- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2009

‘Housewives’ in D.C.

Just two weeks after unleashing the North Jersey incarnation of its “Real Housewives” franchise, Bravo on Tuesday announced it is prepping a fourth spinoff, to be set in the nation’s capital, MediaWeek.com reports.

“The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C.,” is in the early stages of development, making it the fifth in a potentially limitless succession of “Real Housewives” projects, said Frances Berwick, executive vice president and general manager of Bravo Media.

The flagship series, “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” bowed March 21, 2006, and is in production on its fifth season.

While details about the Beltway spinoff were spare, Miss Berwick suggested that the fifth “Real Housewives” effort would focus on women who are aligned with the city’s power elite, MediaWeek said.

“We’re tapping personalities who are among Washington’s influential players, cultural connoisseurs, fashion sophisticates and philanthropic leaders - the people who rub elbows with the most prominent people in the country and easily move in the city’s diverse political and social circles,” Miss Berwick said.

Bravo has tapped Bethesda-based Half Yard Productions to develop the project. Other series produced by Half Yard include Discovery Channel’s “American Loggers” and TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress.”

On May 12, “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” debuted to an audience of 1.72 million viewers, with nearly three-quarters (1.26 million) in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49 demographic.

Bravo is scouting the D.C. area for likely candidates for the new show, Zap2it.com reports.

Twitter on TV

Micro-blogging sensation Twitter is heading for another screen - the TV screen.

In a post on the blog of the hot San Francisco-based startup, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said Twitter had entered into a “lightweight, non-exclusive, agreement” with TV producers Reveille and Brillstein.

Mr. Stone didn’t reveal any details about the project except to say it would not be for an “official Twitter TV show,” Agence France-Presse reports.

He noted, however, that developers have designed thousands of applications for Twitter, which allows members to exchange 140-character-or-less messages - and, he added, “Twitter’s openness is not limited to the Web or even to mobile phones.

“Twitter’s open approach might have the power to transform television - the dominant communications receiver worldwide,” Mr. Stone said. “We’re very excited to see where these experiments take us.”

According to Variety, Twitter’s deal with Reveille and Brillstein is to develop a TV show “putting ordinary people on the trail of celebrities in a revolutionary competitive format.”

The trade publication also quoted Brillstein’s Jon Liebman as saying that “we’ve found a compelling way to bring the immediacy of Twitter to life on TV.”

Twitter has been adding millions of users a month, and its Web site drew 32.1 million unique visitors in April, the tracking firm comScore reports.

Chapter 11 for Ion

Ion Media Networks on Tuesday said it had filed for Chapter 11 protection under U.S. bankruptcy laws, MediaWeek.com reports.

The company, formerly known as Pax TV, said the filing came after it reached agreement with a group of debt holders to exchange debt for equity once the company restructures its balance sheet.

The Chapter 11 petition was filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, MediaWeek said.

“We are pleased with the support from our first lien senior debt holders to resolve the company’s legacy debt issues and fund our television growth plans,” said Ion Chief Executive Officer Brandon Burgess. “We are positioning the business for growth and will emerge from the restructuring in a strong position to serve viewers, clients and stakeholders.”

Ion confirmed last month that it was talking with creditors about a possible restructuring. At that time, it also said it had hired Kirkland & Ellis, a law firm known for its bankruptcy practice, and financial adviser Moelis & Co., which specializes in helping clients restructure debt.

Ion was launched in 1998 by broadcaster Bud Paxson as the Pax Network. Mr. Paxson, a born-again Christian, thought he could carve out a niche as a network with “family-friendly” programming. It re-branded in 2005 as I:Independent Television and again in 2007 as Ion TV.

Ion’s programming includes a mix of off-network reruns such as “NCIS,” “Boston Legal” and motion pictures. Additional syndicated shows, including “Criminal Minds” and “Ghost Whisperer,” will join the network lineup in the second half of the year, along with several original show premieres - including the crime drama “Durham County,” starring Hugh Dillon.

Engvall to host awards

Bill Engvall will host the 2009 CMT Music Awards, airing June 16 on CMT and CMT.com, TVWeek.com reports.

According to the trade publication, the awards show will feature performances by Trace Adkins, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and Def Leppard.

Fans can cast ballots for their favorites in each category at CMT.com through June 14 for the viewer-voted awards show.

Mr. Engvall hosts “Country Fried Home Videos” on the cable channel.

Conan adds to slate

Conan O’Brien has added a few more big names to the roster of guests for his first week as host of “The Tonight Show,” TVWeek.com reports.

Tom Hanks and Green Day are set to stop by on Tuesday. Sheryl Crow will perform June 3, sharing the “Tonight” couch with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Bradley Cooper.

On June 4, Gwyneth Paltrow and the John Mayer Trio are scheduled to appear. Mr. O’Brien’s first week wraps up June 5 with “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest and the music supergroup Chickenfoot.

NBC previously announced Will Ferrell and Pearl Jam as the guests for Mr. O’Brien’s first “Tonight Show,” which airs Monday.

Jay Leno ends his 17-year reign as “Tonight’s” host with Friday’s show.

Record numbers

Misery loves company, especially when it comes to Jon &Kate; Gosselin.

Monday night’s fifth season premiere of TLC’s “Jon & Kate Plus 8” averaged 9.8 million viewers, nearly double the show’s previous high, and generated the highest numbers ever in the history of the network, the New York Daily News reports. The previous high for “Jon & Kate” was just 4.6 million viewers, recorded for the fourth-season finale.

The big numbers should come as no surprise, given the heat on the couple of late. The duo’s off-camera marital troubles have made them a staple of the supermarket tabloids and exposed the show to people who didn’t know it existed.

In the season opener, viewers saw the couple throw a tension-filled fifth-birthday party for their sextuplets.

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

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