The TV column live: Dobbs departure, Carrie Prejean tells off Larry King, Joss Whedon's 'Dollhouse,' James Franco an A-lister?

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Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post staff writer
Friday, November 13, 2009; 1:00 PM

Columnist Lisa de Moraes was online Friday, Nov. 13 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.

Today:

*Jay Leno beat by SpongeBob SquarePants - how embarrassing is that?

*Lou Dobbs leaving CNN to spend more time with his birther pals. Will we miss him?

*Balloon Boy parents to get probation. Will that become their next reality series?

*Sarah Palin coming to Oprah Monday - are you ready?

*"Dollhouse" canceled. Do you care? If so, how about "Hank" and "Eastwick" which have also been given their death notices?

A transcript follows.

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Raleigh, N.C.: Good afternoon. I really like "Cougar Town;" the secondary characters are very, very strong. But there's one thing about Jules that bugs the heck out of me. How old is she? Her son is a high school senior, so at this moment he's presumably 17. She references having him in her early 20s, soon after her teenage marriage. That would make her 38 or 39. But the character looks more like she's in her early-mid 40s, she acts like that too, and she referenced oncoming menopause in a way that doesn't add up for someone still in her 30s. Given that her age is so vital to the show's premise, shouldn't the writers clear this up?! Is she 39 or 44? How old do you think she is?

Lisa de Moraes: Hi. I think she's whatever age suits that particular Bill Lawrence joke at that moment. Seriously. Lawrence is obviously emptying his whole bag of cougar-esque AND perimenopausal jokes he has collected over the years. A woman would notice this problem, but guys -- not so much. Anyway, I suggest you do what I do -- flip off that verisimilitude switch, sit back and enjoy the silliness.

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Capitol Hill: Is there a new Keen Eddie cop show? I did always like him, but jumped ship during Boston Legal. Is this promising?

Lisa de Moraes: You're talking about Mark Valley, who starred in "Keen Eddie" -- one of the most wonderful cop shows ever, which was exec produced by Warren Littlefield, who had been the guy in charge of programming at NBC and before that the right hand guy of Brandon Tartikoff at NBC. Fox killed the series because they bought it and then became afraid of it -- did not know how to handle it, so they did something I like to call "death by timeslot"...but no sense dwelling on Fox's stupid past, because those execs are gone and Fox has bought "Human Target" -- see, I did finally get to your question! -- which stars Valley as a sort of poor-man's James Bond. It's a fun ride. At least the pilot is and, according to a person I know at Fox who was a little skeptical at first, subsequent episodes are even better. Don't get me wrong -- the show's no "Keen Eddie" but it's a role so perfectly suited to Valley that even when he's jumping through the gaping holes in the plot, Valley is a delight to watch.

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Bethesda, Md.: I think there's more to the Lou Dobbs story than meets the eye. Like, I wonder if he is in the tape with Carrie Prejean?

Lisa de Moraes: Funny -- I always thought there was less to Lou Dobbs than met the eye. Da dum dum! Oh, and let's grab that most fabulous Carrie Prejean video from "Larry King Live" in case anyone here has not enjoyed it yet....

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washingtonpost.com:

Lisa de Moraes: Here it is...

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Animal Planet?: Hi Lisa

do you know if there will be a "PuppyBowl" broadcast this year?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes there will be. I was invited to attend the taping -- sorry to reveal secrets but it's already been shot at a top-secret location -- but sadly, was in Los Angeles at the time and could not get back here to Washington to attend. I'm told they've really upped their game this year.

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Dearest pookie: Did Hank hit too close to home for too many people? Or was it just that bad?

And with Dollhouse finally out of its misery, will Joss Whedon head on to cable where he really belongs? His biggest hits were on The WB then UPN, perhaps he's just not ready for prime time on a major network?

washingtonpost.com: ABC's 'Hank' yanked and Fox's 'Dollhouse' cast aside (Post, Nov. 12)

Lisa de Moraes: Joss Whedon belongs online or on cable, where the threshhold for success is very much smaller. His audience is slavishly devoted -- there just are not enough of them to support a broadcast TV show. Unfortunately he went for the big bucks of broadcast. Bad call on his part. Oh and "Hank" -- it was just bad. Very very bad. Want to poke your eyes out bad. They actually decided to re-cast the kids on that show -- and made it worse, which I didn't think was possible. I was wrong.

