Tuned In: Modeling agencies get remade in 'Remodeled'

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PASADENA, Calif. -- Aside from "America's Next Top Model," a holdover from the pre-CW days of UPN, The CW, now 6 years old, has not had much success creating and launching reality shows. "Remodeled" (9 tonight, WPCW) may not alter that disappointing track record, but it is more entertaining than some past efforts.

Basically the show is "Extreme Makeover: Modeling Agency Edition" as intense industry veteran Paul Fisher travels the country making over local modeling agencies he has some sort of financial stake in, although the particulars of that deal are nebulous enough that it seems like it could be a contrivance for the sake of a reality show premise. (Mr. Fisher said The Network was formed more than two years ago with smaller agencies paying a commission to The Network.)

Mr. Fisher travels with a goth-dressed underling, Joseph Villanueva, who hurls put-downs with a lisp that diminishes their impact. Also, the slams are from Bad Writing 101. When a modeling agency owner sips a latte when she should be taking a scenario seriously, Mr. Villanueva opines, "She's got a latte to learn." He's like a bad attempt at a Disney villain's sidekick/henchman or a "Saturday Night Live" recurring character in the Stefon mold.

In the premiere, Mr. Fisher travels to Minneapolis to make over an agency that's lost 16 models who were spirited away to another agency by a former employee.

Mr. Fisher, eyes darting back and forth like a lizard on crack, is appalled to learn none of the models was signed to exclusive contracts. He often yells at the camera during confessional interview segments, which gives off an air that he's yelling at you, the viewer. Keep some aspirin handy if you tune in.

"Remodeled" also follows some of Mr. Fisher's models to Fashion Week in New York where they vie for jobs with assorted high-end designers. This part of the show is much less interesting. The characters are not well-developed in the first two episodes, so the stakes are nonexistent. But at least these scenes offer a respite from Mr. Fisher's frothing tirades.

That said, "Remodeled" is fun in a what-were-they-thinking way. The agencies Mr. Fisher visits are depicted as being in sorry shape, and his attempts to get them back in line are fairly entertaining. And if nothing else, Mr. Villanueva's poorly constructed snarky asides steal every scene he's allowed to speak in.

At a party last week, Mr. Fisher said something that's bound to give CW publicists heartburn. On other modeling shows, "they want to make good TV. That never crossed our minds," he said. "We didn't care about making good TV. We wanted to launch [modeling] careers."

'Battlestar' update

Casting for Syfy's proposed prequel series "Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome" was announced a year ago, and the pilot episode filmed at least six months ago.

Set during the 10th year of the Cylon war, the new series would follow rookie fighter pilot William Adama (Luke Pasqualino, "Skins"). This proposed series sounds promising on paper after the disappointment of "Caprica," but so far not a peep about its prospects for going to series.

Is the project dead?

"No not at all," said Syfy original programming president Mark Stern. "We're trying to figure out the economics right now. I love it, but we're trying to put various things together to see how we're going to get it made. My hope is we get it figured out."

The pilot episode was produced by David Eich ("Battlestar Galactica"), directed by Jonas Pate ("Friday Night Lights") and written by Michael Taylor ("Battlestar Galactica").

Mr. Stern acknowledged by normal standards it might seem like Syfy execs have been sitting on the show for a long time, but he said it took months of post-production work to get it ready. Executives only saw a first cut of the pilot in November.

"It's done almost completely on green screen," he said. "What I love about it is we're applying this idea of virtual sets on a whole new level. We took photos and digitized all the 'Battlestar Galactica' sets before we struck them. So when you see two actors walking down a hallway, they're [really] walking down a green hallway and then we put photo-real shots of hallways and CIC and all the sets we had behind them."

Mr. Stern said the pilot was a good test to prove the technology could be used in series, although he acknowledged it will likely take a year to get the show on air after it's ordered due to the amount of post-production work that will be required on every episode.

Mr. Stern wasn't sure how much longer he has the actors under contract, but he thinks it's a few months.

