- - Wednesday, July 11, 2012

DirecTV subscribers are losing access to “The Daily Show” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

DirecTV Group Inc. stopped carrying channels owned by Viacom Inc. because of a contract dispute, the Associated Press reports. They include MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central.

The dispute is over how much DirecTV should pay to carry the Viacom programming. The two companies blame each other for the shutdown.

Viacom and DirecTV have had an agreement for seven years, which Viacom said meant it has been paid below-market rates for the programming. DirecTV, meanwhile, said Viacom is asking for too much money.

DirecTV has 20 million U.S. subscribers.

Couric takes a spin with Danica Patrick at Indy

Katie Couric feels bad for Ann Curry.

The former co-host of NBC’s “Today” show was in Indianapolis on Tuesday to take a drive around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Danica Patrick. The feature will air sometime after Ms. Couric’s syndicated talk show, called “Katie,” debuts in September.

When Ms. Couric left “Today” to go to CBS, Ms. Curry was passed over for the top job for Meredith Vieira. And Ms. Curry recently was replaced as a co-host by Savannah Guthrie after about a year on the job.

Asked about Ms. Curry, Ms. Couric first said: “That is such old news. Are you guys really still writing about that?”

“I felt bad for Ann, and I felt bad for the whole team on the show,” she said. “Transitions like that are really tough. But I know she’ll go on and do great things.”

Patrick said she was happy to make a visit to the Speedway. She is set to return to the Brickyard at the end of July for her first race since she left the IndyCar Series to focus on NASCAR full time.

“It’s good to be back here,” Patrick said. “I didn’t think my first lap in a stock car around here would be a school stock car, but I thought it was a good lead into a couple of weeks from now when we’re actually here for the real deal.”

Ms. Couric said her interview with Patrick won’t be part of the show’s debut, but it’s “going to be early in the season.”

Patrick also took Ms. Couric on a trip around the famous track.

“We were riding together out there on the track; we were learning about racing,” Patrick said. “Even I was still learning about racing. We were just having some fun.”

Driving at the higher speeds isn’t something Ms. Couric is used to doing.

“I was very, very, very quiet,” Ms. Couric said. “I was nervous at first, but I had a lot of fun.”

Gladys Knight tapped as judge on ‘Apollo Live’

Move over, Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Lopez, a veteran diva is joining the ranks of judges on reality TV: Gladys Knight.

BET’s sister network Centric announced Wednesday that Miss Knight will work as the “lead judge” on “Apollo Live,” the Associated Press reports. The new series is a singing competition at New York’s famed Apollo Theater and puts a new spin on the venue’s popular “Amateur Night” showcase. It will debut in the fall.

Miss Knight joins previously announced judges Doug E. Fresh and Michael Bivins of New Edition and Bell Biv DeVoe.

Jamie Foxx is the show’s executive producer, and comedian-actor Tony Rock will host.

Centric said the series’ winner will take home a cash prize.

Amanda Peet added to ‘Good Wife’ cast

Amanda Peet has joined the cast of “The Good Wife.”

It was announced Wednesday that the actress will play the recurring role of a military lawyer who sues a contract worker for an attempted sexual assault in the fourth season, according to the Hollywood Reporter. After trying to pursue the case pro se, Miss Peet’s character hires Alicia (Julianna Margulies) as her lawyer, and the two become confidantes and friends.

The casting of Miss Peet, who recently starred in NBC’s short-lived comedy “Bent,” comes after the CBS legal drama enlisted several high-profile actors for pivotal roles in the new season, including Nathan Lane, Maura Tierney and Kristin Chenoweth. Marc Warren was cast in the key part of Kalinda’s (Archie Panjabi) mysterious husband.

Miss Peet starred in NBC’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and guest-starred on a 2010 episode of CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother.” She can next be seen in Terrence Malick’s upcoming “To the Wonder.”

“The Good Wife” returns for season four Sept. 30.

‘Breaking Bad’s‘ Cranston returns to director’s chair

Bryan Cranston will sit in the director’s chair one last time for his AMC drama “Breaking Bad.”

In an Associated Press interview Tuesday, Mr. Cranston said he will direct the ninth episode of the show’s fifth and final season, which begins Sunday and will air split over two summers. That break in filming gives the actor time to put on his directing hat before the season’s second half airs in 2013.

“As an actor on the show, it’s really, really difficult - if you’re in it a lot, obviously - to be able to prep so I take opportunities before we’re actually in production shooting,” he said.

Mr. Cranston, who won three back-to-back Emmys for “Breaking Bad,” also directed the first episodes of seasons one and three of the dark series about chemistry teacher Walter White, who turns to cooking meth to help support his family after he’s diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. The actor also directed an episode of ABC’s “Modern Family” and seven episodes of his former Fox comedy “Malcolm in the Middle.”

Mr. Cranston said in season five viewers will see an increasingly remorseless Walter White complete his journey from a hapless high school teacher to a full-fledged drug lord. “He’s feeling very basic things: control, power, dominance. Those things and those ugly factors have come to the surface.”

Mr. Cranston said he would be willing to star in a “Breaking Bad” movie if there is one - but at this point, the actors don’t know if their characters will be around to make a film because only creator Vince Gilligan and his writing team know how the series ends.

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