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Tuning in to TV: ‘30 Rock’ to live it up with live episode

- - Wednesday, April 25, 2012

In a move to inject new life into its kookiness, "30 Rock" is going live this week.

It will be the second such outing for the NBC comedy, which is normally a polished, single-camera filmed affair. It went live for a night in October 2010 with an episode performed during the show's normal time slot, then re-staged for West Coast viewers.

The same plan will be followed Thursday: Originating from NBC's Studio 8H (the fabled home of "Saturday Night Live"), "30 Rock" will air live for viewers in the Eastern and Central time zones at 8:30 p.m. EDT, then be reprised at 8:30 PDT for the rest of the country.

The theme of the episode plays into the idea of Live vs. Filmed. The Kabletown corporate bosses announce they will no longer pay for live production of "TGS" (the fictitious show-within-a-show produced by Liz Lemon, played by "30 Rock" creator Tina Fey). After first resisting, Liz and NBC exec Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) realize their lives would be simplified by shooting "TGS" episodes on film, fast and cheap.

"30 Rock" could use a little excitement. Although highly acclaimed and richly awarded during its six seasons, it has begun to lose the comic edge that set it apart. And while it was never a ratings juggernaut, it has seen its audience further soften this season (just 3 million viewers tuned in last week).

A stunt such as going live is one way to score renewed attention and, perhaps, a boost in viewership. In TV, a live show is a favorite way to shake things up.

"The Drew Carey Show" aired a live, improv-laced episode in 1999. Two years before that, "ER" staged an ambitious live hour of that medical drama.

"Will & Grace" kicked off its season in September 2005 with a live episode whose guest star was none other than Mr. Baldwin.

- Associated Press

Dan Rather: Lawsuit against CBS was worth it

Retired CBS anchorman Dan Rather says his lawsuit against his former network was worth it, even though the $70 million breach-of-conduct case was rejected by New York courts.

In his new book, "Rather Outspoken," he said the case forced some of the "ugly truths" about CBS into the open. The longtime CBS newsman left the network acrimoniously after a discredited 2004 report about President George W. Bush's military service.

Mr. Rather's book is due out Monday.

Mr. Rather wrote that the lawsuit "took a big whack out of my time, my psyche and my bank balance, but even so, it was worth it."

He said his wife, Jean, had even advised against suing. She thought it wouldn't be prudent but agreed to support him no matter what he did.

Although questions were raised about the legitimacy of documents supporting the report made during Mr. Bush's re-election campaign, Mr. Rather has said he still believes the story was true.

In his book, Mr. Rather describes being iced out of CBS during the 15-month period after he left as anchor of the "CBS Evening News" and finally left the network altogether in June 2006. He was working for "60 Minutes" during that period but said he constantly saw his stories criticized and ideas rejected.

"It was clear to everyone but me that I was being erased," Rather wrote. "Nevertheless, I refused to believe what my eyes were seeing and my ears were hearing."

- Associated Press

Kardashian family signs on for 3 more years on E!

The Kardashian family will continue living life on TV for the next three years.

The E! Entertainment network said Tuesday it had reached a deal with its most bankable franchise to make three more seasons of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians." Terms were not disclosed.

The sixth season of the show averaged 3 million viewers on Sunday nights, the cable networks' top series. Five of the 10 most-watched shows in the network's history, in fact, involved the Kardashians. The 18-episode seventh season begins May 20.

E! said the entire family is covered by the deal: Kim, Kourtney and Rob Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian Odom, and Bruce, Kris, Kendall and Kylie Jenner. E! will continue to have the first crack at any spinoff projects.

E! has turned the Kardashians into a miniempire, with spinoff series including "Kourtney & Kim Take New York" and "Khloe and Lamar." Although E! retains the first right to these spinoffs, Tuesday's deal does not specify how many more will be made.

The network would also not say whether musician Kanye West would be included in the series. Mr. West and Kim Kardashian have been seen together lately, including arriving hand-in-hand at Chanel's seventh annual artists dinner at the Tribeca Film Festival on Tuesday night.

Kim's elaborate wedding — and brief marriage to — basketball player Kris Humphries was a highlight of E!'s programming last fall. The network had to put out a statement denying rumors that the wedding was orchestrated for TV.

- Associated Press

AOL announces launch of online video network

AOL is launching an online video network that will gather its programming onto one platform, the latest bid by a major Internet destination to be a player in Web television.

The company announced the AOL On Network on Tuesday at a presentation of programming to advertisers in New York. It said the network will feature 14 content channels available online, on mobile devices, on tablets and through TV-connected devices.

AOL On will pull from some 320,000 short-form videos from AOL and its many publishers. The company also announced seven new original series.

The event Tuesday was part of the inaugural Digital Content NewFronts, in which digital outlets such as YouTube and Yahoo are presenting their programming slates in the style of television upfronts.

- Associated Press