A warning to Michael Bay and the folks behind “Transformers 3”

Do not replace Megan Fox with Hayden Panettiere. Nothing good can come of it.

I had only halfheartedly followed the whole “Megan Fox is out of ‘Transformers 3’ story,” mostly because I didn’t grow up playing with Transformers toys and therefore have no particular affinity for the film franchise beyond the “it looks cool” factor, but when Bullz-Eye’s beloved CEO called me today during lunch and casually mentioned how he’d heard that former “Heroes” cheerleader Hayden Panettiere was one of the names being bandied about as one of the many possible replacements for Fox, I almost gagged on my PB&J.

I don’t know that you’ve followed my feelings on Ms. Panettiere over the course of my three encounters with her at the TCA Press Tour, but let’s just say that she necessitated the institution of a Three-Strikes-And-You’re-Out rule…and I don’t even have anyone else on my list with two strikes!

Here’s the story of my experiences with her, as related in my wrap-up of the 2009 tour:

In 2007, I managed to ask her precisely one question, which she answered lazily before wandering away.

In 2008, I waited patiently for an interview as she finished a casual conversation, and although both she and her publicist clearly saw me, they both turned and walked in the opposite direction when the conversation was over. I unintentionally but audibly said, “Oh, no, you didn’t,” at which point her publicist attempted to pacify me by assuring me that she had to go to the ladies room and would be back. (She wouldn’t be.)

This year, I decided I’d give it one last shot.

As I was steeling myself for her impending indifference, a colleague came up and said, “Do you want to double-team her?” Just as we were heading her way, another critic beat us to the punch by calling Hayden’s name…and I saw Hayden’s eyes roll as far back as she could muster, then turned and offered about the most fake smile imaginable, in no way hiding the “I don’t want to be here, let alone answer your questions” look in her eyes. My colleague and I approached nonetheless, and we watched as several other writers entered the newly-created scrum. After the fourth or fifth time Hayden reacted to a new tape recorder as if someone was thrusting a knife at her, I finally just said, “Screw this” (albeit under my breath), and bailed out.

Seriously, Michael Bay, you don’t want Hayden Panettiere in your film. You’ve just gotten rid of one moody coquette. You don’t want to replace her with another one.

  

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Greetings to the New Season: NBC

When the season finales begin to air, then you know that it’s only a matter of time before the network upfront presentations begin. If you’re not familiar with the concept of the upfront, it’s when the networks formally roll out their fall schedules, providing advance warning about the slate of new programming for the next season, thereby allowing for several months of snarky comments about series which no one has even seen yet. Give credit to NBC, though: they’ve actually offered up clips for virtually every one of their new shows in order to get the buzz going as quickly as possible…be it positive or negative. Check out what they’ve got to offer, then let us know what you think!

MONDAY

8 – 9 PM: Chuck

9 – 10 PM: The Event: an emotional, high-octane conspiracy thriller that follows Sean Walker (Jason Ritter, “The Class”), an Everyman who investigates the mysterious disappearance of his fiancée, Leila (Sarah Roemer, “Disturbia”), and unwittingly begins to expose the biggest cover-up in U.S. history. Sean’s quest will send ripples through the lives of an eclectic band of strangers, including: newly elected U.S. President Martinez (Golden Globe nominee Blair Underwood, “In Treatment”); Sophia (Emmy Award nominee Laura Innes, “ER”), who is the leader of a mysterious group of detainees; and Sean’s shadowy father-in-law (Scott Patterson, “Gilmore Girls”). Their futures are on a collision course in a global conspiracy that could ultimately change the fate of mankind. Ian Anthony Dale (“Daybreak”) and Emmy winner Željko Ivanek (“Damages”) also star in the ensemble drama. Stark (“Medium,” “Facing Kate”) serves as executive producer, Evan Katz (“24”) serves as executive producer/showrunner, Nick Wauters (“The 4400,” “Eureka”) is creator/co-executive producer and Jeffrey Reiner (“Friday Night Lights,” “Trauma”) is the director/executive producer.

