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NBC shakes up its lineup

Embattled actor Isaiah Washington will appear in NBC’s retooled ”Bionic Woman” series, and Trump’s ”Apprentice” gets new life

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Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

As NBC’s summer press tour kicked off in Beverly Hills on Monday, the network’s new entertainment cochairman, Ben Silverman, endured a baptism by fire when he met with the typically persnickety crowd of journalists that attends the biannual event. But the 36-year-old executive proved his mettle by charming his audience with a Cheshire Cat smile — and an announcement that NBC has a slew of big projects in development. Among them: a one-hour comedy that Silverman is putting together with a hand from legendary producer Norman Lear (All in the Family); an adaptation of the Australian comedy Kath & Kim; and a new reality series, Phenomenon, in which Uri Geller and Criss Angel search for the next great illusionist. Most notable, however, was Silverman’s announcement that Isaiah Washington’s first TV job since being fired from ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy will come this fall on NBC.

Bionic Washington
Silverman signed controversy-magnet Isaiah Washington to a five-episode arc on NBC’s new Bionic Woman, as well as a to development deal for an upcoming action series. ”He became available,” the NBC honcho said, dryly, when a reporter asked him how the network landed the embattled star. It’s unknown who Washington will play, but Silverman insisted that the character was created through a collaboration between the actor and Bionic‘s producers. In case anyone was wondering why the network would hire such a polarizing presence, Silverman reiterated at least three times during the session that Washington was a ”wonderful actor.”

Rosie and the Donald, together again?
It’s been said that in the future all that will remain will be cockroaches and Cher. We can now add The Apprentice to that list. NBC will bring back Donald Trump’s ratings-challenged series — with celebrity participants. Silverman stressed that he would love to have Rosie O’Donnell, Trump’s nemesis, appear on the show. We’re guessing NBC would have a better shot at convincing Trump to shave his ”hair” than getting the enemies to even be in the same room together.

Comedy Is King
Core cast and crew members from NBC’s Thursday night comedies — My Name Is Earl, The Office, 30 Rock, Scrubs — appeared onstage for a raucous and funny panel. A special season premiere will begin 30 Rock this year, thanks to a guest appearance by Jerry Seinfeld. ”We’re excited to have Jerry Seinfeld on the show because hopefully regular America might find out that we have a show,” joked star Tina Fey. And executive producer Lorne Michaels promised that scene stealer Alec Baldwin will be back on 30 Rock, even though the actor had asked NBC to release him from his contract. ”He’s absolutely essential,” Michaels said.

Green Day
Bravo’s president, Lauren Zalaznick, made an appearance to announce an NBC Universal-wide initiative called Green Is Universal. For one week this fall (Nov. 4-11), all NBC Universal networks will incorporate certain plotlines into their programs to educate viewers on the importance of being environmentally conscious. But one show might have some trouble with the whole recycling issue. ”We’re screwed — we’re a paper company,” joked star John Krasinski about The Office‘s Dunder Mifflin.

Quote of the Day
When a reporter asked Michaels to discuss the impact of Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg’s ”D— in a Box,” the SNL impresario responded, ”It was huge.”