Friday, January 05, 2007

Awards.....All the movies I haven't Seen!

Editor's Note: Since I'm never going to catch up, I can just go see crap, right?

Babel, Dreamgirls, Sunshine lead SAG nominations
The ensemble drama Babel, the musical Dreamgirls and the road-trip tale Little Miss Sunshine each earned three nominations Jan. 4 for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, while Leonardo DiCaprio and Helen Mirren both had two nominations.

Mirren was nominated for playing both of England's two Queen Elizabeths, as best actress in a film as the current monarch in The Queen and as best actress in a TV movie or miniseries for playing her predecessor in Elizabeth I.

The TV role earned Mirren an Emmy last fall, while she is considered the favorite to win the best-actress Oscar for The Queen.

DiCaprio had a lead-actor film nomination as a mercenary hunting a rare gem in the African adventure Blood Diamond and a supporting-actor nomination as a cop undercover in a Boston crime gang in The Departed.

At the upcoming Golden Globes, DiCaprio was nominated as lead actor for both films, but under SAG rules, he was entered in different categories. Oscar voters are free to cast ballots for actors in lead or supporting categories.

Dreamgirls grabbed supporting nominations for Eddie Murphy as a soul singer and Jennifer Hudson as a vocal powerhouse booted out of a Supremes-like trio. The film also had a slot in the guild's category for best overall acting ensemble, which includes Jamie Foxx and Beyonce Knowles, who were shut out in the lead-acting nominations.

The other ensemble nominees were Babel, the Robert Kennedy drama Bobby, The Departed and Little Miss Sunshine.

Key cast members from some of those films — among them Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon of The Departed, Brad Pitt of Babel, and Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette and Steve Carell of Little Miss Sunshine — were overlooked for nominations.

Carell did score a TV nomination as best actor in a comedy series for The Office, which also was among nominees for best comedy ensemble.

Another notable snub was Sacha Baron Cohen, who has a Golden Globe nomination as best actor for a comedy or musical for the hit comedy Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan but was not among guild picks.

Cohen's Oscar-nomination prospects for the outrageous role as a crass, clueless Kazakh journalist remain fuzzy. Oscar voters tend to favor heavyweight dramatic performances over comic turns.

Along with Mirren, other likely Oscar favorites and nominees dominated the guild choices, including Forest Whitaker as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland and Peter O'Toole as an aging actor whose lecherous ways are revived by a young woman in Venus.Editor's Note: Has "Venus" played in Houston already? I don't remember it at all!

The guild also had some surprise nominees, including Ryan Gosling for lead actor as a teacher with a drug problem in the acclaimed but little-seen drama Half Nelson and child actor Abigail Breslin for supporting actress as a 7-year-old obsessed with competing in beauty pageants in Little Miss Sunshine.

Will Smith rounded out the lead-actor field as a homeless dad in The Pursuit of Happyness.

Joining Mirren for lead-actress nominations were Penelope Cruz as a woman with bizarre family crises in Volver; Judi Dench as a scheming teacher in Notes on a Scandal; Meryl Streep as the boss from hell in The Devil Wears Prada; and Kate Winslet as a woman having an affair with a neighbor in Little Children. Editor's Note: Sure looks like it's Mirren's to lose, huh? (nothing bad against these other performances, but they are much lower-profile.

Babel also had supporting-actress nominations for Adriana Barraza as a nanny in peril and Rinko Kikuchi as a deaf schoolgirl. Little Miss Sunshine also earned a nomination for Alan Arkin as a foul-mouthed, heroin-snorting grandfather.

The guild picks are one of the last major announcements in Hollywood awards season before Academy Awards nominations come out Jan. 23. The Oscars will be presented Feb. 25.
Actors guild winners often go on to win Oscars, including three SAG winners from last year: lead performers Philip Seymour Hoffman for Capote and Reese Witherspoon for Walk the Line, and supporting actress Rachel Weisz for The Constant Gardener.

Last year's winner for the guild's prize for the overall acting ensemble, Crash, also went on to the win the best-picture Oscar.

Awards will be presented Jan. 28 in a ceremony televised on TNT and TBS. Film and TV nominees were chosen by two groups of 2,100 people randomly chosen from the guild's 120,000 members. The guild's full membership is eligible to vote for winners.

Nominees for the 13th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards
Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond; Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson; Peter O'Toole, Venus; Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness; Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland.

Actress: Penelope Cruz, Volver; Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal; Helen Mirren, The Queen; Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada; Kate Winslet, Little Children.

Supporting actor: Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed; Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children; Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond; Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls.

Supporting actress: Adriana Barraza, Babel; Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal; Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine; Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls; Rinko Kikuchi, Babel.

Cast: Babel, Bobby, The Departed, Dreamgirls, Little Miss Sunshine.

Actor in a movie or miniseries: Thomas Haden Church, Broken Trail; Robert Duvall, Broken Trail; Jeremy Irons, Elizabeth I; William H. Macy, Nightmares & Dreamscapes; Matthew Perry, The Ron Clark Story.

Actress in a movie or miniseries: Annette Bening, Mrs. Harris; Shirley Jones, Hidden Places; Cloris Leachman, Mrs. Harris; Helen Mirren, Elizabeth I; Greta Scacchi, Broken Trail.

Actor in a drama series: James Gandolfini, The Sopranos; Michael C. Hall, Dexter; Hugh Laurie, House; James Spader, Boston Legal; Kiefer Sutherland, 24.

Actress in a drama series: Patricia Arquette, Medium; Edie Falco, The Sopranos; Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer; Chandra Wilson, Grey's Anatomy.

Actor in a comedy series: Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock; Steve Carell, The Office; Jason Lee, My Name Is Earl; Jeremy Piven, Entourage; Tony Shalhoub, Monk.

Actress in a comedy series: America Ferrera, Ugly Betty; Felicity Huffman, Desperate Housewives; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine; Megan Mullally, Will & Grace; Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds; Jaime Pressly, My Name Is Earl.

Drama series cast: 24, Boston Legal, Deadwood, Grey's Anatomy, The Sopranos.

Comedy series cast: Desperate Housewives, Entourage, The Office, Ugly Betty, Weeds.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Dweebfest update for Houston Dweebpals

Editor's Note: Once AGAIN, stalwart dweebpal PlanoKevin has news we can use. For those of us excited that there was FINALLY a big dweebfest coming to Houston, sad has been postponed.

Here's the scoop:

Houston Sci-Fi Expo postponed untilSeptember 21-23, 2007
Vulkon is committed to producing the best events possible. Due to schedule conflicts and cancellations we feel that the Houston event would not have met our standards.

We have certain celebrities that we would like to have appear but due to filming schedules and other contractual obligations could not attend.

Rather than put on a lack luster event in our first Houston appearance, we decided to move the event to September 21-23, 2007 in order to give us the time needed to coordinate with the guests and hotel. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

We are working diligently to make this, our first Houston event, a weekend to remember!

Editor's Note: least they haven't totally given up on us! (and thanks, again Kevin!)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Catching up with the wonderful world of DISNEY

Walt Disney Family Museum: The Ground Is Broken for a Groundbreaking Place

Walt the family man reads to his daughters.

We are honored to bring our readers some great news -- plans have been announced for a Walt Disney Family Museum on San Francisco's Presidio. The museum will give new life to a historic building, and honor the achievements and life of the man who brought us the Mouse. Although the Walt Disney Family Museum has been a wonderful and enriching presence online for several years, the new museum location will allow people to visit and see firsthand the treasures that recall Walt's life.

Walt's daughter Diane Disney Miller graciously agreed to answer our questions about the museum -- what it will be, how it began, and why it is needed.

Here is what she had to say:
The idea for the Walt Disney Family Museum started about 10 years ago. I was grievously disturbed by things that were being written about him and rumored about him that were not only untrue, but cruel and rather nasty.

