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Friday, May 14, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: What did series creator Stephen J. Cannell think of David Shore's pilot script for NBC's now-dead "Rockford Files" reboot?

Those pilot-panicking news breakers over at the fantastic are now reporting that NBC's Rockford Files reboot is kaput ... though "a redevelopment of the concept is still a possibility," states TV editor Nellie Andreeva.

Apparently, the finished cut lacked, um, re-imagination. Which is surprising, given the creative forces behind the show (House creator David Shore and The Office's Steve Carell). Even Rockford co-creator Stephen J. Cannell told me a few weeks ago for a Los Angeles Times story that he thought Shore's pilot script had the "panache" of the original. "A lot of people who'll be tuning in ... are not going to have bulletproof memories of what Rockford was all those years ago," Cannell told me in unpublished portions of his interview. "They'll be able to look at it and evaluate it as its own entity."

Apparently, audiences won't get that chance--unless NBC decides to retool the pilot for midseason or later.

According to New York magazine's Vulture column, "two people familiar with the situation said Rockford turned out to be more rehash than reinvention." The article quotes anonymous sources pointing the finger at pilot director and seasoned TV pro Michael Watkins. The column, indirectly quoting insider sources, reports that Watkins "severely weakened a solid script with lackluster, even listless direction." The story quotes one unnamed source as saying, "The pilot looks like it was shot in the seventies."

Ironically, Cannell told me in March that Shore's script was "funny," "fresh" and an "interesting play" on the original. While acknowledging the reboot's writer as a Rockford fan, Cannell added—and stressed this as a plus for the re-imagined pilot—"David Shore didn't have the experience of making (the show) in the seventies."

In his interview with me, Cannell also said he knew Shore and company, however inventive, inspired and spot-on with their script and casting, had their work cut out for them. "It's very difficult when you start off and are trying to make a classic over," Cannell told me in an unpublished portion of his interview. "Not that Rockford is I Love Lucy, but how would you like to try to make that one over again? You're really climbing a high mountain. Then you have the problem of having it on the video shelf right next to the original."

From my L.A. Times piece: "They couldn't have better people doing this," said a well-wishing Cannell. "But it's gonna be so hard to take out what basically is 50% of the equation -- which is Jim (Garner)."
He continued in his interview with me: "And that's casting no aspersions on the actor they've hired." Mulroney and Shore "are exquisite," he added. "But I guess if you're looking for it to be what it was, it's gonna be pretty hard to do. But if you're looking for it to be a really fun, interesting, funny show that can fill a dead hour on NBC, then that's another thing altogether. I think it can easily hit that goal."

Well, maybe not till 2011.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"V" renewed ... as predicted

ABC adds more pickups - Entertainment News, TV News, Media - Variety

As I predicted in this morning's wee hours, ABC is giving V a second season, despite the reboot's struggles in the ratings. But without a Lost lead-in next season, one wonders what network workhorse will anchor the lizards' mother ship ...

My suggestion: Tom Bergeron narrating an hour of Betty White re-enacting the best of Lost through interpretive dance.

Which TV reboots will be picked up, renewed, retooled or killed?

Vulture Exclusive: Details on What Went Wrong with NBC's Rockford Files Reboot -- Vulture

It looks like NBC's re-imagined Rockford Files pilot will be put on hold and revamped—or killed altogether. I'm betting the former, given NBC's nearly year-long investment in the project and the fact that CBS's Hawaii Five-0 and CW's Nikita appear to be a go for fall. (Does the Peacock want to be the only network that failed to produce a potentially winning retro remake—especially with its legacy of Bionic Woman and Knight Rider-style reboot crash-and-burns?)

Perhaps we'll see Rockford and ABC's Charlie's Angels redo midseason. I'm also betting ABC holds on to V for another batch of "pod" episodes this fall—at least till it sees how Five-O and (to a lesser extent) Nikita perform. Hot "private eye/spy" remakes and the continuing decline of highly serialized network dramas could spell the end of V and the return of T&A, er, Charlie's Angels.

I'd love to see a re-envisioned Rockford move forward. Dermot Mulroney, as I wrote in my recent LA Times piece, has big gumshoes to fill in replacing Jim Garner. But the 40ish film actor is a crooked-grinned charmer and—with the proper script and direction—seems up to the challenge of reinventing the quirky-cool Rockford.

