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TCA: PBS’ Ken Burns ‘The Dust Bowl’ Documentary To Air Nov. 18-19

By | Sunday July 22, 2012 @ 3:58pm PDT

Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

When documentarian Ken Burns speaks, everything sounds like poetry. At today’s TCA panel on his latest PBS documentary The Dust Bowl, Burns didn’t say that some of the survivors of the devastating 1930s dust storms that were interviewed for the documentary have died. He said: “We have already lost four of them to the merciless passage of time.” The documentary will air in two episodes November 18-19.

Related: TCA: PBS Sets Ken Burns’ ‘The Roosevelts’ & Pair Of Cuban Missile Crisis Specials
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PBS Emphasizes In Depth, Impartial Election Coverage, “Not Just A Few Minutes”: TCA

By | Sunday July 22, 2012 @ 12:52pm PDT

Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

It came as no surprise that panelists at the TCA presentation to discuss PBS’ 2012 election coverage were asked whether the Colorado movie theater shooting would affect the debate in the upcoming presidential campaign and election. Panelists included Gwen Ifill of Washington Week and PBS NewsHour; Judy Woodruff (PBS Newshour); Raney Aronson, deputy executive director of Frontline; Maria Hinojosa, co-host of the new program Need to Know and John F. Wilson, PBS senior vice president and chief television programming executive.

Related: TCA: PBS’ Ken Burns ‘The Dust Bowl’ Documentary To Air Nov. 18-19
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TCA: ‘Downton Abbey’ Trailer Teases Plot Twists, Maggie Smith & Shirley MacLaine

The TCA panel session on Downton Abbey is ongoing, but a Season 3 trailer just screened for journalists contains some shockers:  While who knows how it will all unfold, the Right Honourable Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (Emmy nominee Hugh Bonneville) is seen tearfully confessing to wife Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) that he has lost all the family money (!) including hers. Maggie Smith’s ascerbic Dowager Countess is as sharp-tongued as ever in her exchanges with newcomer Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson (although after the session creator/writer/executive producer Julian Fellowes said Smith had not yet signed on for a fourth season: “Our conversation is just: ‘Please stay’, we don’t really deal at this stage,” he said). And it seems that Mary (Emmy nominee Michelle Dockery) and Matthew (Dan Stevens) are not quite settled in their planned marriage after all. Before the screening, series executive producer Rebecca called the trailer a “hot piece of information, adding: “Nobody has seen it in this country except a few people who have signed in blood.”

Related:
EMMYS: ‘Downton Abbey’ Makes Successful Leap With Drama Series Nomination
EMMYS: Drama Series Nominations – ENTV Video

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TCA: PBS Plans Math Series With Female Lead, Election Road Trips

By | Saturday July 21, 2012 @ 1:59pm PDT

Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

PBS president/CEO Patricia Kerger touted PBS’ commitment to children’s programming at today’s TCA sessions, but was questioned about why more of the network’s children’s series do not have lead female characters. Kerger said the network is planning a series about mathematics with a girl character in the lead. She declined to reveal details about the show.

The network has also added two programs to its 2012 election lineup this fall: America by the Numbers: Clarkson Georgia with Maria Hinojosa, exploring demographic changes in America, and Constitution USA with Peter Sagal. Sagal, host of NPR’s Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me, will travel across the country on a Harley Davidson to see how the American Constitution is, and isn’t, working.

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TCA: Fred Willard Would Have Been “A Distraction”, PBS CEO Says

By | Saturday July 21, 2012 @ 1:47pm PDT

Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger fielded questions about Fred Willard during today’s TCA presentation. Willard was dropped from the PBS show Market Warriors after his Wednesday arrest in Hollywood at an adult theater for alleged lewd conduct. Mark Walberg, the host of Antiques Roadshow, has stepped in to take over Willard’s role as narrator. “We are actually in production with that series, and at the end of the week when it became known, we realized we had to move fast because we are taping now, it’s a new series,” Kerger said. “His circumstances would have become a distraction to the series. We talked to him and decided we would bring in Mark Walberg, who is hosting Antiques Roadshow. We asked Mark to do both.” She added that the two are companion shows so having Walberg do both provides a natural link between the two.

