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Thursday, July 10, 2003

And this just in for ""Star War'' fans looking to bridge the gap between episode II ""Attack of the Clones'' and episode III, which George Lucas is now shooting:

The Cartoon Network will air 20 three-minute animated shorts ""an epic micro-series'' is the network's description of it called ""Star Wars: Clone Wars.'' Done by a team of animators headed by Genndy Tartakovsky, whose ""Samurai Jack'' is one of the coolest toons on TV, in conjunction with Lucas, the series will fill in the gaps between episodes II and III.

Saw a rough (sound and music still being added) cut of the first installment down here and it looked pretty good. The usual suspects Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan, Mace Windu, Yoda are on hand but there will be new characters as well.

The series will start on Nov. 7 (8 p.m.) with 10 episodes airing that month. The remaining 10 will be broadcast in the spring of 2004.

By the way, if all goes well, Cartoon Network folks hopes this ""micro-series'' could lead to a full-blown ""Star Wars'' series on the network.
Along with actually providing interviews, spin and occasional news, the cable channels and the
networks also provide parties during The Tour … just about every day.

There's food and booze, the stars show up to chat up one and all and the publicity departments
try to top each other in exotic or hip locales. It supposed to impress the writers enough to think
good thoughts about the channels that throw the bashes. It doesn't, really, but there are enough
nuggets, quotes and face time with people you may want to talk to for real later to make the party
circuit passably worthwhile.

And let's be honest: Some parties are pretty darn impressive.

Tuesday's bash, thrown by Universal TV which includes the Sci Fi and USA channels, was about a 7
on a scale of 10. Everyone got trucked out to the Universal Studios theme park, part of the park
got shutdown early, you could ride the attractions without waiting in line and the food was OK.

But Wednesday's was a real keeper.

Comedy Central did party-time at Woodland, the Hollywood estate of Robert Evans, the movie
producer who has had more ups (“The Godfather,'' “Urban Cowboy'') and downs (everything in recent
memory) than a yo-yo. Evans is doing an animated series on his life for the channel called “Kid
Notorious'' and it was sooo “Hollywood'' that it bordered on the cliche.

Starlets with an intimate knowledge of Botox and surgical enhancement. Semi-famous stars. Lots
of champagne and martinis. Photos of Evans with everyone from Jack Nicholson to Faye Dunaway on the
walls. Dancing water fountains. A sumptuous dinner on Evans' tennis court.

It's not going to get me to watch “Kid Notorious'' but it was impressive.

Quotes from the front … and The Tour:

Bravo's “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy'' is a new and very cool show that involves five
gay guys helping a hopeless straight guy get a makeover, including a redo of their house or
apartment. Asked what was the most surprising thing they found in redoing straight guys' digs,
Ted Allen … the food and wine expert … said it was “the vast amounts of porn films ... You'd
think they'd hide it but they didn't.''

Roger Daltrey was on hand to pump up the volume on “Extreme History,'' a new History
channel where the lead singer of The Who tries to duplicate physically-demanding moments in
history. Asked by television writers if there was anything he wouldn't try, Daltrey replied,
“I just feel sorry for you poor f---s. Watching TV all day? It doesn't get any worse than
that.''

And lastly, we have Hugh Hefner of “Playboy'' when asked if he would soon be gracefully
retiring. Flanked by two blonde Playboy bunnies, The Hef replied, “Does it look like I'm
about to step down? And would you?''

There are moments on The Tour … OK, we all know what The Tour is by now, right? … that
border on the surreal, mostly because it involves moments when the celebrity world collides
with the real world.

Three days into the tour, those moments include:

* Almost-film-star Gary Busey, whose reality show "I'm With Busey'' on Comedy Central is one of the guilty pleasures of summer TV, did a drive-by to pump up the volume with reporters. All he managed to do was convince everyone (rather amusingly) than he really does live in a parallel universe. He spewed out a string of "Busey-isms'' … loopy bits of philosophy that have taken on a cult status … including a particularly interesting take on the murderous, psycho bad guys he often plays. Said the Busey: "I don't play bad guys. I play guys who are misunderstood by the public.'' Makes sense if you think about it.

* I've always heard that former "90210'' bad girl and "Charmed'' witch Shannen Doherty
was, perhaps, the surliest interview in TV. I somehow missed her last couple of performances
but managed to catch the one she did for Sci Fi in support of her bad reality show, "Scare
Tactics.'' And, yeah, surly doesn't begin to describe her demeanor. One wonders why she even
bothers to do publicity.

* Big surprise: David Arquette came with his wife, Courteney Cox of "Friends,'' to promote their new home design show, "Mix It Up,'' for the WE. He was nowhere near as loopy and goofy
as his public persona. In fact, he came off as smart, articulate and very, very funny. Hey,
you never know ...

* It had nothing to do with The Tour but Arnold Schwarzenegger swept through the Hollywood
Highlands complex … where The Tour's hotel is located … to do a bit for "Extra'' and promote
the latest "Terminator.'' There were big cheers and a lot of chants about Arnold for
governor. (Gray Davis, take heed.)

In a bit of Hollywood weirdness, the Arnold's top political consultant … George Gorton … was also in the house to promote a new Showtime movie, "Spinning Boris,'' about his work on Boris Yeltsin's 1996 presidential campaign in the USSR. He assured one and all that while you can spin Boris, you can't spin the Arnold because he is just ... too ... good.

That's spin.

* Did we really need a duet from Nick Lachey of 98 Degrees and pop star Jessica Simpson to
promote their new show on MTV, "Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica''? No, but it was kinda sweet at
best and painless at worst.

