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Cause and FX

Andy Sipowicz had better watch his exposed butt: It looks like FX has found the next rogue cop people love to hate. Michael Chiklis’ antihero Det. Vic Mackey in the new drama The Shield has catapulted the Fox-owned cabler to new ratings territory — the pilot episode scored a basic-cable record for an original series premiere (nabbing 3.1 million viewers). Shield, which also stars CCH Pounder, doesn’t hold back on the racial slurs, expletives, and partial nudity — but then, that’s what happens when you’re grooming FX to be a cross between HBO and Fox, says FX entertainment president Kevin Reilly. ”Cable has to be an alternative, so by definition we want something bolder in tone and concept than what you would get on broadcast.” In fact, Reilly hopes his next postcards-from-the-edge series will be a dark comedy starring Sex and the City’s John Corbett as an ex-gambler. As for Chiklis’ Mackey, who slings epithets at his Latino boss before roughing up a molester in the interrogation room, Reilly says, ”You find yourself rooting for a guy who at times you’re fairly shocked and repulsed by, yet you understand why he’s doing it so you stick with him.” Funny, that’s also the reason we watch Fear Factor.

Ferrell Rolls Out

Now that he’s successfully impersonated our Commander-in-Chief, Saturday Night Live’s Will Ferrell wouldn’t mind trying his skills as a filmmaker. He and writing partner Adam McKay recently pitched a new comedy to DreamWorks that focuses on a small-town anchorman in the ’70s. Eager to show his comedic roots, a deadpan Ferrell even donned a Styrofoam cowboy hat for the pitch. ”Everyone puts so much pressure on these meetings, I just thought, Why not just blow the doors off the place a bit and mess with the sanctity of it?” says Ferrell. ”It was quite freeing, actually.” Speaking of feeling free, Ferrell may also be ready to leave his late-night gig on NBC. The 33-year-old comic wants to devote more time to movies — he’s set to appear in the back-to-college comedy Old School this fall — and his SNL contract is conveniently up in May. ”Maintaining a presence on the show means you have a nice platform in front of the public,” says Ferrell. ”At the same time, at some point you just have to take a flying leap if you’re really going to give something else a shot.” Just no Night at the Roxbury sequel, please.

AND SO ON…Barry Watson — the Sorority Boys star who plays eldest son Matt Camden on the WB smash 7th Heaven — doesn’t want to return for season 7 because ”I just want some time to breathe.” (Two years ago, Jessica Biel also expressed a desire to leave — and played Mary Camden only part-time before returning full-time this year.) A WB rep says nothing’s official, but you’ve got to wonder if pinup boy Watson’s departure will affect the show’s ranking as the No. 1 destination for female teens. Offers Watson, ”Maybe Angel will get canceled and they’ll bring in David Boreanaz.”

(Additional reporting by Jeff Jensen and Mari Cartel)

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