- The Washington Times - Monday, October 10, 2005

Change for ‘Chief’

ABC’s breakout hit “Commander in Chief” has lost its leader.

No, feisty female president Geena Davis is still in charge, but the man who created the new series is out, and prolific producer Steven Bochco is taking his place, Associated Press reports.

Mr. Bochco, of “NYPD Blue” and “L.A. Law” fame, is taking over production of the White House drama from its creator, Rod Lurie, Touchstone Television reported over the weekend.

Mr. Lurie will stay on as executive producer of the series and has signed a two-year deal with Touchstone, a division of ABC’s parent company Disney, to develop and produce new series.

A television executive close to the series told AP Mr. Bochco was hired to help “Commander in Chief” run more smoothly and get episodes done on time. Production was halted at one point because scripts were unfinished, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“I’ve been a huge fan of Steven Bochco’s for over two decades,” Mr. Lurie said in a statement supporting the transition.

The series stars Miss Davis as Vice President Mackenzie Allen, who moves to the Oval Office after the president’s death. Still, she must fight to establish her credibility amid political scheming.

The unexpected production shift comes as “Commander in Chief” has registered strongly with both critics and viewers. Its Sept. 27 premiere attracted 16 million viewers, while the second episode was watched by close to 17 million. The series airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m.

Reports that Mr. Lurie — known primarily for his film work, including the political drama “The Contender” (2000) — and ABC had creative differences over upcoming story lines were inaccurate, network spokesman Kevin Brockman said.

What lurks below

“Surface” star Lake Bell has a name that’s perfect for her underwater TV drama.

If only she had the courage to match.

“I’m not a big fan of the ocean because I’m scared of what lies beneath,” Miss Bell recently told AP during a break in filming the new NBC show.

She quickly ticks off her fears, a list that includes undertow and man-of-war jellyfish.

“But as a pseudo-action star, I have to jump in… to literally jump in and go,” she said.

On “Surface,” that means working on the water — be it in the ocean, on a boat or hanging out poolside. Miss Bell plays an oceanographer who discovers mysterious sea monsters in the ocean. The special effects are added in postproduction, forcing the actors to interact with a piece of tape playing the part.

For help imagining the creatures, Miss Bell sought advice from her former “Boston Legal” co-star William Shatner, who faced his fair share of imaginary beasties on “Star Trek.”

“He said to just make a lot of faces,” Miss Bell said.

Off and running

CBS is getting an early jump on the fall 2006 season by signing a sitcom deal with the creators of “Friends” and “Half & Half.”

Sources told Reuters news agency the network bested its broadcast rivals in a bidding war by making a bold play — complete with a hefty seven-figure sum — for “The Class,” from David Crane (“Friends”) and Jeffrey Klarik (“Half”).

Casting has not been determined. CBS and producer Warner Bros. Television declined comment.

The “Class” pilot begins with a party thrown by 27-year-old Ethan for his girlfriend. Ethan re-creates the moment they met — the first day of third grade — by inviting six other people who were in class with them and have since lost touch with one another. The party then becomes the springboard for following how the lives of the reunited characters continue to intersect.

“Class” will feature an ensemble of twentysomething characters, but the comparison to “Friends” ends there. The series will deviate from the typical sitcom by eschewing one particular setting for the characters to gather. Instead, “Class” will feel more like a drama or unscripted project by splintering its story lines to follow characters individually in their own lives, a format that demands a multitude of sets.

However, unconventional comedies have scored well this fall, with both “Everybody Hates Chris” at UPN and “My Name is Earl” over at NBC earning full season commitments.

“It’s not eight people in a living room or a workplace. It presents a production challenge, but that’s what makes it exciting,” Mr. Klarik, who also worked on “Mad About You,” told Reuters.

Compiled by Christian Toto from Web and wire reports.



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