This Is Your Brain on The West Wing … Whither Kristin Chenoweth? … Joel Grey, Vampire for Hire

Wednesday, April 18

One pill makes you larger. One pill makes you small. And another little dose of something, allegedly, makes you write earnest, Emmy-winning NBC dramas.

Feed your head writer! West Wing creator and Scarsdale native Aaron Sorkin was busted by cops at a Burbank, Calif., airport on Sunday, April 15, after hallucinogenic mushrooms were found in his luggage. Arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance, Mr. Sorkin faces arraignment on April 30–and the possibility of mandatory repeated screenings of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory .

Here’s hoping Mr. Sorkin, who has talked about his personal battles with drug use in the past, gets everything straightened out. The media reaction to his bust was a bit shrill and Reefer Madness -like; an arrest for psilocybin sounds pretty tame by Hollywood’s train-wreck standards. But it is curiously Age of Aquarius-y. A big-time Hollywood guy nabbed for … ‘shrooms?

On top of that, Mr. Sorkin’s writing résumé is fairly straightlaced in its subject matter, with The West Wing , the series Sports Night and the screenplay for The American President among the productions to his credit. Had someone from Diagnosis Murder , Nash Bridges or Touched by an Angel gotten popped for hallucinogens, we’d understand. But The West Wing ? For all its buzz and acclaim, Mr. Sorkin’s masterwork is pretty … nerdy.

Goes to show, you never know, do you? For some insight into the usefulness of psilocybin in the television creative process, we turned to New Yorker and VH1 Pop Up Video co-creator Tad Low, who’s no stranger to nature’s little psychedelic friends.

“I’m a big fan of the mushrooms, personally,” Mr. Low said. “To make good TV, you’ve got to think outside of the box, and there is nothing that helps melt the walls of the box more than some mushrooms.”

Mr. Low, now running his own production company called Spin the Bottle Inc., was asked if he’d ever written anything for television while ‘shrooming.

“No,” he said. “But I certainly have come up with plenty of ideas. I don’t know if I can say that the psilocybin are directly responsible for any shows. But the whole idea of coming up with a new idea is not to be thinking like everybody else. And there is no better way to break out of the formulaic thinking than to go for a little … ride in the afternoon.”

Mr. Low laughed. He was asked if he thought hallucinogenic mushrooms were big in Hollywood.

“I can’t imagine [that] a lot of people in Hollywood are using it, because it’s sort of a truth-telling experience,” he said. “I think that if too many people in Hollywood ingested psilocybin mushrooms, they’d realize they were in Hollywood, and they’d go screaming into the Pacific Ocean. It seems to me [that] coke and heroin would be your L.A. drugs.”

Mushrooms, Mr. Low opined, represent “more of a 21st-century, one-world, coming-together, tea-party, Terrence McKenna feel.”

In the wake of Mr. Sorkin’s arrest, Mr. Low said he’s eager to watch The West Wing to see if he can spot any psychedelic references. “If anything, it encourages me to record the next episode and play it back in conjunction with the first side of Sgt. Pepper’s !” Mr. Low said.

Tonight on The West Wing , President Bartlet convenes a meeting to discuss the Schedule II F.D.A. approval process with chief of staff Leo McGarry, as well as the Caterpillar, the March Hare and the Cheshire Cat. [WNBC, 4, 8 p.m.]

Thursday, April 19

Everyone knows that Bravo–that cable network for people who enjoy smart movies, rave a little too much about Twin Peaks and enjoy fierce discussions about James Lipton’s beard–is bonkers for Broadway. Now the Bravomeisters are cooking up a kind-hearted theater-arts initiative for schools (kids, just think: maybe you’ll be able to ditch algebra to perform in The Donkey Show !) and a big-hurrah live-TV special entitled Broadway’s Best.

The idea behind Broadway’s Best , explained Bravo’s marketing senior vice president Caroline Bock, is to have famous outsiders perform show-stoppers for a mass audience. “We want to get artists who are unexpected performing Broadway tunes,” Ms. Bock said. “People from film and television and the pop world sort of reinventing the standards.”

“What we wanted to do was create a Broadway show that made Broadway accessible to that wide audience,” said Frances Berwick, Bravo’s senior vice prez of programming and production.

Hmmm . Accessible Broadway? Let’s see. Maybe you could have Rosie O’Donnell performing numbers from Seussical ; or David Hasselhoff doing Jekyll & Hyde ; or Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes belting out tunes from Grease . Wait a sec ….

“This is not a schmaltzy Broadway tribute at all,” said Ms. Bock.

Ms. Berwick said that no stars have been finalized as of yet. An announcement should come in early summer, she said.

So get out that Sondheim sheet music, you celebrities! Tonight, Bravo gives the Week in Review crowd some Spice Channel action with Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love . [BRV, 64, 8 p.m.]

Friday, April 20

Speaking of Broadway stars, what’s going on with Kristin Chenoweth, the Southern sprite who knocked everyone’s socks off a couple years back as Sally in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown ? Last time we checked in, Ms. Chenoweth had left New York and gone Hollywood, courtesy of a sitcom deal with NBC.

Well, Ms. Chenoweth did her show, entitled Kristin . She taped a pilot and 13 episodes, in fact. But you’ve never seen it. Kristin is currently lurking in a broom closet somewhere in Burbank, right next to a hermetically sealed titanium container holding the unaired episodes of Daddio and The Michael Richards Show .

