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Channel Surfing: Penikett and Vandervoort Discover "Riverworld," Tennant and Davies Discuss Leaving "Doctor Who," Kal Penn Talks "House," and More

Welcome to your Tuesday morning television briefing.

Dollhouse star Tahmoh Penikett and Laura Vandervoort (Smallville) have been cast in Sci Fi's four-hour mini-seres Riverworld, from RHI Entertainment, which will function as a backdoor pilot of sorts for a possible series order (much in the way that the original Battlestar Galactica mini-series did). Also cast in the mini-series, based on a seires of novels by Phillip Jose Farmer: Alan Cumming, Jeanne Goossen, and Mark Deklin. Penikett will play Matt Ellman, a war correspondent who, along with his fiancee (Vandervoort) is killed, but they both awaken in a strange world inhabited by everyone who has ever lived on Earth. (Hollywood Reporter)

Meanwhile, Ryan Carnes (Desperate Housewives) will star as the titular character in the four-hour mini-series The Phantom, also from RHI Entertainment. Also cast: Isabella Rossellini, Cameron Goodman, and Sandrine Holt. (Hollywood Reporter)

David Tennant and executive producer Russell T. Davies discuss why they're leaving Doctor Who, what to expect with the upcoming Easter special "Planet of the Dead," and why Davies won't be writing a Star Wars series anytime soon. "People are going to be Doctor Who-deprived this year," said Davies of the Easter special, "so it’s got everything in it: CGI monsters, prosthetic monsters, army, police, an alien planet . . . It’s our last chance to have a bit of a laugh. Now the Doctor’s facing the end of his life, it’s going to get dark." (The Times of London)

SPOILER ALERT: Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello talks with House star Kal Penn about why he's leaving the FOX series for good and learns that Penn, whose character Kutner killed himself on last night's episode, has accepted a position within the Obama administration, where he will serve in the White House office of public liaison. "I thought this might be the right time to go off and do something else," said Penn. "The ultimate irony, of course, is that I love being on House. There's not a smarter group of people that I've been surrounded by in television. So I thought about it for a very long time before I went and talked to David and Katie." Ausiello also talks to David Shore and Katie Jacobs about their decision to have Kutner kill himself and the story behind Penn's departure from the series. "The suicide was essential to [the story]," said Shore. "The lack of reason behind it -- the lack of answers -- was what I responded to and is what I got excited about. House, the man of answers, doesn't have an answer about this guy who he has worked with for two years." (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

CCH Pounder (The Shield) has been cast in FOX comedy pilot Brothers, opposite Michael Strahan and Darryl "Chill" Mitchell, where she will play the mother to the former NFL player and his wheelchair-bound brother. Elsewhere, Elizabeth Regen (The Black Donnellys) has been cast in Lifetime's untitled Sherri Shepherd comedy pilot, where she will replace Melissa Rauch, and Elizabeth Ho has been added to the cast of NBC comedy pilot 100 Questions for Charlotte Payne, where she will play one of Charlotte's best friends and her business partner. (Hollywood Reporter)

The Los Angeles Times' Maria Elena Fernandez takes a look at the fact that of the 71 scripted pilots at the five networks, 33 are half-hour comedies and 19 are multi-camera. "The industry had been moving away from multi-cameras out of a sense that other formats offer more creative freedom," Jamie Erlicht, president of programming at Sony Pictures Television, told Fernandez. "But there's room for both and there's a real appetite in these economic times for the tried and true multi-camera format." NBC meanwhile has two multi-camera comedy pilots in contention for a series order. "We love that genre and we would have made more but we just didn't have as many strong multi-camera scripts as we did single-camera," said
Angela Bromstad, NBC President of Primetime Entertainment. "When you look at what's working and what is standing in a very crowded environment, the multi-cameras on CBS are doing very well and prove that it's not a dying format." (Los Angeles Times)

The CW is launching two new reality series this summer: six-episode Hitched or Ditched (formerly known as For Better or Worse), which focuses on long-term couples who are given an ultimatum to either get married or break up, and docusoap Blonde Charity Mafia, which was originally developed at Lifetime and follows four women in Washington D.C. who throw parties for the political elite.
Hitched or Ditched will launch on May 26th at 9 pm ET/PT, while Blonde Charity Mafia will start on Tuesday, July 7th. (Variety)

Speaking of which, The Washington Post's Lisa de Moraes discusses just how truthful of a "docusoap" Blonde Charity Mafia really is, pointing to the fact that the paper's Reliable Source column uncovered a shooting script for the series and that none of the series' four protagonists--described as Washington's "most influential 20-something Alpha Girls" who "run the D.C. social circuit from charity events to society parties"--are in fact on Washington Life's society list. (
Washington Post)

FOX executive Jonathan Wax is leaving the network after a decade and will take a position as VP of drama development at 20th Century Fox Television, where he will report to studio drama SVP Patrick Moran. Wax, while at FOX, had a hand in developing such series as Prison Break, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Bones, and Lie to Me. (Variety)

Sci Fi began production on Season Two of drama series Sanctuary, which is slated to air on the cabler this fall. Joining the cast of the series is Agam Darshi (The L Word) who will play Kate Freelancer, a grifter/thief who forms an "uneasy alliance" with Amanda Tapping's Dr. Helen Magnus after her working relationship with the Cabal turns sour. (via press release)

Sony Pictures Television has signed a two year overall deal with Alex Barnow and Marc Firek, writer/producers on FOX's 'Til Death. Under the terms of the deal, Barnow and Firek will leave the FOX comedy to work on another as-yet-unnamed Sony Pictures Television-produced series and have a blind script commitment from the studio. Their previous two-year deal expires in June. (Hollywood Reporter)

TV Land has renewed reality series High School Reunion for a third season that will air in third quarter 2009. This season will follow the graduates of Las Vegas' Chaparral High School Class of 1989 as the reunite in Hawaii. (TV Week)

Stay tuned.


Anonymous said…
Does this mean that Dollhouse is canceled????
AskRachel said…
Dollhouse hasn't been canceled...yet. But I don't think it's doing very well so I'm not too surprised to see Penikett attached to another project.

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