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FROM TV GUIDE: The Water Cooler

The West Wing

As a died-in the-wool Aaron Sorkin-ite, it's hard to watch The West Wing as beloved characters become dramatic lame ducks to make way for the Alda's and Smits' of the world. It's like breaking up with a girl you still hang around with: it's awkward and weird but there's always a chance you might end up friends. If not, well, maybe you can still get lucky occasionally. That end-of-an-era feeling pervaded tonight's season premiere, starting with the cheap theatrics of that flash-forward opening where we learn Danny and C.J. are married and Will's a congressman. Are you kidding me? Then to see Toby and C.J. cut the Santos campaign off at the knees on the education initiative and dismiss Josh out of hand. Ouch. And don't get me started on Josh giving Donna the beat down in a job interview. Heartbreaking.

Still, I'm beginning to believe that this new-look campaign-driven version of the show can work. Watching Santos give my boy Leo the business for 45 minutes is tough, but when he explains he needs to set the tone as his own man…well, I kinda buy it. Joey's polling data on Santos is right on the money: I do want to go get a beer with this guy. Besides, is it just me or does the show drag now when we're actually in the West Wing? The military shuttle investigation just doesn't have the oomph of a good old-fashioned MS scandal. And there's no way C.J. leaked it. No way.

At the end of the day, the question remains: Is The West Wing as good as used to be? As Annabeth tells Leo, if you don't like a question, reject the premise. So, here's my answer: I think this girl and I can still be friends and there's a good chance I just might get lucky this season.

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  • 1 month later...

Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, THE WATERCOOLER

The West Wing

So, let me get this straight. We have a pro-choice Republican presidential candidate taking on a pro-life Democrat and both are struggling to keep the election from going negative. As Kevin Costner said in JFK, "we're through the looking glass, people." Now, I don't mind that The West Wing engages in political wish fulfillment. Hell, that's why we all watch it, right? But, if real politics worked like this, even Al Franken and Bill O'Reilly wouldn't know who to hate. First, the Republican Vinick wants to keep abortion out of his campaign altogether. Then, the liberal Santos tells pro-choice lobbyists where to get off. Things get even stranger in that kitchen showdown when Vinick accepts Santos' debate challenge, on the spot, because they bump into each other backstage. What is this, the WWE? Let's just hope that next week's live "debate" is a real smackdown. The only thing harder to believe on tonight's episode is how Donna got work on the Santos campaign. Are we really to believe that no one, including big-time Democratic insider Lou, had ever heard of her before? After all, Donna Moss was only the assistant for six years to one of the biggest names on Capitol Hill, worked for Bingo Bob's campaign and, oh yeah, was blown up in an explosion that killed the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and set off an Israeli-Palestinian peace summit. I guess none of that was on MSNBC, which, in a shameless bit of Peacock cross-promotion, appears to be the only news network anyone in Washington watches. Not that there's any news to be had from the Bartlet Administration lately, unless you want to see poor Will trying to sell Eskimo anecdotes to an irate press corps.

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Courtesy of: AOL TELEVESION, TV TATTLER

Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits Dish on 'The West Wing' Live Debate

Nov. 1

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Study in Leadership Styles

A Tale of Two TV Presidents

(Alot of interactive stuff in this one so I am posting the link.)

http://articles.news.aol.com/tv/article.ad...9990048&cid=459

Don't forget the live debate this Sunday.

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, THE INSIDER

West Wing Livens Up Dead Debates

by Matt Webb Mitovich

When NBC's The West Wing presents its first-ever live broadcast on Sunday at 8 pm/ET, it will be an experiment not to see who might flub a line amid giggles and titters, but to shed light on the predictable pablum-dispensing exercises that presidential debates have become over the years, as candidates Congressman Matt Santos (played by Jimmy Smits) and Senator Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) make their strongest bids for the United States' highest office.

"It's very unusual in a [real] debate that a candidate is surprised by a question," notes West Wing executive producer John Wells. "They're usually very rehearsed. So we're planning to solicit questions via the Internet from people who are interested.

"We had a wonderful tradition in this country in which we had debates where [politicians] actually spoke," Wells adds. "[We hope that] people will watch it and [wonder] why we don't have that [candidness] in our government today."

Alan Alda, seldom shy about his own strong political views, says, "I hope the arguments get a chance to be as good as they can be, so that it's a genuine debate that cuts through some of the 'fog' of keeping your bases covered that you see [in real life]. One of the things I don't like about debates is that people act as if they know exactly what the answer is. Sometimes you don't."

