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maandag 4 juni 2012

Spartacus To End After One More Season

Fans of Spartacus: Vengeance were stunned when six major characters, including Lucy Lawless' much-loved Lucretia, were killed off in the Season 2 finale last March. But that's nothing compared to this shocker! Starz has decided to end Spartacus after just one more season even though it's the cable channel's highest-rated show and a smash around the world. What are these people thinking? We got the scoop from the program's creator Steven S. DeKnight.

We're told this is all your idea. What are you doing to us Spartacus fans? This is devastating news!
DeKnight: I know! It's very sad news, and I've been living with it for quite a while now. My original plan was to go five to seven seasons but I want to leave on top. [Laughs] That's something new in television but we're going to give it a whirl!

Why did the plan change?
DeKnight: I guess things started to alter when we lost [the original Spartacus] Andy Whitfield. We've had some real challenges and tragedies with this show, and that was definitely part of what shifted our plans. Also, the more I delve into the history of Spartacus, the more repetitive it gets. From this point on in the real story, it's wave after wave of Romans chasing him here and there. Spartacus and his rebels didn't seem to have much of a plan — they went north, south, west, east, then north again. They were roaming all over the place. So we decided to go with just the best parts. We're going to condense all that into a 10-episode final season —Spartacus: War of the Damned — that's full of fantastic surprises and we will wrap up the story in a grand way. It'll leave you wanting more.

You're confident this is the right decision? You don't wake up in the middle of the night going, "What the hell have I done?"
DeKnight: [Laughs] Oh, all the time! There's always a twinge of doubt and regret, especially with a show that's still working so well and is still so popular and still so much fun to make. You just hope you're doing the right thing. For me and my partners, Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi and Josh Donen, the most important thing, when the smoke clears, is that the audience is satisfied. Did they have a good journey? You don't want them saying, "Thank God, that's finally over!" It would be the worst thing to stay one season too long. And many shows do.

When exactly did you make this decision?
DeKnight: We were 90 percent sure about this as we were wrapping up Vengeance.

Didn't any of your partners or anyone at Starz try to talk you out of this?
DeKnight: It wasn't so much a matter of talking me out of it but there was a lot of debate about how to end things. There were a couple of months where we went through various permutations. Should we wrap it up with 16 episodes and show them in two blocks of eight? Should we do 20 episodes? Finally it was decided that a really spectacular 10 was the best way to go. Starz completely supported us, just as they always have. Every single season of Spartacus has been a gamble. Season 1 we did by our bootstraps — "Hey, let's put on a show!" — and we got off to a rocky start before we became something special. Then, unfortunately, when Andy fell ill, we had to roll the dice on a prequel, which everybody thought we were nuts to do. Then we had to find a new Spartacus, Liam McIntyre. This show has always been a crapshoot, but that's one of the things that makes it so exciting. Starz has been amazing at every step. If the star of your show —the guy who plays your title character — falls gravely ill, most other networks or cable channels would have rolled up the sidewalk and cancelled the show. But Starz really wanted to tell the story through to its end. They didn't want to leave anything hanging.

So you're saying this outcome would be different if Whitfield hadn't been forced to leave the show?
DeKnight: That's a question I've often asked myself and there's really no way to answer. We may have run longer. You just never know. I wish I would have had the opportunity to find out. Andy is deeply, deeply missed, not just as our leading man, but as a human being. He was wonderfully warm and kind. It was a great personal loss.

McIntyre does a strong job as Spartacus but, perhaps due to his youth, he doesn't have the gravitas and complexity Whitfield did. He doesn't have that deep, tortured soul, which seemed to be creative gold. As a storyteller, did you feel more limited or confined with McIntyre in the role?
DeKnight: Not at all. Liam is certainly a different kind of Spartacus but, the truth is, we were originally looking for someone his age — someone mid-twenties — when we were originally casting the role. Realistically, gladiators didn't live much past that, so we wanted all our gladiators to be that young. But as we were casting we realized that the younger actors we were seeing didn't have Andy's world-weary feel. One of the things we responded to in Liam's audition was that he had some of that wounded sensibility. Spartacus may be a badass who readily kills people but he doesn't come to it from a place of anger, but rather from a deeply wounded heart.

How will you deal with the fact that the slave revolt ends on a great big bummer?
DeKnight: We all know Spartacus dies at the hands of the Romans. The challenge is to end the series on a note of hope. It's like the Titanic problem. How do you keep them interested when they know the boat's going to sink? It's all about the emotions that get you to the end of the story. You can't do three seasons of a show — well, four counting our prequel — and then have everybody die and have it be all for nothing. [Laughs] That would be one bad ride! So we're looking for the deeper messages here. What does victory really mean? What does defeat really mean? As we constructed the ending, it was just as important to look at the Julius Caesar-Marcus Crassus side of things, as it was to look at the side of the rebels. Both sides will have victories and defeats. Both will suffer great personal loss.

