"Desperate Housewives" starts its final lap

"Desperate Housewives" has done wonders for ABC and for TV viewers, bringing fresh style to a tired landscape. Today, it confirmed that this is its final season; here's the story I sent to papers:


For “Desperate Housewives,” the
farewell phase is beginning.

“The only thing harder than creating
a hit series is knowing when to end it,” Marc Cherry said.

Now he's decided. On Friday, Cherry –
the show's creator and producer – called cast members, to tell them
that the upcoming season will be the last; on Sunday, he made it
official. “I want to go out in the classiest way possible,” he
told the Television Critics Association.

Paul Lee, the ABC programming chief,
called the upcoming season “a victory lap” for the series. ABC
will have had an exit strategy for the two shows that revived it.

Within 11 days of each other in 2004,
“Lost” and “Desperate” debuted, bringing buzz to a low-buzz
network. A half-year later, “Grey's Anatomy” joined them.

For “Lost,” the problem was a
sprawling story line that needed an end date; its finale was set
three years in advance. “Desperate” had a familiar problem for a
long-running show: Salary costs increased, ratings dipped slightly
and the stars' contracts were endIng after the upcoming season.

Lee had asked if he wanted to wrap up
the show, Cherry said. “I was ambivalent.” When he finally
decided, plans for the new season had already been made: Key
details, Cherry said, include:

– Like other years, this will have a
mystery that spans the season. Unlike some years, that won't have to
divert attention from the main characters. It will re-visit the
murder of Mary Alice Young.

– The final episode may tie in many
of the past characters, directly or indirectly.

– There will still only be the usual
23 episodes. “I never want extra episodes.”

– And his attention will be diverted.
This season, he wrote and filmed “Hallelujah,” the pilot for a
series in a small Tennessee town; now Lee is having him rework it,
possibly for next season.

“Hallelujah” will be in the
“Housewives” style – a complex comedy-drama-mystery that builds
an entire community. That's what revived the career of Cherry –
then an out-of-work situation-comedy writer – and the ratings of

It's also the hardest kind of show to
write, Cherry said. “I told (“Housewives” star) Eva Longoria:
'I'm just going to put you in a van and have you solve crimes.'”


"Dance": Yes, reality TV changes lives

To some viewers, reality shows seem
bright and brash and maybe silly. To others, they're life-changing.

Caitlynn Lawson and Ricky Jaime can
attest to the latter. Both were ousted Thursday from “So You Think
You Can Dance,” just missing next week's four-dancer finale.

“We don't even have to go home,”
said Lawson, who will rehearse for the finale and then the tour. “If
you're going to be cut, this is the best time.”

In many ways, they're opposites. She's
small-town, he's big-city … she's jazz, he's contemporary and
ballet … she's from the Northwest, he's from the Southeast. What
they share is the “Dance” impact.

“I'm from such a small town, I never
would have experienced the outside dance world, if it weren't for
this show,” Lawson said.

That's Moses Lake, a town of 20,000 in
the eastern part of Washington. She was 3 when she started dance
classes. “When you're little, you start dancing because your mom
put you in class.”

As she was nearing her teens, “Dance”
debuted in 2005. Its contestants became her heroes.

For Jaime, “Dance” revived his
interest. Jeanine Mason, his friend and dance partner, was the show's
2009 champion. “I thought, 'Well, Jeanine did it ...'”

Both grew up in Miami, where he became
a fan of Jennifer Lopez, the Backstreet Boys and more. “My mom
would enter me in soccer or baseball …. I said, 'Mom, I'm a dancer.
I'm not going to kick a ball.'”

So he danced at 10 and Mason pointed
him toward a dance school when he was 12. He stopped for a couple
years after the family moved to Tampa, but returned to it at 17,
about the time that she won.

Now he's intense. Jaime hopes to get a
Los Angeles apartment with “Dance” contestant Clarice Ordaz (his
platonic friend; “she has a boyfriend, unfortunately”) and look
for work.

Lawson already has an LA apartment and
supportive parents. Her dad, who works for Exxon Mobil, returned from
a month in Turkey. “He kept saying, 'Make it into the top six so I
can see you again.'”

She did. On Wednesday, he saw her samba
and do a fiercely sensual jazz piece. On Thursday, he saw her ousted;
next week, he'll see her back in the finale – far from the world
one expects in Moses Lake.

