Tuned In: NBC joins improv line with 'Thank God You're Here'

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NBC, fulfilling its NBC 2.0 mandate to get more low-cost reality shows in prime time, debuts "Thank God You're Here!" at 9 p.m. Monday. It's an improv comedy similar to ABC's "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

Paul Drinkwater, NBC
Joel McHale, Wayne Knight, Jennifer Coolidge and Bryan Cranston work some improv magic as superheroes in the new NBC series "Thank God You're Here."
Click photo for larger image.

David Alan Grier hosts the weekly competition in which four comedic actors are tossed into scenes with other actors and greeted with the line "Thank God you're here!" As the skit goes along, the performer has to make judge Dave Foley ("NewsRadio") laugh, which turns out to be pretty easy.

Monday's premiere features contestants Jennifer Cooldige ("Joey"), Bryan Cranston ("Malcolm in the Middle"), Joel McHale ("The Soup") and Wayne Knight ("Seinfeld"). Each is given a different character and situation to perform in. Knight plays a doctor who hawks vitamins on a local TV talk show; Coolidge is a beauty pageant contestant; McHale raids tombs as an archaeologist, and Cranston plays a randy rock star. Near the end of the hour, all four appear in one sketch together, costumed as superheroes.

Foley calls the competition "a dramaturgical cage match." At the end of each hour, he declares one of the performers the funniest and bestows on him or her a cheap-looking trophy. But this judge is pretty complimentary of all the contestants. No Simon Cowell is he.

"Thank God You're Here" is an amusing exercise that's largely family friendly. It's not nearly as funny as "Whose Line" -- the rotating cast members, including George Takei and Jason Alexander in upcoming episodes, are not always gifted, experienced improv performers -- but the show is gently entertaining in a way reminiscent of variety shows of old.

'The Shield' online

Although FX says the 14-minute episode of "The Shield" that was an unaired prequel to the new season was made available to Comcast for its on-demand service, it's not available locally.

It's also supposed to be available at Comcast.net, but I can't find it there, either.

I was able to find it at TV.com under the page for "The Shield."

Colgan's 'Miracle Quest'

Flavia Colgan, a political pundit who also ran political campaigns for David Wecht and Catherine Baker Knoll, ventures down a different path in the new Travel Channel series "Miracle Quest With Flavia Colgan" (8 tonight).

Colgan travels to France to track down reports of visions of the Virgin Mary, follows in the footsteps of Padre Pio in Italy and explores the differences in several cultural miracles in the United States.

Misspelling of the week

Everybody makes mistakes, and Tuesday at 5 p.m. it was KDKA-TV's turn. Someone at the station created an over-the-shoulder graphic that mutated the name of "Family Ties" actor Brian Bonsall into "Bosnell." I guess the young folks being hired in TV newsrooms today weren't paying attention during the "Family Ties" era.

WTAE adds weather channel

On April 18, Channel 4 will debut its own digital weather channel to compete with WPXI's weather channel. WTAE's version will be available over the air as a digital sub-channel, online at ThePittsburghChannel.com and on Comcast Channel 204 (Channel 100 on former Adelphia systems).

Channel 4 news director Bob Longo said the new channel will feature weather and traffic reports and will be updated at least four times daily, seven days a week. Local taped segments are designed to be watched in 15-minute bursts, and the channel will go live to cover breaking weather news. National weather forecasts will be provided by AccuWeather.

Cable lineup changes

Comcast will make a few lineup changes in the coming weeks.

On April 17, Bloomberg will move from the Sports Entertainment digital tier to classic digital at Channel 106 (Channel 128 on former Adelphia systems).

The same day, WQED-DT -- digital simulcast of WQED analog's feed -- will arrive on Channel 200 (Channel 700 on former Adelphia systems). Former Adelphia Systems will also lose American Life TV (Channel 110).

Channel surfing

As expected, NBC has renewed "30 Rock" for the 2007-08 TV season. ... Pittsburgher Tim Beggy sets off on another "Real World/Road Rules Challenge" adventure at 10 p.m. Tuesday. ... Another first-season TV on DVD release with no extras emerges: This time it's "One Day at a Time" ($29.95, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), due in stores April 24. ... BBC America will air reruns of "MI-5" seasons one and two, but so far the network has not picked up the new, yet-to-air -stateside season of the show. ... MTV has renewed "The Hills" for a third season. ... KDKA-TV anchor Kristine Sorensen gave birth to a baby girl, second daughter Chloe Kristine, last week. Sorensen is married to KDKA reporter Marty Griffin.

TV Q&A

This week's TV Q&A responds to questions about "WKRP in Cincinnati" on DVD, "Lost" and the look of KDKA's set. Read it online at post-gazette.com/tv.


TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582.


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