Category: TV News Tracker 2009

Sharon Stone to play a prosecutor on 'Law & Order: SVU'

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” has landed a high-profile guest star to spice up its 11th season. Sharon Stone is joining the NBC drama for four episodes, playing a prosecutor who used to be a police officer, the network announced today. Stone has not yet begun shooting the episodes, which will air later this season.

“It is obviously a thrill and a delight to have a star of Sharon's wattage and importance joining 'SVU,'” executive producer Dick Wolf said in a statement.

The “Basic Instinct” star is no stranger to television: She won an Emmy for her role on “The Practice” and also appeared on “Will & Grace.”

“SVU” is known for its stunt casting, as Entertainment Weekly’s Michael Ausiello noted. Earlier this season, the program featured guest turns by Hilary Duff and Carol Burnett.

— Matea Gold

Rick Sanchez gets expanded show on CNN; 'The Situation Room' loses an hour [Updated]

CNN is shaking up its afternoon lineup in the new year. Beginning Jan. 18, “The Situation Room” will start an hour later to make room for a new show dubbed “Rick’s List,” anchored by Rick Sanchez, that will air from noon to 2 p.m. PST. It will be followed by a two-hour “The Situation Room,” whose anchor, Wolf Blitzer, had until now been handling three live hours a day.

CNN executives declined to speak publicly about the move, but a spokeswoman that the change was made to bring more uniformity to the afternoon lineup. The shake-up also lessens the focus on political news, which is expected to be one of the main topics covered in the 4 p.m. PST hour when John King begins anchoring that time slot early next year. [Updated at 12:06 p.m.: Blitzer will continue to cover political news in "The Situation Room."]

[Updated at 12:24 p.m: Sanchez will also cover the top political stories of the day during his program, while the shows anchored by Blitzer and King will be based in Washington and have a strong political focus.]

“Rick’s List” is expected to incorporate Twitter, a tool Sanchez frequently uses. This morning, he tweeted that the show “will be full of newsmakers and thinkers we- and u- think are relevant to CNN. My access = your access.”

Blitzer, in turn, tweeted that he was fine about the change. “Our excellent team can focus on 2 solid hrs,” he wrote. “Less becomes more.”

In the short term, Blitzer will continue to anchor for three hours a day, as he’ll be substituting in the 4 p.m. PST time slot until King begins his new show. King replaces Lou Dobbs, who abruptly resigned from the network last month. There is still no word yet about who will take over for King on his Sunday show “State of the Union.”

-- Matea Gold

'Lost' fans get a holiday gift from ABC and DirecTV


Attention, Losties: "Lost" -- the Cliff notes -- is coming your way, if you're a DirecTV customer.

The 101 Network will air the six recap specials ABC aired before the series' season premieres and finales  -- with some extras. The DirecTV versions will include DVD extras, behind-the-scenes footage, unaired scenes, and music videos created with the show.

The specials, which will air commercial-free, are listed as follows in an ABC press release:

"Destination: LOST"
Airs Saturday, December 26 at 9:00 p.m., ET

Relive the incredible first season of “Lost,” the stories of the survivors of Oceanic 815 and the mysteries of the island that captivated audiences everywhere.

“LOST: A Tale of Survival”

Airs Saturday, January 2 at 9:00 p.m., ET

What price would you pay for honor? For faith? For love? Journey back through the first two seasons with the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 as they search for answers and struggle for survival on “LOST: A Tale of Survival.”

“The LOST Survivor Guide”

Airs Saturday, January 9 at 9:00 p.m., ET

Get an exclusive look at the first two and a half seasons of the most-talked about drama on television when “Lost” Executive Producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse share their insights on the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 and explore the powers of this mysterious island.

“LOST: Past, Present & Future”

Airs Saturday, January 16 at 9:00 p.m., ET

Re-experience the first three seasons of “Lost” as the survivors of Oceanic 815 stand at the verge of rescue from the island and examine whether the people coming to save them are friends or foes.