Did the productions costs come into play in your decision to close up shop? Thus far, Spartacus has been a rather small-scale epic but now you're moving into the part of his story where he gathered, according to the historians, as many as 120,000 followers and waged massive battles against the Romans.
DeKnight: It absolutely makes the show more difficult to produce. Spartacus no longer has 40 followers. Season 3 picks up six months to a year after the end of Vengeance, and we see that he has become the leader we've slowly been building him up to be. He now has thousands and thousands of followers. There will be some very large and awesome battles and some major events along the lines of the arena collapse in Season 2. I have to take my hat off to Rob Tapert and the entire production machine in New Zealand. I sit in L.A. and dream up crazy stuff and hand it over to them, and somehow they make it all happen. This show would not be a success without Rob. But all the spectacle means nothing without people the audience really cares about. The sex and the gore are great, but it's the cast that keeps you coming back.

Which is why it's so hard to imagine the show without Lucy Lawless, Viva Bianca [Ilythia] and some of the others you eliminated at the end of last season. They just didn't fit into the bigger picture?
DeKnight: It just killed us all to see Lucy and Viva go because they were such a great part of the Spartacus saga. And I did noodle for quite a while to find a way to keep one of them, but it just would not fit. Their chapter of the story had to close because we're now bringing in Crassus and Caesar. Lucretia and Illythia don't play into the Roman side of the story and there was no way to bring them onto the rebel side.

There was a lot of talk in your season finale about the dead folks reuniting in the next world. Hey, how about a spinoff? Spartacus: Afterlife!
DeKnight: [Laughs] That's a sitcom waiting to happen! But there actually has been talk — very preliminary talk — about doing some sort of follow-up series. We might do a spinoff using the same background that's not tied to history like the story of Spartacus. It's a thrilling world to explore, so you never know. It's always a possibility!

Global Biz Briefs: Aussie Downloads, Univision-FiOS, George Soros, Greece Fest

27% Of Australians Admit To Illegal Downloads
Some 27% of Australians persistently or casually download screen content illegally and at a growing rate over the past 12 months, according to new research from the Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation, a coalition of film and TV organizations. The report showed 86% of people who download or stream illegally at least once a week admit they do so because it’s free. Incongruously, 71% of the 1,654 adults surveyed acknowledge that piracy is stealing but 76% don’t think they contribute to the problem. Some 50% of respondents agree that Internet Service Providers should take more responsibility to prevent the illegal distribution of movies and TV shows online. — Don Groves

Univision Signs New Deal With FiOS
Univision Communications has reached a comprehensive multiyear agrement with Verizon FiOS to continue carrying the U.S. Spanish-language media leader’s Univision and TeleFutura network feeds and owned-and-operated broadcast stations, the cable network Galavisión. Multichannel News reports the deal also includes Univision’s new cable services sports network Univision Deportes, telenovelas network Univision tlnovelas and FOROtv, a Spanish-language news network. The FiOS agreement also includes plans for multiplatform authentication rights for Univision’s upcoming interactive digital video platform for existing and new networks. The FiOS pact is Univision’s third far-reaching affiliate agreement in 2012. Dish Network and AT&T U-verse reached deals in January and May.

Soros To Invest In Brazilian Telecom Biz
Billionaire investor George Soros has received regulatory clearance to enter the Brazilian telecom fray with a $500M investment in local pay-TV provider Sunrise Telecommunications, Reuters reports. Soros’ Cayman Islands-based Soros Fund Management will take control of Sunrise Telecomunicaçoes, a subscription TV service in Sao Paulo state. Soros reportedly is making the investment in order to participate in a broadcast spectrum auction this month. One of the requirements for bidding is the ability to offer advanced wireless services in six host cities for soccer championships next year ahead of the World Cup in 2014.

Greece Financial Crisis Cuts Into Fest Prizes
The Thessaloniki Film Festival (November 2-11) has slashed cash prizes that are usually awarded to winners of the Alexander Awards, Screen reports, due to the Greek financial crisis and uncertainties concerning the future of the country. Production at the Greek Film Centre also is practically at a standstill because of financial woes. The new cuts will be on top of 50% reductions to $25,000 for the Golden Alexander for the best film and $12,400 for the Silver. Festival director Dimitris Eipides already managed to reduce festival debt from the more than $7.4M inherited from previous administrations to between $1.9M and $2.5M. Current funding levels are believed to be enough to keep the festival running until November 2013.

Catherine Tate Set to Return to 'The Office' as Series Regular

Since her character's introduction in the season 7 finale, she has appeared in a handful of episodes.

When The Office returns for its ninth season, expect Catherine Tate to be back in a bigger role, as in, series regular status.

Over the course of two seasons, Tate -- whose first appearance was in the season-seven finale "Search Committee" -- has appeared in more than 10 episodes of the veteran NBC comedy.

The news solidifies the returns of all of The Office's major players, minus executive producer/star Mindy Kaling, who will be toplining Fox comedy The Mindy Project this fall, and James Spader, who exited after season's end.

The series also recently tapped two executive producers, Dan Sterling and Brent Forrester, for the new season.

