” Since 2007 he has been performing stand-up comedy at the Laugh Factory, the Hollywood Improv, the Comedy Store and Room 5 in Los Angeles.

MELISSA JOAN HART — Known for her starring roles in the television series “Clarissa Explains It All” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” Melissa Joan Hart began her career at the early age of four with television commercials and various television appearances. She starred in the film “Drive Me Crazy” alongside “Entourage’s” Adrian Grenier, as well as the ABC Family Original Movie “Holiday in Handcuffs,” opposite “Dancing with the Stars” alumnus Mario Lopez, which was the highest rated program in the history of the network. In 2009 Hart starred in another ABC Family Original Movie, “My Fake Fiancé” that also garnered huge ratings. In 1993 she started her own production company, Hartbreak Films, and is set to release her first thriller film, “Nine Dead,” to DVD in January 2010. Hart and husband Mark Wilkerson are the proud parents of two sons, Mason, age three, and Braydon, 17 months.

KATHY IRELAND — Kathy Ireland the super model is now wife, mother of three, author, Sunday school teacher and fashion CEO of kathy ireland Worldwide® (KIWW)®. Forbes, Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal celebrate KIWW® as a $1.4 billion design empire. Ireland powerfully supports many non-profits, including the Elizabeth Taylor HIV/AIDS Foundation, Feed the Children and the Alliance for Christian Education. UCLA has named her as one of the Top Ten Women’s Health Advocates in America.

MICHAEL IRVIN — Regarded as one of the most successful wide receivers in the history of the NFL, former Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin is a three-time Super Bowl champion and former broadcaster for ESPN’s “NFL Countdown.” Known as “The Playmaker” and one of “The Triplets” alongside fellow Cowboys Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, Irvin was a recipient of the Dallas Cowboys’ Ring of Honor in 2005. In 2007 he was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame and has appeared in various television shows, as well as co-starring in “The Longest Yard” with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. Last fall Irvin executive-produced/hosted the reality TV series “4th and Long” for Spike TV, in which one football hopeful was given a shot at making the Dallas Cowboys roster. Most recently he appeared on the Hall of Fame inductions on the NFL Network, and he hosts his own radio show in Dallas for ESPN Radio.

JOANNA KRUPA — Polish-born Joanna Krupa was born in Warsaw and raised in Chicago. After high school she moved to LA to pursue a career in modeling and acting. Her hard work and positive spirit led her to become one of the most requested models/covergirls in the world. PETA’s “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign featuring Krupa became a phenomenon. She’s been featured in E!’s The Sexiest as one of the sexiest women in the world. In 2009 she was selected as the cover model for Ocean Drive magazine, and Maxim voted her among their TOP 100 women in the world. Film and TV credits include “Six Days in Paradise,” due in the fall, “Ripple Effect,” “Las Vegas” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” Most recently she competed in ABC’s “The Superstars,” teaming with Buffalo Bills NFL star Terrell Owens.

CHUCK LIDDELL — Chuck Liddell is the face of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the icon of Mixed Martial Arts — the fastest growing sport in America. In 1998 he won his first UFC Mixed Martial Arts fight. Soon after, Liddell rose through the ranks to become the light-heavyweight champion of the world. In July of 2009, he was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. He is tied for the most wins by a UFC fighter, with 16, and also holds the most knockout wins with 10. In 2008 Liddell penned his autobiography, Iceman: My Fighting Life, which quickly became a New York Times bestseller. He has a BA in Business/Accounting from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he also wrestled.

DEBI MAZAR –- Debi Mazar’s feature film debut in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” set the stage for an extensive career in both television and film. She has consistently worked with notable directors — including Oliver Stone, Spike Lee, Woody Allen, Michael Mann and Joel Schumacher — often portraying a sharp-tongued New Yorker in both dramas and comedy. Her television credits include “Friends,” “Ugly Betty” and her own sitcom, CBS’ “Temporarily Yours.” Mazar presently stars as publicist Shauna on HBO’s hit series “Entourage.” She also co-hosts “Under the Tuscan Gun,” a successful internet show focused on Tuscan cuisine, with her husband. The couple have two young daughters and presently reside in both Los Angeles and Tuscany, Italy.

MYA — Grammy Award ® winning multi-platinum artist Mya, became a star at the age of 18 with her eponymous debut album which yielded three Top 10 singles. In addition to releasing five full length albums, one of which went platinum and another gold, she starred in the acclaimed film “Chicago.” Since then Mya has appeared in several other movies and signed a modeling contract. Her fourth and fifth studio albums, “Liberation” and “Sugar & Spice,” respectively, have been released in Japan, and her sixth studio album is due to be released on her independent label. A longtime advocate for young women, Mya founded The Mya Arts & Tech Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing disadvantaged youth growth and opportunity through arts & technology education, where she serves as both executive director and teacher.