Our good friends Katherine and Richard Greene suggested that we do a CD-ROM biography of my father.

They had recently seen a TV film about Lucy and Desi that was done by their children, and featured family home movies. We had the home movies, but the idea of presenting any of that to the public was not at all appealing to me. We all know what family films are all about -- they are intensely personal, and generally not very interesting to anyone but the subjects. Also, my father was not in most of the film, because he was the person behind the camera.

But the idea of presenting my father in a permanent and accessible way, in a medium that people could bring into their homes (just as he had come into their homes with his television appearances), was very appealing.

We decided to assemble a filmed portrait of him that would be as honest and complete as possible. We would use the technology of the CD-ROM and gather interviews of people who knew him and had worked with him, as well as interviews he had done and bits of the family film inventory.

I wanted people to get to know him, to hear his voice, to see him, to know who he was. This was not difficult, because Dad had always been very accessible to the press and to the public, and was much photographed and interviewed. He knew the value of that kind of exposure, he really liked people, and he liked to talk about his life and his work.

So, with Richard and Katherine Greene, we did the CD-ROM, directed and produced by Jean-Pierre Isbouts and Cathy Labrador of Pantheon Productions. Walt Disney Interactive was very helpful, and distributed it.

Unfortunately, for various reasons, our product (like CD-ROMs in general) did not have great success. But it inspired our virtual museum -- our Web site, which WD Interactive helped us launch.

The Greenes ARE the museum. They create the material, answer letters, and keep it vital. Then the Greenes and Pantheon presented to us the idea of doing a film. We would take the concept of the CD-ROM further, and do a documentary of his life. The Greenes wrote the script and were coproducers with Pantheon Productions. Our son Walt was the executive producer. Dick Van Dyke narrated the film, and J.P. Isbouts directed it.

There was another legacy of my father that was available to the public as well. After my mother's death we moved my dad's workshop, the Red Barn, from her home to Griffith Park in Los Angeles. It is across from Travel Town, the Live Steam facility because Dad was a live steamer, and the barn was the home of his model steam train. The barn is cared for by the members of the Carolwood Pacific Railroad Society, all volunteers who love trains and Disney. Michael Broggie, son of Roger Broggie, created the society and manages it.

With our CD-ROM, our virtual museum, the Red Barn, and the film, I thought that I'd achieved what I needed to do for my dad.

But there were other things to consider.

We had possession of a lot of things of my father's that had been important to him, and would be of interest to others. We had possession of a large number of Academy Awards® that had been deemed his as opposed to the Studio's, including the very unique award for "Snow White." There were many other awards and citations from all over the world that attested to the man's impact and importance. We had things my dad had collected, art of Disney artists that he had purchased at the occasional Disney Library art shows, his train ... what to do with it all?

We explored several possibilities over a period of years, but finally decided to lease a warehouse in the San Francisco Presidio and to store it all there in an attractive but low-key manner, where we could make it available to interested people. The Greenes were often asked on the Web site "Where is this museum?" Now we would have a place.

That was five years ago. Our museum concept has grown from that warehouse to a much more ambitious project that involves the restoration of a 1898 barracks building facing the old parade ground, an audio-visual walkthrough show of the life of Walt Disney, which "costars" many of the wonderful people who worked with him throughout his life.

Our aim is to tell his story in his own way, and to make it as interesting and entertaining as possible, because that is what he was all about. This is a huge undertaking for us, but we have some talented and dedicated collaborators. We keep gathering interviews to build our archive and searching for important artifacts to add to our museum. We want it to provide a wealth of information about Dad, his work, the growth of the Company, and the individuals who worked with him to create the films, build Disneyland, and were such and important part of all of it. We have committed to leasing and restoring two buildings at the Presidio.

Building 104 is the 1898 vintage barracks building that will be the museum proper, housing our exhibit on the first two floors; offices and a special art gallery in the attic; and the basement will have a small (about 100 seats) theater for special programs, lots of bathrooms, two rooms for activities related to our educational program, and other necessary spaces for staff use.

We will be open to the public by reservation six days a week, but will accommodate walk-in visitors as well. We will encourage schools to visit us, and hope to have one school field trip each morning ... or two, depending on numbers. We hope to develop wonderful programs for our school visitors, with one space oriented to computers and the other to artwork.

Our theater can be the site of weekend festivals of all types of Disney films -- the old TV series shown in complete form, cartoon series, True-Lifes, etc. We will have a small café and a bookstore on the main floor, and may carry other sorts of appropriate merchandise as well. But they must be special things!

Building 122 , originally the post gymnasium, is located behind the barracks. It is of more recent construction, and is a rather elegant building. It will house our archival and curatorial activities, some additional offices, and what had been the basketball court will be a space that can be used for visiting art shows and other kinds of exhibits.

This project has far exceeded my own original goals for it. But, as our son Walt kept saying, "We've got to do more for him!"

We feel that this is so in his spirit ... a restoration of a historical building in an emerging national park, something to be shared and enjoyed, actually owned by the people who understood him and appreciated him, and shared his values. We must do it as well as he would have done it -- that is our goal, and our challenge.


Castle Suite Fit for a Princess

Cinderella Bedchamber

For everyone who has ever dreamed of becoming fairy-tale royalty Editor's Note: And really...who HASN'T?! and dwelling in an enchanted castle -- even if only for a night -- the Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort is about to become a bit more magical.

Those prince and princess dreams will come true -- for one lucky family every night throughout Year of a Million Dreams*.

An exquisite fairy-tale suite is being prepared inside Cinderella Castle at the heart of the Magic Kingdom Park. What will lucky winners of a night in the castle find inside?

The Insider wanted to find out, so we went to the source, Imagineer Stephen Silvestri, who has been working night and day (quite literally!) to help create a suite that's truly the stuff dreams are made of. Stephen gave us a quick verbal tour through the suite, which has been designed as though the Guest were an honored visitor spending the night as a Guest of Cinderella. Editor's Note: I am conflicted. Part of me is having a bit of a gag reflex, and part of me wants to live full time in this room. I am SO torn!

Everything captures the flavor of late 17th-Century French palace life -- this is the period when the original story of Cinderella was written by Charles Perrault, and also the period in which Disney's "Cinderella" was set.

"You go through a concierge area off the breezeway, with tapestries and a French desk. Then you enter the elevator, which is very 21st Century! But we looked at Cinderella's carriage from the film, and we thought that this was the carriage for the Guest to enter the suite. We took some of the design themes from the carriage -- the crest from the carriage is on the floor in a mosaic, and some pillowing on the walls.

"That carries you up to the suite, which opens and then you find yourself in a lobby space. There once again we captured the time period of the late 1600s. We have all of these beautiful wooden walls with some nice mosaics or scenes from the film worked in. On the floor there's a full mosaic showing Cinderella's carriage. We went for the feeling of a chateau, more than a Gothic castle. We've got some wonderful display items there -- Cinderella's glass slipper.

"Then it's time to enter the suite! When you open the door, the first thing you see is the beautiful fireplace and some of the stained-glass windows, and the parlor in the distance.

"We extended some of the castle stonework into the bedchamber, because we still wanted you to feel like you're in our castle. But not on all of the walls, because stone everywhere would be a very cold experience. So some of the walls are paneled with wood, with some mirroring. That helps extend the space and is very appropriate to the era."

Stephen explains that the goal was to remain true to the feel of the classic film, and to Cinderella Castle itself, while creating a luxurious contemporary suite that makes a 21st Century visitor feel utterly pampered. This took some creative thinking -- for instance, the suite contains two flatscreen TVs. To blend in with the décor, these have been made to look like mirrors when not in use, and one can also display a portrait of Cinderella herself. Other spectacular touches include stained-glass windows overlooking Liberty Square on one side and Fantasyland on the other. Editor's Note: Drooling.....Wouldn't this be a GREAT view from your bedroom?!

