Presenting an array of closing images from the summer 2007 TV "press tour," where the stars came out and unclebarky.com took their pictures.
Teri Hatcher of Desperate Housewives at an ABC party. Photos: Ed Bark Jimmy Smits stars in Cane, a new CBS prime-time soap. Julianna Margulies fronts Fox's midseason Canterbury's Law. NBC footballers Jerome Bettis, Al Michaels, John Madden. Meet Drew Carey, new host of The Price Is Right. Patricia Heaton of Fox's Back to You, backed by Fred Willard.
By ED BARK
SANTA MONICA -- We're at an amusement park on the Santa Monica pier. Where better to interview Prison Break's wild-riding Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell?
Miller's character, resourceful Michael Scofield, was last seen in a stinkin' free-for-all Panama prison housing a fine collection of kingpins, prostitutes, drug smugglers and full-blown degenerates.
"It's a Lord of the Flies scenario. It's mayhem," Miller says at a Fox party this week. "It makes Fox River (the penitentiary from Season 1) look like Club Med."
Production on Season 3 of PB began earlier this month, with Dallas and surrounding areas again serving as home bases. Last season was spent on the lam. Now it's back to basics.
"I figure the show's called Prison Break. Chances are there's going to be another break," Miller says. "These things have a way of coming full circle. People, at the end of the day, love prisons. It's what made us a success to begin with. So it's kind of a return to form."
Michael's brother, Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell), now is on the outside looking in. That's a role reversal from Season 1, when Michael willfully became a prison inmate in order to engineer the escape of his incarcerated but otherwise protective older sibling. His roadmap was a full-body tattoo with a hidden road to freedom.
"Michael has no big brother to keep him safe this time, no tattoo to refer to," Miller says. "He's very much chum in the water . . . His hands are dirty at this point. A lot of lives have been damaged and even lost so that his brother could go free. Maybe there is a part of Michael that thinks being in prison is where he should be. That's the only way to atone for his sins."
In real-life, ex-Prison Break castmate and former Dallasite Lane Garrison pleaded guilty in May to vehicular manslaughter and drunk driving after an accident in Beverly Hills. He's facing up to six years, eight months in prison in connection with the death of a 17-year-old girl who was a passenger in his car.
"Lane and I have had a little bit of communication since everything that has happened," Miller said. "There's not a whole lot I can say except that I think he's handling himself with as much grace as possible considering the situation. It's obviously a tragedy, and my heart goes out to everyone involved whose lives will never be the same. Not least of all, Lane, of course."
Garrison, who's awaiting sentencing, recently told People magazine, "I realize I will live with a sense of guilt for the rest of my life."
Miller said he's acclimated himself to life in Dallas, where he's still living "not too far" from Southern Methodist University.
"Absolutely. There's still a lot to explore," he says. "I try to go out to these little towns on weekends and see what there is to see. It occurred to me on my summer break in L.A. that I don't live in L.A. anymore. I actually live in Texas for 10 months out of 12. So the reality is that Dallas is my home for the time being."
Purcell is of a different mind. For him, Dallas isn't so hot, even when it's not so hot.
Asked if he's enjoying the city, he says, "No, of course not. I'm away from home. But that's part of the deal. I get to play, I love what I do and I get good money. I'm not gonna sit here and whine and bitch about how bad my life is because I'm in Dallas. It's hard being away from my kids and the surf and water and stuff. But it is what it is."
Season 3 of Prison Break will be "by far" better than the first two, Purcell says.
"Everyone was concerned whether or not we could maintain the fun of it, the creativity and the dimension. Quite frankly, I thought the second season kind of dragged in the ass a bit in the middle and towards the end. This year it's going to be hard not to be entertained."
Purcell's Lincoln Burrows now is intent on freeing his younger brother from a prison full of "psycopaths and nut cases."
They include three Prison Break regulars -- FBI agent Alexander Mahone (William Fichtner), former penitentiary guard Brad Bellick (Wade Williams) and super-sadistic Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell (Robert Knepper).
