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Chuck Star Wants TV Power in Fan Hands

hollywoodexclusive1Zachary Levi reports that he and the rest of the team on NBC's "Chuck" will soon be wrapping up production on their 12th episode for this season, "then we'll break for Christmas, then come back for the last seven."

The actor knows whom to thank for that hefty order of shows — shows that are now being heavily promoted in advance of "Chuck's" Jan. 10 return, by the way. It's the fans who have taken campaigns to save the smart, fun series to unprecedented lengths. "I'm humbled," says Levi.

Still, as James Poniewozik of Time magazine noted when writing about the "Save 'Chuck'" phenomenon: "The sad fact of advertising-supported television is that, unlike cable, it still rewards breadth, not depth, of viewership. Four million people who watch a show really hard are still just four million people to an ad buyer."

Levi tells us, "I know the science of it, and I know the monetization of it, and you have to embrace that. Television is a conduit to sell advertising. I get that."

However, "The only shows that are getting big numbers nowadays are game shows and reality shows," says the actor. "There has to be a way that dedicated fans of shows like ours — shows that have a really strong mythology — can get what they want, too ... Hopefully, we'll get to a place where TV is more driven by the fans and less by overall ratings numbers. I have a couple of ideas. We're going into a brave new world of television and things are changing."

What ideas? "If everything went to more of an on-demand premise, where people would pay a dollar or two for an episode — obviously, people would have to get used to that, not getting television for free. But I know a lot of people who wouldn't think twice about spending 99 cents for a song on iTunes. To spend that kind of money, especially for a television show they really love, could work for them. It would put the power back in people's hands instead of relying on advertising dollars."

Agree or disagree, it's a conversation starter.

GOING DOWNHILL: Veteran actor and former "Eight is Enough" series star Dick Van Patten tells us he's been out to watch the English Bulldogs that have been specially trained to do a stunt on his Rose Parade float Jan. 1, and he likes what he sees. "Last year, we had English Bulldogs skateboarding around and around. We wondered how we could top that," he says. "This year, they're going to be sleigh-riding down a hill on the float. I've seen them riding downhill and they really love it. They really do."

Van Patten adds, "It will be the largest float to ever be in a parade. It's going to be interesting to see how it makes the turns."

Well, we won't want to miss that.

Van Patten, who says his Natural Balance dog food business is "doing very well," is going very strong in other areas, too. He just celebrated his 81st birthday and he's been married for 55 years. He's happy with the response to his recently released "Eighty is Not Enough" memoir that fondly recalls his career, including his popular 1977-1981 sitcom.

"I loved working on 'Eight is Enough.' I was a kid actor. I grew up on a TV show myself — 'I Remember Mama,' which started in 1949. So when I was working with eight kid actors, I knew what they were going through because I went through the same thing. We really got along well," he says. And he still keeps in touch with his one-time series brood.

ANOTHER GENERATION HEARD FROM: Some children choose to follow in the footsteps of their famous parents, but Kathleen Turner tells us her daughter, Rachel Ann Weiss, is creating her own path. "She's a musician. She's the lead guitarist and singer for her own band," Turner tells us. "I really do love their music. I think she's extraordinary and it's not just a mother talking. I have the ability to evaluate things professionally."

MAN ON THE MOVE: As if it weren't enough having three features out at almost the same time ("Up in the Air," "The Men Who Stare at Goats" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox"), George Clooney is also overseeing the "Delta Blues" TNT series pilot he's exec producing with Grant Heslov. Jason Lee is playing a Memphis police detective who moonlights as an Elvis impersonator and who is, post-divorce, living with his mom. Subsidiary roles are being cast. The character, named Tony LaSalle, has a new boss who is always second-guessing him — and a lot of female friends.

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


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