KELLY OSBOURNE –- A singer, actress and media personality, Kelly Osbourne’s father is rock icon Ozzy Osbourne, and her mother is well-known TV personality Sharon Osbourne. Kelly got her start at the age of 16 in the first-ever “celebrity reality” TV show, “The Osbournes,” with her famous family, which garnered an Emmy Award ® for Outstanding Reality Program in 2002. That same year, Kelly released her debut music album, “Shut Up!,” which included a cover of Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach.” Her second album, “Sleeping in Nothing,” was released in 2005 with its first single, “One Word,” hitting No. 1 on all three Billboard Dance charts simultaneously. She made her dramatic acting debut in a starring role on the ABC series “Life As We Know It”. In recent years Osbourne has worked primarily in the UK, where she’s done theatre (including a successful run in “Chicago” in London’s West End in 2007), hosted her own weekly radio show on BBC Radio and presented numerous UK TV projects, including “Project Catwalk,” the UK’s version of “Project Runway.”

DONNY OSMOND –- Donny Osmond won the hearts of millions as both a member of the Osmonds and, with his sister (and “Dancing with the Stars” alumna) Marie, as the youngest co-hosts in primetime history on the iconic ABC variety series, “The Donny & Marie Show.” He and Marie are currently performing at the Las Vegas Flamingo Hotel through 2012. For nearly five decades, Donny has been a singer, musician, Broadway and film actor, talk show and game show host, bestselling author, and even a champion race car driver.

LOUIE VITO — Professional snowboarder Louie Vito is among the U.S.’ elite snowboarders favored to make the 2010 Olympic team. Competing in both the Pipe and Slopestyle disciplines, Vito continues to train for the Grand Prix qualifying. The 21 year-old native of Bellefontaine, OH turned pro in 2006 and has competed in multiple Winter X-Games competitions. He is also a two-time winner of the USSA Grand Prix Halfpipe Series.

Viewers may cast their votes for their favorite teams via phone on Monday and Tuesday night during and up to 30 minutes after the “Dancing with the Stars” performance shows. AT&T subscribers may also text message their votes by texting the word “VOTE” and entering the number that corresponds to the team they want to support (standard text message rates apply). Viewers may also vote online at starting from the opening of each episode on the East Coast and until 12:00 Noon, ET the following day.

Hosted by Tom Bergeron (“America’s Funniest Home Videos”) and Samantha Harris (“The Insider”) the celebrities will perform choreographed dance routines which will be judged by renowned Ballroom judge Len Goodman and dancer/choreographers Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba.

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Neil Patrick Harris: Emmy host we’ll love the most

Doogie Howser MD has come a long way.

Neil Patrick Harris, or NPH to his pals, has been building up a solid rep as comedy actor for years, but who knew he had some massive comedy chops as an awards show host?

Let’s face it, the Tony Awards lauding the best of New York theater isn’t exactly the kind of show you’d expect anyone under 40 to give a tweet about. But after NPH’s smokin’ stint as the host of the TV Land Awards, and of course his fame on How I Met Your Mother, people tuned in to see NPH in action.

And he didn’t disappoint. From quick quips to the final improvised closing number, NPH made Hugh Jackman almost disappear from our memory banks.

Now he’s set to host the Emmy awards this fall. Not that he has a tough act to follow after last year’s horrific experiment using deadly boring reality show hosts Jeff Probst, Howie Mandel, Tom Bergerone and Heidi Klum as the Emmy emcees. Lord, there isn’t enough beer in St. Patrick’s Day and Octoberfest combined to kill those memory cells.

Thank god we’ll have NPH, a guy who doesn’t mind poking fun at his own Howser beginnings. He kicked it with Harold & Kumar as they searched for a White Castle burger back in ’04. He played the role of Neil Patrick Harris, a drug-addled, hooker-addicted nut case and had so much fun he went for the sequel, Escape from Guantanamo Bay.

Remember when Harold & Kumar doubted his driving skills just because he was under the influence of hallucinogens?

“I performed an appendectomy at age 14. I think I can handle a few mushrooms.”

In the film, he also explained what the PH in NPH stood for, but you’ll have to check out the movie for that one. Of course it was a parody and a delicious one at that. There are few gay men who can pull off the womanizer roles like NPH.

In a recent chat with NPH, he said he’s eager to take chances like his role in Joss Whedon’s Web-tacular Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

“I said yes before Joss even said what he wanted me to do. But when you are asked by Joss Whedon of all people to play the title character in a super villain musical, well you don’t say no to that,” NPH says. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. The music is so great. I still listen to those songs ad nauseum, and I was in it.”

So for fans and potential NPH fans, we offer up some great lines and moments with the man formerly known as Doogie.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

“I say successful in that I achieved my objective. It was less successful in that I inadvertently introduced my arch nemesis to the girl of my dreams.”

“Oh, goodness. Look at my wrist! I gotta go.”