"Mahone's losing his mind because he doesn't have his pills, Bellick's walking around in a diaper and T-Bag is just the personification of evil," Purcell says.
Lincoln supposedly will be less stoic and monotonic this season this season.
"It's going to be a different Lincoln," says Purcell. "He's a free man but he's still got to get his brother out. We're going to see a lot more of his street smarts this year. He'll be a more charismatic kind of guy."
New episodes of Prison Break are scheduled to resume on Sept 17. As in the previous two seasons, Fox again expects to take a midseason break at the series' halfway point.
***24's seventh season will find agent Jack Bauer CTU-less.
Its signature hub, the L.A.-based Counter-Terrorism Unit, "will be a factor in the fact that it's been disbanded," actor Kiefer Sutherland says.
Jack also will working for, or maybe against, a new woman president named Allison Taylor. Fox has named Tony Award-winning Broadway veteran Cherry Jones (The Heiress, Doubt) to play her.
"I was very proud that we had the first African-American president on television," Sutherland says. "I think a female president will give a very interesting political perspective for us."
The show's sixth season played dead for much of its second half in the view of many TV critics and fans. Sutherland says the first four episodes "were probably the best we've ever done to start the season. I also thought we closed the show really well, and we hit some rough roads around episodes 13 and 14.
"It's a very difficult show to write. We're accustomed to running into things that we don't all agree with. But by virtue of our schedule, we've got to plow ahead . . . I felt it was no different really than any other season. We've always had our strengths and we've confronted some bumps and hiccups."
24's producers and writers begin each season with a basic road map, but "it's just that every year we've never stayed on the map," Sutherland says. "By the time we get to the last eight or so episodes, someone's got another idea and we veer off course. For the most part that's always been for the better."
Still, "we took the criticisms to heart" last season, he says. "We're not getting defensive about it. And there are some things we want to fix."
A 24 feature film is still planned, but "there's just no time" to make it until the TV version wraps up for good, he says.
"It's not a film that you could do in nine weeks" during hiatus.
24 will return in January, again on Monday nights.
A lot of help from his friend: Ouster of Kevin Reilly at NBC prompts ABC entertainment president to rap the Peacock's new guy
By ED BARK
BEVERLY HILLS -- Upper echelon network executives seldom speak bluntly about their equally highly placed rivals. But this turned out to be one of those rare times.
ABC entertainment president Stephen McPherson doesn't at all like what NBC did to his longtime friend, Kevin Reilly, who's now Fox's newly named programming head. So he let loose after a formal press conference Wednesday. It often pays to be in the post-game "scrum," where questions tend to get answered more directly and honestly.
In this case, McPherson was asked by unclebarky.com whether NBC's swift hiring of actor Isaiah Washington surprised him. Fired from ABC's Grey's Anatomy for his derogatory comments about gays, Washington now has a four-episode "arc" on NBC's new Bionic Woman series, courtesy of Reilly's successor, Ben Silverman.
"I think it's kind of humorous the way that Ben talked about it," McPherson began.
"Kind of humorous?"
"Listen," McPherson replied. "You guys let him off the hook, but that's your prerogative to do that. I think it was pretty obvious what went on there. And if he (Silverman) was in fact talking to him (Washington) before he was available, then that's 'inducement to breach.' So I don't know. He (Silverman) is either clueless or stupid."
Meeting TV critics for the first time in his new post, Silverman announced Washington's hiring amid a slew of programming announcements and also said the Peacock would be developing a new action series for the embattled actor.
"I started talking to him (Washington) before he was available," Silverman said at one point. "And when he told me he was available, I was like, 'You are? Wait. I don't understand. What do you mean? You're a huge star on a television show.' I didn't quite understand what had gone on there."
McPherson said ABC wouldn't take any legal action against NBC for allegedly tampering. But he wasn't finished talking about Silverman, who also had deflected a question about NBC's decision to dump Reilly shortly after signing him to a new three-year deal. "Is that a good company or a bad company?" Silverman was asked.
