Brad Garrett is keeping his fingers crossed that come Tuesday (5/19), his “Til Death” sitcom will be placed in timeslot it can live with. “May 19 at the upfronts, we’ll know exactly where we wind up,” notes the star, whose marriage-minded comedy with Joely Fisher has managed to hang on despite multiple timeslot switches, a complete disappearance last fall, and the fact, as he candidly notes, “We’ve been ratings-challenged from the beginning.”
With encore episodes from last season set to begin airing on Sundays come July 5, “we go into production for Season 4 at the end of July for new episodes that will start airing in September. We’re lucky to have a new season,” acknowledges Brad. “A lot of the people who were behind our show at Fox have moved on or disappeared, but our studio, Sony, has been campaigning hard for us, thankfully.”
And when viewers tune in to the new “’Til Death” shows in the fall, they’ll see big differences, he says. Writer-producer Don Reo (“Everybody Hates Chris,” “My Wife and Kids” has come aboard, “and his group of writers have started us in a direction we’re very excited about.” Plus, his long-time comedy pal, Kevin Nealon, is joining the show as a recurring character.
MEANWHILE: Nealon’s also among the notables turning out for Garrett’s celebrity poker tournament May 30 at the Commerce Casino in the Ciry of Commerce, CA — along with Ray Romano, Jason Alexander, Cheryl Hines, Mimi Rogers, Michael Chiklis, Nancy Cartwright, Joely Fisher, Jennifer Finnigan, Jonathan Silverman and Christopher Cross. The event, open to the public, raises funds for Brad’s Maximum Hope Foundation (www.maximumhopefoundation.org), named for his son Max and daughter Hope. The charity is dedicated to providing daily needs such as groceries and other assistance for families that have terminally ill children. Brad notes that “Even with insurance, people are called upon to pay 20 per cent of the medical costs – which can be overwhelming with a terminally ill child. Add to that the fact that usually one parent is there 24 hours a day – and nowadays we’re seeing so many families with unemployed parents — it’s staggering.”
The Dream Foundation, which grants wishes of terminally ill adults, is also a beneficiary of the tourney.
Says Brad, “It’s a $350 buy-in, $10,000 in cash and prizes, free food, great drinks and music and you’ll see me and Ray taking shots at each other.”
LOOK WHO’S HELPING: Winner of last year’s “America’s Got Talent,” opera singer Neal E. Boyd, is about to celebrate the release of his first album and he tells us it couldn’t have happened without the support of the show’s creator Simon Cowell. “It was Simon ultimately who made this happen. He came up to me after my audition in Los Angeles and was telling me about all of these different genres coming back. He put together Il Divo and wanted me to listen to some of their music,” Boyd recalls. “He’s a very good mentor and he’s got a great ear for talent and what’s going to be popular. To have somebody like that tell you that you deserve to be there is everything.”
Life has certainly changed for the Missouri native since winning. “It is different. Everybody told me it would be but me being a country boy thought, ‘It really won’t change that much.’ But now I’m in a position where I’m flying all over the country doing shows. I’m meeting mayors or meeting people like Tony Bennett or Jamie Foxx. It’s been surreal in the fact that all I did was sing a song and my whole life changed.”
Boyd says he just hopes to be able to inspire others with his CD “My American Dream,” which hits stores June 23. “I really think we did something special here. I do great songs like ‘Bring Him Home’ and ‘Ave Maria,’ but the big one that was a complete shock as to how well it sounds was ‘God Bless the USA.’ That song is so inspirational and I wanted to have an album that gave people hope because it’s tough times. I also wanted to show that even somebody from rural Missouri can go on to become a professional singer.”
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW: “The Tudors” star James Frain says although he loves stepping in the shoes of King Henry VIII’s advisor Thomas Cromwell on the Showtime series, he’s excited about getting the opportunity to work on a project his kids can enjoy. “I’m about to go off to shoot this Disney movie ‘Tron.’ It’s lots of effects and cool stuff like that so I’m looking forward to that. The only thing is, I’m not allowed to really talk about it. They’re all so super secretive now,” he notes. “I also have a De Niro movie coming out, though I was only on it for a few days,” he says of the movie “Everybody’s Fine.” “That was like working with the king. That’s the real king.”
With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster