- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

New ‘Development’

TV Guide Online

Fox has extended a full-season order (that’s 22 episodes) to its sublime (yet low-rated) family comedy “Arrested Development.”

Created by Mitch Hurwitz for Imagine TV and 20th Century Fox TV, “Arrested Development” revolves around a wealthy, dysfunctional family that is forced to pull together when its patriarch George Bluth (Jeffrey Tambor) is arrested for shifty accounting practices at the family’s real estate firm.

Meanwhile, ABC has given a three-episode midseason order to the drama “The D.A.,” starring Steven Weber, from Warner Bros. TV and Shephard/Robin Co., according to the Hollywood Reporter.

ABC entertainment president Susan Lyne said the network hopes to present the show as a limited-run series “event” in the spring.

HBO kills ‘K’

TV Guide Online

The future isn’t as rosy for “K Street.”

HBO won’t be bringing back Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney’s failed political reality experiment for a second season.

Vargas named anchor

Elizabeth Vargas has been named anchor of ABC News’ “World News Tonight Sunday,” David Westin, president of ABC News, announced last week.

Miss Vargas has been a substitute anchor of “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings” and “Good Morning America,” a correspondent for the newsmagazines “20/20” and “Primetime Thursday,” an anchor on “World News Tonight Saturday” and a co-anchor of “Primetime Monday,” which debuted in September.

This summer she hosted “In the Shadow of Laci Peterson,” an ABC News special that examined the disappearances of several young women in Northern California — and why their stories failed to attract significant media attention. Earlier this month, Miss Vargas anchored “Jesus, Mary and da Vinci,” a credulous hourlong investigation of the many theories raised in the best-selling novel, “The da Vinci Code.”

Comedy’s king on ABC

Reuters News Agency

A funny thing has happened at ABC: the network has been on a warm streak when it comes to comedies.

They may not be monster hits, and they may not be Emmy magnets, but ABC’s young crop of (mostly) domestic sitcoms have helped stop the Nielsen free fall of the post-“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” era. For the second year in a row, the alphabet network has given full-season pickups to its entire fall freshman comedy slate (three shows in 2002 and four this year.)

The debut of Damon Wayans’ “My Wife and Kids” in March 2001 started it off and established something of a creative template for ABC’s comedy development team, now headed by senior Vice President Stephanie Leifer. Mr. Wayans teamed with writer/producer Don Reo with the intent of mining their lives as husbands and fathers for material for the show.

The same basic notion was applied with Jim Belushi in “According to Jim,” the sitcom created by writers Tracy Newman (a former member of L.A.’s famed Groundlings comedy troupe) and Jonathan Stark — whose past TV writing credits include scripts for CBS’ “The Nanny” and NBC’s “Cheers.”

Similarly, Los Angeles radio personality George Lopez was paired with veteran sitcom developer Bruce Helford (creator of “Wanda at Large” for Fox and “The Drew Carey Show” for ABC) to create a family comedy that revolves around a boisterous Latino clan. “George Lopez” has surprised many prime-time observers this season by doing a decent job of opening Friday nights for ABC after previously airing in cushier time slots.

After the network hit bottom in the 2001-02 season, ABC and the Walt Disney Co.’s top brass did a lot of talking about the need to take the network back to its roots with blue-collar, broad-appeal shows such as “Roseanne” and “Home Improvement.” But more than any demographic studies, Miss Leifer took her cues from what was already working, namely “My Wife and Kids” and “According to Jim.”

“We let the shows show us what worked for us,” says Miss Leifer, a 10-year ABC veteran who was promoted to head of comedy development in October 2002. “What we’re always looking for is something with a strong emotional appeal at its core.”

The emphasis has been on family oriented shows, but ABC’s also gone beyond the living room to the workplace setting of “Less Than Perfect,” the slap-shtick of “Hope & Faith” and the caustic humor of “It’s All Relative,” among other shows.

‘Honors’ on CBS

CBS will air “The 26th Annual Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts” Dec. 26 from 9 to 11 p.m., with Walter Cronkite as its host.

The network has broadcast the Kennedy Center Honors each year since its premiere; Mr. Cronkite has hosted for the past 23 years.

Musician James Brown, actress Carol Burnett, singer Loretta Lynn, director Mike Nichols and violinist Itzhak Perlman will receive this year’s honors.

They will be celebrated by an array of stars from the world of the performing arts during a December 7 gala in the Kennedy Center’s Opera House.

President and Mrs. Bush are scheduled to attend. The CBS special will be taped at that time.

The Kennedy Center Honors medallions will be bestowed the night before the gala, on Dec. 6, at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Each year, the recipients are recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts—whether in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures or television.

Compiled by Christian Toto and Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff and wire reports.

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