Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Feds sue Fox

The Justice Department has taken on the role of the Federal Communications Commisson’s enforcer, filing a lawsuit Friday against Fox and Sinclair Broadcast Group to collect $56,000 in fines levied in the long-running indecency case involving Fox reality series “Married by America,” Variety reports

The Justice Department’s unusual move came on the same day the FCC rejected Fox’s request for a review of the agency’s most recent decision to fine a handful of Fox affiliates for carrying the sexually charged reality program in a time slot in which the FCC has indecency enforcement authority.

The Justice Department filed suits against eight stations in federal courts in the District, Iowa, West Virginia and Tennessee. In a statement, Fox said it was prepared to argue its case against what the media giant views as an arbitrary standard applied in the FCC’s indecency rulings.

Strike delays HBO

Like most TV networks offering original scripted programming, HBO was hit hard by the writers’ strike — and one need look no further than the pay cable network’s revised summer schedule for evidence, notes MediaWeek.com.

The strike postponed production on the fifth season of the hit comedy “Entourage,” which had been set to return in June but was pushed to the fall. Filming also was delayed on HBO’s latest series, the vampire drama “True Blood,” from “Six Feet Under” creator Alan Ball. That, too, now has a fall launch. Other strike victims include the polygamy drama “Big Love” and the cult comedy “Flight of the Conchords,” both of which were bumped to the fourth quarter.

In place of original programs on Sundays, the network will run movies during the early part of the summer. Later in the season, it will premiere its Iraq War-themed limited series, “Generation Kill,” having moved that premiere up from the fall.

The scheduling changes come after a challenging year for HBO, which included ex-programming chief Chris Albrecht’s unseemly exit last spring, as well as the departure of Mr. Albrecht’s replacement Carolyn Strauss last month and its surprise decision to pull the plug on family soap “12 Miles of Bad Road,” for which six episodes already had been shot.

Yet HBO execs are encouraged by the performance of recent programs, especially the historical drama “John Adams,” whose fourth installment on March 30 drew 2.2 million viewers. Those numbers may not match the double-digit ratings typical of “The Sopranos,” but HBO is confident it will maintain its position as a leader.

However, just as HBO regroups yet again, the sharks are already circling. Beginning June 16, Showtime will air new episodes of its pot comedy “Weeds” following an independent agreement made during the strike between the Writers Guild of America and producer Lions Gate TV.

Still, comparing HBO to Showtime is seen largely as an apples-to-oranges equation. Through 2007, HBO clearly remained the dominant pay cable service, with 28.9 million subscribers, versus 15.5 million for Showtime.

Teaming up for TLC

Melanie Brown and Joey Fatone have a new role to add to their scarily similar resumes: TLC host.

The duo will co-host “The Singing Office,” a tongue-in-cheek singing competition that pits different groups of employees against each other.

Both Miss Brown and Mr. Fatone were members of chart-topping pop quartets; both finished in second place on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.” Both also have starred in “Rent” on Broadway — and Miss Brown told Associated Press they’re both scheduled to return to the “Dancing With the Stars” ballroom May 6 to dance for the show’s 100th episode.

In each episode of “The Singing Office,” Miss Brown, 32, and Mr. Fatone, 31, surprise employees at two separate workplaces with impromptu vocal auditions. They then pick the five best singers. The makeshift groups are trained by pros to perform a song-and-dance routine and compete in front of a studio audience.

Miss Brown recently wrapped up the Spice Girls reunion tour. Mr. Fatone, who performed with ‘N Sync, has been hosting NBC’s “The Singing Bee,” which wasn’t included on the network’s fall schedule.

On tap tonight

The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo (10, HBO): During the past decade in the Democratic Republic of Congo, hundreds of thousands of women and girls have been sexually attacked and mutilated in this African nation’s civil war. The attackers —who often are gangs of armed militia — typically go unpunished as they leave their victims traumatized, shunned by society, and suffering lifelong injury. But in the film, some victims break their The documentary, from director Lisa F. Jackson, won a special jury prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports

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