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Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 9, 2009; 1:00 PM

Columnist Lisa de Moraes was online Friday, Jan. 9 at 1 p.m. ET to take your questions about the drama, comedy and heartbreak of the world of television -- both onscreen and behind-the-scenes.

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This week, Lisa is in Los Angeles for the Television Critics Association winter press tour -- read more about it at her blog: de Moraes on TV. She's eager to chat about Barbara Walters's efforts to reduce Patrick Swayze to tears, "Law & Order: SVU's" Richard Belzer bashing NBC for putting Jay Leno on at 10 p.m., and PBS's decision to protect the youth of America from a naked Ian McKellan (the subject of this week's poll.)

The discussion transcript follows.

TV columns | On TV discussion transcripts.

De Moraes has written "The TV Column" for The Post since 1998. She served as the TV editor for the entertainment industry trade publication the "Hollywood Reporter" for almost a decade.

washingtonpost.com: Lisa is running a little late but should begin shortly.

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Geiko: Will the pile of money with eyeballs be getting it's own sitcom?

Lisa de Moraes: Hi. sorry for delay, wi-fi hell at Universal Hilton hotel -- I blame Paris.. And yes, P"ile o' Money w/Eyeballs" sitcom coming next season -- on ABC.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to announce that 83 percent of you are firmly in favor of Ian McKellen fully, frontally, nude on PBS's broadcast of "King Lear" and a mere 17 percent of you would rather gouge your eyes out. I'm now questioning PBS's focus group testing on this show...

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"Legally Mad": Re: David Kelly's new show - how many times can he keep reshuffling the AllyMcBostonLegalPicketLALawPractice themes? Also how much weight can we expect the actresses on this show to lose - since Kelly seems to like his leads skeleton thin?

Lisa de Moraes: Ah, but here is where this show will be totall different. Female lead will bulk up and weigh over 250 pounds at start of the series and will be down to a slim 125 pounds by that all important David E. Kellly Second Pound Shedding Season. So, as you can see, it's totally different than his previous "AllyMcLegalPicket LawPractice" series....

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Washington, D.C.: Lisa,

Are you as disappointed as I am that Obama didn't pick House as Surgeon General? That would have been great!!

Lisa de Moraes: I was hoping he'd name Joan Rivers. Devastatingly disappointing.

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"Big Bang Theory": I have avoided this since it began but I watched three episodes over Xmas break I am a total convert. Sheldon rocks! (I love Barney on "HIMYM" but I cannot stand the other male leads so I tend to leave it on mute until he shows up.)

Lisa de Moraes: You watch HIMYM the same way I do! It's like it's two different shows, "The Barney Show" and the "Rest of the Show" .. meanwhile, Lipsync For Your Life on Ru Paul's Drag Queen competition series for Logo is simply not to be missed. They're showing it here now at I'll Just Take Some of These Dinner Rolls To Feed My Hungry Children Winter TV Press Tour

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Alexandria, Va.: I agree that all the flapdoodle about Ian McClellan's member is, to cite another Shakespeare work, much ado about nothing.

But isn't it a bit ingenuous to complain about PBS not showing his penis when The Washington Post or washingtonpost.com would also refuse to do so?

At least PBS faces the prospect of a FCC fine -- what's your hesitation?

Lisa de Moraes: Not mine, Pookie -- the Post's Decency Police. I think it's neo-ironic...

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Washington, D.C.: I'm one of the few people who actually watches "Lipstick Jungle," and enjoys it. Any official news on whether it is done or not?

Lisa de Moraes: Done. Over. Meanwhile, RuPaul, is dying in this room..Someone should have warned MTV suits that drag queen humor doesn't not work at 10:45 a.m. in a room filled with middle aged middle-America TV critics, especially when RuPaul is not in drag...

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a mere 17 percent of you would rather gouge your eyes out: Re McKellen's "King Lear," brilliant, Pookie. Oh, the (intentional) irony.

