Friday, March 25, 2005


In other comedy pilot casting news: - Darren Ritchie has landed the male lead opposite Tiffani Thiessen in CBS' untitled Yuspa-Goldsmith comedy pilot, which centers on a young New York couple adjusting to life as new parents.

Setting this show in NYC was a smart move. 'Everybody Loves Raymond' will be gone, but these characters can always crossover to 'Still Standing' if they need any parenting advice for better or worse (depending on whether they talk to Bill or Judy Miller).

And why not have busybody Marie Barone pop in anyway, even though her sitcom home for nine years leaves the airwaves this May? Let's say Doris Roberts did a quick cameo in which she accosts Tiffani Thiessen in the supermarket and gives her unsolicited advice on how to raise her child.

However, never once in the scene does she identify herself as Marie Barone...... Well, is it our fault if we automatically assumed she was appearing as Marie?

In fact, CBS would be smart to base most of its prospective sitcoms in New York City where they can also take advantage of interaction with 'The King Of Queens' as well. Either that, or in Los Angeles so they could ride the coat-tails of 'Two And A Half Men' in a crossover. Since that sitcom is the heir presumptive to the nine o'clock berth on Monday nights once 'Raymond' has left the building, you can't beat that type of promotion.

But a word of advice to CBS - don't leave your new sitcoms adrift in the heartland with no chance of gaining publicity from crossovers. I'm not saying that such a decision is what doomed 'The Center Of The Universe', (Let's face it, that show had plenty of problems!) but it couldn't have hurt.

Here are three other sitcom options being considered by the suits at the Eye Network:

John Leguizamo will play a sports agent in CBS' untitled Diamond-Weisman drama pilot about working parents juggling domestic responsibilities. The actor's character in the pilot is married to a magazine editor.

A sports agent married to a magazine editor? Sure, there are probably just as many magazine editors and sports agents in the major U.S. cities as there are in New York, but the Big Apple fits as the most logical choice for where this couple should live.

Leguizamo might even be able to smooth-talk Ray Romano into making a quick come-back as Ray Barone. Possible scenario? Maybe Ray wants to do an interview with one of the athletes represented by Leguizamo's character, but it's also an interview his wife is trying to snag for her magazine.

Jenna Elfman will have the lead role in CBS' comedy pilot 'Everything I Know About Men'. In the show, based on the BBC's 'According to Bex', Elfman plays an assistant at a marketing firm who, with the help of her friends, tries to figure out how to deal with the men in her life.

The marketing firm could also be found anywhere in the country. And this time, the City of Angels might be the best environment in which to accent Ms. Elfman's disposition.

But we're looking at this for the crossover aspect. And Ms. Elfman already appeared twice on the hit sitcom 'Two And A Half Men'. Now unless she was going to play Frankie again on her own series, it would be awkward if she met either Alan or Charlie and they made no comment about how familiar she looked.

Then again, it could be just as awkard if they do mention it. Witness the scene where Ray Barone met Doug Heffernan who was delivering a package. Doug looked an awful lot like Ray's old pal, Kevin. How come Ray didn't wonder whatever happened to that guy?

Ignoring the resemblance can only lead to script discrepancies. How come 'Frasier' Crane never noticed that a piano tuner hired at 'Cheers' looked exactly like his Dad back in Seattle?

Okay, sure. That 'Cheers' episode was years before they thought of doing the 'Frasier' spinoff or even of casting it. But at some point in that first episode, Frasier should have told his Dad he once saw a guy back in Boston that looked exactly like him.

(If I was in charge of the TV Universe and not just one of the Caretakers, I'd have cast John Mahoney into double duty in that return to Boston episode of 'Frasier'. Have him come in to the reunion party to tune up a piano there as well and have Niles mistake him for his Dad.)

So anyway, it might be better off if Jenna Elfman's proposed sitcom is based in Manhattan.

'Old Christine' stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a divorced mom who tries to keep pace with everyone around her. Clark Gregg will play the woman's ex-husband. Hamish Linklater will play the lead character's brother, and youngster Trevor Gagnon has been cast as her son.

