The TV column live: Adam Lambert, NBC-Comcast, and casting the Salahi show

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Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post staff writer
Friday, December 4, 2009; 1:00 PM

Columnist Lisa de Moraes was online Friday, Dec. 4 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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Lisa de Moraes: Hi.
Help us cast our new Salahi caper series, which has the working title "You Salahi Me." So far, Daryl Hannah's our leading candidate to play Michaele. And while Phil Hartman would have been perfect to play Tareq, he is, alas, no longer with us. So we're torn among Tony Shalhoub, Tom Arnold, Michael Chiklis, etc. We're taking all suggestions, including final series name and, of course, ideas for Very Special Sweeps Episodes.

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Washington, DC: Lisa,

After years of watching what feels like nearly every tv show do a variation of "two girls kissing as ratings stunt," I can't help but think that Adam Lambert is right. What surprises me is that ABC actually broadcasts a show where two men are romantically physical with each other on a regular basis. Is what Lambert did really that unforgivable?

Lisa de Moraes: ABC's concern is that his performance varied so gimongously from rehearsals -- it was his Janet Jackson Moment. Networks don't like getting ambushed. And while the performance aired at 10:55 p.m. in some time zones, it aired at 9:55 p.m. in some flyover areas, which does put it under FCC indecency reg consideration. There is no legitimate reason why ABC would yank him as a scheduled performer on two late night shows -- Kimmel's and its New Year's Eve orgy of excess, which leaves one with the conclusion ABC is using this situation to music acts in general. That message: Stay On Script. I do love that ABC did not have any problem with the pre-war Berlin hookers, the shirtless leather chapped guys being walked on leashes, or the lyrics to the tune Lambert was singing -- just with going off script to add a guy-on-giy kiss, a face-in-crotch gag, and something else I'm not remembering. But let's not lose sight of the fact that it was as very very lousy performance by Lambert and maybe he should focus more on the, you know, singing and less on the antics. Very bad debut performance. If he'd done that performance during his time on "Idol" the judges would have blasted it as overindulgent drivel.

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Working Title: I see it as a game show:

Let's Play 'Hide the Salahi'

Lisa de Moraes: Whether it's a game show or a scripted caper dramedy, that's a great name.....

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Olney, MD: Lisa, I was really angry to learn last night that my favorite show (until Lost returns!) Fast Forward would be on hiatus until March 4. I know it's because of the Olympics & the holidays, but still. . .I think they will lose viewers over the break, as will V. We've lost some Lost viewers that way, too (no pun intended). Have they no common sense?

Lisa de Moraes: Having learned the hard way what happened to a highly serialized paranormal series when they stopped airing originals of "Lost" several seasons ago, I can't explain ABC's decision to do same with "V." Except, of course, it appears the network will not air reruns of "V" while originals are off the air. I get why ABC is taking it off during the Olympics and launch of "Idol" but that doesn't explain why they thought it was a good idea to air the four episodes of "V" and then take the show down for so long...

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Washington, DC: What will the Comcast-NBC deal mean for 30 Rock? Do we get Comcast jokes instead of GE jokes? Given everyone's collective love for cable companies that could be a good source for comedy.

Lisa de Moraes: Clearly "30 Rock" will change dramatically, in that 49 percent of the gags will be GE jokes and 51 percent will be Comcast jokes going forward.

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Washington, DC: Why wasn't Modern Family new this week? Did they already run out of new episodes?

Lisa de Moraes: That's easy! It's because the November sweep just ended and now it's the traditional rerun/holiday season.

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Tareq: Andy Richter? Oh well, who remembers what Tareq looks like anyway?

Lisa de Moraes: That is a wonderful note. You work in casting -- right?

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More Casting: For the other Salahi, I'd love to see Jack Black in the role.

Lisa de Moraes: I could see him in the role if only he would not scream all the time and roll his eyes around in sockets, and make a mess of his hair. On the other hand, I have just described his acting method as clearly as if I was James Liption on "Inside the Actors Studio." So I can't see him getting this role..

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V: How is this show doing? I see they already did "pretty girl in underwear" to help keep the male demographic. Will this show tank on its return?

Lisa de Moraes: I missed that. You mean we're already four episodes in and we've only seen ONE pretty girl in underwear? No wonder this show isn't doing particularly well...It's returning March 30 and airing Tuesdays at 10, following "Lost."

