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The Ausiello Files: Jan. 8, 2010

EW’s TV scooper on ”True Blood,” ”30 Rock,” and ”The Cleveland Show”

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Meet True Blood‘s New Animal Attraction: Alcide

Spoiler alert: True Blood‘s fearsome new werewolf is really just a big ol’ puppy dog! Upon learning that he’d been cast as Sookie’s (Anna Paquin) latest protector, Joe Manganiello ”started crying,” the 33-year-old One Tree Hill alum admits. ”I was just so excited.”

The character of Alcide — whom Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) summons to help Sookie find kidnapped lover Bill (Stephen Moyer) — is the most pivotal of the monster hit’s third season (scheduled to return in June 2010). Exec producer Alan Ball says he was so sure Manganiello was his Alcide, he bypassed the customary ”chemistry read” with Paquin. ”We wanted a guy who was big, sexy, decent, and heroic with some darkness, and he showed us all of that.”

Manganiello may soon be sobbing for a different reason — because he’ll be caught in the middle of rabid Team Bill and Team Eric fans. But for now he’s ready to stoke the fervor by suggesting Alcide has something Sookie’s other two suitors don’t. ”He’s warm flesh-and-blood,” he points out. Perhaps even worse for those fans, Ball adds with a laugh: ”Hello, he’s hot!”

SCOOPLETS

Sneak Peek: Elizabeth Banks on 30 Rock

”She’s basically Sean Hannity in a skirt,” explains Elizabeth Banks of her four-episode arc on NBC’s 30 Rock as a right-leaning financial guru who falls for fellow conservative Jack (Alec Baldwin) after he appears as a guest on her CNBC talk show. ”They’re equals,” says Banks, whose first episode airs in February. ”She’s not some [pretty] young thing that he has a fling with. She really challenges him.” Banks, who just wrapped the Paul Haggis thriller The Next Three Days (she plays Russell Crowe’s incarcerated wife), isn’t ashamed to admit that she lobbied for a part on Rock. ”I’m a huge fan, so this is a dream come true,” she shares. ”I’m working with two national treasures, Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin — not to mention Tracy Morgan.”

Sneak Peek: Jane Lynch gets in ‘toon

In need of a Sue Sylvester fix whilst you wait for Glee to return in April? The Cleveland Show is offering one up on Jan. 10, when Jane Lynch debuts as Roberta’s abrasive, acid-tongued new teacher, Ms. Eck. ”Both Ms. Eck and Sue [have] in-the-head-and-out-the-mouth syndrome,” says Lynch, who notes that her animated alter ego doesn’t share Sue’s passion for staying fit. ”She may have the largest, most disproportionate butt in cartoon history.” On the Glee front, Lynch reveals that Sue will finally get her own musical moment within the first two episodes back. ”I will be singing and dancing,” she says. ”I can’t tell you what I’m singing because it’s top secret.” Just a hint? Teases Lynch: ”It’s a very cold song.”

Gilmore Girl Returns Ex-Gilmore Girls matriarch Kelly Bishop is checking into NBC’s medical drama Mercy for a three-episode stint. ”I play another wealthy woman,” she says, ”but this one is suffering from ALS.” Emmy voters, take note.