Lisa de Moraes: Finally all that college Shakespeare class paid off... Speaking of tragedy, RuPaul has just dragged one of the critics up on stage with other drag queens.

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Fairfax Station, Va.: My royal Pookieness - did you catch the season premiere of "Nip/Tuck"? I do believe the show has redeemed itself and gotten back on track.

Lisa de Moraes: Really? Polling the room of TV critics last night the consensus seemed to be that it has jumped the shark...

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Chicago: "Scrubs" was surprisingly funny the other night. Not great. But not the train wreck I was expecting, either. With the lack of good sitcoms on TV these days, I'm probably going to watch it. What did you think of it?

Lisa de Moraes: I think it's lightyears better than "According to Jim." We must pray for "Scrubs" though we've been told it's certainly it's final season and Disney is just letting the show end with dignity. I know, ironic, right.

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Summerfield, N.C.: Since TNT is now showing "Bones" at 6 p.m. (instead of the always reliable "Law & Order"), I have watched three episodes this week. I had only previously seen one episode, and thought "meh." It is growing on me, particularly the two leads, but why are all the subordinate characters in the lab such annoying people? Will I eventually like them too, or is the show just good because of Bones and the FBI agent?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, but this show is much better than it was in its early seasons, so keep watching...

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Lisa-

I was in LA this past week for vacation and shocked to see all the billboard with ads for new TV shows were for cable networks like A&E, Bravo, TNT and TBS. It seems the big four networks have given up!

Lisa de Moraes: Things change so fast here in Los Angeles. All the billboards this week are for Fox's "Lie to Me" -- and NBC Universal seems to have taken out a long term lease on the big billboard at the Hollywood and Highland Tourist Trap for a "Kath & Kim" ad. I think the NBC suits maybe can see it from their offices...

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RuPaul is not in drag?: You mean RuPaul is dressed like a man? Or a woman?

Lisa de Moraes: Like a guy. In a gorgeous suit and some kind of exotic skin books.He's now asking the TV critics to bump and grind her heinie and take some of her clothes off. This is going really well...

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Westminster, Md.: Regarding the Ian Mckellan poll---when I was a youngster, PBS aired an unedited version of Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City." I vividly recall at least one topless scene but can safely say that I was not scarred for life. Quite the opposite, it sparked an affection for PBS that I still carry today. Unfortunately Jennifer Garner remained fully clothed throughout the recent production of "Cyrano"...

Lisa de Moraes: How lucky your childhood happened before the Dark Ages...

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Lisa -- from your column today, regarding Nova's "show on 'The Bible's Buried Secrets,' which explored the hypothesis that humans wrote the Bible" and that " 'The fundamentalists really took issue with that...' "

I am not religious and no Bible scholar but why would fundamentalists get upset about that? Don't they think humans (i.e. Moses, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) wrote the Bible?

washingtonpost.com: The 'Nova' Man Is Bursting With Bright Ideas (Post, Jan. 9)

Lisa de Moraes: I have absolutely no idea, but I was raised by scientists...anybody out there?

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The Barney bandwagon: Must be desperate TV times (oh wait, they are) because if a straight actor played a gay and highly promiscuous character the show would never have made it past the pilot. On another note, does everyone realize that the character names on Big Bang Theory are in homage to 60's sitcom producing legend Sheldon Leonard?? As you were...

Lisa de Moraes: I certainly hope so. Love him in "Guys and Dolls."

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PBS & Nudity: Way back in the day ("Poldark", "I Claudius", "Jewel in the Crown") I remember being ushered out of our tv room by my folks because Masterpiece Theatre was way too racy for young eyes. These days the offerings seem awfully tame -- what happened?

Lisa de Moraes: Fear of FCC fines...

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Washington, D.C.: I'm impressed with your multi-tasking: doing an online chat and live blogging a RuPaul presser at the same time! Lisa is the best.

Lisa de Moraes: And, I'm doing sudoku....

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Fairfax, Va.: I think if we all survived Dennnis Franz's butt, we can make it through anything.

