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Whoever Has 'Talent' Has Clout, Too

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Did the president of the United States -- leader of the free world -- move his Wednesday news conference from 9 to 8 p.m. to get out of the way of "America's Got Talent"?

With his approval ratings slipping and the health-care debate raging, the White House announced last Friday, via Twitter, that Obama would stage his fourth prime-time news conference in six months: "You heard it here first: primetime presidential news conference at the White House, Wed. 7/22 @ 9PM EDT"

But by midday Monday, CBS was the only broadcaster that had said it would carry the news conference, at which Obama is expected to make a statement on health-care reform, then take questions.

Not coincidentally, CBS is the only broadcast network that was scheduled to air repeat programming at 9 p.m.: "Criminal Minds."

Wednesdays at 9 is the one and only bright spot on NBC's schedule; that's when it airs "America's Got Talent" -- the summer's most watched TV show, with an average of 12 million viewers. This week is particularly big: NBC has promised it will feature Susan Boyle, the spinster singer who swept YouTube when she competed on "Britain's Got Talent."

(It's also when ABC airs the summer reality series "I Survived a Japanese Game Show," but that clocks a smaller audience than ABC's 8 p.m. reality series "Wipeout." On Wednesday nights, Fox has two hours of original "So You Think You Can Dance," the network's most successful summer show.)

In the middle of the day Monday, Obama's news conference was moved from 9 to 8, without explanation. But industry sources told The TV Column that the White House made the change to accommodate NBC's Very Special Episode of "Talent."

Late Monday, NBC and ABC decided they too would carry Obama's news conference at 8.

In ABC's case, it will push "Wipeout" from 8 to 9 and "Japanese Game Show" from 9 to 10; the network's planned news special, "Over a Barrel: The Truth About Oil," has been pulled from Wednesday and will air Friday at 10 instead.

No word from Fox, but no one's holding his breath, Fox having having set the "we have a cable news network to cover these things" precedent at Obama's last news conference.

* * *

CW has pushed back the start of production on its new drama "The Beautiful Life" by a week but insists it's not because co-star Mischa Barton was put under an involuntary psychiatric hold last week at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

CW insists it's because some of the sets were not completed on time.

"The Beautiful Life," exec-produced by ooh-it's-Ashton-Kutcher!, was scheduled to debut Sept. 16; it's about young hot supermodels living together in a coed -- gasp! -- residence in Manhattan. The 23-year-old Barton is supposed to play the aging supermodel who is struggling to hang on to her supermodeldom.

It was unclear late Monday afternoon when the sets might be let out of involuntary psychiatric hold and whether, as one "source" told the New York Post on Monday, the sets had been rendered "uninsurable" after missing the New York premiere of their new movie "Homecoming," which might affect the sets' future on the CW series.

* * *

When enormously popular William Petersen left CBS's "CSI" last season, the series fumbled a couple of million viewers; toward the end of the ninth season, the procedural crime drama was clocking some of its smallest crowds ever, though it remained the country's most watched drama series.

What to do? CBS announced Monday that Jorja Fox, who played Sara Sidle, Petersen's employee and love interest, is returning to reprise her role for "multiple" episodes. Sidle had been a regular since the show's unveiling but left during its eighth season to "deal with demons," as CBS put it, then returned briefly during the ninth season, only to leave again to "do research" in Costa Rica, where Petersen's Gil Grissom character joined her.

Still with me?

In a statement clearly intended to lure Grissom fans back to the show, exec producer Carol Mendelsohn promises "longtime 'CSI' fans will be excited to discover where life has taken Sara Sidle and what brings her back to the 'CSI' team in Las Vegas in our premiere episode." Not coincidentally, "CSI" faces ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and Fox's "Fringe" this coming season.

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