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melroseNew faces, new dramas, same pool.

That could refer to Press Tour itself, since most of the conference involves around 250 electronic and print journalists being trapped in a hotel, but no.  This happened to be a CW publicist’s intro to the panel for “Melrose Place,” which is aining for as much multi-generational attention  as possible.

Executive producer Todd Slavkin expects the new “Melrose Place” to attract the teen audience The CW so deeply covets as well as their older sisters and brothers (and mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles). Reminding critics that the original has only been off the air for 10 years, that means the 15-year-olds who watched it back then are now 25 and presumably bored. “‘Melrose Place’ is a huge international franchise, that title,” he said.

People also remember the cast with no small amount of fondness, so the news that Josie Bissett and Daphne Zuniga would be back, and the producers are pitching woo to Grant Show, is promising. Doug Savant and Marcia Cross are busy with all the happenings on Wisteria Lane, so we doubt Matt Fielding and Dr.  Kimberly Shaw will return.  Courtney Thorne-Smith is still kicking around, although she may want some “me” time, having recently been set free from TV purgatory, aka “According to Jim.” But Slavkin added, “The door is always open for Heather Locklear.”

Does the same go for Andrew Shue? He seems fairly available these days.  Just sayin’.

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Ashton Kutcher's younger inner self.

From “Melrose” to models: Ashton Kutcher, executive producer of “The Beautiful Life,” would like you to know that the character of fresh-off-the-farm  Chris is actually based on series supervising producer and former top male model Adam Giaudrone, not him. Although Kutcher’s road to fame began in Iowa, when an older woman saw his underaged self in a bar and told him he should be in pictures, Kutcher says his story more closely mirrors that of Raina’s, that waif you see in the picture to the left. Weird, huh? We thought so.

And, for the record, in spite of Mischa Barton’s widely reported struggles of late, “She was never unavailable for a day of work.”  What else can we call that detail but… magical?

Elsewhere on the schedule:

CW entertainment head Dawn Ostroff would not specifically tell us if this is “Smallville’s” last season, only she hopes that it’s not. Ditto for “Supernatural“: “We’re hopeful it will stay on the air for a long time.” However, just forget they ever mentioned anything about a “Gossip Girl” spinoff, which Ostroff told us was not likely to happen.

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES Let me be clear, this writer understands the allure of vampires in popular culture. I was fully on board for Anne Rice’s Lestat books back in their day.  “The Hunger,” “Near Dark,” “The Lost Boys,” all favorite movies.  Don’t even get me started on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and my “True Blood” addiction.  I have even subjected myself to ” Lost Boys: The Tribe,” something nobody in her right mind should do.

Fictional bloodsuckers and yours truly, we’re simpatico. Even so, “The Vampire Diaries” pilot didn’t do it for me…but I couldn’t quite say why until we watched the promo reel at The CW’s TCA panel this morning.  It opens with the following: The first time the innocent Elena (Nina Dobrev) lays eyes on the mysterious new “hawt-e” at Mystic Falls High, Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley), he’s registering in the principal’s office. The secretary tells him he doesn’t have the correct documentation to enroll. He removes his glasses, glamours her, and ding! With that he’s off to first period — and there it was, the plot device that’s been bothering me since the first time I watched the pilot (or, for that matter, read the similarly-themed “Twilight.”)

According to the story, Stefan was alive in the 1860s. Why on Earth would an immortal being who is at least 150 years old attend high school classes?

Is acing history that much of a thrill? Is he curious about the  scientific progress we’ve made since the era when people were diagnosed with the vapors and consumption?  Does he have a burning desire to become the football team’s star running back?  I don’t get it.

As Wesley explained it, “This is a rebirth. He’s been alone, isolated…All of a sudden, it’s like he can have that teenage experience and that young-adult experience…the first love that he has been lacking for hundreds of years…He’s genuinely experiencing all this with the naivete of an 18-year-old kid.”

Indeed. An 18-year-old kid who could make up a very believable story about having been home-schooled.

Obviously Stefan’s unquenchable thirst to be close to Elena is the show’s the main event…but, honestly. Have him wait in the parking lot with the rest of the truants. Text the girl and let her know that he’ll see her at the mall. Hang out at the local cafe. Meet-ups at The Bronze were good enough for Angel and a heckuva lot more believable.

Perhaps this nitpicking will be for naught. Executive producer Kevin Williamson, who appeared this morning with fellow E.P.s Julie Plec (“Kyle XY“) and Bob Levy (“Gossip Girl“) assured critics that his new show won’t be “Twilight Over Dawson’s Creek.” “We’re trying to not make it a high school show,” Williamson said. “It’s more of…a small-town show. Once we you get past the premise of, you know, girl and vampire, we start to develop the story about a town.”

