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Alec Baldwin to guest star on 'Law & Order: SVU'

Jack Donaghy is back in New York! Well, technically, Alec Baldwin is, but that’s a minor detail.

EW has confirmed that Baldwin will return to television this spring when he’s set to guest star on an upcoming episode of Law & Order: SVU. There are no details available surrounding Baldwin’s role, but we do know that he is slated to act in Mariska Hargitay’s directorial debut episode.

Law & Order: SVU returns Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 9 p.m. on NBC.

'The Voice' coaches reveal what they look for, contestants they keep in touch with -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

With only two weeks to go until Shakira and Usher rejoin Adam Levine and Blake Shelton in those swiveling red chairs of power, we’ve got an exclusive video from the set of The Voice‘s sixth season. Carson Daly sat down with the four coaches — on red couches, no less — to discuss everything from the phenomenon of Lorde and what that means for young females to how they continue to help contestants from previous seasons.

Shelton reveals the contestants he helped get a record deal, while Levine talks about signing Tony Lucca to his own label. As for Usher? Yep, he still talks to Michelle Chamuel, guys! All is right in the world.

Watch the exclusive behind-the-scenes video below: READ FULL STORY

'Late Night With Seth Meyers': Fred Armisen to 'curate and lead' house band

Seth Meyers has just tweeted the first photo of his upcoming talk show’s 8G Band, a.k.a. the Roots to his Jimmy Fallon. Spy any familiar faces?

That’s right — Meyers’ old SNL pal Fred Armisen, an accomplished musician who began his showbiz career as a drummer for a punk group (and, uh, the Blue Man Group), will serve as the frontman for Meyers’ Late Night band. Meyers says Armisen will both “curate and lead” 8G, even when the quirky comedian is busy with his own IFC comedy series, Portlandia:

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'The Michael J. Fox Show' pulled from NBC schedule

UPDATE: Michael J. Fox’s TV hot streak seems to have ended: The Michael J. Fox Show has been pulled from the NBC schedule and replaced on Thursday night by Hollywood Game Night, EW confirmed Wednesday night.

The actor, who was on Family Ties in the ’80s and Spin City in the late ’90s, hasn’t yet made it through one season of his anticipated return to television; 15 of the show’s 22 episodes have played so far, and there’s no word yet when or if the rest will air. Sean Saves the World, which NBC had already announced was canceled, has also been pulled from the Thursday night lineup.

At last month’s Television Critics Association press tour, The Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Saves the World were notably absent from NBC’s prime-time hype reel. At the time, network chairman Robert Greenblatt said he wasn’t happy with Fox‘s recent 0.6 adult demo rating, adding that the show faced an “uphill battle.”

UPDATE: Michael J. Fox returning to ‘The Good Wife’

Jay Leno was 'blindsided' by Conan replacement, but thinks Fallon on 'Tonight' makes 'perfect sense' -- VIDEO

How did Jay Leno really feel in 2009, when NBC revealed its master plan to hand The Tonight Show over to Conan O’Brien? The comedian doesn’t mince words in an upcoming interview with 60 Minutes, telling Steve Kroft that the decision took him completely by surprise. “I was blindsided,” he says, according to CBS News.

And though Leno adds that he never asked his corporate overlords to explain their reasoning, hearing he was being replaced felt like being rejected by his girlfriend: “You know, you have a girl [who] says, ‘I don’t want to see you anymore.’  Why? You know, she doesn’t want to see you anymore, okay?”

This time around, though, Leno seems much more at peace with the network’s machinations — even though, as the host notes in the clip below, he “probably would have stayed [on Tonight] a little longer” if he had his druthers.

That said, Leno adds, “it’s not my decision” — and he believes that bringing in “an extremely qualified young guy” like Jimmy Fallon, whom Leno likens to “a young Johnny [Carson],” makes “perfect sense.” So maybe this isn’t a happy ending for Leno — but at least it’s one he can understand.

