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The latest news from the TV beat

The latest news from the TV beat — Charlie Sheen kept ”Spin City” going, while ”Queer as Folk” drew celebrities for the show’s intros

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Fat City
So much for those naysayers who predicted that ABC’s Spin City would tank as soon as Michael J. Fox vacated the premises. With reformed bad boy Charlie Sheen anchoring the cast for the show’s fifth season, the DreamWorks comedy is — hold on to your leopard-skin rugs — actually improving on its numbers from last year. In each of its first five airings this season, City won its tough Wednesday-night time period (opposite NBC’s The West Wing) among 18- to 34-year-olds. Suddenly, the curious decision to continue producing a sitcom conceived for a star who is no longer in it is starting to look pretty shrewd. DreamWorks mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg gleefully credits Sheen’s instant chemistry with costar Heather Locklear for keeping the series spinning forward. ”The core of the relationship between Charlie’s character and Heather’s character has allowed the show to be reinvented,” Katzenberg believes, ”so it now rightfully stands on its own two feet.” And how does Mr. Fox (who has retained an executive consultant position on the sitcom) feel about his replacement’s success? Says Katzenberg: ”No one is more thrilled over this than Michael. Believe me.”

On a Queer Day…
Although a certain radio-talk-show personality isn’t among them, Showtime president of programming Jerry Offsay has been recruiting an impressive roster of celebrities to record intros for each of the upcoming 22 episodes of the network’s controversial gay-themed series Queer as Folk. Among those already committed to supply brief on-camera synopses (complete with ad-libbing) of the evening’s episode are Camryn Manheim, Laura Dern (who played Ellen DeGeneres’ love interest in Ellen‘s coming-out episode), Harvey Fierstein, Robert Townsend, Steven Weber, Bruce Davison, Mimi Rogers, Beau Bridges — even famed on-again-off-again lesbian Anne Heche. ”We wanted to give this series the aura of importance that it deserves,” says Offsay of the celebrity endorsements, which, he adds, were surprisingly easy to come by. ”It hasn’t been a tough sales job, I’ll tell you that.”

Give Bricks a Chance
Here’s an example of TV-producer ingenuity: As he neared completion on his NBC biopic In His Life: The John Lennon Story, which airs Dec. 3, the film’s exec producer and writer Michael O’Hara grasped for ways to recoup expenses from a budget that had soared close to a reported $5 million, roughly double that of a typical network TV movie. O’Hara’s solution: He enlisted a British auction house to sell off 150 bricks from John Lennon’s childhood home, where O’Hara’s crew had been filming. Opening bid for each brick: $350. As of Nov. 26, more than 100 bids had been received (monies will be split between O’Hara and the house’s 88-year-old current owner). Says O’Hara: ”Sometimes, you’ve got to get creative and I’d say auctioning John Lennon bricks falls into that category.”

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