TCA: Many Happy Returns

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TCA: Complete Coverage of the Summer Press Tour

 The buzz out of the Television Critics Association summer cable session was as much about returning high-profile cable series as it was about new programming.

HBO will return its hot Sunday-night summer primetime lineup in 2010 as it announced the renewal of freshman series Hung, sophomore series True Blood and Emmy-nominated comedy series Entourage.

HBO co-president Richard Plepler said that all three series are performing extremely well this summer, with the vampire-tinged True Blood averaging more than 11 million cumulative viewers, while Hung — about a down-on-his-luck basketball coach who becomes a gigolo — is averaging a robust 10 million cumulative viewers and Entourage, which recently earned a 2009 Emmy nod for best comedy series, is averaging 8 million viewers.

Meanwhile, Discovery Channel-owned TLC will bring back its controversial ratings juggernaut Jon & Kate Plus 8 beginning Monday (Aug. 3). The reality series has been on hiatus for more than a month since the Gosselin parents decided to end their marriage during a special June 22 episode that drew more than 10 million viewers.

The show will portray both parents as they take turns caring for their 5-year-old sextuplets and sibling older sisters. TLC president and general manager Eileen O’Neill said the network will do away with the “iconic couch” where the two couples used to sit together during the series, to be replaced by separate interview chairs.

“Our approach to the circumstance is simple, to cover the family with great care and thoughtfulness as they deal with this subject,” O’Neill said. “Jon & Kate have never said they were perfect, which has made them relatable and created an undeniable connection with our viewers.”

Starz announced last Tuesday it is retooling its freshman drama series Crash with new storylines and additions to the cast including actors Keith Carradine and Valerie Perrine. Dennis Hopper will return for a second season of the series, which debuts Sept. 18.

Starz executive vice president of creative development Bill Hamm said the network believes the series, based on the Academy Award-winning film of the same name, still has great potential despite so-so ratings in its freshman run.

“We thought we did a lot of things right in the first season, and we did some things that were wrong,” Hamm said. “I think we had a little too many storylines … six or seven storylines is a lot to keep track of. This year, we’re down to three or four story lines, with much richer, deeper storytelling.”

Other cable networks participating during the week-long cable TCA confab rolled out several new shows headed by some very familiar faces.

TBS and BET will take a shot at late night this fall with new talk/variety shows featuring veteran comedians George Lopez and Mo’Nique, respectively.

Lopez, who’s off-ABC sitcom The George Lopez Show is a major hit on Nick at Nite, and Mo’Nique, who will continue to host Oxygen’s reality series F.A.T. Chance, both promise to provide a relaxing, fun party atmosphere that’s inclusive and will appeal to all people from all backgrounds.

“There’s enough heavy things going on every day that you should be able to sit down late at night, have a drink, relax, and go to a party and just see it on TV … it’s exciting,” Lopez said.

But Mo’Nique added that she does not consider her The Mo’Nique Show competing for eyeballs with Lopez Tonight, even though they will both air weeknights at 11 p.m. “I’m not going against anyone … it’s no competition,” Mo’Nique said. “When you say what’s different [between the shows]: My name is Mo’Nique, his name is George, his name is Jay [Leno], his name is David [Letterman]. That’s what’s different.”

While not joining the late-night wars, comedian Joan Rivers will be hosting a new reality series for TV Land dubbed How’d You Get So Rich. Still, that didn’t stop her from taking a swipe at former Tonight Show host Jay Leno during TV Land’s TCA presentation last Wednesday.

Rivers, took the former Tonight Show host to task for being boring in response to a TV critic question gauging her reaction to the new wave of latenight hosts launching shows this fall.

“I think it’s brilliant that they put Leno on at 10 p.m. because America can get bored more easily and go to sleep earlier,” said Rivers of Leno’s primetime move this fall. “It will be nice for the Midwest, because their crops will be greener.”

Broadcasting & Cable’s Stephanie Robbins and Melissa Grego contributed to this report.

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