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Michaele: Ann Coulter?

Lisa de Moraes: Again, too much screaming and rolling of eyes in socket for this role....

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Casting: Darryl Hannah is too old, and to intelligent-appearing. I'm thinking Jessica, or even better, Ashley Simpson.

Lisa de Moraes: Actually, our Darryl is not too old. She's allegedly 49 and Michaele is 44. And in re intelligent-appearing, I think you haven't seen her lately. I'll see if we can grab a pix...

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A New CSI: The Celebrity Salahi Initiative

Lisa de Moraes: ...which would have to air on CBS since they have the corner on that franchise. I see it Sunday at 10, filling the hole left by the cancellation of "Three Rivers."..

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Good Wife: How is the Good Wife faring in the ratings? I'm surprised by how much I like the show, which typically means it is due to be canceled next week.

Lisa de Moraes: Nope. Numbers are good for CBS. It's safe -- you're in luck. And, of course, there's Chris Noth in prison. I just can't stress that enough...

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Vienna: My name for the TV show sweepstakes: RSVP (Répondez Salahi vous plaît).

Lisa de Moraes: get me Marketing -- stat...

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Cast : How about James Gandolfini as Tareq and Pam Anderson as Michaele?

Lisa de Moraes: Pam Anderson's shoes are way too big for this role. And I thought about Gandolfini but he looks too menacing. Tareq looks harmless...

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Arlington Gay: Pookie, I need you to use your incredible powers of influence to make an Internet rumor come true. The buzz yesterday on at least two sites is that Idina Menzel (Taye Diggs's wife and the original Elphaba in WICKED on Broadway, for those not in the know) might guest star on GLEE as Rachael's birth mother. How do we make this happen? It would be perfect casting!

washingtonpost.com: Wicked''s Idina Menzel Would 'Love' to Guest Star on Glee

Lisa de Moraes: If they can use Kristin Chenoweth, surely they can greenlight Idina Menzel.

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Salahi casting: John Goodman and an Afghan Hound

Lisa de Moraes: Best. Casting. Ever.

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Pass the Salahi: I'd go with Anthony LaPaglia and Kristin Wiig as Mr. and Mrs. I think Wiig has been unknowingly channeling Mrs. Salahi for some of her SNL characters.

Lisa de Moraes: Love it. And the show name.

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Colorado Springs: So after I got my stuff done around the house I sat down in front of the DVR to watch 30 Rock--and NOTHING! It showed 30 minutes of blank recording time. This morning, sit down to watch it On Demand (Comcast), and SAME THING!!!! I sense a conspiracy here.

Thank goodness for Hulu.

Lisa de Moraes: Hi Colorado Spring! I just spent a week in Colorado and it was great. I can't explain what happened with regard to your NBC station and "30 Rock." It aired just fine here in Washington, D.C. I'll check into it. Thanks for the FYI. And yes, thank goodness for Hulu...

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washingtonpost.com: More Daryl Hannah

washingtonpost.com: More Daryl Hannah

Lisa de Moraes: Here is a recent-ish shot of Hannah....

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Tareq: Tom Sizemore?

Lisa de Moraes: Great idea, though I'm not sure you could get the show insured...

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Michaele: I totally see Parker Posey in a bad wig nailing this roll of craziness.

Lisa de Moraes: Parker Posey would elevate the role, for sure. I say let's douse her in peroxide and cast her.

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Bravo!: Any chance that they will not have Michaele on the Real Housewives of DC? Or will it be the real gate crashers of DC?

Lisa de Moraes: General Electric has announced it is going to sell majority stake in NBC Universal to Comcast. (NBC Universal owns Bravo, which will debut "Real Housewives of DC" next calendar year.) The roughly $30 billion deal is expected to face a lengthy regulatory review in Washington. My guess is the company willl weigh the pure-ratings-ness of putting the Salahis on "Real Housewives of DC" compared to the potential downside of pissing off someone in Washington who might have an effects on that review.

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Blacksburg, Va.: My surprise find from this TV season is "Vampire Diaries." I admit, I'd never heard of it and if I had, I thought it would be crap. But watched randomly one night and now I'm really into it. I swear it's got a lot more going it then you'd expect from a show on The CW titled "The Vampire Diaries."

