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'GMA's' Robin Roberts launches production company

Robin Roberts attends CoachArt's 9th Annual Gala Of

(Credit: Getty Images)

In the spirit of ... well, in the spirit of Al Roker, who immediately comes to mind ... Robin Roberts announced on "GMA" a little while ago that she too will take the plunge into the independent production world, as a producer — even noting that she will create a reality pilot with her fashion stylist, Diandre. 

(Finding out which shows — other than "In the Game with Robin Roberts," which...

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Viola Davis back on TV in ABC's 'How to Get Away with Murder'

Viola Davis arrives on the red carpet for

(Credit: AP / Jordan Strauss)

Beverly Hills: Two-time Oscar nominee Viola Davis will mark her return to TV this fall with a starring role in ABC's "How to Get Away with Murder." Or let's make that THE starring role, which is about to catapult her into rarefied company, as only the third African-American female lead on a major broadcast drama - the others, of course, are Kerry Washington, who just picked up another Emmy nod last week for "Scandal," and Halle Berry in CBS's new summer hit, "Extant."

Some perspective on this. Before "Scandal," the last time there was a black female lead on a primetime show was back in the mid-'70s, when Teresa Graves starred in the the long-forgotten "Get Christie Love!" Soon there will be three, and TV, and culture, will change ever so perceptibly. Or, in fact, maybe it already has...

Davis Tuesday met the assembled TV press here to explain the role, and why she chose it. But the woman who put here there,  Shonda Rhimes -- overseer of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal" -- first got the black-female-lead question, and dismissed it out of hand. Rhimes doesn't much like critics and doesn't much like their questions -- too many years of "Grey" bashing maybe? -- or maybe she just doesn't even think it merits attention: Let the show and material speak for themselves!

 But she was in no mood Tuesday to explore the Sociological Significance of it All: "There are no lessons" to be drawn,she said flatly. "I feel like the shows should speak for themselves." And so they should, but still...television hasn't always been known for breaking glass ceiling, and this particular one just got shattered.

That's just one reason why so much seems to be riding on this ABC mystery/thriller about a law professor and the students who may -- or may not -- abet her in the commission of a murder. The show will be written by a veteran writer on "Grey's," Peter Nowalk. And the other is Rhimes,  who will soon have three dramas on ABC. She has been called the new Aaron Spelling of the network -- or the black female one, in any case. (Rhimes Tuesday downplayed that too. "I'm feeling like I'm getting to go to work every day," but conceded that "It's exciting and a great vote of confidence fro ABC.")

Meanwhile, Davis, who plays lead Prof. Annalise Keating, was a bit more expansive on her reasons for being here: "The attraction was the material, yes. I think the day of choosing TV over film and TV somehow diminishing your career as an actor or actress, I think, has changed. I think people migrate towards material, especially after they reach a certain age, certain hue, certain sex.

"And I have to say, and I will be bold enough to say, that I have gotten so many wonderful film roles, but I’ve gotten even more film roles where I haven’t been the show. It’s like I’ve been invited to a really fabulous party, only to hold up the wall. I wanted to be the show. I wanted to have a character that kind of took me out of my comfort zone. And that character happened to be in a Shonda Rhimes show in “How to Get Away with Murder.” And so I did the only smart thing that any sensible actress would do, and I took it. I dove at it. And I love the fact that she’s messy and mysterious and you don’t know who she is. She’s not necessarily nurturing and “Come sit on my lap so I can talk to you, baby.”

Is the show actually any good? It is certainly promising (and intriguing) and I'll get into more detail about that later. But Davis is particularly good. This newcomer and its lead -- to use the old line -- appear to have legs.

 ABC, by the way, announced yesterday that "Murder" will launch Sept. 25.

Diane Sawyer stepping down from 'World News' in September

ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer taping a

(Credit: AP / ABC, Ida Mae Astute)

Diane Sawyer, one of the driving forces in network news of the last quarter-century and only the second solo female anchor for an evening news broadcast, will step down from ABC's "World News" in September, ABC announced Wednesday morning. 

She will be replaced by David Muir, "World News" anchor for the weekend telecasts.

Here's the statement from ABC News chief James Goldston: 


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'Rising Star' premiere: Good for Long Island's Jesse Kinch, but is new ABC singing show too gimicky to last?

