On Tuesday, the second day of NBC’s fall presentations, the press corps was singularly focused on one burning question: Is Michelle Ryan/Zachary Levi/fill-in-the-blank actor anything like, respectively, the Bionic Woman/Chuck/fill-in-the-blank character? The startling answer: Yes… and no. Interesting! And now that we’ve got that cleared up, here are a few other things we learned about the network’s plans for several shows in the new season.
Battlestar Galactica fans will be sad to hear that Katee Sackhoff didn’t attend the panel due to a ”scheduling conflict” — a last-minute change that many observers thought smelled fishy — but the series’ producers had plenty of other elephants in the room to contend with. First off, Isaiah Washington’s scheduled appearances on the show: Exec producer Jason Smilovic said that new NBC Entertainment cochairman Ben Silverman presented Washington to the Bionic brain trust, who then cast the star in a pre-existing role. When pressed on the ethics of hiring the controversial actor, Smilovic fired back, ”We believe in second chances…rather than [excommunicating] somebody.” Next elephant: the BW’s sister, who was played in the pilot by Mae Whitman but has since been recast with Lucy Hale — and reconceived as no longer deaf. Smilovic explained that an entire part of the show’s backstory — involving science labs and chimpanzees (use your imagination) — had been cut, so the sister’s hearing impairment was no longer necessary.
The O.C.’s wunderkind creator, Josh Schwartz, presented the first of his two fall shows, which centers on a big-box store worker who gets the government’s secrets downloaded into his brain and must use them to help save stuff. Now scheduled to air on Monday night, the show will kick off an all-fantastic lineup that includes Heroes — and it’s a perfect fit according to producers. As exec producer McG quipped, ”It’s guys like Chuck who like Heroes.” Which explains why he and Schwartz talked as much about the show being like The Office (for its take on workplace politics), as they did about its ”average Joe saves the world” forefathers like Peter Parker and Neo. Another part of Chuck’s heritage comes straight from Schwartz’s days at The O.C.: excellent music. Alexandra Patsavas (who helped introduce the public to Rooney, Rilo Kiley, and Modest Mouse) will choose tunes that seek that sweet spot between Chuck’s trendy L.A. hood, Silverlake, and the show’s spy theme.
Friday Night Lights
With the critical darling being given a second season to build on its vocal, if not sizable, fan base, the ensemble cast was out in full force to tell reporters why more people should be tuning in — to the show, the upcoming DVDs, and the web site. Well, we’re long sold on FNL, but in case you’re not, listen up women, Texas haters, and non-football lovers: exec producer Jason Katims is here to say that this series is for you. Katims and his team promised that even those who didn’t see the first season will be able to get right into the action when the show returns, with Coach Taylor’s wife (Connie Britton) having her second child in the very first episode. Other future storylines: The Taylors’ separation (caused when Coach took a job coaching college football in Austin at the end of last season) won’t be permanent; Jason Street (Scott Porter) will regain some movement, as well as his friendships with Lyla (Minka Kelly) and Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch); a new coach will arrive in Dillon (though producers wouldn’t reveal who’s being cast); and odd couple Landry (Jesse Plemons) and Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) will grow closer. Of course, if all that sounds like Greek to you, feel free to pick up FNL’s first-season DVD next month.
Law & Order
With real life intervening in Dick Wolf’s nearly real-life crime franchise — Fred Thompson is possibly making a White House run and Julianne Nicholson is going on maternity leave — it was time for some fresh blood in the L&O franchise. And not just at the crime scenes. So welcome Jeremy Sisto to the original series, Alicia Witt for a limited run on Criminal Intent, and Adam Beach to Special Victims Unit. So with the 18th season of the show — and its kissing cousins — taken care of, how about those reruns so many count on to keep them company day and night? If Thompson does make a bid for the presidency, his appearance on 115 installments of the venerable procedural would conflict with equal-time laws that mandate that all candidates be given the same amount of airtime on broadcast television. Seriously. So catch them while you can, because NBC isn’t planning to rerun any further Thompson episodes past Sept. 1. (Sorry, Elisabeth Röhm!) And while it’s not quite the White House, Wolf has a goal of his own: ”I just want [Law & Order] on the air continuously for 21 years or more.” Well, hey, 17 down, four to go.