- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Sara sidles out

Sara Sidle, the lab technician character on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” may have survived the first episode of the show’s new season. But she won’t make it to the last installment.

Jorja Fox, who has played the role on the hit CBS series since it began in 2000, will not complete the current season and will leave after the seventh episode in November, E! Online reports.

Her departure comes after rocky contract negotiations offscreen and an onscreen story line that has been foreshadowing for months a less than happy ending for her character.

The inability of Miss Fox and producers to come to terms on a salary boost, which they had been negotiating since January, put the final nail in her “CSI” coffin.

The actress, along with co-star George Eads, both were fired back in 2004, when they famously held out for a bigger payday. Their ploy didn’t work and they eventually were hired back after making public mea culpas.

Mr. Eads wound up with a contract extension, but not Miss Fox. While the contracts for the entire “CSI” cast expire at the end of the current season, Miss Fox’s lapsed in May, E! Online says.

Producers appeared to waste no time in finding a replacement. Last month, actress Jessica Lucas was hired for the show’s Vegas crime lab, although producers insisted she would only do a guest stint, starting with the third episode.

The news comes just as fans were put out of their summerlong misery last Thursday night when Miss Fox’s Sara survived. Her character’s fate was the major cliffhanger from last season’s finale, and Thursday’s season opener revealed that Sara escaped from her run-in with the “Miniature Killer.”

Miss Fox’s impending departure comes at a time when “CSI” couldn’t be stronger. The series’ seventh season premiere bested ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” season debut in the 9 p.m. Thursday slot by the largest margin since the ratings juggernauts first squared off. The CBS procedural averaged 24.8 million viewers, while the soapy medical drama drew in just 20.5 million.

NBC eyes Crusoe

As this season shows, network executives are never very original in coming up with new programming. But NBC suits are taking a cue from the past rather than the future.

The network has picked up “Robinson Crusoe,” a drama series based on Daniel Defoe’s classic 18th century novel, for prime time with a 13-episode order, the Hollywood Reporter notes.

The budget for the series is said to be about $35 million, of which NBC will pay about $10 million. The deal gives the network a series for a little more than the price of a high-end drama pilot. (The two-hour pilot of ABC’s “Lost,” another castaway drama, reportedly cost $10 million to $12 million).

“Crusoe” will couch the 1719 novel with a contemporary feel and voice, including a 21st century take on race relations, but it will be a period drama taking place in the book’s 17th century setting.

K.I.T.T., Hoff back

Speaking of NBC, the network is turning to the more recent past for another project: It plans to bring back “Knight Rider,” which it originally aired from 1982 to 1986.

The Peacock will test the waters of a full-fledged series revival with a two-hour TV movie/pilot, set to air later this season, E! Online reports. If that gets decent ratings, a series — produced by Doug Liman, who directed 2005’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” (with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt) — will go into production for a 2008-09 debut.

NBC Entertainment Chief Ben Silverman’s idea to revisit the indestructible supercar series was inspired in part by the recent success of “Transformers” on the big screen, which may also influence the revived franchise to introduce potentially “evil” cars to do battle against K.I.T.T. — an acronym for Knight Industries Two Thousand and the name of a fictional computer that controls the high-tech Knight 2000, a black Pontiac Trans Am.

Meanwhile, K.I.T.T.’s original driver, David Hasselhoff, is set to star in a small screen series again, this time on E!

“American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest is executive producing a scripted dark comedy called “Tales of the Hoff,” a fictional look at the 55-year-old actor’s experiences as an international star trying to beef up his career credentials and a divorced dad trying to navigate the Hollywood dating scene.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance from staff and Web reports.

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