Guests will also be stunned by the beautiful hand-assembled mosaics throughout the suite.

As one might imagine, putting together this beautiful retreat is a major undertaking -- teams of artisans, designers, and specialists are working around the clock in the Castle. And because the elevator needed to be removed and replaced with a much larger one, for much of the construction period, all the people and supplies have had to reach the suite the old-fashioned way: by climbing eight long flights of stairs.

"We want to make sure the Guest experience is as seamless as possible -- that when they come to the Park they see what they came to see," Stephen assures us.

The suite is scheduled to be completed by the beginning of 2007 -- the whole project has come together in only around six months.

"We put this together quite quickly. Fortunately we had a team that was so well-versed in Disney history and the Castle's history, and Cinderella!" Stephen explains. "It's something that has been proposed before but never came to pass, so we researched what already existed and had been done."

Stephen adds, "We have an incredible team, and I believe Guests are going to have quite the experience."

We have no doubt that next year, some lucky Guests are going to have a Disney experience unlike any before -- one that is truly a dream come true.

*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY to enter or win the Disney Dreams Giveaway. A purchase will not increase your chances of winning. Open only to legal residents of 50 U.S., D.C., Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico & UK. Void elsewhere and where prohibited.

Giveaway runs October 1, 2006 -- December 31, 2007 (mail in entries postmarked starting September 18, 2006 & received by January 14, 2008, on 3.5x5 postcard with complete name, address, daytime phone #, birth date and proper postage sent to PO Box 8629, Elmhurst, IL 60126 USA). UK residents only mail to 483 Green Lanes, London N13 4BS.

Castle Suite stay will be awarded most days starting January 25, 2007. It will likely be awarded early in the day for a stay that night and is only available to eligible participants at the Parks and Downtown Disney® area in Florida.

Mail-in winners of Castle Suite stay and DREAM FASTPASS badge will receive a prize of comparable value. Approximate retail value of prizes advertised: Castle Suite stay US $587. Prizes range in value from US $3.83 to US $83,701. All prize awards are subject to verification. Odds of winning on a given day depend on the number of eligible participants at a selected location or within the mail-in entry pool for the time or date (as applicable) selected. Subject to Official Rules (see Sponsor: Magic Kingdom Productions, Inc., PO Box 10000, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830.For residents of Canada, a mathematical skill-testing question must be correctly answered to win any prize.

Catching up with TV News

Editor's Note: Ok, some of this slightly old news, but this will be the case for a little while as the QOTD attempts to get caught up.

Bear with me?

CBS Green-Lights 3 New Pilots
DECEMBER 20, 2006 - Broadcasters are beginning to move their development scripts into the pilot stage.

CBS has green-lit three scripts to pilot: exorcist drama Demons; and period surburban soap Swingtown, set in the sexually loose 1970s. The network has also signed Janeane Garofalo to star in writer/producer Barry Schindel's untitled legal drama about public defenders.

Demons, from Joan of Arcadia creator Barbara Hall, and film exec Joe Roth, is produced by CBS Paramount Network TV.

So is Swingtown, which was created by writer/producer Mike Kelley (The O.C.).

The Garofalo drama, also from CBS Paramount Net TV, is a re-working of Schindel's 2003 pilot for NBC, titled Law Dogs. Schindel will exec produce, with filmmakers Ridley and Tony Scott, and David Zucker, through the Scott brothers' company, Scott Free Prods.

ABC has 'Smith' pilot in crosshairs
Jan 2, 2007
ABC has given the green light to "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," a one-hour pilot based on the hit feature.

The film's writer, Simon Kinberg, penned the pilot script, about John and Jane Smith, a married couple who both work as assassins.The film's director, Doug Liman, is on board to helm the pilot and executive produce with Kinberg and Dave Bartis."Smith" hails from Regency TV -- a co-venture of Fox TV Studios and the film's producer, New Regency -- and Liman and Bartis' Dutch Oven.

The project originally was picked up by the network in January 2006 with a put pilot commitment.

Kinberg describes the series project as " 'Married ... With Children' with guns." Editor's Note: Is this a good thing?

10 TV Shows that Broke Out
Book of Tens: Or Why We All Need 'Heroes'

By Claire Atkinson Published: December 18, 2006

The offbeat 'Heros' show became one, in terms of its unexpectedly high ratings.

1) "Heroes" NBC
This show that follows ordinary characters who find out they have superpowers proves no one knows where Nielsen lightning will strike. Japanese dialogue with English subtitles, in prime time? The most popular character, Hiro, is a time-skipping comic-book addict who, naturally, has his own blog.

2) "Ugly Betty" ABC
American TV viewers don't like losers. This ugly duckling, however, turned into a swan for the Alphabet network. Too bad it competes against NBC's "The Office."

3) "Runaway" The CW
This CW launch was positively received by TV critics, and stars Donnie Wahlberg as a man on the run trying to keep it together for his family.

4) "Rachael Ray" Syndicated
How cool is that? Rachael Ray delivers for stations and launches a funky mag. Downside for her? Her marriage is dissected daily on gossip blogs.

5) "Deal or No Deal" NBC
Compared to the U.K. edition, this highly produced game show is a showstopper, thanks to lunatic guests and Howie Mandel's addictive hosting.

6) "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" FX
This summer series isn't exactly new on the scene either, but after a shaky start two years ago, this show staring Danny DeVito is just starting to pick up some heat.

7) "How I Met Your Mother" CBS
This Monday-night show delivers consistent laughs. Who'd have thought Doogie Howser, aka the Barnacle, had it in him to be so funny? One word: legendary.

8) "Brothers & Sisters" ABC
It's hard to fail in the post-"Desperate Housewives" time slot, but this show proved its worth, and diehard Calista, Sally and Rachel fans turned up in droves.

9) "Grey's Anatomy" ABC
"You're cute, you're so cute," as Meredith might say. Can a Webster's Dictionary entry for "McDreamy" be far behind?

10) "The Colbert Report" Comedy Central
From spinoff TV show to the White House Correspondents' Dinner, Stephen Colbert proved he's everyone's favorite court jester. And that's tonight's word.

December 18, 2006
Chernin Steps In to Plot MyNet Fix
News Corp. CEO, Top Execs Might Trim Soaps on Some Nights
By Chris Pursell and James Hibberd
News Corp. President and CEO Peter Chernin drove the discussions in recent weeks that have resulted in an about-face in the programming strategy behind the company's MyNetworkTV, multiple sources close to the situation said.

Faced with disappointing prime-time ratings that in some markets are lower than affiliated stations' daytime performances, MyNetworkTV executives are plotting changes that could cut the network's current all-telenovela programming from six nights a week down to as few as two, sources said.

Mr. Chernin was involved in the creation and launch of MyNetworkTV, but until about six weeks ago he was relatively hands-off.

Station executives who requested anonymity for this report said they welcome Mr. Chernin's involvement in attempts to right the ship.

The most popular option to have emerged from recent brainstorming among executives of the network has the 4-month-old MyNetwork adding a variety of content on non-telenovela nights that could include movies, unscripted series and sports, sources indicated. Editor's Note: Or you could just run a test-pattern? (Do they still even HAVE those?) I mean, the test-pattern would be CHEAPER by far than producing shows, and it is SURE to get much better ratings than anything that's run on the UPN-detritous stations.

One series being considered for a prime-time slot is "My Games Fever," a live game show formatted from a hit British series that was originally slated for daytime via syndication. The show's appeal will be evaluated during a daytime test run on 10 Fox-owned stations that began earlier this month.

A scenario being considered comprises telenovelas on Tuesday and Thursday, a movie night on Wednesday, a sports event on Mondays or Saturdays and a talk show/variety hour paired with a game show on Fridays.

