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TV Notes: Young or old, CMU grad Norona gets the job

Friday, February 21, 2003

From staff and wire reports

On "Mister Sterling" (8 tonight), actor David Norona plays number-crunching whiz Leon Montero, but the 1994 Carnegie Mellon University grad is probably best know for his role on "Six Feet Under" as the guidance counselor to sullen teen Claire Fisher (Lauren Ambrose).

He seemed older than 30 in that role, but Norona comes off as much younger on "Mister Sterling." Turns out the same casting director worked on both series.

"The irony is she wouldn't see me for the role of the guidance counselor because she thought I was too young," Norona said last month after an NBC press conference. "Then when [the 'Mister Sterling'] role came up, she wouldn't see me for the part because she thought I was too old. Long story short, I feel like I've gotten five years back on my life."

Norona, who just turned 30, hasn't appeared in any third season episodes of "Six Feet Under" so far.

He described his time at CMU as "boot camp."

"That's exactly the way I think school should be," he said. "I learned how to make it through an incredible system, but a system nonetheless. It taught me that the business is hard and it taught me that you have to stand for what you believe. I remember butting heads with the department a lot about going out and working professionally while I was there. It was that very friction that I think helped me get through the business."

Norona said the school didn't want him to work professionally while he was there because "they felt it was my time to be in school and to be studying, which I respect.

"Looking back on it now, I was a 19-year-old punk, but I fought the system. I actually gave up the lead in a show at the time to do one day in a movie. Creatively, it wasn't the best choice, looking back on it now, but it taught me to sort of stand strong, and you need to do that in this business. I really appreciate what they did for me at CMU. It's a great school."

(Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor)

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PAULEY LEAVES NBC

Jane Pauley, the co-anchor of "Dateline NBC," will be leaving NBC in June after 27 years with the network.

Her resignation was announced Thursday on NBC's "Today" show, which she had anchored for 13 years before moving to the newsmagazine.

Pauley, 52, decided not to renew her contract, opting instead to begin the next phase of her career, said Ann Curry, a co-anchor on the "Today" show. Pauley had recently returned after taking several months off to write a book.

She did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment.

The decision to leave the network was not easy for Pauley but "she felt the urge to try new things," Curry said. Details were not disclosed about her plans.

Pauley, who was removed from "Today" in 1989 and replaced by Deborah Norville in a move that backfired on NBC, co-anchors "Dateline NBC" with Stone Phillips. After several strong years in the ratings, it has sagged this year as viewer attention turned toward reality programming.

(Associated Press)

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KELLNER LEAVES

Turner Broadcasting head Jamie Kellner is stepping down after two years on the job, corporate parent AOL Time Warner announced Tuesday.

He will continue as chairman and chief executive officer of the WB Network through the end of his contract in the summer of 2004.

Philip I. Kent, formerly president of the CNN News Group until resigning in 2001, rejoins Turner as its chairman and CEO.

Kent will lead the CNN News Group; Turner's entertainment networks, including TNT, TBS Superstation, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies, Turner South and Boomerang; and Turner Sports, as well as the Turner Sports properties, which include the Atlanta Braves, Hawks and Thrashers.

He will formally take over March 10, the company said.

(AP)

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TRISTA PICKS RYAN

Proving a stuffed whale and treacly prose are the key to at least one girl's heart, television's most eligible bachelorette, Trista Rehn, 29, fell for Ryan, the sensitive firefighter who tickled her fancy with poems.

Ryan Sutter, 27, of Vail, Colo., immediately dropped to his knees to ask the woman he'd known for six weeks to marry him. She said yes.

Hunk Charlie Maher was sent away, no doubt disappointing Rehn's star-struck family.

It was all the stuff of fairy tales, and ABC was certainly hoping Wednesday's last episode of "The Bachelorette" was a happy ending in the ratings, too.

The reality series has faded in appeal compared to Fox's juggernaut, "Joe Millionaire," which averaged nearly 35 million viewers Monday. But it still was ABC's most popular show last week. The network stretched the final episode of "The Bachelorette" to two hours.

(David Bauder, Associated Press)

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'JOE' ENDS BIG

Unknown to the world just a few weeks ago, Evan Marriott has overthrown the King of Pop -- at least, on network television.

Marriott, of course, was the make-believe moneybags of Fox's "Joe Millionaire" who, on the finale of this unscripted mating dance, chose Zora over Sarah as his lady love.

Meanwhile, viewers roundly chose Marriott over Michael Jackson, the subject of rival specials on ABC and NBC.

According to Nielsen numbers, the "Joe Millionaire" finale, which aired 8 to 10 p.m. Monday, drew an average 34.6 million viewers. The audience soared to 40 million in the second hour.

This figure approaches that of last year's Academy Awards broadcast of 41.8 million. It was the highest series telecast on any network since CBS's premiere of "Survivor II" in January 2001, according to Fox.

The enormous number dwarfed the 11.9 million audience for the 9-10 p.m. hour of a "Dateline NBC" special, "Michael Jackson Unmasked," airing head-to-head against "Joe Millionaire." The "Dateline" 10-11 p.m. hour rose to 17.2 million viewers.

"Joe Millionaire" also substantially outdrew ABC's Feb. 6 broadcast of a two-hour Jackson special produced by British television; its audience averaged 27.1 million viewers, making it the most-watched show for that week. ABC repeated that special Monday from 9 to 11 p.m., drawing an audience of 9.5 million viewers. From 8 to 9 p.m., ABC aired a "PrimeTime" special, "The Many Faces of Michael Jackson," which drew 10 million viewers.

(Frazier Moore, Associated Press)

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