"I hope that our shows and our results speak for what we're doing," Silverman said. "I only arrived (recently), so all I can say is we're really excited about what we're doing today and what we're going to be doing tomorrow and what you'll be watching in the fall."
"He didn't know what went on?" McPherson said of Silverman. "Is he living in a cave?"
NBC in fact stabbed his "best friend" in the back, McPherson said. "I mean, Kevin Reilly is the guy who stood up for The Office (which Silverman's Reveille company produced) against all opposition inside that company (NBC). He in essence made Reveille. The idea that he (Silverman) would then be able to stand up and say, 'I just got here?' Be a man."
McPherson also took issue with NBC entertainment co-chairman Marc Graboff's contention that Reilly "wasn't fired."
Instead, when NBC hired Silverman to essentially replace him, Reilly "realized or determined, frankly, that there was just no role for him at the company and decided to move on," Graboff told critics with a straight face.
"I think that you guys got as good a laugh as I did," McPherson said of Graboff's disclaimer.
ABC won't compete any harder against NBC because of what happened to Reilly, McPherson said. "But there's no question that when you see a friend treated the way he was treated, you're going to stand up for him."
That he did.
***Juggling family and career can still be a "terrifying sort of realm," Dallasite Angie Harmon said Wednesday.
"But I'm praying about it every day, and I'm confident that it's going to work out," said Harmon, starring in ABC's new Women's Murder Club this fall. "It's a different environment now. People have families. People have children. Executives understand that you're not going to be happy at work if you're not happy at home, if you can't be around your kids and stuff."
Harmon and Jason Sehorn, the former New York Giants football player, are the still new parents of daughters Finley, 3, and Avery, 2. He's lately a house husband for much of the year, but soon will be traveling in his role as a commentator for Fox's NFL telecasts.
"My husband is the most brilliant father on the planet," she said. "He's not ready to be away from them (their daughters) yet. I love that about him. I'm not ready to have him gone either."
Harmon, 34, expects to have her daughters on the Murder Club set a lot.
"I have a fabulous, beautiful trailer . . . Hopefully they won't find it too boring," she said.
Living in Southern California makes her heart grow fonder for Dallas, where she and Sehorn were married in June, 2001 after he proposed on NBC's Tonight Show. "Because of the girls ages, it's hard to travel. I'm really homesick. I had the girls so close together. I got pregnant, had the baby, and then, bam, pregnant again."
Her main concern in Los Angeles is the paparazzi, who "terrify me."
"I don't need them chasing me to validate me as an actress," she said. "You see those pictures of actresses carrying their children, and their children's heads are buried in their arms. That's not for me. I'm not going to put them through that."
Harmon, a Highland Park High School grad, is cast as a hard-driving homicide inspector on Murder Club, adapted from James Patterson's bestselling novels. She's best known for playing assistant D.A. Abbie Carmichael from 1998 to 2001 on NBC's Law & Order.
"It's a wonderful show, but there is no back story," she said of L&O. "You don't know what's going on with those characters. So you become frustrated because there are muscles you don't ever exercise . . . After a while, you start to hunger for that."
Scheduled to premiere on October 12th, Murder Club is slotted on Friday nights between 20/20 and Men In Trees. The show's producers include San Antonio native Joe Simpson, also known as the father and manager of rollicking Jessica and Ashlee Simpson.
"They're flawed and they make errors," Simpson said after the Murder Club interview session. "I think we're human. Unfortunately the world watches their every step. We try to be there when they need us, and to be away when they don't."
By ED BARK
BEVERLY HILLS -- Score one for Fox entertainment chairman Peter Liguori. He makes a hard-to-refute point when asked whether his network's latest reality concoction, Anchorwoman, might accelerate the ruination of television journalism.
"First of all, in Tyler, Texas, let's not forget there already is Stormy the Weather Dog," he told unclebarky.com.