Jesse Kinch, of Seaford, among contestants on ABC's

(Credit: ABC / Craig Sjodin)

The "Star" has risen -- ABC's "Rising Star," the network's big, brassy, gimmicky answer to "The Voice" and "Idol" -- and predicated on the simple notion that those cellphones in your pocket don't do enough already.

How was it? (Results here.)

The vox populis have yet to speak -- ABC's overnights which are promised shortly. But ABC does in fact expect bigness here: The idea of swiping...

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LI'er Jesse Kinch on ABC singing competition series, 'Rising Star'

Josh Groban, host of "Rising Star," after his

(Credit: Getty Images)

Under normal circumstances, another Long Islander on another unscripted TV series would not be the biggest news of the moment, but this may not be a normal circumstance, or moment: Long Islander Jesse Kinch, of Seaford, will be on Sunday's season premiere of ABC's "Rising Star" at 9. He'll compete against nine other individual singers and groups.

Here's more on Kinch, via ABC: "A full-time musician and singer, Jesse plays guitar, piano, bass and drums and also writes music. He counts many of rock’s greatest artists as his influences including John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Stevie Nicks, Bruce Springsteen and many more. If he wins he’d love to bring rock and roll to the masses. Twitter: @jessekinch; Instagram: jessekinch"

  ABC is clearly expecting a huge turnout Sunday for this: It's worked social media relentlessly, and the reception already would appear to be promising, insofar as "Rising Star" is engineered to the instant-gratification-web-sated-and-raised generation that may end up watching. "Star" asks that viewers download an app  that will enable them to swipe a vote in real time for a contestant. "Star" has indeed gotten much advance publicity - and has been noted in frequent recent stories that chronicled the struggles of singing competition series like "American Idol," wondering whether this is the Next Flavor or Just Another Flavor. We'll know by Monday morning. 

   Here's ABC's description in some detail:  

Josh Groban will host, and country music superstar Brad Paisley, music sensation Kesha and hip-hop artist and actor Ludacris comprise the expert panel on ABC’s “Rising Star,” the next evolution of live television. “Rising Star” completely reinvents the traditional singing competition as--for the first time ever--the audience has the final say in real time. The show follows a group of aspiring singers as they perform live. During the performances, viewers vote in real time via an app to determine if the singer will advance in the competition. If the voting reaches a certain threshold, the performer moves on.

'Dancing with the Stars,' season 18, and the winner is ...

U.S. Paralympic team snowboarder Amy Purdy and her

(Credit: ABC / Adam Taylor)

Every season I predict the winner of "Dancing with the Stars" on the morning of the finals -- that's right, I've got a life and I'm living it large -- but almost invariably manage to get it wrong. I'm proud of that record, a testament to the fact that I really don't have a clue what I'm talking about when I talk "DWTS," but also to the cleverness of producer Conrad Green and protean "DWTS" who and which still manage to find ways to pull off little surprises after all these seasons.

Of course there's no surprise to the three we find in the finalists' circle, with possibly the exception of Candace Cameron Bure. Of course this was all going to come down to Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Derek Hough and Amy Purdy. That was the plan all along and it succeeded well.

It's easy to dismiss this final as all glitter-ball showmanship -- an ending crafted long before it ever even got to this point. But I actually do think this is a special end, and that the winner will indeed be someone who defied the odds -- to use that old tired line -- and did it in a way that created a sense of wonder in those who witnessed and a sense of real joy, too. Maybe you can really do what you set out to do, even when that would seem, on the face of it, impossible. Maybe those odds can be defied, and the fates overruled, and . . . darn it, maybe that glitter ball trophy really does mean something after all.

Of course the winner has to be Amy Purdy. The winner must be Amy Purdy. The winner will be Amy Purdy.

This wasn't easy for her and it could not have been easy -- even with the always superlative multiple champion Hough by her side most of the season. (And if somehow you are not aware, she lost both lower legs to bacterial meningitis as a young girl, and dances on prosthetic legs.) But she did it all with unfailing grace and a seeming belief in the goal -- that winning is in fact not quite everything but the process in getting there certainly is.

Good for her and for Hough -- they have briefly restored my faith in a show that gets wheezier and geezier by the season. But every so often it does find a real champion worth crowning. This one, for example. Here's the freestyle again from last night.

