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Charlie Sheen to star in comedy feature for Crackle network

Winning? Famously rambunctious former sitcom star Charlie Sheen will star in and executive produce a movie for Crackle, the streaming network said Tuesday.

The film, "Mad Families," is described as a multi-generational comedy starring Sheen as a lovable man-child with a heart of gold.

It also features Leah Remini and Clint Howard, and was written by actor-comedian David Spade with Fred Wolf, who is directing. No premiere date was disclosed.

Sheen starred in the hit CBS sitcom "Two and a Half Men" for eight seasons before being dismissed in 2011 after a heated clash with the show's producers and studio.

He made headlines last November when he publicly revealed that he was HIV-positive, while insisting he was healthy and that his partying days were over.

'America's Got Talent' gives season-ending win to NBC

The 12-year-old singing sensation Grace VanderWaal's $1 million prize capped a successful season for summer's favorite television show, "America's Got Talent," and helped NBC to victory last week in the television ratings.

VanderWaal's feel-good story and the return of Simon Cowell to a judge's table led to a strong season for the summer favorite, which will now be shelved with the onset of television's fall season. Last Wednesday's season finale reached 14.4 million viewers, the Nielsen company said.

It was not such good news for the Emmy Awards, which brought 11.4 million viewers to ABC on Sunday. It was the smallest audience ever recorded for the TV awards show.

The Emmys were hurt by a NBC's football game, which had 22.8 million viewers, and a CBS special on JonBenet Ramsey, with 10.4 million. Broadcasters once cleared the decks and left little competition for the Emmys. There's little incentive to do that now, with cable networks and streaming services dominating the awards.

Nielsen's top 20 last week was clogged with 9 football games or football-related shows.

NBC averaged 8.7 million viewers for the week in prime-time. CBS had 7.6 million, ABC had 5.1 million, Fox had 2.8 million, Telemundo had 1.8 million, Univision had 1.5 million, ION Television had 1.3 million and the CW had 1 million.

ESPN was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 3.24 million viewers in prime-time. Fox had 2.39 million, TBS had 1.49 million, HGTV had 1.48 million and USA had 1.4 million.

NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 7.8 million viewers. ABC's "World News Tonight" was second with 7.7 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 6.3 million viewers.

For the week of Sept. 12-18, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: NFL Football: Green Bay at Minnesota, NBC, 22.75 million; "NFL Pre-Kick," NBC, 16.74 million; NFL Football: N.Y. Jets at Buffalo, CBS, 15.39 million; "America's Got Talent" (Wednesday), NBC, 14.41 million; "America's Got Talent" (Tuesday), NBC, 13.97 million; NFL Football: Pittsburgh at Washington, ESPN, 12.96 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 12.7 million; "Dancing With the Stars," ABC, 12.19 million; "Football Night in America" (Sunday, 7:55 p.m.), NBC, 11.86 million; "Emmy Awards," ABC, 11.38 million.

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ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.

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Online:

http://www.nielsen.com

Sean Hannity, David Simon in Twitter tiff

Television producer David Simon and Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity are tossing vulgarities at each other on social media.

Simon, who made "The Wire," sent out a mocking tweet about Hannity hosting a Donald Trump town hall meeting about issues confronting black America on Wednesday. Simon used a deliberately misspelled offensive term about blacks to refer to Hannity in saying that if Fox couldn't get author Ta-Nehisi Coates or "Black Lives Matter" activist DeRay McKesson to host, "then who but you on the pulse of black America."

Hannity tweeted back: "Maybe it's just your ignorance about conservatives, or maybe you're just a malicious (expletive)."

Simon, who is white, took some criticism online for his use of the common slur for blacks. He addressed a later tweet to the "hall monitors," saying he intentionally used it to point out that it was wrong to use a white Fox personality for a show to address issues in the black community.

Hannity's town hall meeting will take place in Cleveland on his 10 p.m. EDT show.

'Downton's' Maggie Smith asks Jimmy Kimmel where her Emmy is

"Downton Abbey" star Dame Maggie Smith wants Emmy host Jimmy Kimmel to show her where her Emmy is.

Kimmel joked during his Emmy monologue Sunday night that stars had to be present to win under what he called "the Maggie Smith rule." The British actress had been nominated nine times for Emmys and won three without ever showing up.

When Smith won again on Sunday night, Kimmel took the statuette from presenter Minnie Driver and said, "We're not mailing this to her. Maggie, if you want this, it will be in the lost and found."

