By ED BARK
The Hallmark Channel continues to unabashedly target baby boomers while also announcing a new HD movie network.
A bundle of programming initiatives released Wednesday also announces the acquisition of 99 "family-friendly" movies from Disney-ABC Domestic Television, including evergreens Old Yeller, The Parent Trap, The Shaggy Dog, Flubber, The Love Bug and Swiss Family Robinson.
Thirty new movies also are planned for 2008, with Old Hollywood actually invited. One premise seems kind of odd, though. Bob Newhart has signed to star in Herb's Murders. He'll play a "quirky" L.A. police detective who teams with his by-the-book police officer daughter.
Hallmark already has Dick Van Dyke and John Larroquette solving crimes in their respective series of Murder 101 and McBride movies. Add Jane Seymour as a "Martha Stewart-like" advice columnist and TV personality who gets wrapped up in a murder mystery while on vacation. That one's called Dear Prudence.
In a tamer venue, Florence Henderson, Donna Mills and Pam Grier will star in Ladies of the House. They play a trio of "mature women" who renovate a broken-down abode while discovering "what's important about life and living." FYI, Buddy Ebsen lamentably is no longer available after leaving life's building in 2003.
Hallmark cites a "groundbreaking study," which it commissioned, that says baby boomers have more money than "millennials" (humanoids born between 1980 and 1995) and also are "less likely to change the channel or multi-task." And hey kids, baby boomers also are "less likely to fast-forward or skip commercials," even if they have DVR.
This baby boomer has DVR and does fast-forward, perhaps making Uncle Barky a little nutty and not entirely suitable for Hallmark Channel viewing. Dagnabbit.
Meanwhile, the new Hallmark Movie Channel HD will launch on April 2nd with a "star-studded celebration" in Peoria, Ill. David Carradine and Ernest Borgnine are scheduled to attend.
***Fox has axed The Return of Jezebel James after just three episodes. Its Friday night slot will be taken by reruns of Bones.
By ED BARK
Strong ratings in a Friday prime-time slot have spurred CBS to give The Price Is Right Million Dollar Spectacular a May "sweeps" showcase.
The Drew Carey-hosted evergreen will be the network's lead-off hitter for four straight Wednesdays, beginning April 30th.
CBS also will be plugging in new episodes of James Woods' Shark while relocating the legal drama from Sundays to Tuesdays at 8 p.m. (central). Shark's restart on April 29 does not bode well for The Unit, whose time slot it's taking. No new episodes of the military drama were ordered when the writers' strike ended earlier this year.
*** Fort Worth native Bob Schieffer has delayed his retirement and will soldier on indefinitely as host of CBS' Face the Nation, where he's presided since 1982.
Schieffer, 71, had planned to retire shortly after Inauguration Day. But he's reconsidered at the request of CBS News president Sean McManus, The New York Times reports.
By ED BARK
Saturday's a throwaway night for network TV anyway. So why not really throw it away with the new CBS EliteXC Saturday Night Fights.
It premieres May 31st, with mixed martial arts champ "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler scheduled to defend his middleweight title against Scott "Hands of Steel" Smith.
The intriguingly named Kimbo Slice also is on the card, although his opponent hasn't been named yet. Perhaps Homeboy Hamhock?
CBS programming exec Kelly Kahl says the network is "excited" to showcase "the unique personalities, world-class athleticism and raw power and emotion that characterizes mixed martial arts." All righty then.
*** On a somewhat higher plane, ABC News will be hosting live verbal combat between Democratic presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Fight night is April 16th, just six nights before the possibly pivotal Pennsylvania primary.
ABC's Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos will moderate the 90-minute debate from Philadelphia's National Constitution Center.
***The first two chapters of HBO's exceptional John Adams miniseries got off to a solid start Sunday with 2.7 million viewers. That's not much by conventional broadcast standards, unless you're the teeny CW network. But it's considerably better than the 1.1 million who watched the previous Sunday's series finale of The Wire.
John Adams, adapted from the David McCullough bestseller, starts Paul Giamatti in the title role and Laura Linney as his wife, Abigail. It will continue for the next five Sundays on HBO.
Meanwhile, the network knows how to both stick it to The New York Times while at the same time paying handsomely for a full-page color ad in the newspaper's Friday "Weekend Arts" section.
The ad is loaded with rave reviews from all of the Times' Big Apple competitors plus other publications. Notably missing is anything from the Times itself, whose reliably addled TV critic, Alessandra Stanley, may have been the only reviewer in the world to flat-out pan Giamatti's performance.
She also somehow confused measles with smallpox in her critique. And that's not easy to do.
By ED BARK
She got the ring, I got the finger. Bada-boom-ba.
Yikes, country crooner Clint Black will try his hand at standup comedy on CBS' latest reality concoction, Secret Talents of the Stars.
It premieres on Tuesday, April 8th and is scheduled to run in live doses all the way through the May ratings "sweeps."
Semi-grizzled TV watchers might see this as a carryover from CBS' once potent Circus of the Stars specials. That was the show where Bob Newhart safely spun plates while former televangelist Marjoe Gortner got strapped to a car hood and driven through a flaming brick wall.
Gortner did get to wear a helmet, though, on a show that otherwise had a definite pecking order. When you're hot, you spin plates. When you're not, you risk immolation.
The entire list of 16 competitors isn't final yet. But of course Danny Bonaduce will be among them. He'll try to ride a unicycle amid members of The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Other "well-known personalities" -- not that anyone could identify all of them -- include:
Sheila E. juggling with The Flying Karamazov Brothers.
Joe Frazier "showcasing his smooth moves" as an R&B singer.
Ben Stein dancing the jitterbug.
George Takei singing a country tune.
Mya tap dancing.
Roy Jones Jr. rapping.