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Washington, D.C.: The Perils of Betty: Hi, Lisa! Posting early in hopes you'll be able to take my question. I really like the "back to basics" approach "Ugly Betty" has taken this season, but I'm worried that the move to a different night and an earlier time slot will hurt its ratings. How are the all-important ratings?

Lisa de Moraes: It's doing as well as can be expected for an ABC show on Friday night. It's clear ABC kept it on the air just so they could amass enough episodes to make it a more viable product for syndication -- the show is produced by ABC parent-Disney with Reveille. This is its fourth season and you really need about four seasons to have had time to produce enough episodes. By tonight's episode they'll be up to about 71 eps... so enjoy the show while you can.

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Everybody loves Pookie: Why, in the age of DVRs and VCRs do cable networks show the same movie 3 nights in a row? It's bad enough that their big "network premiere" is of a movie that has already been seen by everyone who wanted to see it. It has already been in the theaters, on cable, pay per view, and is available on DVD.

Really USA and TNT, nobody needs or wants to see The Curse Of The Black Pearl Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. One showing is more than enough.

Lisa de Moraes: Ah, and yet, this is a play pattern that has worked very well for basic cable networks. The answer is "cheap." And, yes, I know this is the age of DVR but it's also the age of Path of Least Resistance... or something like that. Anyway, trust me, it is a financial model that works well for those networks...

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Connecticut - the Avenue, not the State: What's your take on A-lister movie star James Franco taking a gig on the daytime soap "General Hospital?" I saw a promo for it yesterday and he looks very creepy, as if the lighting in the studio blanched out any evidence of blood flow in the face. Anyway, it seems like a kooky career move. How much can they pay?

Lisa de Moraes: This is not about pay. This is clearly about something else. My list, based on absolutely no insider information, includes:

1) Someone on the show has photos

2) Someone on the show is a relative

3) Someone on the show is someone he would like to shag or is shagging already.

4) Other.

Your theories?

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The Closet: My new guilty pleasure tv is "The Vampire Diaries". I'm a successful 33-year-old woman with an otherwise adult life. Is it okay to come out of the closet with my love for this show or do I need to continue to hide in shame?

Lisa de Moraes: It depends. Do you work in an office comprised of mostly 20-something chicks? Then my all means broadcast your love of this show. If, on the other hand, you work in an office of adults and they skew more towards "guy" then i'd suggest you continue to keep it under wraps.

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Peoria, Ill.: I've had it with The View! I've been a loyal viewer for 5 or so years now but have had it with Whoopi's patronizing attitude. Plus I can't stand watching her and Sherri talk about how much they love pork rinds and hate vegetables. They set such a bad example! Off with their fat heads!

Lisa de Moraes: Now this is interesting! I think we need to start a campaign to get them to shut up about hating vegetables. I'm going to work on this. Seriously. There must be some vegetable watchdog group. Like Parents TV Council only they watch out for shows that mock vegetables. There was this whole movemement to get junk food out of kids' TV shows. I will find out who were the talking heads on that controversy..Thanks for the column tip!

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Keen Eddy: Loved that show. Is Mark Valley the new Simon Baker?

Lisa de Moraes: No. Simon Baker was the new Mark Valley...seriously, "Keen Eddie" was on ages ago. I think I smell a trend story...

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Mark Valley!: For those of us who thought he was really hot -- when is this new show "Human Target" on? Is it on yet? Will watch it no matter how dumb just to see him.

Lisa de Moraes: Fox has not yet announced start date for "Human Target" or timeslot but I hear they are going out with their "midseason" schedule any day now. We'll probably have an answer by next week's chat...

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Phoenix, Ariz.: Hi, Lisa. I watched the first episode of "Community" and added it to my DVR but haven't watched since, so I have 6 episodes waiting to be viewed. What do you think? Should I even bother watching, or just delete?

