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Channel Surfing: ABC Orders "Flash Forward," J.J. Abrams Teases "Fringe" Season Finale, Michael Trucco Shares "The Plan," and More

Welcome to your Monday morning television briefing.

In a move that surprised no one (given the on-air viral campaign), ABC has given a series order to sci-fi drama Flash Forward, based on Robert Sawyer's novel. Series, executive produced by David Goyer, Brannon Braga, Marc Guggenheim, Vince Gerardis, Jessika Goyer, and Ralph Vicinanza, will star Joseph Fiennes, Jack Davenport, Sonya Walger, Courtney B. Vance, John Cho, Zachary Knightton, Peyton List, Brian O'Byrne, and Christine Woods. Guggenheim and Goyer will serve as showrunners on the series, which is rumored to be launching this fall. (Variety)

Excited about tomorrow night's season finale of FOX's Fringe? Series co-creator J.J. Abrams promises that the season finale will feature "a really interesting shift in the fundamental paradigm of the show in a very cool way." Abrams also promises that Season Two will have less exposition upfront. "There’s nothing more crazy than having that sort of massive chuck of exposition thrown at you in the story," said Abrams. "Sometimes the desire of producers/writers/network/studio is to provide clarity ... those kind of monologues of exposition don’t help anyone ... [actor Lance Reddick] delivers them beautifully, but any actor tasked with catching people up deserves a drink at the end of the day." (Hollywood Reporter's The Live Feed)

SCI FI Wire talks to Battlestar Galactica's Michael Trucco about the upcoming BSG telepic The Plan, in which he'll co-star along with Dean Stockwell and several other members from the BSG cast. "Whereas Caprica is a true prequel, 50 years before the beginning of Battlestar Galactica, The Plan is less a coda: It doesn't extend the story beyond what we saw in the finale," said Trucco. "It actually picks up the story between Season One and Season Two. It's actually prequel to the entrance of Anders, my character, and Cavil, Dean Stockwell's character. The movie is told from that perspective... it was like being in a time machine; it was amazing. It was like, we did this in Season Two, and here we are going back to that moment in time, and it was a really interesting experience. That was when I first started on the show, so, yeah, you had to kind of erase all the baggage that came with Anders through the finale and start to put myself in the space of Anders the human that I started with, this character that I thought I knew before this big reveal that he's a Cylon. I had to put myself back in that frame of mind." (SCI FI Wire)

Wondering if all of 30 Rock's product mentions in last week's episode ("Mamma Mia") were in fact product placement? Think again. According to the network, the story line was "completely organic" and the product mentions--including that of Universal feature film Mamma Mia--were part of the script and selected by the writers themselves in what amounts to a another McFlurry moment for the series. "The show had written that story line all on its own,” said NBC spokesperson Liz Fischer, “the promotion department had always planned to run a Mamma Mia spot prior to Mother’s Day." (New York Times)

Several bubble series are looking good for renewal, including ABC's Better Off Ted, which is said to be "looking good to return," while Ghost Whisperer scored a renewal at CBS, ABC is said to be high on renewing Scrubs for another season, and CBS is thought likely to bring back Cold Case next season. (Variety)

Nikki Finke takes a look at several potential series projects at CBS, indicating that the untitled NCIS spin-off and Julianna Margulies-led legal drama The Good Wife are locks for the schedule this fall. Also potentially in play are U.S. Attorney and Three Rivers and comedies Accidentally on Purpose, Happiness Isn't Everything, and Waiting to Die. (Deadline Hollywood Daily)

Casting roundup: Misha Collins has been bumped to regular status on next season's Supernatural, after recurring in twelve episodes this season. Eddie Kaye Thomas ('Til Death) has joined the cast of HBO's How to Make It in America, where he will star opposite Bryan Greenberg and Victor Rasuk; he'll play a wealthy hedge fund manager who went to high school with Ben (Greenberg). And Stephen Dunham (What I Like About You) has been cast in TBS comedy The Bill Engvall Show, where he will recur as Engvall's brother Kenny, a "likable ne'er-do-well who gets by on his charm," and could become a series regular down the road. (Hollywood Reporter)

Neil Gaiman has denied rumors that inbound showrunner Steven Moffat has asked him write a script for Doctor Who's upcoming fifth season and has an update about a possible Sandman series at HBO. "The last thing that I heard was that HBO wanted to do an ongoing, great big Sandman overarching HBO TV series, which would make sense because they're part of the Time Warner empire and Sandman cannot leave Time Warner," said Gaiman. "Whether or not that will ever happen I do not know, because it would involve HBO making a deal with DC [Comics] which they may or may not be capable of doing. The truth is they are things in my life that I do not own, that I've created but do not own and do not control. What gets really frustrating is people assume that I do and they assume I'm consulted and can say yes or no to things - which of course I can't." (Digital Spy)

