• If any actor has a right to sing the blues, it is Hugh Laurie, who hasn't had any luck with the Emmys despite four previous nominations for playing the cantankerous title character in "House, M.D." Although he's contending again this year in the lead actor race, our early predictions rank him as an also-ran again. On Monday, Warner Music announced a record deal with the erudite Englishman for an album of New Orleans-style songs. The disc will be produced by two-time Grammy champ Joe Henry. In a statement, Laurie said, "I am drunk with excitement at this opportunity. I know the history of actors making music is a checkered one, but I promise no one will get hurt." Laurie, who plays a variety of musical instruments, has been the keyboardist for the charity group Band From TV for the last several years and tickled the ivories on the last album from Meat Loaf as well. USA TODAY
• Three-time Tony nominee Alfred Molina is switching coasts to join the cast of "Law & Order: L.A." in the fall. Mike Ausiello delivers this news, noting "Molina is the second major 'LOLA' hire. As I reported earlier this month, Skeet Ulrich has been tapped to play one of the two lead detectives. In a statement, show exec Dick Wolf said, 'I am thrilled that Fred is "LOLA's" Deputy DA. He joins a remarkable list of some of America’s greatest character actors like Sam Waterston, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeff Goldblum, Steven Hill, Dianne Wiest, and Michael Moriarty as stars of 'Law & Order'-branded series.' "
• The versatile Molina also appears in the fourth film from theater visionary Julie Taymor -- a reimagining of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" -- which will close the 67th edition of the Venice film fest on Sept. 11. The picture stars Oscar champ Helen Mirren ("The Queen") as Prospera, a gender-bending take on the character of Prospero, a sorcerer marooned on an island with his daughter. The film features another Oscar winner -- Chris Cooper ("Adaptation") -- as well as Russell Brand, Alan Cumming, Djimon Hounsou, David Strathairn and Ben Whishaw. LA BIENNALE
• Sir Elton John and Lee Hall -- who penned the Tony-winning musical adaptation of "Billy Elliot" -- are reteaming to turn the George Orwell classic novel "Animal Farm" into a tuner. Baz Bamigboye chatted with Hall, who revealed, "I'm deep into it, writing songs for pigs and other four-legged friends" but admitted proper work on the show would not begin till after the summer. "Having worked with him on 'Billy Elliot,' I know that Elton likes to have the lyrics done and have them in front of him, so I'll work on a batch before I give him anything to look at. I would think it's going to take about two years before it's all ready to go." DAILY MAIL
• Four of the Emmy-nominated cast members of "Mad Men" have been immortalized by Mattel as collectible dolls that retail for $74.95 each. "The collection features suave ad men Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Roger Sterling (John Slattery) complete with cufflinks. The Draper doll features a painted 5 o'clock shadow [that] adds to his good looks, as does his dreamy gaze. Draper's turmoil-ridden wife, Betty (January Jones), wears a traditionally saccharine floral A-line dress with a shiny gray bow, while flame-haired beauty Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) wears a figure-hugging dress, stockings and pointy black heels." And, as this report notes, "even though Mattel cites the Holloway doll's 'curvy silhouette,' the mini-Joan takes on Barbie's traditionally slim figure." FOX NEWS
• At a Comic-Con panel, Emmy nominee Michael C. Hall previewed the upcoming fifth season of "Dexter." For the actor, his character of a serial killer under suspicion in his wife's death is now "motivated by a desire to make amends for that even if he doesn't consciously know it. He needs to make things right, even if it feels impossible." And, as per producer Chip Johannessen, "We want to process this huge event, which is almost like a second origin story. This is something he brought on himself. We don't continue the facts of Season 4 for very long, but the set of events that he brought upon himself very much permeate Season 5." TV GUIDE
• The gang from "Glee" was also at Comic-Con, where, as per this report by Denise Martin, show creator Ryan Murphy "hit Chris Colfer with the news that he may soon get to do 'The Time Warp,' the classic song-and-dance routine from 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show.' " And, Denise adds, "the Britney Spears episode may be a little dream-like, even if it isn't exactly a dream for one star. And get ready for more Madonna." TV GUIDE
• Al Pacino will be back on Broadway this fall headlining a transfer of the summer hit "The Merchant of Venice," which has been playing in repertory as part of the Public Theater's season in Central Park. Pacino, who first came to fame as a stage actor, headlined a 1979
rialto revival of "Richard III" that was met with mixed reviews. His last
appearance on Broadway was in a staged reading of the Oscar Wilde play "Salome" in 2003. He is in contention at the upcoming Emmy Awards for his
performance in the telefilm "You Don't Know Jack." Pacino is one of only 18 actors to have achieved the triple crown, winning an Oscar for "Scent of a Woman," an Emmy for "Angels in America" and two Tony Awards, for "Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?" and "The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel." NEW YORK TIMES
• The 1988 Oscar-nominated Spanish film "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" is being turned into a Broadway musical this fall and will feature a slew of award-winning talent including a pair of Tony champs -- Patti LuPone ("Evita," "Gypsy") and Brian Stokes Mitchell ("Kiss Me, Kate") -- as well as multiple nominees Sherie Rene Scott and Danny Burnstein. Tony winner Bartlett Sher ("South Pacific") directs, and Tony nominees David Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane are collaborating once again on the score, as they did with "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," with Lane also adapting Pedro Almodóvar's screenplay for the stage. PLAYBILL
• A trio of Oscar-winning actors -- Goldie Hawn ("Cactus Flower"), Julia Roberts ("Erin Brockovich") and Forest Whitaker ("The Last King of Scotland") -- are among those on-screen talents working behind the scenes on documentaries scheduled to debut on Oprah Winfrey's new TV network next year. As per the press release, Roberts will present "Extraordinary Moms," about "brilliant and awe-inspiring women who share a powerful connection: the love they have for their children combined with a fierce desire to protect the future of all children"; Hawn will narrate "Search for Happiness," which "examines the age-old quest that has motivated civilization and technological progress"; and Whitaker will do likewise with "One Last Shot," which "takes viewers inside Louisiana’s maximum security prison at Angola, where the average sentence is more than 90 years." TV BY THE NUMBERS
Photos, from top: Hugh Laurie in "House, M.D." Credit: Fox. "Mad Men" collectible dolls. Credit: Mattel, Inc. Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice." Credit: Public TheaterGet Gold Derby on Twitter. Join the Gold Derby Group at Facebook. Become friends with Tom O'Neil on Facebook. Get Gold Derby RSS feed via Facebook. RSS Feedburner. RSS Atom.