- The Washington Times - Monday, June 29, 2009

Farrah TV tops Jackson

ABC’s Farrah Fawcett hour emerged as the most popular of the instant news specials broadcast Thursday night as networks rushed to deal with the stunning deaths of two pop culture icons — Miss Fawcett and Michael Jackson, who died hours apart.

Prime time on much of broadcast TV took on the feel of E! or VH1 as images of the two filled the airwaves, with no less than four programs on three networks vying for viewers, notes TVWeek.com.

ABC’s “20/20” special on Miss Fawcett, hosted by Barbara Walters from 10 to 11 p.m., generated the biggest audience of all the coverage among adults 18 to 49.

CBS’ “The Life and Death of Michael Jackson,” airing in the same time slot, ranked second for the hour.

Among all viewers in the 10 p.m. hour, “20/20” notched 8.3 million viewers, compared to 7.6 million for CBS and 5.8 million for the second hour of a special “Dateline” on NBC with a split focus on Mr. Jackson and Miss Fawcett.

However, because there were more shows devoted to Mr. Jackson, his death clearly generated the most combined interest from viewers. Still, it’s noteworthy that ABC was able to emerge in first place at 10 p.m. with coverage of the former “Charlie’s Angels” star even though the network was up against two Jackson specials, TVWeek said.

Starring for Spielberg

Original “ER” cast member Noah Wyle has been set as the lead in the upcoming science-fiction series from Steven Spielberg, Variety reports.

Scheduled to air on TNT, the untitled series will feature Mr. Wyle as the leader of a ragtag group of soldiers and civilians as they struggle against an occupying alien force.

Mr. Wyle has a previous relationship with TNT, having starred in “The Librarian” telepics. He also was a guest star on the recently concluded final season of “ER.”

New addition

Eddie Cibrian will be joining the cast of CBS’ veteran crime drama “CSI: Miami” as a series regular, the Hollywood Reporter says.

He’ll play a new character, an officer from the Hollywood division that joins the team in Miami.

Produced by CBS TV Studios/Bruckheimer TV, “CSI: Miami” is going into its eighth season this fall. In the seventh season finale’s cliffhanger, the life of one of Horatio Caine’s (David Caruso) forensic team, Eric Delko (Adam Rodriguez), was left hanging in the balance. Mr. Rodriguez, however, will return next season, according to the show’s producers.

For Mr. Cibrian, the gig on “CSI: Miami” comes on the heels of his leading role in the CBS/CBS Studios drama pilot “Washington Field” this past development season.

He next stars in the Hallmark Channel’s original movie “Healing Hands.” In the film, which premieres Nov. 21, Mr. Cibrian plays an ordinary guy who gains the ability to heal people with his hands after he falls off a ladder and hits his head.

CBS plots ‘L.E.N.O.’

NBC’s move to schedule Jay Leno at 10 p.m. is one wild card the other networks hope will mean an improvement in their ratings.

CBS, though, is taking no chances, announcing the launch Friday of “Project L.E.N.O.,” an acronym that stands for Late Prime Enhanced News Opportunity, an aggressive multitiered local campaign to pump CBS’ 10 p.m. programming.

“Project L.E.N.O.” essentially is a tool kit for affiliates to help the stations promote the all-important 10 p.m. hour that leads into the all-important late news, says the Hollywood Reporter, citing a report from MediaWeek.com. The package includes sponsorable broadcast spots, Web banners, tagable radio spots, behind-the-scene vignettes and an affiliate swap spot to promote 10 p.m.

So important is the project that the network plans to use all of its co-op dollars for it, MediaWeek said.

“As the face of network television changes this fall, ‘Project’ will help our stations capitalize on this opportunity in the 10 p.m. hour,” said George Schweitzer, president of CBS Marketing Group.

CBS’ programs slated for 10 p.m. include “CSI: Miami,” “The Good Wife,” “CSI: NY,” “The Mentalist” and “Numb3rs.”

No flip for ‘Flip’

A federal judge in South Carolina has upheld a $4 million verdict for the creator and one-time host of cable television’s “Flip This House.”

The Post and Courier of Charleston reported that U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck affirmed the victory June 17 for Richard Davis against A&E Television Networks.

Mr. Davis had won a jury award in the breach of contract case. He had argued that he had an oral contract with A&E to evenly divide profits from the show. The network said there was no contract.

Lawyers for A&E had asked that the decision be reversed or that the court order a new trial.

A&E’s senior vice president of corporation communications, Michael Feeney, said the network will appeal.

On tap tonight …

American Idol: The Michael Jackson Songbook (8 p.m., Fox5-WTTG) — This season’s 13 “Idol” finalists come together for a special tribute to the King of Pop by performing an array of his hits including “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Black or White,” “Remember the Time” and “Beat It.” Ryan Seacrest hosts.

Dance Your Ass Off (9 p.m., Oxygen) — Series premiere. Marissa Jaret Winokur (the plus-sized Tony-winning star of Broadway’s “Hairspray”) hosts this reality competition that merges elements of “Dancing With the Stars” and “The Biggest Loser,” as contestants attempt to lose weight through strenuous dance routines.

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

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