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TCA: PBS CEO On Congress De-Funding

By | Saturday July 21, 2012 @ 12:10pm PDT

Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

PBSMore programming notes to come from PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger’s TCA session today. But the executive had blunt words about an issue that threatens the organization as a whole: This week’s attack in Congress on federal funding for PBS. On Tuesday, House Republicans proposed zeroing out PBS funding by 2015. Kerger called it “disappointing” that federal funding is being challenged “in the same week that PBS received 58 (primetime) Emmy nominations” and warned that there are a number of stations in underserved areas “that will go dark” if federal funding is significantly slashed.

Kerger said the funding proposal, which comes from the House Appropriations Committee and also would affect funding for NPR, is a complicated one. She said it may be debated next week but she does not think the budget issue will be resolved until after the presidential election. However, whether or not PBS is “zeroed out” in the future, Kerger believes that any major budget cuts would lead to the loss of some PBS stations. Federal funding represents 15% of the PBS budget, but given local differences in how some stations are funded, federal funding can represent 50-60% of the budget for some stations, she said.

Related: TCA: PBS Sets Ken Read More »

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TCA: PBS Sets Ken Burns’ ‘The Roosevelts’ & Pair Of Cuban Missile Crisis Specials

By | Saturday July 21, 2012 @ 9:54am PDT

Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

PBS is announcing today that The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, a new seven-part documentary series by Ken Burns, will air in 2014. Burns is slated to appear at TCA later in PBS’ 2-day session to discuss his previously-announced documentary The Dust Bowl, airing in November.

Related: PBS’ Ken Burns ‘The Dust Bowl’ Documentary Seen As “A Cautionary Tale”

The network also has two new special programs about the Cuban missile crisis that took place 50 years ago: Cuban Missile Crisis – Three Men Go to War and Secrets of the Dead: The Man Who Saved the World, both to air Oct. 23. “Three Men” explores the roles of President John F. Kennedy, Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev and Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Secrets of the Dead tells the story of Vasili Karpov, the man who refused to fire the nuclear missile during the standoff between Russia, the U.S. and Cuba. Most of the action takes place inside a submarine that is running out of air.

Related: ‘Downton Abbey’ Trailer Teases Plot Twists, Maggie Smith & Shirley MacLaine

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TCA: ‘Suburgatory’ Creator Drew Inspiration From ABC’s ‘Housewives’, Own Experience

Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

At today’s final TCA panel on the ABC single-camera comedy Suburgatory — the story of a bright urban teenager (Jane Levy) whose single Dad (Jeremy Sisto) moves her to the “white-picket-fence nightmare” of the suburbs — show creator and executive producer Emily Kapnek said she was not influenced by the ABC family hit Pretty Little Liars in creating the fictional wealthy suburb these characters inhabit. Rather, Kapnek said, she was more inspired by the tone of ABC’s long-running life-in-the-suburbs hit Desperate Housewives, now entering its eighth and final season. She called Suburgatory “more satirical’” than Pretty Little Liars, with its suburbia featuring a “horror, zombieland quality” similar to what she sees in Housewives. Kapnek said the town is a healthy split between a realistic, contemporary atmosphere and a “stylized, evergreen suburbia.” But Kapnek’s biggest inspiration for the show was reality: her own experience moving from an urban environment with a single parent into a suburb “where families didn’t look like ours and we didn’t’ have as much as they did … there was an economic divide, there were expensive bat mitzvahs … [the difference was] all of the fortune the kids had, and the families were incredibly intact.” Read More »

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TCA: Tim Allen Talks Return To TV In ‘Last Man Standing’, Pokes Fun At ABC & Fox

Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

Tim Allen was talking trash and slinging jokes at today’s TCA panel on the new sitcom from Jack Burditt (30 Rock) Last Man Standing. The show marks Allen’s return to ABC after his hit show about a manly man, Home Improvement (1991-99).

