The TV Column Live: BET's Michael Vick Show, Tom DeLay's Fractured Feet, ABC Picks Up Cox, Heaton and O'Neill and Not Kelsey

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

Columnist Lisa de Moraes was online Friday, Oct. 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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Washington, D.C.: Lisa, I'm curious how networks choose to market their shows. For example, NBC's (please don't stop reading because I mentioned NBC and marketing) ads for last night's The Office episode were very sappy, romantic-centric. The episode itself had a few romantic moments -- it was after all, about a wedding -- but the episode was mostly the usual hijinks.

I know you don't like the whole Jim and Pam thing, but could you look beyond that and answer the question? Do you think NBC did marketing or polling to determine that ads featuring the romantic aspect of the episode would be most effective, or did they reach that decision some other way? Thanks.

Lisa de Moraes: Hi. Great question and thanks for asking. It's a time-honored NBC tradition to try to goose a comedy series' ratins by adding some glutinous romance story. Remember the three-way on "Good Morning Miami"? Yes, NBC hoped the wedding episode would bring all those viewers (cough*chicks*cough) who love a good wedding. And I'm happy to report -- it did! The Glutinous Office Wedding Episode clocked 9 million viewers. That's about 1.5 million than "The Office" has done so far this season. That said, our "Office" Romance Correspondent, Emily Yahr, says she was very disappointed in the wedding and the unoriginal YouTube ripoff dance-down-the-aisle bit.

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Clinton, Md.: Love your column. I also love the new sitcoms on ABC, "The Middle" and "Modern Family." The only sitcoms I have LOL'd at in a long time (other than "30 Rock"). ("Cougar Town" not so much! I hate that term, and can't bring myself to watch a show by that title). I am also loving "Community" on NBC. What do you think about some of the newer sitcoms?

washingtonpost.com: ABC Endorses "Cougar Town," "Modern Family," "The Middle"

Lisa de Moraes: This was a very good season for comedy development. The broadcast networks are clearly making a big push to try to figure out how to get viewers to watch comedies on their lineup. Besides CBS, of course, which already knows how. People kept on writing that comedy was dead, but it's actually thriving -- in syndication. All those lovely reruns of "Seinfeld," "Friends," blah, blah, blah. Now, about NBC's "Community" -- it's not doing terribly well but then it's on NBC and what were they smoking when they decided to air it at 8 last night? A struggling new series? Leading off the night? Oh yeah! They were thinking they needed to make sure the one-hour "The Office" wedding episode -- gak! -- eded at 10 to feed as big an audience as possible into Jay Leno's show, instead of airing earlier so it could feed as big as possible an audience into its two new struggling sitcoms, "Community" and "Parks and Recreation" (which yes, I know is not a freshman series but it's still trying to find its legs, having only debuted last spring). It's almost like the whole NBC primetime schedule is now all about servicing Jay...You know, like cancelling "Southland" before it even debuts. Because someone at NBC discovered it was really gritty and should not air before 10 p.m. Only Jay got 10 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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ABC comedies: Now that ABC has pretty much said see-ya to "Hank" is there any hope that "Better Off Ted" may come back sooner? BOT was hilarious and I can't wait for its new season to start.

Lisa de Moraes: I think the plan is to move "Scrubs II" in there, once ABC throws in the towel on "Hank." That said, "Hank" has not yet been cancelled yet and maybe it will find an audience. It got 6.5 million viewers which is still a bigger haul than than "Community's" 5 million on NBC at 8 the next night.

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TV Watcher - Washington, D.C.: Whatever happened to "Flashpoint" the show about snipers that had flashback scenes at the beginning of each episode? I hope it's coming back.

Lisa de Moraes: You're in luck. CBS picked up a third season -- 13 episodes.

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Hartford, Conn.: Hi Lisa. Why did NBC decide to cancel "Southland" before the season even premiered? Do you think the show will be successfully shopped to another/cable network? Are you a fan of the show? Thanks.

Lisa de Moraes: I hear it's being shopped around but that's going to be a tough sell at this point. On the other hand, it's produced by Warner Bros. and the parent company Time Warner owns TNT, the cable drama network. Word on the street is that NBC decided the show was too gritty for 9 o'clock. But shouldn't they have known that last spring when they were deciding to put Jay on at 10 Monday through Friday? Particularly before they ordered a second season of "Southland" -- which is one of the shows on NBC's lineup that is NOT produced by NBC/Universal and so was going to cost real money? My guess is they're seeing Jay's numbers and looking at "Southland's" numbers from last year and realizing the show is not going to provide Jay the kind of lead-in audience he needs and so decided to cut bait because they could and cut their losses. Only six episodes have been produced. Jay seems to do his biggest audience of the week on Tuesday, when his lead-in is "The Biggest Loser." So the question is, will NBC slap more reality series on its lineup at 9 in order to save Jay?