* But it was nice to get a few mumbles and a handful of obscenities from Ozzie Osbourne to promote a third season of "The Osbournes,'' just before he flew back to the Bay Area to play Shoreline on Tuesday. Plus MTV actually offered up an appearance by the missing Osbourne, older sister Aimee, who hasn't been on the family's reality show but did show up to promote her TV acting debut in a musical version of Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights.'' (Don't ask.)


Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Some quick notes from day two of The Tour:

-- The semiannual Television Week magazine critics' poll is out and there are some surprises in
the rankings of TV's best.

HBO's ""The Wire,'' the gritty cop drama, jumped all the way from 12th in January's poll to No.
1, reflecting critical response to the start of its second season. But it only barely edged out
NBC's ""Boomtown'' and Comedy Central's ""The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,'' which went from No. 20
to a strong No. 3.

(One note: Shows have to be on the air with original episodes so, for example, ""The Sopranos''
was ineligible in this poll.)

A bigger surprise was the slide of ""The West Wing.'' The White House drama had a so-so to weak
season and, as result, dropped to No. 6 in January to No. 14. Not that long ago, the series was at
the top of the heap. With creator Aaron Sorkin now gone, things are not looking good for the
Emmy-winning series.

Even more surprising: Two reality shows … ""Survivor: Amazon'' and ""American Idol'' … made the
top 10, the first time any series in the much-reviled genre have cracked the upper echelon.

Of course, seven of the 10 shows on the ""worst'' list were reality series with ABC's repugnant
""Are You Hot?'' getting the No. 1 spot.

-- OK, so now the network formerly known as the Nashville Network and more recently known as TNN
can now become Spike TV. Viacom, the cable's channel parent company, has settled its silly little
legal dustup with film director Spike Lee over rights to the name and Spike is on the air. Viacom
says it lost $30 million while the legal battle was being waged. But it also got millions of
dollars in publicity for the ""first TV channel for men'' that it wouldn't have had if Lee hadn't
gotten all fussy.

-- No tears being shed here among TV writers for Michael Savage, who got bounced from his MSNBC
gig. Unlike other conservative commentators … Bill O'Reilly, say … the man is just vile.

-- And, finally, there's another Disney Channel ""tweener'' franchise on the way. On Aug. 15,
Disney will debut ""The Cheetah Girls'' … a musical made-for-TV film based on Deborah Gregory's
best-selling books for teenage girls. It stars Raven from Disney's ""That's So Raven'' plus two of
the members of the r&b-pop group 3LW, Adrienne Bailon and Kiely Williams. It has the elements that
made ""Lizzie McGuire'' and ""Even Stevens'' into hits and made stars out of Hilary Duff and Shia
LaBeouf into stars.


OK, we're here. Renaissance Hotel, downtown Hollywood, people looking for the star of their star on Hollywood Boulevard. Long lines at the El Capitan Theater where Disney's “Nemo'' is still playing. Helicopters circling around over head, covering one of those car chases local L.A. television just loves. (If you think local news is bad in the Bay Area, spend three weeks in Los Angeles.)

And, oh, yeah, dozens of TV writers, critics and columnists have descended on the Renaissance for the start of this Television Critics Association tour. Some are shaking off the effects of flying in from the East Coast. Some … like me … are still getting over driving in from closer cities. I decided a few tours ago (after 9/11) to drive from San Jose to L.A. It's actually faster than going through all the airport security and you can toss all kinds of things into the trunk at the last minute, something you can't do if you're packing for a plane.

The downside: You drive through the Central Valley, down I-5, where farm equipment passes you at 85 mph, the heat is intense and the smells are ... well, fragrant. Of course, if you crank up on-the-road CDs of Willie Nelson and Bruce Springsteen, it's not that bad.

But whatever ... the TCA is underway.

There's a little bit of news. One of the most popular sites on the Web … thesmokinggun.com … is going big time. It's hooked up with Court TV and will now have a regular radio show on Infinity Radio (that means KCBS locally), a column in People, a regular spot on Court TV's new and improved “Hollywood At Large'' starting in October and a series of Court TV specials debuting on Aug. 20.

For those of you who don't know, smokinggun.com is the site that blows the whistle on celebrity misdemeanors. They started six years ago but really hit the big time when they found court documents that showed Rick Rockwell … the millionaire on Fox's “Who Wants to Marry A Multi-millionaire?'' … was something less than a really swell guy. Since then, they've dug up all kinds of dirt on, in particular, people on reality shows that aren't what they claimed to be or, more often, failed to tell the networks they had some problems in the past like performing in porn films or arrests for assault.

On a higher level, there was the presentation by BBC America, a channel everyone should get but most don't. They trotted out a presentation late in the afternoon that touted a splendid new mini-series called “Cambridge Spies'' about four upper crust Brits who were double agents for the Soviets at the worst of the Cold War; a funny sketch-hidden camera show called “3 Non-Blondes'' with three black comediennes whose interaction with ordinary people on the streets of London was quite hysterical; and the announcement that “The Office'' … the best comedy on TV right now … would be back in October for a second season.

Getting BBC America is worth (well, almost worth) paying all those bucks to Comcast to get digital cable. (If you already get BBC America via cable or satellite, consider yourself lucky.)

And what would the first day of this tour be without a surreal moment?

What do former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, Darva Conger of “Multi-millionaire,'' almost film-star Corey Feldman of “The Surreal Life,'' and Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) and Walter Koenig (Chekov) from “Star Trek'' have in common?

Well, they turned up at the first party of the tour: The Game Show Network's bash at The Highlands, a hip dance/supper club near the Renaissance. The reason: They've all been on the channel's “National Lampoon's Funny Money.''

No one told them their 15 minutes of fame was up so they came by and the press (those who cared) got a quote or two.

From the ridiculous to the sublime: The Sundance Channel followed the Game Show affair with another party featuring Nickel Creek, the marvelous neo-bluegrass band.

Now that was entertainment.

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