This is true. And as previously detailed in these pages, Stormy is prominently pictured with Tyler's KYTX news team and happily barks at visitors to the station's website.
The mutt didn't particularly like former model and wrestling villainess Lauren Jones, though. They never got along during her recent one-month stint at the station, where Jones provided material for a five-episode "comedy/reality hybrid" scheduled to premiere on August 21st.
"He's a butt-head," Jones said of Stormy Monday night during a Fox party at the Santa Monica Pier's Pacific Park midway.
Earlier in the day, Jones, KYTX president/GM Phil Hurley and Anchorwoman executive producer Brian Gadinsky met informally with TV critics to mostly defend what they've done.
Hurley, who launched the CBS station in April 2004, is a likable and unabashed businessman whose main goal was to boost KYTX's ratings in the country's 111th biggest TV market.
"It's the first time that I've taken a model and turned her into an anchor-reporter," he acknowledged. "I'm still surprised at all the attention around the country on the journalism/entertainment issue. I've been around a long time and it's always been that way. It's entertainment, and we just weren't cutting any new ground here."
Not all of the station's news staffers signed on, but Anchorwoman has prominent roles for Stormy (who probably had little choice), news director Dan Delgado, and anchor-reporters Annalisa Petralia and Michele Reese. Pioneering Dallas TV anchor Judy Jordan ("she was a sweetheart," says Jones) also will be in the picture.
"We probably had two out of 25 that really didn't want to have anything to do with it," Hurley said. "And so we just excluded 'em."
Jones, 24, primarily anchored and reported on the station's new 5 p.m. newscast. A promotional clip from Anchorwoman shows her riding to the scene of a story while asking, "When we get where we're going, are we gonna like run out of the car and act all newsy?"
She's also shown learning the trade from news director Delgado, who tells her to stop winking at the TelePrompTer. And Jones is taken aback a bit after reading news copy that says, "Gunshots ring out at a Tyler nightclub."
"There's nightclubs here?" she asks.
Circled by TV critics Monday, the former "Barker Beauty" speed-talked her answers and challenged some of the questions.
"To hire a woman who's attractive to go ahead and do the news -- there's nothing wrong with that," Jones said. "We're boosting ratings, and to boost ratings is important for the show. I mean, I'm an educated woman."
She's also in the TV news game for keeps -- at least for now.
"I'm definitely going to stick with this career," Jones said. "If modeling opportunities arise, and I can do it as a hobby, so be it. But right now I am an anchorwoman, and I take it very seriously and want to continue my career for a very long time. I'm willing to do whatever it takes . . . In no way are we mocking journalism. It's my passion to become an anchorwoman, regardless of my background. I was given the opportunity, so I'm taking the bull by the horns."
Her idol is Katie Couric, with whom "I'm completely fascinated," says Jones. "I love her career and I've always wanted to emulate something comparable to that. She's a feisty, beautiful woman, and I'm very impressed by all the things she's had to endure and all this controversy and conflict. I feel like I can kind of relate to her at this point a little bit. Just a little bit. She sort of has more experience than me."
Hurley said that Jones has a standing offer to re-join KYTX as a full-time anchor/reporter. He doesn't expect it to happen, though.
"You want me to tell you what I think? I think she'll get a better offer than mine," Hurley said.
The Tyler area's Fox affiliate station, based in Longview, is unlikely to air Anchorwoman because it mainly promotes a competitor. All the better, said Hurley, who has permission from both Fox and CBS to air it himself. The show also could be seen by Tyler cable subscribers via Fox4 in Dallas.
Initial Fox promotional materials promoted Anchorwoman as the saga of a big-city sophisticate coming to Hicksville to cover "bake sales, cowpie-tossing contests and county fairs like they were Watergate."
The updated pitch pitch tries a different tack: "Can this bombshell make it as a serious reporter? Will she save KYTX, or make it the laughingstock of the Lone Star State? Lauren wants to show everyone she's no airhead, and this is her big chance to prove she's more than a pretty face."
