Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Despite their finales, shows will go on



Is President David Palmer dead? Will President Josiah Bartlet leave The West Wing? And how will Alias account for the two missing years?

You have lots of questions after the season finales this month. TV critics were wondering about the same things when we interviewed network executives in conference calls last week.

Here's what they said:

24: The attempted assassination of President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) in Fox's 24 won't be "the driving force" for the third season this fall, says Gail Berman, Fox Entertainment president.

But she won't say more than that. "I can confirm for you that an attempted assassination has been made on the president," she says.

Palmer was stricken by a mysterious chemical from a handshake with a beautiful young woman named Mandy (Mia Kirshner), a killer not seen since the first few episodes of the first season. Bringing her back from the pilot was "a tip of the hat" to loyal 24 fans.

Palmer's fate remains uncertain - because only star Kiefer Sutherland is signed for next season, says

The West Wing: NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker assured TV critics that President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) will remain a central figure in The West Wing, despite surrendering presidential powers in the May 14 cliff-hanger.

"Nobody will be leaving the cast. I don't anticipate that Martin Sheen will leave the show," he says.

"I don't want to give too much away, and we do know where the story is going."

Creator Aaron Sorkin, who is leaving the show, wrote the season finale in which Bartlet invoked the 25th Amendment and temporarily gave presidential power to the Speaker of the House (guest star John Goodman). Sorkin consulted NBC executives on the plot twist before it was shot, Zucker says.

A new cast member may be added to The West Wing, which has won three consecutive Emmys for best drama, sometime next season, Zucker says. The network had talked last season to Sorkin about adding a new character, he says.

Alias: ABC Entertainment Chairman Lloyd Braun says he was "completely satisfied" with the Alias finale, in which spy Sydney (Jennifer Garner) woke up in Hong Kong after two years had passed. Her love interest, Vaughn (Michael Vartan) was wearing a wedding band in the scene.

Braun says he has complete confidence in creator J.J. Abrams.

"I think it's fantastic. It's going to be two years in the future - what is he going to do?" he says.

Braun revealed that he considered moving Alias from Sunday to 10 p.m. Wednesday, ABC's dark hole, last winter.

"You don't want to move a show unless you absolutely have to," he says.

Could Alias move next winter? "We will exercise patience and restraint," he promises.

Out of order

The 1990 Law & Order pilot didn't air last Wednesday as promoted because NBC couldn't reach a deal with Universal Studios.

When talks went down to the wire, NBC instead broadcast a repeat from October at 8 p.m. last week.

A NBC publicist says the network didn't expect a problem getting rights to the old show, since it had struck similar deals with Warner Bros. to air old Friends and ER pilots years later.

TV today

PBS' Berga: Soldiers of Another War looks at Nazi atrocities inflicted on 350 World War II American prisoners (8 p.m., Channels 48, 16).

Producer Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and others discuss vampires on Night Bites (10 p.m., Women's Entertainment).

Talk shows guests

Regis and Kelly (9 a.m., Channel 9): Caroline Kennedy, Jeff Gordon.

The View (11 a.m., Channel 9): James Van Der Beek, John Spencer.

Caroline Rhea (3 p.m., Channel 19): Fran Drescher, Eric Idle.


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