A lot has changed since then. “I believe that at HI we were doing a 28 share, sometimes into a 30 share, with 30 million viewers,” Allen recalled. “We could tell the president what to do at that time.” It’s a “tighter leadership” now at ABC, he added. “I don’t want to say cheaper but I just did. Sometimes leaner is better. In this case, it’s not. We drink water out of a hose. There are no water bottles at ABC.”

After Home Improvement, Allen cracked that he had received “thousands, hundreds, no, millions of offers” for new series. “Every day it was an offer. I had an ‘offer office.’ ” He said that he would have liked to do a legal drama: “I like Castle, but that was already done,” he said. He said he had an offer for a legal series but added “I’m not going to tell you, it’s too embarrassing. It’s on the air now, and they cast a woman in the part,” a hint pointing to Harry’s Law ,whose lead was originally conceived as a man. Other Last Man cast members joked that the series was actually ABC’s reboot of Charlie’s Angels. “Yes, I was the middle one. I’m very attractive in a halter,” Allen joked. Asked why all men on TV these days seem to be “douche bags,” Allen replied: “That was the working title for this show actually … but Fox got it … they have a lot of douche bags, actually.”

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TCA: ‘Man Up!’ Is Just One Of The Guys

Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

Because they are introducing a show about men into the traditionally female-skewing ABC primetime lineup, the producers and performers of Man Up! were called upon to spend much of their time addressing reporters at TCA today about what it means — or doesn’t mean — to be a man in America in 2011. The show stars Christopher Moynihan (also the creator and one of the executive producers), Mather Zickel and Dan Fogler (Tony winner for his role in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) as three confused guys in their late 30s who would love to grow up if they could only figure out how.

One reporter went so far as to ask that, in a new season that includes many of what the network has been calling “female empowerment” shows, if Man Up! might actually be a show about male emasculation. Fogler thinks not. “[It] reflects what’s going on with people right now in society,” he said. “I feel very close to my character, Kenny — I have a lot of friends out there who will watch … that’s me up there, man … I think they’ll dig it. I don’t think the show is about men being emasculated; [it’s about men] finding themselves.” Moynihan joked that the three, being actors, “are soft guys already … face it, I have a lot of product in my hair.” On a more … Read More »

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TCA: ‘Once Upon A Time’ Creators Proud Of Being Part Of ‘Lost’ Generation

Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

If viewers of the ABC fairy tale drama Once Upon a Time note certain unmistakable references to a certain iconic ABC show called Lost while watching the pilot, it won’t be much of an accident, critics attending TCA were assured this afternoon during a Once Upon a Time panel. The co-creators and showrunners of the new series, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, were Lost staff writers who grew to become executive producers by that show’s final two seasons. And they made no secret of packing the Time kickoff with homages to their former show. “We can’t help ourselves,” Horowitz admitted. Horowitz and Kitsis, who also wrote the feature Tron: Legacy, also employed their Lost boss Damon Lindelof as an adviser on the pilot. “Damon has been a godfather to us,” Kitsis said. “He’s one of our closest friends. And when we first kind of sold the show to ABC, and they said, ‘Great, do an outline,’ we were like, ‘What do we do?’ We immediately went to Damon’s couch and started crying. So, I mean, his name is not on this show, but he’s in the DNA of it. But he also really wants it to be our show, so sometimes he helps and sometimes he gives us tough love.”

