- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2009

Jimmy won’t face Conan

ABC executives have denied a published report that suggested ABC Entertainment was considering moving “Jimmy Kimmel Live” into the coveted 11:35 p.m. slot to go head-to-head with “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien,” Mediaweek.com reports.

The New York Times said Wednesday that the entertainment division “has held discussions” about the move but also quoted Disney-ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney as saying that it was speculative and no move was contemplated this year. However, it was another signal that “Nightline,” which has survived many near-death experiences in the past decade, could be threatened even with the possibility that Jay Leno would join ABC removed.

An ABC source who declined to be identified said that there had been no conversations between the entertainment and news divisions about whether “Jimmy Kimmel Live” would move into the prized 11:35 p.m. slot.

“Zero,” the executive said.

The report highlighted what seems to be discord between ABC Entertainment and ABC News over the future of 11:35 p.m. While that has for nearly three decades been the province of “Nightline,” ABC execs may see a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make hay against the late-night switch at NBC to Mr. O’Brien, who will be taking over for Mr. Leno when the latter moves to 10 p.m.

Mr. Kimmel, a favorite of ABC entertainment executives, is critically acclaimed but ratings-challenged between 12:05 a.m. and 1:05 a.m. However, when ABC was in the hunt for Mr. Leno before he signed a deal for the 10 p.m. slot on NBC, Mr. Kimmel seemed to have the upper hand to remain, while “Nightline” likely would have been toast, says MediaWeek.com. At the very least, “Nightline” would have lost its 11:35 p.m. slot after late local news and more than likely wouldn’t have been placed after an hourlong talk show.

It’s not the first time that the plucky newsmagazine has been written off for dead. “Nightline” under Ted Koppel was imperiled in 2002 when the then-heads of the network tried to lure David Letterman away from CBS to compete directly against NBC’s late-night talk king Mr. Leno. Mr. Koppel eventually left “Nightline,” causing the show to once again be written off for dead. Yet in the three years under executive producer James Goldston and co-anchors Cynthia McFadden, Martin Bashir and Terry Moran, “Nightline has been reborn.” It has not only held its audience, but also has done the seemingly impossible: grown several times year-to-year in viewers and the demographic. It has beaten “Late Show With David Letterman” seven weeks this season in viewership and adults 25 to 54, and even toppled perennial leader “Tonight” once.

New projects abound

The creators of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Prison Break” have booked pilot projects at ABC and Fox, while NBC is getting back in business with a recently sacked “Heroes” producer, says Zap2it.com.

According to reports in trade publications, Shonda Rhimes will executive produce a drama about the TV-news business called “Inside the Box,” while “Prison Break’s” Paul Scheuring is behind the globe-spanning drama “Masterwork.”

Miss Rhimes has delved into the world of TV journalism before. In 2006, she sold a pilot to ABC about a group of female correspondents but later set it aside to concentrate on the “Grey’s” spinoff, “Private Practice.” She’ll be an executive producer of “Inside the Box,” which is set at a network’s Washington bureau, Zap2itcom reports.

Meanwhile, ABC also has picked up two other pilots: “I, Claudia” is about a young lawyer who will one day become a presidential contender, and an untitled show from “Dexter” scribe Daniel Cerone about a police officer and his 11-year-old genius of a brother.

PBS plans music series

A performance series featuring musicians Alanis Morissette, Raphael Saadiq, KT Tunstall and others will premiere on many public television stations next month.

According to Associated Press, the gimmick for “Live From the Artist’s Den” is placing musicians in unusual venues: Ani DiFranco is captured at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Hold Steady perform at a former bank in New York.

The series is a combination of new material and shows that were recorded for an OvationTV series, AP says. Two New York public television stations, WNET and WLIW, are producing the shows. Besides those stations, public television stations in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Houston, Miami and elsewhere have committed to airing it.

The New York public stations, which hosted the Police for a benefit in their final concert last summer, see it as a way of attracting a younger audience.

More ‘Howie’ coming

NBC has picked up 12 more episodes of “Howie Do It,” Variety reported Friday.

The pickup comes as the show continues to give the Peacock network a bump in the Friday 8 p.m. hour — a slot previously held by shows including “Crusoe” and “America’s Toughest Jobs.”

After three weeks, “Howie” has averaged a 1.8 rating/6 share among adults 18 to 49, improving the slot average by 64 percent, Variety notes. The show also averaged 6.5 million viewers.

“Howie Do It” stars “Deal or No Deal” host Howie Mandel as he pranks people on camera.

On tap tonight …

The Polio Crusade (9 p.m., WETA-Channel 26) This edition of PBS’ “American Experience” — which recalls the summer of 1950, when fear gripped the nation as a mysterious virus afflicted tens of thousands of Americans, half of them children — features interviews with polio survivors, historians and scientists, including the lone surviving scientist from the core research team that developed the Salk vaccine. By June 1954, nearly 2 million school children in 44 states had taken part in a field trial to see if the vaccine worked, or was even safe. Less than a year later, the vaccine was ruled safe and effective.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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