- The Washington Times - Friday, November 28, 2008

Hard times at TWC

Storm clouds are brewing at the Weather Channel, with an estimated 60 to 80 jobs cut in recent weeks as the Atlanta-based company is absorbed into new owner NBC Universal.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, several on-camera meteorologists were laid off, including Weather Channel veterans Dave Schwartz and Cheryl Lemke. Also let go was the staff of “Forecast Earth,” the channel’s weekend environmental newsmagazine hosted by former CNN and MSNBC anchor Natalie Allen. The cuts also affected employees behind the scenes.

NBC Universal, which, along with the private equity firm Blackstone Group, purchased the network, is merging the Weather Channel operations with its own Weather Plus. Weather Plus will close down by the end of the year, although some of the staff will remain.

Although it is losing “Forecast Earth,” the channel will be adding other environmental programming, the Hollywood Reporter says.

The entire company is undergoing a $500 million effort to cut costs, as mandated by NBC Universal’s parent company, General Electric.

VOD honors ahead

Teen heartthrobs the Jonas Brothers, R&B chart topper Chris Brown and hip-hop star Lil Wayne will battle each other for top honors during video-on-demand service Music Choice’sinaugural Most Demanded awards show, Multichannel.com reports.

The performing talents will vie for Most Demanded Artist of the Year, one of 20 award categories in the Music Choice awards show. Each of the projected 1 billion orders for music videos or originals in 2008 was counted as a vote to determine the Most Demanded award nominees in each of the 20 categories.

The four-part video show - hosted by Geffen Records recording artists Prima J (Jessica and Janelle Martinez) - will be offered on a VOD basis for a month beginning Monday, network officials said.

Holiday watch

‘Tis the day after Thanksgiving, a time when thoughts turn to sales, time off and holiday TV.

Some of the favorites won’t begin airing until next month (“A Charlie Brown Christmas” on ABC Dec. 8 and 16 and “It’s a Wonderful Life” on NBC Dec. 13 and 24).

Yet, in keeping with tradition, we offer our annual look at a few holiday specials that are set to roll out over the next few days:

• Elf (7 p.m., Friday, USA) - Raised by elves at the North Pole, Buddy heads off to New York City in search of Walter (James Caan) the man he believes is his real dad - a heartless jerk who’s also on Santa’s naughty list. Directed by Jon Favreau (“Ironman”).

• Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus (5 p.m. Saturday, Hallmark) - Although pondering retirement, Santa worries about handing over the reigns to his son, Nick, who has yet to settle down and find a wife. Then Nick unexpectedly falls in love with Beth, a hardworking single mother who lost the Christmas spirit a long time ago. Steve Guttenberg, Crystal Bernard star.

• A Dennis the Menace Christmas (8 p.m. Sunday, ABC Family) - This Dennis the Menace version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” casts Mr. Wilson, the tyke’s grumpy neighbor, in his own version of Scrooge. (Maxwell Perry Cotton replaces the original Dennis, Jay North.)

Also this weekend:

Friday

• Crash marathon (9 p.m., Starz) - Four back-to-back episodes (including “Railroaded” and “Los Muertos”) air. Dennis Hopper, Ross McCall, Jocko Sims, Clare Carey, Brian Tee, D.B. Sweeney, Dean Stockwell and Luis Chavez star.

Saturday

• Charlie Wilson’s War (8 p.m., HBO) - Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks has the title role as a hard-partying Texas congressman who’s inspired to help Afghan freedom fighters by his socialite girlfriend in this fact-based tale. Julia Roberts co-stars as the young woman who stokes the passion of “Good Time Charlie” in more ways than one; Philip Seymour Hoffman is a renegade CIA agent who helps bring to fruition their crazy plan to provide weapons for the Afghans to use against Russian invaders. Amy Adams, Ned Beatty and Emily Blunt co-star. Directed by Mike Nichols; screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, based on the book by George Crile.

Sunday

• Desperate Housewives (9 p.m., ABC) - Recovery begins in the aftermath of the deadly fire that shook the residents of Fairview. Yet for Gaby (Eva Longoria Parker) and Carlos (Ricardo Antonio Chavira), injuries sustained in the fire lead to a fortunate discovery.

• Britney: For the Record (10 p.m., MTV) - Miss Spears serves up the real deal about her year of living dangerously in the aftermath of her spilt from ex-hubby Kevin Federline - from her impromtu head-shaving incident to losing custody of her two young sons and her disastrous performance at MTV’s 2007 Video Music Awards - in this no-holds-barred documentary.

Written and compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports

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