- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Wyle’s new chapter

Some television actors (think Sarah Michelle Gellar) spend every production break filming movies to prepare for life after the show’s inevitable end.

Not Noah Wyle.

The boyish actor and the heart of NBC’s long-running “ER” has worked sporadically on side projects since 1994, when the groundbreaking medical drama made its network debut. But supporting roles in a handful of films — including “The Myth of Fingerprints,” “Enough” and “Donnie Darko” — seem to fall short of the big screen riches befitting a TVstar taking full advantage of his fame.

“I don’t have the same compulsion to work 12 months a year like Mr. Clooney does,” Mr. Wyle explains while ribbing George Clooney, his former “ER” cast mate.

Mr. Wyle’s view may change, at least for this weekend, when he takes center stage in a new adventure yarn for TNT.

“The Librarian: Quest for the Spear,” airing Sunday at 8 p.m., positions Mr. Wyle as an Indiana Jones type, albeit one who’s dragged reluctantly from his hermitlike existence as a perpetual student. The actor — known best to “ER” fans as Dr. John Carter — plays a bookworm thrust into the hero’s role when a powerful holy relic falls into the wrong hands.

The film, which boasts a breezy spirit that’s nowhere near an “Indiana Jones” level of excitement, co-stars Kyle MacLachlan, Bob Newhart and Jane Curtin.

“You get very few chances to carry a movie,” Mr. Wyle says. “You build a body of work. … When you do get those opportunities, if they’re not successful, you still have that body of work behind you that shows.”

For Mr. Wyle, that work is “ER,” a show that, despite its declining ratings, has given him a chance to take a role through some remarkable growing pains.

“In a lot of ways, ‘ER’ has been the best education I could have asked for,” he says. “I’ve taken the character from a bumbling, stumbling comic relief to a mature, professional leading-man-type character. That arc is one I’m very proud of.”

It’s also one he appears ready to leave behind.

Mr Wyle has all but promised that this season of “ER” will be the last for him, although he hasn’t officially closed the door on a return. He says the show has regained its focus after several years of melodramatic sideshows.

The drama’s penchant for grand tales involving crashing helicopters and tanks rolling down streets deflected from the human dramas swirling around the emergency room, Mr. Wyle says.

And, he adds, “ER” will live on without him. There’s still plenty of “legitimate” drama to be gleaned from a show on which stories include the “socioeconomic situations of an understaffed hospital,” Mr. Wyle says.

‘Desperate’ on top

“Desperate Housewives,” ABC’s campy freshman drama, reigned supreme last week — lending credence to the theory that its controversial “Monday Night Football” promotion only brought more attention to the show.

That, coupled with a much-hyped mystery of guessing who would be the next Wisteria Lane resident to face an untimely demise, led the show to the week’s No. 1 slot. An estimated 27.2 million viewers tuned in Sunday to see the conniving Martha Huber (Christine Estabrook) bumped off by the equally unsavory Paul Young (Mark Moses), Associated Press reports.

Still, the week, and the November sweeps, belonged to CBS. The Tiffany network drew more young viewers than its competitors for the first time since 1980. On the other hand, CBS’ viewership among all ages is actually down, while ABC’s numbers are up compared with last November. Viewership for Fox, however, appears to be stalled.

In the evening-news race, NBC was the clear winner, averaging about 11.3 million viewers for Tom Brokaw’s final full week as anchor.

Meanwhile, Dan Rather’s “CBS Evening News” landed in its familiar third place among the big network newscasts, with 7.9 million viewers.

For the week of Nov. 22 to 28, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “Desperate Housewives,” ABC, 27.2 million; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Thanksgiving Special,” CBS, 24.4 million; “CSI: Miami,” CBS, 22.1 million; “Without a Trace Thanksgiving Special,” CBS, 19.8 million; “Two and a Half Men,” CBS, 18.9 million.

Fallujah revisited

Fox News Channel takes viewers into the heart of the recent coalition victory in Fallujah with “The Battle of Fallujah: Heroes of India Company.”

The special, premiering Sunday evening at 9, is part of the channel’s “Breaking Point” series of investigative documentaries.

The hour-long program follows a Marine company as it advances through Fallujah.

Embedded FNC correspondent Greg Palkot followed the company through seven trying days of urban combat.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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