- - Tuesday, April 24, 2012

HBO is staying in business with Bill Maher.

The premium cable network has renewed his political talk show, “Real Time with Bill Maher,” for two more seasons, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The deal with the network will keep Mr. Maher’s show on the air through 2014.

Bill Maher’s irreverent wit and fearless insights make him the perfect observer for these unpredictable times,” said HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo. “I’m delighted that we can continue to offer an uncensored forum for his original and thoughtful humor.”

The announcement was made as the political season heats up, allowing Mr. Maher to continue to stir the pot with his often unfiltered interviews and quotable commentary. Thus far this season, his Friday night series has been watched by 4.1 million people weekly, his highest viewership gross in three years.

Documentary will show Cameron’s deepest voyage

A month after James Cameron’s historic journey to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, National Geographic is giving the trip to the deepest part of the ocean the special treatment.

“James Cameron: Voyage to the Bottom of the Earth” will chronicle the “Titanic” filmmaker’s solo dive, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The Oscar-winning director and avid explorer made the solo trip to the Mariana Trench’s Challenger Deep, the ocean’s deepest point, in March in his uniquely designed submersible.

Mr. Cameron, a National Geographic explorer, reached a depth of 35,756 feet - about 7 miles beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean - in the solo submarine, making the “Avatar” filmmaker the world’s first human to reach the Challenger Deep alone.

The March trip was part of “Deepsea Challenge,” a joint scientific expedition by Mr. Cameron, National Geographic and Rolex to conduct deep ocean research and exploration. Mr. Cameron became the third person since 1960 to reach the bottom of the ocean in a manned submersible.

“I couldn’t think of a better partner,” Mr. Cameron said in a statement announcing the news Tuesday. “National Geographic as an organization has always stood for the spirit of exploration. It’s what the magazine and the channel has been famous for, coming back from the boundary of human exploration. It’s a legacy of promoting exploration and keeping people excited about something new.”

The special will focus on the seven-year design of the sub, which was built to endure the elements and shrinks about 3 inches because of the pressure during the descent. Computer-generated imagery illustrates the scale of the trip to the ocean’s bottom, which took more than two hours.

The half-hour special will be aired mere days after the network broadcast another Cameron special, “Titanic: The Final Word With James Cameron,” a forensic investigation into the famed shipwreck.

“Voyage” will air at 9 and 9:30 p.m. Sunday on the National Geographic channel with encores set for 9 and 9:30 p.m. May 3.

Lohan to play Taylor for Lifetime’s ‘Liz and Dick’

Lindsay Lohan will portray Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor in a television movie about her romance with actor Richard Burton, Lifetime said Monday.

According to Agence France-Presse, production will begin in June in Los Angeles for the movie “Liz and Dick.”

“We are thrilled Lindsay will portray beloved Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor,” Rob Sharenow, executive vice president of Lifetime, said in a statement. “She is one of the rare actresses who possesses the talent, beauty and intrigue to capture the spirit of such a provocative icon.”

Lifetime said the up-and-down romance between Burton and Taylor, who died last year at the age of 79, was “the most notorious, publicized and celebrated love affair of its day.”

“Swarmed by paparazzi, Taylor and Burton’s love affair was played out entirely in front of the global press from the time they met,” yet, “Taylor and Burton shared an undeniable love greater than most people could have ever dreamed.”

The role is a break for Miss Lohan, 25, who, after a promising start, has become known chiefly for her substance abuse problems and frequent brushes with the law.

“I have always admired and had enormous respect for Elizabeth Taylor. She was not only an incredible actress but an amazing woman as well,” Miss Lohan said. “I am very honored to have been asked to play this role.”

Ryan Seacrest extends stay as ‘American Idol’ host

Ryan Seacrest is sticking around as host of “American Idol.”

The Fox network said Monday night that Mr. Seacrest will continue as host of the hit singing-competition series, over which he has presided since its premiere a decade ago. The network gave no specifics about the length of his new contract or any monetary details.

Mr. Seacrest called the show’s run until now “a wild ride” and said he is excited that it will continue with him on board.

Both a show-biz personality and production mogul, Mr. Seacrest recently announced an addition to his many duties. He will work for NBC, where this summer he will take part in coverage of the London Olympics.

Compiled from Web and wire reports.

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