TROUBLE CITY

THUD: TV NEWS ROUNDUP - 5.02.07

THUDBrendan M. LeonardComment

ARE YOU THUD ENOUGH?NOT-SO-SWEET STUDIO 60 

The Aaron Sorkin After School Special, which was the most anticipated drama of the 2006-2007 television season back when we all knew it as Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is, at last, coming back to television. The show, which, after a solid start, soon became the Monday night trainwreck of choice before Heroes decided they’d never heard of Alan Moore, will return to NBC on May 24th, replacing ER at 10 P.M. May 24th is, coincidentally, a week after the NBC upfront presentation (which will determine the fate of Sorkin’s Adventures in Misogyny) and the day after the May sweeps end. Do you smell that? Smells like somebody’s burning off episodes! (On a completely different Sorkin related note, Melissa Fitzgerald, who played Carol, Assistant to the White House Press Secretary, is considering running for Congress in the Pennsylvania 6th District.) 

SHEDDING SCRUBS? 

It’s May, so you know what that means: the yearly parade of speculation as to whether or not this is, indeed, the final season of Scrubs, NBC’s red-headed stepchild that’s been more abused than a character in a Jack Ketchum novel. The latest buzz comes from Variety, which accuses NBC of making its most recent round of Scrubs promos “deliberately vague.” Those promos describe the run-up to Scrubs’ upcoming finale as “the final episodes” and that there are “four episodes left,” without cluing viewers in as to whether or not this is the series or season finale. Variety quotes insiders as saying Scrubs’ fate is still up in the air, and it makes sense – the series has really stumbled this season, star Zach Braff signed a big payday, but NBC is having its worst year ever and is looking to cut costs. Despite ABC saying they’d like to pick up Scrubs, that aforementioned pay raise may be too much for any network to take on the show. I guess we’ll know at the upfronts, although Variety also points out that NBC’s option on the show doesn’t expire until the day after ABC presents their fall schedule. Drama? Dramaaaaaa! 

NOT QUITE DEAD LIKE ME? 

One of Showtime’s early attempts to challenge HBO’s pay cable dominance was Dead Like Me, a dark and quirky show about grim reapers. I loved it – it was a smart show that could go from making you laugh out loud at the twisted humor to being genuinely moving in its explorations of life and death. The cast was great, too, from Broadway Champion Mandy Patinkin to the lesser known Callum Blue (in his audition reel for Cassidy from Preacher) and Ellen Muth, who did this show and promptly disappeared. Unfortunately, Dead Like Me only lasted two seasons before being cancelled by Showtime. There was some talk it was going to wind up on one of the networks, but it never amounted to anything. Now, Robin Brownfield of SyFy Portal.Com is reporting that MGM recently told Moviehole that Dead Like Me is returning as a direct-to-DVD movie, to be directed by Stephen Herek. Herek is the director of such cinematic classics as Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Mr. Holland’s Opus, The Three Musketeers, and the second single greatest kid’s underdog sports movie of my generation (the first being The Sandlot), The Mighty Ducks. I’m not really sure how you go from directing those movies to directing Dead Like Me, but I’ll roll with it for now and see if Robin Brownfield of SyFyPortal.com is a lying liar. 

MASTERS OF SUMMER SCHEDULING 

Last August, ABC announced Masters of Science Fiction, an anthology series in the vein of Showtime’s hit and miss Masters of Horror – then promptly shut up about it. The series, hosted by Sir Stephen Hawking, was planned as a midseason, but now ABC has announced it will air as part of their new “no repeats” summer – but only four of the six completed episodes will air. On Saturdays. In August. I haven’t seen Masters of Science Fiction, but I’ve been hearing a lot about it in the past week from critics who have – and the buzz on this thing is phenomenal. It’s being called the first real series to live up to The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, and the kind of smart, weighty sci-fi we’ve been waiting on for some time. The stories come from visionaries like Cleveland homeboy Harlan Ellison, John Kessell, Robert A. Heinlen, Howard Fast, and Walter Mosley. The series stars Judy Davis, Sam Waterson, Malcom McDowell, ABC darling Anne Heche, Sean Astin, James Cromwell, Brian Dennehy, John Hurt, and Terry O’Quinn, among others, and the six episodes feature directors like Jonathan Frakes, Michael Tolkin, and Mark Rydell. So what’s going on with this, ABC? Are you so tied to the “fluff television” mold you’ve set for yourself with Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, and National Bingo Night that this series scares you? Have the declining fortunes of LOST led you to believe sci-fi isn’t as nearly as attractive to audiences as you thought? Why is Masters of Science Fiction airing in the worst timeslot in the worst time of year, and when are you going to let us all judge for ourselves? 

HBO TO MAKE WAR-TORN, IMPOVERISHED NATIONS SEXY 

Okay, what? No, really. I mean, what? I refer to the Variety item which reports on HBO’s latest effort to fill its post-Sopranos slate, a “half-hour comedy about the romantic misadventures of a thirtysomething woman.” Sounds like the formula that made Sex in the City the favorite show of thousands of impressionable yuppie prepster girls from Long Island, right? Except the thirtysomething woman is a former teacher who leaves her husband. To work for a NGO. In Africa. What, did you guys get tired of “they fight crime!” as a twist? The series is being created by former South Park Jane Bussmann (kind of hot, if her Variety photo is any indication), who is herself a former journalist who went to Uganda to find a boyfriend. Bussman told Variety that the series will focus on that most eternal of problems, how “it’s not easy to be a good person when you’re surrounded by both extremely hot colleagues and war crimes.” So, basically, this is that Shonda Rhimes show about war correspondents we’ve been hearing about, except in Africa, and with more talk about which brand of gauze goes best with which festering sore. (Send your best Sex in the City…in Africa! jokes to brendan.m.leonard@gmail.com. Bussmann has already put the kibosh on child soldiers, though.) 

YOU’RE STILL DETECTIVE MAC TAYLOR, LT. DAN 

For a while there, Forrest Gump was my favorite movie of all time. I’ll say that again for the cheap seats: Of all time. This past weekend, I tried watching it again and is it ever a slog to get through. Zemeckis’ dvd commentary indicates that he was having a little more fun with it than the “boomer nostalgia” it was sold as, but still, the first third of that movie is almost unbearable. (This commentary also confirms that yes, Snake Plissken did the voice of Elvis for the flick.) Until, of course, Gary Sinise shows up. I love Martin Landau, but the fact that Sinise didn’t win an Oscar for his performance as Lt. Dan is pretty criminal in my mind. Unfortunately, Sinise’s talents have gone unappreciated by Hollywood since Gump, which led him to taking more television work, culminating in his starring role as Detective Mac Taylor on CSI: NY. 

That lengthy Gump anecdote is brought to you by the news that the other good thing about Forrest Gump, Mykelti “Bubba” Williamson will guest star on a two-part episode of CSI: NY beginning tonight at 10 PM. Williamson will play the poor man’s Jon Kavanaugh, a “hardcore” (the Post Inquirer’s words, not mine) detective assigned to investigate Sinise after a serial killer dies in Lt. Dan’s custody. (Anthony Zucker, you are allowed no more than one Gump reference, but that’s being nicer to you than you deserve.)