"Now that we're back from the holidays I'm just waiting to get some foreign [financial] numbers in because we're both the studio and network on this," he said. "I'm hoping to make a decision [about whether to order it to series] in the next month or so."

FX updates

FX president John Landgraf defended picking up the new Charlie Sheen sitcom, "Anger Management," which will air in June alongside returning FX series "Wilfred" and "Louie."

"I walked into the pitch as skeptical as you might imagine I would be," Mr. Landgraf acknowledged of his first meeting with Mr. Sheen and "Anger Management" showrunner Bruce Helford. "What I heard was a really good pitch for a comedy series that was funny, complicated and I think it's the kind of character Charlie ought to be playing at this point in the sense that he is [playing] a character who has a checkered past but is pretty self-aware and is struggling in a very honest way with that checkered past and a desire to do more positive things in his life."

But there's also the question some observers have raised: Does Mr. Sheen deserve another show? Does he deserve a place in popular culture? Or should he be banished to an ice floe?

"For me, I think that if Charlie wants to get his house in order and that encompasses his issues with substance abuse and relationships to his own family and encompasses his desire to have a greater consciousness about his public persona and wants to do a show where he has more complicated relationships with the women in his life -- he's raising a 13-year-old girl ... -- my opinion is that could be a really good thing not only for Charlie but for society," Mr. Landgraf said. "I believe in redemption."

The FX comedy "Archer" returns Thursday at 10 p.m. for a new season that will end with the ISIS gang visiting the International Space Station. They go there to "help quell a mutiny, but when they get there, things don't go as planned," said series executive producer Adam Reed. That's also true of each "Archer" season.

"I always mean to come up with an arc for the new season, and I get sidetracked," Mr. Reed said. " 'Let's go to outer space.' 'What if Archer got cancer?' ... I think there might be some small amount of the characters growing slightly and become slightly more self-aware than they had been, but I think I'm projecting because I've grown as a person."

FX will debut a new late-night series, "Strangely Uplifting," starring Russell Brand, in April. FX has ordered six episodes of the unscripted, topical series that will be taped two to three days in advance of air. The show will offer the British comedian's take on pop culture and politics and feature audience interaction.

"I'm in this extraordinary country of yours as if an alien trying to understand this peculiar time in this peculiar country," Mr. Brand said before referencing "Mork & Mindy." "I think it's a bit like -- remember, Mork? I think he was trying to get his green card. Essentially that's what I'm doing."

Mr. Brand says his show will deal with current events, including pop culture, as long as it's not "more lacquered content." He ranted against "a wave of vapid culture polluting our minds. ... Gossip-based stories would have less value other than in an analytical context. I don't want to further celebrate the overly brittle plastic culture of consciousness that's constantly in our midst to distract us from what's really important."

TV One's 'Missing'

This week cable's TV One debuts "Find Our Missing" (10 p.m. Wednesday), a series hosted by "Law & Order" vet S. Epatha Merkerson.

"Black Americans make up nearly a third of all missing persons while we're only 12 percent of the population," said Toni Judkins, executive vice president of original programming for TV One. That's particularly noteworthy when you consider so many of the missing people who come to prominence on morning news shows are young blond women.

Each week "Find Our Missing" profiles black Americans who have disappeared in hopes that bringing attention to these cases might help solve them. Ms. Merkerson said she was eager to get involved.

"I decided to do it because I think it's probably the best thing you can do with celebrity is shine a light on an issue," she said. "People have known me on 'Law & Order.' They trusted [my character] Van Buren."

"Find Our Missing" executive producer Donna Wilson said the success of "America's Most Wanted" is a template.

"We are painfully aware that these are not just stories," she said. "These are people's lives. And what our charge is is to get some resolution, to bring some people back."

Post-Gazette TV writer Rob Owen has been attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour. Follow RobOwenTV at Twitter or Facebook. You can reach him at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com . First Published January 17, 2012 5:00 AM


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