– “So You Think You Can Dance”

– Finale is 8-10 p.m. Wednesday and
Thursday, Fox

– Final contestants are Melanie
Moore, Sasha Mallory, Marko Garmar and Tadd Gadduang

Fox: Big shows and (still) some problems

This is a busy time, as TV people meet with the Television Critics Association. Here's the story I sent to papers about Fox; previous blogs look at other networks, with ABC still coming:


Nestled at the top of the Nielsen
ratings, with two mega-shows debuting next month, the Fox network
probably should be problem-free now.

It isn't, of course. Fox may be facing
the end of “House” and the graduation of key “Glee” kids; it
also is toying with its young-hip reputation, even planning to revive
the “Cosmos” series.

None of that disrupts the network
confidence. “I feel like we're sitting on a hot hand this year,”
Kevin Reilly, the programming chief, told the Television Critics

Some of that involves “Terra Nova,”
a big-budget Steven Spielberg series. “That show is not going to
come on quietly,” Reilly said. Other key pieces this fall include
“The New Girl” – the rare case of a Fox comedy that could click
with critics and audiences – and the American League play-offs.

Still, most of it involves “The X
Factor,” a music competitio with Simon Cowell producing and judging
alongside Nicole Scherzinger, L.A. Reid and Paula Abdul, Cowell's old
“American Idol” colleague. Abdul calls it a return to a
“demented” relationship; Cowell calls it “more like 'The
Exorcist II.'”

And how to the others see it? “L.A.
And I have a front-row seat to 'The Sonny and Cher Show,' Scherzinger
said. Abdul instantly agreed, insisting that Cowell is the Cher in
their duo.

“X Factor” debuts Sept. 21-22 and
has its finale Dec. 21-22, before “Idol” returns. Big ratings are
expected, but there are plenty of other things for Fox to fret about:

– “House,” which is entering the
final year of its deals with many of its actors and with Fox. It
could continue there or jump to another network – including NBC,
which produces the show. Reilly implied, however, that it might
simply end. “My sense is that this is a vibrant series that wants
to go out strong.”

– “Glee,” which detoured last
year with tribute shows (Lady Gaga, Madonna), big guests (Gwyneth
Paltrow) and reports that its top three stars – Lea Michele, Cory
Monteith and Chris Colfer – would see their characters graduate
this year. Reilly said the show will pull back this fall (“no guest
stars, no tributes”), focus on the main characters and have a
mid-season graduation – while revealing whether the grads will
stick around.

– Spin-offs. The “Glee” grads may
or may not get their own series. “Bones” – which took time off
because of the pregnancy of Emily Deschanel – has a mid-season
spin-off, “The Finder.”

– The departure of “America's Most
Wanted,” which had spanned virtually the entire life of Fox. It
will have only quarterly specials, with the Saturday spot going to
reruns, sports and more.

– And a surprising change. “Cosmos”
– the old PBS non-fiction series – will get 13 episodes on Fox in
2013. It will be done by Seth MacFarlane – producer of “Family
Guy” and other cartoons – with the producers who originally with
the late Carl Sagan on the 1980 version. Neil deGrasse Tyson will

“Cosmos” will also air on National
Geographic, which is Fox's sister channel, and may create a movie.
“It really doesn't feel like a natural fit on Fox,” Reilly

Then again, not all Fox shows fit the
young-hip image. “For all of the cool shows we've done,” Reilly
said, “I say God bless 'Bones,.'”


CW: The quantity, at least, is improving

The CW network will give viewers more
quantity next season. The quality part is an ongoing struggle.

“We want to avoid the dark periods,”
said Mark Pedowitz, the new CW president.

Those are the times – including this
summer – when CW has nothing new. It repeats shows – serialized
stories and “America's Next Top Model” – that don't rerun well;
ratings vanish.

The solution is to stretch out the
season at least a tad. Next year, CW will:

– Go slightly beyond its usual
22-episode order. It will have 23 hours for “Supernatural” and
“Nikita,” 24 for “Gossip Girl” and “90210”; only “Vampire
Diaries” preferred to stick to 22.

– Save one major show for mid-season.
The final year of “One Tree Hill” will have 13 episodes.

– Have two reality shows for
mid-season. “Remodeled” might simply be sandwiched between
editions of “America's Next Top Model.” However, “Framed”
requires being on twice a week; Pedowitz said it's a bit like Jim
Carrey's “Truman Show,” with two people on-camera “24/7 for
eight weeks.”

