Hollywood Monkey Business
Beggars and Choosers
Showtime, Saturdays, 10:30-11:30 p.m.
It’s no surprise that the voice of reason in this series satirizing network TV is a programming chief, considering it was conceived by late hall-of-fame programmer Brandon Tartikoff. But the sanity stops there: Surrounding Rob Malone (Brian Kerwin), the beleaguered head of the ratings-deficient LGT network, are a backstabbing VP (Charlotte Ross) who colludes with an enemy talent agent (William McNamara), a billionaire CEO (Bill Morey) who dispatches Malone to find hookers, and a Jerry Seinfeldesque sitcom star (Paul Provenza) who torments him with salary demands and shtups his daughter. If it sounds outrageous, spend a day actually working in TV. ”We don’t need technical advisers,” says writer-exec producer Peter Lefcourt, who developed the show from Tartikoff’s idea. ”It’s just our lives.” Ponder this life-imitating-art example: Skin-friendly Showtime has been prodding producers to up the series’ bare-breast quotient. ”It’s not so easy to put non-gratuitous nudity into a show about networks,” says Lefcourt. ”But we’re doing what we can.”
The Chimp Channel
TBS, Thursdays, 10:05-10:35 p.m.
In the beginning there was Planet of the Apes. Then Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp. But what’s that? You say you want an evolution? Well, here’s the most advanced form of simian-based entertainment known to man: actual monkeys running a TV network! Tune in for hairy parodies like Ally McSqueal and NYPD Zoo, and stay for the cage-y cast of characters sporting the most ridiculous getups this side of Star Trek. There’s doofus intern Timmy, crotchety talk-show host Murray Price, diva actress Marina, and overheated leading man Brock Hammond (think Phil Hartman going, well, ape-shit). Did we also mention that this is the wildest set in Hollywood? ”Maggie, [the chimp] who plays Marina, loves the Lycra suit she wears and can’t refrain from going to the bathroom in it — she thinks it’s just a really cool red diaper,” notes Channel cocreator Tim Burns. ”All the chimps wear diapers, though, so it’s a lot like Frasier.”
AMC, premieres Aug. 19-20, 8-9 p.m.
Looking for something even more retro than the Austin Powers flicks? Then check out this whip-smart peek into the machinations of the old Hollywood studio system. It’s 1937, and the fictitious Sylver Screen Pictures has just lost its most promising starlet to an ill-fated plunge from the third o of the ”Hollywood” sign. Enter June Parker (a radiant Linda Cardellini of NBC’s upcoming high school romp Freaks and Geeks). Plucked from the obscurity of nursing school to fill the vacant title role in the studio’s Call Me Veronica Blair, Parker must now contend with Sylver Screen’s finest: a Mylanta-swilling studio head (”We shoot too many pictures around here and not enough actors”); an unctuous, blackmail-prone studio publicist; a soused star of yesteryear who turns to gaffer’s tape in a desperate attempt to tighten her sagging skin; and a Howard Hughes-ish billionaire producer played by Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Jonathan Frakes. ”I have this absurd, pencil-thin mustache and greased-back hair,” he says. ”And our costume designer put me in the most incredible ivory Chinese silk suit. The Trekkies would be rather appalled.”