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Tuning in to TV: Kimmel, Chenoweth, Tomlin to honor Ellen DeGeneres

- - Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Jimmy Kimmel, Kristin Chenoweth, Steve Harvey and Lily Tomlin have signed on to honor Ellen DeGeneres with tribute performances as she wins the nation's top humor prize.

The Kennedy Center is awarding Miss DeGeneres the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Oct. 22. The show will be broadcast on PBS stations Oct. 30.

The lineup also includes John Krasinski, Sean Hayes and Jason Mraz, the Associated Press reports.

Miss DeGeneres began her career as a comedy club emcee in her native New Orleans. Soon after, she became the first female comedian summoned to late-night host Johnny Carson's desk to chat.

In 1997, Miss DeGeneres made history as the first prime-time TV lead character to reveal she's gay.

The prize honors Mark Twain's tradition of satire and social commentary.

NBC gives three new series full-season commitment

NBC has given an early sign of approval to three of its new series, handing each a full-season commitment.

The network announced Tuesday it is picking up for a full-season order the adventure-drama "Revolution" and the comedies "Go On" and "The New Normal," the Associated Press reports.

The network said "Revolution," from producer J.J. Abrams, has averaged a healthy 9.8 million viewers in its first three airings. "Go On," which stars Matthew Perry, is averaging 8.6 million viewers thus far.

"The New Normal," from producer Ryan Murphy, is averaging 6 million viewers.

This fall, NBC is launching six new series, including the yet-to-premiere "Chicago Fire." The 2012-13 season officially began Sept. 24.

Cartoon Network marks 20 years on the air

It's been a long, strange 20 years for the Cartoon Network, which has flourished during a time when animation traced its way from the likes of "Scooby-Doo" to the racy, trippy fare now shown on Adult Swim.

The network is celebrating itself all month with on-air tributes, starting with a video released Monday that features more than 100 characters that have appeared on the channel coming together in a ravelike dance party, the Associated Press reports.

When the network launched on Oct. 1, 1992, it aired around-the-clock cartoons including those from the Hanna-Barbera library — which includes "The Flintstones" and "The Jetsons" — at a time when ratings for morning cartoons were dropping and "The Simpsons" was making its mark in prime time.

Many thought Ted Turner's idea to start the network was "crazy," said Robert Sorcher, who worked there for its first five years. He said critics didn't understand Turner Broadcasting Systems' $320 million purchase of the Hanna-Barbera library or earlier acquisition of the MGM film library, which includes "Tom & Jerry."

"It was not clear to everyone how this was going to be a successful network," said Mr. Sorcher, now the network's chief content officer.

But Mr. Turner believed Cartoon Network could fill a void and cater to both children and adults. Original productions began in 1994 with "Space Ghost Coast to Coast," which led to several other original series that became popular including "The Powerpuff Girls," "Dexter's Laboratory," "Courage the Cowardly Dog" and "Johnny Bravo."

For more than 10 years, Adult Swim has featured mature content late at night. And shows such as the Emmy Award-winning "Regular Show," "Ben 10" and "Adventure Time" have become mainstays of the network.

Now, the network is shown in more than 360 million households in 175 countries.

BET's 'Black Girls Rock' to feature Keys, Warwick

Alicia Keys and Dionne Warwick are known for singing pop and R&B, but they'll be honored as black women who "rock" on BET.

The "Black Girls Rock" special, which honors the accomplishments of black women, returns to the network Nov. 4; the actual ceremony will be held Oct. 13 in the Bronx, N.Y., with actresses Tracee Ellis Ross and Regina King returning as hosts.

According to the Associated Press, Miss Warwick will be honored as "living legend," while Miss Keys will receive the "rock star" award. "Scandal" actress Kerry Washington will receive the "star power" award, while journalist Susan Taylor and Somali activist Dr. Hawa Abdi also will be honored.

The awards are an offshoot of the organization Black Girls Rock, created by DJ Beverly Bond to promote positive images of black women.

Fall's new talk shows facing challenges

Less than a month into the new season, daytime television's new players already have experienced two major shake-ups and increasing ratings questions for the fall's biggest star, Katie Couric.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, on Friday, 20th Television, producer of Ricki Lake's "Ricki," announced that executive producer Lisa Kridos had been replaced by Gail Steinberg, who produced Miss Lake's previous show. The move was seen as a distress call amid middling ratings for Miss Lake's new show.

Then, on Tuesday, longtime CBS Television Distribution head John Nogawski was ousted, at least in part because of the disappointing start for "The Jeff Probst Show." Sources say the decision to replace Mr. Nogawski after a 30-year tenure with foreign sales head Armando Nunez came from the highest level of CBS.

At the same time, ABC-Disney's "Katie," which arrived with the highest expectations, was off about 10 percent in national ratings in its second week. And affiliates reportedly have begun grumbling that Ms. Couric and executive producer Jeff Zucker promised a topical show that would serve as a perfect afternoon news lead-in, but instead has delivered more typical talk-show guests, such as Jessica Simpson revealing her Weight Watchers success story during the show's premiere episode.

Affiliates are locked into two-year deals for "Katie," with top markets paying $10,000 to $15,000 a week in license fees, sources say. But many deals have performance clauses, which would allow affiliates to reduce the price or move the show to a different time slot if ratings lag.