Any changes to the lineup are not likely to happen earlier than next summer, but the current planning marks a retreat from a format that News Corp.'s Fox fielded in September in response to the formation of The CW earlier in the year. Trying new programming signals that Fox isn't ready to give up on the network, and it may tamp down speculation that the company might pull the plug on MyNetworkTV in the next year if its ratings don't improve.

Executives of the network who have been involved in the recent rejiggering meetings include Mr. Chernin, Twentieth Television President and Chief Operating Officer Bob Cook, Fox Television Stations CEO Jack Abernethy and Fox Television Stations Chairman Roger Ailes. They have been discussing, both internally and with stations, "more than a few options" designed to kick-start the channel, several insiders said.

A Big Bet
Acquiring or producing alternative MyNetworkTV programming might cost more than telenovelas, which are produced on a shoestring budget. The bet would be that the new shows will draw a broader, bigger audience and generate higher advertising revenue, offsetting the programming investment.

Among the programming options MyNetwork is considering is an attempt to revisit a deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship organization, insiders said. The martial arts league currently televises fights on pay-per-view and Viacom's Spike TV network and has a weekly syndicated series planned with Trifecta Entertainment for a fall 2007 rollout.

UFC was in discussions with MyNetwork executives before the network opted to go with prime-time soaps six nights a week, and Fox station executives have expressed interest in the league in light of its Trifecta deal, sources said.

Distributor Twentieth Television has sought talent for unscripted projects in recent months that include game show series, as well as a variety format, that could be contenders for MyNetwork rather than syndication.

The distributor is looking at potential game shows in "Catch Phrase" and "Connections" from Granada as well as "Temptations" from Fremantle for other dayparts, but could move the projects to prime time, sources said.

Any programming upheaval at MyNetwork is likely to start after cycle two of the network's prime-time soaps. "Wicked Wicked Games" and "Watch Over Me" end their runs next spring. That's when "Saints and Sinners," part of the network's planned third batch of telenovelas, has been scheduled to begin.

A decision to cut back on telenovela nights could have several ramifications for the TV industry. Until now, MyNetwork's content has been distributed by fellow News Corp. property Twentieth Television. Mixing up MyNetwork's programming could open time on the network's schedule to other production companies and studios looking to sell prime-time content.

Scaling back on the format will also take a step toward returning prime time to a field similar to the days before The WB and UPN merged.

More Competitive
Currently, MyNetwork has set itself apart with its unique telenovela programming, which it adapted to English from wildly popular Spanish-language soap operas. Adding a variety of unscripted fare would put the fifth- and sixth-ranked networks into a more competitive relationship.

MyNetworkTV was launched in 180 days as a counterstrike to the creation of The CW, but has struggled to find audiences for its prime-time telenovela format.

Since its launch Sept. 5, the shows have averaged a 0.7 household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. That's less than a third of what stations pulled in the time periods last year with UPN and The WB.

"MyNet was born out of last-minute desperation, and it's a miracle they got on the air as quickly as they did," said Tim Brooks, Lifetime's executive VP of research. "MyNet is going to have to evolve to survive. The model of telenovelas has shown they're not such an easy translation. It's programming from the finance department rather than programming from creative vision."

MyNetwork executives have urged stations and the media to be patient with the format, saying they were focus-group testing the content and promised the second cycle of telenovelas would show a marked improvement.

Two weeks ago, the second cycle debuted to ratings that didn't improve markedly on the first go-around.

A spokeswoman for MyNetworkTV declined to comment for this report, noting only that "We have lots of meetings." Editor's Note: Never a good sign, meetings...

Syndicators had been waiting for a decision on MyNetwork's future. The mini-network currently holds valuable real estate around the country, including extremely rare prime-time slots in New York and Los Angeles that distributors were looking to target if MyNetwork went away. Executives have privately acknowledged that a number of series in development would move forward only if those time slots were made available.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Pause to Remember....2006

EDITOR'S NOTE: sniffle......(get out your hankies).

A humble pause to remember
The entertainment industry bade farewell to some luminous names and storied careers in 2006.

Time once again to "awake remembrance of these valiant dead," as the Bishop of Ely advised the young king in Shakespeare's "Henry V."

We wouldn't want to forget such valiant departed artists as Reuven Frank, who brought visuals into television news, or Peter Benchley, who swam with the sharks in "Jaws."

As the 21st century progresses, such acclaimed 20th century figures as Frank Stanton, the longtime president of CBS; two-time Oscar winner Shelley Winters; Ed Bradley, the noted TV newsman; Gordon Parks, the pioneering black filmmaker; and the "Godfather of Soul" James Brown will not be allowed to fade into the dusty annals.

We want the valiant voices of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Lou Rawls, Anna Moffo and June Pointer to resound in memory; the masterful keyboard output of Bill Miller, Frank Sinatra's music director, and Billy Preston, the Fifth Beatle, must stay alive in the mind.

Many have left us reasonably immortal entertainment productions, people like television's Aaron Spelling and music's Arif Mardin and Ahmet Ertegun or Broadway's Betty Comden and Cy Feuer.

And of course the blues will keep right on going, despite the departure of pianist Jay McShann, psychedelic rock pioneer Arthur Lee, singer Ruth Brown and, yes, Anita O'Day, balladeer though she became.

Nor will we soon forget such actresses as Alida Valli of "The Third Man," virtuoso Maureen Stapleton, ingenue June Allyson and the maternal Jane Wyatt or such actors as the versatile Glenn Ford, handsome Anthony Franciosa and sturdy Jack Warden.

The light hearts of Jack Palance, Peter Boyle, Don Knotts, Dennis Weaver and Red Buttons stopped beating this year, it is true. But to their grateful audiences, the beat goes on.

Shelley Winters, 85, a colorful, outspoken two-time Oscar winner who charted her career's course through six decades, evolving from a blond sex symbol to serious dramatic actress and character parts to a recurring role on ABC's "Roseanne" in the mid-1990s.

Born in East St. Louis, Ill., Winters signed a studio contract with Columbia and eventually earned national attention with George Cukor's 1947 hit "A Double Life." Winters' reputation was cemented with her Oscar-nominated performance in 1951's "A Place in the Sun." She won best supporting actress Academy Awards for 1959's "The Diary of Anne Frank" and 1965's "A Patch of Blue." She was nominated again for 1972's "The Poseidon Adventure."

Offscreen, Winters had a tempestuous love life that included three marriages -- to businessman Paul Mayer (1942-48), actor Vittorio Gassman (1952-54), with whom she had a daughter, Vittoria; and actor Anthony Franciosa (1957-60). Winters penned two best-selling memoirs, "Shelley, Also Known as Shirley" (1980) and "Shelley II: The Middle of My Century" (1989), in which she wrote openly of her romances with Burt Lancaster, William Holden, Marlon Brando, Errol Flynn and Clark Gable, among others.

Lou Rawls, 72, a silky-voiced singer whose five-decade career ran the gamut of musical styles. The Chicago-born Rawls got his start with gospel groups before rising to prominence with R&B and soul hits in the 1960s and '70s, including "Love Is a Hurtin' Thing" and "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine." In 1980, Rawls initiated the annual Lou Rawls Parade of Stars that raised $200 million for the United Negro College Fund.

Anthony Franciosa, 77, a fiery method actor known for moody, charged performances in 1950s and '60s films including "A Hatful of Rain," "This Could Be the Night," "A Face in the Crowd," "The Long Hot Summer," "The Naked Maja" and "The Pleasure Seekers." His TV work in the '60s and '70s included the series "The Name of the Game" and "Matt Helm."

Arthur Bloom, 63, a CBS News director who used his own stopwatch to create "60 Minutes' " iconic opening credit sequence.

Fayard Nicholas, 91, half of the famed Nicholas Brothers tap-dancing duo along with his older brother Harold.