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Washington, DC..: Wasn't the unoriginality of the "YouTube ripoff dance-down-the-aisle bit" the whole point?

Lisa de Moraes: You mean, unoriginality is a good thing? How did I miss that memo!

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Florida: So NBC canceled "Southland" because it couldn't air it before 10 p.m., but "Law and Order: SVU" is perfect, family friendly entertainment?

Lisa de Moraes: Like I said, I think that was a smokescreen and what is really going on here is trying to find the biggest possible leadin for Jay...

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Last night's wedding of Pam and Jim on "The Office": It was wonderful. It ranks right up there with the death of Chuckles the Clown on the old Mary Tyler Moore show.

Lisa de Moraes: Really? Me, I'm still coming down from the saccharine jolt...

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First Q: I love ya Lisa, but you didn't answer the first question. I think the chatter was asking if NBC targets ad types to the show they are shown w/in. As in romantic ads for the Office wedding ep.

Lisa de Moraes: Thought my answer was pithy and brilliant, but I'll take another whack. Yes. They do.

NBC has a history of adding goopy romantic storylines to its comedies, particularly struggling ones, and then -- usually sweeps -- ratchets up the glutinous storyline with some big event: wedding, baby birthing, breakup, romantic three-way, etc.) and promotes the hell out of that on-air. Phew!

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Washington, D.C.: Dude, Modern Family is actually funny. In the last episode, I laughed a lot -- even out loud. I'm glad it got picked up because I can't remember the last time I sat down and seriously watched a comedy on TV. (Friends/Frasier/Seinfeld was probably the last time and rewatching Friends makes me wonder how I ever thought that show was funny.) Do you like it Pookie? So far I think Ty Burrell is the funniest.

My question is do ratings include any online viewings? I usually watch on Hulu because of my schedule and I hope they can somehow include online viewings in their calculations.

Lisa de Moraes: I really enjoy "Modern Family" and it's nice people are getting to see how great Burrell is as an actor.But the whole cast is great. This is one of the best-cast shows I've seen in ages...

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Alexandria, Va.: Nice poll results, Mike Vick! Good luck with that show!

Lisa de Moraes: Thanks for mentioning. I should have when we started. Please vote in our poll today, asking whether you intend to watch BET's Michael Vick reality series. So far, 92 percent of you are leaning toward "No"....

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"Lisa de Moraes: You mean, unoriginality is a good thing? How did I miss that memo! ": I'm sorry, I was looking for the Lisa de Moraes who writes about TV.

Lisa de Moraes: oooh -- snap! You can not see me here at my desk but I'm lecturing myself sternly at having apparently crossed the line with a rabid fan of TV who are notoriously sensitive -- not that there's anything wrong with that. Personally I cry whenever I see a puppy being reprimanded. Anyway, back to the wedding: I'm not getting why the unoriginality of the whole wedding sequence was a good thing. Is it because Carrell made the crack "did you see this on YouTube?" so the writers were actually acknowledging the unoriginality of their dance-down-the-aisle bit that makes it good? Is that meta-irony? So many questions...

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Alexandria, Va.: It seems all women everywhere hate "Cougar Town". So who's watching it, to make it one of the shows ABC picked up? Is it a male-only audience, or are women watching it just to hate it?

Lisa de Moraes: I hope everyone who says they won't watch it because they are offended by the title, goes ahead and secretly watches it. We won't tell -- promise! Because it's actually funny. Particularly Cox and I seriously can't believe I'm writing that because I've never thought much of her as an actress.. So please, all you "Cougar Town" name haters: pretend it's called "The Courteney Cox Comedy" and have a look at it.

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Tulsa, Okla.: Who is Ty Burrell? Is he the one who fixes houses for people?

Lisa de Moraes: Hes' the "hip" dad. The one who knows all the dance numbers to "High School Musical" and who thinks WTF stands for Why the Face...I'm laughing just thinking about that pilot episode scene...

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Roanoke, Va.: Hi Pookie, I think you've covered this before, but what is the deal with CBS not allowing full episodes online either on their site or on Hulu?