“LOST: Destiny Calls”

Airs Saturday, January 23 at 9:00 p.m., ET
48 people survived the crash of Oceanic Flight 815. After 108 days on a mysterious island, only six were rescued. The friends they left behind vanished with the island. Catch up with the first four seasons of “Lost,” relive the survivors fight to survive and re-discover why the Oceanic 6 were forced to go back to the island. “Lost” producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse are your guides on “LOST: Destiny Calls.”

“LOST: A Journey in Time”
Airs Saturday, January 30 at 9:00 p.m., ET
Re-examine how the Oceanic 6 got back to the island when producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse take a look back at the first five seasons.

--Maria Elena Fernandez (follow me on Twitter @writerchica)

Photo: Evangeline Lily and Matthew Fox on "Lost"/Credit: ABC


'Lost' final season premieres on Feb. 2

Lost University aims to help fans find the way

Midseason TV guide [Updated]


Did Jack Bauer die? Did the plane crash never happen? Will Ellen DeGeneres joke her way to the top of “American Idol?” Soon, the answers will come. 

Here’s the lineup of shows we haven’t seen in a while and the new offerings. (New series marked by an asterisk. Returning shows that took a brief hiatus in the fall are not included.)


The Bachelor: On the Wings of Love (Jan. 4, 8 p.m.)

* Conveyor Belt of Love (Jan. 4, 10 p.m.)

* The Deep End (Jan. 21, 8 p.m.)

Lost (Feb. 2, 9 p.m.)


Chuck (Jan. 10, 9-11 p.m. and Jan. 11, 8 p.m.)

* Parenthood (March 1, 9 p.m.)

The Biggest Loser (Jan. 5, 8 p.m.)

* The Marriage Ref (March 14, 8 p.m.)

The Celebrity Apprentice (March 14, 9 p.m.)


American Idol (Jan. 12, 8 p.m.)

* Our Little Genius (Jan. 13, 9 p.m.)

* Human Target (special  preview on Jan. 17, 8 p.m., and then Jan. 20,  9 p.m.)

24 (special premiere event Jan. 17, 9-11 p.m. and Jan. 18, 8-10 p.m.)

* Past Life (Feb. 11, 8 p.m.)

* Sons of Tucson (March 14, 8:30 p.m.)

Continue reading »

Video: Mary McNamara and Betsy Sharkey on the 67th Annual Golden Globes nominations

TV critic Mary McNamara and film critic Betsy Sharkey weigh in on the snubs and surprises of the 67th Annual Golden Globes nominations.

-- Times staff

- Complete list of Golden Globe nominees
- Golden Globe nominee reactions

Showtime and its serial killers get some Golden Globe love



It was a good morning for people who play serial killers.

Michael C. Hall and John Lithgow both received Golden Globe nominations today for their turns as murderers on Showtime's "Dexter." Two days after the series, which also was nominated for best drama, stunned viewers with a jaw-dropping finale, Lithgow said his nomination felt like he was "taking a curtain call after the last scene of a long play."

Lithgow played the Trinity Killer, a serial killer who had been murdering people all over the country for decades and met his match in Miami police blood-spatter expert Dexter Morgan, who moonlights as a killer of other serial killers. In the finale, Dexter caught Trinity and killed him only to go home and find out that Trinity had killed Dexter's wife, Rita (Julie Benz).

Lithgow, who knew most of Trinity's and the show's secrets since he signed on for the part, said "it's an enormous load off my mind" that viewers and his cast mates now know what he knew all along.

"Everyone was dying to know," Lithgow said. "It was such an atmosphere of suspense and excitement. I’m sure they calculated it that way. They wanted everybody, even the people involved in the storytelling, to feel that way."

The only part of the ending that producers didn't pitch to Lithgow was that Trinity would kill Rita before he was caught.

