In early 2003, when most news organizations pulled their people out of Iraq before the war began, American freelance journalist Richard Engel stayed. He eventually signed on with NBC News and has been reporting on the violence and occasional progress there ever since. His documentary, War Zone Diary, which premieres March 21 at 10 pm/ET on MSNBC, provides a jarring and grim inside look at life on the ground in Baghdad. It also includes portions of a highly personal video diary that Engel kept during his four years there. The Biz talked with Engel during his recent U.S. visit to find out how he's holding up.
TVGuide.com: When you're in Baghdad, I imagine you have the sense that it's the most important place in the world right now. Then you get here, and, to be kind, the public has a certain level of avoidance about the subject.
Richard Engel: That was surprising to me. On this trip
Andy Richter and Conan O'Brien
In an unbridled side-by-side Q&A, Andy Barker, P.I. star Andy Richter and series cocreator Conan O'Brien riff on their new NBC sitcom (premiering tonight at 9:30 pm/ET), Britney Spears jokes and the future of Late Night.
TV Guide: In Andy Barker, P.I., Andy plays an accountant who accidentally becomes a detective. As your company developed it with NBC, Conan, how did you keep it so funny?
Conan O'Brien: We really like it, which is usually a bad sign. One of the things that was nice about this project is that I've always thought it's such a crapshoot to make a good television show. So many
Star Jones Reynolds
Star Jones Reynolds is returning to her roots. Sixteen years after first transforming herself from an assistant district attorney into a legal analyst on Court TV, she's now coming back to the cable channel that will have a new name next year. Reynolds will host her own live daily talk show starting later this year. She'll also serve as executive editor and help shape the channel's daytime programming. The Biz recently talked to Reynolds about her new job, her new look and whether she's heard from her old pals at The View.
TVGuide.com: What's your vision for the new show?
Reynolds: Sort of a mixture of news and information as it relates to the law, pop culture and entertainment. It's sort of the dream job for me to be able to pull all of my expertise from being a prosecutor into the same pot with some of t
Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News
There was a change at the top at NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams last week when Alex Wallace replaced John Reiss as executive producer. Wallace, a vice president at NBC News and a former Weekend Today producer, comes in just as Nightly News is in its toughest ratings position since Williams took over for Tom Brokaw at the end of 2004. In this past February-sweeps period, ABC World News with Charles Gibson scored its first across-the-board ratings win (in total viewers and in the ad-friendly demo of news watchers aged 25 to 54) since 1996. The Biz talked to Wallace about the challenges she's facing and the decision to send Williams to Iraq, making him the first evening-news anchor to travel into the war zone since ABC
Law & Order
The networks have started working on new fall series, which means pink slips are coming for some of your old favorites. Here's what could be on the chopping block.
Did you ever imagine the day when Law & Order would be canceled? We're not saying it's going to happen — it probably won't. But costs on the show have risen while its ratings have dropped, which means its renewal is no longer automatic every year. NBC's other middling crime dramas — Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Crossing Jordan and Medium — are more vulnerable. The network has also yet to decide on another season for The Apprentice
War hasn't been hell for Keith Olbermann. As President Bush's poll ratings have declined in response to his handling of the Iraq situation, the ratings for Olbermann's nightly MSNBC newscast Countdown have shot up. The irreverent anchor recently signed on to front the cable news channel's most-watched show for another four years. NBC News sweetened the pot by giving him occasional essays on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and two prime time specials each year on the big network. The Biz asked Olbermann to reflect on his recent success and his new deal.
TVGuide.com: Countdown's ratings have built a lot over the year. Do you think it had something to with MSNBC finally sticking with a show for more than a few months
Why should liberals have all the laughs? On Feb. 18, Fox News Channel is looking to get a few younger viewers into its tent with The 1/2 Hour News Hour at 10 pm/ET. It's a satirical news program akin to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, but will aim more of its shots at the left side of the political spectrum. It repeats on Feb. 25 and a second episode airs on Mar. 4, before FNC decides whether to make a weekly series. The show was developed by Joel Surnow, cocreator and executive producer of 24 and a self-described "right-wing nut job." The Biz talked to him and his fellow 24 executive producer Manny Coto about their new project and the recent heat over Jack Bauer's torture methods.
Skeet Ulrich and Ashley Scott, Jericho
What do the Morse-code messages say? Is Hawkins a hero or a villain? As the Feb. 21 return of CBS' Jericho nears, TV Guide has the inside scoop on these bombshells — and more!
Are we ever going to get outside of Jericho and really see what happened?
You'll get a lot of answers in the first new episode of the year (airing next Wednesday), which shows events that happened 36 hours before the bombs were dropped — if they were actually "dropped." But in the future, the show will only follow peripatetic lead character Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich) and other Jericho residents. "We're trying to tell the story from the point of view of the people in this town," says executive producer Jon Turteltaub. "So we're not g
Zac Efron and Vanessa Anne Hudgens, High School Musical
Before a single frame has been shot for the sequel to the Disney Channel's megahit TV-movie High School Musical, plans are already under way for a third film. But this one will be for the big screen.
Disney has announced plans to have the yet-to-be-titled second sequel premiere in movie theaters by the fourth quarter of 2008. The release will be timed for Halloween and have a story set in a haunted high school, Disney Channel chief Rich Ross told the Biz.
"The bigness of the idea we're working on would require a budget that would far outstrip what we've spent on other Disney Channel movies," said Ross, citing the reason for going the theatrical route first.
Ross said the cast has been alerted of plans to go ahead with a third High School Musical, but none have been signed as of yet. They will all reprise their roles in High School Musical 2, which begins production
This week Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been out touting the new Windows Vista operating system, which, among many other things, makes it easier to watch Internet video on your TV set. Does this mean the old way of watching TV is on the way out? The Biz got a chance to ask him just that during a stop on his whirlwind tour.
TVGuide.com: Do you think the days of showing up at 8 or 9 o'clock to watch something like 24 will soon be gone?
Bill Gates: No, I don't. I think there'll be less of it. Some of the big, breaking things everybody will want to watch together. The Super Bowl is on at one time, and everybody the next day wants to make their comments about it. So it's not that we throw out the old completely. We just get rid of some of the rigidity it's had. When the elections are on, you'll want to be able to pick the candidates and issues you care about and follow them a little bit interactively. I think the Olympics are a great example of something that