Lisa de Moraes
Lisa de Moraes
The TV Column

Larry Wilmore will do comedy special for Showtime

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Larry Wilmore, the “senior black correspondent” on “The Daily Show” — will shoot a comedy special for Showtime that network President David Nevins said is a springboard for a possible series.

“Race, Religion & Sex” will air Aug. 25, “in time for the political conventions,” Nevins said.

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Pulitzer Prize winner, Peabody recipient, Medal of Freedom honoree -- Lisa de Moraes is none of these, but she is an authority on the bad direction, over-acting, and muddled plot lines being played out in the TV industry's executive suites.

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(Comedy Central) - Larry Wilmore, who appears on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” will tape a comedy special for Showtime.

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Wilmore will moderate the show’s one-hour town-hall “meeting” with a studio audience in Salt Lake City, from where, Showtime said, the special “seeks to enlighten viewers about the birthplace of Mormonism.”

Nevins also announced that the two-part finale of the network’s long-running drug comedy, “Weeds,” has been scheduled for Sept. 16. He noted that “Weeds,” starring Mary-Louise Parker, is the longest-running half-hour show in cable TV history. (Nevins said he doesn’t count HBO’s ’90s comedy “Dream On” — which he insisted was a “clip show” that made about 35 episodes a year.)

The end also is near for the network’s “The Big C,” which stars Laura Linney as a cancer patient. The show will wrap its run with four one-hour episodes, Nevins said. He did not say when the episodes would run.

Elsewhere, the espionage drama “Homeland” — or, as Nevins likes to call it, President Obama’s favorite TV show — will debut Sept. 30. That’s the same night “Dexter” begins its “game-changing” penultimate season.

Nevins also announced the launch of a new original documentary banner titled “Closeup,” which will kick off with “The World of Dick Cheney,” from R.J. Cutler; “Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic,” from Marina Zenovich; “Suge Knight: American Dream/American Nightmare,” from Antoine Fuqua; and “Tommy Mottola,” from Brett Ratner, about the music-industry mogul of Sony and Casablanca fame.

Meanwhile, filmmaker Oliver Stone’s “Untold History of the United States” will premiere Nov. 12. Stone, who narrates the 10-episode series, promised in a statement that the series will show “the side of history we don’t learn in school” and that it will be “upsetting to some, but profound for those who think for themselves.”

He added modestly that it’s “the deepest contribution on film I could ever make to my children and the next generation.”

Willard show pulled

Four days after Jimmy Fallon pretended that guest Fred Willard had come on his show to talk about his “new” ABC sketch-comedy series, ABC pulled the show before it could air again.

The network decided that it would rather air “Wipeout” reruns this Tuesday night and next Tuesday than the last original episodes of “Trust Us With Your Life,” the sketch-comedy series hosted by Willard. This after Willard visited a Hollywood porn theater, where he was arrested July 18 on suspicion of public sexual misconduct.

Willard, 72, who since his arrest had already lost his gig as narrator of “Market Warriors” (the companion competition series to PBS’s “Antiques Road Show”), has maintained the incident was all a misunderstanding.

In ABC’s defense, the “Trust Us” ratings were slipping. The show opened July 10 with 3.3 million viewers. Last week’s second episode — ABC has been airing two episodes each Tuesday, back to back — clocked just 1.8 million.

When Willard visited Fallon’s NBC late-night show Thursday, Fallon had apparently agreed to pretend that Willard was there to plug his ABC show. “I want to talk about your new show,” Fallon said. “This sounds like something that’s right up your alley. You’re going to kill it.”

Willard described the show. They showed a clip. The clip was funny. Willard was not in the clip.

“That is genius!” Fallon gushed. “That is going to be a great show!”

But, alas, it was instead canceled.

Battling with CW

CW network President Mark Pedowitz abides no cute stuff from TV critics.

Critics found out that he’s developing a “Battle Royale” series for CW, for example, and they weren’t happy. Actually, he explained, it was a “Battle Royale” phone call and there is no “in development” — although he’d love to do the TV series adaptation.

“You know what ‘Battle Royale’ is about? You aren’t really going to have a show, in this moment, about high school kids killing each other?” one critic asked Pedowitz, like a pop star speaking to a waiter about the caterpillar she’s just discovered in her salad

“All that existed was a phone call, and we’re not planning to do anything we can’t get on the air,” Pedowitz responded, impatiently.

One zombie fan/TV critic asked why CW had not greenlit the zombie drama it developed last spring. The fan/critic wondered whether zombies maybe were just too much for “normal broadcast standards,” and tossed in a shout-out to AMC’s zombie-drama “The Walking Dead.”

CW zombies have to look a lot better than AMC zombies, Pedowitz joked. “You can’t believe how good they look when they’re walking on CW,” he added.

CW is in the aggregation business, with the broadcast network at the center, Pedowitz said in response to all questions about the network’s small ratings.

“You’re talking about us in overnight ratings,” he responded when someone noted that CW shows typically rank about No. 105, at best, in Nielsen ranking reports for any given week.

The digital-streaming numbers combined with Hulu, Netflix, CW.com and the network’s episode app “are astronomical,” he said, but those numbers do not show up on Nielsen’s reports.

That said, it would be nice not to have another fall rollout like CW’s last fall, Pedowitz acknowledged, in which the network successfully launched its new shows ahead of Premiere Week, then lost all traction when the Big Four launched their shows in or around Premiere Week.

Waiting until October to premiere new programming after the crush of Premiere Week also means fewer repeats of new shows in the fourth and first quarters, Pedowitz said, leaving some of us wondering why that took so long for CW to figure out.

‘Dr. Horrible’ TV

Speaking of trying to get off to a better start in the fall: CW announced Monday that it would kick off its fall-season launch with the broadcast debut of Joss Whedon’s “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” starring CBS prime-time star Neil Patrick Harris, ABC prime-time star Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day on Oct. 9.

The musical video went viral almost immediately when it launched online in 2008, with more than 2.2 million views in the first week; it went on to attract more than 50 million viewers after that.

“Dr. Horrible” will debut just as CW is starting to roll out its new fall shows. In much the same way that NBC is debuting its new fall schedule right after the London Summer Games to take advantage of that huge audience, “Dr. Horrible” is CW’s Olympics. CW is counting on the millions of “Dr. Horrible” fans to tune in to watch the series premieres.

CW will air an edited-for-time version of the online original.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes and the latest from the Summer TV Press Tour, go to washingtonpost.com/tvblog.

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