The Los Angeles Times' Maria Elena Fernandez takes a look at just what it means when series are said to be "on the bubble" and talks to a member of the 225-strong crew of CBS' The Unit, all of whom are awaiting their fate as CBS weighs whether or not to pick up the 20th Century Fox Television-produced series for another season. "If drama is life heightened, then Hollywood's bubble shows mirror much of America right now, where the specter of pay reductions, freezes and immediate unemployment is writ large," writes Fernandez. "In the television industry, the phenomenon is an annual rite as network executives decide which series will be ditched to make room for new projects." (
Los Angeles Times)

Amid the efforts to reduce budgets on ongoing television series, many studios have cut the number of writers on staff, with more experienced writers (who earn a heftier pay check) more likely to be cut than their lower-paid counterparts. "Industry sources say studios producing skeins for Big Four nets are pushing for cuts of as much as 10%-15% in the writing budget for returning series, while new shows will start out with smaller staffs than first-year shows in recent seasons," writes Variety's Cynthia Littleton. "Where skeins once had as many as 10-12 writers, not including the showrunner(s), the new norm is becoming six to eight." Freshman drama series Southland, recently renewed for a second season, only has four writers and isn't expected to add any scribes next season. (Variety)

Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello is reporting that producers on NBC's Heroes are looking to cast a hearing-impaired actress in her twenties to play the love interest for one of the main characters in Season Four. The as-yet-unnamed character will be introduced in next season's fourth episode. (
Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

ABC has ordered six episodes of an untitled unscripted series with Jamie Oliver and executive producer Ryan Seacrest that is said to be loosely based on Oliver's 2005 television series Jamie's School Dinners (which aired in the US as Jamie's School Lunches), in which Oliver would travel to the unhealthiest towns in America and work with locals to devise ways to improve diet habits. The series is expected to air sometime in 2010. (Hollywood Reporter)

Comcast's G4 is spinning off long-running franchise The Soup into Web Soup, hosted by Chris Hardwick and launching June 7th. Series, which will air Sundays at 9 pm ET/PT, will focus on digital culture and Internet content and will be executive produced by the team behind The Soup, including executive producers K.P. Anderson, Boyd Vico, Edward Boyd, and Brad Stevens. (Variety)

Executive producers/showrunners Ed Yeager and Ric Swartzlander have departed from CBS' freshman comedy Gary Unmarried after creative differences with the network. Rumors are swirling that Ira Ungerleider and Rob Des Hotel will be promoted to to showrunners on the ABC Studios/CBS Paramount Network Television series, which would then be renewed for a second season. (Hollywood Reporter)

Fox Television Studios has hired Slater/Brooksband as a casting consultant for the News Corp division, with Mary Jo Slater and Steve Brooksband providing casting services on FTVS' scripted programming, including international co-productions. (Variety)

The Los Angeles Times' Dawn C. Chmielewski and Meg James take a look at the issues facing Internet juggernaut Hulu, including cable and satellite operators who are decidedly nervous about losing control over cable programming. In response, several cable series--such as full seasons of FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and USA's Psych--have been yanked from Hulu, despite the fact that they are both produced by Hulu partner studios. The site is also said to be looking into authentication: namely that viewers would have to prove that they are cable subscribers in order to access cable programming on the site. (Los Angeles Times)

Versus has ordered weekly series Fanarchy, in which seven fans will get the chance to get on their soapboxes about current sports topics via webcam in a "frenzied back-and-forth format" that will see two contestants eliminated each episode and replaced by new fans the following week. (Variety)

Stay tuned.


Unknown said…
Glad to hear about Better Off Ted. My only issue is that it's not--IMO--family-friendly (at least not for my 12yo). It'd be even better if it were PG instead of PG-13.
Jace Lacob said…

Isn't the series rated TV-PG? I don't think that the content is that risque, given that it airs during the 8 pm hour.
Jana said…
I'd love to see a version of Jamie's School Dinners here in the US. I loved that program and think it's really important as well. The only questions is, will he be able to find another lunch lady like Nora?!
Unknown said…
Yes, Jace, it's TV-PG. Maybe I'm a bit of a prude and have forgotten what I was like in 6th grade, but I thought Linda's "My breasts are so big and perky" comment was a little much for my 6th grade boy. :) There was something else in one of the first eps, but I can't recall it.

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