Okay, here's a sitcom that can be situated anywhere in the United States and still perhaps work on its own. But at the same time, a home base on the Left Coast couldn't hurt for that possible crossover with Alan, Charlie and Jake. And there's always New York with a trio of established players.

CBS might even take a big gamble and set the show wherever the hell it is that 'Listen Up!' takes place (I searched all over the internet and couldn't find a clue!) and score a mini-'Seinfeld' reunion between Louis-Dreyfuss and Jason Alexander.

That is, if 'Listen Up!' lasts into its sophomore year, that is.

But then again, there's always New York City. Just like I pictured it.



Last night's episode of 'The O.C.' featured a look at the X-rated video Julie Cooper made when she was younger. (At least, we got to see the cover of it in the promo. I was taping 'Jake In Progress', and the Americanized 'The Office' instead.)

The title of the tape was "Porn Identity". As with most porn films, the title was a play on words in reference to an earlier more famous and mainstream title. (Remember Ursula's work in "Buffay The Vampire Layer" on 'Friends'? Now, there was a Zonk!)

This is a nation of amnesiacs, according to the late Miles Drentell of 'thirtySOMETHING' and 'Once And Again'. For most of the audience that must have been a reference to the Matt Damon movie of a few years back, 'The Bourne Identity'.

But Julie made the movie when she was much younger, so unless it was previously known by a different title and just repackaged to capitalize on the movie, (not unheard of in that industry, I'll wager), then we have to go farther back for the source of that title.

That would be the original bestseller, written by the late novelist Robert Ludlum. It was a hefty book - even in its paperback edition you could do serious damage to somebody if you brought it down hard on their head! And yet it was an amazingly quick read.

(Back in 1987, I had set for myself the goal of reading 100 books in the course of the year. At first I thought it was foolish to tackle 'The Bourne Identity' when I might have squeezed in three books with less of the length. But it was breezy and thrilling and was over before I realized it. And in case you were wondering - yes. I made it to 104 and only stopped because the last book was "Still Life With Woodpecker" by Tom Robbins and I was convinced I would not find a better book with which to finish.)


The Literary Universe - a place Jasper Fforde is having fun with currently, although it has been explored by Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague deCamp as well as by Marvin Kaye, - is separate from the TV Universe, although there are (as always) exceptions to the rule.

Take for example the hundreds of paperback novels based on the 'Star Trek' series. Many of them are too good to disqualify as having take place in the TV Universe, unseen by the audience. One especially I would lobby to include: "Ishmael" by Barbara Hambly, which was a significant crossover between 'Star Trek' and 'Here Come The Brides', with 'Maverick', 'Bonanza', and 'Have Gun Will Travel' thrown in for good measure.

But with 'The Bourne Identity' we do have to do a bit of splain-dancing, as it was also made into a mini-series starring Richard Chamberlain back in the early 80s. Since it was an espionage thriller, the basic tale of Jason Bourne should never have been revealed to the public, so the makers of Julie Cooper's amateurish video should never have known about what happened. In fact, if it did happen in Toobworld, then even Ludlum's book shouldn't really exist.

Unless.... as far as it matters within the TV Universe, Ludlum based his book on the "true" story of Jason Bourne. By revealing what really happened to such a best-seller as Robert Ludlum, then the tele-version of Bourne ensured his safety. Nobody could kill him out of revenge afterwards without raising more questions. And since the story was now out, there were no more secrets to be protected.

So in the Real World timeline, 'The Bourne Identity' goes like this:

1] Book
2] Mini-series
3] Movie

But in Toobworld:

1] Mini-series (In Toobworld, that's considered "Real Life")
2] Book
3] Movie

And the porno video would have been made between the book and the movie.

Since I didn't see the episode, I have no idea yet whether or not they actually showed scenes from the tape. But I think I know of at least one TV character who's seen it.

I'll bet anything that former FBI agent Fox Mulder had a copy of 'The Porn Identity' in his own personal collection......


