:"Dancing With the Star" has its "all-star "moment

For Kelly Monaco, this was just an odd
summer diversion.

Already busy with “General Hospital,”
she was racing off to do “Dancing With the Stars” in her spare
time. “The cast would tease me about it,” she said. “I was

And tired. “Doing eight hours on
'General Hospital' and then rehearsing eight hours (for 'Stars'),
that was exhausting.”

Rhen the silly summer show caught on:
This fall, its 15th edition will be its first
“all-star”one. It will have previous winners – Monaco, Drew
Lachey, Shawn Johnson, Emmitt Smith, Helio Castroneves, Apolo Anton
Ohno – and others, including Bristol Palin and Melissa Rycroft.

All are part of a show that surprised
people with its ability to soar in the ratings. Monaco, 36, recalls
the first hints:

“When my 'costume malfunction'
happened, the next week the audience went from 13million to 25
million,” she said. “That's when people started to realize, 'Oh
yes, this is really live.'”

The show soon challenged “American
Idol” for the top of the ratings (albeit with lower ratings in the
younger ages advertisers provide) and propelled people to personal
fame. “This was the first time people called me by my own name and
not just by my (soap-opera) character's name,” Monaco said.

Other “all-star” contestants
include Gilles Marini,Pamea Anderson, Kirstie Alley and Joey Fatone.
For the 13th and final candidate, viewers will choose
between Sabrina Bryan, Carson Kressley and Kyle Massey.

Some of the winners received an updated
trophy; Monaco still has the original version. “I like the old,
chintzy one,” she said.

NBC cheers: "We're No. 3"

Here's the story I sent to papers this morning, on NBC and its post-Olympic world:


LOS ANGELES – This is not a statement
you would have heard from NBC a while back:

“We're really happy to be No. 3,”
Robert Greenblatt, the programing chief, told reporters Tuesday.

In the “must-see TV” days, NBC
topped the Nielsen ratings. In the current, needn't-see times, it
spent about seven years in fourth place.

Things perked up when the Super Bowl
led into “The Voice” and “Smash.” At least in the18-49
category (the one cherished by NBC and advertisers), the network
escaped the bottom.

Now comes a new springboard, with the
Olympics starting a 17-day run Friday. It gives NBC a:

– Rare chance to have viewers
actually see promo ads for its new season. Usually, Greenblatt
granted, it's hard to promote because of “the general decline
across the week and the loss of circulation.”

– Comeback chance for “Today,”
which has slipped after16 years of ratings dominance. It will
broadcast from London (the Olympic city), leading into the games at
10 a.m. weekdays.

– Showcase for two comedies, which
will run their pilot films commercial-free during the Olympics.
Matthew Perry's “Go On” runs Aug. 8; “Animal Practice” runs
Aug. 12, complete with veterinarians, dogs, snakes and a monkey in a
suit. “We're looking for stuff that doesn't live in the middle,”
said Jennifer Salke, president of NBC Entertainment.

– Reality show that debuts the day
after the Olympics, just as “The Voice” did after the Super Bowl.
“Stars Earn Stripes” gives military-type demands to such people
as Dean Cain and Terry Crews (former football players), Laila Ali (a
boxer, like her dad), Todd Palin and ski champion Picabo Street.

– Second phase for “America's Got
Talent.” Ratings have been down in this Howard Stern season, NBC's
Paul Telegdy granted, but it's “likely to (be) the No. 1 show this
summer …. We'd be delighted if (Stern) comes back” next season.

– Head start for the fall shows.
Virtually all will begin before the season officially starts in
mid-September, Greenblatt said.

The key question is whether people
will like those new shows. One drama (“Chicago Fire”) is a fairly
standard firefighter show; another (“Revolution”) is a strong
drama about a world with no power sources and little government. The
comedies are big, broad and plentiful, sprawling over three nights.

And “Smash,” the one new NBC show
that critics rave about? It will be back at mid-season.