If all else fails, NBC could give Mulroney's Rockford a crazy-hot love interest. Betty White in da house!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Who's been managing Charlie's Angels's money???

If he were alive today, Angel- and luxury-loving Charlie Townsend would not be a happy man.

Charlie's Angels star Kate Jackson, claiming she's in "financial ruin," is suing her former financial advisor for $3 million. The advisor: Farrah Fawcett's former business manager, Richard B. Francis.

Francis, who's also Ryan O'Neal's business manager and a trustee of Fawcett's estate, has his hands full these days. He's already engaged in dueling lawsuits with Farrah's Story documentary exec producer Craig Nevius, who--as Jackson claims happened to herself--was cut out of Fawcett's life in the weeks (in Nevius's case, months) leading up to her tragic death from anal cancer on June 25, 2009.

Last March, Nevius--sued by Fawcett's estate in January for allegedly embezzling "hundreds of thousands of dollars" from her production company--charged in court filings that Francis and Fawcett friend Alana Stewart are using the cancer research charity The Farrah Fawcett Foundation "to divert Ms. Fawcett’s assets away from other rightful beneficiaries," including the late actress's 92-year-old father, James.

In her suit filed this week, Jackson claims Francis knew about her "extremely close relationship" with Fawcett and capitalized on that connection to land Jackson as a client. The brunette Angel alleges Francis estimated she was worth about $5.4 million, and advised that she could live off at least $300,000 annually from her accounts' interest.

Jackson claims she learned her true financial worth--per her suit, approximately $3 million--when, under alleged pressure from Francis, she bought a house for $2,0011,000 in Santa Monica's "Golden Strip" in 2008. According to TMZ, Jackson's suit claims she knew she couldn't afford the house, but Francis--who she alleges knew she was "grossly overpaying" for the home--"drained her savings account in order to pay for it anyway."

Reports TMZ, "Francis says he's been in the business for 50 years and has an impeccable record with several celebrity clients" The site quotes Francis as saying, "This case will end at the deposition stage. It will never go to court."

Monday, May 10, 2010

I saw this in my browser's window and just couldn't resist it

The next campaign for 'SNL' host: Carol Burnett – The Marquee Blog - Blogs

Now that Betty White has kicked some serious Nielsen and comedy ass hosting SNL, maybe TV execs are realizing that retro greats are still relevant ratings-getters. Already a Facebook campaign is well underway to encourage NBC and Lorne Michaels to ask TV's Queen of Sketch Comedy, Carol Burnett, to host SNL next season.

I for one would be so glad to have this time together with Miss Burnett. And this time, let's get Cheri Oteri and Jan Hooks back, too!

NBC releases unaired Betty White "Debbie Downer" SNL sketch!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I Love It, I Love It, I Love It! Bonus Betty "SNL" Clip

Why Betty White Makes A Grown Man Cry


An oh-so-Live Betty White moved me to tears this Saturday Night. And not just in a laughed-so-hard-I-cried kind of way.

Oh, no. This was far more profound: I teared up in a please-don't-take-my-Betty-White-away way. (As in, you are my sunshine, my only sunshine. I know. Sad.)

As with most of life's trauma, it all goes back to childhood and young adulthood. And, oh yes, Dick Clark.

Picture it: Tulsa, 1992. The Golden Girls had just ended its seven-year run. Bea Arthur left the nest, and Betty, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty would never be the same, even though their short-lived spin-off The Golden Palace tried to promise more comedic hijinks. But we all know by now that Cheech Marin is no Bea Arthur, and cheesecake without biting sarcasm and raised eyebrows is, well, just cheesecake.

I'd just turned 20, just took a soul-crushing summer job at an all-you-can-eat-in-your-whitetrash-housecoast-sportin'-and-cheap-ass-flip-flops-wearin' Mexican buffet and just watched the Los Angeles riots turn the country upside down. After considering all of the sociopolitical consequences of our nation's bitterly divisive and otherwise ugly race war, the 20-year-old in me realized I may not get to visit L.A. that summer after all--despite my pact to stay alive since the previous fall just so I could get the hell out of Dodge for a couple of easy-breezy, beautiful weeks in August.

