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Quick Takes: Alan Ball has Cinemax series

August 11, 2011

Alan Ball has one of the most popular shows on cable with HBO's "True Blood." Now he could be a double threat via HBO's sister network.

The creator will executive produce a new series called "Banshee," which will serve as a key plank in Cinemax's original programming push.

The series will be set in a small town in Pennsylvania Amish country (the titular Banshee), according to a person who was briefed on the project but asked not to be identified, and will feature an enigmatic ex-con who's also an expert in martial arts. Darkly comic in tone, the show will have the ex-con posing as a murdered sheriff, imposing his own brand of justice while also cooking up plans that serve his own interests.

Cinemax is working out financing and casting details with the hope of shooting this spring. Ball, who previously produced "Six Feet Under" for HBO, is developing the series with writers Jonathan Tropper and David Schickler, who brought the idea to him. "Banshee" is not expected to affect Ball's schedule on "True Blood."

—Steven Zeitchik

Jennifer Lopez returning as 'Idol' judge

Jennifer Lopez will be back at the "American Idol" judges' table with Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson, the show's executive producer said Wednesday.

After weeks of speculation, Nigel Lythgoe confirmed that Lopez would return to the Fox talent show, in an interview with "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest on the morning show Seacrest anchors at KIIS-FM (102.7).

While acknowledging that the official announcement was yet to come, Lythgoe said, "I am delighted to say that all three judges, along with the brilliant host of 'American Idol,' [are] back for the next season."

—Nardine Saad

Gloria Steinem doubts 'Playboy Club'

NBC may be calling its soon-to-debut show "The Playboy Club" "a provocative new series about a time and place that challenged the social mores," but activist Gloria Steinem — the face of the women's movement for more than four decades — is challenging the network.

Steinem went undercover as a Playboy bunny in New York in 1963 to write a piece for Show magazine exposing the less-than-glamorous working conditions for bunnies. Now 77, she recently said she hopes viewers will boycott the show, which she doubts will depict Hugh Hefner's swinging '60s-era Chicago club accurately.

"I can't imagine the show will be anything like the real Playboy clubs," Steinem said. "Hefner is always trying to make himself and the clubs seem glamorous instead of tacky."

—Deborah Vankin

Aretha Franklin to sing at Martin Luther King Jr. memorial dedication

When a young Aretha Franklin accompanied the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to churches in the early days of the civil rights movement, he usually made a special request for her to sing one song in particular: "Take My Hand, Precious Lord."

On Aug. 28, when a memorial in his honor is dedicated on the National Mall in Washington, Franklin will again sing the song for her mentor and friend.

"I'm really looking forward to this moment. It's going to be another great, great moment in American history and in African American history," Franklin said.

Franklin, 69, was one of the early supporters of the campaign to honor the civil rights hero with a statue in the nation's capital. She even headlined an all-star concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City in 2007 to raise funds for the memorial, which has been years in the making.

—Associated Press

Alec Baldwin mulls NYC mayoral bid

Alec Baldwin says he's thinking of running for mayor of New York, but not until he learns more about the job.

The "30 Rock" actor told the New York Times he'll sit out the 2013 race but will consider running thereafter.

In a wide-ranging interview, the 53-year-old said he's talking with two universities about enrolling in a master's program in politics and government. He wants to better understand what the fiscal imperatives of the mayor's job are, he said.

Baldwin said that running in 2013 is impossible because he's obligated to complete the current season of "30 Rock."

Baldwin said he plans to establish a permanent city residence before running.

—Associated Press

Finally

Giving voice: Eddie Murphy will provide the voice for the lead character in the live action/animated movie adaptation of the 1970s TV cartoon series "Hong Kong Phooey," Alcon Entertainment said.

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