- The Washington Times - Friday, August 28, 2009

A&E gets Lifetime

A&E Television Networks says it is acquiring Lifetime Entertainment Services, bringing the home of “Project Runway” into a stable of channels that includes A&E and the History Channel.

According to Associated Press, terms of the deal — which is expected to be completed by the end of the year- were not disclosed.

A&E Television Networks is a joint venture of the Walt Disney Co., Hearst Corp. and General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal. Lifetime is already owned 50-50 by Disney and Hearst.

With the acquisition, AETN will include A&E Network, History Channel, Lifetime Television, Lifetime Movie Network, Biography, History International, Lifetime Real Women, History en Espanol, Military History and Crime & Investigation Network, the Hollywood Reporter notes.

‘Shalom Sesame’ set

Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Stiller and Christina Applegate are just a few of the stars slated to appear in a new “Sesame Street”-style production geared to teach Jewish-American children about Jewish culture.

“Shalom Sesame,” a 12-part series for preschoolers featuring the globe-trotting Muppet Grover, will explore Jewish identity and traditions and will film on location at several Israeli sites, including the Western Wall, Associated Press reports.

Big-name guest stars, including Debra Messing, Greg Kinnear and Cedric the Entertainer, will join puppets and children in segments filmed in Israel and the United States, according to the series’ producers.

Anneliese van der Pol, a Broadway actress and star of Disney Channel’s “That’s So Raven,” had never been to Israel before arriving Wednesday to film her scenes with the Muppets.

“I think it’s really important to educate children in a fun way and a not-too-confusing way,” said the 24-year-old musical star, who is Jewish and is named after teenage Holocaust victim Anne Frank.

“Shalom Sesame” was first produced in 1986 and sold more than 1 million copies on video and DVD. The new incarnation will tackle more issues of diversity for Jewish children and be accompanied by an interactive Web site and other outreach materials.

“For so much of the Jewish community outside Israel, they may never come here; this is a great way to have a virtual experience” of the place, said the project’s executive director, Danny Labin.

The series is expected to debut around Hanukkah in December.

U.K. drops ‘Brother’

Britain’s Channel 4 will launch “the most fundamental creative overhaul of its history” after opting to cut its long-running summer reality show “Big Brother” after the series’ 11th season, which will air next summer, Channel 4 head Julian Bellamy said.

“Big Brother,” which has proved both controversial and commercially successful for the U.K. broadcaster, is one of Channel 4’s signature shows and is still a commercial hit despite falling ratings in recent seasons, the Hollywood Reporter notes.

Mr. Bellamy, who said he was “ever-so-slightly terrified” of a future without the Endemol-produced “Big Brother,” said the decision would nonetheless give the network an “exciting” opportunity to re-evaluate its output of quirky programs, one-off dramas and returning series, and also provide an increased programming budget to invest in new programming brands.

“‘Big Brother’ has been our most influential and popular program over the last decade,” Mr. Bellamy said.

“It has been hugely innovative in its own right, has provoked a really astonishing level of public debate and has been an underappreciated showcase for social diversity and youth culture,” he added.

In a statement, Endemol said: “We are enormously proud of our partnership with Channel 4 in the U.K., where, as stated by the channel today, ‘Big Brother’ continues to be commercially successful a decade on. Internationally the format is a worldwide hit that is airing across 67 countries in 2009, including the U.S., where ‘Big Brother 11’ is having one of its most-successful-ever seasons after nine years on CBS.”

‘Southland’ delayed

NBC is pushing back the second-season premiere date for “Southland.”

The John Wells cop drama will bow Oct. 23 instead of Sept. 25, Variety reports.

Unnamed sources told the trade publication that the network hopes to use the extra month to further promote the show, which they worried was getting lost in the fall marketing shuffle.

The new premiere date will move “Southland” away from the noisy launches of CBS’ “Medium” and Fox’s “Dollhouse,” both of which were set to premiere against “Southland” on Sept. 25.

The Peacock network will air “Dateline NBC” in the Friday 9 p.m. time slot until the “Southland” premiere.

Weekend watch:

American Masters: The World of Nat King Cole (10 p.m., WETA-Channel 26) — This documentary exploring the life and career of the vocal icon (1919-65) takes a look at his highs and lows — including his fight against racism in the entertainment industry. Featured highlights include his musical origins as a young Chicago jazz pianist and clips of Mr. Cole performing his signature classics “Mona Lisa,” “Too Young” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon.”

The 25th Anniversary of Wrestlemania (9 p.m. Saturday, NBC) — Mickey Rourke, an Oscar nominee for his role in “The Wrestler,” makes an appearance.

Daytime Emmy Awards (8 p.m. Sunday, the CW) — Vanessa Williams (ABC’s “Ugly Betty”) hosts the 36th annual showcase honoring the best in daytime entertainment. The ceremony airs live from the historic Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles. Special features include a tribute to “Guiding Light,” a celebration of the 40th anniversary of “Sesame Street,” a glamorous fashion show highlighting the styles of daytime, and a special “Daytime Gives Back” segment. Among the nominees in the diverse talk-show category: Outstanding Talk Show/Entertainment: “Live With Regis and Kelly,” “Rachael Ray,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”; Outstanding Talk Show/Informative: “The Tyra Banks Show,” “Dr. Phil,” “The Doctors”; and Outstanding Talk Show Host: Rachael Ray, Ellen DeGeneres, the cast of “The View,” Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa.

This just in …

ABC on Thursday announced that Rod Blagojevich, the indicted former governor of Illinois, will be a guest next month on “The View.” He’ll be joined by his wife, Patti.

The couple will appear on Sept. 9, Associated Press reports.

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

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