Lisa de Moraes: CBS has decided not to participate in Hulu. They've got TV.com...

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Washington, D.C.: Lisa,

When do you think we will start hearing the other side of the Letterman story? It seems very odd to me that someone would blackmail someone else and ask for a check. Was this guy going to pay taxes on the 2 million? There has to be more to this story.

Lisa de Moraes: Well, Halderman's lawyer has been doing the rounds on TV talk shows -- "Today" show gets a Letterman-esque sized audience. And, of course "someone" is leaking information that would seem to prop up the other side in the New York tabloids..So I think we're starting to hear the other side which, based on the initial blah, blah, blah, seems to be that Halderman was furious at being cuckholded by Letterman. And, can I just ask, because I really want to know: what 34 year old woman, who is smart enough to pass the bar in New York, is stupid enough to keep a diary -- and we're apparently talking "diary" like one of those little pink things with the lock on it -- in which she describes her romantic hookups with her boss and then leaves it lying around in the house she is sharing with her "boyfriend"...This is not someone I would hire as my attorney. Ever.

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Cougar Town: I'm secretly watching it. Hate the name too, but if it wasn't called Cougar Town, people would talk about how she's too old, etc.

Lisa de Moraes: Good for you! And yes, the beauty of this show is they get to show off Cox's gorgeous body and have her in the sack with pretty young men, without people going ''ewwwwww!'

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RE: "Why the Face?": I didn't laugh at that joke at first. (I got it, just didn't laugh.) Now, every time I hear it, it keeps getting funnier and funnier. I hope it catches on and becomes a thing.

Lisa de Moraes: ABC has given if a full-season order but it's not a ratings hit out of the gate. That said, in this era of fragmentation, it sometimes take a season or two for a show to really click. Or, in the cast of "NCIS" it takes SEVEN seasons....

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"So NBC canceled "Southland" because it couldn't air it before 10 p.m., but "Law and Order: SVU" is perfect, family friendly entertainment?": On the USA network they do SVU marathons that start at 6-7 a.m. Just what people want to wake up to, sex crimes and bad acting. What IS wrong with NBC?

Lisa de Moraes: What's wrong with NBC is that the guy in charge blames the problems the network is having on "the state of the TV industry" when he should be looking in the mirror. Yes, the industry is having a very tough time. But, yes, CBS clocked more viewers this summer than it did last summer. If you know what you're doing, you can attract viewers...

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Fairfax, Va.: Tell me TV guru...how is Eastwick doing? I enjoy it in a weird sort of way. I am not sure why I like it, as I don't like any of the actors, but I do like it. Am I alone in this?

Lisa de Moraes: Sorry to report you are part of a smallish and dwindling group. It's down to 5 million viewers this week -- had opened with nearly 9 million. Meanwhile, in the same hour, "CSI: NY" logged 12 million viewers this week. Really, there's no explaining that...

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Princeton, N.J.: How adrift is NBC now? While I can't believe they cancelled "Southland," I'm also not surprised. They have 8 hours of scripted shows during the week now; is the bar so low that the Peacock can't even put decent shows out? They don't exactly have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to shows right now. What is the likelihood of Warner bringing Southland to TNT, or shopping it to Showtime?

Lisa de Moraes: If nothing else, it's embarrassing they picked the show up for a second season and then cancelled it. It gives the appearance of not knowing what they are doing over at NBC...oh wait...

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ABC Comedy -- WWHT?: Who Would Have Thunk! Cougar Town and especially Modern Family are the two new shows I've added that are keepers, The Good Wife, not so much.

Lisa de Moraes: But Chris Noth...In prison! How can you not love that? Seriously, I'm asking.....

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Vick: I voted No, but I wouldn't watch this kind of show even if he weren't an evil dog-hating creep.

Lisa de Moraes: How come? Not a football fan?

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Re: The Middle: I love Patricia Heaton, but I think "The Middle" is terrible. Do you like it?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, I do. There, I've said it. I'm not a Heaton fan -- thought she was very shrill on "Raymond" which actually was not her fault -- it was how the part was written. I adore the little boy who keeps whispering the last line of every sentence he speaks..

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Fairfax, Va.: Do you know why the CBS Web site doesn't provide full episodes of The Big Bang Theory? Every other show seems to be up there except for that one.

Lisa de Moraes: CBS does not own the copyright on "Big Bang Theory." It's owned by Warner Brothers. It's up to Warner Brothers whether it wants to let CBS put the episodes up on the CBS web site and apparently the answer is "no."

