- - Wednesday, July 27, 2011

National Geographic Channel to air Bush 9/11 special

Former President George W. Bush had a famously prickly relationship with the media, especially the Washington press corps. With the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the horizon, Mr. Bush will emerge from self-imposed exile. And he won’t be talking to any of the A-list anchors at the news divisions.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, he sat for two days of interviews with National Geographic Channel. It was exclusive access that took four months to negotiate and just happened to be scheduled for two days after it was announced that Navy SEALs had killed Osama bin Laden.

George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview” will premiere Aug. 28 and is the keystone of seven days of Sept. 11th-themed programming.

National Geographic executives called on New York filmmaker Peter Schnall, whose previous work for the network includes the top-rated 2009 documentary “Onboard Air Force One.”

“I reminded him of our journeys together,” Mr. Schnall said. “I wasn’t a journalist who was out to dig. So we had a friendly relationship in a sense.”

After four months of back-and-forth, Mr. Bush agreed to the interview. He did not ask to see questions in advance, nor did he request final approval over the film - which would have been a deal breaker, Mr. Schnall said. “We would never allow that.” The only condition was that the interview would be limited to the days and events surrounding Sept. 11, 2001.

Mr. Schnall himself did not learn of the death of bin Laden until he landed in Dallas with his crew late on the night of May 1.

“It was very surreal. Everyone was just standing and staring at the TV monitors in the airport,” Mr. Schnall said. “Everybody just stopped.”

As he absorbed news of the al Qaeda leader’s death, Mr. Schnall began to worry about his access to Mr. Bush.

“That’s the first thing we thought: ‘Oh, no, he’s either going to cancel the interview because he’s going to run off to Washington or he’s going to start talking to everybody.’ And to our surprise, that didn’t happen.”

The president’s representatives told Mr. Schnall they received 500 media requests after the death of bin Laden. They declined them all.

Mr. Schnall interviewed Mr. Bush on May 3 and 4. The result, he said, is a very personal account of a day that changed the world.

‘Walking Dead’ creator leaving role on show

Just a few days after acclaimed director Frank Darabont took the stage at last week’s Comic-Con to promote season two of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” comes the news that he’s stepping down as the series’ showrunner, Entertainment Weekly reports.

Sources have confirmed a report from Deadline that Mr. Darabont will no longer serve as the chief writer-producer on the series.

At Comic-Con, Mr. Darabont seemed excited about continuing on the hit series and working with the second-season writing staff.

“We also have writers that are really fans of [the show],” Mr. Darabont said. “The first six episodes, nobody knew what the hell they were dealing with, except me.”

Glen Mazzara (“The Shield”) is Mr. Darabont’s No. 2 on the show, though it’s not yet clear what sort of succession plan is being laid out.

The series is expected to continue shooting as planned and debut Oct. 16.

Ion Television inks deal to air ‘Monk,’ ‘House’

Ion Television is adding “Psych,” “Monk” and “House” to its schedule, unveiling Wednesday the acquisition of the three shows from an arm of NBCUniversal, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The general entertainment network bought the right to air the six previous seasons and future seasons of the detective series “Psych,” marking the first time the show has been syndicated on a broadcast network.

The deal also includes all eight seasons of “Monk” and the medical drama “House.” Starting in fall 2012, the latter will air twice per week for a year.

The shows join other off-network series on Ion’s prime-time schedule, including “Without a Trace,” “Criminal Minds” and “Ghost Whisperer,” as well as Ion’s first original police drama “Flashpoint.”

“These series fit particularly nicely with our network’s ‘Positively Entertaining’ positioning based on procedural dramas and movies,” said Brandon Burgess, CEO of Ion Media Networks.

Velocity network adds poker to programming

CBS and Discovery Communications’ new Velocity cable network, which targets men, are set to air a new “Epic Poker League” tournament under time buy and promotional barter arrangements, the Wall Street Journal reported.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the Journal said the company behind the tournaments is paying CBS to air the show on weekends under a so-called “time buy,” similar to an infomercial buy. Velocity will broadcast the show as a “promotional barter,” using the show without payment, it added.

The broadcasts come courtesy of Federated Sports & Gaming, a start-up betting that there is room and money for televised poker after the government cracked down on online poker, which led several TV networks to stop airing poker tournaments.

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