10 – 11 PM: Chase: a fast-paced drama that drops viewers smack into the middle of a game of cat-and-mouse as a team of U.S. marshals hunts down America’s most dangerous fugitives. Kelli Giddish (“Past Life”) stars as U.S. Marshal Annie Frost, a cowboy boot-wearing deputy whose sharp mind and unique Texas upbringing help her track down the violent criminals on the run. Cole Hauser (“K-Ville”), Amaury Nolasco (“Prison Break”), Rose Rollins (“The L Word”) and Jesse Metcalfe (“Desperate Housewives”) also star as members of Frost’s elite team. Jerry Bruckheimer (“CSI” franchise, “The Amazing Race,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” films), Jonathan Littman (“CSI” franchise, “The Amazing Race,” “Cold Case”) and Jennifer Johnson (“Cold Case”) serve as executive producers, while KristieAnne Reed is co-executive producer. David Nutter (“The Mentalist,” “Without a Trace” “The X-Files”) directed and is executive producer of the pilot, which was written by Johnson.

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“Heroes” canceled

Per EW.com…

The show never managed to recapture those stellar ratings from its critically-beloved first season, when it averaged a whopping 14.5 million. There has been talk that NBC may air a movie that allows the producers to wrap up the story, but nothing has been set in stone.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

When we last left “Heroes,” Claire revealed her power for the world to see. Will we ever find out what happened in Volume 6: Brave New World? Why am I not optimistic?

  

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TCA Tour: NBC Executive Session

I think it’s fair to say that there wasn’t a single member of the Television Critics Associate who wasn’t chomping at the bit to see how this session was going to go down. With all of the controversy breaking about the reported cancellation of “The Jay Leno Show” and rumors of its host moving to a half-hour slot at 11:35 PM, thereby moving the other members of the late-night line-up – “The Tonight Show starring Conan O’Brien” and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” back by an hour, everybody wanted to know how NBC was going to handle damage control.

“I see we have a full house,” said NBC Universal TV chairman Jeff Gaspin, as he walked onto the stage and stood before a ballroom filled with TV critics, many of whom were poised to pounce. “I heard there were some scalpers outside.”

The levity quickly went by the wayside, however, as Gaspin went into the recitation of what one can only presume was a well-tweaked statement, confirming that, starting February 12th, “The Jay Leno Show” will no longer air at 10 PM. He admitted that, although the series performed at acceptable levels for the network, it did not meet the needs of the network’s affiliates, hence the change in programming strategy. He also stated that NBC’s goal was to keep all three of its hosts as part of the late-night landscape – “The Jay Leno Show” at 11:35 PM, “The Tonight Show starring Conan O’Brien” at 12:05 AM, and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” at 1:05 AM – while acknowledging that this plan was in no way a done deal and that talks are still ongoing.

“It’s a fluid situation,” said Gaspin. “Everybody has the weekend to think about it, and we’ll see what happens when we start the new week tomorrow.”

While he would not confirm the hosts’ specific reactions to the new plan, Gaspin said that all three gentlemen were “incredibly gracious and professional” and that they acknowledged that they knew it was a difficult situation. As for anything else that went down during the discussions, he merely described it as a “private conversation,” adding, “When it’s all settled, you can go and ask them what their feelings were.”

Gaspin expects that the new late-night line-up will be in place by the time NBC’s coverage of the Olympics begins in February.

Unsurprisingly, the critics’ claws were soon out, with one wanting to know exactly what happened with the network’s assurances during the summer TCA tour that the success or failure of “The Jay Leno Show” would not be determined fully until the series had run for a full 52-week cycle. Gaspin maintained that the 52-week plan still would’ve been his preference but again cited the affiliates’ concerns as being the driving force behind the comparatively-quick removal of the series from its prime-time berth.

“Starting in November, the affiliates started calling, saying that local news was being affected more than expected,” said Gaspin. By the end of the month, the stations which utilized people meters for their ratings continued their complaints, now citing statistics where, in some cases, #1 local news broadcasts had dropped to #3. Gaspin continued his constant dialogue with the affiliates, requesting that they wait and see how the show would do against repeats…and, indeed, “The Jay Leno Show” did do better, but only by about a tenth of a rating point, still coming in second to either CBS or ABC on a regular basis. When the smaller affiliates without people meters got their November book numbers, “the drum beat started getting louder,” Gaspin said, and as it became progressively more clear that they were only going to be getting more vocal about their displeasure, throwing around comments about possible preemption, “we realized things were not going to go well if it was kept in place.”

