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Collinsworth Ready for Bills Preseason Opener

PASADENA, Calif. -- NBC football analyst Cris Collinsworth can do something that some Buffalo Bills probably can't do yet -- name most players on the team's offensive line.

In a conference call to promote his first Sunday Night Game with Al Michaels since he was officially named John Madden's replacement -- Collinsworth illustrated a wide knowledge of the Bills before their Hall of Fame game with Tennessee Sunday night from Canton, Ohio.

He spoke highly of the Bills receiving tandem of Terrell Owens and Lee Evans.

"This receiving tandem now -- if it is not the best -- it is pretty close to it in the NFL," said Collinsworth, who is a close friend of Bills offensive co-ordinator Turk Schonert.

But Collinsworth knows that Owens and Evans probably won't play much Sunday, so he plans to concentrate on the offensive line.

"Because the real story for Buffalo is what happens with the offensive line," he said. "I can't imagine that Eric Wood, Andy Levitre, Langston Walker and (Geoff) Hangartner and some of those guys aren't going to get an extended period of time playing. And I can probably tell you more about the Buffalo Bills success or lack thereof by the way they're playing than I can anything else so we'll follow that story for sure."

For more on Collinsworth and NBC's plans for the preseason game, read Sports on the Air in Saturday's Buffalo News.

-- Alan Pergament

Enter This Paula Abdul Contest

PASADENA, Calif. -- I'm going to miss Paula Abdul on "American Idol" next season primarily because she was the one judge who was so easy to make fun of on the Fox hit program.

I'll also miss her goofy, playful moments with judge Simon Cowell and her astute reviews of performers.

All right, I'm kidding. The astute comment was a joke. I won't miss Abdul much at all because she added next to nothing beyond her cheerleading.

Still, it is somewhat of a risk for an aging hit program to mess with a winning formula, which made Tuesday's announcement that Abdul is leaving a minor surprise despite the rumors. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see if Fox hires a fourth judge to replace her because cast changes often occur when shows age and they even can be beneficial.

I didn't believe the statements by Abdul or Fox for a second that she made the decision and Fox is "saddened" she decided to leave the show in the judging hands of Cowell, Randy Jackson and last season's newcomer, Kara DioGuardi.

The skeptic in me even slightly wonders if Tuesday's announcements were part of a publicity stunt designed to create pressure on Fox to bring her back.

In honor of the Abdul announcement, I invite you in 25 words or less to explain what about Paula you will miss. As an alternative, you can also explain in 25 words or less why you're happy to see her go.

-- Alan Pergament


Ashton Kutcher Has Initial Success

PASADENA, Calif. -- Ashton Kutcher, the movie and TV star turned producer, is producing a new CW series this fall set inside the modeling industry,  "The Beautiful Life."

And surprise, surprise, it isn't one of his reality series. It is a drama about the modeling business that is not-so-dear to Kutcher's heart. You see before he was cast in "That '70s Show" and became a star, Kutcher was a model and didn't enjoy the experience.

"It is tedious," said Kutcher after the press conference.

Some of his experiences are expected to surface in the scripts, along with those of supervising producer (and former model) Adam Giaudrone. The cast includes supermodel Elle Macpherson and Mischa Barton of "The O.C."

Since we now live in a world of texting and tweeting, Kutcher is referring to the show by its initials -- "TBL." Using the initial idea would mean the new CW series, "Melrose Place," would be known as "MP." That works fine. But the CW might not want to go with initials for "The Vampire Dairies" for obvious reasons.

-- Alan Pergament  

Melrose Place, Vampires Have Something in Common

PASADENA, Calif. -- You can't kill the momentum of vampire shows or revivals of old shows like "Melrose Place."

One of the new series on The CW this fall is "The Vampire Dairies," which follows the success of the HBO series "True Blood" and the feature film "Twilight" on the vampire express.

"Dairies" is based on a series of novels and is co-produced by Kevin Williamson ("Dawson's Creek"). He  acknowledged here today before the nation's television critics that by necessity the pilot has some similarities to "Twilight" but added that will change in weekly episodes.

The only recognizable name among the young stars in "Vampire" is Ian Somerhalder ("Lost"). He plays a bad vampire who is at odds with the good vampire played by handsome Paul Wesley (yeah, I recognized his face more than his name, too) who comes to the small town of Mystics Falls for romantic reasons.

Unfortunately, Somerhalder wasn't here. That left the female lead, Nina Dobrey (yeah,  I recognized her face more than her name, too), to try and explain why vampire shows are very much alive these days.

"It is timeless," she said. "They don't die. They're always around."