'Scream' TV Series in Development at MTV

The network's former executives Tony DiSanto and Liz Gateley are overseeing the effort, with a search for a writer currently under way.

The network is developing a TV series adaptation of Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson's horror franchise, sources confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.

As first reported by TV Line, former MTV executives Tony DiSanto (The Hills, Teen Wolf, Teen Mom) and Liz Gateley (The Hard Times of RJ Berger) are on board to executive produce the project, with a search currently under way to find a writer to pen the project.

What role Scream director Craven and screenwriter Williamson would have with the project has yet to be determined.

Since debuting in 1996, the franchise -- which stars Neve Campbell as Sidney along with Courteney Cox as investigative reporter Gale Weathers and David Arquette as loyal lawman Dewey -- has spawned three sequels. The franchise has grossed more than $330 million worldwide.

Williamson, meanwhile, already has two series set for the 2012-13 television season: the CW's Vampire Diaries and Fox's Kevin Bacon serial killer drama The Following, which was picked up to series in May.

The project comes as the young-skewing network has found success on the scripted side with another feature film-to-series TV adaptation in Teen Wolf, which was based on the 1980s movies that originally starred Michael J. Fox. The werewolf drama returned for a second season Sunday night.

'Apprentice' Nick Holzherr: 'I was sent boxers by gay fan'

The Apprentice finalist Nick Holzherr has refused to comment on his relationship with Gabrielle Omar.

The business hopeful was rumoured to have started a romance with his fellow candidate while filming the series, according to The Sun.

Holzherr said: "We're great friends, I'm not gonna confirm or deny if we were together, but we got on great on the show and we're still great friends. Gabrielle's happy for all of us."

He also revealed that he has received some strange gifts from fans since appearing on the programme.

"I did get boxer shorts sent to me. I had a few. They were clean and pink. They're actually quite nice and I have worn them," he said.

"They were from a fan, a gay gentleman. He got the right size! He said something along the lines of 'I'm a great fan, don't take this the wrong way... '

"It was very nice of him to send them. He did it on several occasions. In future I could do with some socks as well!"

The Voice UK 2013: Apply to audition now!

The Voice UK may have only just ended, but auditions for the new series are already underway.

You’ve just got a month to make sure you’re registered to audition for The Voice UK 2013, which will air next year.

Applications close on July 28, so be quick!

Once registered, you’ll be invited to an open audition in October, with locations including London, Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow.

If you make it through that, you’ll face (the backs of) the coaches!

As well as that, talent scouts across the UK are searching for amazing singers to attend The Voice UK Open Auditions.

To Apply you need to be over 16 by the start of September, and have the right to live and work in the UK.

Emma Willis confesses: I'm Big Brother obsessed... and proud of it!

Host of Big Brother’s new spin-off show Bit On The Side, Emma Willis has confessed she’s completely obsessed with the show – and is proud to be!

The telly host tells Star magazine this week that she’d take a job making tea if it meant she could watch the live feed all day…

“There’s no hiding it – I am obsessed and proud of it!” the 33-year-old telly presenter says.

She – perhaps regrettably – admits: “Last year I printed pictures of every housemate from every season and pinned them up in my dressing room, like a weird shrine.

“I’ve watched pretty much every episode of every series. I reckon only Davina McCall has watched more episodes than me!”

But it’s not just Big Brother, Emma Willis is one of us – a reality telly addict!

“I’m a reality freak! I watch X Factor, Strictly, I’m A Celebrity… but some nights when my two-year-old daughter has gone to bed, me and my husband [Matt Willis] watch Lost or Entourage. I watched News Night last night. I think Jeremy Paxman would be brilliant housemate!”

Ultimately however, it’s about Big Brother, and Emma says she’s not annoyed about being snubbed for the main presenting job – because she’d take any offer to work on the hit series.

“I’m just glad to get any job on the show – I’ll make the tea as long as I can watch the live feed,” Emma said.

She added: “If I was Brian Dowling I’d fee; pressure, so I’m relived I’m not in his shoes.”

Big Brother’s Bit On The Side airs weekdays on Channel 5 from mid-August.

Mel B to be guest judge for 'X Factor' auditions in Manchester

Mel B will be the guest judge for the X Factor auditions in Manchester.

She joins Gary Barlow, Tulisa Contostavlos and Louis Walsh on the panel for all three days of auditions.

They will take place at Event City from Tuesday, June 5 to Thursday, June 7.

The former Spice Girl told Digital Spy: "I'm so, so, so excited to be a guest judge for The X Factor in Manchester.

"Being a Northern girl I believe there's lots of amazing talent in the North of England. Go the Northerners and don't let me down!

"I am coming to find the winner! I love my job as a judge on The X Factor Australia but it will be great to sit on the panel in the UK.

"Britain is and always will be my home and first love."

Guest judges on the new series so far have included Leona Lewis, Rita Ora and Mel B's former bandmate Geri Halliwell.

Halliwell previously claimed that it would be "disloyal" of Mel B to appear while she is pursuing the role herself.

