- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

HBO plays politics

HBO Films has optioned “Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime,” an in-the-works HarperCollins book by political writers Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, Variety reported Tuesday.

The premium cable network has hired “Blood Diamond” writer Charles Leavitt to adapt the behind-the-scenes look at the 2008 presidential election from the perspective of the candidates and their respective camps.

Mr. Halperin is editor-at-large at Time magazine, and Mr. Heilemann is national political correspondent for New York magazine. They will be consultants for the film.

The book will be published early next year, Variety said.

Mr. Heilemann and Mr. Halperin have covered other presidential campaigns, but while returning from a John McCain event, they began musing that the larger-than-life characters in the 2008 election would lend themselves to a movie more than past candidates such as John Kerry, Al Gore or Bob Dole.

They decided to do a book that focused more on the characters than the pollsters and campaign teams. Mr. Heilemann knew President Obama from their Harvard days, Mr. Halperin had become acquainted with Sarah Palin, and they both knew Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. McCain and the Clintons.

Mr. Leavitt most recently adapted the Nathaniel Philbrick book “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex,” which Edward Zwick rewrote with Marshall Herskovitz and will direct. He also adapted the Doug Stumpf novel “Confessions of a Wall Street Shoeshine Boy” for Warner Bros.

After the Jay Roach-directed “Recount,” HBO has become increasingly focused on topical and political subject matter.

HBO made a deal for Peter Morgan (“The Queen”) to direct his script “The Special Relationship,” setting Dennis Quaid to play Bill Clinton, Julianne Moore to play Hillary Rodham Clinton, Michael Sheen to play British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Helen McCrory to play Cherie Blair in a drama about the sometimes turbulent relationship between the leaders of the two superpowers when they first took office.

Costello renewed

Sundance Channel has renewed “Spectacle: Elvis Costello With …” for a second season, Broadcastingcable.com reports.

In unveiling its 2009-10 programming slate, the cable channel also gave the go-ahead to two new series, “Be Good Johnny Weir” and “The Day Before.”

“Be Good Johnny Weir” focuses on the U.S. figure-skating champion as he prepares for his final Olympics in February 2010. The show follows Mr. Weir's relationships with his coach, friends and manager-mom, Patti.

“The Day Before” follows influential fashion designers in the last 1 1/2 days before a show. Director Loic Prigent goes behind the scenes with designers Sonia Rykiel, Proenza Schouler and Karl Lagerfeld, among others.

Mr. Costello's show premiered in December 2008. It features interviews with artists, ranging from Elton John to Smokey Robinson to former President Bill Clinton, discussing the creative process.

Meanwhile, a new show produced by Mark Burnett (“Survivor,” “The Apprentice”) also is in development for Sundance Channel's 2010 lineup.

“Don´t Bomb Kuala Lumpur” is a show in which young comedians arrive in a new city and, guided by a celebrity mentor, have to become familiar with the new culture in order to perform stand-up for a local audience.

Finally, Sundance also announced three more shows that are in development for 2010. “Architecture School” is a documentary series that follows architecture students working on a major project, and “Red Summer,” which looks at an Eskimo village in Alaska during commercial salmon season. The third, “Top City Artist” follows Justin Bua, an urban artist, as he works to gain acclaim in galleries and museums.

Round 2 for Colbert

Stephen Colbert and his musical nemesis, the Decemberists, will face off again, Associated Press reports.

The Decemberists said Monday that they will perform on Comedy Central's “The Colbert Report” on April 27.

Mr. Colbert and the band engaged in a mock feud in 2006 after Mr. Colbert accused the Decemberists of copying his idea of a fan-created “greenscreen challenge.” The feud culminated in a much-ballyhooed “ShredDown” in which Decemberists guitarist Chris Funk took on Mr. Colbert in a guitar solo contest.

Mr. Colbert claimed victory in one of the show's most star-studded episodes, which also featured Henry A. Kissinger, Morley Safer, Peter Frampton and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Cowell staying put

Simon Cowell wants to look on the bright side concerning his future with “American Idol.”

The famously acerbic Brit says he still loves doing the Fox network show and he'll be staying put as judge at least another year. That's the time remaining on his contract.

According to Associated Press, Mr. Cowell earlier sparked widespread speculation that he might be leaving “Idol.” In an interview in England's Daily Mirror, he said he can't keep up his busy schedule indefinitely. Besides “Idol,” Mr. Cowell has two British-based shows and other projects.

Even so, he told AP he is considering all options for the future and has come to no decision about how he might trim his workload.

Fashionable Bravo

Bravo announced series pickups for a quartet of new reality shows and several projects in development at its upfront Tuesday. Most have a heavy emphasis on fashion and design.

The series orders include Sarah Jessica Parker's competition series, “American Artist”; “Design Sixx,” about a husband-and-wife real estate makeover team; “Kell on Earth,” about a fashion publicist; and “Launch My Line,” in which 10 fashion designers pair with famous names to launch a clothing line.

The most important name attached to this series list is perhaps not Miss Parker, but the ever-capable “American Artist” production company Magical Elves Inc., which formerly produced the network's hit “Project Runway.”

Bravo also unveiled several projects in development, including “Eric B.” (working title), about a celebrity florist; “Jackie's Gym Takeover,” with “Work Out” star Jackie Warner revamping gyms; “Laura Bennett” (working title), a documentary series about the fashion designer; “Secret Life of Supermodels,” which goes behind the scenes of the fashion industry; and “Social Heights,” about a group of Manhattan social climbers.

The Mays way

Known to TV viewers for these five simple words, “Hi, Billy Mays here,” master peddler Billy Mays is bringing his loudmouth sales pitch to prime time in a show called - what else? - “Pitchmen.”

The Pittsburgh-area native, whose in-your-face high-volume approach has helped boost the fortunes of such products as OxiClean, Orange Glo and Kaboom, will offer his services to new inventors who want to market their wares. The new show premieres at 10 tonight on the Discovery Channel.

Mr. Mays, wearing his trademark blue shirt and khaki pants, and his pitch partner, Anthony “Sully” Sullivan, have their work cut out for them. They visit a man from a Texas trailer park who has solved a pesky GPS problem and wants to tell the world. They also strategize to market another man's gel insoles, which could be big news for sore feet.

On the prowl

Also bowing at 10 tonight: TV Land's “The Cougar,” a new reality series with 20 hot twentysomethings vying for the affections of a hot older woman - in this case, Stacey, a 40-year-old mother of four who hails from Arizona.

The young contenders are really young…and they look it, with professions ranging from pool boy to student surfer and advertising account executive.

In tonight's premiere, the young'uns strive to make a good first impression on Stacey.

Who will stay? And who will be the first to go home?

Actress Vivica A. Fox hosts.

Also tonight …

Kathy Griffin (9, Bravo). The comedian returns with another stand-up special.

• Written and compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports

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