Chris Penn, 40, actor and brother of Sean Penn and musician Michael Penn. Known for character roles in such films as "Reservoir Dogs," "Short Cuts" and "True Romance."

Wilson Pickett, 64, a fiery R&B singer whose 1960s hits included "In the Midnight Hour" and "Mustang Sally." He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

Franz Seitz, 85, a German writer-producer of more than 40 features, including 1979's "The Tin Drum," an Oscar and Palme d'Or winner.

Moira Shearer, 80, a Scottish ballerina remembered for playing the suicidal heroine of 1948's "The Red Shoes."

Wendy Wasserstein, 55, a playwright known for such earthy female-centric works as "Uncommon Women and Others," "Isn't It Romantic" and "The Heidi Chronicles."

Dennis Weaver, 81, a rangy, prolific film and TV actor who was a fixture in primetime from the 1950s-'70s with his roles in "Gunsmoke" and "McCloud," among other series. His notable film credits include Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil" and Steven Spielberg's telefilm "Duel."

Weaver served a stint as SAG president from 1973-75 and was known in the industry for his dedication to philanthropy and environmentalism. Weaver and his wife of 60 years, Gerry, built a home in Colorado, dubbed "Earthship," made entirely of used tires and aluminum cans. Editor's Note: Yay! Ahead of his time. (Wonder if his house smelled like old cars and stale beer when the sun was hot).

Don Knotts, 81, a wiry comedian and five-time Emmy winner for his role as the hapless sheriff's deputy Barney Fife on "The Andy Griffith Show." Knotts gained national fame as a member of Steve Allen's primetime troupe in the late 1950s, then segued from "Andy Griffith" to a string of G-rated comedy features from the mid-1960s through the early '70s, including "The Incredible Mr. Limpet," "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken," "The Reluctant Astronaut" and "The Shakiest Gun in the West."

He worked steadily in later years as a regular on "Three's Company" and "Matlock" and as a voice artist for dozens of animated series and films.

Reuven Frank, 85, a pioneering producer of NBC News' "The Huntley-Brinkley Report" who refined the concept of the modern network newscast with his innovative two-anchor format. Frank served two stints as NBC News president, from 1968-73 and from 1982-84.

Ray Barretto, 76, a pioneering Latin jazz percussionist and bandleader.

Peter Benchley, 65, author and grandson of humorist Robert Benchley, whose 1974 novel "Jaws" became the basis of Steven Spielberg's first blockbuster.

William Cowsill, 58, lead singer and guitarist for family group the Cowsills, who scored three top 10 singles including "Hair."

Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, 80, a high-spirited character actor and comic who appeared in dozens of movies, often with John Wayne.

Curt Gowdy, 86, a veteran sportscaster who called 13 World Series, 16 baseball All-Star Games and the first Super Bowl and was a fixture on the "American Sportsman" series.

Al Lewis, 82, a one-time circus roustabout who become a TV icon as Grandpa Munster on the 1960s comedy "The Munsters."

Gordon Parks, 93, a pioneering photographer, writer and director who broke barriers in Hollywood as the first black person to direct a major studio film, the autobiographical 1969 release "The Learning Tree."

The youngest of 15 children, Parks began his career as a fashion photographer. He became the first black photographer to work for Vogue, and he chronicled the lives of black Americans, among other subjects, for Life magazine from 1948-68.

Parks' 1971 hit "Shaft" and its sequel, "Shaft's Big Score!" helped establish the blaxploitation film genre. He was the subject of a 2000 HBO documentary, "Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks."

Buck Owens, 76, the influential father of the modern California country music sound and the longtime host of the popular country variety show "Hee Haw." Owens' country hits in the 1960s included "Love's Gonna Live Here," "Act Naturally" and "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail."

The TV show -- which originated on CBS and later ran in syndication -- was a mix of hillbilly hokum and "pickin' and grinnin' " that proved lucrative for Owens. He plowed his earnings into radio and TV stations, venues and other assets in and around his adopted hometown of Bakersfield, Calif. Owens performed at his Crystal Palace nightclub in Bakersfield hours before he died.

Dan Curtis, 78, a producer of the "Dark Shadows" and "Night Stalker" fantasy/horror TV franchises and the mega-budget ABC minieries "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance" in the 1980s.

Richard Fleischer, 89, a director of such major studio pictures as "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "Dr. Dolittle," "Fantastic Voyage" and "Soylent Green."

Jackie McClean, 73, an influential jazz saxophonist.

Gloria Monty, 84, a producer who turned the ailing daytime serial "General Hospital" into a hit for ABC in the 1970s and '80s.

Dana Reeve, 44, actress and wife of actor Christopher Reeve who advocated for better treatment and possible cures for paralysis and spinal chord injuries following her husband's equestrian accident in 1995.

Maureen Stapleton, 80, an Oscar-winning actress who had breakthrough roles in film, television and stage.

Peter Tomarken, 63, host of the 1980s hit game show "Press Your Luck."

Jack Wild, 53, a child film and TV star remembered for his Oscar-nominated role in "Oliver!" and on TV's "H.R. Pufnstuf." Editor's NOte: I had COMPLETELY forgotten this. Awww.....a touchstone of my (long ago) youth. (and how weird that he wasn't all that much older than I. How is it that I caught up?)

Jay Bernstein, 69, a publicist and manager who helped turn actress Farrah Fawcett into a household name.

Scott Brazil, 50, an Emmy-winning TV director and producer whose credits range from "Hill Street Blues" to "The Shield."

Elma Farnsworth, 98, the wife of cathode ray tube inventor Philo T. Farnsworth who handled the technical drawings for his experiments and was known as "the mother of television."

William P. Gottlieb, 89, whose pioneering photographs of such jazz greats as Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong are recognizable worldwide. Gottlieb's 1947 photo of a luminous Holiday -- eyes closed, head thrown back in song -- is among the most reproduced jazz photographs of all time.

Gene Pitney, 66, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who had a string of hits in the 1960s including "Town Without Pity," "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" and "Only Love Can Break a Heart." He also wrote such hits as "He's a Rebel" and "Hello Mary Lou."

June Pointer, 52, the youngest member of the hit-making R&B vocal group the Pointer Sisters.

Donald Sipes, 77, a former president of Universal Television who also held executive posts at CBS, MGM and United Artists.

Vilgot Sjoman, 81, a Swedish director of "I Am Curious (Yellow)."

Muriel Spark, 88, a British novelist whose titles included "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie."

Alida Valli, 84, an Italian actress who starred opposite Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in the 1949 classic "The Third Man."

John Voland, 47, a freelance writer who was senior film reporter at The Hollywood Reporter from 1990-92.

Phil Walden, 66, a colorful and oft-controversial founder of the path-finding Southern rock label Capricorn Records and manager of Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers.

Miguel Zacarias, 101, one of Mexico's most prolific and influential filmmakers who directed, produced and wrote more than 110 films. Editor's Note: Almost a movie a year....if he'd started at BIRTH!

Cy Feuer, who with the late Ernest H. Martin produced some of Broadway's biggest hits, including "Guys and Dolls" and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," as well as the movie version of "Cabaret." Martin and Feuer, known as the King and Cy, had five hit musicals in a row, starting in 1948 with "Where's Charley?" starring Ray Bolger and followed by 1950's "Guys and Dolls," 1953's "Can-Can," 1954's "The Boy Friend" and 1955's "Silk Stockings." Feuer was nominated for nine Tonys, winning three.

Jay Presson Allen, 84, who adapted novels for stage and screen including "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie." Allen's film adaptation of the musical "Cabaret" was nominated for 10 Academy Awards.

Lew Anderson, 84, who played Clarabell the Clown on TV's "The Howdy Doody Show" from 1954 until the show ended in 1960.

Henry Bumstead, 91, an Oscar-winning production designer and art director whose credits include "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Sting," "Vertigo" and "Unforgiven."

