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Channel Surfing: USA Overhauls Its Schedule, Aunjanue Ellis Takes on "The Mentalist," "Big Love," BBC Confirms "Doctor Who" Dates, and More

Welcome to your Monday morning television briefing. For those of you Stateside, hope that you're feeling rested (and hopefully recovering from a few days of gluttony) after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Major changes afoot at USA, according to The Futon Critic's Brian Ford Sullivan. Rather than follow the plans the cabler had outlined for January, USA has chosen to revise its entire schedule, moving its series White Collar, Burn Notice, and Psych onto separate evenings, come January. White Collar will return to the lineup on January 19th, where it will move into its new timeslot of Tuesday evenings at 10 pm ET/PT. Meanwhile, Psych will take over the Wednesday night slot beginning January 27th and Burn Notice will remain on Thursdays, returning with new episodes on January 21st. The move gives the cabler original series on three weeknights. Perhaps a ploy to lure viewers from broadcast sibling NBC to some scripted fare at 10 pm? (Futon Critic)

Aunjanue Ellis (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) has been cast in CBS' The Mentalist in a major recurring role. Ellis will play "the beautiful but tough new head of the California Bureau of Investigation who is installed following the resignation of the unit's former chief, Virgil Minelli" (who is played by Gregory Itzin). Her first episode of the Warner Bros. Television-produced drama series will air in April. (Hollywood Reporter)

Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello has a first look at the official poster for Season Four of HBO's Big Love, which returns on January 10th. (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

BBC One has confirmed its airdates for David Tennant's final two Doctor Who specials, which will air on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, respectively. Doctor Who: The End of Time, Part Two is set to air at 7:30 pm GMT on New Year's Day, followed by EastEnders and the final episode of Gavin & Stacey. (Digital Spy)

Syfy has signed on as the US broadcaster for E1's international co-production of Haven, a thirteen-episode supernatural thriller based on Stephen King's "The Colorado Kid." Pilot will be written by Sam Ernest and Jim Dunn, who will executive produce with showrunner Scott Shepherd, Lloyd Segan, Shawn Piller, John Morayniss, and Noreen Halpern. (Variety)

Pilot casting alert: Lucas Black (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) and Cary Elwes (A Christmas Carol) have been cast in Epix pilot Tough Trade from Lionsgate Television. Black will play an exceptional guitarist and singer who could have followed in his family's musical legacy in Nashville but instead sells illegal ammunition. Elwes will play his father. Elsewhere, Garrett Dillahunt (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) has been cast in Greg Garcia's FOX comedy pilot Keep Hope Alive, where he will play the dysfunctional father of Lucas Neff's Jimmy, a man who has to raise his infant daughter--the product of a one-night stand--after the baby's mother winds up on death row. (Hollywood Reporter)

Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who) and Naoko Mori (Torchwood) have been cast in BBC Four's one-off biopic drama Lennon Naked, which will depict the life of John Lennon (Eccleston) between 1967 and 1971. Project, written by Robert Jones (Party Animals) and directed by Edmund Coulthard (Soundproof), will air in 2010. (BBC)

Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello has two exclusive images from the two-hour Smallville: Absolute Justice telepic, which introduces the Justice Society of America. Ausiello has one shot of Justin Hartley's Green Arrow tangling with Michael Shanks' Hawkman and another of Brent Stait's Doctor Fate and Britt Irvin's Stargirl. (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

Barry Sonnenfeld (Pushing Daisies) will direct ABC comedy pilot Funny in Farsi, based on Firoozeh Dumas' memoir about growing up in Newport Beach in the 1970s after leaving Iran, which was adapted by Jeffrey Hodes and Nastaran Dibai. (Hollywood Reporter)

Tony Curran will play Vincent Van Gogh in an upcoming episode of Doctor Who, slated to air next year as part of the Matt Smith-led Season Five that is written by Richard Curtis (Pirate Radio). ""We've got a brilliant guy playing Vincent van Gogh... He's a guy called Tony Curran, who really could not look more like [him]," Curtis told Bullz-Eye. "He's a wonderful actor who was in this brilliant movie called Red Road that came out, a rather serious movie. But he's going to be great. I’ve had a lot of fun. We start to shoot in about a month." (Digital Spy)

FOX is developing animated comedy series Rooster Tales with executive producers Matthew McConnaughy, Mark Gustawes, Mike McConaughey, and writer Kell Cahoon. Project is based on the life of Mike "Rooster" McConaughey, described as a "a beer-swilling, redneck sheriff who marries a much younger woman from Mexico [and] soon realizes, however, that he's gained not only a wife but an entire clan -- 114 members and counting." Project hails from 20th Century Fox Television and J.K. Livin'. (Variety)

Ryan Devlin (Veronica Mars) has been cast in ABC comedy Cougar Town, where he will recur as Smith, described as "a love interest for Laurie (Busy Philipps), Jules' (Courteney Cox) ditsy assistant and close friend." (Hollywood Reporter)

Callum Keith Rennie (Battlestar Galactica), Molly Parker (The Road) and Camille Sullivan (Da Vinci's Inquest) have been cast in E1's drama series Shattered, a Canadian series that the indie is shopping to international broadcasters. Project, which will air in Canada on Showcase, will revolve around a homicide detective (Rennie) with multiple personality disorder. (Variety)

TBS comedy VP Nina Howie is leaving the cabler after 3 1/2 years. No reason was given for her departure. (Hollywood Reporter)

Stay tuned.


Asta said…
The move gives the cabler original series on three weeknights. Perhaps a ploy to lure viewers from broadcast sibling NBC to some scripted fare at 10 pm?

My friends and I have been discussing that same theory. I also feel USA thought White Collar could benefit from having Burn Notice as a lead in, but the series seems capable of doing well on it's own. Jeff Eastin has tweeted about planning the second season, which leads me to believe USA has indicated to him the show has a future and they are willing to move the series if it doesn't take off at Tuesdays at 10:00.

Between USA, FX and TNT programming hour long dramas at 10 and pulling in more and more viewers at what point does NBC consider Leno a failure? And how long before they can lure talent back to develop scripted dramas?

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