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Tuning in to TV

- - Monday, February 13, 2012

Grammy telecast draws most viewers since 1984

The Nielsen Co. says the Grammy Awards telecast made sweet music in the ratings, delivering its largest audience since 1984.

According to the Associated Press, preliminary figures released Monday show more than 39 million viewers flocked to the CBS broadcast, making it the second most-watched Grammys in history. That exceeds last year's Oscars broadcast, which was seen by 37.6 million viewers.

Sunday's Grammys broadcast was notable not only for the numerous trophies dispensed to recording artists, but also for its role in serving as a memorial to Whitney Houston, a six-time winner.

The superstar singer died unexpectedly Saturday, hours before she was supposed to appear at a pre-Grammy gala. She was 48.

Gellar double-dips in roles on 'Ringer'

One role just isn't enough for Sarah Michelle Gellar. On her freshman CW series "Ringer," she co-stars in two of them, as identical twins who both are in serious trouble.

But that isn't all for Miss Gellar, who also plays a leading off-camera role as an executive producer for the series. Even so, the demands on her weigh lighter these days than during "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," where she labored for seven seasons.

"I work shorter hours on this show - everybody does - than I did on 'Buffy,' " she said in an Associated Press interview. Efficiency reigns on "Ringer." Her actors and crew members are fellow pros who help get the job done smoothly. She's having fun.

Meanwhile, she's keeping work in healthy balance with her private life, enjoyed with her husband of 10 years, actor Freddie Prinze Jr., and their 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Charlotte, as they give their roles as parents top priority.

"When Charlotte was born, Freddie was on '24' and I didn't work for two years," Miss Gellar said. "I had asked him, 'When I'm ready to go back to work, will you stay home with her then?' He was like, 'Fine!' " She laughs. "He loves it. I think I've created a monster!"

That's not to say her "Ringer" routine, however moderated, isn't hectic. Interviewed one recent morning at her Manhattan hotel during a whirlwind publicity visit, she presents herself in sweat pants, a "Ringer" hoodie she grabbed from her L.A. makeup trailer "as I was walking out the door," and sandals borrowed from the hotel spa. She explained that, in her haste to leave for New York, she neglected to pack clothes or shoes other than the ensembles chosen for her TV appearances.

On "Ringer" (which airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m.), Miss Gellar plays Bridget Kelly, an ex-stripper on the run after witnessing a mob hit, as well as playing her troubled New York socialite twin sister, Siobhan Martin, whose own brewing problems compel her to fake her own death. With Siobhan's apparent death, Bridget sees no choice but to claim her ritzy life and handsome husband in an effort to hide in plain sight from mobsters and the law.

Portraying two characters (plus Bridget masquerading as Siobhan) isn't so hard, according to Miss Gellar.

"It's a group effort - hair, makeup, wardrobe," she said. "Besides, as identical twins, Bridget and Siobhan have characteristics that are inherently very similar. So you don't have to worry - they have to be able to be confused for each other."

Her biggest challenge: "keeping in mind who knows what and who doesn't know what."

HBO defends new series after racetrack deaths

HBO is defending its treatment of horses used in the racetrack drama "Luck" after two of the animals died during production.

The horses were injured and euthanized during filming of the series, which stars Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte. The series has been renewed for a second season. According to the Associated Press, the deaths, which occurred a year apart in 2010 and 2011, have drawn criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

"From the very outset of this project, the safety of the animals was of paramount concern to us," HBO said in a statement. "Recent assertions of lax attitudes or negligence could not be further from the truth."

HBO said it worked in partnership with the American Humane Association and racing industry experts "to implement safety protocols that go above and beyond typical film and TV industry standards and practices."

The AHA's film and TV unit, the group sanctioned and supported by the entertainment industry to protect animals used in filming, called for a production halt at the Santa Anita Racetrack in suburban Arcadia after the second horse's death, said Karen Rosa, the AHA unit's senior vice president.

"Racing resumed after new protocols were put in place. We've seen that they worked. HBO stepped up and adhered to the new standards, which are the gold standard for race filming going forward," Ms. Rosa said Friday.

The AHA upgrades its guidelines on a continual basis, she said, drawing on new scientific and production data.

The revised safeguards include the use of a second veterinarian to perform "soundness" checks on each horse and taking X-rays of all horses' legs for any problems that could prevent an animal from being used in race sequences.

Thoroughbreds used for "Luck" run for shorter distances than in an actual race, with stunt horses and computer-generated special effects added to help bolster the completed scene, Ms. Rosa said.

Kathy Guillermo, a PETA vice president, said Friday the group does not consider the matter closed.

"Racing itself is dangerous enough. This is a fictional representation of something and horses are still dying, and that to me is outrageous," she said.

She said the AHA's guidelines failed to prevent the two deaths "so clearly they were inadequate." PETA contacted HBO for details on the accidents and euthanized horses and received a partial reply but was rebuffed when it requested more, Ms. Guillermo said.

HBO said it provided information about the accidents and safety protocols to PETA but that details on the horses' identities and their necropsy results were privileged. There was full compliance and transparency with the AHA, the premium channel said.

It and "Luck" drew praise from Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board, who called the series' horse protections "exemplary."

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.