"That was a late decision," Lithgow said. "They didn't make that call 'til quite late. Not only was that a surprise but the way they shot it was an amazing surprise. That was very sad but what a fantastic ending to the season."

Continue reading »

And they didn't think it would last: 'Glee' grabs most Golden Globe nominations of any TV series

There is no one more surprised to see "Glee" lead TV's Golden Globe nominations than the show's creator-executive producer Ryan Murphy.

"It was unexpected -- and the idea that it's a musical is hilarious. What are we? The first scripted musical to work on TV since 1987?"

"Glee" landed four nominations for best comedy series, actress (Lea Michele), actor (Matthew Morrison) and supporting actress (Jane Lynch).

Lynch, who was on set rehearsing for next year's all-Madonna episode, said that "the kids are out of their minds with excitement."

"Glee" was anything but a sure bet for Fox: Murphy had envisioned a one-hour musical comedy about the misfits of an Ohio high school glee club whose troubles and triumphs would be set to a mix of radio-friendly hits and show tunes.

"So many people took a huge chance with this show," Murphy said. "Even when it got picked up, there was a lot of support for it at Fox, but even people who loved the show thought it would run for five episodes and be canceled.The fact that people seem to understand it is what I love."

The proof: The series' fall finale drew a strong 8.1 million viewers, the soundtrack was certified gold on Dec. 4 (more than 500,000 copies sold), and the cast's versions of singles like "Don't Stop Believing" and "Take a Bow" have generated well over 1 million downloads on iTunes.

But Morrison, who phoned in from Hawaii, also recalled the initial nerves surrounding the show's launch. "When we started this thing not too long ago, we were just hoping that people would get it. It's been amazing to see the show recognized."

He added that just like the lovable underdogs that make up McKinley High School's New Directions, "Glee" works because it doesn't fit in. "It’s a different show. It’s not a cop show, a lawyer show, a doctor show. I think right now people need to be uplifted, and it’s a very uplifting show."

Michele, who like Morrison is up for her first Golden Globe nomination, said the enthusiasm on set "transcends on-screen."

"Musicals haven't worked much in the past, but there are tons of reasons that this one does," she said.

Lynch said she owes her nomination to the originality of her character, glee club nemesis Coach Sue. "I get the honor of and the joy of saying those words and wearing the track suit. [My nomination] is just a real homage to what [co-executive producer] Ian Brennan created with the show. Sue is Ian’s inner mean girl."

— Denise Martin, Maria Elena Fernandez and Matea Gold


Lea Michele's 'Glee'-ful awakening

'Glee': We'll miss it

Complete coverage of 'Glee' on Showtracker

Photo credit: Fox

NBC announces its midseason lineup (Updated)

NBC announced the long-awaited premiere date for "Parenthood" today, along with the rest of its midseason lineup.

"Parenthood," starring an A-List ensemble that includes Peter Krause and Craig T. Nelson, will debut on March 1 at 9 p.m. Jerry Seinfeld's new comedy, "The Marriage Ref," will premiere on March 14 at 8 p.m.

[Update 11:50: We neglected to note that the "Heroes" season finale will air on Feb. 8 and the Winter Olympics will air on NBC from Feb. 12-28].

Here is the complete schedule:


8-9 p.m. -- “Chuck” (begins Jan. 11; two back-to-back season-premiere episodes on Jan. 10 from 9-11 p.m.)