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NBC Olympics boss confident in security in Sochi and that primetime ratings won't be hurt by live coverage

With exactly two weeks until NBC begins its primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics in Sochi — competition begins Feb. 6, the day before the Opening Ceremony — more than 900 employees are already in Russia, with another 1,400 on the way. They’ve seen an unprecedented amount of security, NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel told reporters on a conference call Jan. 23.

“You don’t get into the Olympic Park and you don’t get into an Olympic venue without what’s called a spectator pass, which is the equivalent of a credential, which means everybody who’s been issued one has been background checked,” he said.

The volume of surveillance, he added, seems larger than any prior Olympics, winter or summer, including the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, which took place five months after 9/11: “Unlike most Olympics, the footprint of this Olympics is essentially two locations — the coastal cluster, where all the indoor venues are, and the mountain cluster, where all the outdoor venues are. They’re very confined and very compact. So there really is a perimeter that the Russians, as everybody has now seen, have overlaid just a tremendous security force.”

As for coverage, NBC Olympics executive producer Jim Bell is planning 1,539 hours of programming – which is more than the total for the Vancouver and Torino Winter Olympics combined. (It helps that there are 12 new events.) All events will be live-streamed on NBCOlympics.com, with those feeds starting again at 3 p.m. daily, which means you have two opportunities to watch before prime time. According to research from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, people who were live-streaming during the day were actually more likely to watch more Olympics television at night. “The lesson from London, anyway, was simply that more meant more,” Bell said. “Not only did it not cannibalize, it also helped us grow audience on television. This will be the first time we’re doing it at a Winter Games, and we’re hopeful for a similar result.”
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'Saturday Night Live': Inside its search for black female voices

On November 8, New York-based comedian Kerry Coddett (pictured, left) fired shots at Saturday Night Live with an editorial published on the Atlantic‘s website. In it, she blasted the notion that the show’s cast hadn’t featured a black woman in years because — as longtime repertory player Kenan Thompson said in a widely-circulated interview last fall — “in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.” Coddett contended instead that SNL‘s diversity problems were endemic and ingrained. “Perhaps it’s not that black women aren’t ‘ready’ for SNL; it’s that SNL isn’t ready for a black woman,” she wrote.

Less than a month later, a rep from Saturday Night Live invited Coddett to audition for the show.

“I didn’t know anything about the audition until I got there,” she told EW in an interview Wednesday. “Going into it, I was like ‘Ha, wouldn’t it be funny if there were only black women here?’ And that’s what it was.”

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'Crossbones' EP sheds light on John Malkovich's NBC pirate drama -- EXCLUSIVE PHOTO

Is there room on the high seas for two elaborate pirate shows? We’ll find out this spring, when NBC premieres the swashbuckling series Crossbones — months after Starz brings its own salty tale, Black Sails to the small screen. There are, however, plenty of differences between the two programs… and not just because one’s on pay cable (read: nudity!) and the other isn’t.

To wit: While both shows are set in the same year (1715) and place (the pirate paradise of New Providence, an island in the Bahamas), Black Sails is a gritty prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Crossbones, by contrast, is a fact-based drama that focuses on one of the world’s most notorious real-life pirates: Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard (played by John Malkovich. Yes, that John Malkovich). The action begins when the British government has assassin Tom Lowe (Richard Coyle of Covert Affairs) go undercover to bring Blackbeard down. But like many a clandestine agent, Lowe soon finds himself being drawn deeper and deeper into Teach’s world — and even becoming sympathetic to the scoundrel’s political ideals.

Want to know even more? Check out our Q&A with Oscar-nominated producer Walter F. Parkes, who’s executive producing Crossbones alongside Laurie MacDonald, his wife and business partner, and series creator Neil Cross, whom you may know as the mastermind behind the BBC’s Luther. READ FULL STORY

'SNL' adds LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones to writing staff

More signs of progress at Saturday Night Live: EW has confirmed that the sketch show has added comedians LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones to its writing staff. Their hiring comes two days after SNL announced that New York-based comedian Sasheer Zamata will be the show’s newest featured player. All three women are black — a rarity for SNL, which has featured just four black female cast members in its 39-year history. The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news.

