- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 19, 2006

YouTube for TV

Big-screen star Jack Black will soon be seen on the small screen.

The comic actor and half of acoustic heavy-metal duo Tenacious D is partnering with VH1 to executive produce “The Department of Acceptable Media,” E! Online reports. The weekly comedy sketch show will feature user-generated content and short films occasionally starring Mr. Black.

Mr. Black’s partners are Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab, who teamed with the actor three years ago to co-found Black Channel 101, a Web site featuring digital shorts made by novice filmmakers in a competitive forum.

Aiming to capitalize on the do-it-yourself success of YouTube, the VH1 series will pick up where Channel 101 left off. Each week, “The Department” will showcase six three-minute clips of would-be TV shows that viewers will vote on via an online poll at acceptable.tv, beginning in February.

The three “acceptable” series tallying the most votes will be renewed for another episode airing the following week, while the shows receiving the fewest votes will be “canceled” and replaced by three new pilots. Eventually, producers intend to showcase the best of the shorts as a full-blown series on VH1.

“This is the first show in TV history to be programmed by the audience,” Mr. Black said.

Mr. Black pointed to the success of such Channel 101 alumni as Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, who collectively dubbed themselves the Lonely Island. Their short films landed them spots on “Saturday Night Live,” where they scored a hit comedy sketch with the popular “Lazy Sunday” video (otherwise known as the “Chronic-what?-cles of Narnia” rap).

Variety reports that the “School of Rock” star and his colleagues will write and produce most of the sketches on “The Department” and will appear on air to introduce them. However, at least one of the shorts will be chosen from user-generated video submissions from the Web site. Producers say that, depending on the quality, more amateur videos could be added as the show evolves.

The first of eight episodes of the sketch comedy series is scheduled to premiere on VH1 in the spring.

Mr. Black will be seen on the big screen Wednesday in “Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny,” a big-screen version of his HBO “Spinal Tap”-like comedy series sending up garage bands.

CW’s mixed bag

There’s mixed news about the CW, the channel that rose from the ashes of the WB and UPN.

Mediaweek.com reports that the new network is seeing a double-digit ratings drop for most of its series.

The reality show “America’s Next Top Model” and the teenage mystery series “Veronica Mars” are the only shows that appear to show signs of life among viewers. The long-running “7th Heaven,” a hit on the WB, has lost a third of its viewers, and the once successful “Gilmore Girls” is down by 22 percent.

Yet, there was some good news. Viewership among the network’s 18-to-34 demographic is up 6 percent from the WB and up 12 percent from UPN’s numbers last season.

Perry to surf again

Former “Beverly Hills, 90210” star Luke Perry is joining the cast of another Southern California-set show, Zap2it.com reports.

The new show is unlikely to be as lighthearted as the last one, however.

Mr. Perry, who most recently starred in NBC’s “Windfall,” will be a series regular on HBO’s “John From Cincinnati.” The show is the latest project from “Deadwood” creator David Milch. He became a full-time cast member after guest-starring in the pilot, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“John From Cincinnati” explores the surfing culture of Imperial Beach, Calif., south of San Diego, and focuses on a prominent but dysfunctional family. The cast also includes Bruce Greenwood, Rebecca De Mornay, Ed O’Neill, Luis Guzman and Austin Nichols, who plays the title character.

Mr. Milch and author Kem Nunn co-wrote the pilot, which began filming last month. The series is scheduled to premiere in the summer.

Mr. Perry is best known for playing Dylan McKay — an avid surfer himself — for most of “90210’s” 10-season run. “John” will be his second turn on an HBO series; he had a recurring part on “Oz” in 2001-02.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance from Web reports.

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