NBC: Help is on the way

I'm writing some quick stories at the Television Critics Association sessions and putting them here, after I send them to papers. The previous story -- see previouys blog -- had "The Real L Word" people talking about nudity in Sunday's show (Aug. 1); here's a newsy overview of NBC:

sorta-makeshift line-up fails this fall, don't worry. There are more
shows – plenty of them – ready for mid-season.

A year ago, the network was preparing
to launch Jay Leno across five nights of prime time. It was a huge
task for a fourth-place network. “We made too many changes, too
quickly, from a point of weakness,” said Jeff Gaspin, chairman of
TV entertainment for NBC and Universal.

Soon, NBC was scrambling to fill holes.
“We're trying to rebuild,” Gaspin said.

They're doing that with quantity. The
network has drawn some early buzz for “The Event,” a complex
thriller from “Alias” producer J.J. Abrams; other shows, however,
have drawn shrugs.

Still, there are many waiting for
mid-season. They include:

– “Parks and Recreation,” now
with Rob Lowe as a regular, in his role as an intense state auditor.

– Two more situation comedies,
“Friends With Benefits” and a Paul Reiser show.

– “Love Bites,” an hour-long show
mixing several short comedy bits in the fashion of the old “Love,
American Style.” It was originally set for September, then delayed.

– Two dramas. “The Cape” is an
action-hero show. “Harry's Law” has David E. Kelley returning to
lawyer shows, as he did with “L.A. Law,” “Ally McBeal” and
“The Practice.” The “Harry” (actually, Harriet) is played by
Kathy Bates, who is also returning to “The Office.”

There are more shows on the way for
later, including a key one. Producer-director Peter Berg (“Friday
Night Lights”) and writer Alex Cunningham are adapting the British
hit “Prime Suspect.”

The original had Helen Mirren as the
first woman to lead a police homicide unit. That isn't unique now,
said Angela Bromstad, head of primetime programming, “but it's
still a very male-oriented field.”

Bromstad also announced that “Friday
Night Lights” will have a live episode Oct. 14 and two shows will
get early starts after the final “America's Got Talent” episodes
– “Parenthood on Sept. 14 and “Outlaw” (Jimmy Smits' new
court drama) on Sept. 15.

The next night, “The Apprentice”
will have a two-hour season-opener. After that, it gets the 10 p.m.
Thursday spot originally given to “Love Bites.”


An "epic" hour of nudity and such

Here's a story that I just sent to papers and I wanted to put here right away, because of the time factor. Much of it involves a pay-cable hour that debuts at 10 p.m. this Sunday (Aug. 1), then reruns often:


The women in “The Real L Word” want
to assure us of something:

Yes, their real lives include sex and
nudity – even when their reality show doesn't. And now the show
will start to catch up.

“I think Episode 7 is going to make
up for the entire 1-through-6 in not having that shock value ….
It's epic,” Rose Garcia said.

That's the hour that debuts at 10 p.m.
Sunday on Showtime, then reruns eight times in the next week. “If
you have not watched anything, this would be the one,” Nikki Weiss

The show has drawn praise for depicting
the warmth in the lives of six Los Angeles lesbians. “I hope you
see the love and chemistry that my fiancee (Jill Goldstein) and I
have,” Weiss said.

But unlike the fictional show (“The L
Word”) that preceded it, this one has been quite chaste.

“It takes a certain type of … bold
person to allow” sex and nudity on-camera, said producer Jane
Lipsitz. “We just documented as it happened. And it just landed as
this particular episode.”

One of the boldest people is Whitney
Mixter. “I'm very sex-positive, comfortable with my body,” she
said. “And I think it's time for women to really own that. (It)
increases in the next three episodes.”

In the first six, Mixter has had a busy
romantic life. “She's the Fonz,” Weiss said.

Tracy Ryerson agreed: Mixter has the
qualities of Fonzie, the “Happy Days” character who attracted
women instantly. “She walks in the room; she's magnetic.”

Accenting that is the fact that when
the show started, the others were in long-time relationships. Mixter
wasn't and stirred things up, sometimes by accident.

“I'm fun with the girls,” she said.
“I think that caused me to get in some sticky situations and that
is what you will see for the next three episodes. Things really work
up to a peak and kind of stay there.”

More often, viewers have seen
stability. “My entire family has been accepting,” Garcia said. “I
have a Puerto Rican, Catholic background, so it's very unheard of …
to accept a gay family member.”

There are occasional exceptions; Weiss
said she hasn't spoken to her father in 10 years. Mostly, however,
the women said they've been greeted warmly by most people –
including those whom they hadn't previously told about their

“I've encountered just a tremendous
amount of support,” Goldstein said. “It very quickly pointed out
that any fears … about how people would react were my own.”

– “The Real L Word”

– 10 p.m. Sundays, pay-cable
Showtime. The Aug. 1 episode is the seventh of nine; the network
hasn't decided whether to have another season.

– That episode reruns at 11 p.m.
Sunday; 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. Monday; and 10 p.m. Tuesday. Also,
Thursday night at midnight, Friday night at 9 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.;
Aug. 8, at 8 p.m.



Life's good in Hollywood

OK, I'm in Hollywood now, catching the semi-annual Television Critics Association sessions. I'll tell you more about them soon, now that some computer problems are fixed up. In general:

1) I almost got run over by Clint Eastwood in a golf cart. That would have been cool.

