Monday, July 18, 2005

ESPN’s busy slate

ESPN is working on a project based on the 1951 Army football team that had several members (including the coach’s son) expelled for cheating on tests, Reuters News Agency reports.

“Codebreakers,” a film about the scandal that rocked West Point and beyond, will debut Dec. 10 on the cable sports network.

Though the feature, starring Scott Glenn, deals primarily with an academic scandal, executive producer Orly Adelson says it’s still very much a sports story. One of the major scenes is the staging of the 1951 Army-Navy football game, he adds.

ESPN also is planning another dramatic film, “Four Minutes,” which spotlights Sir Roger Bannister, the British medical student who ran the first less-than-four-minute mile in 1954. It stars Christopher Plummer and Jamie Maclachlan. The movie was made without the cooperation of Dr. Bannister, a neurologist, who had committed previously to another project on the same topic.

Still, the network’s biggest move is the new “ESPN Hollywood.” The nightly series, to debut Aug. 15, will focus on the interaction between Hollywood celebrities and sports stars. Thea Andrews, formerly of ESPN’s “Cold Pizza,” will co-host with a personality expected to be named within the next few weeks, according to Reuters.

Encouraging ‘Entourage’

HBO is listening to the buzz, not the ratings, when it comes to its sophomore comedy “Entourage.”

The series will return next year for a third season and the network is hiring more writers to expand it beyond the expected 13 episodes, Reuters reports.

“Entourage” follows a rising movie star (Adrian Grenier) and his three pals as they navigate their way through Hollywood.

The Emmy-nominated comedy’s renewal capped other news from HBO, including word that the long-gestating miniseries on the life of President John Adams is officially a go.

No HBO session at the Television Critics Association would be complete without the semiannual speculation on the potential for additional episodes of “The Sopranos” beyond the sixth season, which is scheduled for March.

HBO Chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht told reporters the decision to produce more “Sopranos” ultimately rested with its creator, David Chase, whom Mr. Albrecht said is “most concerned with leaving the audience feeling great about the show.”

Desperate’ gets darker

The makers of “Desperate Housewives” will feature even nastier behavior for the second season of the ABC hit, Associated Press reports.

A new neighbor will commit some dastardly deed, promises the show’s creator, Marc Cherry, still buoyant from its 15 Emmy nominations.

Mr. Cherry and series star Marcia Cross, who plays uptight heroine Bree Van de Camp, carefully dropped second-season tidbits Saturday at a panel discussion dubbed “Queer Is Just a Frame of Mind on Wisteria Lane,” part of Outfest 2005: The 23rd Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

Mr. Cherry is homosexual, as are some of the others on his writing staff and many fans.

“Anytime you get four or five really strong women doing desperate, dastardly things, I think gay men get a big kick out of it,” Mr. Cherry told AP Television News.

Unknown future

Lisa Kudrow is used to NBC begging her and her cast mates for just one more season of “Friends.”

Those days are over, however, and Miss Kudrow is just another actress sweating out the renewal hopes of her new HBO sitcom, “The Comeback.”

Miss Kudrow, who played Phoebe on the long-running “Friends,” is still waiting to hear whether her latest show will make it to a second season on HBO, AP reports.

“They usually don’t say anything for a little while. I’m hoping to hear soon,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle in Sunday’s editions.

Miss Kudrow, 41, has raced to complete the last of “Comeback’s” 13 episodes.

In the series, she plays a washed-up TV star who clings to her past success. In her new film, “Happy Endings,” she’s a woman who gave up her baby for adoption and, years later, is approached by a crazed documentary filmmaker who claims to know her son’s whereabouts and wants to film the reunion.

“I don’t care about the big box office, and I get to do things that come from me more,” Miss Kudrow says. “If I only ever do ‘Happy Endings’ and movies like that, that’s fine. It’s really fulfilling.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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