The 39-year-old apparently failed to make a good impression when acting as a guest judge for auditions in Liverpool.

Vanessa Redgrave joins Sigourney Weaver in 'Political Animals'

Vanessa Redgrave is set to star on the upcoming USA Network drama series Political Animals.

The six-episode series will focus on an ex-First Lady and newly-appointed Secretary of State played by Sigourney Weaver, who throws herself into her new appointment in order to cope with her divorce.

Deadline reports that Redgrave will play a lesbian Supreme Court justice in the series, alongside Weaver, Carla Gugino, Ciaran Hinds and Ellen Burstyn.

Political Animals is scheduled for broadcast on Sunday, July 15 at 10pm EST.

This will mark Redgrave's first return to television since her appearance on the FX drama Nip/Tuck.

The 75-year-old actress recently had to scale back her movie work due to health concerns.

'Blackadder' voted best British TV show of all time

Blackadder has been named the best British TV show of all time.

The BBC historical sitcom, starring Rowan Atkinson and written by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, was crowned the nation's favourite, the Daily Mail reports.

Some 13,500 people voted in the poll, arranged by film subscription service Lovefilm.

The list is dominated by comedies, with Fawlty Towers and Father Ted coming in at second and third respectively. The only non-comedy shows to make the top ten are Dr Who, Sherlock and Top Gear, at fifth, sixth and tenth respectively.

All programmes voted for are featured on Lovefilm's streaming service.

Lovefilm editor Helen Cowley said: "With comedy featuring heavily in the top ten, the results reflect the very British dry sense of humour."

The Top Ten in full:

1. Blackadder
2. Fawlty Towers
3. Father Ted
4. Only Fools and Horses
5. Dr Who
6. Sherlock
7. Have I Got News For You
8. Red Dwarf
9. The Inbetweeners
10. Top Gear

TV Tonight 4th of June 2012

The daily list in alphabetical order, of all the new episodes airing.

    Alien Surf Girls S01E04: "Feelings"
    America's Got Talent S07E07: "Austin Auditions (Part 1)"
    American Ninja Warrior S04E09: "Finals: Region 3"
    American Pickers S04E18: "Duck, Duck, Moose"
    Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations S08E08: "Penang"
    Basketball Wives S04E16: "Reunion (Part 1)"
    Blockbusters (2012) S01E16: "Series 1, Show 16"
    Bondi Vet S04E17: "Season 4, Episode 17"
    Border Security S12E16: "Season 12, Episode 16"
    Cajun Pawn Stars S02E01: "Gimme Some Skin"
    Cake Boss S05E04: "Fast Hands & a Flaming Pearl"
    Cake Boss S05E03: "Stained Glass & a Surprised Danny"
    Chelsea Lately S06E92
    Conan S02E97: "Episode 97"
    Coronation Street S53E113: "Mon Jun 4, 2012 [Episode 1]"
    Coronation Street S53E114: "Mon Jun 4, 2012 [Episode 2]"
    Dara O'Briain: School of Hard Sums S01E08: "Andi Osho"
    Deal Or No Deal (UK) S07E254: "Episode 1934"
    Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives S14E08: "All Vegas, All the Time"
    Dispatches S26E06: "Murdoch, Cameron and the 8 Billion Deal"
    Eden's World S01E07: "Isabelle"
    Emmerdale S41E132: "June 4, 2012"
    Eureka S05E07: "Ex-Machina"
    Extreme Couponing S03E04: "Joyce & Aprille"
    Extreme Couponing S03E03: "Jeff & Kelly"
    Extreme Fishing With Robson Green S05E07
    Fake Britain S03E12: "Series 3, Episode 12"
    Fake Britain S03E11: "Series 3, Episode 11"
    Four Corners (AU) S52E18: "Smugglers' Paradise - Australia"
    Gene Simmons Family Jewels S07E04: "The Adoption Plan"
    Gene Simmons Family Jewels S07E03: "Starting Over"
    General Hospital (US) S50E45: "#12573"
    Great British Menu S07E41: "The Olympic Feast - 41"
    Halv åtta hos mig S08E65: "Stockholm - Tomoko"
    Have I Got a Bit More News for You S44E08: "Series 44, Episode 8"
    Hell's Kitchen (US) S10E01: "18 Chefs Compete"
    Hollyoaks S18E111: "June 4, 2012"
    Home and Away (AU) S25E96: "Episode 5531"
    Hotel cæsar S29E25: "Season 29, Episode 25"
    Hotel Impossible S01E08: "Southern Oaks Inn - Branson, MI"
    House Hunters S48E110
    House Hunters International S25E113
    Hyouka S01E07: "Appearance of The Truth"
    Invention Hunters S01E05: "The Next Great Kitchen Gadget"
    Jeopardy! S28E186: "Show #6391"
    Jimmy Kimmel Live S09E261: "Christina Ricci, Adam Perry Lang, fun."
    Kimi to Boku S02E10: "Cherry"
    Kurt Sutter's Outlaw Empires S01E04: "Italian Mafia"
    Late Night with Jimmy Fallon S02E279
    Late Show with David Letterman S19E81
    Leyla ile Mecnun S02E41: "Season 2, Episode 41"
    Live with Regis and Kelly S29E199
    Made in Chelsea S03E10: "Series 3, Episode 10"
    Masterchef (US) S03E01: "Auditions #1"
    Masterchef Australia S04E26: "Offsite Challenge: Tasmania"
    Metalocalypse S04E06: "Writersklok"
    Monster In-Laws S02E04: "Mama's Choke Hold"
    Monster In-Laws S02E03: "Beautii is a Beast"
    Morgan Spurlock's New Britannia S01E10: "Episode 10"
    Mr. Young S02E13: "Mr. Rock Star"
    Neighbours S28E106: "Episode 6416"
    Pawn Star$ S05E01: "Silver Linings"
    Push Girls S01E02: "Watch Me"
    Push Girls S01E01: "Everyone Is Watching Me"
    Saki (JP) S02E08: "Training"
    Salatut elämät S14E176: "Ismo, sinä olet tähti"
    Single Ladies S02E02: "TBA"
    Snog, Marry, Avoid? S05E04: "Series 5, Episode 4"
    Sousei no Aquarion S02E23: "Song of Legend"
    Springwatch S09E05: "Series 9, Episode 5"
    Tanisha Gets Married S01E04: "Bad Girls Never Change"
    Teen Wolf S02E02: "Shape Shifted"
    The Bachelorette S08E04: "Week 4 (S8)"
    The Big Break S17E04
    The Block S05E44: "Shelley Craft Challenge"
    The Bold and the Beautiful S26E51: "Ep. #6335"
    The Chase (2009) S05E85: "Series 5, Episode 85"
    The Colbert Report S08E69: "Rep. John Lewis"
    The Daily Show S17E107: "Thomas Mann & Norman Ornstein"
    The Eric Andre Show S01E03: "Tatyana Ali"
    The Force: Behind the Line S09E04: "Season 9, Episode 4"
    The Project S04E132: "Season 4, Episode 132"
    The Real Housewives of New York City S05E01: "A New New York"
    The Secret Life of the American Teenager S04E24: "Love Is Love"
    The Secret Millionaire S10E04: "Carol Hayes"
    The Tonight Show with Jay Leno S20E94
    The View S15E174: "Angie Harmon, Beth Ostrosky Stern"
    The Voice (AU) S01E13: "Live Show 4"
    The Young and the Restless S40E50: "Ep. #9919"
    Top Chef Canada S02E13: "Finale in the Valley"
    Tricky Business (AU) S01E04: "Episode 4"
    Weird or What? S03E02: "Man Beasts"
    Wild Justice S02E11: "Operation Impostor"
    World's Weirdest S02E01: "Bizarre Battles"
    WWE Raw S20E23: "Episode #993"
    Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal S01E58
    Zetman S01E10: "Party"

