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Remakes, Breakups and Bad Blood Highlight News Out of Summer Press Tour 2015

The broadcast and cable networks and Internet streaming outlets have wrapped up the 17-day promote-athon known as the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour. Many shows were touted by many creators and stars in many panels and parties — so many, it was easy to get lost in the swirl of it all. So here’s a blitz recap of 10 of this year’s top news bites.

Lee Daniels says it’s inevitable, “without question,” that his massive hit “Empire” yields a spinoff. That spinoff will be a prequel that delves into the life of everybody’s favorite flamboyant Cookie, Taraji P. Henson’s one-of-a-kind matriarch character. No word on when the new series will come along, but “Empire” returns Sept. 23.

Jimmy Fallon has signed on to keep doing “The Tonight Show” into September of 2021.

Donald Trump has definitely been fired from hosting “Celebrity Apprentice.” NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt told critics the show will be back in 2016 with a new host, someone who must be big and make a lot of noise.

Maybe there will be a “Downton Abbey” movie. Executive Producer Gareth Neame says there’s been talk of a film and it just might happen, though there is no script or projected start date. Putting money on this one doesn’t seem like a good idea. Nevertheless, it takes a teensy bit of the sting out of the forthcoming farewell at the end of season six (which begins airing on PBS Jan. 3).

THE MUPPETS - The Muppets are back in prime time like you've never seen them before. Romance! Breakups! Success! Failure! Muppets are opening the doors to their homes and offices in this fresh documentary style series that explores these beloved characters as they live their lives in Hollywood. This real-world Muppet series will have something for kids of all ages. (ABC/Andrea McCallin ) DENISE, MISS PIGGY, JANICE

Denise, Miss Piggy, Janice “The Muppets” (ABC/Andrea McCallin )

Kermit and Miss Piggy broke up and he’s purportedly dating a pig named Denise in the ABC marketing department. Well, we all know how celebrities gin up their feuds to create interest in their new movies and shows. Would anyone be surprised if the showbiz savvy Piggy was behind this tactic to bring attention to their new “The Muppets” coming up on ABC Sept. 22. Co-created by Bill Prady (protege of Jim Henson who went on to create shows including “The Big Bang Theory) and Bob Kushell, the new “Muppets” looks like a good prospect for another TV hit.

Louis K.C. is going to take an extended hiatus after season five of his award-winning FX show. He wants to focus on other things and there is no telling when he’ll resume.

FX Chieftain John Landgraf believes that with all the outlets scrambling to put on more and more — and more — shows, we’ve reached a point of “Simply Too Much Television,” so expect a dropoff. But Showtime President David Nevins contends “There may be too much good TV. There’s never enough great TV. We’re trying really hard to make great TV.” So there.

There’s certainly a lot of retread TV. For example, Showtime has a “Twin Peaks” revival going into production next month for a 2016 debut. In addition to “The Muppets,” there’s “Heroes: Reborn” launching Sept. 24. Come midseason, we’ll see the return of Craig T. Nelson as “Coach.” “Prison Break” will return to Fox next year. Everyone involved wants to do a “Law & Order” revival, if the timing can be worked out, according to super producer Dick Wolf. And NBC’s Greenblatt raised the frightening prospect of a new “Alf.”

Wolf also disclosed plans for crossovers between his series, including a “jumbo” four-way crossover, with a story shared by “Chicago P.D.,” “Chicago Fire,” the new “Chicago Med” and “Law & Order: SVU.” That will be in February. In time for sweeps, of course.

Britney Spears will be on the CW’s “Jane the Virgin.” “The Muppets” guests will include Imagine Dragons and Nathan Fillion. But no show is a match for “Empire” when it comes to featuring famous names. This coming season, the show’s Who’s Who includes Pitbull, Chris Rock, Alicia Keys, Al Sharpton and Lenny Kravitz.

Rising Teen Actor Charlie Rowe of ‘Red Band Society’

charlie roweCharlie Rowe is a bit bemused by widespread speculation that he and his fellow young cast mates on “Red Band Society” will become hot little new celebrities once their show debuts on Fox tonight (9/17). “I don’t really know quite what it means, to be honest,” he admits. “Everyone’s mentioning it. I don’t know if I accept it,” adds the 18-year-old, who already finds himself with a burgeoning Twitter following, though he has yet to be recognized on the street.

Certainly he will be easy to spot, having had to shave his head to play a cancer patient on the Steven Spielberg-produced show that has been hailed as “The Breakfast Club” in a pediatric hospital.

“That’s true. That’s why I’m buying more hats,” he says jovially.

