- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Low-key ‘Scrubs’ exit

NBC’s final episode of “Scrubs” airs next week, concluding its run with the network after seven seasons.

Yet you’d never know it from watching NBC, the Hollywood Reporter notes.

At the conclusion of what was the comedy’s third-to-last episode on NBC on Thursday, viewers were simply urged to check out the show’s interactive features on NBC.com. The usual array of creator and cast interviews that generally accompany the final episodes of a concluding series are likewise largely absent.

The super-low-key exit for “Scrubs” is tied to what has become the worst-kept secret in Hollywood: The veteran comedy is moving to ABC. The long-pending deal for ABC to pick up 18 episodes of “Scrubs” for next season is effectively done, THR says.

Production has been under way for weeks, while cast and crew have been encouraged to keep quiet. A television studio producing a drama costing north of $1 million per episode without anybody saying who will air the episodes is highly unusual, if not a little weird.

ABC plans to confirm the acquisition at next month’s upfront presentation, THR said.

In an interesting twist, however, “Scrubs’ ” stock has shown new life on NBC recently. When paired with NBC’s hit “The Office” since the conclusion of the writers strike, the medical comedy has outperformed its average last year by 17 percent among adults 18 to 49.

Brown back on TV

Aaron Brown, the former CNN anchor who found cable TV an awkward fit, is joining PBS’ “Wide Angle” series and ending his on-air absence of more than two years, Associated Press reports.

“If I was going to do broadcast journalism again, be a public person again … then it had to be something different from what I’d done,” he told AP. “You can count on one hand how many gigs there are like this.”

Mr. Brown, 59, who left CNN in November 2005 during a shake-up that gave his time slot to rising star Anderson Cooper, said he was contractually barred from working in TV until last June. He has been teaching at Arizona State University as its first Walter Cronkite Professor of Journalism.

“Wide Angle” begins its seventh season July 1.

Showtime showdown

Roughly two years after Viacom divided itself in two, a family feud has erupted among the offspring of that split. The rift promises to reshape the landscape for premium TV networks.

Three major studios — Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Lionsgate — announced April 20 that they were getting into the pay-TV business by starting up their own network and on-demand service in fall 2009, Multichannel.com reports.

Their plans amount to a double punch at Showtime, which until the end of 2005 was a corporate sibling within Viacom. The movie-studio triumvirate in roughly two years is yanking its first-run movies from Showtime, and its new service will compete against that programmer as well.

Currently, Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate provide essentially all of the new movies Showtime presents to its 15.5 million subscribers, Multichannel.com notes.

The new premium network’s debut brings to the forefront the question of whether first-run releases — in the age of iTunes, DVDs, video on demand, broadband and DVRs — remain crucial for services such as Showtime, HBO and Starz.

Matt Blank, Showtime chairman and chief executive, downplayed the impact, saying he already had been approached by more than a dozen entities wanting to supply original movies or programming.

“It’s taken a long time for Showtime to achieve the status level and success that we’ve had, and we don’t plan to let our franchise be diminished even minutely over the next few years,” Mr. Blank said.

Bassett joins ‘ER’

“ER” is adding star power for its final season.

Angela Bassett will join the cast of the Emmy-winning medical drama as a regular next season, the Hollywood Reporter says.

In her first full-time series gig, Miss Bassett — an Oscar nominee for her portrayal of Tina Turner in 1993’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” — will play a tough doctor with a troubled past who’s coming back to Chicago after a few years in Indonesia doing tsunami relief. Her arrival in the second episode next season promises to shake County General’s ER to the core.

In addition to Miss Bassett, original cast member Noah Wyle will join “ER” for its 15th and final season. Mr. Wyle will guest-star in at least four of the show’s planned 19 episodes.

On tap tonight …

“Classical Baby (I’m All Grown Up Now): The Poetry Show” (8:30 HBO Family) — Yes, it’s past their bedtime, but allow the tykes to stay up for this poetry special featuring works by some of the world’s greatest poets — from William Shakespeare and Robert Louis Stevenson to Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Frost — presented in a way that children can appreciate, with lively animation and lovingly read by some of today’s biggest stars. Among the readers: Andy Garcia, John Lithgow, Gwyneth Paltrow, Susan Sarandon and Jeffrey Wright.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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