"Nudity? Nudity?
What's wrong with nudity?
Beneath our clothes, we all stand naked
Chico Rodriguez
'Chico And The Man'


Former 'Dream On' star Brian Benben is set to star in ABC's 'Neighbors', which centers on dueling neighbors (Benben, Lenny Clarke) who have to contend with each other when their wives (Melinda McGraw and Ann Cusack, respectively) and kids become friends. Sarah Steele is set to play the daughter of Clark and Cusack's characters.

ABC had a great year as far as getting great word-of-mouth for two of its dramas, 'Desperate Housewives' and 'Lost', plus for their "reality" show 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition' and its insta-spinoff, 'How'd They Do That?'

But when it came to comedy, it was a tragedy. None of their new sitcoms worked, and only 'According To Jim' actually made a significant showing in the ratings - much to the consternation of Entertainment Weekly.

So they really can't take many chances for next season. Which would mean situating this situation comedy geographically close by the location for 'According To Jim'.

It seems logical to me that Jim would hit it off with Lenny's character, although maybe not as lifelong pals. I think someone with a trained ear might hear the Chicago inflections in Jim Belushi's diction and the Boston accent for Clarke.

Still and all, it makes more sense for Jim and Cheryl to have 'Neighbors' than for the sitcom to be banished to Tulsa where they run the risk of residing near 'Rodney'.


Thursday, March 24, 2005


Sources said Jennifer Finnigan is set to guest star in Jerry Bruckheimer's drama pilot 'American Crime' in the project's lead role. 'American Crime' centers on a female prosecutor who juggles the world of suburban crime with the challenges of being a new mom.

Finnigan's casting in the pilot as a guest star is said to stem from her obligation to NBC's midseason comedy 'Committed', in which she plays the female lead. WBTV and CBS declined comment on the casting.

This doesn't bode well for the future of 'Committed'. For the record, I liked the show, and I'm a big fan of Ms. Finnigan's work. (When I was forced to watch 'The Bold & The Beautiful' while visiting my Mom, I always enjoyed her portrayal of Bridget.)

But 'Committed' ran opposite 'House', and that would win out for my taping priorities on Tuesday evenings.

Since 'American Crime' is coming from the House of Bruckheimer, it should be pretty easy to slip in a crossover or two with any of the members of the 'CSI' franchise. The only obstacle might be location for the series; being a new mom as well as a prosecutor, she'll be pretty much grounded to wherever she's living and working.

Unless there's something in a case she's handling that would necessitate her traveling to Las Vegas, Miami, or New York City, then the F(orensic) troops of those shows would have to come to her.

And there's always Philadelphia, where she could do the sequel to any 'Cold Case' solved by Detective Lilly Rush.

Except for the fact that casting for this show would then clash with the 'Law & Order' corner of the TV Universe, I'd like to see it based in New York City. I know, it's WAAAAAY over-used, (We need more Chicago and DC shows!), but that way Ms. Finnigan's character could not only interact with the cast of 'CSI: NY', but also with the FBI agents of 'Without A Trace'.

Then they could look into the reasons why a dying clown was hiding out in the closet of Marni Fliss... and why Miss Fliss looked so much like the 'American Crime' prosecutor.

Woops.... crossing borders again.....



Noureen DeWulf has landed one of the two title roles in the WB Network's comedy pilot 'Mindy and Brenda', a New York-set female buddy comedy. Mindy (DeWulf) and Brenda (Virginia Williams) are best friends who look at the world differently.

If The WB's aggressive campaign to launch 'Living With Fran' is any indication, we can expect to see crossovers quite soon for this sitcom.

On April 8th, 'Living With Fran' will debut with two episodes on the same night. That's radical enough, but two of the main characters (including the lead played by Fran Drescher) will also appear on an episode of 'What I Like About You' that night as well.

Being a sitcom based in New York City, then it's likely 'Mindy And Brenda' will run into Fran and/or the Tyler sisters, Holly and Val by November Sweeps. Too bad 'Grounded For Life' was finally, well, grounded; 'Mindy And Brenda' might have paid a visit to the Red Boots bar on Staten Island.