Rowe plays Leo Roth, de facto leader of the collection of friends brought together by shared serious medical plight — a complex charmer with an edge of sadness, the kind of character that does indeed turn up-and-comers into stars. His portrayal is all that much more impressive when you hear his natural British accent and realize that behind the all-American Leo is a Londoner, born and raised.

Rowe played Peter Pan in Syfy’s “Neverland” prequel and Billy Costa in the big-screen “Golden Compass.” Last year, he became the youngest lead actor in the history of The Old Vic, where he played the title role of Ronnie Winslow in “The Winslow Boy.”

So how did a nice British teen wind up working in Atlanta, Ga., playing a cancer-stricken California boy?

“This is the first pilot I’ve ever auditioned for. I’ve never done pilot season or anything like that,” notes Rowe. “I was just going off the pilot script, reading it in the U.K., and I got to page four, and I knew I wanted to do it — it just seemed to be more ambitious than other shows. It was one I could really relate to. It wasn’t about guns and cops or the Middle East; it was very clearly something I related to, yet it was something far away from me. An interesting mix.”

There was also the character himself. “I really, really like Leo. I think he’s very powerful. There are things that are different from me about Leo, but I’m not quite sure what those things are yet. There are things I find similar. He has an urge to know everything, not be left out.”

Once Rowe put in his bid for the role, he had an audition for a London casting director within a week. “The director was on Skype, and the writer was on Facetime, so it was a strange conception of screens,” he recalls.

“They enjoyed it, and I got the part about a week and a half later.”

Rowe has the theater in his blood. His mother is a drama teacher whose students have included “Coronation Street” actor Charlie Condou. His father is an actor and writer. His aunt is on television in the U.K. His grandmother on his father’s side is an actress, as well, and his grandpa is a camera man. “I’ve grown up with it, and I can’t imagine myself doing anything or attempting to do anything else,” he says.

Taking the edge off his homesickness as he toils on sound stages half a world away from the British Isles is the fact that he’s become fast friends with his young “Red Band Society” cast mates. “Some of us live in the same building, some five minutes away. We’re all almost the same age. It’s almost like family,” he notes. The show also stars Octavia Spencer and Dave Annable.

Another bonding experience: Cast members did a cross-country tour of pediatric hospitals. “We went visiting different cities and different hospitals and talked to the kids there about what we were doing and why we wanted to talk to them and get to know them. Partly it was very formalized, in that we were there to do interviews and we had a whole publicity team with us, and it was very much part of the publicity process. But part of it was going to these kids and chatting with them, one on one, about what they were going through and stuff like that. That was the part I really loved,” he recalls. “There was some really funny and hilarious stuff. You don’t have to use a lot of imagination with this. It’s easy to relate to the real thing.”

Asked whether the visits were emotional, Rowe says no. “None of them were really upset. They were very happy to be where they were and very happy they were getting better, and tremendously interested in telling their stories. You know, they’re just ordinary kids. I’m going to try to meet this girl, I’m going to try to have new friends — that sort of thing.”

The series also benefits from writer/executive producer Margaret Nagle’s experience, having spent countless hours and days in the hospital with her brother, who was comatose for years. (He is now an outsider artist, though still disabled.)

Rowe reports that the company is working on episode five as we speak, and he says, “We’re getting to the good stuff now. We’re getting to the heart of the show. We’re going into more aspects of the characters. It’s great.”

Whether Rowe and his cast mates skyrocket to fame or not, his acting work is such that he’s bound to be around for a long, long time.

Octavia Spencer Says Stigma of TV ‘Quite Gone’/’Hit The Floor’s’ Don Stark Talks Segment Secrecy

octavia spencerOctavia Spencer has an Academy Award and a steady influx of film offers — but she scoffs at the very notion of shying away from television. “That’s not a reality in today’s world. You see Julia Roberts doing television,” notes the “The Help” Oscar winner — who will join the small screen action Sept. 17 with the premiere of Fox’s “Red Band Society.”

She adds, “Some of the most interesting characters out there for character actresses like myself are in television, so I would be shooting my big toe off, and not being able to walk very well, had I done that…I don’t see that there’s a difference, really. I think that stigma is quite gone.

“I’m not a snob, I’m an actor. And I’m a character actor, so I have to be realistic about the parts that are available to me,” she goes on. “So it’s about really and truly being a part of a show with a character I can grow with.”

Spencer plays a nurse with a sarcastic edge in the hospital dramedy centered on teens that forge social bonds while dealing with long-term illness.

