You heard it here first: This is the year of Antonia Stark and even more Leno
EmptySo here it is, ladies and gentlemen — a new year. Not that 2008 was a disaster or anything, but I saw a guy last week holding a threadbare sign that read, "WILL WORK FOR BETTER PIECE OF CARDBOARD AND BLACK MARKER." It's about time you got here, 2009. What took ya?
The coming of the new year brings all sorts of possibility, not to mention probability. As a new clarity emerges, we can see the future from here. If gazing into crystal balls has taught us anything, it's that a good many things that happen in our Hollywood midst feel downright preordained. Trust me on this. I'm frightfully old. I know.
With an eye toward giving you a head start on those unfortunate saps who aren't reading this column, let's take a moment to analyze some of the entertainment stories we're guaranteed to see in 2009.
>In the wake of its breakout success with the $100 million-plus "John Adams," HBO will commit to a 17-part, $235 million project on the life of Millard Fillmore, starring John O'Hurley as our tragically unheralded 13th president.
>Having bailed out Paramount, Universal, Fox and Warner Bros. with multibillion-dollar rescue packages, the U.S. government will announce it is coughing up another $2.5 billion to save Public Access Channel 3 in Coral Gables, Fla., reasoning that it is "simply too big to be permitted to fail."
>Demonstrating her incomparable range, Meryl Streep will sign to star as the lead in feature biopics of Mother Teresa, Heidi Fleiss and the courageous thoroughbred Barbaro as well as in the "Iron Man" sequel "Iron-Deficient Woman."
>NBC will ramp up its commitment to Jay Leno, leaking to the New York Times that beginning in November it plans to turn over all 22 of its primetime hours to live programming featuring the longtime host of "The Tonight Show." The seven-night gambit is dubbed "All Jay All Day Olé!"
>News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch will be cast in the next "Austin Powers" sequel as the villainous character Money-Me.
>NBC's ongoing war against conventional ad-driven programming will give rise to the new daytime hour "Product Placement Playhouse."
>It will be revealed that Tina Fey has cured cancer, an act she will modestly insist is "no big deal."
>MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann will defeat Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly in a wrestling match conducted inside a steel cage suspended above the crowd at New York's Madison Square Garden. As a consequence of his loss, O'Reilly will be required to fulfill his vow to remain silent for a full two minutes.
>Desperate for a new reality hit, ABC will replace "The Bachelor" with the feel-good hour "America's Wackiest Home Invasions." When it fails, they will replace it with the "Dancing With the Stars" spinoff "Dancing Off With Your 401(k)."
>ABC also will tart up "Nightline" by incorporating cheerleaders ("The Nightliners") and changing the show's title to "Nighty-Nightline." Late in the year, the network will launch the spinoff drama "Brad Grey's Anatomy."
>Meanwhile, the CW will develop its own dubious reality concept, "Celebrity Waterboarding," produced by Ashton Kutcher. Fox will develop "Illegal Alien Autopsy" but ultimately drop it as "not quite sexy enough."
>Cable's testosterone-infused Spike network will schedule a six-part male-bonding reality series in which the only word uttered by those involved will be "dude."
>While being attacked for the 7,595th time by her co-hosts on "The View," Elizabeth Hasselbeck's brain will spontaneously explode. She will be saved from the brink, however, thanks to President Obama's new health-care plan.
>Angelina Jolie will donate several of her children to needy families.
>The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will rectify the problem of awards- consideration screener piracy by developing a chip that will be surgically implanted in the cerebral cortex of Oscar voters and permit downloaded films to be viewed through the optic nerve.
>Someone will write that TV comedy is back in vogue because people most need to laugh during times of strife. (Talk about your self-fulfilling prophecies.)
>Patrick Swayze will defy all of the grim prognoses stemming from his battle with pancreatic cancer and star in a second season of his A&E drama "The Beast."
>Inspired by Mickey Rourke's remarkable career resurrection in "The Wrestler," Elvis Presley will return from the presumed-dead but change his mind when he finds out his only offer is to appear on "The Surreal Life."
Ray Richmond can be reached at ray.richmond@ THR.com.