Lisa de Moraes: It is a wildly inconsistent show. Some episodes really promising, then the next one makes you want to go wash the dishes, which, at my house, means "really really bad." So, yes, watch them but if your mind starts to wander toward the kitchen sink, hit that "delete" button -- it's your friend...

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Reston, Va.: Ahh - Keen Eddie...fantastic show! I wish Hulu or Fancast or whatever would pick that up. But alas...

Lisa de Moraes: nope, it's not easy to find but we've got the link to the DVD boxed set....

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washingtonpost.com: Keen Eddie - The Complete Series on Amazon.com.

Lisa de Moraes: ...here it is...

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De More Eyes on De TV De Better: How is "V" doing in the ratings? Will it come back in March after going on hiatus later this month? I am digging it so far.

Lisa de Moraes: It dropped about 4 million viewers from its first episode to second. That's not great, but that still means about 10 million tuned in, which is okay. Would not want to see it drop much more than that. ANd yes, it's going away after its fourth episode, then coming back in March, in theory, though this show is on I think it's third show runner and at one point production was shut down for "tinkering." That is not a great sign...

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Aw Man:: I really like Eastwick. It's fun, entertaining and brainless. Perfect for a 10PM show.

Lisa de Moraes: Sadly, there are not enough of you. It's been cancelled after its 13th episode. I'm hoping they will still be able to do a mop-up episode so there is some closure for its fans.

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My theory re James Franco on a soap...: ...is more eyeballs than ever see any of his A-list films.

Lisa de Moraes: but soaps are dying...

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Gary, Ind.: Hey there's a movie where the world blows up opening this weekend. Are there any TV shows where the world blows up, too?

Lisa de Moraes: If we're lucky, "V" and "FlashForward" will have competing world blows up episodes and we can do a chat in which we compare and contrast. But, I feel compelled to ask, why is it so important to you that the world get blown up as many times as possible?

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Hamilton, Va.: James Franco is an A-list movie star????

Lisa de Moraes: ...and, of course, there is that..

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Silver Spring, Md.: I'm a Joss Whedon fan, but I'm not sad to see "Dollhouse" go. It was occasionally brilliant, but most of the time it was a bit fat mess. The premise and the limited range of Eliza Dushku meant that "Dollhouse" was forever going to be climbing itself out of a hole. If "Dollhouse" being canceled means that Whedon can create another show (preferably on cable, where he belongs) that reaches the levels of "Buffy" or "Firefly," then I'm not complaining.

Lisa de Moraes: That's the spirit! And, can we request that it not star Eliza Dushku, who has an acting range that spans A to B?

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Billings, Mont.: I always enjoy your chats. What does a "show runner" do?

Lisa de Moraes: A show runner is the name given to the writer/producer who's the actual adult on the staff and knows how to make the trains run on time. Nowadays, pratically everyone who writes a word of a show gets a "producer" credit -- and some of the actors too which is beyond silly -- so they had to come up with a new title for the person who actually does the job of, um, running the show. Title inflation is a big problem in Hollywood...

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Arlington, Va.: Re: the Palm Tree Drinking Game. I like to look for the red-painted curbs on shows supposedly set in temperate climes. Do they not realize that when it snows, nobody can see the paint on the curbs?

Lisa de Moraes: Wow. That one had escaped me and I didn't think there was any TV viewing drinking game I did not know about...What are some examples you have noticed?

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Gleeville, USA: OK, lessons I've learned from Glee:

1. Cheerleaders must wear their uniforms at all times.

2. It's evil to fake a stutter, but it's fine to fake being in a wheelchair to get a job.

3. There are too many slushee dispensers at our nations high schools.

Lisa de Moraes:

I particularly like the wheelchair point in No. 2...During the press tour Q&A on this show, TV critics were told that the best dancer in the bunch is the actor who plays this character.

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Wanda Sykes Talk Show: Man, I thought Fallon was a terrible standup and Leno was a terrible interviewer and Kimmel had terrible "bits."

Then I watched the first fifteen minutes of the new Wanda Sykes talk show. Sorry, guys.

