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The WB

By RD Heldenfels Published: July 22, 2005

After posting that item about ''Love, Inc.'' last night, I caught up on my writing for the print Beacon Journal. You'll find a column in Saturday's paper about T-Boz and Chilli, a couple of Sunday pieces on ''Over There'' and a Monday column elaborating on the ''Love, Inc.''/Shannen/Busy situation.

Squeezed in some sleep, too, before facing a day with The WB. This is not a delight, especially after days of CBS/UPN sessions that ran smoothly.

The WB consistently manages not to run on time, to mismanage sessions (notably by not knowing when to cut off ones that have run out of steam) and to fill empty seats with applauding sycophants. (At one point, I was in the same row as the wife of a WB series producer. She laughed -- loudly -- at his every utterance. He was funny, but not that funny.) The network also tends to see press conferences as a way to kiss up to the networks' stars, even if that delays the Q&A. I gave up for the day when a session about ''7th Heaven'' hadn't even started at the time it was supposed to be over.

(On the good side, The WB did not cover the walls of the meeting rooms with large pictures of its young stars, since I then waste a lot of time trying to tell them apart. And I liked the graphics for its sessions. which had slashing lettering and splashes of color that resembled the work of Ralph Steadman.)

Adding to the time delays were some very lame stunts, including an unfunny appearance by Richard from ''Beauty & The Geek.'' Rebecca Romjin, who has a mid-season series on The WB, stopped by just long enough to plug it. As in: ''I'm off to Vancover to shoot 'X-Men 3.' And as soon as I'm done with that, I can't wait to get back here and work on this (series) and I can't wait to come back here in January to discuss it with you guys.''


But Romjin was trounced in the insincere-rhetoric sweepstakes by Marta Kauffman, the former ''Friends'' producer now working on ''Related,'' an hour-long series for The WB.

Well, eventually working on it. Kauffman joined the press tour via satellite from vacation in Milan. (Well, you knew those ''Friends'' people got paid well, didn't you?)

She proceeded to deliver a stunningly dull monologue about the show, punctuated by her descriptions of its four female stars. As follows:

''The incredibly beautiful and amazingly talented Jennifer Esposito.''

''The equally beautiful and stunningly talented Kiele Sanchez.''

''The, yes, beautiful and yes, talented and edgy and wonderful Lizzy Caplan.''

''The young and, of course, beautiful and talented newcomer Laura Breckenridge.''

More entertaining was ''Smallville's'' Tom Welling, who brought a nice air of irreverence to his appearance talking about some changes on the show next season.

Among them: James Marsters -- the beloved Spike from ''Buffy/Angel'' -- will play Brainiac on the series for several episodes. And Tom Wopat will reunite with his old ''Dukes of Hazzard'' co-star John Schneider, who plays Jonathan Kent on '"Smallville''; Wopat will be play a state senator and old friend of Jonathan.

Also, apparently, Aquaman will appear on the show. This brought amusement from the ''Entourage'' fans in the audience (since that HBO show has an ongoing story about an ''Aquaman'' movie) -- amusement that confused Welling.

Welling did say that ''Smallville's'' Aquaman will be dating Lois Lane (Erica Durance). And Durance, Welling said, ''is terrified of the water. ... She's playing a character who's in love with, well, a guy who can't live outside of the water. So that will be interesting on set.''

But the biggest news of the day, which sent several critics off to file obits, was the demise of Michigan J. Frog, long the emblem of The WB.

''In my opinion, the frog is dead and buried,'' said WB Chairman Garth Ancier.

There was even a serious reason for doing it. The WB is trying to redefine itself more toward young adults and less toward teens and kids. ''There have been so many successful (WB) shows set in high school that have been successful ... that contributed to the feeling that we were really a teenage service,'' said WB Entertainment President David Janollari.The frog, he said, ''perpetuated the young teen feel of the network, and that is not the image we want to put out to our audience.''

This led, as expected to other jokes and questions, including whether Ancier -- a former NBC executive -- would have killed the NBC peacock, too. No, he said, since the peacock ''is a true American icon.''

I expect Marta Kauffman to apply that phrase to her stars any day now.

More laughs came courtesy of WB Communications Director Keith Marder, The Official Funnyman of The Press Tour. A former TV critic, Marder has become a tour tradition with remarks opening the press tour. Highlights from this year:

-- ''I always knew Tom Cruise would end up with someone from 'Dawson's Creek.' I just thought it would be James Van Der Beek.''

'-- 'Katie Holmes, though, she looks in love to me. If she was this good an actress on 'Dawson's Creek,' she would have won an Emmy.''

-- '"The Shannen Doherty update: It's gotten to the point that Shannen's no longer good enough to even keep a job on UPN. On top of that, I heard she was a victim of identity theft -- and they returned it.''

-- Seems like the theme of tihs year's (show) development was scary stuff. We have 'Supernatural.' ABC has 'Nightstalker.' NBC had its upfront.''

-- ''I think the best part of Kirstie Alley's show 'Fat Actress' was its tltle. You knew exactly what you were getting. .. In retrospect, we should have named 'The Starlet' 'Bad Actress.' Or we could have named it after Faye Dunaway: 'Desperate Actress.' ... Or name it in honor of how many people watched it: '24.' ''

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