Lisa de Moraes: I confess I still have nightmares about that....

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Baltimore: Sharing an Ian McKellen experience: And no, it did not involve full frontal nudity. Some years back, when I was writing for an alternative weekly, I had the chance to do a phone interview with Sir Ian when his movie version of "Richard III" was released. He was very funny and self-deprecating as he talked on a cell phone while being driven to the airport. As we neared the the end of the interview, the call suddenly dropped. I was sorry we didn't have the chance to wrap up, then my phone rang and I heard that unmistakable voice saying, "We had such a pleasant chat that I felt I should ring back so we could say a proper goodbye." Yeah...I wound up writing a total puff piece. What a gentleman.

Lisa de Moraes: He's been here twice this week. Once to plug "Lear" and once to plug a remake of "Prisoner." He's a joy to listen to...

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Washington, D.C.: I usually enjoy watching Rufus Sewell, so for the first time I watched "Eleventh Hour." The writing and acting were atrocious!

I don't understand how this series was greenlighted.

Lisa de Moraes: That is soooooooo easy to answer! Jerry Bruckheimer.

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Washington, D.C.: Please, is there any way to rid TV of "reality" programs and five nights of Leno in prime time (short of killing the stupid masses who watch them)?

Netflix has been my savior for a while. I've watched many foreign or independent films that received little or no advertising that were much better than anything on TV.

Lisa de Moraes: No and no. Sorry. NBC programs for margins and Leno will be so cheap compared to the money NBC was going to toss away with five drama series developed by Ben "I'm The Next Brandon Tartikoff" Silverman. And, really, I have to say I don't think it's fair to paint all reality TV as the same sludge. I enjoy "American Idol" for instance, but "The Hills" -- not so much... Very different shows.

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Who wrote the Bible: Some fundamentalists believe that the Bible is the unaltered word of God, so it was, essentially, transcribed by men. There are a whole bunch of differing interpretations of the history of the Bible, and since we can't "know" for sure, exploring these interpretations can make for interesting TV.

Also: the first time I ever saw naked breasts was on "I, Claudius" in the '70s. Awesome!

Lisa de Moraes: Apparently your family did not subscribe to National Geographic? And thanks for the explanation...

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"Lie to Me" scoop?: What's the buzz on this series, Lisa? I love Tim Roth, but wonder if I'm a little burned out on the whole topic because of "The Mentalist."

Lisa de Moraes: You have also just explained why Fox is giving it a post "Idol" launch. Imitation: sincerest form of television. In fairness, this show was developed before "Mentalist" debuted, but the new launch and schedule plans is definitely happening because of "Mentalist" success. The buzz is it's a very traditional TV drama, which is actually out-of-the-box for Fox. Won't it be interesting to see if it succeeds? I like the lead a lot.

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Ooooh the Prisoner remake - tell us more!: Do they have those scary white balloon things to keep the prisoners in the village?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, but the lead actor is, um, well I think "no Patrick McGoohan" is the best way to put it. On the other hand, McKellen's performance on this project is reason enough to watch...His performance is tremendous.

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Much Ado About Nothing?: Hi Lisa, This whole flap about Ian McLellan on-stage exposure reminded me of CBS airing a (non-Fonda) version of "On Golden Pond." The Eye went ahead with the "bull---" line, apparently without the FCC's ire, but certainly David Letterman's.

Dave repeatedly aired clips from the "Golden Pond" production - but only clips quoting the BS.

Good thing Dave's not at PBS, eh.

Lisa de Moraes: Forget PBS. Good thing Dave's not head of the FCC...

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remake of "Prisoner"???: Is Patrick McGoohan involved in this or is it going to be awful?

Lisa de Moraes: The producers did some of the most serious dancing around that very question I've ever seen at a press tour...

