On the Air
The latest news from the TV beat
Frankie Muniz isn’t the only genius kid on Malcolm in the Middle: An episode that will air during February sweeps was conceived by — prepare to hate yourself, aspiring Hollywood scribes — an elementary school student. Last fall, Alexandra Kaczenski, the 11-year-old niece of Malcolm costume designer Heidi Kaczenski, brainstormed an episode in which Jane Kaczmarek’s Lois fantasizes about life raising daughters instead of sons and presented a two-page outline to series creator Linwood Boomer. ”I thought, Sure, I’ll take two seconds of my time,” he recalls. ”So I read through the thing, I ran up to the writers’ room, and I said, ‘Okay, I was just pitched an idea by Alex Kaczenski…you know that little girl that hangs around with Heidi?’ And they went, ‘Okay, tell us.’ And I [did] and the whole room just stopped and went, ‘That’s a really good idea!’ and I was like, ‘I know!”’ Boomer then asked Kaczenski, now 12, to pen a longer outline — which he bought. Since then, he’s encouraged her to offer up more story concepts. So, does Kaczenski have any other bright ideas? ”Yeah,” she notes nonchalantly, ”but I’m not telling them yet.” Guess we’ll just have to wait until May sweeps. — Dan Snierson
Life With Bonnie can be rather lonely: Exec producer/star Bonnie Hunt not only prefers to defy conventional wisdom by taping her ABC sitcom without a studio audience (laugh tracks are created when fans watch her completed episodes on a monitor), but she’d also rather write all 22 episodes with longtime partner Don Lake. That’s why Hunt recently decided to dismiss her network-hired writing staff. ”We come from Second City [in Chicago],” explains Hunt, who warned her TV scribes early on that she preferred to work alone. ”We used to write, act, and direct eight shows a week in the theater. I only have one job, and that’s being a storyteller.” So far, critics and ABC can’t argue with her choices: Though Life has lost viewers since debuting Sept. 17 (down from 16.1 million to 9.3 million), the show’s earned rave reviews and a full-season pickup from the network. Says Hunt, ”Carl Reiner recently [taped a] show, and he said he did the same thing on The Dick Van Dyke Show — he wrote  episodes. He said we were doing the right thing. And Carl Reiner is God to us.” Then by all means, go with God.
AND SO ON…
Despite the show’s ratings-challenged status, Hollywood stars are itching to mix it up on JKX: The Jamie Kennedy Experiment: Jeff Goldblum, David Schwimmer, Julianna Margulies, and movie producer Joel Silver have all agreed to appear on The WB’s Candid Camera-style improvisational show during November sweeps. ”It’s a pretty interesting experience [for stars],” says executive producer Adam Small. ”There are no lines to memorize and you’re pretty much free to do whatever you want. It’s an instant rush.” Schwimmer came up with his own gag in which he’ll ”hire” a new personal assistant (an unsuspecting mark who has no idea the cameras are rolling), who is then required to fire the old one, played by Kenne- dy. Another skit involves Goldblum auditioning prospec- tive spokesmodels for his new, albeit toxic, cologne, while Margulies and Silver appear at an absurd casting call for Ghost Ship: The Musical. Says Small, ”The actors are asked to sing the most ridiculous songs on the planet while pretending to be an ocean liner.”