Plus, new voices on ''The Simpsons,'' and more

By Lynette Rice
Updated July 19, 2001 at 12:00 PM EDT
Richard Schiff and Allison Janney: Ken Hiveky/LA Times/Retna

Big Brother

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WHOSE PROMO, ANYWAY? Perhaps they should name it the Must-Be NBC campaign: In an effort to rebrand itself, TNT’s running ”We Know Drama” promotional spots that feature appearances by a gaggle of serious thespians, including ”The West Wing”’s Allison Janney and Richard Schiff. It’s not as if TNT plans to air reruns of ”Wing” (Bravo paid a hefty $1.2 million per episode for that privilege, which begins in 2003); it just wanted actors ”symbolic of great drama” talking about the genre, says executive vice president Steve Koonin. Dennis Hopper and Martin Short are other featured actors (neither of whom have shows or made-for-TNT movies on the cable net, either). ”Whether we carry [‘The West Wing’] is virtually irrelevant,” declares Koonin. ”It’s not arrogance. It’s confidence. We’re like a wine steward. We’re selecting great dramas for our viewers.” Say again? While TNT has enjoyed critical acclaim with such original movies as ”George Wallace” and ”Nuremberg,” it has yet to launch a successful drama series. It recently axed its Wall Street soap ”Bull,” never got the broadcast-news-themed ”Breaking News” on the air, and the jury’s still out on the femme actioner ”Witchblade.” All insignificant little details, argues Koonin: ”We have to make a statement about it, then live up to it.” Okay, we’ll hold you to that.

CASTING CALL Coming off its highest-rated season since 1997-98, ”The Simpsons” is already reeling in the requisite big-name guest stars for its 13th year. Richard Gere and Pierce Brosnan will appear as themselves, Ben Stiller plays acerbic sugar-company CEO Garth Motherloving, and Reese Witherspoon voices Rainier Wolfcastle’s daughter, who develops a crush on Bart. Meanwhile, Sigourney Weaver lends her pipes to another Fox animated series, ”Futurama.” –Dan Snierson

FOR LOVE OR MONEY Fewer Peeping Toms may be tuning in to ”Big Brother 2” this summer, but don’t expect CBS to rescind its one-time charge of $19.95 to access the live, 24-hour Internet feed from the house. Despite protests from the online community (”Who’s even going to pay for something that bad?” says one surfer on RealityTVFans.com), network suits believe the demand is there, especially since the free ”BB” site had millions of hits a day after the show’s July 5 second-season premiere, according to the network. ”The housemates already got naked in the hot tub,” says CBS spokesman Gil Schwartz. ”These folks are highly social, and the presumption is that they are interested in each other. I think this will be the best $20 that people watchers will have ever spent.”

Episode Recaps

Big Brother

Julie Chen hosts as the houseguests battle it out.

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