Adds Jimmy Smits, "We're going to go out there with a little bit of a net, but riff a little bit, too."

But will the two actors actually believe in what they're saying? As Vinick, Alda

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, THE WATERCOOLER

The West Wing

When I first heard about this debate, I was a little skeptical. Between the parade of guest stars and the announcement of a live stunt, I thought this thing had a whiff of Will & Grace desperation stink. And while it didn't reach the level of President Bartlet's debate drubbing of Rob Ritchie a few seasons back, it was still pretty darn exciting to watch Bobby Simone and Hawkeye Pierce get it on without a net.

First off, did we need Ellen Degeneres playing host? I dig Ellen as much as the next guy (or girl), but she doesn't exactly ooze executive-branch gravitas. I was also kinda surprised they started with a backstage segment. I guess director Alex Graves really wanted to try his hand at a live West Wing walk-and-talk.

Wasn't Alan Alda's long opening pause great? For a minute, I thought he had lost it like Gen. Stockdale in the 1992 VP debate. Vinick's gambit to dump the debate rules turned out to be a stroke of genius. On this judge's scorecard, Vinick and Alda both scored knockouts. Politically, Vinick came off as sensible and passionate. From his line about putting all America's oil wells in ANWAR to his passionate dissection of African debt relief, conservative West Wing fans (both of them) can be pleased that the Republican viewpoint got its due. For his part, Santos scored on border control, prescription drugs ("Have you seen the price list, lately?") and, most importantly, reclaimed the liberal mantle with pride. Dramatically, I thought Alda was much more comfortable. No wonder this guy gets nominated for everything. Smits fumbled a few lines (at least in the East Coast broadcast) and seemed a little wooden. However, it's a testament to both actors that they created a real sense of tension and animosity. To see such polished politicos jumping on each others sentences and snipping at each others' heels created a sense of emotion and contention that, unfortunately, real debates so often lack.

I really thought this was going to be a coming out party for a Santos administration on The West Wing. In the end, Smits asks "Are you ready to give Matt Santos the presidency?" Not quite yet. Maybe the producers are going to keep us guessing, after all.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, THE WATERCOOLER

The West Wing

After nearly a month off, The West Wing returns. And so does our old pal Toby. I can't say it was a very joyous a reunion with Josh, though. Man, what's this guy so bitter about? He made his bed by leaking top-secret info to the Times and now he's got the cojones to lecture Josh about the merits of hubris and integrity? Pride goeth before, during and after the fall in Toby Zeigler's case. Josh was right to call him a "bastard," but he was also PO'd because Toby was on the money about the president's negative assessment of the Santos campaign. Of course, Bartlet's opinion was the least of the campaign's worries as they tried to deal with a racially charged shooting in L.A. After a disastrous trip to the young victim's home, Santos saved the day with a powerful speech, straight from his heart, at the funeral service. My only question was: Why didn't the writers give Jimmy Smits anything as good as that "We're tired" riff to say during November's live debate? It looks like Lou was correct: People don't want candidates to close their eyes and pray, we want them to open their eyes and lead.

Speaking of eyes, what in the holy hell is up with Janeane Garofalo's eyebrows?

Then there's poor Ellie. Planning a wedding's hard enough (my wife told me all about it), but planning a White House wedding looks nightmarish. All we had to worry about was which cousins to seat furthest from the bar, not whether our DJ might start an international incident by playing "Baby Got Back."

Final thought: Anybody else think it was odd that Kristin Chenoweth had more lines in her cheeseball Old Navy commercial than in the entire episode during which it aired?

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, THE WATERCOOLER

The West Wing

Alanis Morissette once told us it was ironic if it rained on your wedding day. So what is it when China and Russia get into an armed border dispute that could escalate into World War III on your wedding day? Well, pretty damn inconvenient, actually. All POTUS wanted to do was walk his little girl down the aisle and he wasn't about to let a couple of nuclear powers stop him. How cool was it when Bartlet asked the Chinese premier if he could hold his troops in Kazakhstan for an hour for the nuptials? No wonder the groom, Vic, was so intimidated to sit down with his future father-in-law. Hell, I was nervous to meet my future wife's dad and he sells industrial equipment. I can't imagine marrying into a family with their own Secret Service detail.