Desmond Dekker, 64, a vocalist who gave reggae, and Jamaican music, an international toehold with his 1969 hit "Israelites."

Katherine Dunham, 96, a pioneering dancer and choreographer, author and civil rights activist. Dunham, remembered for bringing African and Caribbean influences to the European-dominated dance world, established America's first self-supporting all-black modern dance group in the late 1930s, touring with it for more than 30 years.

Freddie Garrity, 69, lead singer of the British Invasion-era band Freddie and the Dreamers, who hit No. 1 in the U.S. with "I'm Telling You Now."

Shohei Imamura, 79, a Japanese director who won the Palme d'Or at Cannes for "The Ballad of Narayama (1983) and "The Eel" (2001).

Steven C. Marshall, 58, a sound engineer and inventor who restored the soundtracks of classic films including "Gone With the Wind" using his own process dubbed "revectorization."

Grant McLennan, 48, a co-founder of Australia's the Go-Betweens, one of the defining indie bands of the 1980s.

Duane Roland, 53, one of the original guitarists for Southern rock band Molly Hatchet.

Louis Rukeyser, 73, a public TV host known for common sense commentary on business on his long-running program "Wall Street Week With Louis Rukeyser."

Sidney Seidenberg, 81, a longtime manager for B.B. King and such other musicians as Gladys Knight and the Temptations.

Robert Sterling, 88, an actor who appeared with wife Anne Jeffreys as the fun couple who return as ghosts in the 1950s comedy series "Topper."

Billy Walker, 77, a country singer who was a mainstay of the Grand Ole Opry.

Arthur Widmer, 91, a special effects pioneer who received a lifetime achievementAcademy Award for his work in developing Ultra Violet Travelling matte and bluescreen processes. Editor's NOte: Here's the test of whether or not God is an FX fan. If God likes Star Wars, Mr. Widmer goes to Heaven. If God hates prefers hand puppets and scale models.......

Aaron Spelling, 83, one of the most prolific and successful producers in TV history, whose career defined the concept of the superproducer.

In 1984, his seven series on ABC accounted for one-third of the network's primetime schedule, causing some to refer to ABC as "Aaron's Broadcasting Company." While he won two Emmys -- one for outstanding drama in 1989 for "Day One," a telefilm about the Manhattan Project, and the other for outstanding telefilm in 1993 for "And the Band Played On," an account of the early years of the AIDS epidemic -- Spelling was best known for his glossy, escapist TV series that ranged from "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island" to "Dynasty" and "Melrose Place," with occasional forays into more reality-based shows like "Family."

The Spelling touch also was seen in such popular series as "Charlie's Angels," which featured three sexy female detectives, propelling Farrah Fawcett to stardom; "Starsky and Hutch," which paired Paul Michael Glazer and David Soul as two streetwise cops; "Hart to Hart," which focused on a glamorous married couple (Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers) who also solved mysteries; and "Beverly Hills, 90210," which famously featured his daughter, Tori, as one of a group of privileged high school students.

In later years, he scored two of the WB Network's biggest hits: "7th Heaven" and "Charmed."

Arif Mardin, 74, a producer whose career stretched from classic productions for Atlantic Records to a late-career triumph with Norah Jones.

George Page, 71, a creator and host of the PBS series "Nature."

Billy Preston, 59, a keyboardist, singer and songwriter who attained fame in the late '60s and early '70s as an R&B and pop hitmaker and a sideman for the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and scored a pair of No. 1 singles as a solo artist.

Lloyd Richards, 87, a theater director whose credits include "A Raisin in the Sun."

Hilton Ruiz, 54, a jazz pianist and composer.

Lyle Stuart, 83, a maverick publisher of offbeat books that were radical and otherwise.

Vince Welnick, 55, the Grateful Dead's keyboard player in the 1990s; also a founding member of the Tubes.

Red Buttons, 97, a carrot-topped comedian whose versatility as a performer made him a popular TV star in the 1950s and an Oscar winner for his dramatic work in 1957's "Sayonara." An entertainer who excelled in every realm of show business, from the Borscht Belt to primetime series, Buttons logged dozens of movie roles and steady TV work for more than 50 years. He also was a prolific composer of popular songs, including "The Ho-Ho Song" and "Strange Things Are Happening," which he often performed in his nightclub act.

June Allyson, 88, who epitomized the girl next door in movies and on TV during the 1940s and '50s. Allyson was a triple threat, best known for movies she did while under contract at MGM, including "Two Girls and a Sailor," "Good News" and, opposite James Stewart, "The Glenn Miller Story."

Her bouncy athleticism and husky singing voice made her a star during World War II, when she came to represent the kind of girl Gls hoped to return home to marry. Allyson was married to her frequent co-star Dick Powell for nearly 20 years until his death in 1963.

Jack Warden, 85, Editor's Note: Again? I could have SWORN he died a couple of years ago.....whose gruff, sour but lovable demeanor made him a highly sought-after character actor for more than five decades. Warden earned two supporting Oscar noms, for 1975's "Shampoo" and 1978's "Heaven Can Wait," and he won an Emmy for his portrayal of Chicago Bears coach George Halas in the 1971 ABC telefilm "Brian's Song."

Syd Barrett, 60, an enigmatic, troubled co-founder of Pink Floyd whose legend only grew after he left the group in 1968.

Irving Green, 90, a co-founder of Mercury Records who helped break racial barriers in music by promoting the careers of jazz greats including singers Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington.

Barnard Hughes, 90, a prolific, film, TV and Tony-winning stage actor whose 65-year career included a stint as a regular on NBC's "Blossom."

Mako, 72, a Japanese actor who used his Oscar nomination for 1966's "The Sand Pebbles" to push for better roles for Asian actors.

Bill Miller, 91, Frank Sinatra's pianist for nearly five decades until the singer's final performance in 1995.

Jan Murray, 89, a one-time Borscht Belt comedian known for hosting game shows including "Treasure Hunt."

Carrie Nye, 69, an accomplished stage, film and TV actress who was the wife of talk show host Dick Cavett.

Kasey Rogers, 80, a regular on the TV series "Bewitched" and known for playing (as Laura Elliott) a victim in Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train."

Mickey Spillane, 88, a tough-guy mystery writer who created the enduring Mike Hammer detective character. He starred as Hammer in a 1963 film and appeared in a series of memorable Miller Lite commercials.

Glenn Ford, 90, whose calm manner and kind face earned him the trust of moviegoers in features as varied as the film noir "Gilda" and the social drama "Blackboard Jungle."

During a career that spanned 53 years -- he was voted No. 1 at the boxoffice in 1958 -- he appeared in more than 80 films, including "Pocketful of Miracles," "The Big Heat," "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" and "Teahouse of the August Moon."

Ford excelled in playing everyday men who showed courage and grace under pressure. He burst to stardom playing the gambler lover of a seductress in 1946's "Gilda" opposite Rita Hayworth.

Mike Douglas, 81, an affable talk show host who was a staple of daytime television for nearly 20 years. "The Mike Douglas Show" was a pioneering first-run syndication program that originated from CBS affiliate KWY-TV in Philadelphia for most of its 1963-82 run. The one-time band singer was known for his easy, conversational manner with guests, who ranged from Mother Teresa to John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Arthur Lee, 61, lead singer and principal songwriter for the influential 1960s Los Angeles rock band Love, whose landmark 1967 album "Forever Changes" encapsulated the Summer of Love zeitgeist. The band encompassed many genres, and Lee was one of the few black performers on the psychedelic rock scene with a swaggering approach that prefigured Jimi Hendrix.

Bruno Kirby, 57, a prolific character actor whose credits included "The Godfather: Part II," "This Is Spinal Tap," "Good Morning, Vietnam," "When Harry Met Sally ...," "City Slickers" and "Donnie Brasco."

