- - Monday, January 9, 2012

Ryan Seacrest’s return as ‘Idol’ host up in the air

Both Fox and Ryan Seacrest say they want Mr. Seacrest to stay as host of “American Idol” after this year. Whether that will happen was unclear Sunday even as both sides promoted this month’s launch of the 11th season of the country’s most popular television show.

“It’s a tough negotiation and one that will come to conclusion, I think, pretty quickly,” Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said.

According to the Associated Press, Mr. Seacrest is not signed beyond this season and also is involved in talks with corporate owners of NBC Universal, where he has a contract at E! Entertainment. There have been several reports that NBC is considering Mr. Seacrest as a potential replacement if Matt Lauer decides to leave the “Today” show.

Mr. Seacrest had little to say Sunday about the possibility of moving into a new morning job.

While such talk is “flattering,” he said, “that job will be that person’s job as long as that person wants the job.”

“American Idol” continues to be a TV steamroller. Yet network TV is in tough economic straits, and many millions of dollars are tied up in contracts with Mr. Seacrest and judges Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson.

As for Mr. Seacrest’s contractual status, the key word Sunday was “imagine.”

“It’s very hard to imagine the show without Ryan,” Mr. Reilly said. “We certainly want to keep him. There’s no creative discussion there whatsoever. It is a deal issue.”

Said Mr. Seacrest: “I’ve done this for the last decade. I love doing it, so I can’t imagine not being on every week.”

“American Idol” returns on Jan. 18.

Keith Olbermann to run Current TV election coverage

Despite his absence from early primary coverage, Current TV’s Keith Olbermann will soon be part of the act.

In a tweet posted Sunday, the volatile anchor of the “Countdown” show said he would be “running the election coverage of Current” after Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, according to the Associated Press. On Monday, a Current representative confirmed Mr. Olbermann would host future coverage.

Mr. Olbermann was missing from last week’s coverage of the Iowa caucuses. This led to reports of a feud between Mr. Olbermann and the network, where he has been an executive and star for less than a year.

Fox prepping cartoons for Saturday-night block

Long known for its Sunday-night cartoons headlined by “The Simpsons,” Fox is planning to offer new animated material late on Saturday nights and on an experimental new digital channel.

The network said Sunday that the new effort will be led by Nick Weidenfeld, the former head of program development for the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim series. The cable network has run a popular series of late-night cartoons on weekdays that has successfully reached a young male audience that TV executives consider valuable and elusive.

Saturday’s 90-minute cartoon block would begin at 11 p.m. Fox hasn’t programmed aggressively in late nights and hopes the new series will provide some competition for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” said Kevin Reilly, Fox Entertainment president. It will start in January 2013.

Mr. Reilly, during a news conference, offered hints but left an air of mystery around the future of some popular Fox prime-time shows, including “House,” “Glee,” “Fringe” and “Terra Nova.”

NBC to fund effort to create musical theater programs

NBC is funding an initiative to create musical theater programs in U.S. schools in need of arts education.

The network said Friday the effort to launch stand-alone musical theater programs will begin this month with a pilot group of 20 schools nationwide. NBC is joined on the Make a Musical project by iTheatrics, which adapts musicals for student productions and provides tools for teacher training.

The nonprofit iTheatrics’ Junior Theater Project aims to begin another 180 programs this fall, building toward a 2014 goal of 1,000 school programs reaching 1 million students, NBC said. Schools may apply for the fall program at the website makeamusical.org starting Friday.

NBC declined to put a funding amount on the initiative.

The Make a Musical project has another goal: NBC said it “celebrates” the network’s upcoming series “Smash,” a Broadway-set drama that premieres Feb. 6 and stars Debra Messing, Katharine McPhee (“American Idol”) and Anjelica Huston. Its executive producers include Steven Spielberg.

Sutherland prepares to start production on ‘24’ movie

Fans of Jack Bauer have something to look forward to. A movie based on the former Fox series “24” is scheduled to begin shooting this spring.

Actor Kiefer Sutherland said Sunday that he expects to go to work on the movie in late April or May. Mr. Sutherland played Bauer, the centerpiece on the pulse-quickening adventure series that ended its television run in 2010.

Even with the movie ahead of him, Mr. Sutherland is already working on a new Fox series. “Touch” features him as the father of a superintelligent son able to understand odd connections in the world and even predict the future.

After portraying Bauer, a character who often is required to repress emotions, his new character, Martin Bohm, shows his feelings. Mr. Sutherland said he hadn’t expected to be doing a new TV series so soon and wasn’t specifically looking for a character as different from Bauer as possible.

“The reason I wanted to do this is it really spoke to me,” he said.

Fox will offer a sneak preview of the show Jan. 25 before it joins the network schedule in March.

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.

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