- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 30, 2006

Early birds

The folks at Fox are getting a jump on fall programming.

The network made several series pickups late last week to shore up its upcoming season, Reuters news agency reports.

The shows getting an early thumbs up are Brad Garrett’s comedy ” ‘Til Death” and the drama “Vanished.”

Not to be outdone, NBC is renewing all three editions of the “Law & Order” franchise.

“Death” and “Vanished” were generating buzz in the development cycle, and their promise was confirmed when Fox executives watched footage from their pilot shoots, Fox Executive Vice President Craig Erwich noted.

“When you know, you know,” Mr. Erwich said. “We decided, ‘Why wait three weeks when an extra three weeks will only make them better?’ ”

As the first fruit of the current TV development cycle, “Vanished” and “Death” are well positioned for the pick of the litter among available writers, producers and directors needed to shoot their next 12 episodes.

Mr. Garrett (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) and Joely Fisher (“Desperate Housewives”) star as a longtime married couple who live next door to newlyweds, played by Eddie Kaye Thomas (“American Pie”) and Kat Foster (“The Book of Daniel”).

“Vanished” is a one-hour serialized drama chronicling a conspiracy enveloping the disappearance of a senator’s wife. The cast features Christopher Egan (“Empire”), Gale Harold (“Queer as Folk”), Joanne Kelly (“Jeremiah”), John Allen Nelson (“24”) and Rebecca Gayheart (“Nip/Tuck”). Fox already had ordered two scripts when it made the pilot order.

Meanwhile, NBC gave an early vote of confidence to “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” That will bring the original “L&O;” into its 17th season, keeping it the second-longest-running drama series in TV history, behind “Gunsmoke” with 20 seasons (1955-1975). “SVU” will go into its eighth season and “Intent,” its fifth.

Rosie returns

Rosie O’Donnell is coming back to television in a big way.

The former stand-up comic will executive produce a new series for the homosexual-themed channel Logo dubbed “The Big Gay Show” and, in a move that will be seen by a far larger audience, take over for Meredith Vieira on “The View,” according to the Hollywood Reporter and Associated Press, respectively.

The news magazine “Extra” reported the “View” news Thursday, and it was later confirmed by a person close to the show who spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity to let “The View’s” remaining hosts make the announcement on-air.

It remains to be seen if Miss O’Donnell, the erstwhile “Queen of Nice,” will play well with others on “The View.” The female talk show often dishes out arguments between its key players, a group that includes Joy Behar, Star Jones Reynolds, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and, occasionally, Barbara Walters.

Miss Vieira is leaving the show to replace Katie Couric on NBC’s “Today” show. She will begin work there in September.

Logo has picked up six half-hour episodes of the sketch comedy “Show,” which will debut sometime next year. The show’s cast includes Erica Ash, Dion Flynn, Julie Goldman, Stephen Guarino, Johnny McGovern, Kate McKinnon, Nicol Paone and Michael Serrato. Former “Married … with Children” actress Amanda Bearse will direct.

Miss O’Donnell’s syndicated talk show debuted in 1996, earning her six Daytime Emmy Awards for best talk show host.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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