The 81-year-old Smith responded Monday with a message on the Masterpiece Theater Twitter account, saying "If Mr. Kimmel could please direct me to the lost and found office I will be on the next flight."

Anticipating debate, Trump says he thinks system rigged

A week before the first presidential debate, Donald Trump is putting moderators on notice that he'll be watching to see if they get too rough on him.

In a series of interviews over the past week, the Republican nominee has asserted that "the system is being rigged" against him. The first of three scheduled debates between Trump and Hillary Clinton will be held on Sept. 26, with NBC's Lester Holt as the journalist questioning the candidates.

"I think it's terrible," Trump told Fox News Channel over the weekend. "They want the host to go after Trump."

His statement is based on criticism NBC's Matt Lauer received in some circles for being too easy on the Republican in a forum on national security earlier this month. Trump, who called Lauer "very professional," told CNBC that he believes this puts pressure on other moderators to avoid Lauer's fate by going after him.

Sports fans know the phenomenon as "working the refs."

"Trump's buddy, the old basketball coach Bobby Knight, used to do this all the time," said CBS News veteran Bob Schieffer, who moderated a 2012 debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. "He'd throw fits at the referee in the first (10 minutes) and try to make them feel guilty so they'll give him a break in the (last 10 minutes). That's all that this is."

In fact, Trump has twice referenced Knight in recent comments — saying it was his opponents using the former Indiana coach's tactics.

Schieffer's advice to this year's moderators is to "laugh it off." He believes they are skilled and experienced enough to do that.

"Every moderator is going to get hammered by somebody," he said. "That's just life in the National Football League. This is a big-time deal."

Trump's tactics could backfire with the public, said Alan Schroeder, author of "Presidential Debates: 50 Years of High-Risk TV."

"To me, it feels like whining," said Schroeder, a journalism professor at Northeastern University. "These people are running to be president of the United States. They have to deal with a lot of pressure and they have to deal with a lot of circumstances beyond their control ... It doesn't seem very presidential."

Moderators should avoid reading and participating in stories about the debates, Schroeder said. He believes they should go further and step away from day-to-day coverage of the campaign, which all of the moderators are involved in to some extent. After Holt, there's a town hall-style debate moderated by CNN's Anderson Cooper and ABC's Martha Raddatz, and a final debate led by Chris Wallace of Fox News.

Trump's opponents have applied pressure, too. David Brock, a Clinton ally and founder of the Media Matters watchdog group, called on the presidential debate commission to drop Wallace because his former boss at Fox, Roger Ailes, is said to be advising Trump. The commission rejected Brock's request.

Trump last week had singled Cooper out for criticism, in an interview with The Washington Post. Trump has repeatedly tweeted criticism of CNN in general over the last few months.

"He'll be very biased, very biased," Trump said. "I don't think he should be a moderator. I'll participate, but I don't think he should be a moderator. CNN is the Clinton News Network, and Anderson Cooper, I don't think he can be fair."

Cooper and CNN declined comment.

Robert Durst's lawyer: Indiana prison doesn't make sense

It doesn't make sense to send real estate heir Robert Durst to prison in Indiana, where he's been assigned, when he faces a murder trial in Los Angeles, Durst's attorney said Monday.

"Our legal team is doing what they can to find out the why of it and find out if anything can be done" to get Durst sent to the federal prison closest to Los Angeles, Richard DeGuerin (duh-GEHR-in) said Monday.

But he said he doesn't know if there's any way to change the decision to send Durst to Terre Haute to serve his sentence of seven years and a month on a weapons charge.

"The Bureau of Prisons is an agency all of its own. Even a federal district judge can't tell them what to do," DeGuerin said. "There's no process of appeal."

DeGuerin said the assignment may have been made because the Terre Haute prison has one of two "level 3" medical facilities in the federal system. The other is in North Carolina at a prison for sexual offenders.

He said Durst had spinal fusion surgery in mid-July

"They figure he needs a higher level of medical care than we think he needs," he said.

Durst is accused in California of killing his friend Susan Berman in 2000 to keep her from talking to prosecutors about the disappearance of Durst's first wife, Kathleen Durst, in 1982.

"We've been saying from the date of his arrest in April of last year that he didn't kill Susan Berman, doesn't know who did and he wants his day in court and wants to prove that he didn't. And the only place that can be done is in California," DeGuerin said.

When U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt sentenced Durst in New Orleans, he recommended that Durst serve his time at FCI Terminal Island, California, about 30 miles from downtown Los Angeles. The location is near the trial venue and has medical facilities Durst needs because of his "advanced age and serious health considerations, including mobility challenges," defense lawyers wrote in their request.