Lisa de Moraes: Really? Can you get past all the Vampire-Rule breaking? Like how vampires can attend high school during, you know, the day, if only they wear some special ring that "protects" them from the daylight? I mean, is nothing sacred?

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Lost: The promo for it on ABC said that it's returning 2 Feb. Why are people saying it's March?

Lisa de Moraes: It's confusing. "Lost" is coming back Feb. 2. "V" on the other hand, is coming back March 30 and it will air, as mentioned before, Tuesdays at 10, after "Lost" which, of course, will have returned Feb 2. All clear now?

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Canton, NY: "The Middle" is a well-written, smart, and inventive new comedy. Why isn't it getting better critical response?

Lisa de Moraes: Because all the critics are so in love with "Modern Family." But I agree "The Middle" deserves attention too. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I like it, and I'm not a particular fan of Heaton. But the cast works very well together.

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Anonymous: Jenna Elfman and Karl Rove....

Lisa de Moraes: Bingo. We're just not going to top this, folks....and the show name?

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Gaithersburg, Md.: The "Salahi" show: The actress who played Phoebe on "Friends" should play Michaele (I can't recall her name so this must mean she needs the work and is available.) I agree with Michael Chiklis for Tariq.

Lisa de Moraes: You're talking about Lisa Kudrow? I think Elfman is better at the "crazy" than Kudrow -- except with Kudrow it's intentional and with Elfman, she just can't help it.

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Salahi casting: Darrell Hammond. For both. If anyone can pull it off, it's him.

Lisa de Moraes: I'd pay to see Darrell in bottle-blonde extensions and a red, red sari, clutching President Obama's hand at the White House.

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The Chin at 10: Pookie, please tell me that Comcast's purchase of NBC will mean that arrogant boob will be given the boot from the 10 o'clock Monday - Friday slot.

Lisa de Moraes: It depends on whether Comcast has drunk the Program to Margins Kool-Aid. They said in their announcement they are deeply committed to NBC as a broadcast network -- which would suggests Leno's out because his show is much more of a cable play than a broadcast strategy. On the other hand, I've learned from years covering media deals, that you can pretty much toss out any promises made in the opening volley.

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Salahi Title: Put 'em in a variety show with some country music and corn pone humor, and you've got "Salahi Haw."

Lisa de Moraes: I have no idea what this means, but it made me giggle...

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The White House Crashers: I still think this should be considered a sequel with Vince Vaughn playing the husband and Owen Wilson playing her. I'd bet he'd wear a lehenga...

Lisa de Moraes: Owen Wilson is a great idea, if he'd get a nose job for the role....

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The Middles: I always hated Chris Katan on SNL, but I actually like him on this show. (I liked the "Scrubs" guy on that show and on this one too.)

Lisa de Moraes: I know! One of the great surprises of the show -- Chris Katan can be non-annoying. Did you see the episode in which the Heck parents finally get away and Katan babysits?

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DC: Lisa de Moraes: Bingo. We're just not going to top this, folks....and the show name?

"Plea"

Lisa de Moraes: We have a winner, folks!

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New England: "John Goodman and an afghan hound"

I love you. Even as I am cleaning soda out of my keyboard. I'm still laughing.

Lisa de Moraes: Okay, so we're either casting John Goodman and an afghan, or Karl Rove and Jenna Elfman. And the show will be called "Plea." Will it be a one-hour musical series? Cause then it has to air on Fox...

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Chris Noth in Prison: For what? Underacting? He's like the anti-David Caruso.

Lisa de Moraes: Clearly I am not speaking to a chick. Chicks need no explanation. It's like saying to a guy "Eliza Dushku behind bars" -- no explanation needed...

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Pass the Salahi Sweeps Episode: Micheale getting implants of course... Perhaps Tareq could get pecs as well so it could be a couples thing.

Lisa de Moraes: Of course -- silly me. Her small shoes of course should have tipped off authorities that she had never really been a cheerleader. She'd want to get that fixed lickety-split, so it even makes sense in the storyline...

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NBC Nightly News: NBC Nightly News has fascinated me since I heard each of their "Artists-in-Residence" would be granted a piece on the News.