Usually the father of the bride has to deal with money issues, but it was the Santos campaign that was short on cash this week. Josh damn near lost his mind (and his job) trying to figure out where to best spend the remainder of the dwindling war chest. Even if he did screw up the campaign strategy in Illinois, I thought it was pretty disloyal of Santos to consider canning Josh, who was the only one who believed in a Matt Santos run to begin with. But what can you expect from a guy who doesn't know how to order or eat a cheese steak? As a Philly guy, he would have lost my vote right then and there. Never Whiz, never. Luckily, Leo was able to give Josh a much-needed pep talk and Santos an even more needed kick in the butt. Leo's right: It's up to him now.

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SPOILER...SPOILER...SPOILER

Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, ASK AUSIELLO

Question: Please give me some scoop on The West Wing.

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Saddened by the Death of John Spencer. Thought and Prayers go to his family, friends and co-workers.

See December Obits in Celebrities.

Edited by Dade
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'West Wing' Actor John Spencer

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John Spencer

LOS ANGELES, California - John Spencer, who played a tough and dedicated politico on "The West Wing" who survived a serious illness to run for vice president, died of a heart attack Friday, December 16. He was 58. Spencer died after being admitted to a Los Angeles hospital during the night, said his publicist Ron Hofmann. He was four days shy of his 59th birthday on Tuesday, December 20.

"John was a consummate professional actor and everyone adored him," said actress Allison Janney, C.J. Cregg on the NBC series. "We will miss him deeply." Actor Richard Schiff, who played Toby Ziegler on the NBC series, said Spencer "was one of those rare combinations of divinely gifted and incredibly generous."

"There are very few personal treasures that you put in your knapsack to carry with you for the rest of your life, and he's one of those," Schiff spoke fondly about his 'West Wing' co-star. Schiff said Spencer had been struggling with health issues but seemed to have rebounded.

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Martin Sheen and John Spencer in 'The West Wing'

Spencer played Leo McGarry, the savvy and powerful chief of staff to President Josiah 'Jed' Bartlet, portrayed by Martin Sheen, through the first few seasons of the NBC series. In a sad parallel to life, Spencer's character suffered a heart attack that forced him to give up his White House job.

The character recovered and was picked as a running mate for Democratic presidential contender, Congressman Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smits. The campaign against Republican Arnold Vinick, acted by Alan Alda, has been a central theme for the drama this season.

Spencer's death would seem to throw into disarray the series' season-long presidential campaign storyline. In an episode that had been slated to air on January 8, Spencer's character, Leo McGarry engages in a vice presidential debate with his Republican counterpart, played by Brett Cullen. There is no official word on what producers plan to do with the episode yet.

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John Spencer gets affectionate with his best

supporting actor Emmy Award in 2002

In 2002, Spencer received an Emmy Award for his performance on "The West Wing." He received an additional four Emmy nominations for the drama. The character of Leo McGarry also earned Spencer a Golden Globe nomination as well.

"We're shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden death of our friend and colleague," Aaron Sorkin and Tommy Schlamme said in a joint statement today. Sorkin was the creator behind "The West Wing" and Schlamme was one of the original executive producers.

"John was an uncommonly good man, an exceptional role model and a brilliant actor. We feel privileged to have known him and worked with him. He'll be missed and remembered every day by his many, many friends," they said.

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John Spencer

Series executive producer John Wells remembered Spencer not only for his acting but as "a generous and gracious friend." NBC and producer Warner Bros. Television issued a statement calling Spencer a "remarkable man with enormous talent." However, they did not address how his death would affect the Emmy Award-winning series, in production on its seventh season.

The actor, whose world-weary countenance was perfect for the role of McGarry, mirrored his character in several ways: both McGarry and Spencer were recovering alcoholics. In addition, Spencer once said that he and his alter ego were both driven during an interview with The Associated Press.

"Like Leo, I've always been a workaholic, too," Spencer told The Associated Press in a 2000 interview. "Through good times and bad, acting has been my escape, my joy, my nourishment. The drug for me, even better than alcohol, was acting."

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Often seen on his arm at award ceremonies was Patty

Mariano with John Spencer at the 2004 SAG Awards

Spencer grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, the son of blue-collar parents. With his enrollment at the Professional Children's School in Manhattan at age 16, he was sharing classes with the likes of Liza Minnelli and budding violinist Pinchas Zukerman.

As a teenager, Spencer landed a recurring role on "The Patty Duke Show" as the boyfriend of English twin, Cathy. Stage and film work followed. Then his big break: playing Harrison Ford's detective sidekick in the 1990 courtroom thriller, "Presumed Innocent."