Writer/exec producer Margaret Nagle (“Boardwalk Empire”) brings a wealth of personal experience, as she “grew up in a hospital,” as she put it, while her brother was in a coma following an accident. Still physically challenged, he is now an outsider artist, she told press at the recent Television Critics Association conclave. Stories are based on real-life situations, and Spencer and other cast members and writers visited pediatric hospitals around the country to absorb the atmosphere and get to know patients. Steven Spielberg is also an exec producer on the show.

Spencer says her character is “a lot of fun because you do assume she’s That Way — all business — but the children pull on her heartstrings…You see it played out differently. She only shows her true colors to a few people, and usually it’s kids.”

She does make it clear she “absolutely” will continue to make movies — having launched “Get On Up” earlier this summer, and having “Insurgent,” the second installment of “Divergent,” ahead. The studio and network, she says, “have been wonderful” about working with her film calendar. Spencer and the series’ “hot doc” Dave Annable are “interwoven throughout the episodes,” according to her.

As far as her life changing because of her taking home the Best Supporting Actress statuette in 2012, she says, “My life is still very much the same. I like a small manageable life. But my career, obviously, exploded. I have access to a lot of great material. I got offered a lot.”  A series, she believes, is “a marriage, so you want to be married to a project that’s brilliant and you want to be married to people that you respect and whose work you’ve been a fan of, and who’ve influenced you. That’s what i have with Margaret and Steven Spielberg and everybody at Dreamworks and Fox.”

don starkHUSH-HUSH:  The Aug. 11 season ender of VH-1’s “Hit the Floor” is being kept secret — even from the cast. That’s the word from Don Stark, who costars on the steamy VH-1 show about an NBA cheerleader (Taylour Paige) and her world. According to him, show producer James LaRosa “is a master of keeping things close to the vest. The last half page of the script was redacted; none of us knows what’s going on. I don’t even think the NSA could have picked it out.”

Someone on the show will be meeting a bad fate, it seems, and different possibilities were shot. “We have a pool as to who it will be. Every actor thinks, ‘Is it me?  Am I going to be out next year?'” notes Stark with a laugh. He certainly hopes it isn’t him, especially since the one-time “That 70’s Show” actor is having a blast on the show, which was picked up for a third season in May. “It’s a great group of people to work with — amazing dancers, Dean Cain, Kimberly Elise…. The writing is quite good. I hope to be along for the ride next season.”

Either way, Stark certainly has a full plate of activities. He recently joined Sally Field’s big screen comedy, “Hello, My Name is Doris.”  “It’s a coming-of-age story for someone who is already of age,” he says. “She’s a woman in her sixties who lives out on Staten Island and works in the city. She’s a bit of a hoarder. When her mom dies, her life changes.”

And she winds up falling for a younger man — 33-year-old “New Girl” cutie Max Greenfield. Stark plays his uncle, a would-be suitor for Field. He also has the upcoming indie film “Safelight” with Christine Lahti, and returns to his role as Vinny the Scar on the new season of “Castle” this fall.


‘Daily Helpline’ Therapist Miles Adcox Aiming for Oprah Territory

miles adcoxThere’s nothing like aiming high. Nashville-based therapist and life coach Miles Adcox says that when it comes to dealing with the personal problems of real-life people on TV in a non-exploitative way, “the best example of that, who was great at it, is Oprah Winfrey — and anybody who is even thinking about doing a talk show uses her as a reference.”

He’s certainly had occasion to do more than just think about Oprah of late. Come July 14, the handsome wellness workshop entrepreneur and entertainment industry favorite will be seen co-hosting Fox’s new “The Daily Helpline” with radio advice talk show host Spirit. Everyday folks with problems from overcoming abuse to battling cancer, coping with teen pregnancy to confronting sexual woes show up in person in the studio, or contact Adcox and Spirit via social media.

(Requests were already streaming in weeks ago.) Celebrities including Marie Osmond, Tom Green, TLC’s Tionne Watkin, Loni Love, Tabatha Coffey and Brandy guest in segments to weigh in with their own opinions and experience.

So there is quite a bit of potential for exploitation — depending upon how the show is done.

Adcox admits, “The therapy world is often scared of the media world and vice versa, because we feel like media is about sensationalism and we don’t want to do that. But the truth is we can reach way more people with a media platform than we could ever do one person at a time in our office, so that’s why I wanted to be involved” — in a healthy, Oprah-esque way.

