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The latest news from the TV beat

The latest news from the TV beat — ”The Sopranos” is coping with Nancy Marchand’s death, while ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer” prepares for a new character

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Family Planning
In light of Nancy Marchand’s recent death, how will The Sopranos deal with the loss of the actress who played Livia? For now, the only thing creator David Chase knows for sure is that Tony’s manipulative mama won’t be recast. While Marchand’s failing health was common knowledge on the set of the HBO drama (she’d been suffering from cancer for five years), Chase says he assumed Marchand would be back for a third season. ”Maybe we were naive because she continued to work for so long, being sick, but then she’d bounce back,” he says. ”I went to see her a week before she died and I thought, ‘This is pretty serious. But she’s recovered before.”’ Production doesn’t begin until Aug. 1 for the drama’s March 2001 return, which gives Chase plenty of time to rework the six scripts he’s already written — four of which were to have costarred Marchand. It’s unclear whether a funeral is planned for the first episode, but it’s safe to assume that Livia’s death will prompt the return of Tony’s archenemy: maternal guilt. ”He’s certainly prone to it,” says Chase.

Talkin’ ‘Bout ‘Shaft’
It looks like Paramount’s TV department won’t be getting the Shaft anytime soon. While the TV division is constantly looking to develop Paramount’s feature films into series — execs have eyed Varsity Blues, Sliding Doors, and Lords of Discipline in years past, and they’ve sold the comedy Kiss Me, Guido to CBS for next mid-season — for now the studio has no plans to move the black private dick to the small screen. As yet, no sequels to the current Samuel L. Jackson starrer have been officially announced, but one source close to the studio says, ”I can’t imagine Sherry Lansing [Paramount’s Motion Pictures Group chairwoman] not holding on to that and making it into a successful movie franchise.” In the short term, let’s just hope Paramount doesn’t try to bring Angela’s Ashes to prime time.

Buffy’s Sister Act
Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer is about to get a little sister — or is she? Creator Joss Whedon confirms that The WB’s occult hit will add a regular character, a 14-year-old girl named Dawn who has darkly psychic powers. So is she Buffy’s blood relative? ”It’s more complicated than that,” teases Whedon. ”But they become like squabbling siblings.” (Dawn will also develop a crush on Nicholas Brendon’s Xander.) Whedon says Buffy‘s not suffering from Raven-Symone Syndrome — the tendency of aging series to add adorable tykes, as NBC’s The Cosby Show did in 1989, in an attempt to boost ratings. ”The WB certainly didn’t say, ‘Can you add a moppet? Everyone likes a moppet!”’ Whedon maintains. ”Dawn is not there to be cute and cuddly.” Yeah, that’s what they said about cousin Oliver.

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