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TV Bulletin Board (Oct. 23) -- Harmon signs for new TNT detective series

New TV ventures for Angie Harmon and Carrie Underwood.

Dallas native Angie Harmon will play the title role in TNT's Rizzoli, drawn from the Tess Gerritson mystery novels about Boston detective Jane Rizzoli.

Harmon has been this route before as a regular in two broadcast network crime hours, NBC's Law & Order and ABC's short-lived Women's Murder Club. TNT so far has ordered only a pilot episode of Rizzoli, which doesn't yet have an on-air commitment from the network but "could be an outstanding addition to TNT's collection of strong female characters," programming head Michael Wright says tentatively.

***Chart-topping, Grammy-winning Season 4 American Idol champ Carrie Underwood returns to Fox on Dec. 7 with her own two-hour Christmas special. Announced guests so far include Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley and David Cook. They'll warble a mix of hits and holiday songs.

***Showtime has tabbed durable William H. Macy for Shameless, a drama series adapted from the long-running British outing about a sprawling, dysfunctional family. Macy is cast as the "alcoholic patriarch who usually ends up passed out on the living room floor," says Showtime.

The producers are John Wells (ER) and Paul Abbott, who created the British version.

***Fox has jettisoned Dollhouse, Brothers and 'Til Death -- at least for the upcoming November sweeps, which launch on Oct. 29th.

Starting on Friday, Oct. 30th, they'll be replaced by repeats of House and Bones. At this point, Dollhouse is scheduled to return on Dec. 4 with back-to-back new episodes that will mark the first appearances of new cast member Summer Glau, formerly of Fox's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

***Last-place NBC has given full-season commitments to two first-year series, Mercy and Community, plus the sophomore sitcom Parks & Recreation.

Mercy is faring the best so far, averaging 7.8 million viewers nationally on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. (central). Community and Parks respectively are drawing 5.7 million and 4.8 million viewers on Thursday nights.

TV Bulletin Board (Oct. 15) -- NBC seals deals with Bon Jovi, Budweiser

NBC Universal will have rocker Jon Bon Jovi all to itself as part of an unprecedented arrangement that will enable him to tout his new CD on a variety of Peacock "platforms," including the NBC Nightly News.

Announced Thursday, the "Artist In Residence" partnership extends over "the next two months," according to an initial report in The New York Times. But NBC Universal didn't specify a time frame, other than saying the deal "coincides" with the Nov. 10th release of The Circle.

Bon Jovi and his band won't be appearing on any other networks until at least Nov. 25th, when a climactic concert performance is set for NBC's Today show. As part of its "Bon Jovi Month," the No. 1-rated network morning show also will welcome the singer and his band on November's three previous Wednesdays. NBC Universal says it's offering "the opportunity to promote The Circle to a broad, diverse audience that cannot be matched in the industry."

Bon Jovi's advertisements for himself will extend to Brian Williams' NBC Nightly News, according to the announcement. That's a highly questionable gambit in which selling a CD is deemed newsworthy in deference to an overall corporate strategy. Williams really should draw a line in NBC's quicksand on this one, even if Bon Jovi's appearance on Nightly News reportedly will be tied to the singer's "philanthropic work."

Other announced venues include The Jay Leno Show, The Tonight Show and an appearance on Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio, where Bon Jovi will be the "featured guest" despite having never starred in a movie. He'll also tape a public service spot for NBC Universal's long-running "The More You Know" campaign. And his band's music will "be heavily integrated throughout NBC's network and cable programming," according to the publicity release.

Perhaps he can play Hardball with Chris Matthews, too. And what about Meet the Press? Those programs so far are unmentioned in NBC Universal's far-flung Bon Jovi-thon.

***On firmer ethical ground, NBC Universal also announced Thursday that Anheuser-Busch and its new Bud Light Golden Wheat brand will be the sole sponsor of the Oct. 17th edition of Saturday Night Live.

Keith Levy, Anheuser-Busch's VP of marketing, says in a statement, "We were looking for a unique way to highlight Bud Light Golden Wheat's launch, and the opportunity to integrate the brand into Saturday Night Live was one too good to pass up. During the episode we are able to incorporate Bud Light Golden Wheat authentically as part of the show's content, offer at-home viewers unprecedented backstage access during regular commercial slots and, at the same time, generate talk value among contemporary adult beer drinkers."

The announced host of the show, actor Gerard Butler, perhaps can be expected to develop a sudden fondness for Bud Light Golden Wheat. Not sure, though, if musical guest Shakira can be believably positioned as a beer drinker.

TV Bulletin Board (Oct. 9) -- Southland sacked before second season can start

Southland star Ben McKenzie can keep his pistol holstered.

NBC has stopped Southland in its tracks, axing the critically acclaimed cop drama before its second season could get underway.

