- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 8, 2006

WB rolls on

The WB will be no more come fall when it and UPN merge, but the network is still shuffling its lineup to see what new shows might survive the merger.

The WB plans to bench most of its Friday comedy lineup late next month to make room for a new comedy, “Modern Men,” and a new reality show, “Survival of the Richest,” Reuters news agency reports.

“Men” is slated to debut March 17 in the 9:30 p.m. slot behind the long-running “Reba,” displacing the struggling rookie “Twins.” As of March 31, “Survival” will run in the 8 p.m. slot that is now home to “What I Like About You” and “Living With Fran.”

“Men” follows three childhood friends who seek advice on their love lives from a life coach played by Jane Seymour. The six-episode “Survival” pairs seven wealthy people with seven working-class folks with heavy debts. Each week, one of the two-person teams will be eliminated until one is left to claim a cash prize.

Narrators

You never know who will guide us through the latest TV series, be it Ron Howard, Chris Rock or even a voice from the grave.

“Arrested Development” enlists Mr. Howard to comment on the wacky goings-on of the Bluth family. “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Everybody Hates Chris” and “My Name Is Earl” rely on off-screen talent to fill in the details, Associated Press reports.

“Desperate Housewives” employs the voice of a dead character to begin and end each episode.

“Using voiceover definitely helps us,” Greg Garcia, creator and executive producer of NBC’s “Earl,” told AP. “We try to tell a lot of story each week. Almost every episode we do we could make it into a movie, so we’ve got to move along quickly. We can’t just sit there and explain things in the body of a scene.”

On UPN’s “Everybody Hates Chris,” much of the humor is carried by the hidden-but-heard Mr. Rock, whose life loosely inspired the series.

Besides being a creative tool, voiceover has become a practical and, for some shows, necessary expedient in the ever-shrinking world of prime time.

“Our half-hour show, when all is said and done, is less than 21 minutes long,” says Bill Lawrence, creator and executive producer of NBC’s “Scrubs,” another user of narration.

“There are so many people faced with trying to figure out how to take care of their stories in a shorter period of time that shows are using voiceover,” Mr. Lawrence says.

There are limits to the off-camera chatter, though.

“We try not to have too much,” Mr. Garcia says. “I’ve looked at first drafts of scripts where there’s too much, and then I’ve looked at first drafts of scripts where it’s too little, and it starts to not feel like our show. So there’s definitely a balance you try to find.”

A variation of voiceover also peppering prime time these days is having actors break character and talk directly to the camera.

“George Burns did it way, way back,” Mr. Garcia says. Today, “Bernie Mac talks right to the camera.” Even NBC’s “The Office” applies the technique, he says. “It’s documentary style, so they don’t have narration, but Steve Carell will talk right to the camera as he’s being interviewed.”

Life after ‘Joey’

Andrea Anders isn’t waiting for NBC to announce the end of her sophomore sitcom “Joey.”

The actress has joined the cast of the upcoming CBS comedy called “The Class,” Reuters news agency reports.

“The Class” begins with a party thrown by 27-year-old Ethan (Jason Ritter of “Joan of Arcadia”) for his girlfriend, whom he met in the third grade. Ethan invites six other people who were in the class with them, all of whom have lost touch with one another. The party then becomes the springboard for following how the lives of the reunited characters continue to intersect.

Miss Anders and Jay Bernthal will play two of the schoolmates who were high school sweethearts.

Miss Anders plays the sweet neighbor of Matt LeBlanc’s title character on the NBC comedy, a spinoff from the wildly popular “Friends.”

“Joey” is on hiatus and is not expected to return for a third season.

Compiled by

Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.


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