It’s a bumpy road for fall shows by 2 giants

<p>NBC, as we all know by now, has two competing shows on its prime-time schedule this fall based on the backstage doings of Saturday Night Live-type shows.</p>


Could be bad omens for Studio 60, 30 Rock



Associated Press Photo


Amanda Peet, of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip.

GETTING THE BUGS OUT: NBC, as we all know by now, has two competing shows on its prime-time schedule this fall based on the backstage doings of Saturday Night Live-type shows.

Ads for Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip are already starting to blanket the summer prime-time schedule, and the studio publicity machine is working overtime to create buzz around the show; a gossip item making the rounds that co-star Amanda Peet is trying to hide her pregnancy until the show debuts suggests that some judicious leaking might even be part of the publicity battle plan.

In the meantime, Lorne Michaels’ 30 Rock seems to have hit some speed bumps, with a Variety story that Rachel Dratch — close friend and performing partner of the show’s star and writer, former SNL head writer Tina Fey — has had her role in the show rewritten substantially. Originally cast to play Jenna DeCarlo, the star of The Girlie Show, the fictional sketch comedy show around which the show revolves, she’s seen her character cut, in favour of a rotating cast of recurring characters that Dratch will play. The debut episode, for instance, will feature Dratch as a cat wrangler.

“Both Tina and I obviously adore Rachel, and we wanted to find a way in which we could go to her strength,” Michaels said. “The way it’s been rewritten, it’s a much funnier part.”

According to the Variety story, the show has been reworked to feature more of the backstage relationships, and less of the show-within-a-show. Which might be true, but it still reeks of bad previews, a lukewarm reception from head office, and some frantic second-guessing. Keeping in mind the unlikely odds that both of these shows will survive — or that either of them has to still be around next fall — this isn’t an auspicious omen.

SMOKE, NO FIRE: Showtime — uncharitably but not untruthfully called the poor man’s HBO — is puzzled by the lack of controversy around Weeds, their cult hit starring Mary-Louis Parker as a suburban widow and mother who sells pot to pay for soccer league fees, cheese strings and gas for the minivan.

According to a Philadelphia Inquirer story, the cast and crew are stumped as to why they haven’t seen a tidal wave of outrage over the show’s premise — not even a minor throat-clearing of obligatory misgiving and discomfort, such as the brief belch that accompanied the debut of HBO’s polygamy-themed Big Love.

“We all expected blogs to be flying right, left and centre about ‘the moral corruption’ on our show,” said Elizabeth Perkins, who plays Parker’s neighbour on Weeds. “(I)t was so quiet, it was almost like there was a cricket in the room. It was very surprising to us.”

The show, which began its second season on Monday (Season Two starts on Showcase on Aug. 30 here in Canada), will have to make do with five Emmy nominations, and being the show that you keep forgetting to TiVo, but promise yourself you’ll catch up on when it comes out on disc.