TV

Ellen DeGeneres gets her game on in new prime-time show. Ellen DeGeneres, known for keeping her comedy on the nice side, lets her inner meanie out for "Ellen's Game of Games." NBC's new prime-time game show, which begins its regular run at 8 p.m. EST Tuesday after a December sneak peek, subjects its contestants to measured torments that delight host and executive producer DeGeneres. "It's hilarious to see the panic and fear on their faces if they get the answer wrong," she said, knowing the possible consequences include being drenched with something gooey or launched airborne or dropped through the stage floor. "But no one can get hurt. It's only public humiliation," she said, drolly. "It builds character, and to win $100,000 it's what we must go through." That's the top prize for those who conquer a variety of games, including some played on DeGeneres' syndicated daytime talk show -- "but on steroids, bigger, higher and more dangerous," she said -- and newly devised ones. Challenges on the hour-long show include Blindfolded Musical Chairs, Dizzy Dash and Scary Go Round. The host's quick patter fills in the gaps, with an assist from "Ellen" DJ and sidekick Stephen "tWitch" Boss. "Game of Games" is part of a resurgence of popularity for game shows, a trend that makes sense to DeGeneres. "When you have times that are difficult or stressful in the world ... we need an ace to look at something that's mindless but entertaining," she said. She makes an effort to bring the fun to whatever she's doing. DeGeneres has built a production company and a lifestyle brand, published books and hosted awards shows, for starters. It suits her and her body to stay busy, she said. "It's best I keep working, because if I take too much time off, I get sick," DeGeneres said, blaming a recent minor bug on a two-week vacation. She shrugs off the idea she's a workaholic. Her wife, Portia de Rossi, is starting her own company, and DeGeneres says she has friends who put in far more hours than she does. She names one, a fellow TV host. "Ryan Seacrest, I don't know how he does what he does," she said. (PageSix)

Law and Order: SVU Midseason Premiere: Benson Suffers No Fools While Looking for Her Son. Hell hath no fury like Mama Bear Benson on Law & Order: SVU. The midseason finale ended with Noah (Ryan Buggle) disappearing while shopping with is grandma Sheila (Brooke Shields). Sheila then called Benson (Mariska Hargitay). The midseason premiere, "Gone Baby Gone" picks up with the frantic phone call and Benson assembles the squad. "You OK, Liv?" Fin (Ice-T) asks his boss. "No, I'm not. It's Noah," she says in the clip. All of this of course happened after Sheila told Noah about his birth mother, something Benson had yet to do. So to say things were already a little tense between Benson and Noah's biological grandmother would be an understatement. And then he goes missing? Yeah, Benson is understandably unraveling. Just look at their scene. "Was he mad? Was he upset?" Benson questions Sheila in the clip, first posted by TVLine. "No, of course not," she says. "I'm just trying to figure out what happened because he doesn't walk away when I'm with him," Benson says. Viewers will remember he might not have wandered away on his own volition -- there was a hooded figure watching Noah and Sheila. Benson means business. This is her son. See her heated confrontation with the mall manager now. When E! News spoke with Hargitay for "Something Happened," the Emmy winner said she was impressed by "Gone Baby Gone." "I remember saying to [SVU showrunner Michael Chernuchin], 'I don't know how we did it. I don't know how we did it.' It's just like this whole other flavor," Hargitay said about the upcoming episode. "We just dove into motherhood, and what it means to be a mother and what we would do for our children. And again, we keep finding all these beautiful areas to excavate and it's deeply exciting." Law & Order: SVU returns Wednesday, Jan. 3 at 9 p.m. on NBC. (Eonline)

Grey's Anatomy: Is Love on the Way for Meredith Grey? If you're hoping that the exit of Nathan Riggs earlier this fall on Grey's Anatomy means that the door is open for another suitor to enter into Meredith Grey's life once the show finally returns next month, then this might not be the news you're looking for. In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, showrunner Krista Vernoff opened up about Mer's (Ellen Pompeo) love life -- or lack thereof -- now that Nathan (former series regular Martin Henderson) has left Seattle behind for the sunnier skies of Los Angeles with his presumed-dead fiancee, Megan. And while she remains hopeful that the widow will find love again, it doesn't sound like she's got any immediate plans to make that happen. "What is next for Meredith in terms of a love life remains to be seen," Vernoff said.. "I believe that romance and love are always a possibility, especially after we've lost the loves of our life. We have to evolve out of our immediate grief. I believe that immediate grief takes more than a couple of years. I don't want to ever short-shrift the people who have gone through the death of a spouse and say you just move on, or you just move on with the first person." Following the shocking and painful loss of her soul mate Derek (Patrick Dempsey) at the end of season 11, Mer had a one-night stand with Dr. Thorpe (remember him?) before connecting with Nathan over their shared loss. For Vernoff, the connection with Nathan served a vital purpose of opening Meredith back up to the idea that she could care about someone else again. "But that doesn't necessarily mean that person is your person for life," she added. "One of the things that I love that we do on the show is show this very human journey." With a 300th episode that saw Meredith win the coveted Harper Avery Award thanks to a refined dedication to her life's passion -- her work -- it's clear that, whether or not romance comes, it's not what defines the character any longer. (If it ever even truly did.) "Love is possible for Meredith 100 percent," Vernoff said, "but it's not her focal point." Are you hoping Meredith finds love again or are you just fine with watching her be a boss in the O.R. instead? Grey's Anatomy returns on Thursday, Jan. 18 at 8 p.m. on ABC. (Eonline)

'Flip or Flop' star Tarek El Moussa launching new show. Now that his battle with cancer is safely behind him, "Flip or Flop" star Tarek El Moussa is hoping to give back with his all new show, "Tarek's Pick Me Up Project." In November, the star posted a video to Facebook asking his fans to direct message him the name and information of people they know who might need a helping hand. "It doesn't matter the struggle, it could be a failing business, a bad breakup, mental health, physical health or even just a lousy few months," he said. "We're going to reach out to them and find the absolute best way to put a smile on their face." Since the video's posting, more than 4,000 people submitted names to the project. Now, the HGTV star has made a bold announcement. He'll personally be paying a surprise visit to some of the people who were submitted in a new show. In another video announcement on Facebook, El Moussa promised "the first of many" episodes begin on Monday. "I've always lived my life with the belief that with hard work and determination, anything is possible. I also believe that in order to succeed, you have to be willing to accept that failure is most definitely part of the journey. While failure may be difficult, it should also be viewed as a motivator because failure is absolutely necessary to succeed," he says in the video. "The experience of dealing with cancer treatment made me realize that nothing is more important than my family. I also made a commitment that one day, when I was in a position to help others, I would do so. I feel that my purpose is to give back, lend a hand and really help others." It's unclear from the announcement exactly how El Moussa will go about putting a smile on these struggling people's faces, but fans can apparently tune in Monday to find out. (PageSix)

Dr. Phil's Show Denies Claims That Guests Were Encouraged to Use Drugs and Alcohol. UPDATE on Friday, December 29: A Dr. Phil spokesperson has responded to the allegations, saying in a statement to E! News: "The Stat article does not fairly or accurately describe the methods of Dr. Phil, the TV show, or its mission to educate millions of viewers about drug and alcohol addiction. The show does not give drugs or alcohol to its guests and any suggestions to the contrary is errant nonsense. " "For the past 16 years, the Dr. Phil show has provided valuable information to viewers by telling compelling stories about people who are fighting the battle to overcome alcohol and drug addiction," the statement continued. "Unfortunately, addicts often lash out at the very people who are trying the hardest to help them break the cycle of addiction. Although terribly unfortunate, this is an understandable part of the behavior of addicts on their journey to recovery. Deception, dishonesty and denial are hallmarks of addiction. It tears families apart and certainly creates levels of complexities when we produce these important shows. None of this will deter the Dr. Phil show from it's commitment to continue to educate and inform the public about the worsening epidemic of addiction." A new investigation uncovers troubling allegations against Dr. Phil and his daytime talk show. STAT and The Boston Globe published an expose on Thursday, which includes accounts from multiple guests who say their substance addictions were enabled by members of the TV psychiatrist's staff in hopes of boosting ratings. Todd Herzog -- who struggled with alcohol abuse in the years after winning Survivor -- said that when he arrived on the Dr. Phil studio in 2013, he found a bottle of vodka in his dressing room and was given a Xanax to "calm his nerves." Herzog had to be carried on set before his sit-down with Dr. Phil (whose real name is Phil McGraw), and registered a .263 blood alcohol content -- more than three times the legal limit. Additionally, family members of guests say their health and welfare was put at risk by Dr. Phil staffers who allegedly played a role in their search for drugs. The investigation also looked into the level of medical care guests with addiction issues receive while filming in Los Angeles and Dr. Phil's relationship with the treatment centers his guests often seek further help from. Martin Greenberg, Director of Professional Affairs at the Dr. Phil show, described the above claims as "absolutely, unequivocally untrue." "We do not do that with this guest or any other," Greenberg said when asked to address Herzog's account. He later said in a statement to the publications, "Addicts are notorious for lying, deflecting and trivializing. But, if they are at risk when they arrive, then they were at risk before they arrived. The only change is they are one step closer to getting help, typically help they could not have even come close to affording." Herzog said he detoxed for two days in a hotel paid for Dr. Phil, and was sober when he appeared for his scheduled taping. Greenberg initially told STAT and The Boston Globe that the show did not have a responsibility to monitor guests with substance abuse problems ("No, of course not, it's a television show."), but later said Herzog was "medically supervised the entire time" by personnel from an unnamed treatment center during his taping schedule. The report states Greenberg shifted his stance a third time, saying in a statement, "We mean 100% of guests agreeing to treatment. It does not mean that a guest is being monitored 100% of the time." However, the executive director of the center Herzog sought treatment from after Dr. Phil, contested claims that his staff supervised Herzog in L.A. and said doing so would violate their licenses. "I honestly regret ever having done it," Steve Thomason said in reference to his treatment center's participation on the show. During Herzog's third appearance on Dr. Phil, he alleged finding vodka in the dressing room but did not drink all of it. Again, the show denied his claim. Marianne Smith told the publications that when her niece, Jordan, appeared on the show in 2012 and was suffering from heroin withdrawals, producers suggested she try Skid Row in Los Angeles to find drugs. Smith also said Dr. Phil did not offer her niece any medical assistance as they awaited her taping for two days. Greenberg issued a denial: "We could go on and talk about Jordan L. or ten others. Same reality. All had medical supervision." Likewise, Joelle King-Parrish said the show did not provide any medical attention to her pregnant daughter Kaitlin when she was detoxing in the hotel. Staff members reportedly told her to "take care of it," and one Dr. Phil employee ultimately joined the mother and daughter with a camera in hand as they drove to Skid Row looking for heroin. In response, Greenberg said Kaitlin's mother had previously "agreed to be 100% responsible for managing her daughter's health and possible withdrawal" and the individual who filmed the incident "simply documented the natural behavior she observed, which would have occurred whether she was there or not." Herzog appeared on Dr. Phil for a fourth time in 2016, and said he recently wrote a letter to the television personality thanking him. "I'm grateful in a lot of ways for the show. For getting me help in the nicest places in the country. That's a gift right there," he said. "There are some things about the show that I don't like, and that I don't think are real... I should have been in the hospital, in that sense. There should not be liters of vodka in my dressing room." Others interviewed for the story also praised Dr. Phil and the show for getting them the help they needed. Former heroin addict Niki Dietrich is one of those people, who described the show's efforts as a "miracle," adding in part, "I have nothing bad to say about that experience." "Few people contact us just to let us know how well things are going," the show stated in a statement to STAT and The Globe. "The fact you can 'cherry pick' three, or thirty, or three hundred guests for that matter, who seek to blame others for their plight or struggle in life, is not the least bit surprising." (Eonline)

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