- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2009

HBO’s gay pastor flap

HBO said late Monday that it will include an opening prayer from an openly gay pastor in subsequent telecasts of the “We Are One” inaugural concert - and that it hadn’t been consulted about what would go where in the two-hour live telecast.

The Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, delivered the opening prayer in front of the Lincoln Memorial at 2:20 p.m. Sunday to kick off “We Are One,” a star-studded event honoring then-President-elect Barack Obama. However, HBO’s telecast didn’t begin until 2:30 p.m. and was live throughout, meaning viewers at home didn’t get a chance to see the clergyman’s prayer, the Hollywood Reporter notes.

The omission caused a pile of headaches for HBO and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which received an estimated $2 million to give HBO the exclusive rights to the concert. HBO turned around and offered the signal free to cable and satellite subscribers, regardless of whether they had HBO. However, the committee - which goes by the acronym PIC - said the fault was its own and not HBO’s.

“We had always intended and planned for [the] Rev. Robinson’s invocation to be included in the televised portion of yesterday’s program,” PIC communications director Josh Earnest said. “We regret the error in executing this plan.”

HBO said it wasn’t involved in the scheduling and said the Rev. Robinson’s opening prayer had been slated in the pre-show before 2:30 p.m. Everything from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., when the concert was over, aired live and unedited.

“We Are One” was a star-studded event that included much of the entertainment industry’s elite, including Denzel Washington, Bruce Springsteen, Shakira and U2. Mr. Obama addressed the crowd near the end.

HBO said it would add the invocation in repeats as well as stream it on HBO.com.

New and renewed at NBC

NBC has renewed the sitcoms “The Office” and “30 Rock” and the reality-competition series “The Biggest Loser” for the 2009-10 season, MediaWeek.com reports.

Also on NBC, Amy Poehler’s still untitled new sitcom will launch April 9 at 8:30 p.m., replacing “Kath & Kim” (which had its order slashed from 22 to 17 episodes) in the network’s Thursday night block. “Southland,” the new John Wells crime drama, will bow in the Thursday 10 p.m. hour, also on April 9 - one week after the veteran hospital drama “ER” departs. Meanwhile, the recently concluded “Lipstick Jungle” has not been officially canceled … yet.

Elsewhere on the network, NBC’s new drama “Kings” - headlined by former “Deadwood” star Ian McShane - will air Sundays at 8 p.m., leading into a two-hour edition of “Celebrity Apprentice.” It kicks off with a two-hour telecast on March 15. Also: “Chopping Block,” a new cooking competition, will debut March 11 at 8 p.m. in place of “Knight Rider,” which will have completed its episode order.

Extra work for Trebek

“Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek is set to moonlight on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. as host of the reality-competition series “Canada’s Next Prime Minister,” the Hollywood Reporter says.

The Canadian-born Mr. Trebek, who got his start at the public broadcaster, will share the stage March 18 with three former prime ministers as they field pitches from four would-be politicos before choosing a winner.

Last month, CBC got into hot water after admitting it broke contestant-recruitment rules and contacted political organizations to invite former young political candidates to compete on the series.

According to THR, CBC has sold “Canada’s Next Prime Minister” as a format to the BBC.

On tap tonight

Lost (9 p.m., ABC) - In this season premiere, the remaining survivors start to feel the effects caused by the island being moved, and Jack (Matthew Fox) and Ben (Michael Emerson) begin their quest to reunite the Ocean 6 - along with Locke’s (Terry O’Quinn) body - to return to the island.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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