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Lisa,

I know this is not the correct place for this but I just need to ask. Dane Cook's half brother was accused of embezzling $10 million of his money. How did Dane Cook get $10 million? Life is not fair.

washingtonpost.com: Brother accused of embezzling from Dane Cook

Lisa de Moraes: No kidding. There was some panel here in the past couple days -- it's already become a blur -- in which Dane Cook was wonderfully nicked by some other comic Oh yeah, it was the panel for the Mark Twain Prize for comedy. Either Lewis Black or Richard Belzer just savaged him.

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an American in London: I saw McKellan's "King Lear" on stage (three times, in fact) - I know PBS is going to sell a copy of the broadcast on DVD, but will the sold DVD be uncensored?

And for those who'd rather gouge their eyes out - honestly, the nudity is far less disturbing that much of the other stuff going on in Shakespeare's plays. It is disturbing, don't get me wrong, but in a "this man has gone completely mad and even though he's a tyrant there's still something pathetic about him" way.

In any case, with or without the nudity, I strongly recommend the play. It was amazingly well done: I hate the character, and yet finally understood him after watching it.

Lisa de Moraes: I'm guessing PBS DVD won't have the nudity either, though I do not know for sure. I will find out -- good question. Meanwhile McKellen noted during that Q&A that PBS (and PBS execs must assume, the FCC) is okay with showing a man having his eyes gouged out, but not himself naked....On a funnier note, T.I. is now on stage to plug his "Road to Redemption" show for MTV. He is now the record holder for the most "I's" and "me's" per sentence at a press tour.. Poor pookster is going to grapple with his own demons while performing a grueling 1,000 hours of community service during the year ending this March. How can he do it?!

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Washington DC: Re The Prisoner: My understanding was that Patrick McGoohan owned this property outright--he conceived it, wrote it and owned the copyright. So I would love to know what the real deal is. I always liked him--and loved that fact that he appeared on an episode of The Simpsons where Homer was sent to the Village and continually kept sabotaging McGoohan's escape plans.

Lisa de Moraes: That was one of the funniest "The Simpsons" episodes ever. And yes, the producers did a terrific tap dance around the property rights thing too...It was like talking to someone from The Village...

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Beltsville, Md.: The first time I ever saw naked breasts on TV was "Monty Python's Flying Circus." In the 1970s. On PBS.

Lisa de Moraes: PBS has done so much to teach us the basics of anatomy. It's a very educational network.

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Oakton, Va.: Barbara Walters was just plain mean when interviewing Patrick Swayze. What was up with her?

Lisa de Moraes: Babs "Cry Me a River" Walters is all about jerking the tears. Don't think he didn't know what he was getting into. Why do you think she was mean? Because she asked his wife if she had thought what life was going to be like after he's dead? I'm still mad she did not ask the A&E suit how the heck they got this show insured. He's clearly not going to make it to a third season...

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Idol: None of the "Idol" ads for the new season show the goofballs like they've always done in the past. Do you think they're really cutting back on showing the obnoxious, cussing wannabees?

Lisa de Moraes: No doubt about it. They've cut the bad auditions episodes down and are spending more time in Hollywood, etc. The new promo campaign is all about "aspiration" and "empowerment" blah, blah, blah...

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PBS & sex: I learned more about sperm/egg fertilization from 5 frank minutes of "3-2-1 Contact" in the '80s than in the endless awkward filmstrips my class had to watch in middle school.

Lisa de Moraes: like I said....

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Prison Break: Will "Prison Break" finally end so they can wrap up this convoluted plot or will they renew it have some more inane plot twists

Lisa de Moraes: They're starting from the top but the producers swear the many unanswered questions from the original will be mostly answered by episode six of this version. So then, um, why watch....

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Tinseltown: There are rumors Patrick McGoohan lives in seclusion in the LA area. Of course, in LA, that's not saying much. Yet, I think it is sad as supposedly his agent/former agent is rumored to find it difficult to reach him as he avoids the public and press and agents. I hope he does reemerge as I am sure a lot of his fans would love to see him.

Lisa de Moraes: The producers said they had hoped to get him to do a cameo in an episode but he "could not travel" (it was not shot in this country)...

