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TV Notes: 6/21/03

Saturday, June 21, 2003

'Girls' spinoff dead

The WB has opted not to go forward with a planned spinoff of "Gilmore Girls" starring Milo Ventimiglia as bad boy Jess. A report in The Hollywood Reporter said the show was nixed because of the high cost of producing the series on location at Venice Beach.

No word on whether Ventimiglia will return to "Girls.

(Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor)

Jerald off '24'?

Penny Johnson Jerald, who starred as manipulative Sherry Palmer on the first two seasons of Fox's "24," has not been signed for year three. However it is possible she'll return as a guest star, according to Daily Variety.

(R.O.)

'Guardian' back to 'Burgh

The cast and crew of CBS's Pittsburgh-set legal drama "The Guardian" will return to Pittsburgh to film scenes for the show's third season episodes sometime in August.

Production crew members have been contacted about their availability the week of Aug. 18.

(R.O.)

Miller on FNC

Castle Shannon native Dennis Miller will become a regular contributor to Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes" this summer. A premiere date for his commentaries hasn't been set, according to an FNC spokesman.

(R.O.)

Eagle leaves WPCB post

Oleen Eagle, who has served as president of Cornerstone TeleVision since 1994, will step down from her position this month. Ron Hembree, chief ministry officer at Channel 40 since 2002, will succeed her.

An inauguration ceremony for Hembree will be televised live at 8 p.m. June 30. Hembree has had a relationship with Cornerstone for almost 20 years, helping to create and produce "His Place," "Rejoice" and the series now known as "Quick Study."

Eagle, who will be named president emeritus, has been part of the station's management team since 1976, three years before the station began broadcasting in 1979.

"At 72, I feel like I need to take a breather in life," Eagle said. She'll continue to work on special projects, including the station's 25th anniversary next year and the planned launch of a low-power satellite station in Harrisburg. the purchase of which awaits Federal Communications Commission approval.

"I call it a new season," Eagle said. "I know in my heart the Lord has made it so clear my assignment here is complete, and I know with equal confidence the Lord sent Ron Hembree to take over the reigns."

(R.O.)

New KDKA hire

KDKA-TV has hired Sonni Abatta, a May graduate of Carnegie Mellon, as a reporter trainee. Abatta has interned at KDKA in the past.

News director Al Blinke said she may not appear on the station's air for up to a year.

"She'll learn about being a reporter and everything that goes with it, and we'll see if we can teach her the fine art of weather," Blinke said. "But she'll be more of a reporter than a weather person. It may end up she never does a day of weather."

(R.O.)

PCNC special

Every Child Inc., a Pittsburgh agency that provides free services to children and families to ensure that children grow up in stable families, will be featured in "To Find a Family: An Every Child Special," airing at 7:30 p.m. Friday on PCNC.

WPXI anchor Peggy Finnegan will host the half-hour program, which repeats at 2 p.m. June 29 on PCNC and at 6 a.m. July 12 on WPXI.

(R.O.)

Listings changes

Major networks have been inconsistently identifying original air dates and repeat airings of programs.

To provide the most accurate information, we now list new, premiere or original programming with an (N). The repeat symbol, (R), will no longer appear.

This change applies to grids, talk show listings and highlights in TV Week, which will switch to the new format with the June 29 issue. The change is already in effect in the daily TV grids and talk show listings.

With its court case delayed until September, Spike TV will revert to TNN in TV Week in the near future.

Lawsuit puts hold on Spike TV change

A state appeals court on Thursday refused to allow Viacom to change The National Network's name to Spike TV until its dispute with Spike Lee is decided at a trial.

Lee had sought and won an injunction after telling a lower court that the name change was a deliberate attempt to hijack his name, image and reputation.

A five-judge panel of the state Supreme Court's Appellate Division rejected Viacom's request to void the lower-court ruling and let it proceed with the name change. The judges scheduled a hearing before a full appellate bench for September.

"This case is far from over," TNN spokesman Robert Pini said Thursday. "We firmly believe that we have an absolute right to use the common word 'spike' to name our network."

Lee's lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, was traveling and unreachable for comment.

On June 13, state Supreme Court Justice Walter Tolub granted Lee's request to stop Viacom from changing TNN's name.

Viacom said it wanted to change TNN's name to Spike TV to try to attract more men to an audience that is already about two-thirds male.

TNN expected to lose nearly $17 million in the first week of the injunction because the network had to postpone Monday's planned name change, Clara Kim, TNN's vice president for business and legal affairs, said earlier this week in court papers.

Besides maintaining that "spike" is a common and frequently used word with many meanings, Viacom's lawyers argue that the new name doesn't necessarily prompt thoughts of Lee, whose given name is Shelton Jackson Lee. They say the filmmaker -- whose directing credits include "Do the Right Thing," "Malcolm X" and "25th Hour" -- is known as Spike Lee, not simply Spike.

But Lee has complained that TNN's name change would associate him with the "demeaning, vapid and quasi-pornographic content of Spike TV."

Among the network's planned fare: "Stripperella," an animated series featuring Pamela Anderson as the voice of an undercover operative who is also a stripper.

(Samuel Maull, Associated Press)

Gore into radio?

Former Vice President Al Gore, once a newspaper reporter, may be getting back into the media business.

Gore has been meeting with potential investors interested in creating a cable television network, Time magazine's online edition reported Wednesday.

There's been a lot of talk in Democratic circles about launching a media enterprise to counter dominant GOP voices. Political talk radio is dominated by conservative voices and Fox News Channel, the top-rated cable news outlet, is also very popular among conservatives.

A spokeswoman for Gore did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

A television executive who has had discussions with Gore said the idea is in its "embryonic" stages. But it's not a liberal version of a cable news network, said Steve Rosenbaum, head of the New York-based documentary producers Camera Planet.

Gore was a fan of "Unfiltered," a series Camera Planet produced for MTV that put cameras in the hands of viewers. The idea of empowering viewers is "philosophically appealing" to backers of a new network, Rosenbaum said.

"The only thing I'm confident of is that it will look like nothing you've ever seen on television, which is part of the excitement of it," Rosenbaum said.

Gore has been consulting with Joel Hyatt, founder of Hyatt Legal Services and an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Senate from Ohio in 1994.

(AP)

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