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FOX: ‘Prison Break’ takes the show on the road

Plus: ‘Dance’ fever; ‘America’s Most Wanted,’ ‘Nip/Tuck’

‘Prison Break’ takes the show on the road

In perhaps FOX’s most-anticipated panel, the cast of “Prison Break” showed up to discuss life post-breakout. As the eight cons go on the lam, pursued by various law enforcement officials, production of the show has moved from the Chicago area to Dallas. In Chicago, the site of Joliet Prison was used to play Fox River, the new location in and around Dallas is meant to suggest that the men are running though Anywhere, USA.

Critics clamored to know details of the second season, but producers and cast were relatively tight-lipped, wanting to preserve their plot twists. They did promise that the cast wouldn’t be completely recaptured, taking the show back to the prison, and that at least the first half of the season would focus on the men trying to evade their pursuers. And the men would be foolish to stay together, said producer Paul T. Scheuring, noting that even if they separate, they will still “pop back into each other’s stories.” As for Warden Henry Pope (Stacy Keach), Scheuring said he would have a “considerably smaller role,” but that “Michael has some unfinished emotional business with him.”

Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell, who play brothers Michael and Lincoln, should have plenty to play off each other in season two. Both commented that it is already interesting to play scenes in which the brothers laugh or smile, something that was uncommon when both were incarcerated. And the brothers’ childhood will be somewhat explored. “Growing up, Lincoln was very much in the driver’s seat,” said Miller, noting that those brotherly roles switched when Lincoln was on death row. “I’m curious to see if Michael is going to be as willing to relinquish that authority.” And, of course, the now-free men will want to reunite with their families, and must resist that urge as much as possible, as it’s likely to get them recaptured. That doesn’t mean they won’t try. Lincoln, for one, will want to redeem himself with son LJ, while Michael will concentrate on trying to guide his brother safely into Mexico.

Notes from ‘Prison’

  • Former “Prison Break” cast members Patricia Wettig and John Billingsley both have new shows this season; Wettig with “Brothers and Sisters” and Billingsley with “The Nine.” Billingsley’s character will be played by actor Jeff Perry, while Wettig’s future is less certain. All producer Paul T. Scheuring would say is that she’s “not out of the picture yet.”
  • When the inevitable topic of this year’s number of serial dramas was brought up, producer Scheuring agreed. “It’s the flavor of the week now,” he said, joking: “My advice would be to write a serialized show that started filming last year.
  • There’s a persistent rumor that the show will be renamed “Prison Break: Manhunt” now that the prison break has occurred. Scheuring would only say that a decision hasn’t been reached on that yet.
  • When asked about Michael’s famous tattoo incorporating the plans of prison, producer Scheuring said that other facts that would be helpful to the men on the outside may also be hidden in the intricate tattoo. Actor Wentworth Miller admitted he doesn’t enjoy the “arduous” four-hour process of having the tattoo applied, but that he understands and respects its role in the plot.
  • William Fichtner is joining the show as a federal agent pursuing the men. Fichtner was asked about his canceled series, “Invasion,” but circled around the question, joking that “[the ‘Prison Break’ producers] promised me there were going to be aliens on the show, and … every fourth episode, something orange would be in the water.”
  • Robert Knepper, the evil T-Bag on the show, was the opposite of evil at the “Prison Break” poolside dinner party, proudly carrying his adorable young son around. Knepper doesn’t look much like T-Bag did in the first season, however. These days he’s sporting a bleached-blonde faux-hawk.

‘Dance’ fever on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’

Critics were able to see first-hand the dancing talents of four of the “So You Think You Can Dance” contestants. Benji and Heidi performed a West Coast swing dance, while Travis and Allison danced a contemporary routine. (Since this came immediately after drinks were served at the “Happy Hour” panel, I wondered if the “America’s Most Wanted” panel would actually catch a criminal onstage, while the “Nip/Tuck” cast would perform plastic surgery.) After the fast-moving, acrobatic dances, eight contestants, the four judges, host Cat Deeley and producer Nigel Lythgoe participated in the panel discussion. (Judge Mary Murphy stole the fashion part of the show, with a leopard-print dress.)

All of the judges have worked with celebrities on dance routines, and they were asked to compare those stars to the dancers on the show. “These dancers are 10 times better [than the celebrities],” said judge Dan Karaty. He also allowed “Britney Spears picks up [dance moves] like that. And some others like Jessica Simpson take a really long time to learn these.”  Shane Sparks said “Lindsay Lohan is probably one of the hardest females I had to work with. … And if you watch the movie awards, she just rolled her hips and dropped to the floor and popped her head and threw her hair.”

