- The Washington Times - Monday, September 8, 2008

Getting a feeling

If a stranger appears in the back row of a town’s school board meeting sometime during the next two months, a baseball cap worn low to partially obscure his face, people should not be alarmed.

It might be CNN’s John King, on a mission to take the nation’s political pulse ahead of the presidential election. He says he likes stopping off at school board meetings because he’s bound to find people interested in talking about their country and community. “If you don’t go into the communities and get a feel for them, then on election night, when something surprising happens, you don’t understand why,” he told Associated Press.

Mr. King, 45, will travel briefly with Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama for the campaign’s final eight weeks to get a feel for their messages, but much of his time will be spent trying to see how Americans feel. He’s most interested in blue-collar towns in the Midwest that voted heavily for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton during the primaries.

Dr. Greene returns

Anthony Edwards, one of the original stars of the NBC hospital drama “ER,” will return to the landmark TV show Nov. 13 in flashback scenes playing his now-deceased character, Dr. Mark Greene.

Mr. Edwards will share scenes with actress Angela Bassett, previously announced as a new addition to the “ER” cast for the show’s upcoming 15th and final season, the network announced Thursday. The names of the other returning “ER” alumni weren’t released.

“ER” debuted in 1994 and launched the careers of George Clooney, who left the show in 1999, and others in the ensemble cast.

Tough promotion

Some network marketing chiefs have been forced to promote products for the fall season that they have never seen. With finished episodes of new series arriving late — and with more retooling of rookies than for any other year in memory — several networks head into fall blindly promoting their wares.

According to variety.com, this inconvenience largely results from the writers strike and comes just as the broadcasters face their toughest fall launch yet. The nets ended last year nursing big Nielsen declines, and they continue to face increased competition from heavily hyped cable fare.

Add in low summer ratings, which translates to fewer on-air promotional opportunities, and this could be a most trying season for the broadcasters, variety.com says.

“The biggest challenge for us is that we have two new shows for this fall and we have not seen episodes yet,” says Michael Benson, ABC Entertainment’s executive vice president of marketing. His network has frosh entries “Life on Mars” and “Opportunity Knocks” on deck. “We’re having to figure out new ways to communicate what our shows are.”

In a typical year, the networks set their schedules right before the May upfront presentations with finished pilots in hand. Their marketing departments then have an entire summer to noodle strategy and at least one finished episode to provide to critics and use in on-air promos.

On tap tomorrow

BET’s first scripted series, “Somebodies,” debuts Tuesday. The half-hour comedy is the brainchild of Hadjii, the writer-filmmaker-actor who plays an easygoing college student. It was filmed this summer in Athens, Ga., Hadjii’s home turf.

“Somebodies” made a splash at the Sundance Film Festival as an indie comedy and was snapped up by BET for adapting as a scripted series.

Now the young filmmaker has written and stars in the 10-episode half-hour show. Hadjii plays a party-going, churchgoing, easygoing undergrad who’s having too much fun to want a diploma.

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