Lisa de Moraes: I too was surprised that Fox went to all this time and money to dump "Mad TV" and promote the heck out of Wanda's debut, and then that was the first broadcast. It looked like an idea high school guys came up with and shot in their parents' garage.

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Fla.: How long until Lou Dobbs shows up on Fox News? He has seemed out of place on CNN (and among people with a deep seated sense of logic) for the last several years.

Lisa de Moraes: Fox Business News is the prevailing rumor. I do so hope it's true.

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Boston: zomg arrrgghhh!!! RIP Dollhouse. Fox fail fail fail fail fail!

What gives people? Why can't my boy Joss get a break? Did we not all watch and love and be horrified by the last new episode all about Sierra, being raped, being pimped to your rapist, and how everyone is all of a sudden so not ok with it all?

Lisa de Moraes: Let me stop you before you go any further. Joss Whedon gets nothing BUT breaks. This show never should have been picked up in the first place. Then it never should have been picked up for a second season. He's the luckiest guy working in TV today. Period. Like I said, he has a very loyal, but small, fanbase and had he not gotten greedy and gone for the Big Broadcast Bucks, this show might have survived and flourished on a cable network. Joss Whedon needs to think more about his fans and less about his wallet. If he did, he would do his work for a cable network which can sustain a show that attracts this sized audience. He did not serve you well. Shame on him.

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Nosy Parker: RIP David Lloyd, author of the classic "Chuckles Bites the Dust" epi of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Lisa de Moraes: The man was a genius. Some group or another named the "Chuckles Bites the Dust" the best episode of television ever written. He also worked on "The Bob Newhart Show," "Taxi," "Cheers" and "Frasier." FYI, his son, Christopher Lloyd, is the brains behind ABC's "Modern Family."...

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washingtonpost.com: David Lloyd Wikipedia entry

Lisa de Moraes: Here is most of what you need to know about the great David LLoyd....I'm getting the YouTube on the "Chuckles" episode and will also post that. If you have not seen it, you are missing something...

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State College, Pa.: (rant) Ok, I've said it before and I'll say it again. I heart Joss Whedon. But he DESERVES what he gets from Fox. Did the man learn NOTHING from his Firefly experience? (end rant)

Lisa de Moraes: Preaching to the choir...

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Falls Church, Va.: Do you think Oprah will treat Sarah Palin like that meanie, Katie Couric, did? Will she spring some gotcha questions like "What is your favorite color" or "How are you"?

Lisa de Moraes: Snippets of the interview are already online and the answer, based on those, is an emphatic "NO"...

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Vienna: Lisa, come on -- you dis Eliza Dushko for having no range, and yet you drool over Simon Baker every week? Us guys need our drool objects as well, and Eliza's loss will be deeply felt. Have you seen how good she looks in leather pants? THAT's acting.

Lisa de Moraes: May I introduce you to Sofia Vergara? She can actually act. She's, in fact, terrific....

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washingtonpost.com:

Chuckles Bites The Dust 1/3

Chuckles Bites The Dust 2/3

Chuckles Bites The Dust 3/3

Lisa de Moraes: Here is the "Chuckles" episode -- sorry it's in three parts...

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Peek-aBoo: Leno?: What is it with Jay Leno? At 11:30, he was everyone fun-yun, clever, kind of childish, but fun to watch. At 10:00 he's boring, tasteless (meth as an energy booster?!?!?), almost unwatchable. He seems now like the uncle who would not leave.

Lisa de Moraes: He does seem like a creepy old uncle, doesn't he. Isn't it intersting how different our viewing tastes are in primetime than at 11:35? I'm guessing "Today" show would suck in primetime -- and yet America loves it in the morning, before we're awake enough to know the difference...

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washingtonpost.com: Sofia Vergara

Lisa de Moraes: And, here is what you need to know about Sofia, who played Ed O'Neill's wife on "Modern Family." And I simply cannot sit idly by and let someone compare Eliza Tank Top to Simon Baker. She cannot hold a candle to the Baker Smile Technique. He should teach a class in Smile at the Actors Studio...

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Sofia Vergara: She was also great on "Knights of Prosperity" or "Let's Rob Mick Jagger/Ray Romano/David Letterman" or whatever the hell it was called.