I don't watch the NBC Nightly News, but I did catch it this week. In my opinion, they didn't pack much hard (or good-quality) news into their half-hour (minus commercials, teases, and the like): A piece on President Obama's upcoming Afghanistan speech, a piece on the cop shootings in Seattle, then cr-p like the party crashers (the only news of which was lifted, by the "correspondent", from a WashPo article I had just read), Tiger Woods, Serena Williams's fine, and a longer piece (after several mentions of the movie's title) on "The Blind Side" movie.

My actual question was as to why NBC Nightly News was carrying so much water for the movie, which was created by Alcorn Entertainment and released by Warner Bros. I couldn't discover any NBC/Universal/GE tentacles for cross-promotional purposes.

Any ideas on why they promoted "The Blind Side" or why NBC Nightly News has fewer than 5 minutes of news?

Lisa de Moraes: I'm guessing its part of their whole new "Artists in Residence" gag.

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Los Angeles: I just had to conduct an internet search to figure out what the hell everyone is talking about. I feel like I just got off a boat.

Lisa de Moraes: You mean the Salahis? Glad to help catch you up....

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washingtonpost.com: The TV Column: The Salahis get a taste of reality TV: An NBC interview

washingtonpost.com: The TV Column: The Salahis get a taste of reality TV: An NBC interview

Lisa de Moraes: ...so here is part of your weekend reading list....

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washingtonpost.com: Who are these people? The climbers at the gate

washingtonpost.com: Who are these people? The climbers at the gate

Lisa de Moraes: ...and here is the story that started it all....

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Baltimore Suburbs: Lisa, will the closing of the LA bureau affect the way you do your job? Can you still cover the industry if you are not right there? Are you moving to the DC area?

Lisa de Moraes: I am sorry I do not know the answer.

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Casting: Since the premise of the show will change in order to get the green light from studio execs who will demand that the show "appeal to a younger generation," I see the roles going to Taylor Momsen (who can play older) and Billy Zane (who will play anything and needs the work).

Lisa de Moraes: If they're going to put this show on CW or Fox or NBC, you are absolutely right. If ABC or CBS, maybe not so much. On the other hand, I'd kill to see Billy Zane audition for either role...

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Why the Leno Hatin'?: Who cares if they take him out of 10:00? They'll just put on more hours of fat people who think they can dance with cakes and tiaras, or something like that...

Lisa de Moraes: ...and they'll do a much better number in the timeslot. Leno's future grew dimmer this week when his show was preempted for President Obama's speech -- NBC simply ran its two-hour "Biggest Loser" from 9-11 p.m. ET -- and the network did a much better number with "Loser" in the 10 o'clock hour than it had been doing with Leno. Another nail in the coffin: on Monday, an original Leno episode aired against repeats on CBS and ABC. The whole gameplan was that Leno was going to tread water against original scripted fare on those two network but take off when those nets went into repeats. Instead Leno did some of his poorest numbers that night...

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RE: I have no idea what this means, but it made me giggle... : How can you claim to be a Serious Student of Television and not know Hee Haw?

Lisa de Moraes: I know it's Hee Haw -- there's nothing about Hee Haw you can tell me. I just don't get how the Salahis work in a hee-haw-esque show. Hee Haw Caper Drama?

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"Plea" on Logo starring ....: Alexis Arquette as Michaele and Chas Bono as Tareq ... or Alexis Arquette on any more mainstream channel

Lisa de Moraes: my head is exploding...

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East Windsor, NJ: For Tareq Salahi, I hear Kelsey Grammar is free and looking for a new gig. I could see Cher as the Mrs. , but I bet that Tina Fey in a blonde wig would be dynamite in the role too.

Lisa de Moraes: Kelsey only seems able to do that one, pedantic college professor voice, which would not work for Tareq role..Maybe he could work with a voice coach...

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Plea: How about putting it on NBC at, oh, I don't know...10 pm?

Lisa de Moraes: Monday through Friday?

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Very Speci, AL: Casting is done. Time for episode pitches.

-An episode in which Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato try to hire a head coach. Tareq Salahi crashes the press conference, and no one notices because it's no crazier than hiring Jim Zorn.

-An episode based on Balloon Boy. The Salahis pose as deputy sheriffs at the press conference, lending irony.

For sweeps, they should absolutely revisit old reliable sweeps stunts. Wedding? Marry off Ross and Rachel from Friends -- and have the Salahis crash. Baby? Quinn Fabray from Glee gives birth -- and the Salahis crash, posing as midwives. Stunt casting? Lesbian kiss? Put em together -- Tina Fey and Leighton Meester guest star, and the Salahis crash it.