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Seattle, Wash.: Need to submit early...I am wishing they waited for Julianna Margulies appearing on Letterman instead of having her on in early September.

Speaking of new shows, What new shows do you see fading?

I never judge a show by its pilot mainly because its a little contrived where you are introducing the setting and relationships. I wait to see how the first few episodes are.

I see "Accidently on purpose" and "Cougar Town" in a cage match to death....with both not surviving.

Lisa de Moraes: What happened with Julianna Margulies on Letterman's show. Please tell me he did not put his hand on her leg..And fading new shows include "Accidentally on Purpose" (if there is a god in heaven), "Hank," "The Beautiful Life:TBL" (which is cancelled already), the aforementioned "Eastwick," "The Forgotten," "Dollhouse,"and I'm sure I'm forgetting a few more...

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Its always sunny, except for these chats: Why no love for IASIP?

Frank, "Who knows how many years I got left? I want to get weird with them?

Hilarious. Seriously, this season is good.

Lisa de Moraes: It is a strange little show, and I love it when Dann DeVito is on...

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RE: "Modern Family": I am still peeing in my pants about the last episode where SofĂ­a Vergara talks about dressing her son up as a girl when he was a little babe. When he saw the pictures, she told him it was his twin that died so he wouldn't have any issues. Too Funny.

Lisa de Moraes: The writing on this show is also great, like the casting.

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Chuckles the Clown: classic! I don't watch The Office but I can't imagine any show at anytime matching that. Maybe WKRP:

"With God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."

Lisa de Moraes: lol

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Fairfax, Va.: I'm so glad you agree about Cougar Town...it somehow makes me feel vindicated. I never thought Courteney could act, and yet she is fantastic in this. The back and forth with her "paper buddy" across the street is really funny and I love the guy who is married to the Botox-faced chick from Drew Carrey and Scrubs. I've started DVRing and secretly watching it.

Lisa de Moraes: Hey, if you need to watch it in the dark because of the show's name, I'm all for that... Maybe ABC should put up a brown paper bag over the name during the broadcast -- like newsstands do with Playboy and other mags...

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The Mitten-Shaped Sofa aka Michigan: Hi Lisa, can I double dip and comment on two shows in today's mix? First of all, "Southland Tales" may have been good, the way "take the stairs" is supposed to be good. C'mon, it looked joylessly heavy.

I had zero hopes for "Cougar Town" -- but am pleasantly surprised. Credit where credit is due: Supporting Cast.

Enjoy a nice weekend!

Lisa de Moraes: I am on record as saying I will always take a question from someone who identifies themselves as "The Mitten-Shaped Sofa, aka Michigan". "Southland" was joylessly heavy. So far so good. The problem is NBC ordered it in May. They did not have to. They chose to. Then they postponed the debut until October. Then they yanked it altogether. This give the appearance NBC is not on top of things, floundering, rudderless ship, in a state of panic over Leno numbers, etc.. None of that is good. That is the point.
And, in re Cougar Town. The supporting cast IS terrific, aren't they? And the writing is great -- even though Bill Lawrence is in charge -- go figure.

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Washington, D.C.: Just curious on your thoughts on The Vampire Diaries on The CW (the merger of UPN with The WB)?

I honestly would have never watched it, but my daughters did and I actually enjoyed it and it knows how to do its cliffhangers well as I honestly want to see next week's episode.

It's from Kevin Williamson, the creator of "Scream" and "Dawson's Creek". Do you think the Washington Post could get -Kevin Williamson http:www.twitter.com/kevwilliamson] do a live chat some day soon?

washingtonpost.com: Kevin Williamson

Lisa de Moraes: It appears we did?

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Juliana/Letterman: I suspect the previous poster is saying that in light of the fact that The Good Wife is about a woman whose husband cheated on her, it's too bad she appeared on Letterman before the news about Letterman broke.

Lisa de Moraes: So, you're saying I clearly need more caffeine? I agree -- that one got right by me. Thanks!

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Arlington, Va.: Speaking of NBC, speaking of comedies, when is 30 Rock coming back?

Lisa de Moraes: Next Thursday...

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McLean, Va.: Kate Gosselin is totally unbelievable with regard to her bank accounts. Jon made a great point about the $1 million dollars from her book that's hidden, and it was he who took care of the kids while she traveled the U.S. on her book tours.

Both parents deserve blame, but ultimately, Kate isn't someone whom you can have much sympathy for. She's a control freak who's lost her power to control her husband.