“I also need to be a little bit more careful about what I say on this blog. Apparently, the LAPD and Captain Hammer are among our viewers.”

“The world is a mess and I just need to rule it.”

“Texting. It’s very important or I would stop.”

The 2008 Tony Awards Host Highlights

“Chris Sieber. Please! Performing on your knees? Dude, that only works to win Golden Globes!”

“Take my advice. Cash in. Go Presidential. I can see the marquees now: ‘Barack of Ages.’ ‘Phantom of the Oprah’ — she’s almost the president. ‘Obama Mia.’ “

How I Met Your Mother – Barney Stinson Speaks

“When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead…True story. I’m teaching Ted how to live. I’m like Yoda, only instead of little and green, I’m awesome and wear suits. I’m Broda, and tonight you’re going to use the force to get any girl in here.”

Ted asks if he has a cold. “I’m fine. My nose is just overflowing with awesome and I had to get some of it out.”

“This is going to be LEGEND — wait for it and I hope you are not lactose-intolerant because the second half of the word is — DARY!”

“Marshall, you’re no Lily. Lily is a diabolical puppet master, surreptitiously manipulating every situation to get exactly what she wants. She is pure evil, Marshall. You’ve got a good one. Hang on to her.”

“That’s what corporate America wants. People who seem like bold risk takers, but never actually do anything.”

“The only reason to wait a month for sex is if she’s 17 years, 11 months old.”

“Every Halloween, I bring a spare costume in case I strike out with the hottest girl at the party. That way, I have a second chance to make a first impression.”

“A girl is allowed to be crazy as long as she is equally hot. Thus, if she is this (indicates amount on chart) crazy, she has to be this hot. You want the girl to be above this line. Also known as the ‘Vicki Mendoza Diagonal.’ This girl I dated. She played jump rope with that line. She’d shave her head, then lose 10 pounds. She’d stab me with a fork and then get a boob job. I should give her a call.”

More lines? Drop a comment.

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The Unit Cancelled – Bad CBS

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CBS won’t be re-upping with The Unit.

Was it a chain reaction after NBC opted out of Medium and CBS decided snag the psychic crime series, or was the military drama always doomed? We suspect the latter.

The Unit has been teetering on cancellations almost from the time it jumped out of the starting gate in March 2006. The Unit posted a respectable audience of 15 million before dropping each season to little more than 9 million viewers.

But despite some tawdry affairs depicted in the series, it’s never been a particularly sexy show for CBS. And CBS wants to have some flash, and to keep far away from its former image as the network drawing the most viewers over the age of 50.

The intense fan base has tried to keep the show on the air, but unlike the Chuck Subway campaign, where fans sparked the sandwich chain to actually sponsor the show, there were no big sponsors willing to go to bat for The Unit.

At a little under $3 million an episode, it’s one of the cheaper series to produce. But the networks are still trying to get the costs down on every show they pick up. The preferred method has been pay cuts or freezes. And that was something star Dennis Haysbert, who plays Jonas Blane on the series, wasn’t willing to do, according to an interview with him in the LA Times.

“There are a number of factors that go into whether I want it back or not,” Haysbert told the paper concerning both his salary and the creative direction of the show. “It’s been a great ride and, if I don’t work with these people again, I’ll certainly play golf with them.”

So in the words of Blane, “You, you and you…panic. The rest of you, come with me.” And we’ll give you five reasons why The Unit should have stayed on the air.

5. There are few scripted shows that parade a banner of nobility and love of country like The Unit. While it doesn’t shrink from controversy, it tells a story that isn’t being explored in a TV landscape that loves dark heroes. House may save your life, but you don’t want to invite him to the neighborhood barbecue. These are good ol’ boys serving their country, and darn proud to do it.

4. Ratings for the show weren’t horrible, but while the ratings were higher than other CBS shows that were picked up, the audience skewed towards older viewers. The median age was around 55, which might just as well spelled dead zone to advertisers. But we contend that this is exactly the group that probably has money to spend right now, and isn’t squirreling away every last cent for fear of getting booted from their jobs.

3. CBS has become the home of the procedurals. We’ve got ghost whispers – and soon another talkin’-to-dead-people crime fighter. We’ve got crime scene investigations in three different cities, and even a military crime team. And, as is the case with all the networks, you can’t swing a stethoscope without hitting a doctor show. Two of the new CBS series are doctor shows. But what is in short supply around the eye-land is a straight drama like The Unit.

2. Before Barak Obama, there was President David Palmer, the honorable man who served as our nation’s president. OK, it was just on 24, but Palmer set a tone. So when the actor, Dennis Haysbert, was recruited to head up the team at The Unit, you knew this was a man to be reckoned with. We could use a few more good men like Jonas on TV.

