The latest news from the TV beat

Julia’s Executive Decision

When does the off-camera talent on a television show actually upstage those on screen? When Julia Roberts agrees to executive-produce, naturally. Roberts’ Shoelace Productions is developing the drama Queens Supreme for CBS, starring Annabella Sciorra, Oliver Platt, and Robert Loggia as supreme-court judges in the New York City borough. Actor Tim Robbins will direct the pilot that ”does for the judicial system what M*A*S*H did for the medical world,” explains Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Roberts’ producing partner. ”As the doctors were operating, they were talking about other things. Here, it won’t really be about the cases, it’ll be about the characters.” Goldsmith-Thomas insists that Roberts will remain an exec producer only (in fact, it was a friend of Goldsmith-Thomas’, and not the pretty woman, who came up with the Queens Supreme idea): ”Julia wants to create work that she’s proud of, whether she’s in it or not.” Of course, all bets are off come November sweeps.

Double Agent

Jennifer Garner may be the master of superspy disguise, but you should have no problem ID’ing her in the May 8 episode of Felicity: She’ll revive her 1998-99 role as Hanna — the nerdy ex-girlfriend of Noel (played by husband Scott Foley). Felicity cocreator J.J. Abrams, who cast Garner as the lead in his other series, Alias, thought a brief return would be a fun wrinkle in the show’s final arc — a quirky Sliding Doors-esque plot in which viewers see Felicity (Keri Russell) during her senior year as if she’d chosen Noel instead of Ben (Scott Speedman). So has Hanna picked up any of those deadly double-agent moves that Garner executes on her current show? ”There will probably be fewer fights in this episode than in a typical episode of Alias,” says Abrams, who’d also like Russell to appear on Alias in the future, possibly as a nemesis for Garner’s character. ”But hopefully it’ll have all the emotional punch you could ever want.” — Dan Snierson

AND SO ON… Friends’ Matthew Perry will moonlight on a two-hour Ally McBeal April 15 as a ”jerk lawyer guy who just walks in and causes trouble in Ally’s [Calista Flockhart] love life,” the actor says. ”He’s funny in that he says very deep things that open her up. He figures her out in the first three minutes that he meets her, and that drives her crazy.” Not that she needs much help in that department…. It might be time to kill the lights and deadbolt the doors. Beginning July 6, TLC will follow its successful series Trading Spaces with another gonzo remodeling show called While You Were Out. Says TLC general manager Jana Bennett, ”Your partner or family colludes with a set of designers to get you out of the house for a long weekend, only to come back to find a room transformed beyond your wildest dream.” Or nightmare.

Ally McBeal
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