So, as I often did growing up, I placed all of my hope for the human race in a sitcom clown's magical ability to turn my spiritual frown upside down.

Which was all going along just fine, mind you, until Dick Clark tried to cast a dark shadow of fear and desperation on my eternal, as-seen-on-TV sunshine known as Betty White.

Betty was already under enough stress as it was in the early-'80s rerun of The $25,000 Pyramid that she again graced in cable reruns barely transmitting in my rural Oklahoma living room. I mean, sweet prophet, she only had sixty seconds to get to the top of the pyramid and possibly prevent a dowdy housewife from slitting her wrists during station identification. Is that not enough for the poor old (pre-)Golden Girl to bear?

Betty White in another, less-tense episode of Pyramid.

Apparently not. That prescient Dick Clark must've known America would again be watching in May 1992, pinning all of the fractured nation's hopes on Betty's ability to beat the clock and heal the world with the orgasmic sound of studio audience applause and game-show bells and whistles.

And so, as she brilliantly made her way to the top of the square-laden triangle, Betty White hit a snag. BECAUSE SHE'S HUMAN! But that is no excuse in a certain Dick's book.

A good 10 or 15 seconds ticked by as she tried to offer the perfect series of clues to the clueless housewife sitting across from her. Sweat was building on Betty's brow as her strapped-in hands clutched the arms of the plush torture device in which she sat. Finally, the dowdy housewife got the next-to-last answer, and with four seconds remaining, the final topic revealed itself at the top of the Dark  Dick's Daytime Agony Climb.

Then, in what can only be described as the three most dramatic slow-motion seconds in the history of speaking peoples, I watch as Betty White performs the game-show equivalent of parting the Red Sea. She sees the answer: "Things You Paste." She tightens her death grip on her chair. A stroke seems imminent. And then, as if she wasn't under enough stress to fell a dozen elephants, Americans' cruelest teenager YELLS at her from his CBS Television City podium: "HURRY, BETTY!!!"

I nearly passed out. But with two seconds left, Betty summoned All That is Good, Peaceful, Unifying and Wise within her, quickly--and yet non-threateningly--uttering, "Pictures in a scrapbook!" And with nanoseconds remaining, Dowdy Housewife miraculously yells out, "THINGS YOU PASTE!"

Bells. Whistles. Applause. $25,000. And me sobbing at a 10-year-old game-show rerun. Because, in my heart of hearts, Betty White and I had made a pact, and she had brought salvation back.

Betty White: The Eye of the Tiger

Flash forward to Mother's Day 2010. At age 88, TV's good-old Golden Girl is still shining strong, kicking ass and taking names as the host of Saturday Night Live (!). In the 18 years since she saved mankind under the Dicktatorship of Mr. Clark, Betty has outlived two of her cheesecake-eating Golden co-stars (so long, dear Bea and Estelle) as well as the equally iconic, flaxen-haired '70s sunshine 25 years her junior, TV angel Farrah Fawcett, and, sadly, even my own personal Betty--my late grandmother, Elizabeth "Bettye" Hancock, who lost her battle with cancer in 1998.

So as I watched this very special SNL with my own (now Golden-aged) mother--just days after a madman tried to blow up Times Square (danger, Dick "Rockin' New Year's Eve" Clark!)--it was 1992's post-race-riot rerun of 1982's $25,000 Pyramid all over again.

Sure, Betty's foul-mouthed sketch-comedy stylings brought me tears of joy born from side-splitting laughter. And my pride in Miss White's still-shining, joyous essence lit me up like a cheap game-show set piece. But America's grandma also touched that vulnerable spot in me that wants to pause the world--or at least nearly freeze it for three or four super-slow-mo seconds--and say, "DON'T hurry, Betty!"

Because as long as TV's Queen of Game Shows/Happy Homemaker/Golden Girl is with us, everything will be all right--and we'll always have New York City and TV City and Minneapolis and Miami and (starting in June on TV Land) Cleveland to escape to during those long, hot, oppressive summer months.

In this day and age, we need Betty more than ever. As our country continues to heal from within while trying to find peace in an increasingly chaotic world, Betty White, like Obi-Wan Kenobi, may be our only hope.

So please don't pay any attention to that ticking time clock or that ball-dropping Dick, sweet golden girl. I'm giving you at least another 18 years to make it to the top of the pyramid.