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Tuning in to TV

- - Wednesday, December 28, 2011

'Hell on Wheels' renewed for second season on AMC

It's official: AMC has renewed "Hell on Wheels" for a second season.

Days after news leaked that the Western starring Anson Mount and Common would earn a pickup, the network formally has announced plans for a sophomore season.

"Hell on Wheels," created and written by Joe and Tony Gayton, stands as the second-highest-rated drama series on the network, averaging 3.2 million total viewers.

The story of the building of the first transcontinental railroad became AMC's second-highest-rated original series premiere when it launched in November behind the net's zombie hit, "The Walking Dead, drawing 4.4 million total viewers, and an impressive 2.4 million in the key adults-age-18-to-49 demographic.

The Western now marks the fifth of six original series to stretch beyond freshman seasons as AMC continues to find success with scripted fare, joining "The Walking Dead," "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad" and "The Killing."

The first-season finale is set for Jan. 15.

'Big Bang Theory' marks 100th episode Jan. 19

When CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" airs its 100th episode on Jan. 19, it will be a look at what has come before for the show's pivotal couple, Penny and Leonard, as well as the on-again-off-again duo's future in a very unique way.

"We went back and watched the pilot and we talked about that and we tried to do a 100th episode that connects emotionally to the pilot," Bill Prady, co-creator and executive producer, told the Hollywood Reporter during a December event celebrating the milestone at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

The bulk of the episode, titled "The Recombination Hypothesis," will explore Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny's (Kaley Cuoco) past, present and future, with Chuck Lorre, co-creator and executive producer, calling the installment "a little risky."

"We wanted to go back to the relationship which started the series, which was Leonard's attraction to Penny and it was a sweetness to it and it's where we started and it felt like we'd come full circle on the 100th and explore it again," he said.

The cast, meanwhile, noted that the milestone would be different from what other shows have done, with Miss Cuoco, Mayim Bialik (Amy) and Simon Helberg (Howard) all citing the episode's departure from the norm.

"It's definitely a different episode than we've done," Miss Cuoco told the Hollywood Reporter. "It's kind of a brain-teaser a bit; you don't know what's going on until the end. The end comes and then you realize it all makes sense."

Meanwhile, Miss Bialik described the episode as featuring a lot of ensemble scenes and said the half-hour is a "really quirky episode."

"It has sort of an homage quality, in some ways, to the pilot," Mr. Helberg said. "It is its own thing; it's a simple story that's not quite what it seems with some twists and turns in it. It's like how little we've traveled in five years and how slow the growth is for these guys but still how interesting they are to watch."

So it's a "brain-teaser," "quirky" and "an homage to the pilot" with "twists and turns" — but is it a dream?

Asked just that, Miss Cuoco would only smile and say, "Possibly, we'll see."

'Fresh Prince' actress holding grudge against Smith

The actress who was originally cast as Will Smith's aunt on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" has a major ax to grind with the actor, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Janet Hubert — who was sacked halfway through the NBC sitcom's six-year run — told TMZ she did not attend a recent cast reunion because she loathes Mr. Smith and blames him for her departure.

"There will never be a reunion ... as I will never do anything with an [expletive] like Will Smith," said Ms. Hubert, who portrayed Vivian Banks from the 1990 debut season through 1993.

Daphne Reid replaced Ms. Hubert on the show, which also starred Alfonso Ribeiro, Tatyana Ali, Karyn Parsons and James Avery. The cast, sans Ms. Hubert, reunited for a get-together last week, and Mr. Smith posted a group photo on his Facebook page.

"He is still an egomaniac and has not grown up," Ms. Hubert sniped of Mr. Smith.

Ms. Hubert's feud with Mr. Smith goes way back: The two butted heads on the set of the series, and in a 1993 radio interview, Mr. Smith remarked: "She has basically gone from a quarter of a million dollars a year to nothing. She's mad now but she's been mad all along. She said once, 'I've been in the business for 10 years and this snotty-nosed punk comes along and gets a show.' No matter what, to her I'm just the Antichrist."

A representative for Mr. Smith did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former 'SNL' writer commits suicide in hotel

Former "Saturday Night Live" writer Joseph Bodolai has committed suicide in a Hollywood hotel room, the Los Angeles coroner's office said Tuesday.

According to the Associated Press, coroner's office spokesman Craig Harvey said room service staff found the body of the 63-year-old Mr. Bodolai at 1:30 p.m. Monday in a room at Hollywood's Re-Tan Hotel. He checked into the hotel Dec. 19.

Mr. Harvey said Mr. Bodolai drank a mixture of Gatorade and antifreeze. The death, first reported by celebrity website TMZ, has been ruled a suicide.

Besides writing on 20 episodes of "Saturday Night Live" in 1981 and 1982, Mr. Bodolai was the TV producer for 20 episodes of "The Kids in the Hall" Canadian sketch comedy troupe.

Police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said there was no suicide note, however Mr. Bodolai apparently foreshadowed his suicide online.

The Los Angeles Times cited a lengthy post published Friday on a WordPress blog that appears to be registered to Mr. Bodolai. It was titled "If This Were Your Last Day Alive, What Would You Do?" and included Mr. Bodolai's accomplishments and regrets.

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.