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May 23, 2007 |

By Seth Freilich | Industry | May 23, 2007 |

Well last week I told you that “The Apprentice” wasn’t on NBC’s fall schedule, and word was that the network hadn’t come to a final decision one way or the other about the show’s future. Well Donald Trump decided to take the steering wheel into his own hands, of course, announcing that he was bowing out of “The Apprentice,” not to save face from having himself fired (no sir — only a cynic would think that!), but so that he could work on a “major new TV venture.” NBC, for its part, continues to say that it hasn’t made a decision yet on the show’s return, noting that it has until June 1 to make such a decision (and it’s reported that Trump is still locked up, by contract, for one more season). The real question, of course, is whether anyone cares. And I think we all know the answer to that. As for Trump’s “major new TV venture,” no word on what that might be, although there have been rumors of a project with the Fox Business Channel and hints that he’ll again work with Mark Burnett. But whatever his new venture is, knowing Trump, it’ll allegedly be the best, most original, most amazing program to ever come across TV … and it’ll be bankrupt a year-and-a-half later.

And speaking of last week’s network upfronts (you can find my write-up of the networks’ here: NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox and the CW) it should come as no surprise that there are some other follow-up stories, aside from The Donald. First, one minor surprise last week was that ABC decided not to pick up the pilot for “Mrs. and Mrs. Smith.” This was a bummer for me, personally, because it had Jordana Brewster in the Angelina Jolie/Maria Bello role (man alive - how’s that for a threesome?!), and having Brewster on my television would’ve helped, ever so slightly, to ease the pain of my Kirsten Bell no longer being on the tube. However, the production companies behind the show had an early out in their contract with the ABC, and they plan to shop it around to other networks. Does mean that there’s hope for the show? Probably not. Networks hate taking another network’s sloppy seconds, particularly because if they pick up a show and it winds up failing, they look like utter rubes for taking ABC’s trash. So don’t hold your breath.

Meanwhile, my columns last week neglected to mention some other surprises, in terms of pilots that didn’t get picked up. So let’s take a quick look-see now. I’m definitely bummed, as I said last week, that CBS didn’t pick up “Babylon Fields,” not just because it was about zombies, but because it starred Ray Stevenson (although this now frees him up to be Kevin McKidd’s hologram buddy on the new “Journeyman!”). I’m indifferent to “Football Wives” (the British import) not getting picked up, although it’s a little surprising considering it had a pretty solid cast and featured a pilot directed by Bryan Singer. Two other British imports also failed to get picked up. I’m okay with ABC skipping over David E. Kelley’s “Life on Mars” because, if “The Wedding Bells” is any proof, Kelley is waaaaay past his prime. But I’m bummed that the Alphabet also skipped over “The Thick of It,” because the prospect of Oliver Platt and Michael McKean starring on a comedy coming from Mitch Hurwitz and Christopher Guest had me licking my lips. That pilot either blew hard, or ABC has no taste (and taking a look at ABC’s comedies over the last couple of years - including “George Lopez” which, I’m sorry people, just wasn’t fucking funny - I’m thinking it’s more the latter).

(By the way, if you’re curious about some of the new fall shows that were picked up, there are plenty of clips available online. The good folks over at TV Week are hosting a slew of clips, viewable by network, by scheduled day of the week or individually. And you can catch some more clips of different shows all over the place - “The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” for example, are over at TV Squad.)

As far as canceled shows, one of the cancellations that got the most panties in a bunch last week was CBS’ decision to yank “Jericho.” And in a rare move, CBS actually talked back to those panties-bunched fans, publishing a letter on its website. Written by entertainment president Nina Tassler, the letter said that the cancellation was “a very difficult decision,” of course, and that the network appreciated the fan commitment. Tassler concluded by saying: “In the coming weeks, we hope to develop a way to provide closure to the compelling drama that was the Jericho story.” No word on what this closure would be, although there is now rampant speculation about a TV movie or miniseries. Considering that the ratings weren’t terrible at the end of its run, it’s reasonable to think that the network could pull in a fair amount of viewers for such a special (although they’d surely get almost no new eyes, and there would probably be a further decline as some fans would have moved on). And the network could also decide not to air a filmed wrap-up, at all, instead making it a DVD-only special, trying to pull in that treasured DVD boxed set money. But either of these would require the show to be able to get most of the on-screen and off-screen folks back together for a couple of weeks, and to do so in a way that makes financial sense for the network. I’m gonna guess that won’t happen and that, instead, we’ll see some lame write-up on the CBS website explaining what would’ve been. Which is fine by me, as that would allow me to get the plot elements without having to look at Skeet Skeet Skeet.

Looking even further ahead than next fall, Fox is already on top of its game, announcing the owner of next year’s coveted post-Super Bowl slot. The Big Game ‘08 will be followed by “House.” This is a slightly bizarre choice, since “House” is already one of the network’s biggest hits, and one of the bigger hits on TV in general. I would’ve thought Fox would want to use this slot to bump up a show needing some more eyeballs. But I guess Fox decided to take the safe route, knowing that “House” will get huge numbers out of this, making the network look “smart” for going that way.

In any event, turning back to the current TV slate, there are a slew of reality shows set to debut over the next couple of months, starting with “On the Lot,” which premiered on Fox last night (and I have no comment on it as it’s still sitting on my TiVo, because I had to … deal with saying my goodbyes to “Veronica”). The good folks over at Reality Blurred have all the dates compiled on one nice little list, so go check it out to get your reality craving quashed. (And for the record, here are the ones from that list that I intend to give a try: “On the Lot,” “Reunited: The Real World Las Vegas,” “Pirate Master,” “Top Chef 3” (!), “Last Comic Standing,” and “Who Wants to Be a Superhero.”)

It’s never a bad thing to have more William H. Macy (one-half, of course, of the power-couple that Colbert brilliantly dubbed Filliam H. Muffman). Macy is slated to star in an upcoming TNT show called “Family Man.” He’s also the show’s writer, and his pen will be scribing the tale of a modern-day Wall Street Robin Hood, stealing money from big corporations while also making lots of charitable donations. Variety reports that the show will incorporate flash-forwards showing Macy’s character, at some time in the future, behind bars. No filming or airing schedule yet, so it’ll probably be a bit of time before we hear about this, but I’m pretty psyched about it on first blush.

For those of you who were fans of the deceased “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” just a friendly reminder that NBC starts burning off the remaining episodes (there are seven, I believe) this Thursday night.

And I leave you with this clip from last week’s finale of “The Office,” mainly because Stanley’s last line in the clip was my favorite line of the night, and perhaps one of my favorite lines of the whole show (and if you’re interested, the wonderful internet has of course made both Schrutebucks and Stanley Nickels available to us all):

Seth “the Orangutan” Freilich is Pajiba’s television columnist. He wouldn’t have guess this a few months back, but he’s actually quite looking forward to tonight’s two-hour finale of “Lost,” though he’s more excited about Liverpool’s big match this afternoon. Go Reds!

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May 23, 2007

Industry | May 23, 2007 |

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

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