Maynard Ferguson, 78, a jazz trumpeter known for high, soaring notes who came to prominence playing in Stan Kenton's orchestra.

Bruce Gary, 54, a drummer who worked with George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Stephen Stills but is best known as a member of the Knack, who spent six weeks at No. 1 with "My Sharona" in 1979. Editor's Note: Great. Now I will have that song stuck in my head for the rest of 2006!

Ken Richmond, 80, the 6-foot-5, ripple-armed wrestler seen striking the gong in the opening credits for films produced by Britain's J. Arthur Rank Studio.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, 90, a German soprano regarded as one of the greatest opera voices of the 20th century.

Sig Shore, 87, an independent producer whose low-budget 1972 film "Superfly" helped establish the blaxploitation genre.

Joseph Stefano, 84, a screenwriter whose credits included Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic "Psycho" and the 1960s anthology drama "The Outer Limits."

Elizabeth Allen, 77, an actress known to early TV viewers as the "Away We Go" girl on "The Jackie Gleason Show." She also starred in the memorable 1960 "Twilight Zone" episode in which department store mannequins come to life. Editor's Note: No doubt part of tonight's annual "Twilight Zone" marathon?

Malcolm Arnold, 84, a British film composer who earned an Oscar for 1957's "The Bridge on the River Kwai."

Remy Belvaux, 38, a Belgian auteur whose only film, "Man Bites Dog" (1993), became a cult hit.

Ed Benedict, 94, an animator who designed Fred Flintstone, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound and other characters for Hanna-Barbera Studios.

John Conte, 90, an actor known for his role in 1955's "The Man With the Golden Arm."

Pat Corley, 76, a longtime film and TV character actor who played bar owner Phil on "Murphy Brown" and Chief Coroner Wally Nydorf on "Hill Street Blues."

Mickey Hargitay, 80, an actor and bodybuilder who was married to actress Jayne Mansfield and was the father of actress Mariska Hargitay.

Steve Irwin, 44, Australia's "Crocodile Hunter" and wildlife park owner who became a worldwide TV star through programs on Discovery Networks and Animal Planet.

Robert Earl Jones, 96, an actor and the father of actor James Earl Jones.

Sven Nykvist, 83, a Swedish cinematographer who worked with Ingmar Bergman, Woody Allen and Norman Jewison, among others.

Patrick Quinn, 56, an actor and former president and executive director of the Actors' Equity Assn.

Dewey Redman, 75, an influential jazz tenor saxophonist and bandleader.

Ralph Story, 86, a veteran Los Angeles newscaster and host of 1950s quiz shows including "The $64,000 Challenge."

Jane Wyatt, 96, the sweet-faced actress who played the prototypical 1950s TV mom opposite Robert Young on "Father Knows Best." Wyatt continued to work into her 70s with memorable character roles on shows ranging from "Star Trek" to "St. Elsewhere."

The New Jersey native began her career on the stage in Massachusetts and then signed as a Universal contract player. She hit her film stride in the late 1930s and '40s as a supporting player in such A-features as "Lost Horizon," "None but the Lonely Heart" and "Gentleman's Agreement."

Wyatt logged guest shots on dozens of early TV shows, including "Studio One," "Your Show of Shows" and "The Virginian" before "Father" began its six-year run in 1954.

Jerry Belson, 68, a comedy writer who shepherded the successful TV adaptation of "The Odd Couple" with his longtime writing partner Garry Marshall. Belson was well-liked by other writers and comedians in Hollywood for his offbeat sensibilities and deft touch with a script and for his role in mentoring young comedy writers like James L. Brooks. In the 1980s and '90s, Belson earned three Emmys for his work with Brooks and Tracey Ullman on Fox's "The Tracey Ullman Show" and HBO's "Tracey Takes On. ..."

Frances Bergen, 84, a model and actress who married ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and was the mother of actress Candice Bergen.

Stanley Z. Cherry, 74, a busy TV director whose credits included "Gilligan's Island," "Flipper," "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis."

Tamara Dobson, 59, a 6-foot-2 model and actress who starred as kung-fu fighting government agent Cleopatra Jones in two 1970s "Cleopatra Jones" blaxploitation movies. Editor's Note: This was a tough year for a lot of those former blaxploitation folks, huh?

Freddy Fender, 69, the Tex-Mex balladeer who racked up a string of '70s country hits, including his signature "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights," and who later performed with the all-star group Texas Tornados.

Christopher Glenn, 68, a longtime CBS News correspondent and announcer.

Sally Gray, 90, a spirited, husky-voiced British star of the 1930s and '40s who turned down a lucrative Hollywood contract when she married into the aristocracy. Editor's Note: Well wouldn't YOU?

Arthur Hill, 84, a prolific character actor seen in dozens of movies and TV shows including "Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law"

Phyllis Kirk, 79, an actress remembered for her role in 1953's "House of Wax."

Herbert B. Leonard, 84, a prolific TV producer of such varied shows as "Naked City," "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin" and "Route 66."

Gillo Pontecorvo, 86, the Italian director of the 1966 epic "The Battle of Algiers."

Sandy West, 47, drummer for influential all-girl 1970s rock band the Runaways.

Robert Altman, 81, Editor's Note: SniFFLE! one of cinema's great democratic spirits whose wry appreciation of the idiosyncrasies of human nature suffused more than 30 films including "MASH," "McCabe and Mrs. Miller," "Nashville" and "The Player."

The maverick director learned his craft by turning out such industrial films as "How to Run a Filling Station" before moving on to such episodic TV fare as "The Millionaire," "Bonanza" and "Combat."

His trademark inventive touches included overlapping dialogue, conversations seemingly overheard on the fly and a constantly prowling camera. Altman was nominated five times for a best director Academy Award but never prevailed. He received an honorary Oscar this year in a nod to the balance of his career.

Ed Bradley, 65, the one-time sixth-grade teacher who became a hard-charging CBS News reporter and a 26-year correspondent for "60 Minutes." He became a role model for a generation of black journalists who saw him smash the color barrier in TV news with his daring wartime reporting in Vietnam and Cambodia in the early 1970s. A jazz and blues aficionado, Bradley was dubbed "the fifth Neville brother" because of his many appearances with them onstage.

Jack Palance, 87,Editor's Note: I'm kinda expecting him to pop back up again, aren't you? the raspy-voiced actor who made his name playing 1950s movie villains but won an Oscar at age 73 for his work as a grizzled cowboy in the 1991 Billy Crystal comedy "City Slickers." Palance made a memorable heavy in such dramas as "Shane" and "Panic in the Streets," and he earned an Emmy for his powerful portrayal of a slow-witted boxer in Rod Serling's landmark 1956 "Playhouse 90" teleplay "Requiem for a Heavyweight." In later years, he hosted ABC's 1980s revival of "Ripley's Believe It or Not."

Ruth Brown, 78, the vivacious R&B singer known as "Miss Rhythm" whose early hits including "Teardrops From My Eyes" and "5-10-15 Hours" established Atlantic Records. Decades later, Brown became an advocate for her generation of performers by pushing Atlantic to its 1988 settlement of back royalties with 1950s and '60s hitmakers, which included an endowment for the Rhythm & Blues Foundation.

Betty Comden, 89, who teamed with collaborator Adolph Green to write the book and lyrics for acclaimed film and stage musicals including "Singin' in the Rain" and "On the Town." Working under producer Arthur Freed at MGM, Comden and Green penned the screenplays for "The Band Wagon," "It's Always Fair Weather," "Good News," "The Barkleys of Broadway" and "Wonderful Town."

Sid Davis, 90, who produced more than 180 short educational films in the 1950s and '60s warning teenagers of the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, vandalism, stealing and other social ills. He had worked as a stand-in for John Wayne, who loaned Davis $5,000 to launch his production company.