This thing writes itself.

Lisa de Moraes: You are so hired!

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For the person who proposed Darrell Hammond as Tareq Salahi: If we have Ms. Hannah and Mr. Hammond as the Salahis, could we call them (channeling Bob Newhart) Daryl and Darryl? Oh, and who would play their brother?

Lisa de Moraes: I give up -- who?

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More Sci-Fi!!!: Every Sci-Fi show I get into is inevitably cancelled in year 2 or 3. Why oh why are their not more good Sci-Fi shows on cable (and I am not talking the Sci-Fi (ScyFy) channel)? There is obviously a niche audience that will find them. I know that the budget and payoff is not as high on cable, but come on, this is where these shows belong and will be given time to develop!

Lisa de Moraes: The problem with sci-fi shows on broadcast TV is that they tend to be heavily serialized, which means the opening audience is going to be as big as it gets. Usually it's all downhill from there. "Lost" did manage to grow its audience early on, but it's been downhill from there. But in these days of audience fragmentation, it often takes viewers a longer time to find a show. But by episode No. 9, it's too late to jump in to a heavily serialized drama. Plus, they're expensive. Plus the sci-fi audience, while extremely loyal, is often not big enough to sustain a broadcast TV show -- see "Jericho."

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Lalala, ND: Now that the Post is closing the LA bureau, can you reveal whether you were the LA Bureau Chief? A little resume padding never hurts, just in case. But I hope you're staying at the Post. Please please please stay at the Post.

Lisa de Moraes: Thank you for the nice comments/questions I'm getting, in re the changes at the paper. I appreciate them very much.

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Pitching shows...: Don't leave out the Christmas Show...Maybe a West Wing Revival...Tariq and Michelle locked arm in arm with Martin Sheen and Jimmy Smits swaying to Frosty the Snow Man -- and, of course, joined by Kathy Lee Gifford to add a human touch to the whole affair.

Lisa de Moraes: reviewed, of course, by Tom Shales....

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"appeal to a younger generation": Don't the current Bravo housewives shows (mostly with women 40 or 50 plus) do pretty well with the young'uns? Doesn't that sort of demonstrate that you don't need a vapid 23-year-old to parade through a show in a bikini?

Lisa de Moraes: Could you please address this comment to NBC executives?

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Stars behind bars: I completely agree with you: Chris Noth in prison is smokin' hot, as was Hugh Laurie in an asylum on "House." For future incarceration, I would like to see Joseph Fiennes, Matthew Fox, and those cute guys from "White Collar" in the pokey.

Lisa de Moraes: Both I, and our Hot Guys Behind Bars bureau chief Emily Yahr thank you very much for these visual images....really. You made our day.

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Piscataway, NJ: Are you watching (insert everyone's new favorite show(s) here)? Don't you just love it? What are its chances of being renewed?

Okay -- there, now that I got that out of the way (and provided a template for 1/3 of your question submitters), a real question:

I thought I saw a commercial either last night or the night before that one of the dance shows (whichever one is on NBC) was going to air its finale on Leno's 10 p.m. show (I almost typed "The Tonight Show"....). Is this correct, or was I in a leftover turkey and pumpkin-pie induced haze? If true, is it a tacit admission that the great experiment of programming for margins isn't really working, and that some of the suits are concern3ed about the overall numbers for Leno's show?

Lisa de Moraes: I am going to ignore the snarkiness if the first bits, because I am all about spreading sweetness and light today, because the second part of your question is so intriguing. What the heck are you talking about? Dance show on NBC?

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Micheale: Custom made role for Heather Locklear! She just needs go to a blonder shade of blond.

Lisa de Moraes: She's neither blonde enough, nor tall enough, nor flat enough...

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Dr. Drew and the Salahis: Now that he has taclked alcoholics, druggies and sex addicts, I think Dr. Drew's next franchise should be a show on people pathologically addicted to fame and attention at any cost - The Salahis, The Gosselins, Paris Hilton, etc.

Lisa de Moraes: Excellent show idea for the Oprah Winfrey Network. Let's call it "Help! I'm a Media Whore"....and on that note, I think I'd better sign off...bye

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