FOX 411: 'The Office' Spin-Off in the Works?

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Published June 12, 2007

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'The Office' Spin-Off ? | Producer Wants Apology | Diana | Reeling in the Years; 'Today'

'The Office' Spin-Off in the Works?

Is Dwight Schrute about to have his own TV series? That’s the buzz at NBC, where new head of programming Ben Silverman could be thinking about a spin-off from the hit sitcom "The Office."

Silverman is the man who brought "The Office" to NBC from its original Ricky Gervais premise in the U.K., so the notion of a spin-off isn’t that far-fetched.

When I ran into Rainn Wilson, the actor who plays Dwight on the show, at Sunday night’s post-Tony party, he actually brought up the idea, then seemed a little surprised he’d said it out loud.

But Dwight is to "The Office" what Frasier once was to "Cheers," so the idea isn’t that preposterous.

And Silverman is charged with quickly turning things around at ratings-deprived NBC. Putting Dwight into a new office setting isn’t such a bad idea. After all, the Gervais concept seems almost limitless in its appeal and further expansion.

Meanwhile, NBC is dealing with nailing down the salaries of Chris Noth and Vincent D’Onofrio, stars of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent.”

The show was saved from the chopping block because producer Dick Wolf promised to hold down costs. His solution was a salary freeze, meaning no raises this season as he steers the show into its new deal: the shows are being shown on USA Networks first, followed by a run on NBC.

Noth and D’Onofrio, sources say, will likely take the freezes in pay and stick it out. “They make $350,000 each an episode, which comes to $3,850,000 a year," a source said. "Not bad.”

The actors also each appear in only 11 episodes, and the work schedule is a total of 88 days a year.

How “Criminal Intent” wound up on USA Networks is a better story, I’m told. At one point, when NBC was going to drop the show entirely, Wolf went to cable rival TNT with a proposal to move the show. That triggered a series of NBC executive screaming matches, all of which may have contributed to the ouster of former chief Kevin Reilly and the installation of Silverman.

Wolf, by the way, is still searching for an actor to play the assistant district attorney role on “Law & Order” since moving Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy to DA.

Sources tell me a deal was almost cut with “West Wing” actor Bradley Whitford, who’s free now that “Studio 60 on Sunset Strip” has been buried at sea. But the Wolf budget may not be big enough for the L.A.-based star.

The search continues.

Mob Mentality: Producer Wants Apology

Back here in the so-called real world, film producer Julius Nasso has a problem concerning the real-life Mafia.

Nasso has sent a letter of complaint through his attorney, Robert Hantman, to the Los Angeles Times. The reason? Times reporter Chuck Philips wrote last week that Nasso is a "reputed Gambino crime family member.” Hantman wants him to take it back, he says, because Nasso has never been accused of such a thing by the government.

Of course, Nasso — who produced several Steven Seagal movies — did go to jail in 2003 after pleading guilty to shaking down Seagal so that he’d make more movies with him. Nasso received a one-year sentence and had to pay a $75,000 fine.

The story in which Philips named Nasso was less about the producer — who’s very much back in business since his release — than about jailed private eye Anthony Pellicano. And while Nasso’s saga does intersect with Pellicano’s at points of minutiae, the story filed by Philips is even more interesting.

Philips, as I told you several weeks ago, does not believe the government has a case against Pellicano. He told me that, and he continues to write it in the Los Angeles Times even as the New York Times publishes tape recordings of Pellicano sounding conspiratorial with former clients.

In his story published June 7, Phillips writes: “[the case] has yet to live up to its billing as a major Hollywood scandal, netting so far several guilty pleas to perjury charges.”

In fact, it’s all but destroyed the career of a prominent attorney and has drawn in several major Hollywood players whose own careers could be in jeopardy.

Philips has developed a tone in his pieces of wishful thinking — his reasons are known to him only — that the Pellicano case will just go away. He says the defense is “energized” by new evidence, and that they could possibly “strip the prosecution of its most potent evidence. …”

Hantman even writes in his letter that Philips’ article was “a transparent effort to discredit the Government’s case and bolster Mr. Pellicano’s defense.”

I did tell you back on March 27 that Philips was present when Pellicano remarried his wife Kat, presumably so she wouldn’t have to testify against him in court.

Philips didn’t bother reporting the wedding ceremony, however. He said he’d just “stopped by” as if it’s normal to witness a wedding in which one participant arrives shackled, wearing an orange jump suit.

Philips’ comment about the Pellicano trial then was, “If there is a trial. There are a lot of holes.” It certainly seems like he’s looking for them.

As for Nasso, who produced six features starring the stone-faced Seagal from 1990 to 1997, he’s looking for a retraction and/or an apology.

Princess Diana Holds A-List Court

Former New Yorker and Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown held her own royal court Monday night.

Her book, “The Diana Chronicles,” just out this week, is already getting rave reviews. So it was up to local royalty, Sir Howard Stringer, head of Sony Entertainment, to entertain Brown’s loyal subjects in the 35th floor Sony Club in New York City.

For a while, the topnotch media guests just kept coming and coming, despite the lack of air conditioning (certainly “Spider-Man 3” profits could be used for some nice Friedrichs in the windows of the Philip Johnson-designed aerie!)

Bette Midler sneaked in toward the end, arriving by herself but still managing to get noticed by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, NYPD chief Ray Kelly, CBS chief Les Moonves and wife Julie Chen, Liz Smith, Charlie Rose, "60 Minutes" creator Don Hewitt, actor Ron Silver and Kate Castelbajac, CBS’ Steve Kroft, New Yorker editor-writer Rick Hertzberg, former Viacom chief and MTV creator Tom Freston and Harvey Weinstein and famed attorney David Boies.

And those are just a few of the names. The Sony Club was brimming with New York media types, almost to the point of distraction. A lot of necks were injured with quick turns this way and that to see which important person had just entered the main room!

Of course, there were the requisite jokes about the royal family. My favorite though was Tina’s about Sir Howard: “We’ve noticed the resemblance to Prince Harry, but no one’s talking about it.”

Sir Howard blushed appropriately.

Reeling in the Years; 'Today' Is Hot

Steely Dan’s show at the Beacon Theater Monday night couldn’t have better artistically. The level of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen’s musicianship has never been better, and their jazz rock-inflected songs remain sturdy little enterprises studded with gorgeous surprises.

However: $145 per person seems a little high for a ticket price when a show is less than two hours long and doesn’t feature the group’s biggest hits like “Deacon Blues” or “Do It Again.”

On top of that, the Beacon has become a rather foul venue. The seats are small and dirty, and the floor is caked with dried beer. Maybe it’s time new owner Cablevision put a little money into the place instead before soaking customers — literally and figuratively.

Even seeing beautiful Vanessa Williams in the audience didn’t help, and she must have been surprised by the heavy cloud in the air. ...

Monday morning, when “Soul Man” Sam Moore performed on the "Today" show, his album “Overnight Sensational” was off the charts and nowhere on Amazon.com. This morning, it’s at No. 14 after hitting a high in the afternoon at No. 9. Not bad.

As Billboard magazine recently observed, “Today” sells CDs like no other show with the exception of “Oprah” and “Live With Regis and Kelly.” It’s quite a phenomenon. ...

And yes, that was “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels with Paul Simon and Oscar-winning composer Howard Shore sitting right behind home plate Saturday at the Yankees-Pirates game. The Yanks won, 9-3. ...

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