- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Swan song for Katie

Today marks the end of an era on morning TV.

Katie Couric’s final shift on NBC’s “Today” (7 to 10 a.m.) show ends — but not before three hours of film clips, tributes and live performances by the great Tony Bennett, country music star Martina McBride and the cast of the Tony-nominated Broadway musical “Jersey Boys,” Associated Press reports.

How will she be able to hold it all together?

“I haven’t really thought about it and worried about it,” Miss Couric told AP. “I’ll do what I’ve always done for 15 years and be myself. I’ll react the way I react.”

Miss Couric, 49, will take June off and then report to work at CBS News. She’ll start anchoring the “CBS Evening News” in September.

The Arlington native’s tenure as “Today” host began on April 5, 1991. Back then, she looked impossibly young next to Bryant Gumbel; her playfulness was a perfect counterpoint when he lapsed into self-seriousness. She was pregnant with her daughter Elinor at the time and gave birth to her second daughter, Caroline, five years later, in 1996.

Jeff Zucker, then executive producer of “Today,” said he knew she was a natural from that first day.

“She emerged as one of the seminal hosts in morning television history,” said Mr. Zucker, now chief executive officer of the NBC Universal Television Group. “She grew up on the air and changed both professionally and personally. She earned her stripes as one of the great news broadcasters in history. I think she’ll be remembered for her ability to do both the silly and the important.”

Morgan’s new life

Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan showed enough signs of life as a dying patient on “Grey’s Anatomy” to earn a spot on a new series from the creator of the hit ABC medical drama.

The actor has been hired as a regular on Shonda Rhimes’ untitled project about a group of female journalists, Reuters news agency reports. The new show, which will air on ABC, already has a pilot order.

On “Anatomy,” Mr. Morgan played heart patient Denny Duquette. The character, who was linked romantically to Izzie (Katherine Heigl), died in the series’ recent second-season finale.

The new show isn’t his only gig. Mr. Morgan has recurring roles on the WB’s “Supernatural” as the ghost-busting father of series stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. Also, on the Showtime comedy “Weeds,” he plays the deceased husband of the show’s star, Mary Louise Parker, appearing to her in flashbacks and fantasy sequences.

Teens, tans on MTV

Tonight, MTV offers more proof that summer’s really here with two new mindless and frothy series unfurling on the cable music channel.

First up: “The Hills” (10 p.m.), a reality spinoff from another reality series, “Laguna Beach.” The show follows “Laguna’s” Lauren Conrad, 19, as she leaves home for the first time to land the perfect apartment in Los Angeles and the perfect job — as editor of Teen Vogue — despite her lack of experience.

Her qualifications? She’s read Teen Vogue, like, all her life, notes Scripps Howard News Service.

Apparently, that’s OK with the editors at Teen Vogue. They hand her the job because they “want to take a chance” on her.

Lauren’s skills are put to the test, however, when she’s assigned to work an all-star party the magazine is throwing. All she has to do is make sure no one sits in the VIP section — but her buddies crash the party and decide to sit in the VIP seats anyway. When Lauren’s boss sees this, he gets the notion to have a serious talk with her on Monday at work.

Could this be the beginning of her end at Teen Vogue?

Without giving too much serious thought to the question, MTV moves on with “Cheyenne,” another teen-themed reality series debuting at 10:30 p.m.

The story: Cameras will follow a 15-year-old as she attempts to break into (what else?) the music business, Scripps Howard reports. She’s too young to drive or drink, but she can go to meetings with her agent.

Offer they can’t refuse

Two co-stars of “The Sopranos,” Michael Imperioli and Vincent Curatola, have signed contracts to appear on the final eight episodes of the HBO hit when it returns in January, Reuters reports.

The deals follow a decision by HBO to extend the Emmy-winning series’ sixth and final season to 20 episodes, with 12 airing this year and the remaining episodes starting in January. The first of the initial 12 episodes began airing in March and the last will air on Sunday.

Stars James Gandolfini and Edie Falco were the first cast members to close new deals, but other key players — including Tony Sirico and Steve Van Zandt — are still in discussions.

The deals signed by Mr. Imperioli and Mr. Curatola could mean neither actor gets whacked until the show’s final moments. Yet given the series’ penchant for flashbacks featuring deceased characters, even that isn’t a given.

Mr. Imperioli, an Emmy winner for his role as mob enforcer Christopher Moltisanti, has been moonlighting on another crime drama, NBC’s “Law & Order,” with a series of guest-starring appearances during his breaks from “The Sopranos.”

Mr. Curatola, who plays New York boss Johnny “Sack” Sacramoni, also has appeared on “Law & Order.”

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

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