WABC/7's Art McFarland to retire by month's end

And now this from the local TV news scene: Art McFarland, the longest tenured reporter at WABC/7's "Eyewitness News," is leaving the station May 30. It's all good, he says: Retirement and other opportunities beckon.

McFarland, 65, is certainly one of the best-known reporters on New York TV -- a long and steady presence at Channel 7, where the words "long and steady" have not always applied...

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Barbara Walters leaving 'The View' on May 16

Barbara Walters attends the Woman's Day 8th Red

(Credit: Getty Images)

After a 17-year run, Barbara Walters will step down from co-hosting duties on "The View" on May 16, but she stopped short -- far short -- of saying she was "retiring."

In fact, ABC News said Walters, 84, would remain with the network "for life," occasionally handling news assignments when warranted. She will remain on "The View" as executive producer with Bill Geddie, with whom she created...

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Josh Elliott uninvited to his own on-air 'Good Morning America' farewell

Josh Elliott, former co-host of ABC's "Good Morning

(Credit: ABC)

For evidence that there may be some lingering bitterness at ABC in the wake of Josh Elliott's departure from "Good Morning America" for NBC Sports, look no further than Thursday's edition of "Good Morning America" where the network bid goodbye to its former star -- without the former star being there.

I'm hearing he was never even invited -- an indication ABC is probably angered at the way this whole thing has shaken out. In a conference call with sports media reporters Wednesday, Elliott said his move was a.) Not about the money nor b.) Had nothing with his relationship with ABC News chief, Ben Sherwood, whom he "loved" and so forth.

However . . . ABC, which offered him a reported $3-5 million to stay (versus the $2-3 million reported deal at NBC), may be feeling burned for a host of reasons. Foremost, even if Elliott never even sets foot inside Studio 1A -- as the potential successor to Matt Lauer, as industry chatter would have it -- he's suddenly put "GMA" in an awkward position. ABC was forced to scramble for a male replacement, surprising everyone, including the likely replacement himself, Michael Strahan. (Amy Robach will be the new news anchor; Strahan's role remains undefined at this point.)

Plus, as I've noted before, this confuses succession plans at ABC. George Stephanopoulos isn't going to be there forever -- hey, no one is going to be anywhere forever, except maybe Robin Roberts who now has a long-term deal and is absolutely vital to the ongoing success of this franchise. It had to have occurred to someone that Elliott might be a reasonable candidate for the job one of these days . . . Remember that in morning TV, successions don't happen over night, but usually take years.

More industry gossip: That Elliott hated the early, early mornings, and the hours, so maybe he had other ideas.

ABC declined to comment for this post, and Elliott could not be reached for comment.





Michael Strahan to join 'Good Morning America,' remain on 'Live with Kelly and Michael'

Michael Strahan, co-host of "Live with Kelly and

(Credit: AP / Evan Agostini)

Michael Strahan -- forever and affectionately No. 92 -- is about to get a closer close-up: He's joining "Good Morning America." 

Meanwhile, Strahan just indicated on the air that the "GMA" move will happen but not as an "every day thing...Gotta be smart about it." He also said "Live" remains "my home...This is great. I'm not sore after the show. We'll see what happens but this is my number one priority."

Trade reports Tuesday said Strahan is a "done" deal -- which I have confirmed -- and that he will be joining the "family" later this week. ABC has declined comment (officially) and is doubtless trying to cobble together answers to all the questions:

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How will he do this as well as "Live with Kelly and Michael," which he will remain a part of and which is live at exactly 9 a.m., or about one second after "GMA" wraps?

What happens when the NFL season rolls around again, and his services are required at Fox as an analyst? 

Is this one of those reflexive moves designed to quell any annoying questions about the loss of Josh Elliott and how the "family" of "GMA" is really not a " family" but just a group of squabbling rich people who want to get richer now that "GMA" is No. 1? 

You know: Those kinds of questions. 

Fact is, Strahan has been a success at "Live," and ABC is scrambling to do whatever it can to blunt NBC's Steinbrenner moves -- paying fortunes to people in an attempt to dismember the winning team. Meanwhile, the president of ABC News, Ben Sherwood, is about to become the president of the entire Disney empire; he does not want to leave a shattered "GMA" as his legacy. (And by the way, "shatter" is a highly unlikely scenario certainly in the foreseeable future: "GMA" remains a strong number one...)  

And that is how TV works, my friends ...

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