Kate keeps saying that the kids are broken up that the cameramen have left and the freebie vacations have dried up, but it was Kate who got rid of their two pet German Shepherds after they filed for divorce. So she's more concerned about having her kids interact with the camera crew vice dogs?

To me, Jon cutting the apron strings around his neck is akin to the book by Terry McMillan, and it's called "How Jon Gosselin got his groove back."

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, Kate made a bad strategic move when she dumped the kids' pet dogs. And yes, it is now officially impossible to root for either parent in this story -- they are both heinous. My heart breaks for the children. Yes, I sound just like my mother on the telephone with her girlfriends, and it's scaring me a little bit. On the other hand, the War of the Gosselins has provided us with some hilarious television. Did you see the bit on Leno's show this week in which a faux TMZ-ish photog said Kate's hair made her look like someone who fights crime in outer space, or something like that. If you missed it, catch it on Hulu...

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Woodbridge, Va.: How about Hoarders on A and E? What these people put themselves through is beyond reason. . .

Lisa de Moraes: It's a very sad, but strangely compelling show. I do wonder: what is season 3 of this show?

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Cox's gorgeous body: as long as they don't show her face, it looks like one of those plastic surgeries gone bad, scary.

Lisa de Moraes: Heck, that work is nothing compared to, say, Sharon Osbourne on "America's Got Talent". Or, while I'm at it, David Hasselhoff on "America's Got Talent." I could go on and on. But I won't.

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"Accidentally on Purpose" is just plain skeezy: I watched the pilot because of the main character's Scottish friend (the woman from "Extras") and it was okay. Then I tried to get my husband to watch it with me the other night and it was so over the top full of sexual stuff that I was embarrassed to watch it! Maybe I am too old for this new, hip comedy, but if I am then so is Jenna Elfman.

Lisa de Moraes: Jenna Elfman needs to have a sit down with someone who can explain to her she's not a perky 20 year old any more and that, BTW, the role she's playing now does not call for perky 20-year-old-ness. She's supposed to be the older woman shacking up with the younger guy she's having a baby with (with whom she is having a baby?)

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Silver Spring, Md.: I'm a 40-something woman watches Cougar Town. I do like it. It's funny. Used to be you had to "SAY" something and be deep for me to like your show. Now, eh, if you make me laugh, I'm in.

I voted "no" on Michael Vick, but I hate reality TV in general, so I'm not watching Dog Whisperer either.

I also weirdly like Eastwick, but it doesn't seem like it's going to last. I do want to say that Rebecca Romjin looks GREAT! I don't know if it's baby weight or if she put weight on specifically for the part, but I think she looks like she could snap her two co-stars in half and HOT HOT HOT!

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, it is baby weight -- she talked about that at the press tour. Yes, I know, an actress has a chance to chat with 200 TV critics about her new TV series, and decides to tell them about her baby weight so they know she's not really that heavy, normally... sigh.

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Michael Vick: I's advise the advertizers, BET and Viacom people to read the comments section of you article before proceeding to put this on the air ... it's a disgrace!

Lisa de Moraes: I was frankly surprised when the executive producer said to me on the phone that he would never put anything into the "documentary" series that might damage the Michael Vick "brand" or embarrass the NFL or his new football team. If it's a documentary, isn't it up to Vick to make sure he doesn't do anything that would embarrass his "brand" or his bosses? Isn't a documentary series supposed to, um, document -- not spin?

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Alexandria, Va.: Easily the best thing on TV this week was Tom DeLay's impression of Sarah Palin, when on Monday he badmouthed quitters, and on Tuesday... he quit.

Any idea how much celebrities are paid for "Dancing with the Stars", and is it a sliding scale based on how long you remain in the competition? Other than money, the only other imaginable reason why DeLay joined the show would be a desire to improve his public image, a la Jerry Springer or Steve-O.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, maybe DeLay should have reconsidered his "quitters" comment in light of how bad his feet apparently were and the advice he was getting from the doctor, and that he was going to, um, quit the next day. But he gets points for finishing his third week despite his foot condition. And the "celebrities" are not paid much. I don't want to put out a number off the top of my head but it's not the reason they go on the show. They do it to re-cast their image, or jump-start their moribund careers. It did wonders for the careers of Mario Lopez and Marie Osmonds, for example. Tucker Carlson, on the other hand, not so much. I'm out of time. Keep voting on the Vick questions if you want. Right now 96 percent of you are giving thumbs down to watching the Vick reality series. Bye.

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