Executive producer Gadinsky said he at first envisioned Anchorwoman as a variation on Fox's The Simple Life. But it came out more as Legally Blonde, with Jones as a TV newsroom equivalent of Reese Witherspoon's initially clueless Elle Woods.
"She came in and she kicked butt," Gadinsky said. "And others (in the newsroom) saw that very quickly, and they adapted to it . . . To my surprise, the overriding controversy is about this whole issue of journalistic integrity, which has sort of clouded the whole hayseed angle of going down to a small Texas town. But it's really not about Tyler. It's about the news."
Fox's Liguori said that Jones' ambition to be a real-life news anchor is "at the core of where the storytelling is coming from. If she didn't go into it with that kind of approach, then I think the criticism would be further warranted. But she actually wants to develop the chops to do this. That's where a lot of the comedic tension of the show comes in, because it ain't easy.
"You see someone who's not a professional giving it a whirl and coming at it not from the Columbia School of Journalism but from the school of hard knocks. And I think that's a refreshing approach."
After a month of crash training, Jones said she now feels "no different than any other journalist that's currently on the news right now."
She began with "softer, lighter news stories" before working her way up to a piece on an allegedly drunken woman who hit a 16-year-old boy.
"That was tough," Jones said. "It was tough to see the blood in the street."
On the other hand, "We had fun in that newsroom," she said. "We sprayed a lot of cotton candy perfume."
Acting is a big part of the job, too, Jones said. And who can dispute her point that "the part of anchoring that's acting is when you're reading the TelePrompTer. Any anchor is acting as an anchor when they're doing the news, because you have to put on a certain persona. You have to play an anchor.
"It was more work than I expected, but it's not rocket science. You see it all the time -- former models who become journalists. This isn't news."
Jones now considers herself very much in play.
"All the stars aligned for me (with Anchorwoman)," she said. "But at some point this career would have happened for me, because it's been my passion since I was a little girl. So I welcome all offers."
By ED BARK
BEVERLY HILLS -- Having landed firmly on his feet in nearly no time, Kevin Reilly resists stepping on the neck of the network that "left my head spinning."
The new Fox entertainment president diplomatically says he "would like the best" for the new NBC fall shows he announced in May shortly after signing a new three-year deal with NBC.
Then the Peacock astonishingly went behind his back to shoot him down. It was a cold-blooded move even by high-level network TV standards, with Reilly's successor, Ben Silverman, addressing TV critics just six days before Fox began its two-day portion of the ongoing summer "press tour." On Sunday morning, Reilly sat comfortably beside Fox entertainment chairman Peter Liguori, with whom he developed The Shield and Nip/Tuck during their previous teaming at the FX cable network.
"I don't have that deep-seated, sort of torn emotion about it," Reilly carefully said of the NBC lineup he'll now be competing against. "If those shows deserve to work, they will."
Liguori then swung a sledgehammer.
"I will help Kevin with that," he said. "I want them to all be bloody failures."
It wasn't the only time Liguori made it clear he didn't like the way NBC had treated his longtime friend.
Asked whether his "intimate knowledge" of NBC might help him at Fox, Reilly joked that he'd rather be more familiar with ABC's schedule. Added Liguori in no uncertain terms: "Our sights are not set on the No. 4 network (NBC). Our sights are set on the No. 1 network (Fox) and creating a distance between us and the No. 2 network."
He referred to Fox's No. 1 standing with advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds, where it's topped the Nielsens for three consecutive seasons while CBS has remained tops in total viewers. In other words, Reilly has gone from worst to first with network TV's key audience demographic.
"I don't want to just sort of paint it with a roller, like everybody walks around with some sort of glazed smile on their face," he said. "But Fox has never been stronger. That has a really positive effect on the people who work there because they created it. I just played through an extreme 'down cycle' at the previous place, which tends to not bring out the best in people during those times."
