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Published: Tuesday, 7/22/2008

CW confirms Shannen Doherty to guest star on '90210'

BY ROB OWEN
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Shannen Doherty will return to the ZIP Code that made her famous.

After weeks of rumors, the CW has confirmed that Doherty will appear in the network's reboot of Beverly Hills, 90210, which is going by just 90210. She'll guest star in multiple episodes as Brenda Walsh, who was last seen heading to London to study acting on the old 90210. Brenda has since become a successful theater actress and has transitioned into directing. Her alma mater, West Beverly Hills High School, invites her to return as a guest director for a student production.

In addition, the original series' Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth), Donna Martin (Tori Spelling), and Nat (Joe E. Tata) will return in recurring roles. Nat is still proprietor of the Peach Pit, which is now a trendy coffee shop rather than a '50s diner.

Another connection to the old show is a new teen character: Silver (Jessica Stoup), who's described as "a rebel who produces and stars in a YouTube-type video series." Viewers will learn in the first episode how she's related to David Silver, played by Brian Austin Green in the original series. (Green currently stars in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles so he may not be available to reprise his.)

The new 90210, which has a two-hour premiere Sept. 2, follows Annie Wilson (Shenae Grimes, Degrassi: The Next Generation) and her brother Dixon (Tristan Wilds, The Wire), who move from Kansas to Beverly Hills and sign up for classes at West Beverly Hills High School, where their father, Harry (Rob Estes, Melrose Place), is the principal. Mother Debbie (Lori Loughlin, Summerland) keeps an eye on Harry's mother, Tabitha (Jessica Walter, Arrested Development), a feisty, faded TV star who's fresh out of rehab.

Executives at the low-rated, possibly-on-the-verge-of-death CW are planning to begin their 2009-10 TV season next summer rather than in September to avoid all the other fall premieres.

This fall the network trades its farmed-out-Friday for a farmed-out-Sunday night lineup. WWE Smackdown! migrates to My Network TV. The CW will replace it with a more-compatible-to-The-CW scripted programming block from Media Rights Capital, but the network is keeping the shows at arm's length, announcing their premieres in a separate press release from The CW's shows.

CW Entertainment president Dawn Ostroff got rattled when reporters asked for an explanation of how the deal works.

"Let's leave it at it's a very complicated deal and we'll leave it at that," Ostroff said in a move akin to waving a red sheet in front of a bull.

On the one hand, some TV critics seemed to treat the MRC deal like something hugely different from selling off Friday night to wrestling (it's not), but on the other hand, Ostroff should have anticipated questions about the MRC programs because little information has been forthcoming. The new shows are:

•In Harm's Way: Another reality show about people working in dangerous jobs.

•Surviving Suburbia: Bob Saget stars as a husband and father living in the suburbs.

•Valentine: A one-hour romantic comedy about a family of Greek Gods who strive to bring soulmates together.

•Easy Money: Drama about a family that runs a high-interest loan business.

Low-rated but much-loved Friday Night Lights got renewed for a third season of 13 episodes that will air on NBC in February, 2009. But DirecTV customers will get to see it in October when the show's new episodes air on DirecTV's Channel 101.

That was the only way to save the show by creating two windows, a first-run on DirecTV and a second run on NBC.

Two series regulars have been downgraded to recurring: Smash (Gaius Charles) and Jason Street (Scott Porter) will each appear in four episodes. FNL had its second season cut short and season three begins with the start of a new school year. Smash is headed to college and Jason may be leaving Dillon.

"Basically that was a decision that came out of the fact that they've both graduated this school and we felt like the show has always been true-to-life and as authentic as possible," said executive producer Jason Katims. "As much as we love Scott and Gaius, we had to be true to what was happening to these characters."

In addition to a new season, a weekly talk show called Friday Night Lights Live will allow fans to call in and talk about the series with two or three actors each week.

After playing scowling lawyer Nick Fallin on The Guardian and a cold-blooded killer in the short-lived heist drama Smith, actor Simon Baker finally gets a chance to smile in CBS's new fall drama The Mentalist.

Baker stars as Patrick Jane, a former fake psychic who now works as a consultant with the California Bureau of Investigation, using his observational skills to help solve crimes.

"The deliciously attractive part about this role was the humor and the irreverence of the character, and having to swing between being reactive and active constantly is a challenge," Baker said.

"You're playing an actor and you get to actually comment on the shallowness of acting. You're commenting on yourself so it's sort of self-deprecating in a sense. I love that the character is a fraud and is aware of his fraudulent nature."

Weeds will continue to grow at Showtime. The network ordered a fifth and sixth season of the comedy series about a drug-dealing suburban mom (Mary-Louise Parker).

Showtime Entertainment president Robert Greenblatt announced that the network has ordered a half-hour series for 2009, Nurse Jackie, that will star Edie Falco (The Sopranos) as a New York city nurse. A preview clip looked promising. A preview of United States of Tara, written by Diablo Cody (Juno) about a mother with multiple personalities, offered less reason for optimism.

Showtime executives are considering a spin-off of The L Word after the series ends next year.

The L Word will leave one storyline open-ended and to be continued in an online Web series and later in a spin-off TV series, should the show be ordered.

A seventh season of Penn & Teller: Bull#$%& has been ordered. There's been no official pickup for This American Life, although Greenblatt said talks with executive producer Ira Glass are ongoing.

In 2009 Showtime will air the docu-reality series Lock 'N Load, which offers a fly on the wall look at a gun store in Englewood, Colo., chronicling the store's owner and customers.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owen, the TV editor for the Post-Gazette, is attending the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Los Angeles.

Contact him at:

rowen@post-gazette.com



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