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The Morning Fix: Star salaries! Will Fox ever find a Cowell replacement? Weinstein Co. fights MPAA. RIP David Wolper

August 12, 2010 |  7:43 am

Before the coffee. After wishing I'd gone to bed earlier and not stayed up watching 'Rocky Balboa.'

Big paydays! TV Guide has published its annual survey of small-screen star salaries. Though the article says the networks are toughening up when it comes to doling out the massive checks, there's still some pretty huge salaries out there, including Charlie Sheen's $1.25 million per episode for CBS' "Two and a Half Men." Of course, most of that goes to his lawyers and Denise Richards (rim shot). On the drama front, Hugh Laurie of Fox's "House" pulls down north of $400,000 and he doesn't even make house calls.

Judging the search for judges. The Hollywood Reporter looks at why it's taking Fox and the producers of "American Idol" so long to name a replacement for Simon Cowell. Reporter James Hibberd astutely notes that one problem is that Fox so far seems to not want to replace Cowell with another Cowell, but a superstar performer. That then means more hassles in getting a deal done and a tougher time finding other judges, which they need since Ellen DeGeneres also quit a couple weeks ago. I'm hardly a huge "American Idol" watcher, but Fox seems to be forgetting the golden rule of the small screen, which is that television makes stars. Don't get Elton John or Jennifer Lopez or Jamie Foxx as a judge. Get a smart and savvy and witty industry big shot who most people have not heard of but who can deliver the goods. If "American Idol" falls off a cliff, it'll be a black eye for Peter Rice, who took over as head of Fox's entertainment operations last year.

More headaches for nursing home. The California Department of Health slapped the already reeling Motion Picture and Television Fund nursing home for violating state regulations. According to the Los Angeles Times, the nursing home's managers failed to follow guidelines by not issuing 30-day discharge notices to more than 30 residents and didn't tell them their rights or that they could appeal their discharge. Although there have been fines issued in the matter, the Los Angeles Times notes it is "another black eye for the fund."

Weinstein Co. battles MPAA. The Weinstein Co. is appealing the R rating the Motion Picture Assn. of America slapped on "The Tillman Story," the production company's much-anticipated documentary about Pat Tillman, the NFL player who quit the game to join the military after 9/11 and was later killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. The MPAA cited harsh language as reason for the rating. This may be one case in which having a ratings code that doesn't take context into account is not such a good idea. More from Deadline Hollywood and Variety

This is how it starts. Search engine giant Google has struck a deal to sell advertisements for satellite broadcaster DirecTV. Google has been trying to get a toehold in the sale of television and radio ads, and this arrangement will give it a reach of almost 20 million homes. It already has a deal with Dish Network, but some other pay TV distributors are nervous about letting Google in the door. Details from the Wall Street Journal.

Know your audience. Producer Mark Gordon apparently misfired when he was trying to reenact a scene from the 1974 Mel Brooks classic "Blazing Saddles" during a table read for the Lifetime show "Army Wives." Apparently his rendition of the famous bit in which Clevon Little's Bart takes himself hostage, which includes the use of a particularly incendiary word, got him in hot water. He has since apologized. Deadline Hollywood's Nikki Finke had details of this one which got lots of interesting comments, ranging from complaints of political correctness run amok to Gordon having an incredible lapse in judgment. For a different take on the situation and the person who broke it, here's Hot Blog.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Legendary producer David Wolper, whose credits included "Roots" as well as the opening and closing ceremonies for the 1984 Olympics here, died at the age of 82. Allbritton Communications, parent of Politico, the well-read political website and parent of a Washington cable news channel, is complaining about the Comcast-NBC deal. John Horn on what it will take for "Eat Pray Love" to succeed.

-- Joe Flint

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