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by Cindy Elavsky

Q: I love the Syfy show “Merlin.”

I haven’t seen new episodes on the schedule for a while, and I’m afraid it has been canceled. Please tell me it hasn’t! — Mark T. in Vermont

A: Don’t worry, Mark. The magical Syfy series will indeed be back for a third season beginning Friday, Jan. 7, at 10 p.m. Season three finds the young Merlin (played by Colin Morgan) in increasingly more dangerous and dark battles in his secret quest to protect Prince Arthur (Bradley James) in the fabled kingdom of Camelot, where magic is forbidden by King Uther (Anthony Head). They rejoin Morgana (Katie McGrath) — who has a dark destiny of her own — with Angel Coulby as her loyal maid Gwen, and Richard Wilson as wise court physician Gaius. John Hurt returns as the voice of the Great Dragon.

Q: When will “Southland” be back? I was so happy when

TNT picked it up from NBC, and have been eagerly awaiting its return. — George F., via e-mail

A: The cutting-edge drama will be back on Tuesday, Jan. 4, at 10 p.m. on TNT. Series star Benjamin McKenzie gave me the scoop: “It’s going to be the same show you’ve seen before, it’s just going to be more focused on the four principle characters left: Ben, Lydia, Sammy and John. It’s a pretty aggressive show; this season it’s really going to double-down on the aggressiveness. It’s fast, hard-hitting and uncompromising.

“With my character and John, the dynamic has changed yet again. It’s more of a peer-to-peer relationship than it has been in the past. Although Ben will still mess up and John will criticize him brutally for it, he’s got a little more freedom to do a little more of his own work. The end of the season will mark the end of his probationary period.”

Q: Is Jillian Michaels really leaving “The Biggest Loser”? I can’t imagine the show without her! — Tawny D., via e-mail

A: Well, start imagining it, because Jillian is outta there. After this season, which begins Jan. 4, her contract is up, and she is leaving the show. Jillian explained her decision: “I want to take a year off TV and focus on becoming a mommy and doing more charity work. Shooting ‘Losing It’ also had a big impact on me. Living with kids, I saw firsthand what I was missing.”

Q: How is Vanessa Williams fitting in as the newest cast member of “Desperate Housewives”? — Sandi S., Lousiville, Ky.

A: Vanessa is doing great, at least according to co-star Joshua Moore, who plays Parker Scavo. When we spoke about the show’s return from winter break on Jan. 2, he told me: “She’s just great to work with. I think she’s a really good actress and she’s great in her role. She’s just a very cool person to talk to and hang out with. She definitely has to flip that switch on to be mean (like her character, Renee).”

Write to Cindy at King Features Weekly Service, PO Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475; or e-mail her at letters@cindyelavsky.com. For more news and extended interviews, visit www.celebrityextraonline.com and twitter.com/Celebrity_Extra. ‘© 2010 King Features Syndicate

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