Not all viewers are thrilled with the second season. Readers have emailed us to complain about new host Cat Deely, but don’t expect to see her replaced any time soon. Deely says she was hired because Nigel Lythgoe knew her from England, and that she loves her job so much. “They’re going to have problems getting rid of me.”

Other viewers don’t find it fair that dancers must perform in dance genres other than their own, but the cast and crew wouldn’t have it any other way. Lythgoe noted that that requirement has always been the life of a commercial dancer. And judge and choreographer Shane Sparks noted that many dancers lose jobs because they’re not versatile enough. “You can’t survive in this business with hip-hop [dance skills] alone, and that’s why so many hip-hop dancers don’t work,” he said.

There was a bit of a lively debate about the prize differences between “Dance” and Lythgoe’s “Idol.” “Dance” winners receive an SUV, $100,000, and a year contract, if they want it, with Celine Dion’s Vegas show. Joked Lythgoe of the Dion deal, “We’re not sure if that’s a prize or a punishment.” Winners of “Idol” receive an estimated 10 times that amount in contract money. Lythgoe defended the disparity by saying that “a singer has something to sell [CDs],” while dancers have only their live performances and possibly DVDs.

One critic pointed out that “The Amazing Race” gives away a million dollars and those winners can hardly go on to a professional career as a racer, suggesting that the prize for “Dance” should be raised to correspond to the income the show makes. “I don’t disagree with that,” said Lythgoe. ”And when the show starts to earn some money, I’m sure we’ll relook at the prizes.” And like the “American Idol” finalists who go out on a multi-city tour, Lythgoe allowed that “Dance” may consider such an event, taking the top 10 dancers and performing in 25 cities.”

Tales from the ‘Dance’ floor

  • Readers of often ask: Why do so many reality shows forbid Canadian participants? Nigel Lythgoe, who produces both “So You Think You Can Dance” and “American Idol,” said neither show will open up to Canadian participants any time soon. “Canada has got its own ‘Canadian Idol’ and hope to [create a version of] ‘Dance’ as well,” he said. And as far as Canadians being able to vote in “American Idol,” he said “no” to that as well, adding “It’s about ‘American Idol,’ he said, not ‘American Canadian Idol’.”
  • Are you a wannabe “American Idol” auditioner looking for tips? Focus on your singing more than your dancing, of course, although knowing how to move certainly doesn’t hurt, said Lythgoe. And “Don’t sing the two ‘Idol’ final songs,” he advised.
  • Contestant Natalie was asked about her relationships with some of the eliminated dancers. Of former partner Musa Cooper, she said “We had a really good connection as partners. Nothing more, just dance partners.” Of Dmitry Chaplin, she said “Dmitry and I have been very close. … We have a very special bond, very good friends.”
  • Judge Brian Friedman noted that season-one winner Nick Lazzarini chose not to take the New York apartment he was entitled to use for a year. Instead he took the money,  joined an LA dance company and “really hasn’t gone and pursued the commercial-dance aspect.”
  • Viewers also often wonder if dancers can do their own choreography, and if so, how long does it take. After his performance at the panel, Travis shared that he and Allison decided to perform at the panel only the night before, and that the dance took them “an hour or two” to put together.

John Walsh is still hunting ‘America’s Most Wanted’

So many people in television do anything they can to land a job in the industry. John Walsh would have done anything to not be where he is today. Walsh wouldn’t be hosting “America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back” had his six-year-old son, Adam, not been abducted and murdered in 1981. Walsh began with the original “America’s Most Wanted” in 1988, and the latest version premiered in 1996. It’s famous for “turning couch potatoes into crimefighters,” as a FOX promo clip says, showing crime reenactments and photos of criminals and encouraging regular citizens to call the show or the police with clues to the offenders’ whereabouts.

Walsh and producer Lance Heflin appeared just as a was clearing Congress. The legislation will establish a national Internet database of sex offenders, who will, Walsh said, have to turn in a photo every three months. “We’ve profiled guys on ‘America’s Most Wanted,’ we’re working from their 10-year-old mug shot,” he said. The bill also authorizes tracking devices for some offenders, increases penalties, and authorizes crime prevention and fingerprinting campaigns.

Unlike most scripted shows that presented panels, “America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back” won’t be changing or shaking things up much as it heads into its 20th season. Walsh remains the show’s host and tireless mainstay, and the show’s concept remains clear: Help catch criminals. As one glance at the crime-filled newspaper or TV news makes it clear, this is one show that will never run out of source material.