1. The Unit was written and produced by
Shawn Ryan
(The Shield) and created and written by respected Tony and Oscar-nominee David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed-the-Plow, American Buffalo). Mamet’s got a distinctive dialogue style. So when you want to brush this off as just a conservative bent military show, save the dismissive attitude and remember that two of the best dramatic writers around, Ryan and Mamet, helmed The Unit. They served proudly. They never talked down to their audience, and while leaving the door open just in case of a last minute stay of execution, they gave a satisfying season ender to their fans.

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Survivor’s Coach: Tall Tales or Truth?

In the words of fellow Survivor Erinn, who is this jackass?

Benjamin Wade, who prefers to be called Coach or more recently The Dragon Slayer, joins the list of some of the oddest people ever to play the game of Survivor, ranking right up there with liar Johnny Fairplay, nudist/tax evader Richard Hatch and lovable pirate Rupert Boneham.

Fairplay became one of the most hated players in the history of the show after setting up his fellow players by making them believe his beloved grandmother had died while he was on the show. Grandma, of course, was alive and kickin’. While we might forgive a little fudging when it comes to playing the game, there’s a limit to our tolerance for fabricators.

With his samurai hair style, tribal tats and self-aggrandizing stories, Coach has become the celebrity du jour of the water cooler set. He says he is the only person in America to have been taught some obscure Chinese martial arts, but it just looks like your basic Tai chi to me.

CBS even devoted a “Best of Coach” Web page on some of the man’s more outrageous antics.

But is this guy for real? Well, some of his claims check out, others don’t. He is a conductor for the Susanville Symphony and was a coach for the girl’s soccer team at the tiny Southwest Baptist University in Missouri, but is he the direct descendant of Pocahontas? Here’s the Top-Five Coach stories, including the most outrageous about overcoming a deadly pygmy attack during a kayaking trip down the Amazon. Feel free to add your own.

5. On a Web site devoted to Coach and his indie film producer brother Pete, they tell the story of the time Coach met Tom Hanks at a party and told him all about his kayaking exploits. Those exploits were incorporated into Hank’s 2000 film Cast Away. Allegedly. Maybe. No word from Hanks about that. But we do know that Cast Away fed into the development of Lost, so maybe Coach is also responsible for the hit ABC series. And we expect to hear soon about how he created the Internet.

4. Coach asks Erinn to put a black raven’s feather in his hair to honor his indigenous peoples heritage.”Very proud of that part of the family,” he confides in Erinn before telling her that when he was a surfer, his hair was blond so he didn’t “look like an Indian so much.” A bio on the aforementioned Web site claims Coach is a direct descendent of Pocahontas. We’re still researching that one. But we do know that his maternal grandfather founded a successful SoCal company called California Jig Grinding, which probably gave him the financial wherewithal to do some traveling.

3. Coach claims he set the world record (6,000 plus miles) for kayaking when he took his trip that included the famous Amazon adventure. Jeff Moag, editor of Canoe & Kayak magazine says “I can’t confirm whehter he paddled 6,000 miles solo or even if there are small cannibalistic people in Peru, although I doubt it. I can tell you that Paul Caffyn kayaked more than 9,000 miles in 1980 and 1981. So, no record.”

2. Coach gets his moniker from coaching soccer and most recently was the head socer coach for Southwest Baptist University. That was before Mr. Honesty lead the team to believe that he needed to leave them during their season for cancer tests. Coach had earlier been treated for a brain tumor. He says they jumped to the conclusion that was why he was leaving, because he couldn’t tell them it was to go film Survivor. The university was not happy when they discovered the truth, and booted Coach.

1. “Three people in the world know this story,” Coach says as the tribe gathers around the campfire. A military helicopter drops him off near the Peruvian border. Now, we’d believe he could contract someone to do this. It’s done all the time. But the military? Even with his claim of being able to pull some strings, it’s hard to imagine or swallow that your tax dollars go towards dropping Coach off for a fun trip down the Amazon. Was it karma that lead him to be snatched by pygmies, who beat him until he miraculously escaped their clutches? “It’s hard to explain the feeling of being stalked by another human being,” he says. Or the feeling of swallowing another Coach story.

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Big Bang Just the Tip of the Geek-berg

The Big Bang Theory set is just like walking into your favorite comic book store, jam packed with little toys and geeky guys.

Really funny geeky guys.

Each week, viewers tune in to one of the top two comedies on the air,
The Big Bang Theory
. They chuckle at the scary smart antics of roommates Leonard and Sheldon and their geek squad Howard, the nerd who’s always trying to score with the ladies and Raj, who turns mute around women.

Jim Parsons plays the anti-social obsessive-compulsive Sheldon, who is tolerated by his friends, and his sweet roommate Leonard. Sheldon’s a character who could be widely hated because of his abrasiveness. Instead, Parsons makes him sort of loveable, although you’d never want him to be your friend.

