TV Notes: FX 'Fire in the Hole' pilot on hold

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The FX pilot based on Elmore Leonard's short story "Fire in the Hole," about a federal marshal in Kentucky, was expected to shoot in Pittsburgh this month, but it has been put on hold.

Producers had sought Dermot Mulroney ("Flash of Genius") for the lead role but that piece of casting didn't work out. The local production office has closed until casting can be completed. An FX spokesman said the network is still committed to the project, and a spokeswoman for Sony, which is producing the pilot, said the company still plans to eventually film the pilot in Pittsburgh. (Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV editor)

Boston station nixes Leno

NBC says it knows of no other affiliates seeking to follow Boston's lead and abandon Jay Leno.

WHDH in Boston says it will air a local newscast at 10 p.m. in the fall instead of Leno's planned nightly show at that hour. Station management said it believed a newscast would make the station more money.

NBC has responded firmly, threatening to strip WHDH of its network affiliation if it doesn't air Leno and undoubtedly send a message to any other stations that may be thinking of doing the same thing. NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks says no other NBC stations have said they won't take Leno. (Associated Press)

'ER' finale ratings

An estimated 16.4 million people paid one last visit to the "ER" on Thursday, as the last piece of NBC's once-mighty "must-see TV" lineup signed off after 15 years.

It was the biggest audience for a drama series finale since "Murder, She Wrote" on CBS in 1996, Nielsen Media Research said on Friday.

The two-hour finale brought back vintage "ER" stars Noah Wyle, Eriq La Salle and Laura Innes alongside current cast members John Stamos and Angela Bassett. It was a typical few days at Chicago's mythical County General Hospital -- a woman who dies in childbirth, an AIDS patient who learns he has cancer -- ending on a hopeful note. The 22-year-old daughter of Anthony Edwards' character, Dr. Mark Greene, is enthralled by the action and wants to be an emergency room doctor.

Vintage "ER" producer John Wells wrote the final episode in another reminder of when "ER" ruled prime time. It has been overshadowed in recent years by other medical dramas, "House" and "Grey's Anatomy."

The audience Thursday night was up sharply from the 9.5 million people who watched on an average week this season. Yet it's still half as many people who watched "ER" at its peak in the mid-1990s.

When "Cheers" exited the NBC Thursday night lineup in 1993, there were 45.5 million people watching. The end of "Seinfeld" drew 41.3 million people in 1998, Nielsen said. Comedy show finales tend to draw bigger audiences than dramas.

"Friends," the last big piece of NBC's Thursday schedule, had 29.2 million viewers for its 2004 finale. (David Bauder, AP)

'Fringe' factor

Hold on, "Fringe" fans.

John Noble, who plays the eccentric Dr. Walter Bishop on the sci-fi Fox show, says one of the show's biggest mysteries will soon be resolved.

Just before the show went on hiatus, the team of Dr. Bishop, his son Peter, (Joshua Jackson) and Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), found a chilling manifesto that seems to hold clues to all the weirdness going on. Then Dr. Bishop realized that the document was written on his typewriter. But, like everything in "Fringe," don't expect a simple answer.

Noble says fans should stay tuned for episodes beginning tomorrow.

Says Noble: "There will be an answer to it in the final episodes. It's a key element."

The first of six new episodes focuses on a young boy -- pale with no eyebrows or hair -- who is found in a chamber that's been closed for 70 years. (AP)

Channel surfing

Disney Channel's "JONAS," starring The Jonas Brothers, premieres at 8 p.m. on May 2. ... Unaired episodes of canceled series "The Nine," "Eyes" and "Smith" will air on DirecTV's 101 Network. "Smith," which filmed its pilot in Pittsburgh, airs at 10 p.m. Wednesday beginning this week followed by "The Nine" (beginning May 27) and "Eyes" (sometime in July). ... BBC America's "Hotel Babylon" returns for its third season on May 15. ... Reruns of Pax TV's "Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye," inspired by a Columbiana, Ohio, woman, will air on Animal Planet beginning today at 8 p.m. (9 p.m. in subsequent weeks). (R.O.)


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