Lisa de Moraes: exactly....

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Springfield, Va.: Leno: done, overdone, or burnt to a crisp?

Lisa de Moraes: WHich of those choices translates to "needs to be moved back to 11:35 p.m. asap?"

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DC: Isn't James Franco the Generalissimo of Spain? Or is that somebody else?

Lisa de Moraes: I which I had some witty retort, but I'm too busy choking with laughter..

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What, no poll?: I miss your poll. I was so looking for to an opinion on Larry King.

Lisa de Moraes: I'm sorry, it was one of those days. Let's just fake on. How about this:

Does Super-blonde Carrie Prejean calling Larry King's behavior toward her on his CNN show "inappropriate" make him:

a) 20 percent more interesting

b) 20 percent more creepy

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Louis Lobo: The video of the University of New Mexico's Liz Lambert yanking a BYU player's ponytail hard enough to flatten the BYU player is well known by now--gone viral and repeated over and over, even on network news programs.

What Lambert did is in no way excuseable, but on looking at the video and freeze-framing it just a half second before the famous pull down, it's clear that the BYU player had grabbed Lambert's shorts and was working her way upward to, um, a very private place. It happens really quickly, but to me at least it helped explain Lambert's rather startling reaction.

The play it got on TV illustrates a glaring double standard, but that's another topic.

"Poor New Mexico," as a territorial governor of the state said (for nearly 100 years now, a part of the U.S.--lots of folks still don't know that), "so far from heaven and so close to Texas."

washingtonpost.com: MWC Women's Soccer: New Mexico's Elizabeth Lambert vs BYU

Lisa de Moraes: Okay, I have absolutely no idea what is the point you are trying to make, but I want to make sure that video becomes part of this chat's archive so that years from now I can tell my great grand niece that I saved it for history...

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Olney, Md.: Hi, Lisa, Is it just me or do some shows seem to be almost rewrites of older material? The new season of "Heroes" is highly reminiscent of Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and "The Illustrated Man;" "V" smacks of the classic story and "Twilight Zone" episode "To Serve Man." Then I saw a show last night which was very similar to a favorite movie of my daughter's called "Anna to the Infinite Power." And of course "Lost" has much to do with "Lord of the Flies." Or is it just me?

Lisa de Moraes: Well, the producers of "V" have admitted it is a remake of, um, 1980's "V" because if they had not they would have just looked silly. But I take your point. You have, in a few short words just taught everyone on this chat an entire semester of TV 101. The even shorter version is "There are only 7 ideas."

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Definitely 20% more interesting: And James Franco is still (not) dead.

Lisa de Moraes: I thought so too. About Larry King I mean, not about James Franco not being dead. That I knew. Otherwise it would be hard to have him on "General Hospital." Unless, of course, he was playing a cadaver...I think that chatter was making a joke. Anyway, I thought it was hilarious. I'm still laughing, just thinking about it...

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Washington, DC: Why oh why were the CMA's on Wednesday night? I've been dying to see Modern Family this week and then out of nowhere it's country bumpkin hour instead. Shouldn't that stuff be on Sundays like the VMA's, Oscars, Emmy's etc? Just bitter I guess, love that show.

Lisa de Moraes: I have no ideas why this trophy show is on Wednesdays. What I understand about country music and its fans could fit into a thimble, I confess...

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Poll: Does Super-blonde Carrie Prejean calling Larry King's behavior toward her on his CNN show "inappropriate" make him:

Definitely 20 percent more interesting.

Lisa de Moraes: This seems to be the concensus. Sounds like Larry need to have on his show more Superblondes he can irk...

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Carrie Prejean's next job: Performing in a televised version of the Vagina Monologues?

Lisa de Moraes: I think she already did that in her video. So I've been told...

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["Wanda"] looked like an idea high school guys came up with and shot in their parents' garage. : That's not fair. "Wayne's World" was Carson and McMahon compared to this garbage.

Lisa de Moraes: Excellent point. Let's change that to "middle schooler guys'"....

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Arlington, Va.: I absolutely LOVE Glee. Best show I've seen in a long time. Has the ratings improved for this show or is it just going to survive off the music?

