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Channel Surfing: Holiday Wishes from "Fringe," Fontana Returns to "Philanthropist," Budget Cuts at 20th TV, and More

Welcome to your Wednesday morning television briefing.

20th Century Fox Television has slashed its production budgets across the board, joining a slew of entertainment companies including ABC Studios cutting budgets due to the economic downturn. All of 20th's producers have been told to reduce their budgets by two percent. The budget cuts will affect both existing series such as 24 as well as new productions, including Joss Whedon's Dollhouse for FOX and ABC's Life on Mars. (TV Week)

In yet another behind-the-scenes twist (each far more interesting than the series itself), Tom Fontana has returned to oversee NBC's midseason drama The Philanthropist, where he will replace David Eick (leaving to focus his attentions on Caprica)... who had replaced him as showrunner/executive producer on the project back in April. Creative differences between Fontana and Universal Media Studios have said to have been worked out and Fontana has returned to oversee writing on the eight-episode series, starring James Purefoy, Jesse L. Martin, and Neve Campbell. (Variety)

HBO has cast two actresses in True Blood's sophomore season: Anna Camp (Equus) will play Sarah, the wife of Steve Newlin, a series-regular role, while Ashley Jones (The Bold and the Beautiful) has come on board in a six-episode arc as Daphne, a new waitress at Merlotte's and a possible new love interest for Sam. (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

More saber-rattling in the battle between the studios and SAG as the studios look to explore their options with AFTRA, with whom the AMPTP signed a primetime-film contract earlier this year, in light of stalled negotiations with SAG. 20th Century Fox Television is considering shooting all of its pilots under AFTRA rather than SAG (it reversed a previous statement that seemed to indicate it would move all productions under AFTRA) and has already shot two pilots--Boldly Going Nowhere and Better Off Ted--with AFTRA. Warners is said to be exploring working with AFTRA on digital productions; ABC Studios comedy In the Motherhood will be AFTRA-based; Universal Media Studios has two pilots--Off Duty and drama Lost & Found--under AFTRA. Sony typically works with AFTRA and has shot two pilots already with the union, including Eve Adams for FOX and ABC's The Unusuals. Any switch to AFTRA would only affect new pilots and series so current series would stay organized under their curent union deals. (Hollywood Reporter)

Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show) will guest star in a five-episode story arc on Season Two of AMC's Breaking Bad, where he will play "a slippery, ambulance-chasing lawyer who winds up serving as consigliere to Walt (Bryan Cranston)." Also on tap for Season Two: a three-episode arc featuring Star Trek: The Next Generation's John de Lancie. (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

Cloris Leachman and Jessica Alba will guest star alongside the previously announced Jack Black in the post-Super Bowl episode of NBC's The Office, where they will play Hollywood stars in a film that appears on-screen on the series. (Zap2It)

Despite getting closure in the form of some additional scenes for the Pushing Daisies finale, creator Bryan Fuller does intend to keep the franchise going in comic book form. (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

Under SVP Jeremy Gold, Endemol USA has set up a dozen drama and comedy projects at various broadcast and cable networks, including Hell on Wheels, a Western drama at AMC about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad from writer/executive producers Tony and Joe Gayton; Manager/Husband, a family comedy at FOX about a talent manager and his 22-year-old pop singer wife from writer/executive producers Jim O'Doherty and David Israel and 20th Century Fox Television; It's Not You, It's Me, a single-camera female-driven comedy at HBO; animated series Joe Cartoon at Comedy Central; Julia's Tango, a US adaptation of a Dutch soap format for SoapNet; and an untitled project at CW about four Dallas-based nannies and the families they work for from Ugly Betty writers Veronica Becker and Sarah Kucserk and Warner Bros. TV. (Variety)

Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films has left ABC for HBO, where it will develop scripted television series, telepics, and documentaries for the pay cabler. (Los Angeles Times)

Finally, the cast and crew of FOX's Fringe offered up the below holiday-themed video that also happens to recap most of the series' action so far.

Stay tuned.


Anonymous said…
Ah, so Jack Black, Jessica Alba, etc. will just in a fake movie on The Office? I thought we'd actually get to see Jack Black and Steve Carell in a scene together. Oh, well.

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