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On the Air

The latest news from the TV beat

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Net Gain?

How do you follow up three consecutive NBA championships? If you’re Shaquille O’Neal, you make a fast break for the tube. The affable seven-footer and Law & Order: SVU coexec producer Judith McCreary are pitching a White Shadow-meets-Ed drama to the nets about an NBA player starting over as a high school hoops coach after suffering a career-ending injury. ”I wanted to take a fresh approach to an old theme of redemption,” says McCreary, who’d pen the pilot. ”It’s about somebody obsessed with their dream, which they were living. And once it’s gone, you have to reevaluate who you are.” Shaq will exec-produce the show, guest-star in some episodes, and maybe even put those Kazaam jokes to rest. ”I see Shaquille surprising a lot of people,” she says. ”He’s been taking acting classes and trying to hone his craft. Even when [superstars] are doing something else, they want to be at the top of their game.” The series — seconds away from landing a home — could tip off next fall. — Dan Snierson

‘Public’ Awareness

Expect a change in administration on Fox’s Boston Public this fall. Jessalyn Gilsig (social studies teacher Lauren Davis) and Rashida Jones (office assistant Louisa Fenn) are out, while Jon Abrahams (Scary Movie) and Joey McIntyre — yes, the former New Kid on the Block — are in as new, upstart teachers. (Don’t worry, fellas, Jeri Ryan will be back.) ”It’s a question of keeping the show fresh and telling more stories,” says exec producer Jonathan Pontell, who relies on creator David E. Kelley to spin most of Public’s yarns. Speaking of which, Pontell assures us that his Uberscribe boss — who’ll also be penning his new Fox legal drama girls club — will focus more on student tales and less on the faculty’s crazy goings-on. ”We may have gotten a little away from the core of the show,” admits Pontell, in reference to last year’s wacky arc involving Kathy Baker as rigid teacher’s assistant Meredith Peters, who was held hostage by her demented son, accidentally cut off her own hand to escape captivity, and started dating vice principal Scott Guber (Anthony Heald). ”Sometimes you need to regroup.” Gee, ya think?

Unsung Hero

First, a downer new home at UPN — and now this! Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon recently learned that last season’s ingenious musical episode didn’t make the Emmy ballots in time. Sympathetic to Whedon (whose office made the clerical error), the TV academy quickly sent out a correction, but the damage was done: Some members had sent back ballots without having the chance to vote for what was arguably Whedon’s finest hour (nominees were announced July 18). Not that it would have mattered. Whedon says he wasn’t going for the gold when he wrote the episode in which much of the cast sang many of their lines. ”I don’t write for the Emmys. I was more like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m writing a musical? Am I out of my mind?’ I wasn’t really thinking ‘Here comes my statue.”’ Well, we were. (Additional reporting by William Keck)

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