- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 15, 2009

AP greenlights 3

Cable’s Animal Planet has given the go ahead to three new series, including a spinoff of its reality-competition show “Groomer Has It” and a fully computer-generated series, Broadcastingcable.com reports.

The new shows are:

• Animal Armageddon, a fully CGI series from production house Digital Ranch. The series will explore ancient Earth and the catastrophes that led to mass extinctions across the globe. The eight-part series will premiere in February.

• Beverly Hills Groomer, a spinoff of Animal Planet’s competition series “Groomer Has It.” The series will follow “Groomer Has It” winner Artist Knox as he tries to become top dog in the grooming industry. The 12-part series premieres in May.

• River Monsters, which features host Jeremy Wade exploring freshwater rivers, searching for fish with a taste for human flesh. The seven-episode series will launch with a one-hour special, dubbed “Killer Catfish,” in April.

Animal Planet has been shifting its programming focus toward entertainment, rather than nature fare. The success of “Groomer Has It” and “Whale Wars” and the buzz surrounding upcoming series “Jockeys” is just the first step in transforming the network’s focus.

“Over the past year, Animal Planet has begun to transform into an entertainment destination with new and competitive shows that push the boundaries of our brand and elicit real excitement from viewers,” says Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet Media. “Our investment in fresh, unexpected and compelling content has brought new viewers to the network. These amazing shows are only the beginning of what we have in store for 2009.”

Mayer to host show?

CBS is close to inking a deal with pop star John Mayer for a music and variety TV show.

CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler told a meeting of the Television Critics Association that the project is under development and an agreement is near. No further details were provided, Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

Mr. Mayer and CBS have worked together before. In 2006, he made a cameo appearance on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” performing songs for a scene set in a Las Vegas network.

The singer, whose current hit is “Say” (from the soundtrack of the 2007 film “The Bucket List”) might also appear on next month’s Grammy Awards on CBS: He’s up for five prizes. He took the best pop vocal album Grammy in 2007 for “Continuum.”

‘Idol’ ratings off a bit

“American Idol’s” season-eight premiere marks the second year in the show’s history that opening ratings have dropped, down 16 percent among viewers 18 to 49 and down 10 percent in total viewers compared to season seven, TVWeek.com reports.

Tuesday night’s two-hour season eight premiere drew 30.1 million total viewers, according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research information.

Last year’s “Idol” premiere told a similar story when, for the first time in the show’s history, ratings and total viewers were down for season opener. Season seven’s debut was down 11 percent in the demographic compared to season six, as well as down 9 percent in total viewers, according to final Nielsen numbers.

“Idol’s” numbers reflect a similar story across the broadcast networks in a TV season where ratings are down for even some of the biggest shows, TVWeek noted.

On tap tonight…

The Beast (10 p.m., A&E;) - Series premiere. Despite his real-life battle with pancreatic cancer, Patrick Swayze stars as the supercool Charles Barker, a driven FBI agent who faces death every day.

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

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