- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Will’s new ‘Business’

Sci Fi Channel is teaming with Will Smith for a new crime drama, the Hollywood Reporter notes.

The network has ordered “Unfinished Business,” a series about an ex-police-officer who starts seeing flashes of memories from the recently deceased. The visions compel him to help wronged souls resolve their unfinished business.

The network plans to air “Business” as a two-hour movie that also will serve as a potential series pilot.

“Business” is being produced through Overbrook Entertainment with Mr. Smith, James Lassiter and Ken Stovitz executive producing. Emmy-nominated scribe Sally Robinson (“Iron Jawed Angels”) will write the pilot, and Emmy winner Mikael Salomon (“Band of Brothers”) is attached to direct. Both also will serve as executive producers.

The drama represents a meld between Sci Fi’s brand and the most sturdy scripted genre format. The network’s most recent stab at the crime procedural was 2007’s “The Dresden Files.”

“Business” joins “The Phantom” and “Riverworld” as backdoor pilots coming to the network, which changes its name to Syfy on July 7.

Mr. Smith, a two-time Oscar nominee, last appeared in a TV series on NBC’s long-running “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1990-96).

2 sitcoms cut short

ABC is leaving the “Motherhood” earlier than planned.

The network said Monday that it is ending its Thursday night sitcom experiment a week earlier than planned, pulling “In the Motherhood” and “Samantha Who?” following disappointing numbers for the shows’ Thursday broadcasts, TVWeek.com reports.

That means “Ugly Betty,” which wasn’t slated to return to ABC’s lineup until May 7, will reappear April 30.

“Motherhood” and “Samantha” have struggled mightily to find an audience in the 8 p.m. Thursday hour. Last week, the two shows averaged fewer than 5 million viewers for the time slot, ranking a distant fourth in the hour.

“Motherhood” is considered a long shot for a second season. ABC brass are fans of “Samantha,” but the show has not been able to attract viewers when not behind a successful series such as “Dancing With the Stars.”

TiVo takes on Nielsen

TiVo is treading further into Nielsen territory, launching a local TV ratings service this summer.

On Monday, the DVR company was scheduled to announce its Stop Watch Local Markets service at the National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas, Variety reports.

The new service will use the TiVo set-top boxes already in place in households throughout the country. According to Todd Juenger, Tivo’s vice president and general manager of audience research and measurement, the service has the ability to immediately enter any of the more than 200 local TV markets. The rollout will take place in cities based on demand and interest from advertisers and stations.

“We’ll launch in no more than 10 markets and build it from there,” Mr. Juenger said. “We’re in discussions with all sorts of people.”

TiVo already has been collecting national ratings, having introduced that service in February 2007. The company tracks ratings for 93 broadcast and cable networks.

TiVo said it isn’t taking on Nielsen directly, but it’s clear the DVR service senses weakness in some of the ways the ratings behemoth measures local markets.

“I would say that our product addresses a whole bunch of deficiencies in the current system,” Mr. Juenger said. Nielsen representatives were unavailable for comment, Variety says.

According to TiVo, its sample sizes will be much larger than Nielsen’s, ranging from 25,000 homes in the top 20 markets to 5,000 in the smallest.

TiVo also will offer second-by-second numbers — allowing for commercial measurement. The anonymous live and time-shifted measurement also will give subscribers a better sense of which commercials are fast-forwarded.

Nielsen’s local ratings are based on “average quarter-hour viewing,” which means it can’t break out commercial ratings. Nielsen did, however, recently start offering a “live plus three-day” number for local markets, which incorporates more DVR usage into its programming ratings. (Nielsen also offers live and live-plus-seven ratings for its local markets.)

The local TiVo ratings will chart only households; TiVo has no plans to enter the demographic-measurement business on a local basis for now but likely will add that option over time.

‘Divas’ returning

VHI is reprising one of its most recognizable franchises and will give viewers a chance to select this year’s class of divas.

According to Multichannel.com, network officials said “VH1 Divas,” which debuted in 1998, will return Sept. 17 after a four-year hiatus. The network will air “VH1 Divas Live” that night from the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Performers, presenters and special guests will be announced as they are confirmed, with the lineup shaped in part by fans. On Monday, VHI began asking users to tell them whom they would like to see perform at this year’s “VH1 Divas.” Users can go to Divas.VH1.com to leave their comments about whom they would like to see onstage this year.

Previous featured performers have included Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Cher, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Whitney Houston, Beyonce and Chaka Khan.

“Over the years, we’ve received constant calls and e-mails asking us to bring back our ‘Divas’ show. Now more than ever, the time feels right to relaunch this beloved show as a new generation of talented female artists has come to the forefront of music,” said Lee Rolontz, executive producer for “VH1 Divas” and executive vice president of music production for VH1. “We’ve heard our viewers, and we promise to deliver a live show that will generate the same Divas excitement as in the past — while also infusing some new twists along the way.”

Ferrell, JT on ‘SNL’

“Saturday Night Live” will wrap its season with new shows May 9 and May 16, TVWeek.com reports.

Justin Timberlake will host the May 9 episode, with musical guest Ciara.

The May 16 season finale will feature returning “SNL” alum Will Ferrell as host. Green Day will be the musical guest.

On tap tonight

Dancing With the Stars (9, ABC) — Results show. Viewer votes decide who stays and who goes.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports

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