- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 5, 2004

Tall as Texas

The Lone Star State is front and center in national politics, thanks to the current occupant of the White House, but just what impact does President George W. Bush’s favorite state have on society?

Journalist Christopher Hitchens sets out to answer that question with “Texas: America Supersized,” a new documentary airing at 9 p.m. Sunday on Trio.

Mr. Hitchens, who wrote the one-hour special, examines Texas life, politics and culture, fleshing out his narrative with interviews with singer Kinky Friedman, novelist Larry McMurtry, liberal writer Molly Ivins, oilman Boone Pickens and your average Texans.

Laverne reborn

She may have come to national prominence as a wacky girl from Milwaukee, but Penny Marshall successfully changed hats from sitcom darling to big-budget director.

Encore’s latest edition of its “Directors” series focuses on the erstwhile Laverne DeFazio.

“The Directors: The Films of Penny Marshall” airs at 11 a.m. tomorrow on the cable channel.

Miss Marshall’s film work includes “A League of Their Own,” “Awakenings” and “Big.”

Her directing career has cooled of late — her most recent film was the tepidly received “Riding in Cars With Boys” in 2001. Even so, Miss Marshall proves there is life after Lenny and Squiggy.

‘South Park’ syndicated

The potty-mouthed boys of “South Park” will soon hit the syndicated market place. And if you thought “Sex and the City” took a few censorship hits, wait until “South Park” winds up on TV channels throughout the country.

Comedy Central’s irreverent cartoon has been cleared by distributor Tribune Entertainment for syndication in 85 percent of the country to launch next fall, E! Online reports.

The show’s salty language is easy to clean up. Its often scatological plotlines won’t be so easily upgraded.

The show’s Christmas character alone, whose full name can’t be printed here, may not survive the transition from cable.

Distributors agreed to tone down the raunchiness and R-rated language to comply with broadcast standards.

“They’re definitely going to have to clean it up a little bit, but I don’t know how much Comedy Central’s involved in that,” Comedy Central spokeswoman Lisa Chader told E! Online.

To meet FCC requirements, the three syndicators jointly distributing the show — Tribune Entertainment, Debmar Studios and Mercury Entertainment — are setting up a content review board that will give executives from station groups a chance to review and approve boundary-pushing episodes for broadcast.

Some shows may simply prove too hot for daytime television, such as “The Passion of the Jew,” the show’s lampooning of Mel Gibson’s blockbuster take on Jesus’ final hours.

The show’s creators, meanwhile, show no sign of slowing down.

Matt Parker and Trey Stone already have signed on to produce more “South Park” episodes until at least 2006, and they’re currently wrapping up “Team America,” a new satire of the war on terror and celebrities.

New disaster in works

NBC’s “10.5” miniseries proved disaster equals success, so CBS is looking to produce a calamity all its own.

The network has assembled a solid core of TV and film veterans — Brian Dennehy, Dianne Wiest, Randy Quaid, Nancy McKeon and Thomas Gibson — for an upcoming disaster-themed miniseries for next season, Reuters News Agency reports.

The long-dormant disaster miniseries genre was resurrected last season when NBC’s earthquake saga delivered huge ratings.

Emmy-nominated Mr. Dennehy most recently worked with CBS on the 2003 TV movie, “The Crooked E: The Unshredded Truth About Enron.” He currently can be seen in Spike Lee’s new film, “She Hate Me.”

Oscar and Emmy winner Miss Wiest most recently top-lined the CBS/Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie “The Blackwater Lightship.”

Mr. Quaid’s last gig for CBS didn’t last long. He starred in the short-lived drama “The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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