All of this is new for Pedowitz, who
previously ran ABC Studios. A grey-haired man, he might seem miles
from the CW target audience of women 12-34. “Yes, I'm in my 50s,”
he said, “but I have perfect confidence in my staff …. I imagine
what my 26-year-old niece would like to see.”

He's been absorbing the CW shows.
Pedowitz said he's seen all of “Gossip Girl” and is halfway
through “Vampire Diaries” episodes. “You'd be surprised what
you can do when you're exercising.”

In part, he's sticking to familiar
faces. “Hart of Dixie” (big-city doctor in the small-town South)
and “Ringer” (troubled woman assuming her twin's life) star
former teen-TV favorites – Rachel Bilson of “The O.C.” and
Sarah Michelle Gellar from “Buffy.”

Then there's “The Secret Circle,”
about a teen who returns to her late mother's home town, only to
learn she's part of a second-generation group of witches. It stars
Britt Robertson, fresh from “Life Unexpected” for the CW. “I
believe Britt could be a break-out star for us,” Pedowitz said.

Still, he said the network won't get
too arbitrary. It:

– Is open to guys. Pedowitz disputed
the notion that “Supernatural” is in its last season, said he
hopes Tom Welling (“Smallville”) will return to CW and said the
network is pondering other superheroes.

– No longer refuses to consider
comedies. Several new shows on other networks – “2 Broke Girls,”
“The New Girl,” “Apartment 23” – would have thrived on CW,
he said.

– Isn't hung up on having every drama
be serialized. He'd still like to find a show that has a CW feel, but
self-contained stories … thus avoiding that ratings black hole
during reruns.

"Dance": Steamy, sexy and Pillow Pets

TV's best summer show -- yes, that's still "So You Think You Can Dance" -- is nearing to its finale. On Wednesday and Thursday, it trims to its final four. Here's the story I sent to papers, interviewing the dancers just ousted:


Let's agree that Jordan Casanova gave
out mixed signals on “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Her dancing was hot, steamy, sexual.
One judge called her a “naughty, naughty girl.”

And when she's not dancing? On-air,
Casanova said she's an innocent who sleeps with a Pillow Pet.

Really. “I'm holding one right now,”
she said, speaking to reporters by phone, after she was ousted. “I've
gotten the funniest reactions.”

She and Jess LeProtto were ousted. Two
more go this week, leaving four for the Aug. 10-11 finale.

Both ousted contestants are 18; both
say they've wanted to dance for 15 years.

“When I was 3 years old, I started
standing on top of my coffee table, singing to my family and putting
on shows,” sad Casanova, from Chino Hills, Cal. “I begged them to
put me into dancing.”

Her parents tried soccer and baseball
first, then relented. “The moment I set foot in the studio, I was
like, 'OK, this is it.'”

In Little Falls, NJ, LeProtto was going
to dance practice with his older sister. “I just looked under the
door crack and I would just watch her dance,” he said. “And then
I got the bug from there.”

He leaned toward Broadway-style dancing
– once obscure in his generation and now making a comeback. “It's
the beginning of bringing (musicals) back, thanks to shows like
'Glee' and movie musicals … like 'Hairspray' and now 'Footloose.'”

On “Dance,” however, he kept being
handed other styles. “It wasn't a pretty sight – me doing hip hop
for the very first time.”

That style plunked him into the bottom
during one of the first weeks, but he survived with his “dance for
your life” solo. He was never there again until last week. LeProtto
had a strong solo; Tadd Gadduang had a sensational one and survived.

Casanova had been in the bottom several
times, but kept surviving. This time, she was with Caitlynn Lawson;
judges criticized both solos, dumping Casanova.

She seemed to take it in stride.
Casanova leaves with lots of “Dance” memories, including advice
from Lady Gaga. She has the upcoming “Dance” tour, big dreams, a
sexy image and Pillow Pets to cling.

“I was worried about the feedback, ….
because Pillow Pets are like funny and for little kids,” she said.
“Actually, I've gotten a lot of tweets about people wanting to buy
me Pillow Pets as presents.”

– “So You Think You Can Dance,”

– Wednesday, 8-10 p.m.: Performances
by the remaining six dancers – one hip hopper (Tadd Gadduang) and
five jazz or contemporary dancers – Marko Germar, Ricky Jaime,
Sasha Mallory, Melanie Moore and Caitlynn Lawson; then viewers vote.

– Thursday, 8-9 p.m.: Two dancers get
sent home; the others reach the finale