Press tour snack bar (Day 7)

Lost's Jorge Garcia ("Hurley") and Daniel Dae Kim ("Jin") assume the position before joining ABC's jammed "All-Star Party."
Photos: Ed Bark
PASADENA, Calif. -- Enjoy these tidbits while also checking out a few of Uncle Barky's homemade photos at the midpoint of the networks' midseason TV press tour.

***It wasn't supposed to happen until next season, but FX's new Dirt drama has squeezed in Jennifer Aniston as a guest star on the show's spring finale.

She'll play magazine editor Tina Harrod, rival of muckraking Lucy Spiller, played by series star Courteney Cox. The two haven't worked together since Friends left NBC in 2004. Aniston's episode, which begins filming Thursday, will air on March 27.

***Fox's two-hour, sixth season premiere of 24 opened big Sunday night, averaging 15.7 million viewers in the national Nielsens.

That was nearly enough to outpoint ABC's Desperate Housewives, which drew 16.7 million viewers opposite 24's second hour (16.2 million). 24 also finished close behind DH among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds.

Left for dead were NBC's new reality combo of Grease: You're the One That I Want (8.2 million viewers) and Donald Trump's The Apprentice (7.3 million).

Brothers & Sisters star Patricia Wettig and real-life husband Ken Olin, who co-produces the series, make merry on the red carpet.

***ABC's lively "Showrunners" panel kicked into a higher gear when Lost co-executive producer Carlton Cuse said it "wouldn't be half the show it is if it wasn't for the willingness of the studio and the network to embrace the crazy ideas that we've come up with. When you say, 'Oh, we're going to have Michael (Harold Perrineau Jr.) shoot two of our other characters. He's one of our leads, and he's going to murder two of our other leads. How do you feel about that?' And they . . .

Co-producer Damon Lindelof then interjected, "They're like, 'As long as one of them is Michelle Rodriguez, we're cool."

His reference to the trouble-prone Rodriguez (who played Ana-Lucia Cortez) got a mega-laff and a quick backpedal from Lindelof.

"And that's a joke," he said, prompting Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry to jab, "Tap dance, baby. Go."

Cherry said a showrunner is "like the captain of a ship. And sometimes you have bad days. As adorable as I am, my writing staff could just tell you tales."

As for ramrodding the talent, "you have to be strong," Cherry said. "Part of my job is hugging, where you just have to kind of just smooth out the tortured egos of some fragile artists at times . . . Then every once in a while you come across a monster who is impossible to deal with. And you start saying 'Life is too short' and phone calls to the network are made and that kind of thing."

***ABC's oft-politically incorrect Boston Legal continues to draw big enough crowds to ensure another season. ABC entertainment president Stephen McPherson says he's still a big fan.

"I mean, any show where the lead of the show can say, 'I think that midget I'm dating is my daughter' . . ."

"That's good television right there. It doesn't get better than that."

Face in the crowd: Donal Logue, star of The Knights of Prosperity, tries to sell the electronic press on his ratings-hungry new comedy.

***We'll close with some cheery words on the future of newspapers from former 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman, who was portrayed by Al Pacino in the acclaimed feature film The Insider.

Now an investigative reporter with The New York Times, Bergman is the principal correspondent on Frontline's four-hour News War, set to premiere Feb. 13 on PBS.

"The economic foundations of the news-gathering organizations that most of you work for are in question," Bergman told TV critics. "As are your jobs, the salaries, your perks and your future. And that, in turn, has an effect on the ability of the organizations to actually do the kind of watchdog reporting that we like to think is the foundation of our business."

Still, most newspapers "are great businesses producing tremendous amounts of cash," said Bergman. Unfortunately, many of those same newspapers are now bowing to the dictates of Wall Street.

"It appears that at one time (privately owned) newspapers were making 50, 60, 70 percent profit. They were huge cash cows," Bergman said. "So they went public. Now it's the other end of that bargain. The investors don't see the 30 to 40 percent profits they were getting every year . . . And you have somebody like Warren Buffett (a major shareholder in The Washington Post and owner of The Buffalo News) saying at his shareholders' meeting that newspapers are not only in decline, it's an industry that may go out of business."

"So the investors are scared, and are wondering where their 30 or 40 percent profit is. That's what their expectation was."

For what it's worth, may hit the the wall at some point. But it won't ever be because of Wall Street.