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The Daily Beast: "Hollywood Takes on Autism"

Over at The Daily Beast, you can find my latest piece, entitled "Hollywood Takes on Autism." The article explores the portrayals of people with autism spectrum disorders in pop culture, from films like Dear John and Adam to television series like Grey's Anatomy, Parenthood, Community , and The Big Bang Theory . I also talk to some of theses projects' creators--including Community creator Dan Harmon and Parenthood showrunner Jason Katims--about why they are--or aren't--labeling their characters as autistic. Head to the comments section to be sure and let me know what your take is on this trend and whether it matters or not that these characters are labeled or whether it's the discussion of neurodiversity that their presence creates that's far more important.

Channel Surfing: CW Renews Five, Kripke Steps Down from "Supernatural," Dinosaurs (and Spielberg) at FOX, Montgomery and Blucas "True Blue," and More

Welcome to your Wednesday morning television briefing. The CW has given early renewals to five of its series, including freshman drama The Vampire Diaries , reality series America's Next Top Model , and Gossip Girl, Supernatural , and 90210 . However, not on the list are One Tree Hill , which has even odds at renewing, the ratings-starved Melrose Place , and newbie Life Unexpected , which has struggled in the ratings. ( Variety ) There's a bit of a caveat to that early Supernatural renewal. Entertainment Weekly 's Michael Ausiello is reporting that creator/executive producer Eric Kripke will be stepping down as showrunner on the Warner Bros. Television-produced series, with executive producer Sera Gamble set to take over the reins next season. "Kripke will remain actively involved in the show — and not just in name only," writes Ausiello. "Although CW and Warner Bros. reps declined to comment, a Supernatural insider assures me that Kripke and his current

Channel Surfing: "Chuck" and "Dollhouse" Still Bubbling Away, FOX and NBC Close to Locking Schedules, "Reaper" Not Dead Yet, and More

Welcome to your Thursday morning television briefing. Just what will happen with bubble series like Chuck and Dollhouse ? It looks like the fate of many of this year's bubble series, including those and such series as Cold Case, The Unit, My Name is Earl, Scrubs , Gary Unmarried, and Old Christine , will come down to the wire. "Negotiations continue on fan favorites Chuck and Dollhouse , with the shows facing cost-cutting requests from their respective networks, NBC and Fox, and their pickup odds seeming to shift from moment to moment," writes Hollywood Reporter 's James Hibberd. "Both could go down to the wire." ( Hollywood Reporter ) FOX and NBC are close to locking their fall schedules and will do so by tomorrow. FOX is said to be considering ordering a sixth season of reality series So You Think You Can Dance to air this fall, immediately after the fifth season runs this summer. Other possibilities include overweight dating series The Fatchelor , wh

Channel Surfing: Jennifer Esposito Gets "Burn Notice," Chevy Chase Finds "Community" Spirit at NBC, "Top Model" Riot, and More

Welcome to your Monday morning television briefing. Samantha Who? 's Jennifer Esposito has been cast in a multiple-episode story arc on USA's Burn Notice , where she will play Michelle Paxon, "a Miami PD detective who becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth about Michael." Esposito is expected to first turn up at the start of Season Three of Burn Notice , scheduled to debut in June. ( Entertainment Weekly' s Ausiello Files ) Chevy Chase, who'll be seen later this season on NBC's Chuck , has been cast as one of the leads in NBC's comedy pilot Community , where he will play a community college student who has been married five times, opposite Joel McHale. Pilot will be directed by Joe and Anthony Russo ( Arrested Development ). ( Hollywood Reporter ) Richard Dreyfuss ( Tin Man ) and Jason Biggs ( The Pleasure of Your Company ) will star in CBS comedy pilot Happiness Isn't Everything , about adult siblings and their parents who are "overinv

The Goddess Was Discovered By Her Gait: "Top Model" Looks to Scale Mount Olympus in Cycle Twelve

Oh, the shrieking. Yes, I'm talking about yet another cycle of the ubiquitous CW reality competition series America's Next Top Model , which kicks off its twelfth cycle tonight. This season seems to be especially high on high-impact casting: it seems as though each of the contestants this year seems to have some sort of life-changing experience, medical issue, or just plain "quirky" backstory that the producers are thrusting front and center. In the first hour alone, we're introduced to an epileptic, a burns survivor, a girl so obsessed with blood that she's been craving a nosebleed all of her life, a street preacher, and a woman who spends two nights in a toilet stall in Manhattan's Port Authority so she can audition for the series... and, we're told, whose infant daughter died from an epileptic fit. Overkill? Yep, it's all a little much and this type of casting threatens to turn Top Model into yet another iteration of host/executive producer

