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Networks and stars talk fall TV at TCA

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The Housewives are retiring, Simon Cowell is gunning for American Idol, the Glee team is back on message, and CBS wants you to forget Charlie Sheen. That’s just a smidgen of what went down at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, where reporters swarmed TV executives and talent for three weeks in Beverly Hills. Networks attend the event to promote new shows, but the biggest headline concerned the series that’s going away: ABC’s Desperate Housewives will end its eight-season run next spring. ”I’ve been working in TV for 23 years, and I’ve been very aware of people overstaying their welcome,” creator Marc Cherry told reporters. ”I wanted to go off in the classiest way possible.” The final season will return to the show’s roots, exploring the death of Mary Alice. Cherry joked about doing a spin-off, in which costar Eva Longoria would tour around ”in a van and solve mysteries.” One new show getting buzz was ABC’s Pan Am, but unlike fellow 1960s-set Mad Men on AMC, it’ll be tobacco-free: The Disney-owned network won’t permit stars like Christina Ricci to smoke on the show. ”It’s the one revisionist cheat,” admitted exec producer Tommy Schlamme. Meanwhile, it was the critics who felt cheated during CBS’ panels, as the cast of Two and a Half Men — including new hire Ashton Kutcher — was noticeably absent. CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler revealed that Kutcher will play a heartbroken Internet billionaire named Walden Schmidt, though she wouldn’t confirm that Sheen’s character will be DOA in the Sept. 19 season premiere. Said Tassler, ”When everybody walked on that set on Monday, you could cut the air with a knife.” Speaking of tension, Fox’s programming chief, Kevin Reilly, tried to downplay conflicting reports about what’s going on at Glee and instead told reporters that season 3 will go ”back to basics,” with no guest stars or music-icon tributes in the first batch of episodes. ”We’re focusing on our core characters and relationships,” Reilly said. (Development on a potential Glee spin-off will be tabled until next year.) Simon Cowell, producer and star of another presumed Fox fall powerhouse, The X Factor, told critics that he believes his new singing competition can dethrone American Idol as TV’s top-rated series. ”You don’t enter something for the silver medal,” Cowell said. ”You do it because you want to be number one.” Oh, it is so on!

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