- - Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Newt Gingrich is pulling a Joe Biden by making a cameo on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” — but unlike with the vice president, there was no planning involved.

On the spur of the moment Monday, the ex-GOP presidential candidate and House speaker was written into “Parks and Rec” after walking into Indianapolis’ St. Elmo Steak House while the comedy filmed scenes on location at the restaurant, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“It was a completely random chance. But you can’t pass up on an opportunity like that,” series co-creator Mike Schur told the Indianapolis Star.

And so Mr. Schur and the episode’s writer-director weaved Mr. Gingrich — in town to meet with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels — into the storyline, which revolved around a bachelor party for Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), who’s getting married to Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), mayor of fictional Pawnee, Indiana.

Miss Poehler was not present at the restaurant, although Mr. Scott was joined by actors Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Rob Lowe, Chris Pratt and Jim O’Heir. Indiana Pacers’ players Roy Hibbert and Miles Plumlee filmed planned cameos.

“I love, ironically, that we had to come to Indianapolis to have Speaker Gingrich,” Mr. Lowe told the Star. “No, we didn’t have him in Washington. We have him at St. Elmo’s.”

‘Seinfeld’s‘ Michael Richards cast in new TV Land sitcom

TV Land says it has cast “Seinfeld” star Michael Richards in a pilot for a prospective new sitcom.

The series, “Giant Baby,” also would feature “Cheers” alums Kirstie Alley and Rhea Perlman, according to The Associated Press.

TV Land said Tuesday the pilot will be taped next week.

“Giant Baby” focuses on Broadway star Maddie Banks, played by Miss Alley. Mr. Richards plays her limo driver while Miss Perlman plays her assistant.

This would be Mr. Richards’ first regular series role since his short-lived NBC sitcom aired in 2000. Before that, he played Jerry Seinfeld’s kooky neighbor Cosmo Kramer on the wildly popular “Seinfeld” series.

In the meantime, Mr. Richards performed as a stand-up comedian. He lost his temper while being heckled at a club in 2006 and was caught on tape shouting the N-word. He later apologized.

$319M verdict upheld in ‘Millionaire’ case

A federal appeals court on Monday upheld a $319 million verdict over profits from the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and rejected Walt Disney Co.’s request for a new trial.

A jury decided in 2010 that Disney hid the show’s profits from its creators, London-based Celador International. The ruling Monday by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found no issues with the verdict or with a judge’s rulings in the case.

“I am pleased that justice has been done,” Celador Chairman Paul Smith said in a statement.

Disney did not immediately comment on the decision.

According to The Associated Press, the ruling comes more than two years after the jury ruled in Celador’s favor after a lengthy trial that featured testimony from several top Disney executives. The company sued in 2004, claiming Disney was using creative accounting to hide profits from the show, which first ran in the United States from August 1999 to May 2002 and was a huge hit for ABC.

Drama series thrills Taiwan, dismays Chinese authorities

A television series about imperial palace drama in the 17th century has captivated viewers in Taiwan, but its emphasis on the dark side of human nature has made it less popular with cultural authorities in China.

“The Legend of Zhen Huan” has a Qing dynasty setting and its main characters are fictional concubines vying for the emperor’s affection. The lead role is witty Zhen Huan, who transforms from an innocent 17-year-old into a scheming dowager empress over decades in court. Initially victimized after rivals abort her baby by using poison, Zhen Huan learns to fight back and avenge the wrong she has suffered.

According to The Associated Press, in Taiwan and on the mainland, fans of “Zhen Huan” see the dialogue as insightful on how to advance in the modern workplace. “If you want to live in this court, you must know the emperor’s likes and dislikes, and if you want to survive, you must know those of other women” is one frequently quoted line.

Liu Lianzi, 28, wrote the 76-episode drama series based on her 2007 novel. “Zhen Huan” easily could be a metaphor for her experiences striving for success among thousands of young Chinese writers on the Internet. In the caldron of China’s voluminous online literature market, the mostly female devotees are ruthless in determining whether aspiring authors succeed or fail.

“The Internet has liberated all the external factors that have for long restrained women at work … and no one had anticipated that a woman, when breaking the silence, would have told a story that should totally distort our look at history,” Chinese writer Tzeng Yuan wrote recently in Taiwan’s China Times daily.

Taipei office worker Chiu Ying said she was enthralled by the court struggles depicted in the drama series “that are not unlike nasty office politics anywhere.”

“Zhen Huan has learned to rise up to the top the hard way, having to first deal with a jealous and wicked empress and then serving a suspicious and cruel emperor,” Ms. Chiu said.

The drama has also impressed fans with its luxurious costumes and court scenery, while imparting lessons on Chinese classical poetry, court etiquette and herbal medicine preparation.

The success of the series has spawned a number of Chinese copycats, which may have dismayed Chinese authorities.

Lin Hsi-hui, head of Taiwan’s Multimedia Production Association, said mainland associates told him the authorities there fear young viewers would get distorted work ethics from the series.

Partly because of “Zhen Huan,” Mr. Lin said, Chinese authorities decided to limit historical dramas to just 10 percent of the total of next year’s complement of TV series.