Veteran producer George Schlatter.

The finger of fate was never fickle to George Schlatter

Award-winning producer-writer-director George Schlatter is a kind of P.T. Barnum of the small screen.

An innovative showman, the 81-year-old Schlatter turned the comedy genre on its head with the hip, groundbreaking series "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" (1968-73) and helped usher in the reality show format with "Real People" (1979-84)

But that's not all, folks. He also created the "American Comedy Awards," produced countless TV specials, including "A Party for Richard Pryor" and "Sinatra: 80 Years My Way," and earned more than a few honors for his work, including Emmys and Golden Globes.

PHOTOS: Behind-the-scenes Classic Hollywood

He was buds with the Rat Pack. He made stars out of unknowns Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin and was fired from "The Judy Garland Show" after five episodes because he and CBS disagreed about his vision for the variety series.

He broke down color barriers. In fact, Schlatter, who was once a white greeter at an African American club in Los Angeles, insisted in the...

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Whoopi Goldberg and Ving Rhames star in "A Day Late and a Dollar Short."

Review: 'A Day Late and a Dollar Short' gets short shrift on Lifetime

In this age of try-anything television, it's difficult to understand why Lifetime chose to cram the Terry McMillan novel "A Day Late and a Dollar Short" into a single made-for-TV movie.

Rich with plot and pathos that address difficult issues, including addiction and sexual abuse, the story could easily have sustained an abbreviated miniseries or two-part "special event."

As a movie, however, it just wastes the considerable talents of its cast by force-feeding the audience a hard-to-swallow meal that is by turns bitter and treacly.

PHOTOS: Behind the scenes of movies and TV

When longtime smoker Viola Price (Whoopi Goldberg) is told her next asthma attack may be her last, she takes a hard look at her contentious and troubled family and decides to do what she can to fix things. Heaven knows, she has her work cut out for her. Her husband Cecil (Ving Rhames) has left her and her son Lewis (Mekhi Phifer) is homeless, out of work and owes back child support. One daughter, Paris (Anika Noni...

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Janet Montgomery, left, and Ashley Madekwe star in WGN America's new series, "Salem."

Review: The witches of 'Salem' can't cast a spell

It seems strange to recall that just a few years ago, the scripted drama was on a death watch. Threatened by premium cable, falling ratings, reality television and the omnipotent menace of "the Internet," the hourlong nighttime drama seemed on the way of the variety show.

Now, of course, everyone with a network is seeking to rebrand itself with some highly produced historical drama or another.

"Salem," which debuts Sunday, is Tribune-owned WGN America's maiden voyage into the roiling waters of scripted drama. (Tribune also owns the Los Angeles Times.) Although there is some beauty in the brightwork (fabulous sets, ditto costumes), it is a motley vessel. She may stay afloat, but she is not yar. Revisiting the Salem witch trials, "Salem" is a hybrid of period detail and horror that seems overinfluenced by trendwatching and faith in the power and elasticity of Comic-Con.

PHOTOS: Faces to watch 2014 | TV

Return with us, if you will, to a time when dour Puritans belched threats of brimstone...

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Tatiana Maslany, as Sarah, top, and as her clone Rachel in BBC America's "Orphan Black."

Review: 'Orphan Black' turns out to be many times better than expected

"Orphan Black," which returns for its second season on BBC America on Saturday, is proof positive that you can't judge a show by its concept.

Before it debuted last year, it was easily dismissed. It was a show about clones, for heaven's sake. Not suspended in high-tech perpetual pre-harvest animation, or sequestered on an island with Michael Bay or conjured by the master of High Brit mournfulness Kazo Ishiguro.

These clones were a bunch of ordinary women running around modern-day Toronto (Toronto!) discovering each other and their origins even as forces evil and manipulative attempted to capture and/or kill them. And they were all played by a single actress who, quite frankly, no one had ever heard of.

Well, we've heard of her now.