“I just want to say that no one ever says they are just like Sheldon. Everyone knows someone just like Sheldon,” the droll Parson says. “(They’ll say) I’m the Leonard of the group. I will even go with Howard, but no one ever claims to be just like Sheldon. And neither do I.”

As Johnny Galecki, who plays Leonard, quips “The math on that just doesn’t work.”

Geeks and nerd list have been widely circulated, especially in the last few years. You’ve always got the perennial favorites like Steve Urkel, Screech, Barney Fife and even Velma Dinkley.

But that’s only the tip of the geek-berg. Try a few of these current TV characters:

10. Landry Clarke (Jesse Plemons),
Friday Night Lights
> – The first season started with Landry and his best friend Matt Saracen as outcasts. While making the team may have boosted them a bit, Landry’s still the geeky guy trying to get the girl.

9. Liz Lemon (Tina Fey), 30 Rock – Liz lacks many of the social skills that define her as a geek. She’s a self-proclaimed nerd, who thought that people in high school disliked her because of it. Turned out that didn’t like her because she used her wit like nunchucks. And she’s obsessed with Star Wars. Enough said.

8. Lisa Simpson (Yeardley Smith) The Simpsons – Intelligent, plays the sax in the school band and is a vegetarian. If that’s not enough to tip you off, she also wears the same clothes year after year.

7. Larry Fleinhardt (Peter MacNicol) Numb3rs – Peter MacNicol excels at playing nerds, including his stint on Ally McBeal. But this is the ultimate geek role as the Cal Tech genius professor Larry, who is beyond awkward in any given social situation. Larry, like Leonard, wants more out of life than just the insular existence of your average nerd. So he has branched out by actually getting the pretty woman, at least for a short time, and becoming an astronaut (which allowed the actor to takes some time off for a role on 24).

6. Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness)
Criminal Minds
– She dropped out of Cal Tech (which is code for all things geeky and nerdy) to become a computer hacker (again, a career that screams g and n). She’s into massively multiplayer online role-playing game, or MOORPG, and works as an online crime analyst for the FBI.

5. Daniel Faraday (Jeremy Davies) Lost – This time traveling genius professor also has a problem with his social and interpersonal skills. Like, experimenting on a human, albeit willing, that resulted in tossing her into a coma. The professor has mommy issues and can’t quite connect with people, although he seems to want to give it a go.

4. Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette)
– Goth girl often sleeps in a coffin, is covered in tats, yet she’s as sweet and good-natured as Pollyanna. And she’s also awesome in her job as a forensic scientist with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

3. Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi)
– He’s the leader of the Nerd Herd, a guy set up by a former friend that resulted in getting Chuck expelled from Stanford. Stuck in what seems to be a dead-end job, his brain becomes a hot commodity after critical information is downloaded into his brain. Chuck’s smart,adorable and the ultimate geek.

2. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) Bones – Even beautiful women can be nerds, as proven by lovely forensic anthropologist known as Bones or Tempe. She doesn’t understand most pop culture references and is hyper rational. She sees relationships with the opposite sex as pleasurable experiences that don’t really need to be any more than that. Although intensely loyal to her friends, she tries to maintain a certain distance from humans in general.

1. Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka)
– Hiro is the geek’s geek, the ultimate nerd. He lives the life of a comic book hero, believing that good overcomes evil, and that he’s the Luke Skywalker of his generation.

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Geroge Clooney back in ER March 12

NBC won’t be saving George Clooney for last.
While no one is saying the C-word exactly, word has leaked out that Julianna Margulies will be making her appearance on the March 12 episode of “ER” with guest star Susan Sarandon. And where Margulies goes, her TV husband Dr. Doug Ross, played by Clooney, is sure to follow.
Clooney, the box office success story for “ER,” has been the subject of much speculation since the announcement that most of the original cast would return at some point this season.
Clooney was the big draw, with co-star Anthony Edward saying he thought Clooney would be crazy not to come back and do it because he had so much fun returning for his guest spot last fall. Edwards proved a tricky puzzle, given the fact that his character had died.
Producer John Wells has said that if he could come up with a story that “made sense,” then Clooney would probably come back. Then it was widely reported last month that Clooney had been seen filming an episode of “ER.”
The only question remaining was when the episode would run. That has been answered with the scheduling of this episode. The story centers on Surandon’s character, a grandmother with a tough spirit trying to cope with her grandson’s untimely death. There’s little information about how Margulies’ character, nurse Carol Hathaway, is involved in the case other than the fact that she will be featured in the episode.
Producers say the stories will be heating up in the march towards the series finale on April 2.

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Welcome to Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse

Imagine a world where there is no past and no future, where every day is different and exciting.

And all you have to give up is your memory, and perhaps a bit of your soul.

In the world of Dollhouse, beautiful people are rented out like boogie boards at a tropical resort and the tourists use them and move on. These blank boards get imprinted with your exact specifications for your unique needs and desires from a crack kidnapping specialist to the perfect girlfriend – then get wiped clean after the adventure ends, ready for their next assignment.

