- - Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Larry King has returned as a talk show host this week, at his new home on the Internet.

“Larry King Now” is produced by Ora TV, a new digital venture backed by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. Ora TV announced a deal to make “Now” also available through the online service Hulu and Hulu Plus.

Mr. King’s first guest was comic producer Seth MacFarlane of “Family Guy” and “Ted.” Other guests scheduled for this week include political commentator Meghan McCain and “Magic Mike” actor Matthew McConaughey.

Mr. King spent a quarter-century as a prime-time talk show host at CNN. Episodes of his new, half-hour show will be posted on the Hulu website in the early evening Monday through Thursday.

‘Breaking Bad’s‘ Walt could have been Cusack, Broderick

For fans of “Breaking Bad,” it might be hard to imagine anyone other than Bryan Cranston as Walter White. In fact, Emmy voters find Mr. Cranston so good in his portrayal of a chemistry teacher-turned-meth dealer they have rewarded him with three statuettes.

But the actor previously best known for playing the dad on Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle” wasn’t the first choice of network AMC or production company Sony Pictures Television.

Series creator Vince Gilligan had been impressed with Mr. Cranston’s 1998 guest-starring turn on “The X-Files,” on which he played a desperate man suffering from radiation exposure, and pushed for the actor. But the suits had trouble envisioning Fox’s suburban dad as their star and wanted to cast a big-name movie star.

Their picks? John Cusack or Matthew Broderick.

“We all still had the image of Bryan shaving his body in ‘Malcolm in the Middle.’ We were like, ‘Really? Isn’t there anybody else?’ ” one former executive recalled.

Mr. Cusack and Mr. Broderick both passed on the show, and after Mr. Gilligan showed executives Mr. Cranston’s “X-Files” episode, minds began to change.

“That was a tricky part to cast on ‘X-Files,’ ” Mr. Gilligan said. “We needed somebody who could be dramatic and scary yet have an underlying humanity so when he dies, you felt sorry for him. Bryan nailed it.”

The role initially was conceived for a 40-year-old — Mr. Cranston is now 56 — but AMC requested the change in age.

“We pushed for him to be 50 because at 40 he’s a little too young to have this crisis,” said Vlad Wolynetz, former AMC vice president for production. “It was just so much more impactful to have him a little bit older.”

As for Mr. Cranston, “Breaking Bad” offered the type of challenge and creative freedom he craved after years on a network sitcom.

“I wanted a change of pace, and whether that meant a comedy or drama, it was going to be different because I didn’t need the money anymore,” he said. “And I never wanted to be in a position where I should make a creative decision based on financial need. I didn’t want a ‘job.’ I didn’t need to work ever again.”

“Breaking Bad” returned for its fifth and final season Sunday night, drawing a record 2.9 million viewers in its 10 p.m. slot.

Backstreet Boys to reunite on ‘Good Morning America’

ABC’s “Good Morning America” will host Kevin Richardson’s reunion performance with the Backstreet Boys.

The quartet will appear on the morning show’s summer concert series on Aug. 31 in Central Park.

Mr. Richardson announced he was leaving the group in 2006, but has appeared in the lineup occasionally since. The remaining Backstreet Boys — Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell and A.J. McLean — announced that Mr. Richardson would be rejoining them permanently during a performance in London last April.

A statement said all five are in a London studio with producer Martin Terefe working on a new album that will be released next spring to coincide with the group’s 20th anniversary.

Mr. Carter said the group “couldn’t be happier to have our brother back with us.”

Springfield businessman wants Simpsons district

A businessman in Springfield, Ore., said it’s time for the city to embrace its most famous fictional residents and create a shopping district with a “Simpsons” theme.

Jack Koehler owns Sweety’s Frozen Yogurt, and he said business has been up since he put a set of Simpson statues in front of his store. He thinks the city should get involved, and he’s proposing that a few blocks of downtown Springfield be turned into a Simpsons-themed shopping district.

The city’s community relations manager, Niel Laudati, told KVAL there’s no demand from the public, and he doubts anyone wants to spend tax dollars to license cartoon characters.

But Mr. Laudati said the city would get behind the idea if it would benefit downtown and if other business owners and the community supported it.

“The Simpsons” show creator Matt Groening acknowledged earlier this year that the western Oregon city about 100 miles south of his hometown of Portland is the basis for the Springfield in his sitcom.

Sheen to donate profits from ‘Anger’ to USO

Charlie Sheen’s anger issues soon will be helping soldiers.

The actor announced Monday that he will donate at least $1 million to the USO in what is among the largest single donations ever given to the troop morale-boosting organization.

Mr. Sheen said he will donate 1 percent of profits from his new FX show, “Anger Management,” to the group, which is known for sending entertainers to lighten the hearts of troops. He will give a minimum of $1 million with no cap on the final amount.

Mr. Sheen’s donation will be used as part of an ongoing campaign to help injured soldiers, sailors and airmen.

“It’s an honor for me to be able to give back to these men and women of the military who have done so much for all of us,” Mr. Sheen said.

• Compiled from Web and wire reports

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