- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 1, 2004

‘Majestic’ offering

Jim Carrey’s 2001 feature “The Majestic” packed all the prerelease hype of a sure-fire Oscar nominee. The comic actor was due for his first golden statuette after a string of stellar performances, and who better than director Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption”) to supply him with an Oscar-worthy role?

It all fizzled, though, after the film’s release, when critics declared the feature nothing more than warmed-over Frank Capra fare.

TV viewers can make up their own minds this weekend, when cable’s USA Network broadcasts the heart tugger for the first time.

“The Majestic” stars Mr. Carrey as Peter Appleton, a budding screenwriter who loses his memory and ends up in a small town where he’s mistaken for a long-lost soldier.

The movie airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on USA.

‘N’ is for …

The Trio network dares to say the “N word” over and over this Sunday, all in an effort to help demystify arguably the most inflammatory word in our language.

“The N Word,” airing at 9 p.m., invites numerous black celebrities and scholars — including Chris Rock, Whoopi Goldberg, Samuel L. Jackson and Stanley Crouch — to pontificate on the power and meaning of the word.

The special digs up the term’s earliest derivations and chronicles how its use changed over time. It also examines how hip-hop music co-opted the word as a source of rage, self-expression and empowerment.

At one point, “The N Word” ticks off the number of songs using a derivation of the word after the emergence of the rap group N.W.A.

Few of the participants, particularly those in the music industry, seem to take any responsibility for its negative connotations. Mr. Crouch labels such an embrace “immature.”

The subject matter is so narrowly defined that, by its very nature, the special drags at times. Still, “The N Word” features compelling first-person recollections of how people first heard the word and testimonials that overshadow all the scholarly asides.

Dueling realities

When CBS’ “Survivor” struck reality-show gold, competing networks began incorporating various aspects — such as the voting-council concept —into their own fare.

Most, in fact, have little reluctance about copying entire elements of other reality shows into their own productions.

Looking to beat ABC to the punch with a concept that made headlines and sparked advertiser enthusiasm, Fox last month announced that it’s developing its own reality show in which the mothers of two households switch places, according to Reuters News Agency.

Tentatively titled “Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy,” the forthcoming Fox show is expected to premiere in late summer, ahead of ABC’s much-ballyhooed “Wife Swap,” currently scheduled to debut Sept. 29.

A Fox spokesman, however, said no air date has been set for “Trading Spouses.”

The network, a Fox Entertainment Group unit of News Corp. Ltd., has initially ordered 10 hourlong segments of the show, with each of the five swaps playing out over two segments, a Fox spokesman said.

As with ABC’s “Wife Swap,” the dramatic or comedic tension of “Trading Spouses” derives from the culture clash that ensues when parents are matched up with households of dissimilar backgrounds —such as an affluent mother moving in with a blue-collar brood.

“It’s a fish-out-of-water story. It’s like ‘The Simple Life’ meets your mother,” Fox reality guru Mike Darnell told Daily Variety, drawing a parallel to the Fox hit that puts pampered socialites Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie in rural surroundings.

A closer comparison could easily be drawn to ABC’s “Wife Swap,” which drew positive buzz at the network’s “upfront” presentation to advertisers last month, although some media buyers expressed concern that the show’s racy title conjured up images of sexually adventurous couples.

Excerpts of the pilot showed a New Age mother trying to impose a regimen of meditation and broccoli on her suburban “swap” family, while her counterpart — a fastidious housewife — tearfully lamented the housekeeping at her temporary abode.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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