Nadine Coyle to present 'Take Me Out' spinoff?

Nadine Coyle is reportedly being lined up to host a Take Me Out spinoff show.

The Girls Aloud singer is said to be looking for a career change when she moves back to the UK from Los Angeles.

She has allegedly taken presenting classes and has created a "buzz" about possibly hosting the next series of ITV2's Take Me Out: The Gossip, previously presented by Mark Wright.

"Nadine really wants to come back to London and try to land some TV slots," a source told the Daily Star.

''She's started attending some courses to learn how to present. There's currently a buzz about her presenting Saturday night ITV1 dating show Take Me Out. Producers are keen to get her on board for the ITV2 spinoff show.

''The other Girls Aloud members are all doing more TV and film roles so Nadine wants to get involved as well. She's perfect for television as she's gorgeous, quick-witted and always up for a laugh.''

Her bandmate Kimberley Walsh presented the BAFTA red carpet coverage for entertainment channel E!, while Sarah Harding has hosted Dating in the Dark on Sky Living.

Rumer Willis to play drug dealer on 'Workaholics'

Rumer Willis is to guest star in an upcoming episode of Comedy Central's Workaholics.

The comedy focuses on three roommates - played by Adam Devine, Blake Anderson and Anders Holm - who are trying to transition from college into adulthood.

Willis will play a seemingly friendly drug dealer who proves to be unexpectedly ruthless, Entertainment Weekly reports.

Willis, the eldest daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, made her screen debut in 1995 alongside her mother in Now and Then.

She has since appeared in several movies, including The House Bunny and Sorority Row.

Willis most recently had a guest stint on 90210, playing a love interest for Jessica Lowndes's character.

Alan Ball: 'True Blood is more than embarrassing for its stars'

Alan Ball has said that True Blood is more than embarrassing for its stars.

The series creator, who announced his intention to step down at the end of the show's fifth season, opened up about its rampant nudity at the season premiere in Hollywood.

"Embarrassing doesn't really cover it," Ball said of what he makes his actors do. "A sock barely covers it."

Meanwhile, Kristin Bauer van Straten, who plays Pam on the HBO series, revealed that she has trouble getting clean after shooting episodes for the show.

