NBC benches ‘Inconceivable’

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NBC’s new drama “Inconceivable,” which has failed to arouse viewers on Friday nights thus far, is going off the air – but just for one week.

The show about the staff of a fertility clinic is taking a one-week break today, where a repeat of the “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” season premiere will run in its place. It’s set to return to the schedule the following week, at least for now.

The one-week hiatus for the show, which stars NBC vets Angie Harmon (“Law & Order”) and Ming-Na (“ER”) along with Jonathan Cake (“Empire”), comes after two weeks of barren ratings in the 10 p.m. Friday spot. The series has drawn an average of just 5.4 million viewers per week; this time last fall “Medical Investigation” was drawing better than 9 million people in the same spot.

Another “Law & Order” series, the short-lived “Trial by Jury,” also performed significantly better in the time period last spring.

NBC has also played with the rest of its Friday lineup this week. “Dateline” will get a rest so the network can air a two-hour episode of feel-good unscripted series “Three Wishes,” which will include a segment on a family displaced by Hurricane Katrina.



PANTOLIANO, FAIRCHILD READY TO “SING’ FOR VH1

A one-time “Soprano,” an ex-Power Ranger and a former heavyweight champ will show off their vocal chops in an “American Idol”-style competition on VH1, cable’s leading purveyor of celebrity kitsch.

The three men in question – Joe Pantoliano (“The Sopranos,” “The Matrix”), Michael Copon (“Power Rangers Time Force,” “One Tree Hill”) and former champ Larry Holmes – will join six others in “But Can They Sing?,” which debuts on VH1 Oct. 30.

The other competitors are actresses Morgan Fairchild (“Falcon Crest”) and Bai Ling (“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”), soap star Antonio Sabato Jr. (“The Bold and the Beautiful”), model Kim Alexis, Univision host Myrka Dellanos and “Growing Up Gotti” kid Carmine Gotti.

Formerly called “Celebrity Pop Superstar” – and briefly “I’m a Celebrity But I Want to Be a Pop Star” when it was set up at NBC – the show will pit the nine celebs against one another in an “Idol”-style competition. They’ll work with vocal coaches each week before performing in front of a live audience.

Viewers will then vote online, by phone or via text messaging to determine who moves on. The winner of the six-week competition will have a donation made in his or her name to a favorite charity.

No one, as far as we can tell, has tried singing professionally in the past, although Copon and Sabato have appeared in music videos. Rock-star kid Ahmet Zappa, son of Frank, will host the show.

Granada America (“Celebrity Fit Club,” “Hit Me Baby One More Time”) is producing “But Can They Sing?” Jay Karas, Andee Kuroda, Paul Jackson and Curt Northrup are the executive producers.



“KING OF QUEENS’ STAR IS A DAD

“The King of Queens” just crowned his little princess.

Kevin James and his wife Steffania De La Cruz became the proud parents of baby girl Sienna-Marie on Friday, report news sources.

James, 40, met Filipina model De La Cruz, 30, on a blind date set up by his interior decorator. They married in June 2004 in Dana Point, Calif., among family and friends including stand-up comedy pal Ray Romano, who helped James get his CBS sitcom gig.

De La Cruz has made a couple appearances on “King of Queens,” “Pacific Blue” and the horror film “Soulkeeper.”

Besides fatherhood, James is enjoying the eighth season of his sitcom, which premiered in September. On the big screen he starred opposite Will Smith in “Hitch,” wrapped shooting “Grilled” with Romano and “Monster House,” and is the lead voice of a cow in the upcoming animated feature “The Barnyard.”



NBC TAKEN WITH “HEIST’ PILOT

NBC is committing to what it hopes is the perfect crime, a pilot for a show about an elaborate jewel heist.

The network has given the green light to “Heist,” a pilot about a group of professional thieves who want to take down three Beverly Hills jewelers simultaneously. The show would follow the planning and execution of the robbery over the course of a full season.

Brothers Robb and Mark Cullen (FX’s “Lucky”) are writing the pilot, and Doug Liman (“Mr. and Mrs. Smith”) will direct it, the showbiz trade papers report. They’ll also serve as executive producers, along with Dave Bartis, Peter Safran and Bernie Brillstein.

In addition to the pilot, NBC has also ordered several additional scripts for “Heist,” which suggests it could make it on the air this season rather than fall 2006. The show will mix some comedy in with the suspense of pulling off the job, a la “Ocean’s Eleven.” And assuming the show makes it onto NBC and becomes a success, future seasons would follow new jobs in different cities.