Scheduled to premiere on Friday, Oct. 23rd after debuting last spring, Southland instead will be supplanted by Dateline, which already is airing in what was supposed to be the drama's 8 p.m. (central) slot.

The move further separates last-place NBC from the scripted programming that used to be its bread and butter. Of 22 available prime-time hours per week, a total of 13 are reserved for unscripted fare, ranging from Sunday's NFL football games and trimmings to The Jay Leno Show each weeknight at 9 p.m. (central).

***ABC has renewed three of its four new Wednesday night comedies for full seasons. Getting the pickups are Modern Family, Cougar Town and The Middle. That leaves Kelsey Grammer's Hank in the lurch as the night's lead-off hitter. It hasn't been canceled, but it's definitely not feeling the love.

TV Bulletin Board (Oct. 8) -- Showtime's Dexter adds "Early Cuts" animated webisodes

Rabid fans of Showtime's Dexter, now early in its fourth season, will have another outlet in Dexter: Early Cuts.

The 12 animated webisodes, each running one to two minutes, are scheduled to launch Sunday, Oct. 25th on sho.com.

Showtime says they're a "way to continue building on the mythology and critical mass" of the series, which stars Michael C. Hall as a homicide investigator/serial killer. Narrated by Hall, the webisodes will detail, among other things, how Dexter bought his boat (Slice of Life) and when he began collecting slides of his victims.

***CBS has given full-season orders to two freshman dramas, NCIS: Los Angeles and The Good Wife. They're the No. 1 and No. 2 new series of the fall season, respectively averaging 17.5 million and 13.7 million viewers on Tuesday nights.

Also, HBO has renewed its first-year comedy series Bored to Death for a second season.

***Dallas-based HDNet, run by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, kicks off its inaugural five-game United Football League coverage on Saturday, Oct. 10th (6 p.m. central) with a titanic struggle between the Florida Tuskers and New York Sentinels.

The broadcast team for the games is headed by veteran booth dude Paul Maguire, with help from Kenny Rice, Ron Kruck and Natalie Taylor.

HDNet also has two companion programs ready. The half-hour Live: UFL precedes each game. And the one-hour UFL Blitz (Sundays at 9 a.m. starting Oct. 11th) will have highlights of the week's action.

TV Bulletin Board (Oct. 1) -- Letterman/Ferguson roll in late night, LeBlanc will play self in new Showtime laugher

Lotsa laughs lately for David Letterman and Matt LeBlanc

This is starting to look seriously bad for NBC.

While The Jay Leno Show struggles to gain prime-time traction, his successor as Tonight Show host continues to take a serious thrashing from CBS' Late Show with David Letterman.

It was especially grim during the 2009-'10 season's "premiere week" (Sept. 21-25), when Letterman doubled up on Conan O'Brien by averaging 5 million viewers to Tonight's 2.4 million.

Worse yet for NBC, Letterman also won among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds for the first time since 2005, says CBS. If that Tonight stronghold crumbles, the forced exit of Leno will be an unmitigated disaster.

With Leno still presiding, Tonight averaged 4.7 million total viewers during premiere week of the 2008-'09 season. Letterman ran well behind with 3.9 million viewers.

Letterman's Late Show was boosted last week by back-to-back visits from President Obama and former president Bill Clinton. Meanwhile, O'Brien bumped his head hard during last Friday's taping, prompting NBC to substitute a rerun while the host went to the hospital. Even so, Late Show has been beating Tonight in total viewers for the past three months. So it had already been a bumpy ride for O'Brien after a fast start that quickly petered out.

CBS also is prospering with Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show, which likewise won premiere week in total viewers while tying NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon among 18-to-49-year-olds.

***Former Friends star Matt LeBlanc and one of the show's key executive producers, David Crane, are in business again with a new Showtime comedy series called Episodes. Premise: LeBlanc plays himself in a "dumbed down" American version of a British hit.

"We jumped at the chance to get involved with this cockeyed look at network television told through the eyes of unsuspecting British producers who don't know what hit them when they enter the lion's den of Hollywood," Showtime entertainment president Robert Greenblatt says in a publicity release. "And Matt LeBlanc -- wryly sending up his own image -- is icing on the cake."

LeBlanc says he's happy to have the part because "seeing someone else play Matt LeBlanc would have been devastating."

Six episodes have been ordered for a 2010 debut on both Showtime and BBC Two. Crane and Jeffrey Klarik (Mad About You are the show's creators.

***Readers with DirecTV -- or who have friends with DirecTV -- can catch six hours of commercial-free Farm Aid 2009 this Sunday, Oct. 4th.

Show time is 4 p.m. (central) on the satellite service's 101 Network. Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp will perform as always. Other announced acts include Dave Matthews, Wilco, Jason Mraz, Gretchen Wilson, Billy Joe Shaver, Phosphorescent and the always popular Titty Bingo.