"I had dirt everywhere," she said. "My husband, he's used to it. I mean, I was brushing my teeth and dirt was falling out of my eyebrows into the sink."

Last month, Mark Hudis was named as the series' new showrunner if it gets picked up for a sixth season.

The fifth season of True Blood premieres on Sunday, June 10 at 9/8c on HBO. It will air on FX in the UK later this year.

Cougars, Gray Panthers, Silver Foxes: It's a Jungle Out There

Cougars to the left! Cougars to the right! Older women with a strong sense of who they are and what they want and who make no bones about it have never been more visible.

But how do you feel about the sobriquet they’ve quickly earned? It certainly grates on my ear and has driven a curiosity to see how this shift is playing both in the media and in real life, perhaps an increasingly meaningless distinction, I’ll admit.

Movies have a mixed record on these issues, as we addressed in my earlier post. But it’s TV (quite surprisingly) that shows the most extreme track record at both ends of the continuum. This isn’t just PBS documentaries or high-end cable dramas either, but mainstream broadcast TV.

Of course, commercial broadcast TV has typically been home to a whole lot of blather, unrealistic characterizations and just plain silliness, at one end of the scale. Yet right beside the more expected fare have been shows right at the other end: consistent, believable portrayals of happily married, still sexually active older couples.

Roll back to the 70’s to find character actor, Nancy Walker, as the beloved wife of rather fetching Harold Gould on "Rhoda" in stark contrast to her daughters (Rhoda and the future voice of Marge Simpson) who struggle to find partners. More recently, consider the still hot-to-trot Formans on "That 70’s Show." Television has been remarkably willing and able to reflect the reality that women who are secure (even if they are showing their age or were never starlet pretty to begin with) can and do find partners at any age. And that not every older man (except, perhaps, Hollywood producers?) only has eyes for much younger women.

Mind you, the media world is forever in flux. The TV images of middle-aged women and men, whether in couples or on their own, have slipped a long ways back into narrowly defined stereotypes in the last few years, along with everyone and everything else, it seems.

These retreats vary in tone from era to era. The current one -- which in contrast to the perfect family fantasies of previous decades, features men who are all innocent, childlike, bacon-eating machines and women who are all conniving bitches -- seems driven by a desire for a more predictable world where it’s easier to accept a slapped on label than actually build an identity of your own.

At least, that might be the goal for the wannabe innocent guys. Not so much for all those apparently bitchy women….

Given this overall trend, which has been quite dominant in the media in spite of the inroads feature films have made, perhaps the cougar thing is just an extension of perceived bitchiness to new territory. This may also explain another trend that has recently popped up: “gray panther” for the older business woman who has given up dying her hair.

The cougar label extends stereotypes about modern older women to the bedroom, the gray panther label to the boardroom, just when increasing numbers of actual older women are challenging barriers around what this phase of life (which keeps getting longer) can and should be.

The motivations for women going gray are, of course, often so very basic. They range from health concerns about constant exposure to all those chemicals to boredom with the fussiness of regular coloring, especially if you have other ways to define your status besides your increasingly artificial youthful looks. Without doubt there is freedom in being unafraid to let nature run its course. And some women even recognize -- how shocking -- that going gray can actually look pretty good.

It’s hard to not to feel that this new tag also has a judgmental edge to it, with little of the cache given to attractive older men. In fact, only younger women who are dying their hair gray seem to rate silver vixen, a direct equivalent to the clearly complimentary silver fox.

All this begs the question of where these labels come from: who originates them and perhaps even more importantly, who perpetuates them. The judgmental edge certainly speaks to someone’s discomfort about the whole business of older women refusing to just fade into the woodwork. This societal expectation was all too real a generation or two ago (and if you don’t believe me, ask your grandmother, especially if she was divorced or widowed in her 50s or 60s) but is still far more prevalent than it has any right to be in this day and age.

This isn’t so bad for the women of a certain age (these days shall we say, what, 45 and up?) who hold a deep sense of being desirable or talented regardless of societal expectations. But for older women who are still vulnerable to outer judgment -- particularly in regard to their employability and lovability-- it’s just another load added to the already considerable baggage they carry about who and what they are expected to be at this point in their lives.

Possible perpetrators are many, more than one might think at first glance. They include older women who are still invested in a creaky idea of seemly behavior; older men in the upper echelon who have managed to hold onto their ring of power and younger women who don’t want to share their own little ring and who are gaining power by siding with the men. Also to be considered are young men who are attracted to older women but uncomfortable with giving up any power to that attraction.

And don’t forget the large pool of younger men and women who haven’t yet wrapped their heads around the reality that sex doesn’t go away when your body stops being so perfect, and that they will one day turn into the people they now make fun of and that it will happen faster than they can ever imagine.

To all this add the men who have given up power, who have spent their whole adult lives having to move over to let more women in. It’s always hard to find yourself in the swing generation of a significant shift in social expectations.