Lisa de Moraes: You know, it's doing just fine. It's an interesting case study in a new TV series model. I'm rooting for it -- yes, even the lip synched performances.

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Burned out Port Charles Warehouse: James Franco's Stint on General Hospital All for Some Art Movie (New York Mag)

Jist- just another weird thing James Franco is doing.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, we're supposed to believe this is "research" for a documentary he's working on? Paleeze. I'm sticking with my "they've got photos" and/or "he's shagging someone on the show" theories... they make far more sense

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Larry King's Getup: Did I miss something? Is he playing Sky Masterson in a revival of "Guys and Dolls"?

Lisa de Moraes: Yeah, right. They're doing a sequel and he's playing Superannuated Sky... ick, ick, ick....

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Arlington, Va.: I watch "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on HBO and note they have at least ten people listed with producer in their title. Could you tell us what all these people do other than fill up space in the credits

Lisa de Moraes: No. I can't. Seriously. It's stupid.

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1646 Melrose Place: Is Ashlee Simpson going to get killed off on Melrose? Ugh, I can't stand her. She tries to flirt or act innocent but can't!

Lisa de Moraes: If there's a god in heaven she's being killed or sent to the slammer for three consecutive life sentences, even though only one person on the show got murdered. I'm hoping she does a hoe-down in her final episode...

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Chevy Chase: This just in: Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, I know. I'm guessing that chatter did not get the joke. We must be gentle...

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Franco again: About the not dead thing -- I was trying to pick up on the other chatter's joke about the Generalissimmo of Spain -- and tying it in with the old SNL joke about the Gen. still being dead -- oh, never mind...

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, we know. It was terrific. Really. Remember, drama is easy -- comedy is hard.... you did a great job.

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Dupont Circle: Can we promote the idea of Ms. Ladyfingers herself, aka Carrie Prejean, getting a reality show? I have to admit that watching this imploding train wreck is actually rather entertaining.

Lisa de Moraes: I want to see Ms. Ladyfingers shows up in an episode of "Blonde Charity Mafia" on CW -- when the heck is that network ever going to schedule that Washington-based trainwreck? I'm getting tired of waiting...

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Sofia 'n' Simon: We caught a movie on Showtime recently with Simon Baker and a list of all his future female companions...pretty much all he did was smile and take his shirt off, so you might enjoy it.

Interestingly, the same applies to Sofia's film career...yummy.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, they have parallel careeer paths...

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Don't Make Fun of Carrie Prejean!: I sent this in hours ago, but I didn't have my keyboard turned on.

Lisa de Moraes: I don't know why but I find this very amusing....

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Boston: My black lab keeps chewing up my newspaper...oh, wrong chat.

Lisa, any "dog whispering" advice?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, hire a professional to help you -- not a TV show...

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the Lloyds: Is Christopher Lloyd the same Christopher Lloyd who was Reverend Jim on Taxi?

Lisa de Moraes: No, different Lloyd -- though both enormously talented...

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Washington, DC: I "don't have cable." Could you do a chat for people who "don't have cable?"

Lisa de Moraes: YOu mean a chat that's only about shows on broadcast TV and via computer?

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Won't you take me to...Pookietown: TV Scenery Chewing Hall Of Fame induction ceremony #1: Edie Falco, Kelsey Grammer, David Caruso, Jill Eikenberry & Joan Collins. Anyone else?

Lisa de Moraes: The entire cast of any "Law & Order" and especially Mariska Hargitay....any other suggestions out there?

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Lisa. Could you please explain to me what the differences are between these types of producers? The following examples all come from the credits of "The Office."

executive producer, co-executive producer, supervising producer, co-producer, associate producer, consulting producer, producer

Lisa de Moraes: $$$$$$$$$$

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Secret location?: Secret location for Puppy Bowl? I went on a tour of Discovery's Silver Spring HQ a couple of years ago, and the Puppy Bowl studio was the highlight of the tour! They were so proud of it!

Lisa de Moraes: I was kidding...Anyway, I'm out of time. Thanks for joining me. Bye...

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