9-10 p.m. -- “Parenthood” (premieres March 1)

10-11 p.m. – “The Jay Leno Show”


8-10 p.m. – “The Biggest Loser” (its new season premieres on Jan. 5)

10-11 p.m. – “The Jay Leno Show”


8-9 p.m. – “Mercy”

9-10 p.m. – “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”

10-11 p.m. – “The Jay Leno Show”


8-8:30 p.m. – “Community”

8:30-9 p.m. – “Parks and Recreation”

9-9:30 p.m. – “The Office”  

9:30-10 p.m. – “30 Rock”

10-11 p.m. – “The Jay Leno Show”


8-9 p.m. -- “Law & Order”

9-10 p.m. -- “Dateline NBC”

10-11 p.m. – “The Jay Leno Show”


8-11 p.m. -- encores of dramas


7-9 p.m. -- “Dateline NBC” (through March 7, then moves to 7-8 p.m. beginning March 14)

8-9 p.m. – “The Marriage Ref” (debuts March 14)

9-11 p.m. -- “The Celebrity Apprentice” (premieres March 14)

-- Maria Elena Fernandez (follow me on Twitter @writerchica)

The SoCals: Reppin' L.A. in NBC's 'The Sing-Off'

Socals Eight singers. Millions of viewers. No retakes. No instruments. No Mr. Schu? That’s the reality for the SoCals, the L.A.-based a capella group that will be fighting it out on “The Sing-Off.”

The SoCals are no strangers to the stage. They all hail from the USC a capella group the SoCal Vocals. Last year, the college group won first place in the International Competition of Collegiate A Cappella, which led to a live performance on the "Today” show.

They will be vying with seven other groups for "The Sing-Off's" ultimate prizes: $100,000 and a recording contract with Epic Records. Hosted by pop singer Nick Lachey, “The Sing-Off” airs today with consecutive episodes on Tuesday and Wednesday. The finale will be aired live on  Dec. 21. All four episodes start at 8 p.m. on NBC.

Recently, I spoke with the SoCals’ bass singer Ryan Alvarez about the group, its competition and the comparisons to the the hit Fox show "Glee."

Are you prepared for all the attention you’re going to get soon?
Not really. We have been so focused on the music part of it. We’ve been working such long days on music, choreography and costumes.  Honestly, I don’t think we’ve had a chance to think about where this might take us. At this point, we’re focused on the competition. We’re doing it one day at a time.

What makes the Socals different from other a capella groups?
We describe ourselves as a “party on stage.” We want to entertain the audience and make them have fun, walking away smiling and clapping from our performance. We do a lot of fun moves and of course the music is important. That’s our focus, but beside the music, we don’t just stand there and sing. We like to move around the stage and do big choreography. We’re a little bit more theatrical than some groups. It’s definitely a whole entertainment package.

Being from L.A., is that the influence of Hollywood in your performances?
I guess we do have that sort of entertainment-industry influence in that we really want to be performers and not just singers.

There have been comparisons made between “The Sing-Off” and “Glee.” Are you all fans of the show?
Continue reading »

No more 'business time' for 'Flight of the Conchords"

Let us bow our heads in silence. We have sad news to confirm.

"Flight of the Conchords" creators Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie and James Bobin announced on their official website today that the HBO comedy will not get a third season. 

It's true: Bret and Jemaine will not be returning from New Zealand, destined to a life of sheepherding. But what about Murray? What's his destiny? We will never know. All we know is this: "We’ve noticed the less we say about the future of the show, the more people want to talk about it, so in an effort to reverse this trend we are today announcing that we won’t be returning for a 3rd season. We’re very proud of the two seasons we made and we like the way the show ended. We’d like to thank everyone who helped make the show and also everyone who watched it. While the characters Bret and Jemaine will no longer be around, the real Bret and Jemaine will continue to exist."

--Maria Elena Fernandez

Photo: Clement and McKenzie; Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

It's official: George Stephanopoulos named new anchor of 'Good Morning America'

George Stephanopoulos, the onetime political whiz kid who served as a top advisor to former President Bill Clinton, will inherit Diane Sawyer’s seat on “Good Morning America” as the morning show undergoes its biggest makeover in a decade, the network announced today.

“I can't wait to join 'Good Morning America's' amazing team and serve its loyal viewers," Stephanopoulos said in a statement reported on "No one can replace Diane Sawyer, but I'll do everything I can to match her unquenchable curiosity and intense commitment to informing the country every morning. What an adventure.”