In addition to Lost, the Once Upon a Time team also faced the inevitable comparisons to Bill Willingham’s Fables comic-book series. Kitsis maintained … Read More »

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TCA: Producers Say ‘The Lying Game’ Isn’t ‘Ringer’s Twin

Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

Near the beginning of today’s TCA panel on the ABC Family series The Lying Game, executive producers Charles Pratt Jr and Gina Girolamo were asked about the obvious similarities between this new series and the CW’s Ringer, introduced earlier during TCA. The CW series stars Sarah Michelle Gellar in the dual role of two twin sisters. In The Lying Game, based on the book series by Sara Shepard (who also wrote the books behind the series Pretty Little Liars), it’s Alexandra Chando (As The World Turns) in the dual role of identical twin sisters from radically different backgrounds. Just like in Ringer, the sister from more humble beginnings takes the identity of her much richer sister. Said Pratt: “I actually haven’t seen it [Ringer], but I read the premise, and whether it helps us or hurts us I don’t know, we’ll leave it up to viewer. Essentially, the shows are very different. We’re not really thinking about it one way or another.” While both shows feature a mystery element, he said that The Lying Game caters to the interest of teens, with plenty of romance and a focus on the search for biological parents. “There are aspects of both shows that are great, that are specific to ABC Family,” he said. After the session, ABC Family president Michael Riley reiterated that The Lying Game‘s demo target is much younger than Ringer, … Read More »

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TCA: ABC Daytime’s Brian Frons Says Outcry Over Canceled Soaps “Proves We Did A Good Job These Last 40 Years”

Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

The not-altogether-surprising intense protest sparked by ABC’s announced axing of its long-running soaps All My Children and One Life to Live demonstrated to ABC Daytime president Brian Frons that “we actually did a good job (promoting and nurturing them) for all of these last 40 years,” he told Deadline privately during a TCA lunch designed to promote one of the soaps’ daytime successors, the food show The Chew. “I think we’ve spent 40-plus years trying to keep the soap-opera audience happy. So in an odd way, (the outcry) is actually good. It’s just sad that we don’t have a solution.” However, a deal with producer Prospect Park has been cemented to relaunch both soaps during first-quarter 2012, and there’s been talk of enlisting a second production partner in cable television as well. But that remains uncertain.

Frons said that after the Prospect Park deal fell into place, All My Children‘s producers were forced to scramble to make the series ending more open-ended rather than final, since the series would now be continuing on after all. (All My Children is scheduled to leave ABC on Sept. 23; One Life to Live in January.) He added that the cancellations became necessary due to diminishing returns at the network. “We were at that point where we had to sit and look at what we were doing, and see if there were different opportunities for us in terms of serving a bigger audience. We looked at what was happening on cable — in the food space, the lifestyle space, the talk space, the reality space — and we just saw a very large audience and an opportunity.” Read More »

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TCA: ABC’s ‘Charlie’s Angels’ To Be “More Grounded, More Real” Than Predecessors

Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

At this summer’s TCA, across the networks, there has been more than one panel including earnest, beautiful young women, mostly clad in teeny-tiny skirts and architecturally challenging platform heels, talking about how retro shows about gaggles of “girls” answering primarily to male bosses are actually all about female empowerment. Network execs and show producers also seem to be repeating the girl-power mantra. The main cases in point: NBC’s set-in-the-’60s The Playboy Club, ABC’s new Pan Am and the remake of the 1976-81 series Charlie’s Angels, co-executive produced by Leonard Goldberg with Drew Barrymore (veteran of the Charlie’s Angels movies) and creators/executive producers Al Gough and Miles Millar (both of Smallville). The show was unveiled at last month’s Comic-Con with the phrase: “These ain’t your mama’s angels.”