Williamson acknwoledged that there are so many vampires around the cultural landscape these days that he initially said "no way" to the project.

"Then I read the books," he added. He was sold on them and the challenge to do something different with the vampire premise.

Of course, TV is known for recycling old ideas anyway. Which brings us back to "Melrose Place," which ran on Fox for seven years through 1999 and will join the CW schedule in a new version this fall a year after the network brought back "90210" with limited success.

The young cast includes Ashlee Simpson-Wentz as the new young adult in the complex who probably isn't going to be as naive as she appears to be in the pilot.Original cast members Laura Leighton and Thomas Calabro are also in the pilot.

Some things about "Melrose" haven't changed.

"It definitely is the most scandalous adress in West Hollywood," said executive producer Todd Slavkin.

Are you looking forward to the new version of "Melrose"? And do you think there will be room for another vampire series like "The Vampire Dairies?"

-- Alan Pergament

  

  

Conan Becomes Car Salesman

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. -- I got a VIP pass from NBC to see "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" with the stipulation that I go as a guest rather than as a critic and wouldn't write about it.

That sounded like a bizarre request, especially since"Tonight" has been on a ratings slide since O'Brien has taken over for Jay Leno and he probably needs all the press he can get right now.

But even more bizarre than that request was what happened in an early segment of Monday's show, which I could have seen on TV if I hadn't been in the audience. It was an extended segment about a silly contest involving old cars inspired by the Cash for Clunkers campaign.

The winner of the contest wins a luxury car with a lot of bells and whistles. The luxury car got so much attention from a "Tonight Show" staffer that it appeared that the contest really was designed to promote the vehicle more than laughs.

In other words, it appeared to be a thinly-disguised product placement segment. These things are happening on TV. But the placement of the segment so early in the program slowed the hour down. However, the way things are going, we were probably looking at the future of late-night TV.

If you saw Monday's show, what did you think of the segment?

-- Alan Pergament   

Baranski Gets a Very "Good" TV Role

PASADENA, Calif.- Buffalo's Christine Baranski is one of the stars of one of the best new dramas of the fall, CBS' "The Good Wife."

That's right, I said drama. In a telephone interview, Baranski told me she was attracted to the role of a powerful female lawyer because she wanted a change from the comic roles she has become known for in the CBS series "Cybill" and other network projects.

Not that comedy hasn't been rewarding for Baranski, who was nominated for another Emmy last month for a guest appearance on the CBS comedy, "The Big Bang Theory."

""The Good Wife," which stars Julianna Margulies as the wife of a disgraced Chicago politician and is loosely based on the sex scandal involving former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and other scandals involving politicians, is being shot in New York City. That was another attraction for Baranski, who lives in Connecticut.

Because the show is in production, Margulies was the only actor to fly West and come here for a press conference with the nation's television critics. She plays a woman attorney who returns to the work force and joins a high-powered legal firm to feed her family after her husband lands in jail. Baranski, Chris Noth (who plays Margulies' disgraced husband) and Josh Charles ("Sports Night"), who are in the exceptional cast, stayed back in New York City to film scenes..

But I was able to catch up with Baranski on the phone. You can read my interview with her in Wednesday's Buffalo News.

-- Alan Pergament 

Wardrobe Malfunction at CSI

PASADENA, Calif. -- The president of CBS Entertainment tossed around a lot of theories about the ratings decline for "CSI" last season.

Nina Tassler, the president, noted some obvious things. The death of Warrick Brown in the season opener led to the departure of actor Gary Dourdan. There also was the midseason departure of William Petersen, the series lead as Gil Grissom. Jorja Fox, who played investigator Sara Sidle, Grissom's love interest, also left the program. The back problems that George Eads (Nick Stokes) had at the end of the season hurt, too.

Tassler wouldn't put much blame on Laurence Fishburne, who came aboard as Dr. Raymond Langston after Petersen left and was "gradually" introduced and appeared to be "an outsider." But she suggested Langston's wardrobe might have been a problem and added things should be better next season when Langston becomes "more settled in his role."

"He's in more of leadership capacity," explained Tassler. "He's well versed or more well versed in the language of 'CSI.' He's had a little bit of a wardobe makeover."

"Our research and our fans said they really love Fishburne. They just wanted to see him sort of more comfortable in his clothes."

Fishburne's clothes won't be the only change next season. Tassler added that Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) promotes Nick and Fox is back as Sara for the season's first five episodes. 

What did you think of Fishburne and his wardrobe last season?

-- Alan Pergament

The Answer Is Blowin' In the Wind

PASADENA, Calif. -- When it comes to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez isn't in a talking mood.