That’s reassuring.

But, what do you think? Are vamps with hall passes not that big of a deal? Can “The Vampire Diaries” work at a time when “True Blood” and “Twilight” are all the rage?…In the words of dear old Linda Richman, talk amongst yourselves.

(“The Vampire Diaries” premieres at 8 p.m. Sept. 10 on The CW.)

Some networks have more reason to be legitimately positive about their place in the world than others, CBS topmost among them. The Eye only has four new primetime series premiering this fall, one of them — “NCIS: Los Angeles” — that’s expected to be a slam dunk. “NCIS” is headed into its seventh season bigger than it has ever been, with summer repeats clobbering every show that goes up against them. Best of all, now that NBC is playing possum running Leno five nights a week at 10 p.m., CBS has even less competition to worry about — and it’s confident that its 10 o’clock success will only do great things for David Letterman.

President of entertainment Nina Tassler, however, captured the day by reveling in NBC’s recent ouster of former entertainment head Ben Silverman, who famously insulted her in an Esquire article. When someone asked her to comment on how Silverman’s departure affected CBS –purely in business terms, of course — she quipped, “Well, you know, I’m really just a ‘D girl,’ so…” She shoots, she scores.

Highlights from CBS’s day include:

jorjaSara Sidle (Jorja Fox) will appear in the first five episodes of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” which may not be enough to repair the steep audience erosion that occurred following William Petersen‘s departure last season. On that front, Tassler stated that their understanding of the problem was that fans wanted new castmember Laurence Fishburne to have more of a take-charge presence in the series. This season will feature him in more of a leadership capacity, she said, and with a better wardrobe (thank goodness). Additionally, Catherine (Marg Helgenberger) is going to grant Nick (George Eads) a promotion.

– “Let’s Make a Deal,” hosted by Wayne Brady, will be replacing “Guiding Light” in daytime beginning in October.

– “Flashpoint” has been cleared for nine more episodes, but CBS has no plans to make more after that.

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This post was originally going to be titled “Quick Shots of False Hope,” in both homage to comedienne Laura Kightlinger’s entertaining essay collection, and in acknowledgment that even good TV news amounts to so much dust in the wind when one takes the industry’s 80 percent-plus failure rate into account. But pretty much all of what you’ll read here is good news, or at the very least interesting, so we’ll save the false hope for this week, when the broadcast networks present. Let the good times start a-rolling with…

pauley Pauley Perrette is guest starring on the second episode of “NCIS: Los Angeles,” in a cameo that executive producer Shane Brennan characterized as being “directly involved in helping us solve the case. Pauley is very excited to be joining us, and I think it’s something that the fans are going to absolutely really enjoy.”

On a side note, Brennan delivered this news from the ground floor of the “NCIS: Los Angeles” set, built to resemble an old Spanish mission but, to TV viewers, looks all too much like the courtyard on “Melrose Place.”

Brennan explained that since the original ops center was compromised (in part 2 of the “NCIS” crossover episodes)  they had to find another undercover location. So from the outside it looks like a charming piece of old California, but inside and upstairs is state-of-the-art equipment specially built for the unit (and actually, the series itself) by technology giant Lockheed Martin. This includes a gigantic touch-interactive screen that critics were allowed to play with by waving are hands across it and pretending we were in Minority Report. We discovered fake identification for one character in an upcoming episode, to be played by former “Six Feet Under” star Mathew St. Patrick.

– On the same day we visited “NCIS: LA” we headed over to the Fox lot to see Joss Whedon in the “Dollhouse.” This may be a comfort to “Dollhouse” fans: Whedon shared that when season two opens, Echo (Eliza Dushku) will be deeply impacted by Alpha downloading all of her personalities into her at once, which means she’ll actually have a persona instead of being a passive blank slate. Although lacking a personality is central to being a “doll,” that feature made it nearly impossible for viewers to connect to Echo. When I brought that up during the session, Whedon acknowledged a major correction was due.

“We will see that she has a cohesiveness and a mission that make every engagement mean a great deal more to her and she has, as Echo, her own agenda which is something she didn’t quite have,” Whedon explained, “and we did sort of build to that in Omega where she had been dumped with all the personalities and we heard her say her name. At the end this episode we are going to see how far she’s come and it’s a little further than the people around her know.”

So, I asked to establish complete clarity, even after each episode’s wipe she is going to have a distinct personality?

“We are going to see her as we know her, and then we are going to see something very different,” Whedon said. “And that is pretty much all I can say.”

tudyk–After the main session Whedon confirmed to me and a few others that Alan Tudyk would be returning for several episodes over the course of season two. Whedon said he couldn’t confirm an exact number because Tudyk does not like to be pinned down in any particular series. To wit: He has a fairly substantial role in the pilot for ABC’s midseason series “V.” Whedon also hinted that this season would head outside of the main Dollhouse to, perhaps, visit other branches. Hmm….