Channel Surfing: Delany Wonders Who Will Be Next to Leave Wisteria Lane, CW Orders "Melrose Place," Starz Renews "Crash," and More

Welcome to your Tuesday morning television briefing. Dana Delany admitted that none of Wisteria Lane's residents feel exactly safe these days, following the announcement that Nicollette Sheridan will leave Desperate Housewives . "Everyone is vulnerable on Wisteria Lane -- any of us could go," said Delany. "Every single person in that cast feels like their days are numbered. I think [Marc Cherry] likes to keep people on their toes." An upcoming storyline will find Delany's Katherine in potential jeopardy. "It's good," said Delany of the upcoming plot, "because that sense of not knowing keeps the actors on their toes and it keeps the audience anticipating." ( Entertainment Weekly 's Ausiello Files ) Pilot helmer alert: The CW has given an official pilot order to Melrose Place , an update of the soap to be overseen by Darren Swimmer and Todd Slavkin ( Smallville ). Pilot, from CBS Paramount Network Television, will be directed by D

Channel Surfing: "Fringe" to Move Production to Canada, "Dollhouse" Drops in Second Week, Pilot Castings, and More

Welcome to your Monday morning television briefing. Hopefully everyone is recovered from Oscar weekend and perhaps some of you even made some quick cash from some Oscar pools. FOX drama Fringe will move its production from New York City, where it has shot its first season, to Vancouver, Canada, should the series be renewed for a second season. The decision, made by studio Warner Bros. Television, is said to have been made because of the likelihood that New York State's film/TV production tax incentive initiative funds, which have run out of coin, will not be replenished. "In this challenging and uncertain economic environment, we have made the very difficult decision to move," said Warner Bros. in a statement. "We did not come to this conclusion easily, but economic and practical imperatives dictated that this decision be made in a timely manner." ( Entertainment Weekly ) In its second outing, FOX's Dollhouse fell fifteen percent in the ratings on Friday

Channel Surfing: "Life on Mars" Co-Creator Likes US Version; Jamie Bamber "Too Scared" to Play the Doctor, Potential SAG Strike, and More

Welcome to your Tuesday morning television briefing. While everyone is buzzing about the possible SAG strike, I hope you all tuned in to last night's episode of Chuck , the final piece of the three-part Jill storyline. Life on Mars co-creator Ashley Pharoah has praised the US version of the series, calling it "marvelous." In New York to receive an International Emmy for best drama for the original UK version of Life on Mars , Pharoah was pleased that the producers had changed the mythology of the series for the US audience and that the studio had moved the action from LA (where it was based for David E. Kelley's original pilot ) to gritty New York City. "They're changing the mythology, which I think is all right," said Pharoah. "It has to be different. Otherwise everyone just goes on YouTube and sees how it ends." ( Hollywood Reporter ) Just how would a SAG strike affect a television industry still recovering from the crippling 100-day WGA s

Over the Top and Into the Distant Future on "Top Model"

America's Next Top Model has never been a bastion of high-quality entertainment; there's always been a guilty pleasure aspect to watching the series, which pits a group of naive (and often aggressive) girls against one another as they live in a plush house (which never seems to have enough bedrooms) and compete for a Cover Girl cosmetics contract and an agency deal with Elite Model Management. And yet throughout the many cycles of this reality competition, host/executive producer Tyra Banks has managed to make the series a platform for her talk show host persona, one which embraces the differences in people (i.e., Heather) while also holding up some of the very same stereotypes she wants to shatter (telling a plus-size model that she's too thin). I do have to give her credit for being a shrewd producer and for celebrating diversity among the model wannabe population. This cycle of Top Model has made headlines because of its inclusion of the series' first transsexual

Exclusive: "Top Model" Tranny Contestant No Stranger to the Series

Much has been made of the decision by the producers of CW's America's Next Top Model to include a transsexual among the mix of girls vying for the top prize on the next cycle of the reality competition series. The CW announced earlier this week that Isis, a 22-year-old former office assistant from Maryland, would be among the pack of wannabe models competing for that Cover Girl contract this fall. Isis, who was born as a male, would be the first transsexual contestant to make it on the series, though previously another transsexual named Claudia Charriez had made it to the semi-final rounds, though she was disqualified because of her status as a transsexual. Take a look at this clip of Claudia discussing her brush with Top Model on the first season of The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency [via fourfour ]: Which brings us to today. It seems as though the producers have changed their tune from when Claudia auditioned originally for Top Model , given that they are now allo