Well, at least she's an older teen-ager

My first impressions of Demi Lovato and Britney Spears, in their new "X Factor" world? Lovato could be a sharp, zesty force. Spears, I'm not so sure about. And Lovato really needs to get back to her jet-black hair, instead of those silly dye jobs.

All of that is, however, beside the point. Here's the story I sent to papers:


A funny thing happened to Demi Lovato
while she was waiting to be an “American Idol” contestant: She
became a star … and now an “X Factor” judge.

“I was like counting down the years”
until reaching the “Idol” minimum age of 16, she said Monday.

Instead, there were detours – a
Disney deal at 14, cable-movie starring roles (opposite Joe Jonas and
Selena Gomez) at 15 and 16, a Disney Channel series, rehab, a record
deal and now more. “I never thought that at 19 I would be on the
(judging) panel,” she said.

This was once the turf of music
veterans; now “X Factor” hasBritney Spears, 30, and Lovato, 19.

What does Lovato bring to the show?
“I'm listening to what's on the radio now and I know what my
friends like,” she said.

L.A. Reid, 56 – a music-industry
heavyweight (CEO of Epic Records) and an “X Factor” judge –
jumped to her defense. “Demi is so close to the landscape of music

Simon Cowell – the show's producer
and chief judge – praised Spears (“she's a really, really good
judge”) – and showed that he enjoys sparring with the newcomers.

“Demi is a brat, but there's
something likable about her,” said Cowell, 52.

He also offered what is, in his
universe, praise for Spears: “Britney's quite mean.”

Lovato disagreed: “She's tough, not
mean; she's sweet.”

Replied Cowell: “Sweet as a lemon.”

A sour Spears? “I'm just a very
honest person,” she said.

Like Lovato, she said, she's been a
longtime fan of “American Idol” and “X Factor.” She started
seriously thinking about the show when she had the same make-up
person as Cowell. “I've done eight tours,” she said, and this job
“is really different.”

The first season of “X Factor” was
a ratings hit, but didn't match Cowell's lofty expectations. He
dropped half the judging panel (Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger)
and the host (Steve Jones).

When the second season starts this
fall, he said, it will have two hosts, one male and one female.
“Ideally, I'd have someone who hasn't hosted before.”


"Idol" has Mariah, a small-town bus and questions

OK, I'm still not a fan of superstars as judges. Unless they're all Blake Shelton (which would be a good thing), they spend too much time censoring themselves and worrying about what people will think.

Still, I have to admit "American Idol" hit the jackpot with Mariah Carey. Here's the story I sent to papers:


“American Idol” now has its new
superstar judge (Mariah Carey) and its wider net to find stars.
Still, that's no guarantee that it – or Fox – will soar anew in
the ratings.

Kevin Reilly, the Fox program chief,
announced Monday that Carey will be a judge for the show, which
returns in January. Carey – talking ultra-briefly to reporters via
speaker phone – confirmed that.

“I'm so excited to be joining
'Idol,'” she said. “I can't wait to get started.”

Fox also is expanding the “Idol”
search, with details coming to www.americanidol.com:

– A “Small Town Audition Bus Tour”
that will go through 10 towns, mostly in the Heartland – Iowa,
Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Montana and Wyoming – plus Clarksdale,

– The return of Online auditions.

– Adding a new Online factor, in
which other people can nominate someone.

That still leaves questions. Reilly
didn't guarantee that Randy Jackson will be back, but implied that
it's likely. He's Carey's co-manager, he said, and “Randy was very
instrumental in getting the deal.

Earlier in the day, “Idol” producer
Nigel Lythgoe said he isn't positive that he'll be back or that
Jennifer Lopez will be gone. “She said she's 99 percent sure ….
Who says '99 percent.'”

Reilly promptly quashed that. It's “100
percent” that Lopez and Steven Tyler have left “Idol,” he said.