RELATED: 'Orphan Black's' Tatiana Maslany is no longer just faces in the crowd

Tatiana Maslany, the star of "Orphan Black," may have an even bigger and more devoted fan following than her show, and that's saying something. Though many critics, including...

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Charlton Heston stars in the 1956 biblical epic "The Ten Commandments" on ABC. With Anne Baxter.

Saturday TV Highlights and Weekend Talk: 'The Ten Commandments'

Customized TV Listings are available here: www.latimes.com/tvtimes

Click here to download TV listings for the week of April 20 - 26, 2014 in PDF format

This week's TV Movies



SERIES

Orphan Black Tatiana Maslany stars as Sarah Manning, and her numerous clones in this science-fiction series returning for a new season. Kristian Bruun and Jordan Gavaris also star. 9 p.m. BBC America

The Real History of Science Fiction This new series delves into our fascination with sci-fi. Participants include William Shatner, Nathan Fillion, Richard Dreyfuss Chris Carter ("The X-Files") and more. 10 p.m. BBC America

SPECIALS

Billy Crystal 700 Sundays In his Broadway show, the comic discusses childhood memories, the unexpected death of his father, and becoming a comedian. 9 p.m. HBO

MOVIES

The Ten CommandmentsMoses (Charlton Heston) discovers his Hebrew heritage, hears God's call, and engages in a bitter battle with the Pharaoh Ramses (Yul Brynner) to free the Jews from slavery, leading them to the...

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A couple in love have never met in ABC's "In My Dreams." With Katharine McPhee.

TV This Week April 20 -26: 'In My Dreams' on ABC

Customized TV Listings are available here: www.latimes.com/tvtimes

Click here to download TV listings for the week of April 20 - 26, 2014 in PDF format

This week's TV Movies



SUNDAY

Which witch is which? That's the tricky part in the "Salem" of 1692 in this new supernatural drama. With Xander Berkeley and Shane West. 7 p.m. WGN America

Please, Mr. Postman: "Ugly Betty's" Eric Mabius stars in "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," a new drama from the creator of "Touched By an Angel." 8 p.m. Hallmark Channel

"American Idol's" Katharine McPhee stars "In My Dreams." Well, not my dreams, per se, but rather this new made-for-TV romance. 9 p.m. ABC

The standup special "Tracy Morgan: Bona Fide" has the former "30 Rock"-er cutting up in front of a hometown crowd in Brooklyn. 10 p.m. Comedy Central

"Devious Maids" still don't do windows when this nighttime soap returns with new episodes. With Ana Ortiz, Roselyn Sánchez and Judy Reyes. 10 p.m. Lifetime

"Filthy Riches" are yours for the taking, if you...

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This May 23, 2012 file photo shows Laura Spencer on ABC's "Good Morning America" show, in New York. ABC says it has promoted Lara Spencer to co-host status on "Good Morning America."

Lara Spencer promoted to co-host on 'Good Morning America'

Friday brought some good news for "Good Morning America's" Lara Spencer: The lifestyle anchor has been promoted to co-host along with Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos

The announcement was made via email by newly appointed ABC News President James Goldston, who praised Spencer's "style, humor, sunny confidence, wonderful journalism and storytelling."

"Lara is clearly an essential ingredient in the success we have enjoyed," he said. 

PHOTOS: Behind the scenes of movies and TV

Spencer joined "Good Morning America" three years ago after seven seasons hosting the syndicated entertainment magazine show "The Insider." Prior to that, she was a correspondent on "GMA."

Earlier this week, Michael Strahan made his debut as a part-time co-host on "GMA." The "Live!" co-host recently signed a deal to make several visits a week to the show. 

This week is a big one for "GMA," marking two years since it overtook NBC's "Today" in the ratings, breaking what had been a 16-year winning streak. 

AL...

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Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and Hound (Rory McCann) in "Game of Thrones."

