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Tuned In: Drama to replace 'Guardian' reruns

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

HOLLYWOOD -- In March, CBS's Pittsburgh-set legal drama "The Guardian" will take a break to make way for midseason drama "Century City." "The Guardian" is scheduled to return April 27 and CBS Entertainment president Nancy Tellem said "Century City" replaces what would otherwise be "Guardian" reruns.

"We're not unhappy with 'The Guardian,' " Tellem said. " 'The Guardian' is doing just fine. I don't want anyone to think by putting in 'Century City' in that time period it's any message whatsoever what we think of 'The Guardian.' "

CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves said "The Guardian" "has performed fine," but because CBS is having such a good year with so few drama series failures, the bar has been raised.

"It doesn't mean 'The Guardian' is dead or it's over, but with 'CSI: New York' coming in, we don't have a whole lot of space. [Whether it gets renewed is] going to depend on development."

Moonves said the 9 p.m. Tuesday time period is vulnerable.

"It's a bubble show, no question," Moonves said, indicating that "The Guardian" may or may not return for a fourth season in the fall.

Executive producer Mark Johnson said he's not thrilled with CBS's decision.

"I think this year we're stronger creatively than we ever have been, and I somehow want to get that out," Johnson said. "When you disappear from when people expect to see you at a particular time and you're not there, you lose momentum. I'm being a good soldier and not saying anything, but I'm not pleased."

Johnson said he's concerned that the show may not get renewed for a fourth season.

"I'm certainly not taking it for granted," he said. "I took for granted that we'd have this season, but I think we have a lot of work to do to make sure we have a season four."

Johnson attended a CBS party Saturday night and was seen chatting amicably with Paul Attanasio, executive producer of "Century City," which will replace "The Guardian."

"I can't turn on him yet because he wrote 'Quiz Show' and 'Donnie Brasco,' which I produced," Johnson said, smiling.

Mt. Lebanon native and "Guardian" creator David Hollander was scheduled to attend a CBS party to promote the show Saturday night, but he never showed up.

"The Guardian" is pre-empted tonight for the president's State of the Union address but will air original episodes through the upcoming February sweeps.

'24' ticking away

"We've lost the critics."

That's what I would have thought if I were a member of the "24" cast who appeared before TV critics at a Fox press conference Friday. There just wasn't as much interest in and enthusiasm for the series as there once was. I began to have my doubts about "24" with the Russian roulette episode last fall, and since then, the story just hasn't drawn me in. Even the return of Sherry Palmer (Penny Johnson Jerald) and Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke) hasn't kept me from reading a magazine during the show, not a good sign for what was once a deeply involving series.

At Fox's press conference, executive producer Joel Surnow said the decision to bring back the two fan-favorite characters is one story twist that happens in a "less-than-organic" way.

"If we knew we want to bring Sarah back or we want to bring Penny back, we then have to craft the story to facilitate them," Surnow said. "We first have to figure out, what would their function be? Last year bringing them back had a certain function. We don't want to repeat that. Once we figure out what they could do that's new and different, we try to position ourselves so they'll be needed from a story point of view."

Star Reiko Aylesworth, who plays CTU agent Michelle, acknowledged the series can be over-the-top.

"There's an earnestness to this show that afterwards, when you see it, you can start making fun of it," she said. "We take it apart sometimes, but you have to maintain that earnestness and enthusiasm for the material to have people this invested in the show."

New episodes of "24" return next week, and one critic wondered how President Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) manages to get around without Secret Service protection and questioned the realism of such easy movement.

"My guess is Bill Clinton did a few things there weren't Secret Service agents around to watch," said executive producer Robert Cochran. "If the president really wants to arrange that, he can arrange it. The Secret Service agents are there, you just can't see them; that's probably the way to look at it."

Post-Gazette TV editor Rob Owen has been attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour. You can reach him at 412-263-2582 .

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