If the show was being made for NBC, then one or the other of these "best friends who look at the world differently" might have been able to find something in common with 'Will & Grace'. Or even a soul-mate in Jennifer Finnigan's portrayal of Marni Fliss in 'Committed' - while there was still a chance........


Wednesday, March 23, 2005



UPN has picked up the comedy pilot 'The Show With AJ Calloway', starring the BET personality. The pilot chronicles the life of AJ Calloway, whose stint as the host of a fictitious broadcast network late-night talk show is complicated by old flames, dysfunctional friends and ever-present family members.

By playing his own tele-version, it sounds like AJ Calloway is providing UPN with its own 'Seinfeld'. Of course, that's a high standard to strive for - 'The Drew Carey Show' succeeded with its variant; 'It's Like... You Know' didn't.

UPN comedies seem to aim more often for the lowest common denominator in my opinion. But I freely admit that, since UPN caters to a particular niche of the audience which doesn't include me, my impressions of its programming are based mostly on promos and episode guides.

Even so, my "job" is to help these prime time contenders find their network soulmates to make a connection. It's sort of a "TV-Harmony" dating service.

This fictionalized version of AJ Calloway has plenty of options; it all depends on where the show is located.

If it's in NYC, there could be several opportunities with the 'Girlfriends' - at least one episode for each member of the "sistah-hood". (Maybe he went to school with at least one of them? That's a tried and true cliche. Or better yet - one of them is his third cousin twice removed - from reality.)

Here's a chance to air out a couple of other TV cliches: Out on the Left Coast, perhaps Calloway could seek out his "old college buddy" Robert James, and (due to a misunderstanding) both of them could think the other is out for his job in an episode of 'All Of Us'.

Down in Miami, the DivaStyle company on 'Eve' could be an advertiser on AJ's talk show.

And there's always Baltimore - Calloway might compete with Flex Washington for an interview with some big sports star during 'One On One' or just get his hair cut at Pherenity on 'Cuts'.

As he'll have a national network talk show in Toobworld, AJ Calloway could be situated in any major city and then still travel to any of those other cities during Sweeps Weeks in order to visit those shows.

For example... how about Chicago? That way the producers could try for a major casting coup by snaring Oprah to appear as herself in a "very special episode".

And why not seek the producer of 'Girlfriends' to appear as his most famous character? In case you didn't know, that would be Kelsey Grammer whose most famous character was Dr. Frasier Crane.

'Frasier' has left the building and moved to Chicago in the 'Frasier' finale, and that's where he'd likely meet Mark Craig.

What do you think of the idea?

I'm listening.....



'Life On A Stick', premiering tonight on FOX, is the story of Laz (Zachary Knighton), a recent high school graduate who works at Yippie, Hot Dogs, a fast-food place in a mall in Seattle.

O Mighty Powers That Be! Please, PLEASE, have somebody in the cast listening to KACL talk radio! You remember the station - it used to be where Dr. Frasier Crane worked.

He's gone on to Chicago, but there's still Bulldog and his sports show, Gil Chesterton and his food critiques..... You don't even need them, just some anonymous announcer citing the call letters and giving the listeners notice of what's coming up.

G'wan, I dare you! You know you want to. What do you have to fear?

It's not like anybody's going to be actually watching......


Tuesday, March 22, 2005



Gina Gershon has joined the cast of UPN's drama pilot "The Lot," a soap about a group of twentysomething assistants working at a Hollywood studio backlot. Gershon will play an aggressive producer who is the demanding boss of one of the assistants.

My knee-jerk reacton as a die-hard Crossoverite would be to link 'The Lot' to 'The Lot'. It was a short run series on AMC back in 1999 that took a satirical look at the Hollywood studio system of the 1930s.

Even if the new studio is not named Sylver Screen Pictures, so what? A good fanfic writer can always claim that after the studio system was dismantled in the early sixties, Sylver Screen changed hands and its name as well.

But we should be looking at this show's crossover prospects realistically, and that would mean finding another show currently running on UPN.

If it doesn't have to be another drama series, then 'All Of Us' has possibilities. The main character of Robert is connected to the entertainment biz and lives in Hollywood, so it would be logical to see him on the backlots.

