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November 7, 2007 |

By Seth Freilich | Industry | November 7, 2007 |

Holy clusterfuck scheduling, Batman, HBO has gone right off its rocker. You may recall me telling you about this show a while back — “In Treatment,” which stars Gabriel Byrne as a therapist undergoing his own therapy — and the plan has always been to have five episodes run over the course of a week, with each episode focusing solely on one patient visit (four of his patients, plus his visits with his own therapist). You may also recall that HBO ended up giving the show a massive 45-episode order. Well now we see why. The network is planning to inundate us with this show, running it Monday through Friday for a straight nine weeks (that is, it’s going to hit us with 45 episodes in just over a two month span). Every day of the week will feature the same patient, meaning each patient will ultimately have a nine episode arc. Byrne’s patients include Melissa George (yum!), Blair Underwood (yum!, if I swung that way), Josh Charles (“Sports Night” alert!) and somebody else (either Embeth Davidtz or Mia Wasikowska), plus he’ll be visiting his own therapist, played by Dianne Wiest.

“But TV Whore,” you say, “I can’t possibly keep up with this show.” Well, HBO is going to offer it to you in as many different ways as it can. After the first week, reruns of the previous week’s episode will precede the new episode, and you’ll also be able to find a full week’s worth of episodes each Monday on HBO On Demand. Similarly, the network will rerun episodes throughout the week, and you can surely expect mini-marathons at some point. But if you want to get really creative with your television viewing, you’ll want to tune in to HBO Signature, which will be running the episodes on the same day as papa bear HBO, at the time of the patients’ actual appointment. That is, the Monday episodes will air at 9 a.m., the Wednesday episodes at 4 p.m., etc.). So it’ll be just like you’re taking up some therapy sessions with them!

Holy shit, right? If you’re going to try to watch some or all of this grand experiment, it all begins on January 28th. Now my first thought was that this couldn’t possibly be a success. But it’s got two things working for it. One, it’s an adaptation of an Israeli series that managed to be a smashing cultural success, and swept that country’s version of the Emmy’s. Plus, as you have surely heard, the writers are now sadly on strike. If this strike goes on for a while, as many (myself included) believe it will, late January is right about the time that most of the scripted network shows will be drying up, and we’ll be finding an even wider landscape of televised crap. So you may actually have the TV viewing time to give this thing a try. Which means that, in a bizarre twist, while this strike is anything but good for the television industry as a whole (or the greater Hollywood complex, not to mention the day workers throughout LA), it may actually help HBO and “In Treatment” just a touch.

Speaking of the writers strike, you can kiss “Heroes: Origins” goodbye. Last week, NBC announced that it was giving the six-episode spinoff the “smell ya’ later,” although it officially said that the series was only being put on the shelf “indefinitely,” so it could pop up later. In theory. (“Communism works … in theory.”) The speculation is that NBC made this decision because it’s trying to keep finances tight in light of the WGA strike. Could be. Could also be that “Heroes” has been a (largely, but not entirely) critical and fan disappointment this season, and NBC realized that it might not be able to bottle and market last season’s fire. None of this, however, is the reason the network decided to pull “The Singing Bee” from sweeps, however. Rather, “Bee” simply sucks and has gotten shitty ratings. So NBC will instead fill that sweeps time slot with sweeping two-hour editions of the equally shitty but more watched “The Biggest Loser.”

Last week I gave you lots of bad news. So here’s a small nugget of goodness for you — HBO will be airing the super-sized “Extras” series finale on December 16! As I told you a while back, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant have had a sendoff special in the works for a while, much as they did with “The Office.” No word on what we’re in store for, except that we’ll supposedly see, among others, Clive Owen, Gordon Ramsay, George Michael and David Tennant. Good enough for me! Meanwhile, it’s not much of a surprise, but good news nonetheless that Showtime has picked up “Weeds” for a fourth season. I haven’t loved the current third season as much as the first two, but slightly lower quality “Weeds” is still better than most the rest of the things that bombard our airwaves.

If you’re still a fan of “Survivor” (I will freely admit that I am, and I’ll continue to watch the show as long as it’s on the air), you may be happy to hear that a second all-star season is in the works. Of course, you may not be happy about it, considering there haven’t been nearly as many “all-stars” since the first all-star season (season eight), and this edition will only feature folks from seasons nine through fifteen. We don’t know much about the show just yet, except that it reportedly started production last week in Palau (where the 10th season took place). There is a ton of speculation about who will appear on the show, and CBS surely won’t say anything for some time. The safest bet is probably last season’s Yau-Man, and the most confusing rumor is probably Julie Berry, who is entirely unmemorable except for the fact that she’s been dating host Jeff Probst for some time. Outwit, outplay, outsleep with the host?

Meanwhile, if you’re still on the “Rescue Me” bandwagon (personally, I’m on the fence at this point, watching out of habit more than anything else), you’ll be pleased to learn that not only has FX picked it up for a fifth season, but it’s given the show a 22-episode order, to be run in two chunks. That’s almost double the normal FX order, which typically floats around 13 episodes. Meanwhile, no word on whether there will be a second season of “Damages,” and I have to say that I don’t particularly care much one way or the other (I enjoyed Glenn Close and loved Ted Danson, but was otherwise relatively ambivalent towards the show).

Joy of joys, “American Idol” is practically right around the corner. And a prolonged writers strike surely means Fox will be trying to milk its ratings workhorse even more than usual. In any event, the audition process for the new season is currently underway, and earlier this week, word came out of a new (and wonderful?) twist — contestants will be allowed to bring in and play instruments while they sing. No word yet if that will carry into the later rounds, but I’m guessing this is more about finding folks with embarrassing playing skills to go with embarrassing singing, rather than trying to give folks a greater opportunity to shine. And so I’m guessing this won’t carry past the early auditions. God damn it, I wish I didn’t even care — “American Idol,” how can I quit you?

So last week, I told y’all that NBC was planning to Americanize the wonderful and sadly not-well-known “Spaced.” Well the show’s director, Edgar Wright (who also worked with Simon Pegg on Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) has posted about this on his blog. He says that neither he nor stars Pegg and Jessica Stevenson were contacted about this. No shock there, but this sadly means that none of them will be involved in the same way that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant have been with “The Office,” surely a sign that bodes poorly for “Spaced” (of course, creator Steven Moffat was on board with the Americanization of “Coupling,” and if you’re lucky you don’t remember what a catastrophe that was).

Lastly, the truly big news in TV land this week is of course the WGA strike. I’d love to give you in-depth news about it all, but the cross country moving and the unpacking and the yadda yadda has me a bit bogged down right now. Apple-ologies. But you can follow Variety’s WGA strike blog, Scribe Vibe, for lots of daily updates. Similarly,our friend If a TV Falls in the Woods, has been giving some news from the front, including a link to the strongly worded and deeply heartfelt e-mail from Shawn Ryan about stopping all showrunning activities, not just writing. And lastly, the SF Chronicle’s Tim Goodman wrote a nice piece getting into some of the business of it all. Of course, the long story short version is this — it’s a mess, and things are likely going to get worse before they get better. In any event, to any WGA writers reading this, the TV Whore supports you and hopes this isn’t as long and painful as he thinks it’s going to be.

I don’t have any TV videos to leave you with this week so, instead I’ll go back to my roots as both a geeky scientist and a nerdy video game player. From either of those perspectives, this clip is freaking awesome because the sounds are solely coming from the two tesla coils spitting off the electricity, not from any speakers. Kick ass!

Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television editor. He’s currently busy unpacking all his crap, and wondering if he can just buy his new apartment so he never has to move again.

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Nov. 7, 2007

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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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