- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New additions

Eric Roberts is joining the cast of the original Starz series “Crash,” the Hollywood Reporter says.

The actor will be joined by five more new cast members - Dana Ashbrook, Linda Park, Jake McLaughlin, Tess Harper and Julie Warner - on the second season of the Lionsgate TV-produced drama.

Dennis Hopper is back, along with fellow returning cast members Ross McCall, Jocko Sims and Moran Atias.

“Crash,” Starz’s first original drama series, from the producers of the best-picture Oscar winner of the same name, has begun production on its 13-episode second season in Albuquerque, N.M. The new season is slated to debut Sept. 18.

Set in Los Angeles, the second season of “Crash” will continue to revolve around the intersecting lives of Angelenos from the city’s diverse social strata.

Mr. Roberts will play Seth, a billionaire entrepreneur who plans to give L.A. a long-desired new professional football team. Mr. Ashbrook (“Twin Peaks”) will play Jimmy, a charismatic gambler who plays fast and loose with the law. Miss Park (“Jurassic Park III”) will play Maggie, a children’s book author who writes of a joyful life but has trouble living it.

Mr. McLaughlin (“In the Valley of Elah”) will play Bo, a former high school pitching ace and shoo-in for the big leagues who was derailed by career-ending injury. Miss Harper (“No Country for Old Men”) will play his mother, Wendy, a middle-class San Fernando Valley shop owner forever reliving Bo’s glory days; and Miss Warner (“Doc Hollywood”) will play Andrea, an ambitious and manipulative right-hand woman to Seth.

Mr. Hopper reprises his role as legendary record producer Ben Cendars, just out of rehab and searching for clues surrounding a mysterious death. Mr. McCall plays former LAPD cop Kenny Battaglia, now a lowly strip mall security guard.

In the first season, Mr. Sims’ Anthony was Ben’s former driver and protegee, whom Ben turns to for help in his search. Miss Atias is Inez, who has forsaken stripping and is making serious cash working as a hostess at an exclusive men’s club.

The series production team is led by new showrunner Ira Steven Behr who executive produces alongside Paul Haggis and Bob Yari. Bobby Moresco, Ted Nunan, Don Cheadle, Mark Harris, Jorg Westercamp and Thomas Becker, all involved in the 2005 Oscar-winning movie, co-exec produce, with Glen Mazzara serving as consulting producer.

Court says ‘nyet’

A Russian court has dropped the case against adult cartoon channel 2X2 for screening the series “South Park,” which religious groups claim stirs national hatred.

The case was brought last year by the Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith, Variety reports. The group said one episode - “Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics,” broadcast in early January - “insulted the feelings of religious believers and incited religious and national hatred.”

The group was particularly concerned about the potential impact of the series on younger viewers.

Under Russian law, it is an offense to broadcast any material that “abases national dignity” or incites hatred between religious or ethnic groups. After months of consideration, central Moscow Basmanny district court found in favor of the channel. The religious group has vowed to continue the fight.

The channel is part of billionaire Vladimir Potanin’s ProfMedia. A spokesman for 2X2 declined comment, Variety says.

‘More’ for Emme

Full-figured model Emme will host Fox’s new dating competition series “More to Love,” says the Hollywood Reporter.

Emme became the first plus-size model to land a contract as a cosmetics company spokesperson when she signed with Revlon. She has written four books, including “True Beauty,” and has been a vocal advocate for women adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Executive produced by Mike Fleiss, “More to Love” is billed as the first dating show for “average-looking” people.

The casting of Emme could help ease some concerns about the tone of the show, which drew criticism from some viewers who assumed the program would mock overweight contestants.

Details about the show’s bachelor have not been announced. “More to Love” premieres July 28.

Scaling back

The TV Guide Channel will take the weekly talk show “TV Watercooler” off the air starting Monday, the Hollywood Reporter says.

Additionally, the channel will turn its daily entertainment newsmagazine “Hollywood 411” into a weekly show starting June 26, while the weekly series “Infanity” will continue as a series of specials starting Monday.

The show downgrades have resulted in 38 layoffs in in-house production.

“This is a shift in programming resources and priorities. We’re reducing existing in-house-made shows to spend more on acquiring new product,” said a representative for Lionsgate, which acquired the channel from Macrovision.

Lionsgate sold a 49 percent stake in the channel to JPMorgan Chase’s One Equity Partners two weeks ago, THR says.

Nielsen probe urged

ABC News has asked Nielsen to investigate ratings from Friday’s installment of “ABC World News with Charles Gibson.” Friday was also the day television stations switched off their analog signals and went all digital.

“World News” drew 4.09 million total viewers that day, a drop of more than 3 million from the seasonal Friday average of 7.34 million viewers.

ABC News says affiliates in Chicago and Philadelphia suffered from technical and reception problems the day of the switch, though it is too early to determine whether those issues were the cause of the ratings quirk.

‘Beast’ to cease

“The Beast,” the A&E; police drama starring the ailing Patrick Swayze, will not return for a second season, the cable network announced Monday.

The series, which premiered in January, starred Mr. Swayze as Charles Barker, a rogue undercover FBI agent teamed with rookie Ellis Dove (Travis Fimmel). The series was filmed on location in Chicago.

Reviews for “The Beast” were mixed and its audience averaged 1.3 million viewers through the 13 episodes, which concluded their run in April, MediaWeek.com reports.

But Mr. Swayze was unstinting in a rough-and-tumble performance that he maintained while battling pancreatic cancer throughout. A&E; president Bob DeBitetto called his performance “an inspiration to us all.”

Mr. DeBitetto said the series “has truly been a labor of love for everyone,” but added that “after careful deliberation we have reluctantly decided not to attempt a second season.”

Known for such films as “Ghost” and “Dirty Dancing,” Mr. Swayze, 56, went public with his diagnosis in 2008.

A memoir by the actor and Lisa Niemi, his wife of more 30 years, is scheduled for publication in the fall. The book is expected to offer an intimate account of his childhood, career and marriage, as well as his fight against cancer.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports.

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