AFI announces TV, movies picks

Preceding the Golden Globe nominations by a day, the American Film Institute weighed in Sunday with its picks for the top movies and TV programs of 2004.

ABC’s breakout hits “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives,” which each earned Golden Globe nominations Monday, are among the AFI’s 10 TV programs of the year. Fellow Globe nominees “The Sopranos,” “Deadwood,” “Something the Lord Made” (all on HBO) “Arrested Development” (Fox) and “Nip/Tuck” (FX) also made the list.

HBO’s comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” FX’s cop show “The Shield” and Comedy Central’s profane cartoon “South Park” – which aired one of the most talked-about episodes in its history, “The Passion of the Jew,” this season – round out the AFI top 10.

The institute’s movie honorees include a mix of indie and Oscar-bait films – “Sideways,” “Kinsey,” “The Aviator” – and popular blockbusters like “Spider-Man 2” and “The Incredibles.” “Collateral,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Maria Full of Grace” and “Million Dollar Baby” also made the list.

“AFI is proud to honor these 20 collaborative teams that have made 2004 such a remarkable year in film and television,” says Jean Picker Firstenberg, the institute’s president and CEO. “As the institute recognizes and celebrates excellence across the century, these honorees will be part of the record that documents America’s enduring cultural legacy.”

The AFI’s honorees are chosen by juries – one for TV, one for film – made up of critics, academics and industry professionals. The winners will be celebrated at a luncheon in January.

Fox, Anderson joining teams

Pamela Anderson is returning to television in a comedy that has received a six-episode commitment from Fox – even though the pilot script isn’t finished yet.

Fox took the unusual step of picking up the show sight unseen to end a bidding fight with ABC, the showbiz trade papers report. The concept has Anderson as a former bad girl trying to shake off her habit of falling for the wrong kinds of guys.

Steven Levitan (“Just Shoot Me”) is writing the yet-to-be-finished pilot script and will serve as an executive producer on the 20th Century Fox TV show. Levitan’s last series was Fox’s 1960s-set comedy “Oliver Beene,” on which he was the exec producer.

Anderson’s last live-action series was “V.I.P.,” a syndicated action/comedy that ran from 1998-2002. The former “Baywatch” star and Playboy centerfold also provided the lead character’s voice in Spike TV’s “Stripperella” last year.

Her sitcom experience includes two seasons playing the “Tool Time” girl on “Home Improvement” and a host of guest appearances, ranging from “Married … with Children” to “Less than Perfect.”

‘The O.C.’ outing a character

Wherever Mischa Barton goes, lesbian subplots seem to follow. During a much-discussed run on “Once & Again,” Barton’s character found halting young love with Evan Rachel Wood’s confused teen. In the indie feature “Lost and Delirious,” Barton’s character was shocked to discover that her friends played by Piper Perabo and Jessica Pare were more than just friends. Barton is expected to explore alternative lifestyle choices again in January, when Marissa Cooper finds love in unexpected places on Fox’s “The O.C.”

The drama’s creator Josh Schwartz confirms to that next month will see some unexpected changes for Barton’s character, who has had emotionally distant relationships with Chris Carmack’s Luke, Benjamin McKenzie’s Ryan and Nicholas Gonzalez’s D.J. during the show’s run.

“Marissa’s at a point in her life where she’s trying to find herself and her true identity,” Schwartz tells the site. “There’s another character who she really connects with. It’s a girl, which is not something Marissa may have anticipated. But she’s willing and game to explore and experiment with that.”

Although Schwartz declined to discuss Marissa’s future romantic foil, speculation has centered on Olivia Wilde’s Alex, a new character introduced this season. Alex has already had a blind date with Ryan, a romantic kiss with Adam Brody’s Seth and a kiss with a random female to prove a point, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for flexibility when ratings are involved.

Schwartz denies, though, that Marissa’s explorations are Nielsen-based. Since moving to Thursday nights this fall, “The O.C.” is averaging more than 7.6 million viewers.

“We cooked it up well before the show ever premiered this year,” Schwartz says. “We’re constantly looking at evolving and growing these characters. And challenging them. They’re at that age where they’re open to it. It was either that or Oliver’s return.”

There’s still no word on when Ryan and Seth will consummate their long-smoldering friendship.

Christoper back for 16th Oscar

The 77th Oscar telecast producer Gil Cates announced that Roy Christopher will return for his 16th assignment as production designer of an Academy Awards presentation.

“My association with Roy has been long and fulfilling,” Cates says. “I consider myself lucky to be able to get Roy back once more to design this year’s set.”

Christopher has received a total of 35 Emmy nominations and 15 of those nominations were for his work on an Oscar telecast. He has won a total of eight Emmys, six for his work on Oscar sets.

Christopher’s projects include the recent long-running comedy hits “Frasier” and “Becker,” as well as other notable series including “Murphy Brown.” He has also designed TV specials for such legendary stars as Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Burnett and Baryshnikov.

Last year, Christopher won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Art Directors Guild. The Academy Awards will air live on ABC on Feb. 27.

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