- The Washington Times - Monday, April 27, 2009

‘Celebrity’ cast forms

NBC on Friday unveiled the initial cast of its upcoming reality series “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!” and announced it has partnered on the series with MTV, says the Hollywood Reporter.

The cast so far: Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt (MTV’s “The Hills”), NBA star and TV personality John Salley (“Best Damned Sports Show Period”), supermodel and TV star Janice Dickinson (“The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency”), 2007 “American Idol” contestant Sanjaya Malakar, actor Stephen Baldwin (“The Mole,” “Celebrity Apprentice”) and professional wrestler and beauty queen Torrie Wilson.

Although previously cast, former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich had to pull out of the show after his request to travel to Costa Rica — where “Celebrity” will be shot — was denied by a judge. However, NBC and the show’s producer Granada America on Friday said that they are still trying to find ways to keep him on.

“Celebrity” begins June 1 with a two-hour premiere.

‘Talent’ may cross pond

The Susan Boyle obsession continues.

NBC is jumping on the bandwagon in hopes that the massive publicity for the “Britain’s Got Talent” star will help turn “America’s Got Talent” into a bigger hit — by possibly having her appear on the U.S. show, TVWeek.com reports.

“America’s Got Talent” has established a major following during the past few years, joining CBS’ “Big Brother” and Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” as the summer season’s strongest performers.

But the moment Miss Boyle opened her mouth, NBC reality czar Paul Telegdy started having dreams of his own — dreams of higher ratings and more buzz for the American version of “Talent.”

“The timing is great,” Mr. Telegdy told TVWeek, joking that Miss Boyle might have exploded “a bit closer to our premiere” on June 23.

The pull-on-your-heartstrings buzz surrounding Miss Boyle comes as NBC was already in the process of downplaying some of the circus-like elements of the show in favor of a more feel-good flavor.

Longtime host Jerry Springer is being replaced by Nick Cannon, the popular recording artist who’s married to Mariah Carey. Mr. Telegdy also revealed that “Talent” will make the switch to high-definition this summer and that a few other changes will be implemented.

“We’re shining and buffing it up,” he said.

NBC has expanded the season premiere of “America’s Got Talent” on June 23 to two hours.

A one-hour episode will follow the premiere on June 24. The competition series will air on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the rest of its run.

BET seeks older viewers

Viacom’s BET wants to draw more of the older, affluent black audience also prized by newer rivals, such as Comcast-backed TV One.

According to Multichannel.com, BET hopes to get there with the new programming and with a proposed new channel — Centric — that could take over existing channel slots used by BET J and MTV Networks’ digital outlet VH1 Soul. BET officials, however, wouldn’t spell out how they would achieve their stated base of 45 million subscribers when it launches in October, Multichannel.com reports.

BETN President and Chief Operating Officer Scott Mills would only say BETN and MTVN “will work very closely with our affiliate partners to hopefully achieve this [distribution] goal.”

BET J, though, was not part of BET’s upfront presentation to advertisers in New York on Thursday night, and several BET J programs, including the interview program “Leading Men,” were showcased as content for Centric.

The 89 million-subscriber BET plans new family and empowerment-tinged reality shows and news programming to bring in 25-to-54-year-old viewers, expanding beyond the core 18-to-34-year-old black audience it also wants to retain.

Paxton Baker, executive vice president and general manager of BETN’s 27-million subscriber channel BET J, will oversee Centric, BET officials said.

Centric will initially feature entertainment/reality fare, but Mr. Baker said it could offer some news and public-affairs programming in the near future.

Some original shows already slated for Centric include “Model City,” a reality show about black male models in New York City; and “Keeping Up With the Joneses,” about a Houston-based woman entrepreneur.

Centric also will revive the “Soul Train Music Awards,” after a seven-year absence from television.

Borrowed fare from MTVN will include MTV’s “Run’s House” and VH1’s” I Wanna Work for Diddy.”

BET’s new fare includes “The Mo’nique Show,” a new nightly talk show starring the popular Baltimore-born comic and actress; “Crews Control,” a reality series following actor Terry Crews (“Everybody Hates Chris”) and his family; and “Monica: Still Standing,” a docudrama about the Grammy Award-winning artist as she balances family life and a musical career.

ABC renews staples

“Ugly Betty” remains in vogue at ABC.

The network on Thursday renewed the Thursday-night dramedy as part of a mass pickup of a dozen staples of the ABC schedule, notes the Hollywood Reporter.

Also greenlighted for the 2009-10 season: “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” “The Bachelor,” “Brothers & Sisters,” “Dancing With the Stars,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Lost,” “Private Practice,” “Supernanny” and “Wife Swap.”

Missing from the list: the sitcom “Samantha Who?” a favorite of ABC executives that nonetheless has struggled in the ratings.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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