- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2007

Trump on fence at NBC

Although NBC will keep “Law & Order” and “Medium” on its upcoming fall slate, the future for Donald Trump’s reality series, “The Apprentice,” looks less certain.

According to Reuters news agency, NBC is close to telling Mr. Trump “You’re fired,” but the network is holding back just in case it could use him at the last minute.

The future of his NBC series was cast into extreme doubt yesterday by the network’s announcement of a 2007-08 programming lineup that made no mention of the Donald or the corporate-themed reality show he hosts.

Such an omission, coming at the outset of the networks’ annual “upfront” advertising market, normally would spell doom for a low-rated show like “The Apprentice.” Nevertheless, NBC executives refused to rule out an 11th-hour reprieve for Mr. Trump’s show.

“The Apprentice,” which turned Mr. Trump, a billionaire, into a TV star and introduced his catchphrase, “You’re fired,” features a group of aggressive young entrepreneurs in a weekly game of elimination as they vie for a real-life job in his business empire. The series has lost nearly two-thirds of its audience since its first and most successful run in the spring of 2004.

Asked whether “Apprentice” was effectively dead, NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly insisted, “Not yet.”

He said NBC would wait until after the other major networks have revealed their new programming lineups before rendering a final judgment on the fate of Mr. Trump’s show.

“Donald still wants to do the show. [Executive producer] Mark [Burnett] wants to do the show,” Mr. Reilly said. “We couldn’t find the right spot for it. So we’re going to regroup after everybody announces their schedule. We’re going to look at everything in context and then make a decision about it.”

There was no immediate comment from Mr. Trump.

“The Apprentice” achieved hit status during its original incarnation, averaging 20.7 million viewers with help from a huge ratings lead-in following the mega-hit comedy “Friends” on the NBC schedule during that show’s final season.

However, the show has suffered a steady ratings decline since then, hitting an audience low of just 7.5 million viewers for the recently concluded sixth edition set in Los Angeles.

Mr. Trump and NBC still have other joint interests, however.

In March, the two announced a renewed deal to keep annual broadcasts of the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, which Mr. Trump co-owns, on NBC through 2010.

“We want to stay in business with Donald in whatever format that will take,” Mr. Reilly said. “The guy has a certain magic. We love him.”

Fox stewed over parody

Like, don’t have a cow, man.

An Internet parody of “The Simpsons” has drawn the ire of 20th Century Fox, says CNN.com, citing a story in the Hollywood Reporter.

The studio is pressuring the online video hub Broadcaster.com to remove “The O.J. Simpsons,” three animated clips that re-imagine the Fox series starring the former football star. After receiving notices from Fox lawyers, Broadcaster Inc. is reviewing the demand but noted Friday that fair-use doctrine protects parodies.

“We respect the rights of content owners,” Broadcaster Chief Executive Martin Wade III said. “We are examining all the issues raised by the Fox request. Our goal is to be a respecter of content rights and at the same time find legal ways to bring our community members the content they enjoy.”

Fox, which declined comment, has been aggressive about protecting perceived copyright infringements. In January, the network had Google subpoenaed over uploaded episodes of “24” and “The Simpsons.” Google complied, disclosing the names of individuals who did the uploading.

The three “O.J. Simpsons” clips are titled “Black and White Christmas,” “Warzone” and “If I Did It” — which directly references Fox and its decision to withdraw publication of O.J. Simpson’s proposed book about the 1994 killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman.

You’re invited

The Style Network is engaged to add “I Propose,” a new series that follows grooms as they prepare to pop the proverbial question, TVWeek.com reports.

The half-hour series will premiere June 12 during Style’s annual 21-day Wedding Party of programming around all things nuptial.

” ‘I Propose’ offers the perfect mix of drama, romance and comedy, creating an irresistible, at times tear-jerking, series that will resonate with Style viewers,” says Salaam Coleman Smith, Style’s executive vice president.

“With this latest installment of wedding programming, we are taking a genre that we know our viewers adore and are offering a fresh spin and new perspective through the eyes of the groom.”

Rosie’s new view?

Rosie O’Donnell is talking to Jenny Craig to promote the weight-loss program, says the Denver Post, citing a report from janetcharltonshollywood.com. Besides the chance to shed some pounds, Miss O’Donnell wants to soften her image and realizes the program has helped the likes of Kirstie Alley and Valerie Bertinelli, who have promoted the diet plan the Web site said.

Beave on Broadway

Jerry Mathers, best known as Beaver Cleaver in the classic late-Eisenhower-era sitcom “Leave It to Beaver,” joins the cast of “Hairspray” June 5 at the Neil Simon Theatre, Associated Press reports.

Mr. Mathers, 58, will be playing Wilbur Turnblad, dad of exuberant teen Tracy Turnblad, in the long-running musical.

Based on the John Waters cult movie set in 1960s Baltimore, “Hairspray” centers on a teenager desperate to appear on a local television dance show.

On tap tonight

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour makes a guest appearance in the final episode of “Gilmore Girls” — the mother-daughter duo embodied by show stars Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel — at 8 p.m. on the CW.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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