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March 28, 2007 |

By Seth Freilich | Industry | March 28, 2007 |

The best TV news of the past week is only something football fans will care about, but this is huge TV news for us. Joe Theismann and his inane comments have been thrown to the curb by ESPN and will no longer be in the Monday Night Football booth (although he may still do college broadcasts for ESPN and/or ABC). This is a boon to end all boons. But better yet, his spot is being taken over by Ron Jaworski, which excites me to no end. And it’s not just because Jaws is a former QB for my beloved Philly Eagles. Rather, it’s because he is unquestionably the best TV football analyst in the game right now, and this means that we may actually get some meaningful commentary during our Monday Night Football. Although, granted, Tony Kornheiser will still be in the booth — I love you on “PTI,” Tony, but not so much in the booth.

OK, football talk over. But let’s stay on Monday nights. Fox has decided, a good number of weeks ahead of the Upfronts, to confirm that “Prison Break” will definitely be coming back for a third season. The show’s creator, Paul Scheuring, is being generally hush-hush about the third-season plot (rumors are that we’ll see a return to prison), although he says that most of the regulars will be back and he hints that one of the Burrows brothers may bite the big one next season. I’m actually the only person I know still watching this show, but I guess there are enough others out there. And for the record, it’s not that I think this is a good show by any stretch of the imagination. It is, however, a perfectly fine distraction; especially on Monday nights, when my TiVo isn’t yet backlogged with other shows from the week. And I have to admit that I’ve actually enjoyed this second season significantly more than the current season of “24,” which is boring the bejesus out of me. Plus, I have a bit of a TV-crush on Sarah Wayne Callies, who plays “Break’s” Dr. Sara Tancredi (she’s attainable hot, and while she’s probably still outta my league, you have to root for the attainable hotties out there).

But not to be outdone by Fox, ABC said, “We’ll take your one early renewal and raise you 10,” coming out with an early confirmation about the return of 11 of its shows. Three freshmen have been guaranteed sophomore seasons — “Ugly Betty,” which was a solid hit right out of the gates, and “Brothers & Sisters” and “Men in Trees,” which have slowly grown their own little followings. The network will also be bringing back four of its dramas, none of which are big surprises (“Boston Legal,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Lost”) and three of its reality shows (“Dancing with the Stars,” “Extreme Makeover” and the I-didn’t-know-it-was-even-still-around “The Bachelor”). These 11 pickups join four previous commitments made by the network, for “Supernanny,” “Wife Swap,” “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (another one I didn’t know was still around) and the late-night “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Of note here is that none of ABC’s comedies were given an early pickup, leaving shows like “According to Jim” and “George Lopez” on the precipitous bubble. I don’t watch either show, but I’m still rooting for their cancellation simply because the world will clearly be a better place without them.

Heads up Veronica lovers! The CW has confirmed that my girlfriend “Veronica Mars” will be coming back with her last batch of new episodes for the season (and, quite possibly, her last batch ever) on May 1.

OK, time to talk to my HBO peeps. If you’re not one of them, you can skip this paragraph and jump right into Pilot Watch 2007. But those of you smart enough (and financially secure enough) to have HBO, we’ve got a couple of nuggets to discuss. First, the network has put together quite the solid cast for its “John Adams” miniseries which will, shockingly, be about John Adams (for the historically challenged out there, of which I am a proud member, he was our second president). Paul Giamatti is on tap to play Adams, while Laura Linney will play his wife. My Philly boy Benjamin Franklin will be played by Tom Wilkinson, George Washington will be played by David Morse (“the strong, potentially deadly father,” as described by Dan), Alexander Hamilton is coming to us in the form of Rufus Sewell, and Danny Huston will be playing Sam Adams. I’m so totally on board with this. Meanwhile, you surely know that “The Sopranos” comes back for its last run on April 8 (and it’ll be followed by the season premiere of “Entourage,” which has another of my TV crushes, Carla Gugino). But here’s what comes next. “The Sopranos” finale will air on June 10, followed by the premiere of David Milch’s “John from Cincinnati.” Yes, the show is partially responsible for the untimely death of “Deadwood,” but I, for one, will still tune in to see what Milch has up his sleeve. Meanwhile, the following Sunday (June 17), “John” will be proceeded by the second season premiere of “Big Love,” which is simply great news news, and means we’ll have at least some good shows to help us float through the television doldrums of summer.

And with that, let’s hit Pilot Watch 2007. Now in the world of critics, it seems very rare for one critic to ever mention another (certainly never to criticize, and even less often to say something positive). I don’t know if there’s some sort of stupid unspoken rule or what the deal is, but fuck that shit. You guys should go check out a great piece that Tim Goodman (critic for the San Francisco Chronicle) wrote last week. In it, he takes a look at the seven in-production pilots which are all remakes of British shows, and he assesses their likelihood of success. I’m not sure I agree with all of his comments or analysis, but it’s still a thoughtful discussion on these shows with some solid insight, so for those of you who care about such things, it’s a worthwhile read (but only after finishing this here column, of course!).