– While walking out a Fox publicist dashed past and told us the big “Futurama” news we hope you already know, which is that all of the original cast had signed on for its resurrection.

Up next: CBS.

It isn’t often that you find Betty White as well as the casts of “True Blood” and “Yo Gabba Gabba!” congregating near an open bar.

The Television Critics Association Awards ceremony, however, is a different kind of congratulatory event.  The association’s awards aren’t fancy; often, they’re not even listed in a series or a star’s list of career accolades in their public bios. But over the course of 25 years, we’ve done our part to acknowledge some truly fine programs (“Boomtown,” for example) and actors (Hugh Laurie, twice now) that the Emmys were (are?) content to over look.

It’s also one of the few awards nights in which the recipients know that they’ve won because they’ve been invited. Among the honorees who showed up last night were Jon Hamm, Vincent Kartheiser, John Slattery and executive producer Matthew Weiner of “Mad Men“; Bryan Cranston and his “Breaking Bad” family; and Alexander Skarsgard, Sam Trammell, Rutina Wesley, Nelsan Ellis and “True Blood” series creator Alan Ball.

To accept the program of the year award for “Battlestar Galactica,” co-executive producer Jane Espenson was joined onstage by Michael Hogan, Grace Park, Katee Sackhoff and Tricia Helfer.

Here is the full list of 2009 TCA Award recipients:

PROGRAM OF THE YEAR: “Battlestar Galactica” (Syfy)

OUTSTANDING NEW PROGRAM: “True Blood” (HBO)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DRAMA: “Mad Men” (AMC)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY: “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN NEWS & INFORMATION: “The Alzheimer’s Project” (HBO)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING: “Yo Gabba Gabba” (Nickelodeon)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN MOVIES, MINI-SERIES & SPECIALS: “Grey Gardens” (HBO)

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY: Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN DRAMA: Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad” (AMC)

HERITAGE AWARD: “ER” (NBC)

CAREER ACHIEVEMENT: Betty White

When, in the history of entertainment, have you heard of anyone switching on an E! reality show, taking a deep cleansing breath and saying out loud, “Let the healing begin”?

Take your time, we’ll wait.

…Anyway, executive producer Mike Fleiss and Lorenzo Lamas plan to explore the therapeutic powers of  reality television on “The Lamas Life,” which succeeded in what was heretofore thought impossible: Bringing the elder Lamas into the same general space as estranged son A.J., who made recent tabloid headlines with the supposed “revelation” that A.J.’s alleged affair with his father’s fourth ex-wife Shauna Sand caused the end of their marriage.

“There’s only one way to get a family back together,” Fleiss joked to critics on Thursday, “and that’s on television. That’s what the E! channel is all about, really, when you think about it.”

Lorenzo Lamas was joined onstage by his his ex-wife Michelle Smith, son A.J. and daughter Dakota; and his more famous daughter Shayne Lamas, who won the heart of past “Bachelor” Matt Grant. (Ultimately — surprise, surprise — happily ever after was not to be.)

When someone asked Lamas to characterize his relationship with his son, his answer was, “strained,” adding that before E! came calling it had been years since father and son were in the same room. Filming “The Lamas Life” has changed all that.

“The fact of the matter is that I’ve seen more of A.J. in the last two weeks than I have in three years,” Lamas said, adding that he looked at the E! show as an opportunity to grow closer to his kids.

A.J., oddly, agreed. “You know what? Honestly, if it takes a TV show for me and this guy to come back together, then so be it.”

That’s all fine and good, but will Lorenzo use a laser pointer to highlight his children’s flaws when they misbehave? I suppose you’ll have to tune in this October to find out.

lawless2Premium cable is in no way a necessity.  That’s why the onus has been on channels such as HBO and Showtime to give us a reason to pony up those extra bucks for a subscription. HBO’s answer was  “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City” and “Six Feet Under.”  Showtime got us to pry open our wallets for “Dexter” and “Weeds.”

Now, the late-to-the-original-programming-party Starz has promised that sometime on or after January 22, 2010, when “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” premieres, we will see Lucy Lawless get naked. You read right: Xena, in the buff.

Now that Starz has your attention, it’s worth mentioning that this detail is not the only reason you might want to check out “Blood and Sand.” It’s not even the main one, although on Wednesday producers gave critics  an eyeful of the boobilicious , uncut promo trailer they weren’t allowed to show at Comic-Con to sweeten the deal.  Keep reading for our list of reasons that this upcoming action drama could be worth a look.

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