Tuned In: 'Dr. Who' plans for 50th anniversary


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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- It's the 50th anniversary year for "Doctor Who," and BBC America is going all out in its celebration, planning a special episode of the sci-fi series for November in which series star Matt Smith shows up on screen alongside David Tennant, who previously played the Doctor. Then Mr. Smith will exit the role in a Christmas special and a new actor will take over.

In addition, in November BBC America will air "An Adventure in Space and Time," a movie about the origins of the series in 1963. The film, written by Mark Gatiss ("Sherlock," "Doctor Who"), will go behind the scenes to explore how the writers and producers brought the series to TV. David Bradley ("Game of Thrones") portrays William Hartnell, the first actor to play the Doctor.

Mr. Smith described his four years on "Doctor Who" as hugely impactful.

"It transformed my career -- it sort of is my career to a certain extent," he said. "The show has come to a natural tipping point. It's at the top of a cycle, and I think it's a good time for me and for the show [for me to exit]. But it was a hard choice."

"We tried to change your mind a few times," producer Marcus Wilson added.

Mr. Wilson said the series always tries to reference previous characters or story points in a way that won't confuse or alienate newcomers, something producers are especially conscious of going into the 50th anniversary special.

"We wanted to make it very easy for anyone to jump on," Mr. Wilson said, "and understand immediately what the show is about and then carry on the adventures with us."

The search for an actor to play the next Doctor is ongoing.

"You just want the best actor possible for the role," Mr. Wilson said. "You just cast the net wide and hope you find somebody brilliant."

In "An Adventure in Space and Time," Mr. Bradley plays the actor who first took on the role of the Doctor. Mr. Bradley has garnered his own following among fantasy fans for his roles in the "Harry Potter" films (as Argus Filch) and more recently in "Game of Thrones."

BBC America senior vice president of programming Richard DeCroce introduced Mr. Bradley as "the worst wedding host ever" for his "GOT" role as Walder Frey, perpetrator of a massacre at the bloody, so-called Red Wedding that lit up social media sites when the episode aired in the spring.

"I'm not exactly watching my back," Mr. Bradley said of his fan encounters. "They've got a twinkle [in their eyes] as they admonish me. ... It's amazing that you're part of something that can generate all those emotions. Doing the scene, I have to say, I enjoyed every moment of it. I enjoyed it rather too much, actually."

In other BBC America news, "Law & Order: UK" returns for new episodes on Aug. 7. A new season of "Ripper Street" debuts on Dec. 1. The second season of "Orphan Black" begins production in September for airing in April 2014. A second season of "In the Flesh" also will air next spring. "Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan" will return in 2014, and his "Lord of the Rings" co-star Billy Boyd will join him for the journey.

News on TV One

In September, TV One will launch a one-hour morning news show, "News One Now," hosted by former CNN pundit and ascot aficionado Roland S. Martin, who was able to offer a pretty solid description of how his news program will differ from competing morning news shows.

"I mean, would we do the royal baby? Yeah," he said. "But the story would be, this is an absolutely stupid amount of attention being paid to a child being born. And so I can guarantee you for probably about a week, I would make fun of that damn story every single day and how ludicrous it is. But you can talk about any number of stories, but it's how you look at it."

Olbermann on ESPN return

Keith Olbermann returns to ESPN -- after stops in politics/news at MSNBC and Current over the past decade -- with a new sports show that will air weeknights at 11 beginning Aug. 26 on ESPN2.

Mr. Olbermann denied a New York Times report that a contract clause prevents him from talking politics on his new sports show.

"There is no such clause referring to content," Mr. Olbermann said during an ESPN press conference for his new program. "I'm not intending to talk about politics, certainly not in the partisan sense as I did in the last 10 years of work I've done for the simple reason that it's a sports show. ... There's nothing preventing me from doing it except common sense.

"It's not my intent to say, 'The White Sox moved to Vancouver and let's talk about what Speaker Boehner said,' " Mr. Olbermann continued. "No offense to him or anybody else, but I hope not to mention his name at all during the show."

Mr. Olbermann said he was satisfied with his time in politics and news, but he wanted to return to sports.

