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Channel Surfing: Showtime Renews "Jackie" and "Tara," MTV Axes "The Hills," Ricky Gervais to "Curb," Mary McDonnell Returns to "The Closer," and More

Welcome to your Friday morning television briefing.

Huzzah! Just a few days after returning Nurse Jackie and United States of Tara to the lineup, pay cabler Showtime has handed out series renewals to both comedies, ordering twelve-episode third seasons for both, which will begin production later this year. "Showtime is enormously proud of these two series starring two of the best actresses working today," said Showtime President of Entertainment Robert Greenblatt. "Both are iconic shows for our brand and our thanks to the dedicated producers, cast, and crews who work so hard to make them so great. Edie Falco's portrayal of the fierce Jackie is another extraordinary example of her range and brilliance, and recent Emmy and Golden Globe wins for Toni Collette in her tour de force role as a woman with multiple personalities put her in a class by herself. Strong women will continue to rule on this network for a long time to come." (via press release)

Sayonara Heidi and Spencer! MTV has opted to cancel its reality series The Hills after six seasons. The series, which originally starred Lauren Conrad, fell sharply in the ratings after Conrad left. The final twelve episodes of The Hills begin April 27th. (Hollywood Reporter's The Live Feed)

E! Online's Watch with Kristin is reporting that Larry David has approached Ricky Gervais about appearing on a potential eighth season of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm. David indicated that he should know about the fate of Curb within the next month or so but that he's already working on some ideas and has approached Gervais about a guest appearance on the improvised comedy series. (E! Online's Watch with Kristin)

Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello is reporting that Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica) is set to return to TNT's The Closer during the series' sixth season, where she will reprise her role as Captain Sharon Raydor. McDonnell is set to appear in at least five episodes and will, according an unnamed insider, "create situations that come between Brenda and Pope." (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

SPOILERS! Grey's Anatomy creator/executive producer Shonda Rhimes has written a teaser for the "game changing" season finale of Grey's Anatomy while guest blogging at Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files and offers several spoilers that are leading up to a major "game changer." (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

Syfy has given a pilot order to live-action comedy Saved by Zeroes, from creator/star Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville), Sony Pictures Television, and Happy Madison. Rosenbaum will star alongside Jonathan Silverman; they will play "two friends, former actors on a science fiction show that has since developed a cult following, who have hit rock bottom and must work together to get their lives back on track." Project is loosely based on Rosenbaum's real-life experiences. "Through drugs and drinking, (the characters played by Rosenbaum and Silverman) didn't save money and, years later, the only thing they have left are the conventions, all they've got are their loyal, devoted fans," Rosenbaum told Nellie Andreeva. "Our show is not about being in the business, it's about being out of the business; it's the 'Non-tourage.' We're the losers you want to see back on top." (Hollywood Reporter)

Don Johnson is in talks to star in ABC comedy pilot Southern Discomfort, where he will play "a tough, hard-core conservative Texan whose life is turned upside down when his grown kids move back in." Project has also cast Steve Talley (American Pie Presents Beta House), who will play Johnson's oldest son, described as "a slacker who kissed off a baseball scholarship to pursue writing." (Hollywood Reporter)

Executive news we can all be happy about: Nikki Finke reported that FOX Entertainment will keep Kevin Reilly at the helm for another three years, following the successful closing of a new deal. (His current deal wasn't set to expire until July but the network wanted to lock him in now.) (Deadline)

FOX will pair Hell's Kitchen with new culinary competition series MasterChef beginning July 29th. The latter, executive produced by Gordon Ramsay, will feature Ramsay, Joe Bastianich, and Graham Elliot Bowles. (Hollywood Reporter's The Live Feed)

Pilot casting updates: Terry Kinney (The Unusuals) has been cast in CBS cop drama pilot The Line (also known as ATF), where he will play "a bank robber who is a poet, philosopher and sociopath." Elsewhere, Thomas Middleditch (Splinterheads) has been cast in Josh Schwartz and Matt Miller's CBS comedy pilot Hitched, where he will play the best friend of a newlywed couple (Kristin Kreuk and Jack Carpenter). (Hollywood Reporter)

Elsewhere, Jon Bernthal (The Ghost Writer) has been cast in AMC zombie drama pilot Walking Dead, where he will play Shane, the outgoing partner to cop Rick Grimes (as yet uncast); Brandon Routh (Chuck), Hal Linden (A Kiss at Midnight), Amir Arison (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), Tina Majorino (Big Love), and Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show) have all been cast in TBS' hour-long comedy In Security; Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon (Eyes), Reed Diamond (Dollhouse), and Dana Davis (The Nine) have landed roles on TBS comedy pilot Franklin and Bash; and Tim Jo and Josh Brener have joined the cast of period fraternity comedy pilot Glory Daze. (Hollywood Reporter)

The Wrap's Josef Adalian takes a look at whether NBC is going to be able to turn itself around, pointing to some stability in the schedule, improving ratings, and some new series--like Parenthood and The Marriage Ref--that are plugging some holes. (The Wrap's TVMoJoe)

After 27 years, UK's ITV has opted to cancel long-running cop drama The Bill, citing plummeting ratings despite a revamp last year and a change to a new timeslot. At least 90 jobs will be lost from the cancellation while ITV plans to use the savings--worth several million pounds sterling--to invest in shorter-form drama in the 9 pm hour, including a medical series from writer Peter Bowker (Occupation) and a drama from Anthony Horowitz (Collision). "The Bill has been a fixture on our screens for more than 25 years and has been the home of some of the UK's best serial drama storylines, and a great showcase for terrific scriptwriting and fine acting talent," said Peter Fincham, ITV's director of television, channels and online. "But times change, and so do the tastes of our audience. Whilst The Bill will come to an end in 2010, we will continue to invest more in drama programming than any other commercial broadcaster in the UK and viewers can look forward to a wide range of high quality drama on ITV1." (Guardian)

In other UK television news, Suranne Jones (Five Days) will star opposite David Tennant in BBC One's four-part drama series Single Father. She'll play Sarah, the best friend of the deceased wife of Dave (Tennant), whom he falls for while attempting to raise his four children after the death of his wife. (BBC)

TV Guide Magazine's Will Keck is reporting that Michael Vartan's Dr. Tom Wakefield will become romantically entangled with Jada Pinkett Smith's Dr. Christina Hawthorne this season on TNT's HawthoRNe. "We get it on very early," Vartan told Keck. "I think it’s a good time for this to happen because you never know how long a show’s going to run, so go full steam while you can." (TV Guide Magazine)

Michael Tolkin (Nine) is developing two drama projects with Marti Noxon and Dawn Parouse's Grady Twins production company, including a NBC drama he's writing with Noxon about a musician with a jealous manager, and an untitled FX drama about a family in the midst of a world apocalypse. (Variety)

TV Guide Network has acquired rerun rights to Showtime's dark comedy series Weeds, which is produced by Lionsgate Television--which just happens to be a co-owner of the cable network. Weeds is likely to launch on TV Guide Network this fall, where it will be join such off-network acquisitions as Curb Your Enthusiasm and Ugly Betty. (via press release)

Bunim-Murray Prods. has been acquired by French company Banijay Entertainment in a deal said to be in the eight-figure range. Jonathan Murray will remain in place as chairman under the terms of the deal, along with president Gil Goldschein. (Variety)

Wipeout executive producer Matt Kunitz has signed a two-year deal that will keep him based at Endemol, overseeing ABC's reality series Wipeout, and developing new broadcast and cable programming for the reality giant. He's hired Rebecca Shumsky as creative executive as part of his new deal. (Variety)

Stay tuned.

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