The latest news from the TV beat

By Lynette Rice
December 13, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

Clock Stopper

So much for trying something different in a sitcom: The NBC comedy Watching Ellie starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus will abandon its real-time element (buh-bye, ticking clock!) and single-camera format and become a traditional four-camera show with a studio audience when it returns for a nine-episode run in March. Louis-Dreyfus says she’s fine with changing Ellie — the brainchild of her writer husband Brad Hall (The Single Guy) — primarily because she missed the type of experience she had on Seinfeld. ”Getting a reaction from an audience, that’s a hard thing to give up,” she admits. ”As much fun as shooting a single-camera comedy was, you exist very much in a vacuum.” Speaking of sucking, Ellie’s life as a single L.A. lounge singer won’t get much better next season (”there will be a lot of humiliation,” she promises). Though more viewers watched Ellie last season (10 million) than the critically acclaimed Alias (9.7 million) and that other real-time series, 24 (8.6 million), there are no guarantees that the changes will ensure a pickup for fall 2003. Louis-Dreyfus isn’t stressing. ”I feel much more relaxed,” she says about the show’s second outing. ”Our goal is to simply entertain.” We’ll hold her to that.

Positive FX

After experiencing unexpected, award-winning success with The Shield, the FX net has become the place to be for the Hollywood creative community. Celebs like Mad About You’s Paul Reiser and producers like Smallville’s Mike Tollin are eagerly peddling projects to FX, which hopes to launch at least two original series and four original telefilms each year. Besides Reiser’s half-hour, NYC-based anthology (he’ll exec-produce and narrate) and Tollin’s drama about Miami plastic surgeons, FX is developing a political reality show with R.J. Cutler (American High) called American Candidate. Movies on deck include a drama about the Pentagon Papers, with James Spader, and a biopic about Crips cofounder Tookie Williams starring Jamie Foxx. There’s even a chance FX will do a late-night talker with Orlando Jones (Mad TV). ”FX has definitely emerged as a chic place to do something more controversial than you could do at the networks,” says Nancy Etz, a senior literary agent at ICM. ”Writers are now thinking if they have something that’s right for HBO, they’d also like to try taking it to FX.” Just spare us another Arli$$.

AND SO ON… Oh brother, look who’s joining Jeremy London on The WB’s 7th Heaven — his identical twin, Jason London! The latter guest stars as the rebellious twin of pastor Chandler Hampton, who shows up after their father becomes ill. The episode will air early next year.