Following this morning’s Charlie’s Angels panel, I asked Millar the empowerment question: Really? He at first seemed to be addressing the issue by saying that initially, Gough’s and Miller’s wives didn’t want them to do the show. Why? Because the original angels were such role models to the producers’ spouses, Millar said reverently. “They didn’t believe we could do it [and maintain] the legacy of Charlie’s Angels.” Millar said during the panel that the idea of the new series was not to make “a cynical remake” of the original, nor to assume the same tone as the movies, about which Gough said: “[They were] superheroes for girls, post-Matrix … [the new show will] bring to the table more grounded, more real” characters with somewhat dark back stories. “You want to have something to come back to every week.” Describing the tone of the new show, Gough said: “If Jack Bauer and Carrie Bradshaw had a love child, it would be [the new] Charlie’s Angels.” Read More »

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TCA: Cross-Dressing Comedy ‘Work It’ Steals Spotlight At ABC’s Executive Session

Nellie Andreeva

At the end of ABC’s TCA executive panel, president Paul Lee admitted that he had asked a network PR executive beforehand, “Shall I go out in a dress?” That probably would’ve been appropriate given that ABC’s new cross-dressing comedy Work It, which has not even been scheduled yet, emerged as the main attraction at the Q&A session even somewhat overshadowing the official announcement of Desperate Housewives coming to an end. The first mention of the Bosom Buddies-esque multi-camera comedy starring Ben Koldyke and Amaury Nolasco as out-of-work car salesmen who dress as women to get jobs as pharmaceutical reps came when Lee was asked to discuss the network’s new crop of comedies. When he got to Work It, the British-born Lee said, “I’m a Brit, it is in my contract that I have to do one cross-dressing show a year; I was brought up on Monty Python. What can I do?” Later on he was asked about a trend of many new shows featuring central characters who are orphans that harkens back to Victorian times and Charles Dickens. Admitting that he didn’t notice an orphan pattern in picking up series, Lee noted, “We don’t sit there and think, ‘Work It! That goes all the way back to Shakespeare!’ ” Read More »

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TCA: Thomas Schlamme Insists ‘Pan Am’ Is No ‘Mad Men’

Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

The fact that ABC’s new drama Pan Am is set during the golden age of passenger air travel is set, like NBC’s Playboy Club, in the 1960s continues to bring charges that the networks are hellbent on capitalizing on the zeitgeist created by AMC’s Mad Men. But veteran producer-director Thomas Schlamme, a director and exec producer on Pan Am, told a roomful of critics this morning at TCA that Mad Men really has nothing to do with broadcast’s sudden fascination with ’60s culture and that it’s honestly coincidental. “I think television is just execution,” Schlamme said. “It’s not the time period it takes place in. … It really is just execution. So all I can say is (this show) really has nothing to do with Mad Men. It just has to do with the fact our show, we hope, will be executed in a wonderful way and have a sort of wish fulfillment that will bring us a large audience.”

Schlamme continued, “I think we’re all fans of Mad Men. But literally one has almost nothing to do with the other — as well as shows I’ve done in the past had nothing to do with other shows that may have been successful or not successful. It happens that it’s set in the ’60s. It’s a great time period. I hope there are shows that start to be set in the ’70s and ’80s and whenever else we can celebrate stories.” The Pan Am cast and producers also addressed several questions about the sexist and misogynistic aspects of the series as a mirror of the era, which manifest itself in the pilot with the stewardesses subjected to girdle checks and weigh-ins. “That’s a good reason to set a show in the ’60s,” Schlamme pointed out. “Was it misogynistic? Were women this, were women that? That’s great drama right there.” Read More »

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TCA: Paul Lee & Marc Cherry On Ending ‘Housewives’: It’s About Going Out Classy

Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: ABC Will End ‘Desperate Housewives’ In May 2012 After 8th Season
This morning ABC officially announced what Deadline readers already knew: that this coming season will be the last for veteran Desperate Housewives, which, along with Lost, turned ABC’s fortunes around in the fall of 2004. “It is an iconic show; we are so proud of it,” ABC entertainment president Paul Lee said. “I just wanted to make sure that the show that put the network on the map had its victory lap and had a chance to build a great final arc.” Lee was then joined by Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry. “I think the only thing harder than creating a hit show is to know when to end it,” he said. “It’s something that has weighed on my mind for some time. I’m well aware of people who have overstayed their welcome, and I just didn’t want that to happen to us. I wanted to go out while the network still thought it was a viable series and while it still did well in the ratings; I wanted to go out in the classiest way possible.”