2) I'm very fond of everything related to the Chuck Lorre comedies on CBS. "The Big Bang Theory" and the people involved are a delight, but the new "Mike and Molly" is also easy to like.

3) I'm less fond of CBS' "Hawaii Five-0" remake. The first hour, at least, doesn't capture the blue-sky feel of the island.

4) Stopping into one movie theater, I was rather astonished to see Anjelina Jolie leap from bridges, land on moving trucks and barely get bumped. I hope some stunt people were involved.

5) Her movie, "Salt," is actually quite entertaining, despite its absurd stretches of credibility.

6) Also, I saw two upcoming Roadrunner shores. Wile E. Coyote still has his troubles, but now they happen in 3-D.

7) Speaking of 3-D, it really is pretty impressive when King Kong AND dinosaurs attack the tram ride at Universal Studios.

8) I'm surprised to hear that Steve McPherson is leaving as ABC's programming chief; he's done a good job overall. One rumor has him replaced by Paul Lee, who has done a superb job at ABC Family.

9) I missed half of "So You Think You Can Dance" on Wednesday, but I was lucky enough to catch the duet with Billy Bell and Ade. It was brilliantly choreographed and performed.

10) If I had to guess, I'd say Jose Ruiz and Robert Roldan will be going home tonight. Like the other four remaining dancers, they're wonderfully talented.


What? Nothing happened?

Watching this week's "So You Think You Can Dance," we were tempted to feel cheated. What? Nothing happened? At the end of the week, the judges decided not to decide. Instead, they'll oust two people next week.

Nothing happened -- other than making an impression on viewers and judges for the next weeks. Still, this is kind of understandable; the judges had no solution; their only options were to dump:

1) Billy Bell, who sat out this week after an injury. But that would have been the third straight week with an injury-ouster, a dull trend. Besides, Billy took himself out this week; doctors gave him permission to dance, but he decided not to take the risk. That had never happened before; ousting him would send a message that dancers must take a risk, even when common sense says no.

2) Robert Roldan. But they've spent the past two weeks telling viewers that he's a strong and underrated dancer.

3) Jose Ruiz. But for the second straight week, he put together a truly spectacular solo. I usually complain about the stupid 30-second limit; Jose stuffed it with 30 minutes of great moves.

So they paused and waited a week. It was kind of a no-win (and, for the dancers, no-lose) week. A few comments; please add yours:

a) Cat Deeley was back to normal tonight, after the disastrous dress (or something) she wore Wednesday. It's hard to make her look bad; sometimes, the show manages to do this.

b) The American Ballet Theatre number reminded us why we prefer nowadays dance. These two dancers were, I assume, making all the right classical moves. The result was still stiff and cold and uninvolving. I'm sure that classical ballet is a great preparation for contemporary dancing -- just as classical violinists turn into great Irish fiddlers. I'll wait until they transform.

c) Next week's shows -- Wednesday and Thursday -- should be good: Six great dancers and two of them must go; this time, the judges wouldn't dare do nothing.







Choreography: It's just not fair

On "So You Think You Can Dance," choreographers can give and take away. They can serve up one piece that makes a dancer seem dynamic ... and another that makes him seem blank.

Sonya Tayek did both tonight. The loser was Jose Ruiz, who was given a piece that was set entirely on the edge of the stage. "I find it very difficult to criticize your dancing," one judge (Adam Shankman) told him afterward. That may be because Jose never really got to dance; it was a stylish piece, but this high-energy guy was rarely given a chance to move.

Then Tayek gave the exact opposite kind of piece to Kent Boyd. It was big and splashy, filled with chances to show off. The piece for Jose may have been fresh and artistic and original ... but it won't get people to rush to their phones; the piece for Kent will.

Here are a few of my other comments. Please add yours:

1) Jose had bad luck all-around. For his other duet, he and Adechike Torbert did a piece that devoted a chunk of its time to cape-waving. Hey, will someone just let the kids dance?

2) Fortunately, Adechike's other number was a great showpiece, a richly emotional one choreographed by Napoleon and Tabitha. Anything done to Alicia Keys' "Falling" is going to be impressive; this one went beyond that.

3) Asked to do some stepping, Kent Boyd grabbed his crotch a lot. It was an OK effort; back home in rural Ohio, I'm guessing, Kent doesn't get many chances to do African-American traditions.

4) Robert Roldan offered the week's understatement: "Lauren's really hot." Verifying this was some footage of Lauren Froderman reading to an elementary-school class. When I was at Dellwood Elementary School, the student teacher never wore short-shorts.

5) Speaking of clothes, someone seems to have flung a red cloth randomly over whatever Cat Deeley was wearing. It might have even been on purpose, but I hope not.

6) The testimonials by parents were useless. It's good to have pieces about the dancers' roots; in this case, however, each parent did little more than deliver a campaign pitch.

7) That left Billy Bell out. Since he didn't dance this week (due to injury), he didn't get a parental puff piece. Life, I may have mentioned earlier, isn't fair.

8) Yes, another injury, the third in three weeks. On Thursday, Billy automatically goes to the bottom three.

9) The judges will be very tempted to NOT oust Billy on Thursday. That would make it three straight weeks of ousting the injured person, a boring trend. Still, it would be fair: I really think Billy would have been ousted in one of the previous two weeks, if there hadn't been the injuries.

10) My prediction? Jose and Robert join Billy in the bottom three. The judges reluctantly send Jose home. Or not.