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Channel Surfing: Critical Darling "Parks and Recreation," NBC to Give Away Restaurant Chain, Brooke Shields Heads to "The Middle," and More

Welcome to your Thursday morning television briefing.

Los Angeles Times' Denise Martin explores just how the executive producers of NBC's Parks and Recreation were able to turn their struggling comedy around in its second season to become a critical darling, as she speaks with creators Greg Daniels and Mike Schur and series lead Amy Poehler. "Her struggle throughout the series is trying not to become jaded," said Poehler of Leslie Knope. "Can she fight feeling like she'll never be able to change anything? Will she get caught up in political gain in a way that will make her lose track of why she started in the first place? Ultimately, we do want her to succeed -- and I love that! -- but in really small ways and with very little power. I love that too. I'm a sucker for pathos." (Los Angeles Times)

NBC is giving away a restaurant chain. Yes, you read that correctly: the Peacock has ordered a reality competition series, with the tentative title of United Plates of America, in which the grand prize is the opportunity to launch a chain of restaurants. Series, from Top Chef producers Magical Elves, will have a group of contestants "compete to impress a panel of wealthy investors from the cooking and business world," with "challenges [that] will test competitors' savvy on such subjects as their restaurant's concept, menu and marketability and their ability to manage staff," according to the Hollywood Reporter's James Hibberd. No word on airdate yet or who the panel of experts will be, though the winner's restaurants will open in four US cities on the night of the season finale. Series is executive produced by Jane Lipsitz and Dan Cutforth. (Hollywood Reporter)

Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello is reporting that Brooke Shields will guest star on an upcoming episode of ABC's The Middle, where she will play a nemesis of Patricia Heaton's Frankie. "She’s a single mother with four sons that terrorize the neighborhood," an unnamed insider within the production tells Ausiello. "Everyone wants to stay on her good side. Patricia’s character tries to keep the peace." (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

Lauren Stamile (Grey's Anatomy) is set to return to NBC's Community in a multiple-episode story arc where she will reprise her role as Jeff's statistics professor and his would-be lover (last seen in the Halloween episode). Click over to read Megan Master's interview with Stamile and Joel McHale if you want to learn just what's going on between their two characters. (E! Online's Watch with Kristin)

In other Community-related news,'s Natalie Abrams talks to Community's always lovely Yvette Nicole Brown about what's coming up on the NBC comedy for her character Shirley. "It's been amazing," said Brown when asked about Community's full season order. "Every week we're finding out that more and more people are watching. We're like, "Really? We got five more people? Awesome!" We're looking at it as a grass-roots movement and every bit by bit we're going to keep growing. Slow and steady wins the race, so we're tortoises, maybe not hares." (

The 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards have been announced for August 29th on NBC. And, yes, it's been shifted into August to avoid clashing with the Peacock's Sunday Night Football. Nominations for the Emmys will be announced on Thursday, July 8th. Mark your calendars. (Variety)

E! Online's Jennifer Godwin talks with Grey's Anatomy star Kevin McKidd about Owen's relationship with Sandra Oh's Cristina, among other topics. "I don't think the PTSD thing is over for Owen," said McKidd. "I think we're going to see more of that. The thing about post-traumatic stress disorder is that you can learn to manage in your life, but you can never fully get rid of it. I think that is going to come back to haunt him. I would hope, I don't know, but I would hope that we're going to see and deal with it in a very different way than he did last year. He was in denial about this thing that he had last year, and now he knows fully that he has this thing, and that is part of the process. I want to see that. I want to see him deal with it again but in a much more reformed way because that is the true journey of post-traumatic stress disorder." (E! Online's Watch with Kristin)

Diana-Maria Riva (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) has been cast opposite Colin Hanks and Bradley Whitford in FOX's cop drama Jack and Dan, where she will play Lt. Katerine Anderson, the cops' boss and a former partner of Dan (Whitford). Meanwhile, Tim Matheson (Burn Notice) will direct the pilot for the 13-episode series. (Hollywood Reporter)

Comedy Central has ordered six episodes of John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show, a standup comedy series to be hosted by John Oliver (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) which will feature such comedians as Janeane Garofalo, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Brian Posehn, Nick Kroll, and Kristen Schaal. Series is slated to launch January 8th at 11 pm ET/PT. (Variety)

Pilot casting alert: Kiele Sanchez (Lost) and Carlos Gomez (Weeds) have been cast opposite Matt Passmore in A&E drama pilot Sugarloaf, from Fox Television Studios and writer Clifton Campbell. Sanchez will play Callie, a nurse and single mom who works at a pizza place to pay for school, who becomes the love interest for Passmore's Jim, a former Chicago cop kicked off of the force who moves to Florida and joins the state police. Gomez will play "Jim's golf partner, friend and colleague, a forensic medical examiner." (Hollywood Reporter)

Return dates for ABC Family's stable of series: The Secret Life of the American Teenager and Make It or Break It are set to return to the schedule on January 4th, while new episodes of Greek kick off on Monday, January 25th. (Hollywood Reporter)

HBO has renewed Real Time with Bill Maher for an eighth season. (Variety)

BBC has confirmed that the title of the Doctor Who Christmas special is "The End of Time, Part One." It's the first time since the relaunch of the series that a two-parter would be given the same episode title. It's expected that the second half of David Tennant swan song on the series will air in the UK on New Year's Eve. (Digital Spy)

Cabler G4 has ordered ten half-hour episodes of reality series Campus PD, which will follow college campus police officers in five American college towns. Series will debut on December 9th. (Hollywood Reporter's The Live Feed)

Stay tuned.


AskRachel said…
Hmmm...United Plates of America kind of sounds like Last Restaurant Standing (but with a much lamer title).

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