- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 7, 2006

Literary characters

The folks behind ABC’s “Lost” are enjoying some novel synergy as their current season winds down.

In Wednesday night’s episode of the island drama, the con man Sawyer (Josh Holloway) is seen reading an advance copy of fellow passenger Gary Troup’s “Bad Twin.” Sawyer, an odd bookworm, describes it as a whodunit he’s anxious to finish.

Troup has been missing since the plane went down, but a copy of his book just happened to land a while back in the offices of Hyperion Books, which, like ABC, is owned by the Walt Disney Company.

“Bad Twin,” billed as Troup’s “final novel before disappearing on Oceanic Flight 815,” was published last week, the Associated Press reports.

“We got this manuscript from this guy and we couldn’t reach him. He apparently got on this plane in Australia and has been lost at sea,” Hyperion President Bob Miller, trying his best to play it straight, told AP.

“Gary Troup” is a true mystery man, his name an anagram for “Purgatory.” But someone claiming to be the author shows up in a promotional video linked to the “Bad Twin” page on Amazon.com, and Mr. Miller himself provides a blurb: “Sure to be a classic of the genre.”

Troup joins a special club that includes the likes of Ellen Rimbauer and Marcie Walsh: “authors” of books by television characters.

“The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer,” a prequel to the 2002 miniseries “Red Rose,” recorded the thoughts of a magnate’s wife trapped in a spooky Seattle mansion. The book, which became a best-seller, was written by novelist Ridley Pearson, a good friend of the character’s inventor, Stephen King. Mr. Pearson also is rumored to have written “Bad Twin.”

Marcie Walsh is a recurring character on “One Life to Live” who on the show was writing a police thriller, “The Killing Club,” that actually ended up in stores in 2005. The program’s former head writer, Michael Malone, is listed as co-author.

Wednesday night’s “Lost” gave “Bad Twin” a strong but unspectacular bump, from 311 to 67 on Amazon.com’s best seller list.

Today’ delay

Web surfers can watch Matt, Al and Katie — for the moment — online, but they must be patient.

NBC News is webcasting “Today” each morning but only the first hour of it to make the program available by lunchtime on the East Coast, a move that allows West Coast stations to air the entire program first, AP reports.

Mark Lukasiewicz, NBC News’ vice president of digital media, told AP the network wanted to hit a peak traffic time for users with broadband connections at work. Since last Monday, NBC has been making the show available on MSNBC.com at 11 a.m., just after the first hour airs on the West Coast.

NBC will continue to make segments from the second and third hours available on a case-by-case basis. Mr. Lukasiewicz said NBC may eventually make the entire program available, perhaps by posting them an hour at a time to have the first and “newsiest” hour available by lunchtime.

Mr. Lukasiewicz says the webcasts won’t hurt his show’s lead in the morning news ratings race. He said audiences have been steady even with NBC posting online its “Nightly News” and “Meet the Press” programs.

Underscoring the global nature of the medium, the “Today” webcast is being produced in London and sent to MSNBC.com’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters for posting. The television broadcast is run out of New York.

Crossing the pond

U.S. producers are rolling the dice that another hit Brit game show will make it big stateside.

ABC is in negotiations to develop a series titled “The Con Test,” sources told the Reuters news agency.

The project is described as a question-and-answer game show with a twist: The players don’t know how well their opponents are doing in the game, which allows those who are not doing so well to bluff their way to a big prize.

Sources say the network is considering giving the show a five-episode order. ABC declined comment to Reuters. The project comes from “American Idol” producer Fremantle Media North America Inc.

Britain’s ITV recently announced the format as part of its spring/summer schedule. Contestants will compete for a 1 million-pound ($1.8 million) jackpot.

Other British game-show formats that have made their way to U.S. television audiences include “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” a version of which aired on ABC and another that still runs in syndication, and “Weakest Link,” which aired on NBC and in syndication.

Compiled from Web and wire reports by Christian Toto.

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