Kristin sounded pretty, well, O.K. The semi-autobiographical sitcom featured Ms. Chenoweth as a wannabe Broadway performer who moves to New York, only to wind up working for a wealthy builder and ladies’ man played by Jon Tenney. Kind of like A Chorus Line meets Ally McBeal meets The Nanny , you know?

Kristin wrapped its episode order last December and was scheduled for some kind of midseason release. But it didn’t happen. So far, NBC has opted to bless the world with Three Sisters, The Fighting Fitzgeralds, First Years and The Weakest Link , but no Ms. Chenoweth.

An NBC spokesperson said that Kristin isn’t dead. “We have it and we haven’t announced an air date,” the spokesperson said. “I’m waiting to hear.” The spokesperson said that Kristin could see some daylight if there is a writers’ strike, which could happen as soon as May 1.

But without a long strike, Kristin looks like toast. Meanwhile, a determined Ms. Chenoweth is currently working on a CBS pilot called The Seven Roses .

Ms. Chenoweth’s East Coast rep confirmed that the actress was indeed doing a new pilot, but referred calls to Ms. Chenoweth’s West Coast rep. The West Coast rep did not return NYTV’s call. No call was made to the Central/Mountain rep.

Tonight on NBC, Providence , with that sexy doc Melinda Ka n RR R rtt#23gftes or whatever her name is. [WNBC, 4, 8 p.m.]

Saturday, April 21

Word recently leaked that Cabaret superstar Joel Grey will be dropping in as a guest star on this year’s season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer . Natural fit, of course. Urk .

To gauge the anticipatory hummmmmm for the pale, pointy-eared actor’s guest spot, NYTV spent a little more time than was necessary or healthy on a particularly active (and Brit-centric) Buffy fan Web site.

Reaching the chat room, we filed a posting asking what people thought about Mr. Grey’s guest appearance. This is a small, edited sampling of what followed:

Tiger: Who r u’re favorite characters?

Cushy: What do people think of the show Charmed ?

B.U.M: Saint Buffy, u wanna join my “David Boreanz is a hottie” club, hun?

Jen: I just saw Valentine and I thought it sucked.

ER: this site is ****ing and **** everyone here is a wanker.

Vanna: Jeopardy coming up soon.

VIP: Buffy is gay.

Corvus: Go Manchester United!!!


So not much on the reaction to Joel Grey. One chat-roomer asked if Mr. Grey was dead. Another wrote that Mr. Grey was “ever so creepy yet charmingly debonair.” A few were VERY, VERY UNHAPPY that NYTV divulged the name of a guest star; apparently this constituted a “spoiler,” which is mucho verboten . Scolded, NYTV fled the scene and now has a mailbox full of weird e-mail.

Tonight, the WB has the always uplifting The Deer Hunter. But those loons on Fox have Cops: The Top 15 Moments of All Time. Included: the time they busted that fat drunk guy, the time they busted that fat drunk guy, the time they busted that fat drunk guy and the time they busted that fat drunk guy. [WNYW, 5, 8 p.m.]

Sunday, April 22

Leo-Bloom-on-the-rise Matthew Broderick no doubt learned a little bit of the Max Bialystock school of entertainment when he starred in Roland Emmerich’s wonderfully horrid (Springtime for) Godzilla. [WNBC, 4, 8 p.m.]

Monday, April 23

Now that Spaceman Lou Dobbs has come to his senses and reentered the earth’s atmosphere as CNN’s soon-to-be Moneyline anchor, there’s another unanswered question kicking around 5 Penn Plaza. When is CNNfn, CNN’s financial-news outlet, going to change its name to CNN Money? NYTV got a big kick out of the Swingers -esque name change when AOL Time Warner announced it earlier this winter; to date, however, the channel is still going by good old CNNfn, which has always sounded suspiciously like the name of an easy-listening radio station.

A CNNfn spokesperson said not to worry; CNNfn was going to become CNN Money at some point. “They haven’t given us a date yet,” the spokesperson said. “We’ve been told later this year.”

The spokesperson was asked how CNN Money was supposed to be styled. Like, was it CNN Money or CNN, Money or CNN, Money!

“I think it’s going to be like how we’ve been doing it: ‘CNN,’ space, and then capital-M ‘Money,'” the spokesperson said. No exclamation point? “No,” the CNNfn rep said.

As for Mr. Dobbs, his official title is anchor and managing editor. He’ll also have a hand in shaking things up over at CNNfn, which has already been shaken up quite a bit as a result of the merger. “He’ll have a role in the development of CNN Money,” the spokesperson said.

What about calling the new outlet CNN Lou?

“I don’t think so,” said the spokesperson. “I think they’re sticking with the plan.”

Today on CNNfn, more hits from James Taylor and Christopher Cross … actually, no, it’s Moneyline . [CNNfn, 27, 6:30 p.m.]

Tuesday, April 24

Tonight, Nickelodeon has the 14th Annual Kids’ Choice Awards. Kids’ choices like Destiny’s Child, the Backstreet Boys and Lil’ Bow Wow perform. Apparently against the kids’ choice, however, Rosie O’Donnell hosts. [NICK, 6, 7 p.m.] This Is Your Brain on The West Wing … Whither Kristin Chenoweth? … Joel Grey, Vampire for Hire