Ric Flair salsa-ing.
Cindy Margolis doing magic tricks.
Malcolm-Jamal Warner playing bass guitar with a hip hop band.
Marla Maples "presenting her gymnastic abilities."
Sasha Cohen "exhibiting her agility as a contortionist" with the New Shanghai Circus.
Bridget Marquardt "soaring as a trapeze artist."
A host and the three requisite judges haven't been announced yet. But you almost have to have a standup comic, an Osmond and a Brit these days. So let's go with D.L. Hughley presiding in league with Marie, Boy George and George Hamilton.
The strike-impaired TV season breathes anew Monday with the returns of CBS' Two and a Half Men and ABC's Dancing with the Stars, including partners Priscilla Presley and Louis van Amstel. Photos from CBS and ABC
By ED BARK
CBS rolls out new episodes of four comedies while ABC steps into its sixth edition of Dancing with the Stars Monday (March 17).
The sequential 7 to 9 p.m. returns of The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men and The New Adventures of Old Christine make CBS the first network to officially reboot after the writers' strike inflicted some deep cuts on prime-time schedules.
ABC also reloads at 7 p.m. with a 90-minute Dancing with the Stars followed by a new cycle of The Bachelor. Will well-plasticized celebrity hoofer Priscilla Presley crack and break on live television? Place your bets.
***Fox News Channel provocateur Bill O'Reilly is bringing a one-man show to Grand Prairie's Nokia Theatre. Prices are a bit steeper than those for The Uncle Barky Show, which is free. O'Reilly's asking prices for his June 13th appearance are $49, $69 and $89. That's a bargain only if he includes one of his premium targets, Mark Cuban. But even then . . . Tickets go on sale March 21, and you can go here for more info.
***A new episode of Comedy Central's South Park Wednesday (March 19) finds Stan and Kenny escorting Britney Spears to the North Pole, where they discover "the shocking secret behind her popularity." Should be sublimely tasteless.
Comedy Central also has announced some of the guests for Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Benefit for Autism Education. Set for April 13 and hosted by Jon Stewart, the mini-telethon so far has booked appearances by Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Conan O'Brien, Sarah Silverman, Adam Sandler, Rosie O'Donnell, Steve Carell, Amy Poehler, Stephen Colbert, Kevin James, Matthew Broderick and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
***Believe it or not, NBC has a new miniseries planned. Its four-hour The Last Templar, adapted from the Raymond Khoury bestseller, will star Mia Sorvino and Victor Garber. Production is scheduled to begin in April in Montreal and Morocco.
***USA network's fourth season of Battlestar Galactica will blast off on April 4th. On the Friday before that (April 28), the network will bow low to all things Galactica in a pair of half-hour specials titled Battlestar Galactica: Revisited and Battlestar Galactica: the Phenomenon.
By ED BARK
Freewheelin' love from the '70s and heavy-duty cops patterned after a contemporary Canadian task force will be in CBS' summer mix.
Swingtown, whose principal star is Grant Show from Melrose Place, is set for a May 29 premiere. Flashpoint, co-starring Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars), will premiere in July on a still to be announced date.
CBS describes the long-in-development Swingtown as a peak into the "shag-carpeted suburban homes of the culturally transformative '70s to find couples reveling in the sexual and social revolution that introduced women's liberation and challenged conventional wisdom." Nice.
Flashpoint is billed as "an emotional journey into the tough, risk-filled lives" of a jut-jawed uniformed unit that "rescues hostages, busts gangs, defuses bombs, climbs the sides of buildings and talks down suicidal teens." Breezy.
***NBC in contrast mostly will go the less demanding reality route with an "All-American Summer" that includes the returns of American Gladiators on May 12th and a third edition of America's Got Talent on June 24th.
Also included in the Peacock's plans are Celebrity Circus (June 11), Nashville Star (June 9th with new host Billy Ray Cyrus) and Fear Itself (May 29th), a scripted, 13-part "suspense and horror anthology series."
By ED BARK
CMT is foaming at the mouth over Beer For My Horses, which will be the network's latest movie.
Spawned from the monster country hit by Toby Keith, it'll star his ownself plus Willie Nelson, Ted Nugent, Tom Skerritt, Rodney Carrington and Barry Corbin.
Co-written by Keith and Carrington, the film "follows the exploits of small town deputies and best friends who defy the local sheriff to embark on an outrageous road trip to save one of their girlfriends from drug lord kidnappers," CMT says. Production began late last month and will run through mid-March in various New Mexico locales.
***Sub-puny ratings for last week's premiere have prompted NBC to cancel quarterlife after just one episode. But it continues on the Internet, where the twentysomething series originated.
In a previous letter to TV critics, quarterlife creators Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskowitz (thirtysomething, My So-Called Life) said the series "depicts a reality and a voice and an authenticity that was thought to have no place in television today -- and may not have a place -- but we're willing to take that chance, and so is NBC."
A second episode scheduled for Sunday, March 2nd, has been supplanted by -- what else? -- Deal Or No Deal.
***Having canceled WWE Smackdown! on its CW sister network, mighty CBS will be going forward with four Saturday night specials spotlighting one of the "fastest-growing sports in the country."
That would be mixed martial arts, which will get a quartet of two-hour prime specials a year. No premiere date is set yet, but CBS hopes to profit from showcasing "a wildly popular entertainment vehicle for upscale, young adult audiences."
***Lush Dallasite Brooke Burns (Dog Eat Dog, Pepper Dennis) will co-star in the new ABC comedy Miss Guided, scheduled to premiere on March 18th.
She'll play bombshell high school English teacher Lisa Germain, chief nemesis of a formerly awkward teen (played by Judy Greer) who's returned to her alma mater as a guidance counselor. Ashton Kutcher (Beauty and the Geek) is among the show's executive producers.