Reilly also noted that joining Fox -- officially on July 9 -- is idyllic compared to the situation he inherited at NBC in 2004.
"The good news is I'm not sort of getting behind the wheel here, feeling like the wheels are about to come off . . . I'm going to be pretty low-impact in terms of the on-air stuff."
American Idol clearly won't need his help. Despite a slight downturn in the show's overall ratings, it remained a dominant No. 1 in both total viewers and with 18-to-49-year-olds.
"I've been a fan of the show literally since minute one," Reilly said. "I voted for people on the show. Everybody involved knows what they're doing. So sure, I oversee it as part of the network. But it's going to be business as usual. There's nothing for me to do."
Reilly and Liguori both were tieless and wore jeans. "This is the Sunday Fox look, I'm told," Reilly said. "Weekend Fox."
Their friendship is "really not in that Hollywood way where everyone's friends," Reilly said. "It's genuine."
"It's like an old love," Liguori later elaborated. "We finish each other's sentences."
"Kind of like -- wow," said Reilly.
"Maybe that was a bit of a stretch," Liguori rejoined.
For the record, both are married with children. But darn it, they really like each other.
"He (Liguori) challenges people without getting personal or petty about it," Reilly said after the formal interview session. "And I've learned a lot from him with that style. I had the three best years of my career working with Peter at FX, and I'm looking to re-create that."
Liguori and Reilly were followed to the stage Sunday by Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton and the fellow stars and producers of Fox's high-powered new Back to You comedy series.
It's one of only two new fall sitcoms filmed the old-school way -- with multi cameras in front of a live studio audience. Grammer and Heaton play Pittsburgh TV news anchors Chuck Darling and Kelly Carr. He's rebounded back to Pittsburgh after flopping in several larger TV markets.
Co-executive producer Steven Levitan (Frasier, Just Shoot Me!) previously anchored and reported for WKOW-TV in Madison, Wis.
"What's so funny to me about local news is there's this great narcissism pretending to be altruism," Levitan said. "It's just a wonderful place for a larger-than-life character to be a big fish in a small pond."
Grammer and Heaton respectively are segueing from two of TV's all-time sitcom hits, Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond. In very lean times for comedy, they're being perceived by some as possibly the make-or-break saviors of the genre. No comedy came close to making prime-time's top 10 last season, and their numbers have dramatically dwindled in recent years.
"No pressure. I have absolute, total confidence," Heaton said. "This is going to be the best new show of the year. I am completely and utterly confident that we will run as long as we want to run."
Back to You is being made in a "traditional" form dating back to I Love Lucy. Lately, a majority of new comedies have been "non-traditional" single-camera half-hours such as NBC's acclaimed but ratings-deprived quartet of The Office, My Name is Earl, Scrubs and 30 Rock. All are without laugh tracks or a studio audience's involvement.
"If by traditional you mean funny, yes, it's very traditional," Grammer said of Back to You.
Co-executive producer Christopher Lloyd, who also worked on Frasier, said that Grammer "plays big attitudes well. And pomposity."
"We wanted someone that was obviously not Frasier again," he said. "But not so far away from Frasier that people would say, 'Well, what, he's a sheriff from Alaska?' "
Heaton said she loves "checking out the hairdos" and the overall look of women anchors in different markets.
"You've got your local New York anchors -- the gals who really could use a little wax on the brow. Then you get all the way to the West Coast, where some of them look like hookers."
Levitan subscribes to the cheeky "News Blues" web newsletter to stay up on the latest anchor gossip. "It's a lot of little minutiae that we're having our writing staff read regularly so that we pick up some of the latest things that happen. So I'm pretty immersed in it."
After the interview session, Levitan is convulsed upon hearing that a Milwaukee TV station used to deploy an "Albert the Alleycat" weather and sports puppet voiced by the station manager. For his purposes, that's comedy gold.
"I promise you I'm going to steal that," Levitan said.