DeGuerin said Monday that Durst "does have serious medical complications, but they're under control."

He says Durst is a 72-year-old cancer survivor, has had brain surgery for hydrocephalus, and has had two operations to fuse neck vertebrae, the most recent in mid-July.

"He's recovering from his surgery. Doctors have treated him. They say he's OK to travel to California," he said.

Kiefer Sutherland rises to power as 'Designated Survivor'

Wherever she was, Natascha McElhone's ears must have been burning thanks to Kiefer Sutherland, who stars as her devoted husband and the inadvertent president of the United States in ABC's much-anticipated new thriller "Designated Survivor."

"Aside from the way she can light up a room," said Sutherland, singing her praises, "Natasha's one of the freest actors I've ever worked with. That kind of freedom allowed me to relax a bit and put more of myself into my character."

Sutherland, who spent a decade as action hero Jack Bauer in Fox's "24," is primed to show viewers a new side of himself as Tom Kirkman, a low-level cabinet member (and political independent) suddenly drafted as the nation's chief executive after an attack on the U.S. Capitol kills the incumbent president and wipes out Congress during the State of the Union address. "Designated Survivor" premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. EDT.

"My character," said Sutherland in his husky purr, "was an architect with an idea for low-income housing who became a member of the cabinet. He was never elected to anything. He wears a tweed jacket!"

Thrust into the Oval Office, Kirkman must resurrect a shattered government while marshaling the campaign to find its attackers. Meanwhile, he must protect what's most important to him: his wife and their two kids.

"The show covers such a wide landscape," said Sutherland. "How does he get the country back on its feet? Who did the bombing, and what is the appropriate response? And what happens to a family that inherits the White House overnight? My character will get to navigate all of those things."

But not without support from his wife, Alex, played by McElhone (whose credits include the feature "Ronin" and Showtime's comedy "Californication").

"Initially, Alex is more tough than he is," said Sutherland. "She's an attorney, aggressive, and much more of a political animal.

"She is the center of his universe. Then he becomes president overnight, and by accepting it, he puts the one thing that matters most to him — his marriage — in jeopardy out of his sense of patriotism and duty."

Granted, this unsought mandate bears a save-the-world likeness to that of Jack Bauer. Yet Kirkman is anything but a lone wolf, and, also unlike Bauer, there's no rock-'em-sock-'em to his style.

"I always enjoyed the physicality of '24,'" said Sutherland, who for this interview was clad in jeans and T-shirt — no tweed! — that seemed to favor Bauer's fashion sense. "But, like Kirkman, I'm a much better talker than I am a fighter, so I feel more at home with this guy."

As he spoke, Sutherland was several episodes deep into production of the series, which, despite being shot in Toronto, clearly keeps him in a D.C. state of mind.

He gets help with that from cast-mate Kal Penn, who plays a presidential speechwriter but, while on a break from his acting career a few years ago, served in the real-life White House of Barack Obama.

"With that perspective, to have him on our show is invaluable," said Sutherland. "You can ask, 'When the president's walking down the hall, can you say "hi" to him?' And Kal says, 'Yeah, you can, I guess. But you DON'T.'

"Just as an ordinary person, I'm so excited to hear those details!"

But Sutherland is not an ordinary person, of course. He's the leader of the free world, or at least pretending at a job he experiences as "mind-numbingly complicated — and WE'RE only making (stuff) up!"

President Kirkman hasn't been his only performance of late. In the early weeks of shooting "Designated Survivor," Sutherland was also shooting a sci-fi feature "Flatliners" alongside Ellen Page and James Norton.

Meanwhile, he's been touring in support of his debut country album, "Down in a Hole."

"The truth is, I really like what I do," he said when asked about this jam-packed schedule. "When '24' ended (in 2010) I didn't know what to do. ... I had a real hard time. So I learned something about myself."

In 2012, he starred in the spiritually based Fox drama "Touch," an ambitious misfire that lasted just two seasons.

Now he's back in a new series that handicappers are forecasting as a surefire hit.

"My response to that is, 'We'll see,'" said Sutherland. "One of the great benefits of having done this for 30 years is you approach everything with cautious optimism. You can survive with that.

"But all of the components of this show feel right to me." He smiled. "We'll see."

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This story corrects an erroneous reference to Sutherland's character, Tom Kirkman, as Kirkland.

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EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore@ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore

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Online:

http://abc.go.com/shows/designated-survivor

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