The Cullens, who worked with NBC Entertainment head Kevin Reilly at FX, earned an Emmy nomination for writing the pilot script of “Lucky.” They’ve also worked on the animated show “Gary the Rat” and had a pilot at Fox this year called “New Car Smell.”

Liman’s directing credits include “Swingers,” “Go” and “The Bourne Identity.” He also directed the pilot of “The O.C.” and is set to direct an executive produce a CBS pilot called “22 Birthdays,” a drama about families whose kids attend a posh L.A. private school.



“SECRETS’ MAY GET BURIED AT UPN

A week after debuting to the smallest ratings of the new season, UPN’s nighttime soap “Sex, Love & Secrets” has stopped filming.

Though the show remains on UPN’s schedule for the time being, production has been stopped. Eight episodes of the series, which chronicles the lives of a group of twentysomethings living in L.A.’s Silver Lake neighborhood, are already in the can.

Whether all eight of those episodes see the light of day is an open question. The show’s second episode aired as planned Tuesday, but the network hasn’t said whether it will continue past this week.

“Sex, Love & Secrets” holds the dubious distinction of drawing the smallest audience of any show on network TV in the first two weeks of the 2005-06 season. Its Sept. 28 premiere brought in a paltry 1.4 million viewers, which wouldn’t have even placed among the top 40 shows on cable last week.

UPN hasn’t done the series, which stars Denise Richards, Eric Balfour and Tamara Taylor, many favors. It airs in what may be primetime’s toughest time slot, 9 p.m. EDT Tuesdays, opposite “The Amazing Race,” “House” and three new series that have all performed well: ABC’s “Commander In Chief,” NBC’s “My Name Is Earl” and The WB’s “Supernatural.” Its lead-in is a repeat of “America’s Next Top Model.”

Although a halt to production is pretty much never a good sign for a show, “Sex, Love & Secrets” has yet to be officially canceled. So far this season, only Fox’s “Head Cases” has been given the ax.



INSTANT KARMA: NBC GIVES “EARL’ A FULL SEASON

With “My Name Is Earl,” NBC has hit on a rare commodity on network TV: a single-camera, laugh track-free comedy that’s drawing strong ratings. So the network wants to keep it around for a while.

“Earl” earned a full-season pickup Tuesday, hours before its third episode was set to air. The ratings for the first two shows, along with wide critical acclaim, were enough for NBC to give the series a full complement of 22 episodes.

“We are extremely encouraged by the response to “Earl’ from the audience and critics alike,” NBC Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly says. “(Creator) Greg Garcia and the producers are doing a great job creatively, and Jason Lee’s Earl is a truly original TV comedy character that we hope will be around for years to come.”

Through its first two airings in the highly competitive 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday spot, “My Name Is Earl” has averaged 13.3 million viewers, making it the most-watched new comedy of the young season. Just as important to NBC, the show has posted a solid 5.8 rating among the network’s target demographic adults 18-49 – the best for any comedy, new or returning, thus far this fall.

Lee (“Almost Famous”) stars as Earl Hickey, a lifelong lowlife who wins $100,000 on a scratch-off lottery ticket and is promptly hit by a car. After having a late-night epiphany courtesy of Carson Daly, he sets out to right the wrongs he’s done in his life.

The show also stars Ethan Suplee (“Cold Mountain”), Nadine Velazquez, Jaime Pressly (“Not Another Teen Movie”) and Eddie Steeples. Garcia (“Yes, Dear”) executive produces with Marc Buckland (“Ed,” “Medical Investigation”).



U2 TAKES OVER “LATE NIGHT’

Assuming you can even get your hands on one, a ticket for any of U2’s upcoming tour dates is going to cost you.

Or, you could just stay up a little late Thursday and catch a whole hour of the band performing live on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” It’s not quite the same as being at the show, but it’s a whole lot cheaper than scalping a ticket.

The mega-selling, Grammy-winning band will be O’Brien’s only guest on Thursday’s show and will likely perform several songs during the hour. Bono and Co. will probably chat some with O’Brien as well.

U2 begins a run of seven sold-out shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Friday. Their “Late Night” appearance will mark the first time O’Brien has devoted an entire hour to a single guest, musical or otherwise.

Musical-guest stunts are nothing new to the show, however. In 2003, O’Brien had the White Stripes as a guest every night for a week, and he also did a “month of Tuesdays” with New York band the Strokes. Bruce Springsteen has also made a surprise appearance on the show, performing before taking “Late Night” band leader and E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg on the road.



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AP-NY-10-05-05 1747EDT

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