According to the network’s press release, the upcoming “Season Eight of Desperate Housewives will roll out in a way that is accessible even to viewers who may have lapsed in their viewing, and be all the richer and more rewarding to the series’ loyal fans.” Cherry elaborated that the “mystery of what’s going on in the final season harkens back to the first season,” to “the roots of the Mary Alice mystery,” which kicked off the series seven years ago. “It feels right that that would be the storyline that would take us out.” As a result, I hear that Brenda Strong, who narrates the series as Mary Alice but has only made a handful of appearances on the show, may get more screen time this season. Asked whether Nicollette Sheridan’s character Edie Britt will make a return, Cherry, who is being sued by the actress over her termination from the show, made a pause before responding, “I don’t know how I would do that, but I have an idea for the last episode where I want to pay homage to everyone who has been on the show.” Read More »

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TCA: Peter Tolan Drops Pants During Raucous ‘Rescue Me’ Farewell Panel

Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

It was supposed to be a sober, nostalgic, reflective visit with Rescue Me writer-producer-star Denis Leary, showrunner Peter Tolan and castmates Steven Pasquale and Callie Thorne as the iconic FX firefighter hour wraps up seven seasons on Sept. 7, four days before the 10th anniversary of 9/11. What it turned into Saturday morning at TCA was the most raucous and entertaining panel of the 12-day event to date, as Leary and Tolan put on a show for critics bleary-eyed from the nonstop coverage that finally wraps Monday.

Things started to get crazy about halfway through the 30-minute panel, when Leary observed with his usual manic energy, “You guys have spent, what, three fucking weeks here talking to TV people and now you’re fuckin’ bored.” Tolan then picked up the ball and added, “I’m going to take my pants off.” That led into a fresh rant from Leary, who railed: “By the way, USA (Network) is fuckin’ raiding Rescue Me. (Steven) Pasquale’s shooting a pilot (Over/Under) for them. Callie (Thorne) is starring in a show (Necessary Roughness) for ‘em. I’m writing a pilot for ‘em.” Tolan: “I’m doing very mild janitorial work. … And working for just a few weeks as (USA programming chief) Jeff Wachtel’s fluffer.”

Shortly thereafter, to help boost the excitement of the festivities, Tolan stood and pulled down his pants to reveal very oddly colored briefs. Much laughter and applause ensued. A critic then tried to ask a serious question: Does Leary fear that his role on Rescue Me is one he will now always be identified with, perhaps to his detriment? Tolan decided to intercept that one: “When you say that Denis will be remembered for this part, I think you’re forgetting Operation Dumbo Drop.” The room roared. Read More »

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Denis Leary & Peter Tolan To Co-Write Half-Hour Comedy For Leary To Star; Tolan Gripes About “The Insanity Of Pilot Season”

Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

With their seriocomic firefighter drama Rescue Me ending its run on FX in September, series co-creators Denis Leary and Peter Tolan are embarking on another series project together. “I guess I can say right now that Mr. Leary and I are tomorrow starting writing on our next show, a half-hour for him to star in,” Tolan told Deadline today after the TCA panel on the final season of Rescue Me. He described it as “strictly a comedy, like nothing we’ve done before. It’s not a traditional comedy, probably for cable. We’re doing it totally on spec and taking it out.” Before Rescue Me, Leary and Tolan co-created the underrated ABC cop comedy The Job, which also starred Leary. Tolan said that after 10 years of working together, first on The Job and then on Rescue Me, he figures that he and Leary “have some connection in our comic sensibilities.” Leary has another half-hour project in the works as a writer: He recently signed on to co-pen with Bob Fisher an adaptation of the upcoming British series Sirens for USA Network. Read More »

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