Relationships finally get more complicated on TV

Humans are hard-wired to seek symmetry, and nowhere is that more obvious than on TV.

From the days of "The Honeymooners" onward, most everything there boils down to pairs. In recent years these have come in three basic varieties: romance, bromance and BFFs. Two people forced to work/live/parent together battle their way through their differences until they become best buddies. A man and a woman bicker and bait each other until they fall in love. Friendships of youth are tested by the twists of time and maturity but invariably prove unbreakable.

Ensembles exist, but their ranks are inevitably defined by courtship — the female bonds of "Grey's Anatomy," the Jane Austen-approved ending of "How I Met Your Mother." "Modern Family's" convention flouting did not extend to including a singleton sibling, and even the alpha-male posturing of "True Detective" ended, in "Casablanca" fashion, with love conquering all and the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

TV PREVIEW: Full coverage of...

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Joe Morton and Kerry Washington in a scene from "Scandal."

'Scandal' recap: Olivia flies off into the sunset... for now

In Thursday’s “Scandal” season finale, Olivia finally seizes the opportunity to stand in the sun, boarding a plane bound for who-knows-where with Jake at her side, if not exactly in her heart. After the death of little Jerry, the bombing at Sen. Hightower’s funeral and her own father’s stabbing, Olivia decides that she is the real scandal, the common denominator in all the misfortune around her.

What Olivia doesn’t know is that by leaving, she won’t be making things better, she’s removing the last obstacle standing in the way of the person who’s truly the problem -- dear old Dad. It’s essentially a replay of her sabotage of B613 two weeks ago, which she thought would solve all her problems but only ended up putting Fitz’s life in danger. It used to be there wasn’t a single crisis Olivia Pope didn’t know how to manage, but now it seems every step our heroine takes has unintentionally devastating consequences....

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Dexter Roberts.

'American Idol' recap: Dexter Roberts' luck runs out

Doing the tried-and-true down-home country-anthem thang week after week carried Dexter Roberts pretty far this season on "American Idol," but not, alas, all the way to the end.

The good old boy from Alabama, who may have been as passionate about duck hunting and dog training as he was about singing, finally wore out his welcome with "Idol" voters. On Thursday night's results show (which included a peculiar cameo appearance by Kevin Bacon, who for some reason kicked off the show), they sent him back to the farm, just shy of reaching the top six.

Roberts had been a steady, if unspectacular, singer all season long, performing country ballads and boot-stompers solidly, simply and sometimes with admirable heart. His performance of "Lucky Man," which he originally sang some weeks back and reprisedThursday after learning he'd be leaving the show, had been among his best turns onstage, and then, as now, he seemed to believe every word of it. Lucky he was, though not quite lucky enough to have...

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Marc Petrocci flies in "Peter Pan From the Milwaukee Ballet" on KOCE.

Friday's TV Highlights: 'Peter Pan From the Milwaukee Ballet' on KOCE

Customized TV Listings are available here: www.latimes.com/tvtimes

Click here to download TV listings for the week of April 13 - 19, 2014 in PDF format

This week's TV Movies


SERIES

Unforgettable The murder of a defense attorney sends Carrie and Al (Poppy Montgomery, Dylan Walsh) on the hunt for a recent parolee who may have more scores to settle. Jane Curtin, Dallas Roberts, Tawny Cypress and James Hiroyuki Liao also star in this new episode. 8 p.m. CBS

Hart of Dixie Lemon and Zoe (Jaime King, Rachel Bilson) turn to each other for advice, while text messages from Vivian's (Lauren Bittner) ex-husband disturb Wade (Wilson Bethel), who's planned a night out with her. Tim Matheson also stars in this new episode. 9 p.m. KTLA

The Writers' Room The series returns with a visit with the creative team behind the hit show "Scandal." 9 p.m. Sundance

Blue Bloods A famous movie star (Marc Blucas), who researched a role by shadowing Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) is a stabbing victim of a stabbing in...

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