Gary Graver, 68, a cinematographer who worked with Orson Welles in the final years of the director's life and fought unsuccessfully for decades to see Welles' final film finished and released.

Marian Marsh Henderson, 93, a popular 1930s actress who made more than 40 films, notably "Svengali" opposite John Barrymore.

Perry Henzell, 70, a filmmaker whose 1972 hit "The Harder They Come" starring musician Jimmy Cliff helped introduce reggae and Jamaican pop culture to the world.

John Higgins, 45, a veteran cable TV reporter and editor for Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News.

Buddy Killen, 73, a Nashville songwriter who helped launch Dolly Parton's career.

Gerald Levert, 40, a 1980s R&B hitmaker and son of O'Jays vocalist Eddie Levert. He performed with LeVert (with his brother Sean) and LSG (with Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill.)

Robert Lockwood Jr., 91, a Mississippi Delta blues guitarist who was taught to play by his stepfather, Robert Johnson.

Paul Mauriat, 81, a conductor whose "Love Is Blue" topped U.S. charts in 1968. Editor's Note: a song now battling inside my head for dominance (with "My Sharona).

Philippe Noiret, 76, a French actor known for roles in "Il Postino" and "Cinema Paradiso."

Tom Noonan, 78, the creator of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and longtime steward of the publication's charts department.

Anita O'Day, 87, a jazz vocalist renowned for her hard-living ways and respected for her unique singing style.

Basil Poledouris, 61, a film composer who won an Emmy for the 1989 miniseries "Lonesome Dove." Editor's Note: Do not forsake me, oh my darlin.....Great. The music in my head is really getting LOUD, now. (Drowning out the VOICES, I guess?)

Leonard Schrader, 62, a screenwriter Oscar-nominated for 1985's "Kiss of the Spider Woman" and the brother of filmmaker Paul Schrader.

Jeremy Slate, 80, an actor who co-wrote and starred in the cult film "Hell's Angels '69," appeared on the daytime drama "One Life to Live" for eight seasons and guest starred on nearly 100 TV shows.

Adrienne Shelly, 40, an actress, writer and director known for dark comedies, including 1989's "The Unbelievable Truth" and 1990's "Trust."

Raul Velasco, 73, former host of "Siempre en Domingo," one of Mexico's most popular and enduring TV programs, which has been compared to "The Ed Sullivan Show."

Shirley Walker, 61, a prolific film and TV music composer and one of the few women to make a mark in the competitive music scoring arena. Her credits include the "Final Destination" horror film series and animated "Batman" and "Superman" series.

Frank Stanton, 98, the pioneering audience researcher and broadcasting executive whose nearly 30-year tenure as CBS president included the milestones of pushing for the first televised presidential debates in 1960 and staring down a congressional hearing into a CBS News documentary on the Pentagon in 1971.

Stanton served as the right-hand man to legendary CBS founder William S. Paley, and the two shepherded CBS' growth from a radio broadcaster into a multiplatform media concern worth $1 billion by the end of the 1960s.

Stanton, who held the job of CBS president longer than anyone in the company's history, was revered within CBS as a man of great intellect and principal. He fiercely defended the First Amendment and was cited for contempt by a congressional committee when he refused to turn over CBS News' notes on the 1971 "CBS Reports: The Selling of the Pentagon" expose of the propaganda campaign mounted by the Pentagon to foster support for the Vietnam war. Editor's Note: My how times have changed...sigh....

Ahmet Ertegun, 83, co-founder of Atlantic Records and an influential force in contemporary music in helping develop the careers of acts as diverse as Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. Born in Istanbul, Turkey, Ertegun began his lifelong love affair with jazz when his father was serving as an ambassador in London and his older brother, Atlantic co-founder Nesuhi Ertegun, took him to see concerts by Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington.

Formed in 1947, Atlantic enjoyed a string of hits in the late 1940s and early '50s thanks to a potent talent roster that included Ruth Brown, LaVern Baker, Big Joe Turner, the Drifters and the Coasters. Ertegun maintained his hands-on role at the label into the 1970s and '80s, when he helped guide the careers of Bette Midler, Roberta Flack, ABBA, Foreigner and Genesis, among others.

James Brown, 73, the undeniable "Godfather of Soul," whose classic singles include "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Living in America." One of the major musical influences of the past 50 years, Brown was to rhythm and dance music what Bob Dylan was to lyrics.

From Mick Jagger to Michael Jackson, David Bowie to Public Enemy, his rapid-footed dancing, hard-charging beats and heartfelt yet often unintelligible vocals changed the musical landscape.

He was one of the first artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and other founding fathers. "He was an innovator, he was an emancipator, he was an originator. Rap music, all that stuff came from James Brown," Little Richard, a longtime friend of Brown's, told MSNBC.

Joe Barbera, 95, half of the Hanna-Barbera animation team that produced such beloved cartoon characters as Tom & Jerry, Yogi Bear, the Flintstones and the Jetsons.

With partner Bill Hanna, Barbera first found success in the late 1930s creating the fussin' and fightin' Tom & Jerry cartoons at MGM. In the '50s, as founders and partners in Hanna-Barbera Studios, they discovered a whole new realm of success starting with animated TV comedies.

Hanna-Barbera Studios would rake in eight Emmys, including the Governors Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1988, and Barbera and Hanna were elected to the ATAS Hall of Fame in 1994.

Peter Boyle, 71, whose versatility as a character actor took him from the Vietnam-era angst of "Joe" to a tap-dancing monster in "Young Frankenstein" to the cranky paterfamilias of the Barone clan on the sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond."

With his bald pate, wide forehead, dark eyebrows and eyes that could jut from side to side, Boyle flashed a manic glint that could be scary or endearing. A one-time monastery student, he turned to acting after he felt the "normal pull of the world and the flesh." Boyle earned 10 Emmy nominations in his long career, seven of them for his role as Frank Barone on "Raymond."

Editor's Note: Rest in Peace to all. And to all the dweebpals, have a festive and safe New Year's Eve!

Catching up with HARRY POTTER

EDITOR'S NOTE: Shall we start this last day of 2006 with a really lovely picture? (yes, we SHALL)!

Editor's note: He's looking more and more like Roger Rees every day, huh?

Britain's postal service gears up for final Harry Potter book launch

December 29, 2006 (LONDON) - Britain's mail service is conferring with retailers and renting out hundreds of extra trucks in anticipation of the launch of the seventh -- and final -- installment of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.

The launch date for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" has yet to be announced, but the Royal Mail has already begun gearing up for the challenge of delivering the final volume to the hundreds of thousands of fans who are expected to order it before publication.

"We're already planning for the launch," Royal Mail spokesman James Eadie said Thursday. "We're talking to retailers about what volumes they expect, and what they expect from us, so that we can put the logistics in place to deliver on the date of issue."

More than 500,000 advance order copies of the sixth adventure, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" were delivered on July 16, 2005, in an operation that required some 150 additional trucks ferrying books to around 1,400 delivery offices across Britain.

While the number represents only a fraction of the 80 million items the Royal Mail delivers daily, the security -- and secrecy -- surrounding the work mean the books have to spend as little time as possible on warehouse floors, complicating their distribution. The 652-page "Half-Blood Prince" weighed in at just under 2.2 pounds, forcing postal workers into vans to avoid overloading their carrier bags.

The movement of the trucks is being coordinated in advance to avoid congestion and local post offices are also considering bringing in extra staff to deal with the overflow of books, Eadie said.

The climax of the Rowling's wildly popular fantasy series has coincided with the increasing popularity of Internet shopping, resulting in record-breaking numbers of same-day orders for a single item, according to the Royal Mail. About one in every 50 British households ordered a copy of the book last year, with one in every 18 addresses receiving a copy of the book in some neighborhoods.

Amazon's British Web site already lists "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" as its No. 1 book, based on advance orders. The title of the final Potter adventure was announced last week.