TV Article

Go 'West'

From the TV networks' winter press tour, details on the final episodes of ''West Wing,'' schedule shake-ups at NBC, and ABC's new tear-jerker

CLIPPED 'WING' President Bartlet (Martin Sheen, far left, with costars Kristin Chenoweth and Bradley Whitford) is on the way out in the final episodes
Image credit: Martin Sheen: Frederick M. Brown/ Getty Images
CLIPPED 'WING' President Bartlet (Martin Sheen, far left, with costars Kristin Chenoweth and Bradley Whitford) is on the way out in the final episodes

Here's the dance-off I want to see: the secondary cast of The Office (Phyllis, Stanley, Angela, and Oscar) — who owned the dance floor at NBC Universal's post-Golden Globes party — vs. ABC's staff (and even a few stars, including the adorable Matthew Davis and Sarah Lancaster from the upcoming drama What About Brian), who really brought it at the net's Jan. 21 press-tour soiree. I give a slight edge to the Office folks for the way they grooved to ''Don't Cha,'' but props to ABC for waking us up when theme-party and buffet-table overload left us nearly comatose. Oh, right, some actual news happened too, as ABC and NBC wrapped up the Television Critics Association Press Tour on Jan. 22 and 23:

Transfer of power The West Wing will sign off for good on May 14 with an hour-long retrospective followed by an hour-long finale centering on the inauguration of Josiah Bartlet's successor. (Rob Lowe is in negotiations to return for the final hour.) The late John Spencer, who died in December, will appear in one more episode. ''We figured the best homage would be to show his work,'' exec producer John Wells said. ''And I think John would have been pissed at me if I'd changed it.'' Subsequent episodes will incorporate Spencer's passing when his character, vice-presidential candidate Leo McGarry, dies five days before the election. At that point, presidential candidate Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) will announce his replacement either before or after the election, pending congressional approval. (The producers said their research confirmed that this is how the situation would be handled in real life.) ''We wouldn't have been dealing with this without John's death,'' Wells said. ''But I think it makes for some compelling drama.''

Good karma is contagious The newly crowned Must See anchors, My Name Is Earl and The Office, both got 22-episode pickups for next season, while their retiring Thursday-night neighbor, Will & Grace, got a series-finale date: May 18. The newly buzzy Office will finish its current season in April so Golden Globe-winning star Steve Carell can tend to his busy movie schedule. The early Office closing will make way for the April 16 debut of a sitcom called Teachers. Asked how his sudden ginormous success will affect the series, Carell quipped, ''Yes, I am rich. The only problem I foresee is the resentful nature of the rest of the cast.''

TiVos on their mark, get set...record! There are a slew of scheduling switches coming to NBC in March: Howie Mandel's game show Deal or No Deal, a surprise holiday success, gets a regular 8 p.m. Monday slot, leading into a new all-Donald season of The Apprentice at 9. The current Monday-at-8 occupant, Surface, will have ended its season by then, and the 9 p.m. hit Las Vegas will relocate to the same hour on Friday. It'll lead into the new Dick Wolf law drama Conviction. ''We're going to stop giving our competitors a free pass on Friday,'' NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly said. Dateline will move to 8 p.m. Saturday, and Law & Order will set up shop at 9 p.m. on Wednesday. (Yes, that's against Lost.) The veteran drama will serve as a launching pad for the new serialized cops-and-robbers show Heist. Oh great, now my brain hurts.

Super secrets Grey's Anatomy creator and exec producer Shonda Rimes has been known to issue threats to her cast and crew to keep them from revealing plotlines to reporters, so she wasn't about to give away too much about the show's upcoming post-Super Bowl episode. ''Something happens,'' she said, ''and bad stuff follows.'' Okay, she did give a little more than that: There will be a ''code black'' — which is apparently lingo for a pretty stressful situation. ''It's our show...on speed,'' said Rimes. Who are we kidding? We're gonna watch no matter what she does or doesn't tell us.

Just when you thought it couldn't get weepier... If you don't cry watching ABC's spring reality series Miracle Workers, you have no soul. In the tradition of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the show helps patients suffering from heart-wrenching illnesses get the cutting-edge help they need with the assistance of an elite medical team. A little boy with a life-threatening spinal condition gets corrective surgery. A blind man sees. A young woman's Tourette's is cured. Let's put it this way: The three-minute clip turned us all into blubbering puddles of tears.

Originally posted Jan 23, 2006