“She didn’t come across as another expert dropping advice from 10,000 feet and hoping something would change. She was real. She was vulnerable. She connected with people,” Adcox points out. “And people had healing experiences on her show because of how good a listener she was. I haven’t seen that recreated since she left, and that’s what I’m excited about — stepping in in a way that can help people. I believe there is an audience interested in seeing human connection, and seeing real people helping real people and holding people in pain.”

Real people in New York, L.A., Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Austin, Texas, and Charlotte, North Carolina will be able to see “The Daily Helpline” test run on TV. Elsewhere, viewers are being invited to sample via YouTube. A week’s worth of shows are in the can and more are being shot.

Adcox, who has guested on a number of shows in the past, including “The Doctors” and “Dr. Phil,” says he was initially asked to come in and help vet prospective hosts for “The Daily Helpline.” However, as the weeks went by, he went from being asked about other candidates to being asked how he would feel about taking on the hosting chores himself.

“It wasn’t my dream to do this, but it’s a neat opportunity for me to step into,” he says.

According to him, the celebs involved so far have been taking to the show as a neat opportunity as well. “Daily Helpline,” he says, is “not there to get the dirt on movie star. These celebrities are coming and sitting in our chairs to share an experience in order to help someone else. I was surprised — the few I had relationships with that I asked about doing the show, it wasn’t a hard ask. They were pleasantly excited about it.”

He says that Tom Green, for example, “was able to help someone probably more than we were because they were going through same experience Tom had and he was able to share how he got through it.”

That particular episode had to do with cancer and its accompanying stresses on personal and work relationships. Green, a testicular cancer survivor, has been a guiding light for countless men going through that ordeal for since his own battle in 2000.

Close Call With Wildfire Brings New Resolve for ‘SYTYCD’ Judge Mary Murphy

Mary+Murphy+Bracelets+Beaded+Bracelet+en8tS-2dPgxl Mary Murphy says she’s finally getting over the respiratory irritation she was left with after a brush fire near her home in Carlsbad, California — a fire that took out eight houses in her neighborhood.

“My voice is a little bit hoarse still, but I ran up the stairs yesterday, so that’s a good sign,” says the energetic “So You Think You Can Dance” mainstay. She’s also firmed her resolve to be better prepared in case of another emergency. This one definitely did not find her ready.

“Oh my gosh, I’ve never experienced anything like that before in my life!” she exclaims. “I thought, ‘My house smells like fire,’ and I walked out and saw blue sky…Then I turned around and I could not believe what I saw — billowing black smoke coming right over the house. It wasn’t even on TV yet. We weren’t even being evacuated. It came so fast! It was 101 degrees that day, and I was just running around my house – I know it was ridiculous. The first thing I grabbed was at least 10 dresses that I had bought for the show, and I started getting my shoes, one pair of every color. Then I started searching for my mother’s rings that meant the world to me. My pictures were not in one location…And of course I couldn’t even get my car out of the garage. The electricity just went out. I went into full panic.”

Mary found her hillside street full of neighbors making their way down. Some of them helped her get her garage door open. Now, she says, she and her neighbors are making a point of communicating with one another, and of being better prepared. She’s keeping a tank of drinking water outside her house and getting other supplies.

She recalls going back to her house after the blaze was extinguished to see if it was okay and also to protect it in case of looters. But she admits, “I have no idea what that means. How could I have stopped anyone from stealing from me anyway?! I had one camping lantern and some candles!” She laughs. “I realized one camping lantern wasn’t enough. The smoke was so thick I couldn’t stay. Then the next day we were evacuated again. I never unpacked my car, just re-packed it a little better.”

Considering other events in the life of the unsinkable dancer/choreographer — her successful 2011 battle with thyroid cancer, her drive to get back into shape following that, her legal fight with a former manager — her close call with a wildfire wasn’t so bad.

“So You Think You Can Dance” continues to be an uplifting experience for her in Season 11. “I don’t care what’s happening in your life, you see those kids dance and it’s all-engulfing. You just breathe it in, and you watch them soar and you know how very, very difficult it really is – what we’re asking of them. I’m just so in awe every season. And it does seem to be better and better, and the bar gets raised,” she notes.

She finds that many of the young hopefuls are coming in well-prepared in recent seasons. “A lot of them are ready, but there are still a lot of kids like Cyrus (“Glitch” Spencer) a couple of seasons ago. They’d love to come ready, but they don’t have the financial means. So it’s really cool to see those kids excel, too.”

As for this year’s crop, Mary says there are more contenders out of the ballroom world — her background — than there have been in five or six years. But as far as who will be named to the top 20, this time, “Even we don’t know,” she says. “Because of the way they’re doing it this year, they were able to keep that a secret from us.”