Speaking of the British remakes, I don’t think I’ve mentioned ABC’s pilot for “Football Wives” in any of my roundups. Based on the British “Footballers’ Wives,” this pilot is probably one of the ones with the most early buzz (although there’s no pilot with the buzz of last year’s pilot for “Studio 60,” which is probably a good thing). The show will focus on the lives of three women whose husbands become rich and famous sports stars. While the British version of the show focused on the wives of successful soccer players (which a Brit reminded me, a few weeks back, is “real football”), the U.S. version will, as one might expect, change the sport to American football. ABC has lined up quite a few names for the cast, including Lucy Lawless, Ving Rhames, James Van Der Beek (“I…don’t want…your life!”) and Gabrielle Union, among others. I’m guessing that this show will get an episode order unless the pilot is an utter disaster, so we’ll probably see this on the schedule come the Upfronts.

You know, I had pretty much forgotten all about Anna Chlumsky, who really only stands out in my memory not for being in My Girl as much as for being in the flick where Macaulay Culkin’s character died by bee sting (although I enjoyed his death much more in The Good Son). In any event, she’s signed on for a new CW pilot, the comedy “Eight Days a Week.” The show is about for assistants for powerful NYC types, focusing on their various trials and tribulations. And that’s not actually a bad premise for a comedy, although my faith in the CW isn’t exactly sky-high right now (and that faith will be non-existent if we don’t get to see some more V. Mars next fall).

Meanwhile, the CW also has a new pilot called “Hell on Earth.” And contrary to early reports, this show is not a documentary about the network’s own failures. Rather, it’s a comedy about a bitchy gal who gets macked by a bus and winds up in purgatory. She’s given a second chance, however, and gets sent back to Earth as an “ordinary girl.” The only actor signed on so far is Kim Coles (of “Living Single”) who will play an angel.

And why have one new pilot based on an idea, when you can have two? CBS has a pilot called “I’m in Hell,” which sounds ever-so-familiar. This show is about a Wall Street big-whig who gets into a car crash but, like the “Hell on Earth” chick, he gets sent back to the living, only without all the glorious things of his former life. The main character is slated to be played by pie-fucking Jason Biggs, so it seems he’s also being given a bit of a second chance, and it should be interesting to see if he can revive his career. I like Biggs well enough, especially after he lost a bet with a fellow Philadelphia Eagles fan on an L.A. morning radio show and honored the bet by showing up in an Eagles cheerleading outfit and washing the fan’s car. Point being, I’ll root for him for now.

I will not, however, root for this next attempt at a career fix. CBS has a new game show pilot in the works from the ripe minds of Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg, who brought us “Punk’d” (which wraps up its last season over on MTV, starting next month). “Game Show in My Head” will involve folks performing hidden-camera stunts, whatever the hell that means. Sounds to me like a non-celebrity version of “Punk’d.” But the person I’m rooting against here isn’t really Kutcher or Goldberg. Instead, I’m rooting against Chris Kattan, who’s slated to host the show. The last time I checked, my right testicle was funnier and more entertaining than Chris Kattan, and that’s saying something (not so much because I’m saying that a testicle is better than Kattan, but that I’m saying it’s my right testicle, because my left is clearly the more talented of the pair).

Over on Fox, meanwhile, there are two more drama pilots on tap. First there’s “Company Man,” about a dude (played by Jason Behr, who I gather fans of “Roswell” will know) who the NSA forces to become a spy at the defense company where he works. Behr’s role was originally slated to be played by Stephen Moyer, but he got the boot when the producers decided to go with a younger cast (but that sounds like a shady excuse to me, seeing as how Moyer’s a whole 2 years older than Behr). And if that doesn’t work for you, Fox is also looking at “Them,” about an alien sleeper cell in Los Angeles. “Them” is being exec-produced by, among others, David Eick (one half of the duo responsible for “Battlestar Galactica”), which is certainly a good name to see attached to a SciFi-ish show. The show has another “BSG” connection, as well, as Tricia Helfer (yummy Caprica Six) has signed on as one of the aliens. If this show gets an episode order, it’ll be interesting to see if her character ends up being short-lived, or if we’ll just see even less of the various Sixes than we saw this season on “BSG.”

Finally, there are two new comedy pilots on ABC’s slate. First there’s “Family of the Year,” with Jennifer Coolidge and Alan Ruck. The show is about a family, in a little New Mexico town, which has been named “family of the year” for 10 years running. Coolidge’s character is a former beauty queen, and Ruck will be playing the family’s beat-down father. Things get tricky for the family, however, when some new folks move into town, offering an actual challenge to the “family of the year” honor. While quirky family comedies can go bad very fast, Ruck and Coolidge make this worth keeping an eye on. And ABC has also signed up Ruck’s “Spin City” costar Heather Locklear in “See Jayne Run.” Locklear is set to play the lead character, an “alpha female” who is trying to get by in the investment banking world while also juggling her new life as a single mom. Locklear had a pilot with ABC last year, “Women of a Certain Age,” which didn’t make the cut, and quite frankly, this doesn’t sound much better. But I’ll root for her anyway, as she’s proven to be quite funny in the right role (not to mention the fact that the 45-year-old is holding up very well, as far as the little male-pig-who-only-cares-about-hotness in me is concerned).

I’ll leave you with a clip from the newly launched Onion News Network for no other reason than “just because:”


Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television columnist. If you can’t tell, he’s a Philadelphia Eagles fan.

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Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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