Whitney and Anya Size Up the Competition on the Season Finale of "Top Model"

I am very happy about the outcome of last night's season finale of America's Next Top Model ("And the Winner is..."), especially going into the final round with three really strong competitors in Whitney, Fatima, and Anya. These girls were strong models, took consistently great photographs, and each represented a different facet of beauty in a compelling, different way. I thought they all did much better with the English-language Cover Girl commercial than most of the other girls from previous cycles of the series, who always had problems memorizing the copy, looking pretty and happy, and just being generally convincing in front of the camera. I thought Whitney looked great and totally did the signature Cover Girl smile with poise and perfection. Anya actually did a better job than I thought she would, given her strange pidgin accent (which always sounds more Eastern European to me than Hawaiian) and the copy was a series of hard-to-say tongue-twisters. (I still can

Long Live the (Drag) Queen on "Top Model"

I cannot even tell you how happy I am this morning after watching last night's episode of Top Model ("Ready for My Close-Up"). The competition was down to the final four girls and, while I was sad to see Kat go last week, I was (mostly) happy with the remaining models. That is, with the notable exception of Dominique. Over the past season, Dominique has transformed herself into an unlikeable, overly-confident, agressive candyholic who thrives on conflict and pushing people's buttons. I think she photographs extremely old and, while she has shown some signs of improvement, her photos--even when the judges praise them--seem extremely lackluster and flat. Her appearances at judging are comical... and terrifying. Just take a look at last week's, er, Flashdance-inspired ensemble to see what I mean. She just doesn't look like a model, not even for a second. Her revamped hairstyle make her look like a soccer mom and her clothing selections make her seem not so much

XOXO, CW: "Gossip Girl" and Five Other Series Renewed

Fans of freshman drama Gossip Girl can rest a little easier: the series will be returning for a second season of Manhattan-based intrigue and innuendo next season. (Maybe the mysterious Gossip Girl herself had some dirt on Dawn Ostroff?) Gossip Girl was one of six series that received early renewal orders today from netlet The CW, according to a press release issued by the network. Other CW series getting the thumbs up for the 2008-09 season include America's Next Top Model, One Tree Hill, Smallville, Supernatural , and Everybody Hates Chris . All six series will return for the fall season, while the lack of a mention for freshman comedy Aliens in America does not bode well for that series. Also missing from the renewal list: Reaper . Stay tuned.

Sneak Peak: The First Two Episodes of Catfights-and-Catwalks Series "Top Model"

Confession: I came to Top Model pretty late in the game, despite some people (ahem, you know who you are!) telling me that I had to tune in for several seasons (sorry, cycles). I'm glad that I did end up succumbing to its twisted spell; the series is pretty darn addictive, if only for its unintentional humor, surreal photo shoots, and the high drama and (sometimes) high fashion of its abrasive contestants. So I was overjoyed to take a sneak peek over the holiday weekend at the tenth cycle's first two episodes and look at some of the drastic changes in store for the CW-based reality series. It's definitely hard for a series like Top Model to sustain the same energy and drive of earlier seasons, but so far this season proves to have a new spark, perhaps due to the series moving production from Los Angeles to that fashion epicenter, Manhattan. The first hour, which airs on Wednesday evening, is the typical casting special we've come to know and love from previous cycle

America's Next Top... Cover Girl?

I swear, if Chantal won this season on America's Next Top Model , I was going to stop watching this series because I just could not take it seriously anymore. Whew. Fortunately, Chantal didn't walk away with the top prize--the cover of Seventeen magazine and a $100K contract with Cover Girl Cosmetics (as Tyra reminds us each and every week)--but I was blown away by the fact that she was chosen first at the judging panel and guaranteed a place in the final two, a move which eliminated far stronger competitor Jenah, whom I believe could actually have a future in high-fashion modeling. Rather than go into details about Top Model 's season finale, which as usual featured yet another Cover Girl photo shoot and commercial, I wanted to talk about something else: the complete and utter disconnect between what the judges claim they are looking for and what they actually end up awarding the top prize based upon. Throughout this entire competition, the judges continually harraung