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Tom Cruise speechless on The View today: Did you catch Tom Cruise on "The View"? Baba WaWa asked him about Jeff Travolta and he couldn't get out a coherent sentence. Priceless.

Lisa de Moraes: Is it just me or does Tom Cruise seem more sane these days. I'm prepared to believe it's just me...

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washingtonpost.com: Tom Cruise on The View 01/09/09 (3 of 5) (youtube.com)

Lisa de Moraes: Judge for yourself....

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TV is circling the drain: Two signs of TV's further demise: 1) Channel 50 now shows still ads for its programs DURING the airing of "Sex and the City." You hear the actors speaking while watching a still ad for "Gossip Girl." Do the execs at that channel actually WATCH television? 2) TV Land replacing reruns with infomercials and airing its own stupid original programming.

Lisa de Moraes: So the old saying among network suits that the shows are the bits that go between the ads is no longer true?

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NBC: What kind of blackmail does Howie Mandel have on the NBC executives? Seriously, the promos for his new show, which were playing constantly last night, scare me. Howie sticks his finger in people's glasses and that's a show?! Really!? On the other hand I continue to be amazed by how much I love Tracy Morgan on "30 Rock," when I generally loathed him on "Saturday Night Live." Less is more I think.

Lisa de Moraes: Repeat after me: programming for margins, programming for margins.....

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Pook, IE?: Why do posters to the chat call you Pookie? Is this an in-chat joke us newbies need the back-story on?

Lisa de Moraes: Old family name.....

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Ushered out of the room: I was taken out of the room once when there was a lesbian character on "Maude." I think I was about 8 or so at the time. As if Maude herself was a girly girl??

Lisa de Moraes: These are all such great stories. We need to start a WaPo TeamTV "I Was Ushered Out of the Room When" Virtual Quilt that could tour the country...or at least the WaPo web site.. Keep sending your contributions...

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"Tales of the City" clued the squares into PBS & they freaked...: As I recall didn't conservative freakouts over nudity and gay themes in TOTC kill the PBS show "American Playhouse", spark threats of reduced congressional funding, and freak the network out of their bold programming style?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, I think that was the start of the buzzkill..

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Obama in Digital: Do you think the big switch to digital will be delayed? When The Man gets involved, it must be pretty serious.

Lisa de Moraes: Well, when people who have lost their jobs are being told by the feds they have to buy a box or buy a new TV or sign up for cable or satellite or sorry, no television, in a few weeks, I'd say things had reached a crisis. The Man needs to get involved...

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Lisa de Moraes: From press tour transcript, in re Dane Cook:

Critic asks Belzer and Black if they saw any George Carlins amongst the current crop of comedians, adding the caveat, "I assume not Dane Cook."

Black: "That's a good assumption...That's pretty solid. Do you agree?"

Belzer: "I wasn't aware that Mr. Cook was a comedian."

Da dum dum....

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RE: Dennis Franz: Hey, I met Dennis Franz backstage at the Hollywood Christmas parade back in the early '90s. He and his pasty white rear was the nicest celebrity there. The most "exiting" was Lynda Carter (I'm a 30 something male). The worst was Scott Baio. What an jerk.

Lisa de Moraes: What was Dennis Franz doing at the Hollywood Christmas parade? What was Dennis Franz doing with Scott Baio? Seriously....

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Summerfield, NC: I remember watching "Room 222" as a child. There was a character described as being a homosexual. I didn't know what that was. (I think I was around 8 years old.) I asked my 15 year old brother - he told me to look it up in the dictionary, which I did.

Lisa de Moraes: Another quilt square (sorry, I meant that literally, not figuratively)...

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Are the dinner rolls at least good rolls?: Maybe thereporterswhocovertv should don some Dickensian street urchin clothes?

Lisa de Moraes: They're already there....Poll update: 80 percent of you are Pro McKellen nudity, 20 percent opting for eye gouging. We'll keep the poll up for a while. Get out the vote for Ian McKellen's nakedness....bye

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