Stephanopoulos will join co-host Robin Roberts at the anchor desk Monday, the same day that correspondent Juju Chang replaces news anchor Chris Cuomo on the program. Cuomo, a contender for the anchor job who was passed over for Stephanopoulos, will move to the news magazine “20/20,” which he will co-anchor with Elizabeth Vargas, and get a larger reporting portfolio across the news division.

Stephanopoulos will continue anchoring the Sunday talk show “This Week” for the short term until a new host is named.

“In putting this new ‘GMA’ team together, we've pursued one goal: How can we best serve our audience? How can we bring them what matters most to them -- the day's important news, engaging stories, useful information, and real expertise to help them improve their lives?” ABC News President David Westin wrote in an e-mail to the staff. “Robin and George are the right pair to lead our effort. As we've seen over time, Robin brings a warmth and intelligence to the morning that no one can match. Hers is a practical curiosity that brings the viewers' questions to the fore. George complements Robin's strengths with a deep knowledge of and commitment to news about the nation and the world. George is a formidable interviewer who brings the viewer a deeper understanding of the great issues of the day through his conversations with experts and newsmakers.”

The cascade of changes -- triggered by Sawyer’s move to “World News,” where she will succeed Charles Gibson on Dec. 21 -- will upend four of ABC News’ major newscasts. The turnover will be especially drastic on the second-place “GMA,” a vital revenue generator for the entire division.

The selection of Stephanopoulos, a former White House aide who has anchored “This Week” since 2002, and Chang, one of ABC’s lesser-known correspondents, is a substantial gamble that will depend heavily on the chemistry of the show’s newly configured team, as of yet untested. In 2005, with Sawyer and Gibson at the helm, the program came close to catching up with the top-rated “Today” show. But NBC has since widened its advantage. This season, “Today” has been beating “GMA” by 1.3 million viewers on average, a 48% bigger margin than last season.

If the “GMA” audience does not embrace the new team and viewership in the key 25- to 54-year-old advertising demographic drops, the news division could be out many millions of dollars in ad revenue.

“What could happen at ABC News is that if this does not work, they will have a big challenge paying the bills,” said one network news veteran familiar with the economics of the news division.

The change was triggered by Gibson’s decision earlier this fall to retire. There was little question among network executives about who would replace him, as Sawyer, ABC’s biggest star, had long sought the position. But the network did not have an immediate plan about how to replace her on “GMA,” a source of substantial frustration inside the news division.

As the fall went on without a decision, antsy employees expressed bewilderment that executives did not have a succession plan in place, particularly since Sawyer’s assignment on the show had always technically been a temporary one. 

In putting the new “GMA” team on next week, a traditionally quiet period before the holidays, ABC is effectively doing a soft launch of the reconfigured program, a similar strategy that it is taking with Sawyer, who will begin anchoring “World News” right before Christmas.

-- Matea Gold

Photo: George Stephanopoulos. Credit: ABC


Diane Sawyer confirms this is her last week on "GMA"

Diane Sawyer anchors her status on ABC

Chris Cuomo bids farewell to 'Good Morning America,' heading to '20/20'

Today's the day ABC makes it official: George Stephanopoulos will indeed be replacing Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America." Hours before the announcement, "GMA" news anchor Chris Cuomo confirmed for viewers that he will be leaving the show as well to co-anchor "20/20" with Elizabeth Vargas and report on legal issues across the news division.

Cuomo was the other top contender for the "GMA" co-anchor slot, and he appeared to struggle to contain his emotions as his explained his departure after three years on the show.

"It is a dream job for a journalist like me, but it was a very difficult decision, because I am leaving a special place and crew and all of you," he said, as his colleagues applauded. "You are all part of my family."

He's being replaced by correspondent Juju Chang. For viewers, it will mean abrupt changes on the morning show: Friday will be the last day for both Sawyer and Cuomo.

-- Matea Gold


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