Many men have found a way to be gracious about sharing the privileges but others have invested in resentment. They can’t turn the clock back to the era they just missed -- damn it all -- but that doesn’t mean they have to like it.

That’s a lot of possibilities pointing to a lot of potential grief, perhaps an inevitable outcome of societal change. The rather sad thing here is that, as part of those changes, everyone including younger women and most men (who were previously exempt) are feeling that age related pressure -- with all its issues attached -- bearing down on them.

Funny (kind of) because it was actually supposed to go the other way or at least meet somewhere in the middle. Regardless, we find ourselves here with every aspect of the shift in motion. Calling them cougars or gray panthers isn’t likely to dissuade the women who dare from enjoying their new freedoms.

On the other hand, it may be that men are just a bit behind on these issues; that men who have the nerve to grow old in this world will find that not-so-respectful nicknames of their own are just waiting in the wings.

'The Voice' UK finale gets over 7m viewers, still 5m behind 'Talent'

Over 7m people tuned in to see Leanne Mitchell win The Voice UK last night.

PA reports that the viewing figures were over 2m up on those for the competition's semi-finals.

However, despite being the highest rated programme of the day, the show had almost 5m fewer viewers than the corresponding finale of ratings rival Britain's Got Talent.

The Voice UK has experienced a sharp decline in viewers over its 11-week run, rising to nearly 12m in its early audition stages before dropping to as low as 6.2m in recent weeks.

The falling ratings have led to rumours that all four judges will be replaced in the next series.

However, has gone on the record to state that he would still love to be involved next year.

BBC criticised over 'lamentable' Jubilee river pageant coverage

The BBC has been criticised over its "lamentable" Diamond Jubilee coverage yesterday (June 3).

BBC One aired nearly five hours of live coverage of the river pageant on the Thames on Sunday afternoon, with one MP describing it as "low-grade, celebrity-driven drivel".

Poor sound quality and camera work were also damned, along with a description of the Queen as "HRH" rather than "Her Majesty"

Stephen Fry described the live coverage as "mind-numbingly tedious" on his Twitter page.

He tweeted: "Has the BBC ever presented a more mind-numbingly tedious programme in its history? "HRH the queen" said the first ignorant presenter. HRH?".

A BBC spokesman responded to the criticisms, saying: "We're very proud of the quality and breadth of the BBC's coverage of this extraordinary event."

Fry later added: "Don't get me wrong peeps, I'm not saying this in relation to ER II's jubilee - just expected better of the beeb. Didn't mean to upset anyone."

Former Today editor Kevin Marsh wrote: "Am I being over-critical or is the BBC commentary lamentable?"

He added: "Why cut away from Queenie's River Pageant to watch that mindless Tess Daly nonsense... scarcely credible."

Tory MP for Reading East Rob Wilson said: "Seems we all agree on terrible BBC coverage. Low-grade, celebrity-driven drivel. How did Beeb get it so wrong?"

He continued: "Which is worse, the heavy rain falling on the flotilla along the Thames or the BBC's dreadful coverage of this Royal Jubilee event?"

Nicollette Sheridan ‘Desperate Housewives’ Retrial Suffers Setback, But She Vows to Pursue

A lawyer for Nicollette Sheridan said on Saturday that her lawsuit against “Desperate nicollette sheridanHousewives” producer ABC would proceed despite a new court ruling that indefinitely delays her September retrial.

Lawyer Mark Baute told TheWrap that he believed the stay would merely change the focus of the trail to labor code violations, rather than wrongful termination.

“It does not change the trial or the trial date, and the temporary stay is designed to clarify and resolve those issues before the September trial starts,” he told TheWrap.

The other side might well disagree, though a lawyer for ABC's Touchstone Television did not return calls from TheWrap. 

An appeals court issued the stay on Friday, affirming an appeal by ABC lawyers that argued that Sheridan did not have the right to sue for wrongful termination.

Sheridan originally sued Touchstone and ABC for $20 million for being improperly fired after she said she was slapped by Marc Cherry in a dispute.  Cherry countered that he was merely attempting to give Sheridan stage direction, and that the decision to kill off her character, Edie Britt, was made months before the incident.

Last March the case ended in mistrial after the jury failed to reach a verdict. A retrial was set for Sept. 10, but that now remains an open question.

Said Baute: "The order reflects the court of appeals' desire to have the September 10 trial focus on the Labor Code Section 6310 claim...  We will file our briefs and move forward accordingly."

Jason Alexander Apologizes for Calling Cricket 'Gay'

Actor Jason Alexander, in a sticky wicket after calling cricket "a gay game" on CBS's "Late Late Show," apologized Sunday.

Having come under fire from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and other groups, the former star of TV's "Seinfeld" said that as an actor with many gay friends, he should known better.

"My daily life is filled with gay men and women, both socially and professionally," he said in a blog statement released through GLAAD. "I am profoundly aware of the challenges these friends of mine face and I have openly advocated on their behalf. So, I can only apologize and I do. In comedy, timing is everything."

