- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

Delays to aid O’Brien

Hoping to give “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien” a solid premiere-week lead-in, NBC is pushing several season finales into June.

According to Variety, three of the Peacock network’s major 10 p.m. players won’t end their seasons until the week of June 1, which is when Mr. O’Brien steps in to replace Jay Leno.

“Medium” will air its season finale on June 1, followed by “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” on June 2 and “Law and Order” on June 3.

“We’ll give Conan the best launch possible during his premiere week,” says NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios Co-chairman Ben Silverman.

NBC was able to push the shows into June thanks to some creative scheduling. “SVU” will be bumped a week because of a three-hour “Biggest Loser” finale, while “Medium” bowed late enough that the network had plenty of extra episodes. Only “Law and Order” will have to add an extra repeat to extend into the summer.

The post-season week of series finales is just part of NBC’s summer schedule strategy, announced by the network on Thursday.

For starters, the U.S. return of “I’m a Celebrity — Get Me Out of Here!” will dominate NBC’s June lineup, airing four nights a week for most of the month, Variety says. The reality show, which first aired on ABC in 2003, will bow on June 1 with a two-hour opener at 8 p.m. It will continue to air for an hour each Monday through Thursday until June 24, when it ends with a one-hour finale.

Also returning, “America’s Got Talent” — with new host Nick Cannon — will air Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 9 p.m. starting June 23 and 24. Meanwhile, newcomer “The Great American Road Trip,” from BBC Worldwide, runs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. beginning July 1.

Also in June, NBC plans to launch three original scripted dramas, “The Listener” (scheduled to air Thursdays at 10 p.m. beginning June 4) “Merlin” (scheduled to air Sundays at 8 p.m. beginning June 21)and “The Philanthropist” (scheduled to air Wednesdays at 10 beginning June 24).

Lauer’s small ‘World’

Where in the world is Matt Lauer? Staying put in the USA this year.

In a nod to the economy, the “Today” show is putting off its annual mystery trip in which Mr. Lauer is sent to exotic spots from Monte Carlo to Mount Everest. Instead, NBC’s morning team will spend a week in May exploring affordable vacation spots in the United States, Associated Press reports.

“Today” executive producer Jim Bell says he solicited suggestions from viewers for this year’s “Where in the World Is Matt Lauer” trip. Many told him that in bad economic times, the extravagant trip sent the wrong message.

“Going from Paris to the Pyramids began to feel potentially out of touch,” Mr. Bell said Friday.

The “Where” segments have become Mr. Lauer’s signature and one of the most popular features on TV’s most popular morning show. For a week, Mr. Lauer is in a different location every day, giving clues to see if his colleagues and viewers can guess in advance where he is going. Each day’s show then focuses on stories happening at the spot being visited.

In all, Mr. Lauer has been sent on nine such trips, logging more than 200,000 miles in the air.

‘Stars’ injuries mount

The “Dancing With the Stars” curse apparently is continuing, claiming three more victims, according to Entertainment Weekly.

On Wednesday, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was photographed leaving a Los Angeles dance studio wearing a cast on his left leg. An ABC spokesperson confirmed the injury, EW reports.

Also soldiering on is Steve-O despite on an on-going back injury.

There’s also Gilles Marini, who says he’s not letting a separated shoulder keep him from the quickstep. On March 9, “I heard a little crack and had a sharp pain in my shoulder,” Mr. Marini says in an interview with TV’s “The Insider,” set to air Monday.

The latest round of injuries follows those of contestants Jewel and Nancy O’Dell, who were forced to withdraw from the competition before the show began.

On tap tonight

Gossip Girl (8 p.m., the CW). Carter (Sebastian Stan) returns to make Chuck’s (Ed Westwick) life hard.

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

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