Those two started the trend toward
major music stars bcoming judges. This fall, Reilly insisted, “X
Factor” fans “will be surprised how feisty” Britney Spears is
and will be pleased with Demi Lovato. “She took on Simon (Cowell,
the producer and chief judge) the first day.”

Still, ratings slow as copies,
including NBC's “The Voice,”arrive. On this year's “Idol,”
Reilly said, winner “Phil Phillips went to gold faster than any
artist in the history of the show,” but ratings were down.

For the new season, Fox will anchor
“Glee” firmly behind the “X Factor” and “Idol”results
shows on Thursdays, letting Tuesdays have a strong, four-comedy

Still, “House” is gone, “Glee”
is splitting its stories between Ohio and New York; also, prime
challenger CBS has the Super Bowl. “We may not win the season this
year,” Reilly said. “We've been No. 1 for eight years.”


When the sci-fi world wobbles, just say "huh????"

A terrific show ended its run last week. Fortunately, a good one takes its place.

Gone is "Eureka," an oft-overlooked delight. However, "Warehouse 13" manages to have a similar sense of offbeat whimsy. After exploding its world (literally) at the end of last season, it returns with a dandy episode at 9 p.m. Monday (July 23). Here's the story I sent to papers:


As “Warehouse 13” returns, Eddie
McClintock has an important function.

That can be summed up with one word,
plus punctuation: “Huh????”

The warehouse has artifacts of history
and myth. Its keepers seem to know it all; in the season-opener (an
explosion aftermath), discussion leaps from Magellan to Pandora, from
H.G. Welles to techno-talk.

During this, Pete Lattimer sometimes
stares in awed confusion. McClintock knows the feeling.

“There's a lot of Eddie in Pete,”
he said. “I love history, but the stuff they talk about is pretty

That's the fun of the show. The
warehouse is run by the wise Artie (Saul Rubinek). He hired computer
whiz Claudia (Allison Scagliotti), plus Myka (Joanne Kelly) and Pete.

Those last two are FBI agents, good in
any fight. Myka brings extra skills – “she seems to speak every
language known to man,” McClintock said; Pete reflects the
bewilderment of the viewers.

That's easy for McClintock to do. He's
a bright guy and a science-fiction fan, but other interests took away
from his time reading the classics. That included:

– Fun. “I spent a lot of time
drinking out of shoes” in college, he said.

– Sports. He grew up in Canton, Ohio,
home of the pro football Hall of Fame. As a kid, he met the greats;
in high school, he was a 165-pound outside linebacker (“I was
pretty fearless”) and wrestler.

The wrestling continued at Wright State
University, where he almost – until a final-seconds setback –
reached the nationals. Still, McClintock was able to occasionally
visit the rich history of the area – Wright Brothers, national Air
Force Museum, Wright-Patterson air base, even rumors of hidden UFO's.
All of that seems to reflect the“Warehouse 13” spirit.

McClintock was 30 before trying acting,
something he approaches with a linebacker's fearlessness. The 15
years since then have been busy, but most roles were rooted in
reality; now comes sci-fi fun.

“Sometimes, I can't believe it,” he
said, pointing to two guest roles: “My mom (Kate Mulgrew) is the
captain of the Voyager; my ex-wife (Jeri Ryan) is arguably the
sexiest cyborg in history.”

And sometimes, he's had dinner with the
brainy Rubinek (“one of my favorite humans”) and friends,
including Brent Spiner, who was Data on “Star Trek: Next
Generation.” The stories – about show-business, history, life,
science-fiction – flow; McClintock can merely grin and

– “Warehouse 13,” 9 p.m. Mondays,
Syfy; reruns at 11

– Season-opener, July 23; leads into
the season-opener of “Alphas” at 10.

– That's preceded by a marathon from
8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. July 23, concluding with the warehouse
explosion. Keep in mind that on this show, H.G. Welles is female,
ageless and evil.

– Opener reruns at 8 a.m. and 11 p.m.
July 27, 9 a.m. July 29 and 8 a.m. July 30