In between, these child-like creatures live in a carefully crafted environment, a lovely underground abode decorated in a heavily Asian influence of dark woods, fountains, koi ponds, spas, exercise rooms and a sleep room that whispers mindless calm.

“It’s supposed to feel organic, free and open. A zen loveliness,” Dollhouse creator
Joss Whedon
says as he gives a tour of the set. “You know, I read Shogun when I was 13 and never got over it. I’ve always loved that Asian influence.”

But looking down on this tranquil world is the sinister corporation overseeing the dolls. It’s a theme we’ve seen often from Whedon, who gained fame with Buffy, the Vampire Slayer before spinning off the vamp hit Angel, which had similar tones of corporate baddies.

Just looking at the lavish set, which cost close to a $1 million, makes you believe that Fox would never put this kind of money into a project without a substantial commitment to make it a success. But then, we remember the incredible space ship Serenity, built for Whedon’s last Fox series Firefly.

Only 11 of the 14 episodes produced for that series ever saw the light of TV tube, and not only ruined Whedon’s friendship with former production collaborator Gail Berman, who was then the head of Fox entertainment, but also made him shy away from doing any more TV series.

Initially, Whedon agreed to write the Dollhouse pilot plus six more episodes, but that quickly turned into a 13-episode order from Fox.

“At first I thought, great, I’ll make seven and then go on with my life, making movies again, but then it started tumbling over itself,” Whedon explains. “There was something completely organic about this experience, from that meeting with Eliza, and then my wife saying it sounded like a neat thing. I’m dealing with new people, and it just feels right.”

Although he did pause when he learned Dollhouse had been shifted from Monday nights to Friday – the ratings death zone where Firefly once was slotted.

“I’d had a bad experience on Friday. You might have heard about it,” says Whedon. “But I knew that was sort of just an instinctive reaction to something that had happened before. (Fox) made it very clear that this was a different agenda. They weren’t looking to stick us on a Friday, not promote us, and then expect us to be a huge hit instantly.”

Fox hopes that by pairing Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles with Dollhouse, the two sci fi shows starring strong sexy women will bring in the Friday night crowd.

Eliza Dushku, who played the anti-Buffy vamp slayer Faith on Buffy stars as Echo, a woman who made a mistake and now must pay for it by becoming one of the so-called Actives in the Dollhouse. But while most of the dolls have no knowledge of their former lives, Echo is starting to retain some memories after getting her memory wiped.

She’s assigned engagements by the mysterious and all-powerful Adelle (Olivia Williams) and has a handler named Boyd (Harry Lennix). Boyd is only slightly more moral than the science genius Topher (Fran Kranz), who imprints and wipes the actives. Former Angel co-star Amy Acker plays a physically and emotionally damaged scientist also working with the Actives, which include Sierra (Dichen Lachman), the closest thing to a friend Echo has in the house.

Meanwhile, FBI agent Paul, played by Battlestar Galactica’s Tahmon Penikett, tries to track down the Dollhouse operation to find Caroline – the woman who is now Echo.

The genesis of the story came from a lunch meeting between Dushku and Whedon.

“I literally just came up with the idea based on our conversation about her as an actress,” Whedon says of her ability to play so many different characters. “And she said that people expect her to be a certain thing, and I went, wait a minute. That’s the show.”

Every episode of Dollhouse is self-contained so anyone can drop in and enjoy the show, but there’s an underlying mythology to keep regular viewers hooked.

“There’s an engagement, a resolution and the arc story of Echo’s burgeoning awareness and the people around her,” Whedon says. “It’s sort of La Femme Nikita, but she won’t be killing people as often or as well, but that influence is certainly there. I have actually described this show as Alias meets Quantum Leap, where she gets into people’s lives and helps them and you never know from episode to episode what the tone is going to be.”

While Echo may be the almost perfect avatar, the emphasis going forward will be on the “almost.”

“Echo has glitches and flaws,” Dushku says. “She’s absolutely glitching and starting to become self-aware and the memory wipes aren’t entirely working.”

Whedon says viewers will get a lot of payoff this season. Paul will be hunting the illicit operation and won’t always be one step behind them.

“Every now and then, he’s going to come up against them in a rather abrupt fashion,” Whedon says. “He’s not going to be the reporter in The Hulk, always five feet behind.”

It’s been a while since Fox had a Friday night hit, back when The X-Files ruled the night, but the one-two distaff punch might be just the ticket to draw viewers.

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Spending Time on Mentalist Set with Simon Baker

Simon Baker‘s smiling a lot these days.

On the Warner Bros. set of The Mentalist, Baker’s relaxed and comfortable talking to the small group of reporters gathered on his home turf. It’s quite a departure from a few years ago, when Baker starred in another CBS drama The Guardian. Then, he came across as resentful and angry, much like the repressed and depressed character he played.

