- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Burnett’s new venture

Reality titan Mark Burnett has sold a new quiz show, “Amnesia,” to NBC, TVWeek.com reports.

The series will test contestants’ memories of their lives by asking about key events from the past. Producers will talk to contestants’ friends, family members and teachers to glean questions.

NBC has ordered an undisclosed number of episodes of the program, which is scheduled for midseason.

The deal follows Mr. Burnett’s quiz-show success with “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader,” which debuted to record-setting ratings on Fox in the spring.

For Mr. Burnett, who’s known for ambitious reality productions such as “Survivor” and “The Apprentice,” “5th Grader” provided a best-of-all-worlds success: a hit that’s simple and inexpensive to produce, yet translates to other cultures. International distributor Reveille has sold “5th Grader” in about 50 territories worldwide.

Mr. Burnett’s non-quiz efforts have struggled of late, along with most of this summer’s new reality shows. ESPN renewed Mr. Burnett’s boxing show, “The Contender,” for a third season last week. However, CBS axed his reality-adventure series “Pirate Master.” “On the Lot,” a show-business reality program on Fox, has suffered low ratings and is not expected to return.

“Amnesia” marks the second deal between recently hired NBC co-chairman Ben Silverman and Mr. Burnett. Last month, Mr. Silverman announced a celebrity edition of Mr. Burnett’s “The Apprentice” scheduled for next year. Those projects join the paranormal reality series “Phenomenon,” another NBC program Mr. Silverman has on tap for midseason.

Day’ and the ‘Sun’

After taking a break from original movies last season, ABC is bringing back the genre with two high-profile projects, the Hollywood Reporter notes.

“Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom’s For One More Day” will air Dec. 9, and an adaptation of the play “A Raisin in the Sun” will air Feb. 25, the night after the network’s live telecast of the 80th annual Academy Awards.

“A Raisin in the Sun,” an adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking 1959 play about a black family living and struggling on Chicago’s South Side while attempting to integrate an all-white community in the 1950s, features the primary cast of the play’s 2004 Broadway revival, led by Sean “Diddy” Combs, Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald and Sanaa Lathan, along with “ER” star John Stamos. Mr. Combs also is one of the producers on the upcoming project.

“For One More Day,” based on Mr. Albom’s best-selling book, centers on a broken-down former baseball player (“The Sopranos” star Michael Imperioli) on the verge of suicide who gets to spend one more day with his departed mother (Ellen Burstyn).

The 2006-07 TV season is believed to have been the first time ABC didn’t air an original movie or miniseries. Its most recent long-form project, the miniseries “The Path to 9/11,” aired around the fifth anniversary of September 11, a week before the official start of the current season.

Mars star a hero

Former “Veronica Mars” star Kristen Bell will join the cast of “Heroes” for the upcoming season, IMDb.com reports. The 27-year-old had been rumored to be considering a role on “Lost” since the cancellation of “Veronica Mars” in the third season earlier this year but chose “Heroes” instead. She will play Elle, a woman with mysterious links to two characters’ pasts, according to the trade magazine Variety.

Usual song and dance

Reality and reruns ruled again this week, Associated Press reports, citing data from Nielsen Media Research.

In prime time, CBS came out ahead, with an average of 6.7 million viewers. Runner-up Fox averaged 6 million viewers, while NBC had 5.3 million viewers, and ABC had 4.4 million.

For the week of Aug. 13 to 19, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships: “America’s Got Talent,” NBC, 10.83 million; “60 Minutes,” CBS, 9.91 million; “Singing Bee,” NBC, 9.73 million; “Hell’s Kitchen,” Fox, 9.68 million; “So You Think You Can Dance” (Thursday), Fox, 9.61 million.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance and Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports.

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