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Not-so-proud Peacock; Golfer gets guru'd; A moment for Maury

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Peacock: not quite proud yet, but feeling slightly better about itself....

Catching up on things after a jam-packed day of NBC interviews and preview screenings, followed by another celeb-filled network party atop yet another nearby parking garage....

NBC's top execs met the press on Friday, and expressed careful optimism about the direction the network is headed in after the disaster that was last year -- fueled mostly by the decision to move Jay Leno into a 9 p.m. weeknight slot and, of course, the public-relations implosion that followed when affiliates forced the cancellation of that show and the network decided to take The Tonight Show away from Conan O'Brien and give it back to Jay.

"We're trying to rebuild," said NBC Universal Television president Jeff Gaspin, "and we recognize some of the mistakes we've made over the past several years. We put a lot more money into development this year (and) we picked up quite a few series. We're taking more shots, certainly. We feel very good about the progress we've made during the past year."

Gaspin admitted that some of NBC's strategy -- cutting hours of prime-time scripted programming for budgetary reasons at a time when the network should have been giving viewers more, not less -- probably wasn't the right way to go.

"I think we made too many changes too quickly, from a position of weakness," he said, "so it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The goal is to rebuild, get stronger, and then if we need to make changes at that point, it will be several years down the line."

Along with a roster of rookie shows that includes the intricate speculative-fiction thriller The Event, the U.S.-marshals cop-action series Chase, the lighthearted spousal-spies caper Undercovers and the franchise-spinoff drama Law & Order: Los Angeles (affectionately known to TV insiders simply as LOLA), NBC also announced that 30 Rock will do a live episode this fall (Oct. 14), Rob Lowe will join Parks and Recreation as a series regular, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will have guest appearances by Henry Ian Cusick (Lost), Joan Cusack and Maria Bello.

The Office's Kevin: not so far below par after all

I had an intriguing chat with actor Brian Baumgartner, better known to TV fans as The Office's burly dimwit, Kevin, about a pretty cool side project he's been working on. Baumgartner, an avid golfer who made an appearance in the Ray-Romano-themed run of The Golf Channel's series The Haney Project, has his own celeb-seeks-swing-doctoring special, titled Golf Therapy: Life, Lessons and the Pursuit of Par, airing this Sunday at 2 p.m. on NBC.

In the special, Baumgartner confesses to his (fictional) therapist (played by The Hangover's Rachael Harris) that he's having nightmares about his upcoming appearance at the American Century Championship, an annual celebrity pro-am event in Lake Tahoe.

To help him overcome his anxiety, she sends Baumgartner (who actually carries an admirable 12 handicap) to see a series of high-profile athletes who offer him various physical and psychological tips to improve his tee-to-green game.

The roster of pro-sports "helpers" includes NFL stars Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Aaron Rodgers, NBA centre Pau Gasol, gold-medal gymnast Nastia Liukin, boxer Laila Ali, New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia and baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

"I'm a huge sports fan," Baumgartner said. "This was a very cool experience."

A moment for Maury

I witnessed a genuinely touching moment Friday night at NBC's star-stocked outdoor party -- Saskatchewan-born actress Kari Matchett (Power Play, 24), who co-stars in the new USA (cable) network series Covert Affairs, ran into veteran actor Bill Smitrovich (Life Goes On), who's a regular on the suspenseful new NBC drama The Event.

The two were eager to renew acquaintances, having worked together several years ago on the A&E series A Nero Wolfe Mystery, which starred Timothy Hutton and the late Maury Chaykin.

Before they got down to chatting about what's happening in their respective careers, the two performers shared a quiet embrace.

"A moment for Maury," Smitrovich said.


Stay tuned.

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About Brad Oswald

Way back when Brad Oswald was TV-inclined little kid, his exasperated mother used to say things like, "Would you PLEASE turn that thing off and go OUTSIDE and play? If you insist on watching that IDIOT box day after day after day, you will NEVER amount to ANYTHING in this world!"

Well, go figure.

Brad joined the Free Press in 1987 and has spent most of the last two decades getting paid to watch the television as the paper’s resident TV critic. In addition to previewing and reviewing all the latest prime-time shows and covering the local TV industry, he also usually spends a few weeks per year in L.A., interviewing TV stars and attending Big Phony Hollywood Parties.

Brad also writes about comedy and other assorted entertainment topics, and has been known to wander onto local stages try out his own standup material as part of an ongoing quest to satisfy his deep-rooted need for affirmation. He was the winner of Rumor’s Comedy Club’s first Funniest Person With a Day Job contest.

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Brad grew up in St. Vital, attended Dakota Collegiate and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba before enrolling in Red River College’s Creative Communications program. He played rugby for more than 20 years, which, quite frankly, amounts to a whole lot of blows to the unprotected noggin.

Despite that, during his two-decades-plus at the Free Press, he has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about television and other pop-culture topics, and would certainly not be the worst person to pick for your trivia-contest team.

For some reason, he firmly believes his Mom really would be proud of all this.

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