Spencer's role in "Presumed Innocent" led to his hiring for the final four years of "L.A. Law" as attorney Tommy Mullaney. Spencer played a streetwise lawyer on the David E. Kelley drama that was in sharp contrast to the show's otherwise glamorous cast and setting.

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In a light moment, John Spencer shares the limelight with fellow

muppet thespians, Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog

After attending the Manhattan Performing Arts School, Spencer studied at Fairleigh Dickenson University. Spencer then began working on stage in New York and in regional theaters. Spencer also had numerous theatrical credits including David Mamet's "Lakeboat" and Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie."

Spencer won an Obie Award for the 1981 off-Broadway production of "Still Life," about a Vietnam veteran, and received a Drama Desk nomination for "The Day Room." Spencer was featured in the 2002 theatrical production of "The Exonerated."

His made his feature film debut with a small role in "War Games," which was followed by roles in "Sea of Love" and "Black Rain." Spencer said his work in "Presumed Innocent" represented a "watershed role."

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Kevin Spacey, John Spencer, Ron Rifkin and David Morse in the

Samuel L. Jackson dramatic action film, 'The Negotiator'

Later, he acted in the 1996 Billy Crystal romantic comedy "Forget Paris" as a wisecracking co-worker to Billy Crystal's basketball referee. Spencer also had a role in 1996's "The Rock" as the untrustworthy FBI official Womack.

In recent years, he worked both in studio and independent films, including "The Negotiator," "Albino Alligator," "Lesser Prophets" and "Cold Heart."

Spencer, an only child, is survived by "cousins, aunts, uncles, and wonderful friends," Hofmann said. Service and funeral arrangements were pending.

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

WEST WING ROCKED BY DEATH: Writers and producers for NBC's The West Wing, which is dark for the holidays, will convene this week to discuss how to handle the death of John Spencer, who was suddenly felled by a heart attack on Friday at the age of 58. Leo McGarry, whom Spencer has played since the series' 1999 debut, figures in this season's central story line as the running mate of presidential candidate Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits). What's more, Leo has also been shown in a flash-forward sequence set three years into the future, indicating that a recast, though regrettable, may prove mandatory.

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, ASK AUSIELLO

Question: How is the West Wing planning to deal with the tragic loss of John Spencer?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, THE WATERCOOLER

The West Wing

In an eerie bit of synchronicity, tonight's West Wing focused on Leo McGarry, just three weeks after the sudden death of actor John Spencer. While I assumed there would be a special intro mentioning his passing, I was unprepared for how moved I was by Martin Sheen's words. Johnny, we hardly knew ya, indeed. This episode was a fitting tribute, a reminder of all the splendid work Spencer has done over the years. From playing the usually unflappable Leo as vulnerable and self-doubting in the beginning of the debate prep, to the inevitable revelation that he was leaking bad reports on himself to the press because he knew Josh wouldn't

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, ROUSH, DISPATCES

January 09, 2006

One of the biggest, and saddest, stories of the new TV year is how The West Wing will deal with the unexpected death last month of John Spencer, who brought such dignity, authority and wit to the role of Leo McGarry. My hope, as I've stated elsewhere, is that the writers will not try to replace him with another actor at this late date in the show's life, but instead will find a way to honor him and the character while providing the show with the sort of closure that is only fitting in what seems certain to be The West Wing's final season.

My faith in The West Wing to do the right thing was bolstered by Sunday's (Jan. 8) terrific episode, which by eerie but satisfying happenstance focused on Leo's character as he prepared for a vice-presidential debate, ultimately exceeding everyone's (including his own) low expectations. In a special introduction, Martin Sheen praised his colleague and friend, noting that the best tribute to a character actor like John Spencer is the opportunity to watch and appreciate his final months of work.

This "Running Mates" episode was one of Spencer's best in a long time, as he sparred with his handlers, most notably Kristin Chenoweth as perky Annabeth. "What my life has come to... " Leo growled as Annabeth literally tried to wipe the smirk off his face, forcing his lips into a scowl. "You seem to have graduated from cudgel to bludgeon," he snarled, albeit affectionately.

Even if (like me) you predicted that Leo was the one leaking news of his dreadful debate rehearsals to the blogosphere, it was great fun admiring his caginess.

And in the episode's most unnerving sequence, you couldn't help flinch when he was asked a question about his own medical condition. He turned it into an attack on Republican health care, starting with the blunt acknowledgment: "By an overwhelming percentage, the first warning symptom of a heart attack is death."

A more timid show might have squelched this sadly prophetic exchange. But I'm betting John Spencer would have relished the irony.