But a more interesting link might be made with this year's cult fave (read that as "loved by critics but nobody's watching") 'Veronica Mars'.

Teen private investigator might have to drive up (down?) from Neptune, California, to check out a lead into the murder of her best friend and/or the disappearance of her mother at the studio. And with such a storyline, perhaps a return visit by Harry Hamlin's character would be in order.

Otherwise, the usual suspects from The League of Themselves might be called up for duty. And that would include a few celebs usually associated with other networks, - I'm particularly thinking of Jay Leno here.

Okay, it's UPN. So maybe Kevin Eubanks.

I'm gonna burn for that one......




I thought I might start off with a proposed pilot with plenty of potential.
(Sorry for spitting.....)

Janeane Garofalo has been tapped to star in NBC's comedy pilot "All In," based on the life of poker champ Annie Duke. The casting of Garofalo lifts the contingency off the project, in which Garofalo plays a single mom of three in Las Vegas who is a professional poker player.

A professional poker player.
In Vegas.

Don't wait for the House to fall on you, because the House always wins!

'All In' cries out for a crossover with 'Las Vegas'!

It wouldn't be the first time a sitcom made the link with an hour-long drama: 'Cheers' and 'St. Elsewhere'; 'The Associates' and 'The Paper Chase'; 'Here's Lucy' and 'Mannix'.

'Lou Grant' was spun off from 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show', and the reverse situation (from a drama to a sitcom) was proposed last year for Camryn Manheim's Ellinor Frutt of 'The Practice'.

Besides visits by Garofalo's character to the Montecito, maybe Big Ed and Danny can come over to her home for dinner. The Vegas location makes 'All In' a natural stopover for celebrities in the League of Themselves: Wayne Newton, Barry Manilow, Ann Margaret.... Even future city residents like the puppets of "Avenue Q".

And then there are the likely links to other NBC sitcoms - visits to Vegas b 'Will & Grace' and 'Joey' (so long as his nephew Michael doesn't get caught counting cards again.)

Then again, a quartet of aging hags and a neanderthalic former friend might do more harm than good at this early stage of development for fledgling sitcom. They might end up doing in 'All In'!


"There's no such thing as a sure thing.
That's why they call it gambling
Oscar Madison
'The Odd Couple'


My brother-in-law is a hunter, and the way he feels about deer season, that's how I feel about this time of year. It's pilot season in Toobworld, and shows are being produced and evaluated by the networks. More won't even get that far, and plenty of those produced will fall by the wayside and never make the fall schedule.

(Remember the good old days when networks would have pilot "Playhouse" or "Showcase" to burn off those discarded pilots and recoup some of their losses?)

I've been collecting the various news reports trickling in about the many pilot projects for the coming season and I plan to evaluate them for their crossover potential in Toobworld at large. If they never make it to air, then it's a moot point. One of my basic rules is - if it's broadcast, then it's part of the TV Universe.

But perhaps the network suits at the pilot's potential home have not realized yet the lucrative crossover possibilities these shows hold. So I'm offering up this service pro bono for the greater glory of Toobworld.

Gee, I wish I had a great Latin phrase to shout out at this point......

Sort of like a John Wilkes Boobtube.


Monday, March 21, 2005


'Cheap Seats' & 'Mystery Science Theater 3000'

When last we saw Mike Nelson and the bots Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot of 'Mystery Science Theater 3000', they were back on Earth. This happened in August of 1999 when the Satellite of Love crashed due to a malfunction of Pearl Forrester's joystick during a presentation of "Diabolik".

Back in Mike's apartment, they settled in to watch "The Crawling Eye" and as we left them, they were overcome with a disquieting sense of deja vu...... It was all very much like the ending of 'The Prisoner', in that Life seemed to be in a loop and everything was coming round again.

Six years later, and we find that Mike and the bots haven't moved far from their couch or their TV screen. But instead of an old, bad movie, they're watching Randy and Jason Sklar, who are "production assistants" at ESPN Classic. The Sklars basically steal the 'MST3K' riff by watching old sports films and making snarky comments, and that pretty much sums up 'Cheap Seats', the show that graced us with the return of Mike and the bots.