"It's wonderful not talking politics," he said. "I did it for 10 years. ... It was a lot of work and took a lot out of me and it was not often that much fun. The opportunity to go back to a place where, for everything else you've heard about it, I had a lot of fun."

Reporters couldn't help but ask for his opinion of Anthony Weiner and his Carlos Danger pseudonym.

"I think that he stole a great fake hotel sign-in name I would like to have used," Mr. Olbermann said, choosing his words carefully. "The idea that anyone could call themselves under any circumstances for any purpose Carlos Danger is a tribute to something about him."

One segment that will carry over from his political shows: The Worst Person in the Sports World.

"People kind of liked that one," Mr. Olbermann said. "Even if they were not into the political thing, people liked my willingness to stick my neck out."

'Community' creator compares

"Community" creator Dan Harmon joins with writer Justin Roiland ("Fish Hooks") for Adult Swim's animated comedy "Rick & Morty," the story of a sociopathic scientist who drags his dumb grandson on adventures across the universe. The series premieres in December.

Mr. Harmon was asked to compare and contrast Adult Swim executives with NBC executives.

"[Adult Swim executive] Mike Lazzo is a bona fide, actual genius, especially in the world of network executives and he has the autonomy and the humility, the mental power to actually take a script, recognize it as what it is, a document, read it and tell you what his reaction is as an individual," Mr. Harmon said. "For instance, he might say, 'I lost the story here.' He never says, 'I don't think people are going to like this.' He never branches out into the business of speculating for the biomass we are creating an opiate for. He also never confuses the script with the final project."

But he also gave NBC some credit for its willingness to trust him.

"The reason you're seeing a bunch of crazy stuff on screen is because, in general and relative to other studios, NBC knew it was in the business of critical darlings and was encouraging me early on," Mr. Harmon said. "And ['Community' producer] Sony is in the business of syndication and wants the show to succeed."

Mr. Harmon, who was fired after the third season of "Community," said he decided to accept an invitation to return to the show for its upcoming fifth season because to not come back would have resulted in him wondering what could have been for the next 30 years.

"The worst-case scenario for going back is one [crappy] season. Who cares," Mr. Harmon said.

Regarding "Community" star Donald Glover reducing his role on the show in the upcoming season -- he'll be in just five episodes of the 13-episode season -- Mr. Harmon acknowledged it will have an impact.

"We're going to meet it head on for the emotional crisis that it is," Mr. Harmon said after the "Rick & Morty" panel.

'Writers' Room' on Sundance

Sundance Channel launches "The Writers' Room" Monday at 10 p.m. with actor/writer Jim Rash ("Community") hosting roundtable discussions with the writers and stars of critically acclaimed prime-time TV series, beginning with "Breaking Bad."

Read more about "The Writers' Room" in Sunday's TV Week but be advised I botched the premiere date: It's Monday, not Sunday.

Channel surfing

Oxygen has canceled its reality competition series "The Glee Project" after two seasons. ... Oprah Winfrey will return to CBS's "Late Show With David Letterman" on Aug. 1, her first visit since December 2005. ... FX's "Sons of Anarchy" returns for its sixth season at 10 p.m. Sept. 10 with a 90-minute season premiere. ... Former Upper St. Clair resident Anthony Jeselnik, who hosts "The Jeselnik Offensive" on Comedy Central, will kick off a stand-up comedy tour Sept. 12. So far there are no Pittsburgh dates, but the tour will stop in Philadelphia (Sept. 14), Harrisburg (Sept. 15) and Cleveland (Oct. 5). ... FX will air a marathon of "American Horror Story: Asylum" (Aug. 23 10 p.m.-5 a.m. and Aug. 24 11 p.m.-5 a.m.) and the third season of "Louie" (Aug. 17 10:30 p.m.-5 a.m.).

Tuned In online

Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about "Motive," reruns and local TV news. This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "Unforgettable," "Breaking Bad" and coverage from the TV critics press tour. Read online-only TV content at www.post-gazette.com/tv.

This week's podcast includes conversation about Emmy nominations, "Suits" and Comic-Con. Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.

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Portions of this column originally appeared online in the Tuned In Journal blog. Post-Gazette TV writer Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association summer press tour. Follow RobOwenTV at Twitter or on Facebook. You can reach him at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com.


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