“(The Guardian) was a harder show emotionally, playing such a depressed character did rub off on me,” Baker says in his native Aussie accent. “I never thought I’d be the kind of actor who would be affected by the role that I’m playing, but playing it day in and day out, it does, yeah. But (Patrick Jane) is such a fun character.”

Baker says The Mentalist is all about entertainment.

“When I was doing The Guardian, I wanted to act and move people and move the world,” says Baker, 39, before breaking into a grin. “I was young.”

In the crime drama, Baker plays Patrick Jane, a man who used his powers of observation to become a celebrity psychic. When his wife and child are brutally murdered by a serial killer, he starts working with a special statewide police unit to solve crimes. While he deals with the devastating aftermath of that act and solves brutal crimes each week, there’s a playful spirit in both Jane and the show in general.

But the spector of the killer known as Red John is always there, and viewers learned recently that Jane spent time in a mental institution following the death of his family.

Creator/producer Bruno Heller says the show will stick to solving the crime of the week more than concentrating on that storyline.

“We won’t be going back to the institution much. With Red John, that’s always part of his journey, but we’ll go there sparingly,” Heller says.

The simple gray set looks like a basic office, except one wall filled with gruesome shots of a murder victim. Oddly enough, the office of Teresa Lisbon, Jane’s boss played by Robin Tunney, has not one but two doors. And in the break room, there’s an odd assortment of ads on the bulletin board including a cute picture of a horse for sale.

But the main draw on this set is the star of the show, Baker. He’s wearing gray herringbone jacket and a rumpled blue button-up shirt that looks like it’s never met an iron. On anyone else, you’d think Columbo. On Baker, he’s more dreamy, slightly eccentric, college professor with a killer smile.

“Most people under scrutiny don’t expect a policeman to be candid, genial and relaxed. If you are in a bad mood, and someone smiles at you, it’s infectious, and it can be a way to disarm a person,” Baker says. “I play around with that (as Jane).”

One of the charming aspects of the show is the easy relationships between the characters, which include Owain Yeoman as Det. Wayne Rigsby, Amanda Righetti as Det. Grace Van Pelt and Tim Kang as Det. Kimball Cho. And then there’s that sizzling connection between Jane and Lisbon.

“Some of it can be attributed to workplace banter. Also, at times it can be paternal and maternal and sometimes almost like siblings,” Baker says. “But I think my character is flirtatious just in general, so (the relationship) works on a lot of levels.”

As for Jane having something dark and twisty in his soul, Baker says dark doesn’t quite describe it.

“It’s just a painful place,” Baker says. “A sad, sorrowful place.”

And a vulnerable place that makes his character all the more intriguing, especially to woman eager to help him heal.

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Simon Baker and the Cute Crime Solver Crowd

For a tragic figure, Patrick Jane wields a wicked sense of humor.

It’s not just the dialogue on the CBS sleuth show The Mentalist, although that can be very funny at times. It’s more than just the snappy comeback lines, or the ironic observances that makes the character of Jane, played by the ubersexy Simon Baker, one of the most attractive characters on TV. Baker’s tousled blond hair and sly grin make him easy to love, but that sense of humor makes Jane irresistible.

Out in the real world, viewers live with financial uncertainty and professional perils, so spending some time with a cute crime-solver with a sense of humor seems like just the ticket out of dismal town.

And the ratings would seem to agree.

The Mentalist is the top rated new show of the season, making a regular spot for itself in the Nielsen top-10 shows. Crime shows have shoved their way into most of the top TV spots, especially if you stretch that definition to include Desperate Housewives, which always includes some murder mystery of the season.

CSI and even NCIS have passed ABC’s hit Dancing with the Stars in the ratings. The Mentalist consistently remains the highest rated new show of the season, running neck-and-neck with DWTS result show.

While The Mentalist ranks as our No. 1 crime-solver series featuring cute guys with a sense of humor, here, in descending order, are the shows that round out our top-10 list.

9. In Plain Sight – While the main character in this USA series about the witness protection program is a non-nonsense Marshal Mary, half the reason why we like it is her partner, Marshal Marshall (Fred Weller), the quick-witted, slightly goofy guy whose mind is a junkyard of facts.

8. Psych – In this USA series, you get not one but two cute young crime-solvers, Shawn (James Roday) and his buddy Gus (Dule Hill). While both The Mentalist and this series feature a guy using his amazing powers of observation to solve crime, this is a lightweight version. Shawn’s humor may lack sophistication (“Wow Dad. Tell me you’re wearing that shirt because someone has to spot you from space”), but he’s always good for a chuckle.

7. Life – If sardonic, dark humor is your thing, then you’ve got to love Life’s Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis).

6. NCIS – “What’s your clearance?” demands a military cop when Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) arrives on the scene. “About 6’1,” he replies. “Why? Do you have low ceilings?” Yep, that’s DiNozzo. Always quick with the quip, and a face that could make him a mint as a model.

