ABC News is planning to used present-day technology to provide old-fashioned, gavel-to-gavel coverage of this summer’s political conventions.

In addition to the network’s prime-time coverage of the Democratic and Republican events – which, like rivals NBC and CBS, will run for an hour a night during each convention – ABC’s Peter Jennings will anchor 19 hours of additional reports via a digital signal most affiliates now transmit and a broadband subscription service.

Expanded coverage of the presidential campaign will continue on the broadband service, called ABC News Live, through Election Day.

Jennings brought the idea of increasing coverage of the conventions to ABC News president David Westin after returning form his most recent trip to Iraq. He believes the war in Iraq and the continuing war on terrorism makes this election season more momentous than most.

The extra reporting, which for the most part will lead into ABC’s prime-time coverage of the conventions, will be available to homes with digital cable. The ABC News Live broadband channel is carried by AOL, RealNetworks and SBC/Yahoo’s and Bell South’s DSL service.

Bravo teases British ‘Queer Eye’

American viewers will get a sneak peak at how gay British blokes makeover their straight comrades when Bravo offers a sneak peak of the U.K. version of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”

With an interesting twisted logic, Bravo notes that this will be the first time that “a foreign version of a program originating from the United States will be seen on American television.” Got that? Figure out the confusing syntax on Tuesday at 10 p.m. EDT.

The British Fab Five features Tristan Eves the Grooming Guru, Dane Bailey the Design Doctor, Julian Bennett the Fashion Savant, Jason Gardiner the Culture Vulture and Peyton the Food and Wine Connoisseur. The translated version of the show is already a hit across the pond.

In the episode, we meet Barra, a voice-over artist who wants to get in front of the camera, but lacks the grooming and social skills. The Fab Five fix him up with an audition for the British version of “Access Hollywood” and then go to work to get him camera-ready.

Lest American viewers miss any of the not-so-subtle double entendres and end up confused about the litany of British slang, the episode will feature on-screen pop-ups. Thus, fashion tips and a British slang dictionary will appear concurrently.

‘Rocky’ has another chapter

Even though movie audiences haven’t heard from Rocky Balboa since 1990’s “Rocky V,” when the permanently injured champ return to Philadelphia to become a mentor, rather than a fighter, star Sylvester Stallone says that he still thinks there’s more to tell although the project hasn’t been started yet.

“We’re pushing towards that. I think it will come to fruition,” says Stallone, who was nominated for two Oscars in 1977 in association with the first “Rocky,” and who wrote all five films. “It’s pretty much based on what George Foreman is doing and has done with his life.

“So, to me, it gives it credibility. It takes it away from just about boxing. It’s about a certain ideal.”

Not that it sounds as if “Rocky VI” will be particularly upbeat as Stallone expands on what he wants to accomplish with the film.

“As you get older, you realize that life changes. Quite often you’re not ready to step aside,” he opines. “You’re not maybe ready to watch the parade go by.

“It’s about redemption and also trying to follow one’s dream to the very end. What you lack in skill you may not make up in will.”

More immediate for Stallone is NBC’s upcoming reality show “The Contender,” where 16 aspiring boxers are put through training camp with the goal of becoming a true champion. Stallone represents the “fictional” side of the sport, and Olympic gold medalist Sugar Ray Leonard will be on hand for the “reality” side.

DreamWorks founder Jeffrey Katzenberg (who executive produces “The Contender” along with reality show king Mark Burnett) asserts that something that Stallone said about “Rocky” became the project’s mantra.

“From the time we got into business with him, he has said to us, “”Rocky” is Adrian’s story, and don’t ever forget it. It is seen through her. It’s where the heart and it’s where the emotion is.”‘

There’s still life in ‘Sopranos’ Adriana

As soon as it was announced that actress Drea de Matteo had signed on as a series regular for NBC’s “Friends” spin-off, fans of “The Sopranos” began counting the episodes until her character – the well-meaning, but ultimately in over her head Adriana La Cerva – would be whacked.

However, even when her forgone demise came, it was not with the same finality as say Ralph Cifaretto’s (Joey Pantoliano) dismemberment. Instead, when henchman Silvio (Steve Van Zandt) took her into the woods Adriana’s attempt to crawl away was shown, but whether the gunshots met their mark was not.

“I just kept crawling,” De Matteo laughs. “I crawled all the way to NBC.”

She says that the fate of the mobster moll is even unknown to her.

“Some people still aren’t sure if I’m dead or alive, only (writer/producer) David Chase knows the answer to that question.”

Although she’s still signed on for the next season of HBO’s hit drama, don’t put much stock into that meaning she’ll make a miraculous recovery.

“You all know how that works. We have a lot of dream sequences.”

Come fall, de Matteo can be seen weekly on NBC as Joey Tribbiani’s (Matt LeBlanc) sister, Gina – a Los Angeles hairdresser and single mother to a genius son she had when she was 16.

“I was sick and tired of crying every single week,” she admits, “so I’m real excited just to have some fun and have a break from all that insanity and all those beatings and choking and hair pullings.”

“Joey” premieres Sept. 9 at 8 p.m. EDT on NBC.

‘Explorer’ finally finds new home

After roaming on television dials for nearly 20 years, the Emmy-winning documentary series “National Geographic Explorer” has found the most logical of homes. The series will premiere its latest season on the National Geographic Channel.

“Explorer,” described as the longest running documentary series on cable TV, premiered in 1985 on Nickelodeon and has spent time on TBS and CNBC. In its most recent incarnation, the series has been running as “Ultimate Explorer” on MSNBC, hosted by Lisa Ling.

NGC signed a three-year pact with “Explorer” producer National Geographic Television & Film. “Explorer,” which has won 52 Emmys, will instantly become the most recognizable brand on the cable network, which has shown audience growth over its three-and-a-half years on the air.

“We are continuing to build ratings momentum, and “Explorer’ will be a cornerstone of our programming strategy moving forward,” says John Ford, an NGC executive vice president. “I’ve been a fan of Explorer for 20 years and we’re delighted to be bringing the series home. The entire Explorer team has done a terrific job. Our next step is to challenge ourselves to make this signature series even more powerful.”

– www.zap2it.com


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