J.J. Abrams to refocus on small screen

A look at some of the highlights as the TV industry unveils its upcoming shows to the entertainment press at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa in Pasadena:

"Six Degrees" is a new ABC drama about connections, and on Tuesday, ABC President of Entertainment Steve McPherson told the entertainment press that he and one of its executive producers, J.J. Abrams, have "a special connection."

J.J. Abrams is a name you might recognize as the wunderkind who created "Felicity," "Alias" and "Lost," and also directed "Mission: Impossible III." Last week, he also became one of the industry's most highly paid auteurs, landing a five-year movie deal with Paramount and a six-year TV pact with Warner Bros. that will reportedly yield him about $68 million.

Abrams was so busy last year directing his first feature film, starring Tom Cruise, that he left the running of "Lost" to co-creator Damon Lindelof and executive producer Carlton Cuse. On Tuesday, McPherson said he is happy that Abrams will be back on his network this season, focusing all his attention on "Lost," "What About Brian" and "Six Degrees."

"J.J. is a friend of mine," McPherson said. "He's going to be full-time on the shows this year and not developing."

But Abrams's full-time gig apparently doesn't include appearing on panels.

During the press conference for "Six Degrees," a drama whose promotional materials bill Abrams as its first executive producer, Hollywood's new golden boy was, well, lost.

-- Maria Elena Fernandez


Tense moments at 'Gilmore Girls'

When it comes to tension and gritted teeth at this summer press tour, you could hardly do better than the panel discussion of "The Gilmore Girls," which is returning this fall on the CW.

The series' creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, left the series under less than perfect circumstances, handing the series over to executive producer David S. Rosenthal. He appeared Monday along with stars Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel.

Graham at times appeared awkward as she attempted diplomatic replies to questions about some of her character's out-of-character actions during the last season. (Fans had complained that Graham's normally courageous Lorelai had behaved atypically when she let her boyfriend Luke mistreat her.) She also seemed uncomfortable when asked about her earlier statements about wanting to leave the series.

But the high -- or rather low -- point came when one scribe asked Rosenthal about his reported "obsession" with supermodel Heidi Klum. A New York Observer piece in 2001 reported that Rosenthal the previous year had left his wife, become estranged from his colleagues and written a play that indicated his fixation on Klum. The reporter asked Rosenthal if he was really the appropriate person to run the lighthearted, family-oriented "Gilmore Girls."

"My personal life is not an issue here," Rosenthal replied with a shaken voice. "I'm here to talk about 'The Gilmore Girls.' "

When the reporter pressed, Graham snapped, "That has nothing to do with anything. Next."

-- Greg Braxton


One 'Sister' steps a bit off the path

Almost every day, viewers can see Tia Mowry on the Disney Channel in reruns of "Sister, Sister," the sitcom she starred in for six years with her twin sister, Tamera, in which they played goody-two-shoes twins.

And on some days, viewers can also catch the Mowry twins on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, talking about their love of God and their Christian values.

But this fall, viewers will see another side of Tia Mowry, playing a young woman who is living with her football-player boyfriend. In the CW's new comedy "The Game," Mowry has premarital sex and expresses herself at times with rather un-Christian words.

"I call my character 'the Real Tia,' " the 27-year-old Mowry said with a giggle Monday after a panel discussion of her show. A spinoff of "Girlfriends," the series revolves around three women who bond over the fact that their men are all on a football team.

Mowry, who has blossomed from the somewhat gawky actress featured in "Sister, Sister," says that although she does not identify with her character's lifestyle, they have plenty in common. "She's independent, very smart and very supportive of her man," she said.

She adds that she is not bothered by the sexual aspects of the role. "I'm still a role model and this is not going too far off the deep end," she says. "I've turned down roles where they wanted me to take off my clothes. No way. I won't smoke weed. But in the Bible, there are many people who have fallen short in the glory of God. I don't see what this character does as a negative. Tamera and I were young Christian kids, and now we're young Christian women. There are temptations out there. We're not saints."

Largely due to "Sister, Sister," Mowry says it was a struggle initially to win the role. "Some people were hesitant. I'm not the little girl I used to be." (Still, there are limits to what she will do. "You won't see me in just a bra," she said.) She and her sister are continuing to counsel young people about abstinence and education. "It's very important for us be doers," she says.

-- Greg Braxton

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