At a press conference for an upcoming edition of PBS' "American Masters" series titled "Joan Baez: Sing Me Home," the legendary folk singer was asked a series of questions about Dylan that began with one asking what their relationship was like these days.

"Well, I don't really have one," said Baez, who appeared via satellite from Newport, R.I. before appearing at George Wein's Folk Festival 50 (formerly the Newport Folk Festival).

Not satisfied, the questioner asked: "Why is that? I mean, when is the last time you chatted with him?"

"You know," replied Baez, "Susan Lacy (the producer) and American Masters made a magnificent documentary on him. And once you've seen it, you won't ever really have another question of me about Bob Dylan."

The questioner persisted and asked Baez when is the last time she talked to Dylan.

"I don't think you heard what I just said," protested Baez.

Undaunted, the questioner asked one more time.

"I think you better see the documentary," replied Baez. "Isn't that right, Susan?"

After the press conference, I asked Lacy what Dylan said about Baez in the 2005 American Masters program, "Bob Dylan: No Direction Home."

"He hurt her feelings really badly after she had made his career," said Lacy. "She brought him on the stage. Nobody wanted to hear him at the time. He was a little punk and they only wanted to hear her and she knew he was greatness personified.

"And then they were lovers. And then they went on a British tour and he refused to invite her on the stage. He said (on the program) that he was very sorry that he was a young punk and he hurt her feelings and he wishes he hadn't. He wishes he could do it over again and he was sad the relationship ended. A pretty amazing admission."

Dylan was interviewed for the Baez program, which will air on Oct. 14. David Crosby, Roger McGuinn and Rev. Jesse Jackson also were interviewed. Sounds like must-see TV for anyone who lived through the 1960s.

-- Alan Pergament

TV Critics Awards Dominated by Cable

PASADENA, Calif. -- Thank heavens for "The Big Bang Theory." That's undoubtedly what broadcast networks must have been thinking after looking at the list of winners at the 25th Television Critics Association Awards Saturday night.

The CBS comedy was the only network show on the air to get awards on a night that little-watched cable TV shows dominated. NBC's "ER," also won a Heritage Award for its work over 15 seasons. And Betty White, who has been on TV since practically the beginning of time, was given a career achievement award. And that was it for broadcast TV.

The critics honored "Big Bang" as outstanding comedy and co-star Jim Parsons for individual achievement in a comedy.

AMC's "Mad Men" was honored as outstanding drama and Bryan Cranston of AMC's "Breaking Bad" won for individual achievement in drama. SyFy's "Battlestar Gallactica" was named program of the year even though it wasn't nominated as best drama. Things like that happen at the TCA Awards.

HBO won three awards:  "True Blood" was honored as outstanding new program, "Grey Gardens" as outstanding movie, miniseries and special and "The Alzheimer's Project' as outstanding news and information program. Nickelodeon's "Yo Gabba Gabba" was named outstanding children's program.

Of course, winning a TCA award doesn't guarantee anything when the Emmys are given out next month. What do you think of the critics' selections and the state of network television?

-- Alan Pergament

Donald Faison Has to Scrub Appearance for Channel 17 Program

PASADENA, Calif. -- WNED-TV got a big name -- Donald Faison of "Scrubs" -- to host a national program about financial literacy, "Your Life, Your Money," and as a result got a place in the PBS portion of the Television Critics Association press tour here.

Unfortunately, an hour before the Saturday session for the Sept. 9 program, Faison was called away for a family emergency and had to cancel his appearance.

The session went on with executive producer John Grant, producer Tom Simon and financial expert Beth Kobliner but attendance suffered. About 50 critics were in attendance, far below the number that likely would have been there if Faison had appeared. 

"It was disappointing, but there was nothing you can do about it," said Grant afterward. "But I was pleased with the turnout and it would have been bigger if Donald had been there."

Faison's agent told Grant that his client felt badly about canceling and would do phone interviews for the program at a later date.

Fortunately, I interviewed Faison over coffee hours before he was called away. In Tuesday's Buffalo News, I will give a full report on why Faison agreed to host Channel 17's program. Faison also talked about the future of his  character, Dr. Chris Turk, on the new edition of "Scrubs." It is set at a hospital on a college campus where Turk teaches surgery. Faison said he and John C. McGinley (Dr. Perry Cox) will appear in all episodes of the new show and Zach Braff (Dr. John Dorian or J.D.) will appear in six episodes.

What do you think about ABC's decision to continue "Scrubs" with a new cast in a new setting?

-- Alan Pergament   

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