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On the Air

The latest news from the TV beat

Musical Interlude

Has the fat lady sung when it comes to creating musicals for television? Not quite, but producers Howard Braunstein and Michael Jaffe aren’t singing a happy tune over Annie Get Your Gun—the much-anticipated musical starring Reba McEntire that they hoped to revive for CBS next season. McEntire planned to use her hiatus from The WB’s Reba this summer to shoot the small-screen version — that is, until the producers couldn’t secure financing. Now there’s no telling when Annie will happen, though the duo remains optimistic. ”Big, old-fashioned musicals are expensive, but they should be. They’re spectacles,” Braunstein says. ”Everything has its moment. The stars have to be aligned.” (As for McEntire, a spokeswoman says the crooner remains open to the possibility of doing Annie for TV, though her first choice has always been to make the musical for the big screen.) Meanwhile, Braunstein promises that his other TV musical project, the revival of Once Upon a Mattress for CBS starring Carol Burnett, is on track. The producing partners are considering just filming a stage version of Mattress because ”Carol is so brilliant in front of live audiences,” says Braunstein (and, no doubt, because it’d be much cheaper). Other TV tuners remain in production, such as ABC’s The Music Man with Matthew Broderick from Uberproducers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. ”There’s still a big appetite for big-event programming,” says Braunstein. ”We produced South Pacific for ABC, and that was a great experience.” Speak for yourself, pal.

‘Fire’ Hazard

Joss Whedon’s new series Firefly will take flight this fall on Fox, though the sci-fi drama won’t get exactly the start he had in mind. At the network’s behest, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer made a two-hour, $8.7 million pilot to kick off the retro-futuristic tale, about renegade space cowboys. What Whedon delivered was a drama heavy on character development and light on action—so light, in fact, that Fox asked him to bring in the booster rockets and quicken the show’s pace. More importantly, Whedon was told to shoot a new, one-hour first episode. ”Fox came out of the box saying we’re looking for flash, we’re looking for comfort. Though I’m very much in love with what we did, there wasn’t a lot of either there,” admits Whedon. (Fox promises to air the original, two-hour pilot later in the season.) Despite the early confusion, Whedon insists fans will find Firefly easy to follow. ”I make every episode early on like a pilot, so everybody who hasn’t seen the first one” won’t be confused, says Whedon. ”The first six episodes are very stand-alone, very expository, and hopefully not boring.” When it comes to Whedon, that’s never a worry.

And So On… Though The WB passed on Tom Green’s variety pilot, the net plans to air it as a one-time special on June 27. Green and skateboarding legend Tony Hawk are seen shredding up the half-pipes in the comedy-sketch show called — appropriately enough — The Skateboard Show. ”This was one of our more fun concepts in a year when we had more good pilots than we needed,” said entertainment president Jordan Levin. (Additional reporting by Jeff Jensen)