Gaspin continued to clarify, however, that despite the feelings of the affiliates, NBC did not feel that “The Jay Leno Show” was a disappointment on a network level. “It was working at acceptable levels financially, making money at 10 PM,” he said. “For the network, it was not a wrong decision.”

He also underlined that, insofar as he was concerned, the reason behind the limited viewership had nothing to do with the show or its level of quality. “There’s a lot of choice at 10 PM,” he said. “We thought it could be everybody’s second choice, but there were just so many other choices that people thought were better.” In the end, Gaspin conceded that “The Jay Leno Show,” while being easy entertainment, simply wasn’t the first or even second choice of enough viewers.

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TCA Tour: NBC Executive Session

We just had NBC-Universal Executive Session, with Angela Bromstad (President, Primetime Entertainment) and Paul Telegdy (Executive Vice President, Alternative Programming and Production) taking the stage to answer our questions, and…you know, I’ve got to be honest: it was pretty underwhelming. No surprise: the first two words of the very first question were “Ben Silverman,” and his name remained a recurring theme for the remainder of the session. It also wasn’t a surprise that the topic of Conan’s ratings and the expectation for Jay’s ratings were brought up, but it was absolutely ridiculous that neither Bromstad nor Telegdy seemed prepared to handle the queries, instead either feigning uncertainty about the numbers, offering vague responses which signified nothing, or attempting to pawn the questions off to Jay’s panel this afternoon. This immediately came back to bite Bromstad on the arse when she was asked outright if she’d be on that panel (she won’t be), and it led to one critic offering a sarcastic apology for asking questions of the wrong people.

Here’s the extent of information that I was able to glean from the panel:

* Bryan Fuller’s latest departure from “Heroes” was dismissed as being due to the fact that he’s at a point in his career where he’s really wanting to create his own shows, so NBC is focusing on their development deal with him. As for “Heroes,” Bromdstad said that Fuller helped Tim (Kring) get back on track, helped everybody decide where they were going, and that the show is doing exceptionally well creatively.

* The start of “30 Rock” has been delayed due to Alec Baldwin’s movie schedule, which is why the network is kicking off “Community” in its timeslot. The 8 PM timeslot will therefore be filled with six Thursday night “Weekend Update” specials, three of which are currently on the schedule.

* We are assured that, despite the fact that some shows which were previously airing in the 10 PM timeslot are now being moved to 9 PM out of necessity, there should be no issue with their content in their new time periods.

* The network’s new zombie series, “Day One,” is being embraced due to the sci-fi success of “Heroes.” “It’s a genre we cannot ignore,” said Bromstad, though she admitted that it does tend to be a little more of a narrow genre. Her most notable comment on the matter, however, was the acknowledgment that the network is viewing “Day One” as a “big event” for the network…but not necessarily one which would return for a second season.

* There is always talk of doing another regular “Apprentice,” but according to Telegdy, the most recent “Celebrity Apprentice” had a ratings jump from the previous, so we probably shouldn’t look for it to happen any time soon.

* “Friday Night Lights” will not be back until summer 2010. “We just think that ‘Friday Night Lights’ is a sensational show,” said Bromstad, “but it doesn’t have the ratings to justify it on the fall schedule.”

* Regarding “Southland,” the network has “incredible passion” for the future, but its future depends on how it does in the fall. “We’ve made some creative adjustments,” said Bromstad. “I feel like they tried to do too much in the first six episodes – instead of letting the audience become more familiar with characters, they became too serialized – so the show will focus on Regina King and Ben McKenzie, the crimes, and how they come together.”

* RE: “Medium,” “It was definitely a show we were considering picking up ’til the very end, but we had to make choices creatively and financially.”

* RE: “Chuck,” “The great thing is that they’re on a great track collectively. We’ve got 3 or 4 scripts in already, and it is something we can move around, but right now it’s not scheduled to come on until March.” The series has a 13 episode pick-up, and it’s possible that it could be bumped up, but “these are just discussions we’re continuing to have.”

  

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