“Most Wanted” tidbits

  • I asked Walsh about a famous case from my home state, the 1989 abduction of 11-year-old , a case that remains unsolved and which still haunts many in Minnesota. It’s been nearly 20 years and very little has been found in the case. Walsh knows the case well, and says that he and Wetterling’s family know the sad truth, that Jacob is never coming home. Says Walsh “I don’t think the Wetterling case will ever be resolved until Jacob Wetterling’s remains are found.”
  • Walsh offered advice for parents, saying to keep a recent photo of your child at all times, and mentioned possibly saving their DNA via purchasable kits. DNA can also be retrieved from personal items such as toothbrushes and hairbrushes, but as Walsh noted, families who lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters often didn’t even have that.

Guest stars can’t wait to cut up with ‘Nip/Tuck’

(Warning: May include spoilers.) Not all “Nip/Tuck” fans were thrilled with last year’s “Carver” plotline, about a serial rapist, although it reportedly did garner the show the highest ratings ever for an FX program. Those fans can relax, however, as a panel consisting of the three main “Nip/Tuck” stars and creator Ryan Murphy promised the show will get back to its real themes in its fourth season. Look for the focus to fall back on Sean, Christian and Julia, and on the patients and relationships that come in and out of their lives. Julia and Sean’s new baby’s physical condition will challenge the couple to deal with plastic surgery in an entirely new way.

The new season boasts an impressive guest-star list, however. Larry Hagman, Richard Chamberlain, Peter Dinklage, Melissa Gilbert, Brooke Shields, Rosie O’Donnell, and Catherine Deneuve will all be on the show this season. Some of the guest-star appearances stemmed from the actors being fans of the show, Murphy said, noting that Rosie O’Donnell is “obsessed” with the show, having even flown the show’s set decorator to her home to recreate the MacNamara-Troy fish tank. He also noted that he’ll strive to keep the guest appearances organic to the plot rather than used as stunt casting. (Chris Rock defined “stunt casting” so well in , describing it as “Hey! Shaq just came over!”)

Murphy notes that the show remains controversial for its sexuality and graphic scenes. He points out that it airs at 10 p.m. ET on a cable channel and that copious content warnings air throughout episodes. “This show has been Target No. 1 ever since the pilot,” he said. When asked about the Parents Television Council, a group that has actively campaigned against the show’s content, Murphy said “To that I say ‘Turn the channel.’”

Nips from ‘Nip/Tuck’

  • Brooke Shields will return as Julian’s psychiatrist, but with a problem of her own — she’s sexually obsessed with him.
  • Smoky voiced Kathleen Turner will play a client seeking a “voice lift.” Murphy swears that, like all procedures on “Nip/Tuck,” a voice lift is a real operation.
  • Guest star Larry Hagman will play a 72-year-old client with a thirtysomething wife (to be played by Sanaa Lathan). Hagman and producer Ryan Murphy compared notes on cliffhangers, since Hagman’s “Who Shot J.R.?” plotline on “Dallas” pretty much invented the genre that “The Carver” storyline played into recently.
  • Despite having taken every precaution he could to ensure that cast and crew didn’t spill the beans, Murphy was shocked that the Carver’s identity wasn’t revealed on the Internet before the show aired.

Tossing them back with the TV drinking game

It’s my last day here at the TV Critics’ summer press tour, so I wanted to update the drinking game I’ve been mentally compiling the whole two weeks I’ve been here.

As with any multi-day work event, certain phrases and clichés come up so often you find yourself mentally cataloging them. I really only had Diet Coke with me most of the time, but I was able to pretend it was something stronger, especially when I heard one of these questions or quotes for about the millionth time.

Slug a shot of Diet Coke (or your beverage of choice) when:

  • A critic asks if there are too many serial dramas
  • An actor says he/she moved from movies to TV because “I follow the writing.”
  • A new show is compared to “Lost” (I may be guilty of this myself)
  • An exec claims his or her network is an underdog but no one believes it
  • A critic admits he/she hasn’t watched the pilot of the show
  • Someone asks about an actor’s hair
  • An actor says he or she is “just so blessed to be able to do what I do”
  • An actor refers to something the average American can’t relate to (his or her private plane, multiple residences, a $100,000 car)
  • ‘CSI’ is mentioned in a panel not about ‘CSI’
  • ‘American Idol’ is mentioned in a panel not about ‘American Idol’
  • A critic asks everyone on a large panel to say something about his or her character
  • A critic asks a producer of a first-season show about plans for its second season
  • An actor is asked about a show or movie from more than 10 years ago
  • An actor with a famous parent is asked about said parent
  • A critic fixates on an animal that has a minor role in the show, asking intricate questions about its training and habits
  • A show that’s not “CSI” or “Grey’s Anatomy” proclaims it has a chance on Thursday nights
  • A critic asks for a plot spoiler that no cast or crew member would ever reveal (“You guys gonna get recaptured?”)
  • A critic fixates on a minor part of the plot (“Why does the car only have an AM radio?”) Someone asks something that could be easily Googled (“What is krumping?”)