5. Life on Mars – Cop Sam Tyler (Jason O’Mara) mysteriously gets knocked back in time after he’s hit by a car, so most of his humor centers on living in a time not his own. And he’s pretty good with the physical humor.

4. Bones – Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) loves making stupid jokes, but mining the humor in this series about solving gruesome deaths has made this Fox series a popular viewer choice. And did we mention how cute Boreanaz is?

– Who is our favorite hunk who fights crime throughout the universe and still has time to bring some humor into it all? Gotta be Capt. Jack (John Barrowman).

– Talk about stretching the crime show genre, but how can we pass up this season’s sexiest wise guy Peter(Joshua Jackson)? And he’s never better than when interacting with his crazy scientist dad Walter (John Noble). Hey, crimes are somewhat solved in the compelling Fox show.

1. And coming in at practically a dead heat to Patrick Jane is the
Burn Notice
boys Michael (Jeffrey Donovan), a former spy who now solves crimes as a P.I. and his buddy in crime-solving (Bruce Campbell), whose line “You know spies…bunch of bitchy little girls” is so good, it holds up repeatedly in the opening credits.

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Will Ferrell Talks George Bush, Eastbound & Down

Will Ferrell’s looking distinctly unpresidential in his 2009 New Year glitter glasses and flap hat.

The 41-year-old Saturday Night Live alum insists the glasses are prescription and he’ll be wearing them until he needs a new pair.

If anyone else went on this riff, you’d probably be yawning or checking out the latest iPhone app until it stopped. Ferrell not only makes it work, he also gets some solid laughs out of a room full of TV critics gathered to hear Ferrell, Adam McKay and
Danny McBride
talk about their new HBO deal.

Ferrell’s Broadway show, You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush, airs live on HBO on March 14. He’s also producing and guest starring in the HBO series, Eastbound & Down starring McBride (Pineapple Express ). And Ferrell and McBride team up in the upcoming feature film, Land of the Lost.

Ferrell’s first trip to Broadway has been a roaring success, and he caps off his run in March with the live performance of his show. Ferrell says it felt right to go live with the show after so many years of doing Bush on SNL.

Ferrell was first approached by Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels to play Bush when the Texas governor first started his presidential campaign. Ferrell said he agreed mainly because he never thought the gig would last more than a couple of months at best.

“(I thought) he probably won’t win,” Ferrell says.

Instead, Bush was voted into office not once, but twice.

“He just kept kind of gaining momentum in terms of his comedic persona (after he became president),” Ferrell says. “There’s been an incredible combination of some insane news events that he’s had to deal with and obvkously some poor decisions on his part. (Combining that) with his type of personality and the fact that he can’t speak properly makes for a wonderful kind of comedic stew.”

And a thick, rich stew it is. Ferrell latched on to Bush’s funky language skills, and brought the term “strategery” into the lexicon.

Ferrell says the beauty of the Bush Admininstration was tht it never lacked in comedic material from the very beginning of Bush’s bid for the White House


Bush appeared on SNLduring his first campaign in 2000 after Ferrell had already started his Bush gig. Ferrell was told that Bush and his staff were huge fans of his and Bush would love to meet him.

So he hurried down to the studio to meet the man who would become the president of the United States. Photographers pushed Ferrell into this circle of cameras and people and told him to say “Hi” to Bush.

As cameras clicked away, Ferrell nervously went up and thanked the Texas governor for doing the show.

“And I could just tell he had no idea who I was,” Ferrell says.

After more than eight years, Bush probably knows who Ferrell is now, and that he helped an already promising comic explode.

Ferrell says his favorite SNL Bush skit was “Palm Beach Nights,” written by McKay.

“It was about the vote recount,” Ferrell says. “And the final beat was George Bush playing with a cat toy on the sofa like a cat.”

Ah, good times.

But Ferrell isn’t just resting on his Bush laurels. He’s also producing McBride’s new HBO series, Eastbound & Down and makes a cameo appearance when it debuts at 10:30 p.m. Feb. 15. The comedy series tells the tragic tale of Kenny Powers (McBride), a disgraced former major league pitcher whose bad boy stunts got him kicked out of the bigs. After years of a downward spiral, where he’s lost all his money and torched all his bridges, he’s back in his small town childhood home trying to squeeze the last drop out of his former celebrity status.

He’s at the bottom of the social rung, teaching physical education at his old middle school in North Carolina.

In the series, Powers is given many opportunities to redeem himself.

“He’s in the moment, but he always chooses the path that will lead him further down,” co-star Ben Best, who also serves as a writer/producer on the show, says. “In each episode, he’s thinking this is the lowest a man can get. And then you’ll see it’s like, wait, this is the loest a man can get. And that will just continue.”

You can see where that kind of story would appeal to Ferrell after almost nine years of playing Bush.

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