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Shill in the Air

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Hype sprang eternal at the annual Television Critics Association press tour (July 13-24), where networks touted fall lineups promising the next CSI — and not the next Emeril. Couch potatoes, start your microwave popcorn.

— It’s not just the NAACP calling for diversity in prime time. Critics needled the nets on the dearth of Hispanic regulars on CBS’ CSI: Miami and of Asian Americans in three San Francisco-set shows, Fox’s girls club, CBS’ Presidio Med, and ABC’s MDs. Girls creator David E. Kelley swore his lily-white leads — Chyler Leigh, Gretchen Mol, and Kathleen Robertson — were ”the three best actresses” to audition, while producers for the other dramas promised more minorities in recurring and guest roles.

— Who says boy bands are dead? Onetime New Kid on the Block Donnie Wahlberg plays a detective on NBC’s Boomtown, while Joey McIntyre will appear on Fox’s Boston Public as a popular, unorthodox teach. Oddly, neither would discuss an NKOTB reunion.

— Speaking of short-lived pop stars…American Idol’s packed session began with the eight remaining contestants crooning ”California Dreamin’,” which MADtv’s Michael McDonald (impersonating cranky judge Simon Cowell) dubbed ”an abortion of music…like eight cats being stabbed in a bag.” Later, Paula Abdul defended herself as Idol’s ”link of empathy…link of dignity,” and hopeful RJ Helton denied rumors of rivalry: ”We all lift each other with Scriptures.” Glory be!

— During a Q&A for ABC’s Life With Bonnie, Bonnie Hunt targeted a loudly attired journalist. After learning he was divorced, Hunt sniped: ”Well, that explains the shirt, my friend.” So much for buttering up the critics.