Alexander’s remarks came in Friday’s show in which he told host Craig Ferguson that aspects of cricket make it a “gay game” compared to other sports.

"It's the pitch," Alexander told Ferguson. "It's the weirdest… It's not like a manly baseball pitch; it's a queer British gay pitch."

Ricky Martin wins 'The Apprentice' 2012

Ricky Martin has been crowned the winner of The Apprentice 2012.

The 26-year-old recruitment manager was hired by Lord Alan Sugar to become his new business partner over runner-up Tom Gearing, with fellow finalists Nick Holzherr and Jade Nash being fired earlier.

Sugar will now make a £250,000 investment into Martin's business idea, a recruitment agency specialising in science and technology.

The four candidates faced interviews with the entrepreneur's colleagues Claude Littner, Margaret Mountford, Mike Soutar and Matthew Riley.

The final boardroom saw Lord Sugar picking between Martin and Gearing, before concluding: "It's a very, very difficult moment for me right now. You're both credible people to invest money in, so is it the devil or is it the safety? And I should keep to my ethos of keeping it simple, keeping it straightforward. So Ricky you're going to be my business partner. Ricky, you're hired."

Martin said: "Lord Sugar and I are going to be a powerful force to reckon with. I can't say I've digested it yet. I'm ecstatic. Genuine shock, I'm so, so pleased. Tom is incredible at what he does, great competition but I believed in myself, I thought I always I had it in me and I proved it."

Runner-up Tom Gearing added: "If I was going to lose to anyone, I was happy it was Ricky. He was such a strong and credible candidate. We had some amazing experiences, I met some really good people, it was fantastic, and I have no regrets about it at all."

The interviews included Mike Soutar enquiring why he decided to go by the name 'Ricky Martin', while Claude Littner described his personal statement as "crass, obnoxious and infantile".

However, of Martin's business plan, Littner said: "I read your business plan and I was quite impressed. It was interesting, well-written and you've done very well in your career."

Before Lord Sugar made his final decision, Karren Brady told him: "Ricky has got great credibility in the field. He's the one that has changed the most over the process."

Claude Littner added: "I've got to say, I'm mesmerised by the guy."

Ricky Martin follows last year's winner Tom Pellereau, who became Lord Sugar's first business partner through the BBC One show.

Bill Nighy: 'I was offered the chance to play Doctor Who'

Bill Nighy has revealed that he was once asked to take on the role of The Doctor on Doctor Who.

According to The People, the Love Actually star says he turned down the offer as he was not ready for the intense media attention it would entail.

Nighy is quoted as saying: "I was offered the role once, I won't tell you when because the rule is that you're not allowed to say you turned that job down because it's disrespectful to whoever did it. I will say that I was approached.

"But I didn't want to be the Doctor. No disrespect to Doctor Who or anything. I just think that it comes with too much baggage."

Nighy appeared a small uncredited role in the Doctor Who episode 'Vincent and the Doctor' two years ago, playing an art gallery curator opposite current Doctor Matt Smith.

Christopher Eccleston, who left the show after one season, also suggested that the media attention associated with the role was too much for him.

Eccleston has ruled out a return for the 50th anniversary of the show next year.

'Apprentice' Tom Gearing: My girlfriend's annoyed with female fans

Apprentice runner-up Tom Gearing has admitted that his female fanbase on the show have caused him problems with his girlfriend.

Gearing, who lost out in tonight's final boardroom to Ricky Martin, said that he appreciated the positive comments from fans, but claimed his partner was less impressed.

"There has been a certain amount of interest from women," Gearing told Digital Spy.

"My girlfriend has not been best pleased about it. But I think it's all fun and games. I appreciate all the comments and all the support. To get emails from everyone all the time, I'm really appreciative of that."

Gearing's show rival Jade Nash also revealed that she had suffered at the hands of Gearing's passionate female fans.

"Tom's fanbase absolutely hate me"

"I took him back in the boardroom for no good reason and I regretted it, but he has this passionate fanbase of little girls and they really went for me."

'Family Feud' Host Richard Dawson Dead at 79

Richard Dawson, the host of "Family Feud" and a star on the TV show "Hogan's Heroes," has has died from complications due to esophageal cancer at the age of 79.

"It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my father passed away this evening from complications due to esophageal cancer," his son Gary posted in a Facebook message. "He was surrounded by his family. He was an amazing talent, a loving husband, a great dad, and a doting grandfather. He will be missed but always remembered..."

Dawson did two stints as the host "Feud," from 1976-1985 and then from 1994-1995. He won the Emmy Award as best game show host in 1978. He was also a regular on "The Match Game."

He was known for kissing each woman contestan on the show, and in 1985 when the show ended, executive producer Howard Felsher estimated that Dawson had kissed "somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000."

He took his host persona and gave it a dark twist, when he appeared in the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic action film "The Running Man."

Dawson also played the fast-talking Capt. Peter Newkirk on 1960s TV show "Hogan's Heroes."

Dawson was born Colin Lionel Emm in 1932 in Gosport, England. His first wife was actress Diana Dors.