This might have been some sort of Zonk/Crossover hybrid; something similar to Lynette and Susan of 'Desperate Housewives' watching actress Nicolette Sheridan and Terrell Owens in the infamous 'Monday Night Football' intro from last fall.

But so long as we considered Sheridan's appearance to be as herself and not as her 'Desperate Housewives' character of Edie, there was no Zonk. And the same kind of chiropractic logic limbo can be used here.

The Sklars hosting 'Cheap Seats' can be considered as sort of a reality show that not only exists in the Real World but in Toobworld as well. It's the same kind of reasoning that we use when shows like 'Jeopardy' and 'American Gladiators' and 'Password' and 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition' are worked into the plotlines of fictional series.

Only this time it's reversed and the fictional series is worked into the so-called reality show. Having the twin comedians portray fictional versions of themselves a la 'Seinfeld' only helps to grease the crossover.

Do you want to see a clip from the episode? Then try these links:





TV 'Insider' O'Brien enters alcohol rehab

I just wanted to point out that I'm the O'Brien who's a TV 'Outsider'. I do my best thinking inside the Box by staying outside of the industry.

They say there are two things you should never see being made - laws and sausages. To which I would add a third: TV shows. Takes all the magic out of it for me. Knowing the reality of contracts and copyrights limits my vision of the TV Universe.

But at any rate - good luck, "Cousin" Pat.* And as Red Skelton used to say, "May God bless."


*All O'Briens are related; everybody knows that!


Four episodes into the latest member of the 'Law & Order' family, 'Trial By Jury', and we've got a great example of the attention that is being paid to the continuity and history of the franchise. Three of the guest stars played roles which they had previously assayed on the 'Law & Order' mothership.

It's one thing to have high profile appearances by Sam Waterston, and Carey Lowell; and Fred Dalton Thompson bestrides both shows, and the late Jerry Orbach moved from show to the other.

But to make certain three great character actors played the characters they usually portray on 'L&O' - especially when most of the audience just lets TV wash over them and probably never would have noticed it? Well, that shows how much care goes into Dick Wolf's corner of the TV Universe.

Jeffrey DeMunn has about seven appearances to his credit on 'Law & Order' as Professor Norman Rothenberg, a high-profile legal expert who knows just how long he can dance on the ethical dividing line.

Close behind is newly published author Ron McLarty who has at least five appearances as Judge William Wright behind him.

And then there's Peter Gerety, best known as Detective Stuart Gharty on 'Homicide: Life On The Street' as well as his lookalike cousin Judge Phelan on 'The Wire' (both of whom reside in Baltimore). Gerety has only played public defender Dean Conners once before on the original series, but he also played another attorney, Charles Powell, in two other episodes.

This writer hopes that his Dean Conners will return again soon on 'Trial By Jury'. There was this compelling quality in his "schlub" of an Everyman's need to believe in his client's innocence, as if it would also bring him salvation as well. (I'll have to catch his previous appearance on 'Law & Order'; it could be he really was in need of salvation, from what I heard.)

In its short time on the air, 'Trial By Jury' doesn't just have these officers of the court as the only examples of judicial crossovers. Although she's moved on to 'Boston Legal' to play Shirley Schmidt, Candice Bergen is due back as Judge Amanda Anderlee - which she also played on 'Law & Order'. (A previous blog entry hypothesized that Amanda and Shirley are twin sisters.)

And Susan Blommaert's appearance as Judge Rebecca Steinman qualifies the character for induction into the TV Crossover Hall of Fame. Judge Steinman not only appeared on the original series about three times, but she also made an appearance on 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'.

They probably won't be the last lawyers and judges to cross over to 'Trial By Jury' from the other 'L&O' shows. Add to them the various cops from the three other series, and 'Trial By Jury' may well end up becoming the true hub of Dick Wolf's corner of the TV Universe.

Keep an eye on this blog - pretty soon I'll have a list of other lawyers and judges we should expect to get their day in court.....