Just as Leo McGarry proved to be a formidable candidate to the end, so did John Spencer always deliver the goods, even when the show itself left a lot to be desired.

He'll be missed, for sure

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Jon Bon Jovi Campaigns for 'West Wing'

by Josef Adalian

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Jon Bon Jovi

Jon Bon Jovi has begun filming a guest shot for an upcoming episode of "The West Wing." The rocker and sometime thespian will play himself on the episode, throwing his support behind the fictional campaign of Senator Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smits.

Bon Jovi will perform part of his song, "Welcome to Wherever You Are" on the episode, set to air on Sunday, March 26 on NBC. The episode has echoes of previous real-life presidential campaigns. Another New Jersey rocker, Bruce Springsteen, was vocal in his support of Senator John Kerry during the 2004 election.

While Bon Jovi will be playing himself on "The West Wing," he's also had several TV and feature turns in fictional roles, including in the recent horror picture, "Cry Wolf." His other acting credits include "Ally McBeal," "Moonlight and Valentino," "Pay It Forward" and "U-571."

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, ASK AUSIELLO

Question: Any idea what is going to happen with John Spencer's character on The West Wing? Are they going to write in his death?

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

WEST WING ROCKED BY DEATH: Writers and producers for NBC's The West Wing, which is dark for the holidays, will convene this week to discuss how to handle the death of John Spencer, who was suddenly felled by a heart attack on Friday at the age of 58. Leo McGarry, whom Spencer has played since the series' 1999 debut, figures in this season's central story line as the running mate of presidential candidate Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits). What's more, Leo has also been shown in a flash-forward sequence set three years into the future, indicating that a recast, though regrettable, may prove mandatory.

I read somewhere that Leo was in fact NOT in that flash-forward scene in the season premier... I must investigate further (damn tivo, only has 40 hours of memory, I can't keep everything)...

Leo has always been my favorite character second only to President Bartlett himself... I couldn't help but cry when Martin Sheen gave a little tribute before the episode that aired shortly after John's death.

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NBC Cancels 'West Wing' After 7 Seasons

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'The West Wing'

The new president on "The West Wing" will be a real short-timer: NBC announced Sunday, January 22 that it was pulling the plug on the Emmy-winning political drama after seven seasons in May. NBC, struggling to regain its footing after the worst season in its history, also outlined several midseason schedule changes.

"The West Wing" announcement wasn't much of a surprise. Although this season's story line with a presidential campaign involving a Democrat played by Jimmy Smits and Republican portrayed by Alan Alda has been strong critically, ratings have sunk with its move to Sunday nights. In addition, NBC is moving two of their popular dramas, "Law & Order" and "Las Vegas."

The decision to cancel it was made before actor John Spencer, who played former presidential chief of staff Leo McGarry, died of a heart attack on December 16, said Kevin Reilly, NBC entertainment president. "There's a point when you look at the ratings and say, it feels like it's time," Reilly said.

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'The West Wing's' Alan Alda, Bradley Whitford and Jimmy Smits

The series finale will be May 14, preceded by a one-hour retrospective. The campaign to replace the fictional Josiah Bartlet as president will be settled, NBC said. Producers Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme, who created the show and guided it through its early years, will not be involved in the finale, Reilly said.

"The West Wing" won four Emmy Awards for best television drama in a row for its tales of political intrigue. At its prime, it also offered NBC two valuable benefits: critical acclaim and the most upscale audience on television, an important drawing point for advertisers.

NBC's revamped schedule offered veteran "Law & Order" producer Dick Wolf good and bad news. NBC is putting Wolf's new drama, "Conviction," about young prosecutors in New York, on Friday's schedule starting March 3. But it is moving "Law & Order" up an hour to Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET competing directly with ABC's blockbuster "Lost."

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'Las Vegas'

NBC is also moving "Las Vegas" from Monday to Friday starting in March. Donald Trump is changing addresses again, with "The Apprentice" moving to Monday where it will be preceded by the Howie Mandel-hosted game show, "Deal or No Deal."

"The Office" will go off the air at the end of March so star Steve Carell can film a movie, Reilly said. He said he also hasn't figured out what to do with the ill-fated "Friends" spinoff "Joey," which has 12 new episodes done but no place on the schedule.

The network has two more midseason shows: "Heist," a cops-and-robbers drama from the director of "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" and "Teachers," a comedy about a high school English teacher. "NBC is stable and our vital signs are encouraging," Reilly said. "Most predictions were that we were going to go from bad to worse this year, and that hasn't happened."

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