Tookes (pictured at right), a former news reporter, was one of the 11 black women who auditioned for SNL during a secret showcase held in Los Angeles last December. She’s trained at Improv Olympic’s iO West theater. A character reel posted on YouTube shows her performing impressions of celebrities like Oprah, Paula Deen, and Nicki Minaj.

Jones is a veteran comedian and actress who has opened for Jamie Foxx and appeared on programs including Showtime at the Apollo, Chelsea Lately, Mind of MenciaGirlfriends, and Problem Child, an hour-long Showtime special. She auditioned at SNL‘s secret New York showcase in December.

Though the show currently has no plans to feature Tookes or Jones onscreen, that could easily change: Several past cast members, including Jason Sudeikis and Tina Fey, started out as writers before transitioning to on-camera work. And just this year, longtime writer Mike O’Brien was brought into the show’s cast as a featured player.

NBC won't stream Winter Olympics opening ceremony

NBC promises to stream more than 1,000 hours of the Winter Olympics from Sochi.

But not the part that sometimes draws the most viewers.

The broadcaster revealed at a press event Tuesday that the opening ceremony on Friday, Feb. 7 will not be streamed online. Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group, told Variety: “We want to put context to it, with the full pageantry it deserves.”

Real-world translation: We don’t want to do anything that might decrease ratings on the NBC broadcast network. Given NBC spent an estimated $2 billion for rights to broadcast the games in Sochi, a plan that corrals viewers in front of the traditional TV for the event’s kick-off is understandable. And with NBC planing to make every competition available online, it’s tough for streaming fans to gripe too much. Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira and Bob Costas will host the opening. The closing ceremony, the executive added, might be streamed online.

'SNL' to welcome new cast member Sasheer Zamata this month

The search is over!

EW has confirmed that Sasheer Zamata, a New York-based comedian, is joining the cast of Saturday Night Live when the show returns from hiatus January 18. Zamata will be the first black woman to appear regularly on SNL since Maya Rudolph left the series in 2007.

Her casting marks the end of a hunt that began after SNL was criticized for its lack of diversity last fall, when executive producer Lorne Michaels welcomed six new featured players to the show — five of whom were men, and all of whom were white. That criticism, along with widely panned remarks made by longtime cast member Kenan Thompson in a TV Guide interview (“Like in auditions, they just never find [black women] that are ready”), led Michaels to pledge to add a black woman to the cast by January 2014. (Interestingly enough, Zamata was not among the 11 black women who tried out for SNL in a semi-secret audition held in Los Angeles this past December — though she and auditioner Nicole Byer are friends who collaborate on a UCB web series.)
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Andy Roddick and Rachel Bilson sing Christmas karaoke (kind of) on 'Hollywood Game Night' -- EXCLUSIVE

NBC’s celebrity pop culture battle Hollywood Game Night has returned.

The Jane Lynch-hosted soiree kicks off its second season on Jan. 20, 2014, but Lynch and co. have assembled six stars to get cozy for a holiday special on Monday, Dec. 23. Gavin DeGraw, Ray Romano, Rachel Bilson, Cheryl Hines, Andy Roddick, and Brooklyn Decker are on board for the holiday episode, and there will be eggnog, stockings, and a generally overarching sense of merriment.

EW’s got a sneak peek at Roddick, Bilson, and Hines’ team taking a stab at “How Do You Doo?”, a monosyllabic karaoke game that has become the show’s signature game. Not only is it a joy to watch them try (and occasionally fail) to channel the holiday spirit, but watching Andy Roddick do anything off the tennis court is definitely the holiday gift you’ve been waiting for.
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Jimmy Fallon reveals his lunar 'Tonight Show' logo

This is really happening, people.

Late Night host Jimmy Fallon has just tweeted out the logo for his revamped Tonight Show, premiering next February after the Olympics on NBC. The all-caps letters are reminiscent of Fallon’s Late Night logo. The full orb may be making you thirsty for a beer. It seems more modern than current Tonight host Jay Leno’s own logo — and it’s also got approximately 90 percent more moon.

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