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Ellen Gray: 'Survivor's' Burnett to create Bible drama

SO MUCH television, so little time: * The History Channel, which not long ago backed away from showing "The Kennedys," has ordered a five-part, 10-hour docudrama on the Bible, to be "shot on location [using] state-of-the-art visual effects."

SO MUCH television, so little time:

* The History Channel, which not long ago backed away from showing "The Kennedys," has ordered a five-part, 10-hour docudrama on the Bible, to be "shot on location [using] state-of-the-art visual effects."

It's from producer Mark Burnett. Yes, the man who's already brought us "Survivor," "The Apprentice," "The Voice" and "Shark Tank," to name just a few of his, um, creations.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, if you thought people were touchy about the Kennedys . . .

One bit of good news for those who worry about those ever-shifting end-of-the-world deadlines: The series isn't scheduled to air until 2013.

Another, at least for fans of "Touched by an Angel": Former "angel" (and Burnett's wife) Roma Downey is also an executive producer on the project.

* Speaking of touchy, History's also ordered a miniseries about "America's most infamous family feud."

"The Hatfields and the McCoys: An American Vendetta," will star Kevin Costner (who's also co-producer) and is set to premiere in 2012, the 150th anniversary of the feud's start.

* Shawn Ryan's "The Chicago Code" did itself proud Monday night, with a finale on Fox that didn't leave viewers hanging.

I hated to see it go - one of the best new shows of the 2010-11 season, "Code" was canceled earlier this month - but I was happy to see it do so on its own terms, with a bit of a ratings bump and a fun, if far-fetched, scene for Jennifer Beals, whose character's seeming lack of a social life finally gets dealt with.

If more producers structured their seasons like this, viewers might be less afraid to commit.

Which might even lead to more seasons.

* Ideas for TV shows sometimes come in pairs, with most seasons yielding up a "coincidence" or two, followed by shrugs all around and maybe a comment about the zeitgeist or what's in the water.

I wouldn't be surprised if more people have read about "Mad Men" than actually watch it on AMC, but I kind of get why NBC and ABC want their own '60s series, too, especially since "Mad Men's" audience reportedly skews rich.

What I don't understand: Why NBC's "The Playboy Club" and ABC's "Pan Am" are both coming now, four seasons into "Mad Men," whose outsized buzz some at the networks have been envying since Season 1 (even as they snarked about its undersized viewership).

I've come to think of "Mad Men" as a show about the falseness of nostalgia, so after seeing clips of both new shows last week, I wondered if their take on it had been different: that what they hoped to sell was that longing for the good old days, for the clothes (and the girdles) and, of course, the misbehavior that, as we're reminded with every revelation about politicians' peccadilloes, never really went away.

I've since seen the "Pan Am" pilot and now I'm wondering if its true nostalgia isn't for an era of air travel that seems to have survived only for those wealthy enough to fly private.

* The other soundalike pair on this fall's schedule: ABC's "Once Upon a Time" and NBC's "Grimm," both of which suggest fairy tales can come true (and not necessarily in a good way).

Can a remake of "Beauty and the Beast" - the CBS series with the cultlike following, not the Disney movie with the singing teapot - be far behind?

What both shows really remind me of (so far) is a 2000 miniseries "The 10th Kingdom" that starred John Larroquette and Kimberly Williams as a father and daughter whose lives became entangled with fairy-tale characters in a parallel universe.

* Things I'm less than thrilled about right now: Lisa Edelstein leaving "House," Toni Collette leaving Showtime (or, more accurately, Showtime leaving "United States of Tara"), the number of season finales involving surprise pregnancies.

* Reader (and frequent correspondent) Louis Kleinerman, of Audubon, N.J., isn't happy about the "Tara" cancellation, either.

"I am forking over $10 to Comcast every month so I can watch, among other shows, 'Tara' and ['Nurse] Jackie,' " he wrote.

"Now I see that 'Tara' has been canceled and 'Jackie' has been renewed. This is sad news indeed. Toni Collette is astounding, Edie Falco good, but less so. Tara is an utterly fascinating character, Jackie is very hard to like . . . To keep Showtime or not? As Edith Bunker once said to Archie when he demanded she fork something over to him, "I ain't forkin'!"

* I sent Louis a link to this Hollywood Reporter column that suggests Showtime needs to dump much more than "Tara" if it hopes to catch HBO:




So where do you stand? Is HBO or Showtime (or Starz) giving you more bang for your buck these days? Did you once subscribe to one or more premium channels and now don't?

Operators are standing by. *

Send email to or join my weekly TV chat with the Inquirer's Jonathan Storm at noon tomorrow: