Hallmark launches family movie showcase

LOS ANGELES — The Hallmark Channel is making a new Friday night home for family movies.

The channel says it will launch the showcase March 15 with the debut of “Return to Nim’s Island,” starring Bindi Irwin, the 14-year-old daughter of the late Steve Irwin, the Australian crocodile hunter who hosted a popular show on Animal Planet.

The film is a sequel to the 2008 action-adventure movie “Nim’s Island.” It will air as part of the new “Walden Family Theater” series.

The half-dozen original Friday night movies will include “Space Warriors,” with Dermot Mulroney, Danny Glover, Josh Lucas and Mira Sorvino, set to air in May. The showcase also will include films from the Hallmark Channel library.

Bindi, who appeared on TV with her father, has made a career of her own with series including “Bindi, the Jungle Girl” and “Bindi’s Boot Camp.” Steve Irwin died in 2006 after being injured by a stingray barb during underwater filming.

Online: www.hallmarkchannel.com

George Lopez to host Playboy Jazz Festival

LOS ANGELES — George Lopez is taking over as master of ceremonies of the annual Playboy Jazz Festival.

The comedian was announced as the festival’s new host at an event at the Playboy Mansion.

“This is iconic,” said the former star of the ABC sitcom “George Lopez” and the TBS talk show “Lopez Tonight.” “I’ve never been here before. I was married for 17 years. I couldn’t even have a Playboy air freshener.”

Bill Cosby previously served as the festival’s host for more than 30 years. Cosby was a fixture at the gathering of jazz luminaries since the first festival was held in 1979.

Lopez said Cosby called him to give him advice on the gig. His tips included not letting musicians in his dressing room “because they’ll eat all your food and drink all your drink,” joked Lopez.

This year’s show will feature such artists as Herbie Hancock, Jeffrey Osborne, Sheila E. and Grace Kelly.

The jazz festival is scheduled for June 15-16 at the Hollywood Bowl.

Fans keep love alive for ‘Walking Dead’ star

LOS ANGELES — From week to week fans simply never know which characters will survive the relentless zombie attacks on AMC’s hit series “The Walking Dead.”

That unpredictability keeps viewers on the edge of their seats and the shows’ stars in a constant state of alertness.

“You see series and they last a long time and sometimes the writing gets lazy or the acting gets lazy. Because we’re in a zombie apocalypse and anyone can go at any time, it sort of keeps us fresh and on our toes,” Norman Reedus said.

Fans lined up around the block to watch a panel discussion with Reedus and his co-stars at Paleyfest, the annual Southern California TV celebration. Many in the crowd showed their support for Reedus’ crossbow-wielding character, Daryl Dixon, with their “If Daryl dies we riot!” T-shirts.

The 44-year-old actor says his vocal fan base is responsible for his character’s impressive longevity in a series that seems to have no qualms in axing its most popular characters.

“Yes, (they’re) keeping me on the show,” he said.

“The Walking Dead” focuses on a rag-tag band of surviving refugees, including unruly brothers Daryl and Merle Dixon.

Nesmith plans first U.S. solo tour in 2 decades

LOS ANGELES — On the heels of last fall’s reunion tour with other surviving members of the Monkees, Michael Nesmith will begin his first major U.S. solo tour in more than two decades.

The singer, songwriter and guitarist, 70, will open a run of shows March 21 in Franklin, Tenn. followed by stops in California and other states. The tour will wrap up in New York and Washington, D.C. Visit http://e2.ma/message/ufcxe/yi5gdh.

The new tour will focus on his solo material. The one exception will be “Papa Gene’s Blues,” which appeared on the Monkees’ 1966 debut album. “I hope Monkees fans are not disappointed,” Nesmith said, “but my solo recorded music is extensive and the songs that were part of the Monkees era comprise only a tiny part of it.”

Soap anniversaries welcome back actors

For the upcoming 50th anniversary of “General Hospital,” some former fan favorites will be brought back.

Rachel Ames will resurrect her role of Audrey Hardy. Ames made her debut on “GH” in 1964 and continued until she left acting in 2007. She did return briefly in the fall of 2009. Ames first airdate is slated for March 29.

Also returning is Jackie Zeman, who began playing Bobbie Spencer in 1977. From 2007, she was seen was seen only sporadically until leaving for good a few years later. Zeman is slated to appear beginning March 21.

Rick Springfield, who appeared as Noah Drake from 1981-83, will also be coming back. Springfield will be accompanied by real-life son Liam Springthorpe, making his daytime debut.

There was no exact air date for his return.

As part of the 40th anniversary of “The Young and the Restless” on March 26, Eileen Davidson will reprise her former role of Ashley Abbott, which she began playing in 1982.

Her first appearances are March 18-19.

Klum new judge on ‘America’s Got Talent’

LOS ANGELES — Heidi Klum is adding a new show to her busy schedule: She’s joining “America’s Got Talent” as a judge.

Klum will join returners Howard Stern and Howie Mandel as well as the recently announced judge Mel B. It will be the first time the show has used four judges.

But the new judging job doesn’t mean Klum is giving up her role the long-running reality competition program, “Project Runway.”

That show began its 11th season in January and she remains on board as judge and host.

TV series ‘90210’ to end in May after 5-year run

LOS ANGELES — The countdown is under way for the end of the TV series “90210.” The CW network announced that the show will wrap May 13 after five seasons. That means it will have half the run of its inspiration, “Beverly Hills, 90210,” which aired on Fox 1990 to 2000.

Like the original, the CW series followed the lives of Beverly Hills teenagers from high school and beyond. Its cast includes Shenae Grimes, Tristan Wilds and Anna-Lynne McCord.

Wire reports