- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2005

New, old faces on ‘24’

Jack’s back with a whole new set of friends — and enemies.

As Fox’s “24” heads into its fifth adrenaline-filled, sleep-deprived day, producers are restocking the cast with fresh blood, including former “Designing Women” star Jean Smart and up-and-coming stars Connie Britton and 16-year-old Brady Corbet.

Details for the new season are being kept under lock and key — the network wants to make sure nothing leaks before Day Five kicks off in January, according to E! Online. Producers and publicists are not even publicly confirming that series star Kiefer Sutherland will be back as CTU agent Jack Bauer to save the world from yet another dastardly conspiracy. (Surprise: He will.)

Among the confirmed returnees: Gregory Itzen as President Logan and Carlos Bernard as Tony Almeida, despite the character’s seeming exit from the show for good at the end of last season, when Tony and Michelle Dessler (Reiko Aylesworth) appeared ready to give up the terrorist-hunting lifestyle to rekindle their marriage.

As for the newcomers, Miss Smart, an Emmy winner for two guest stints on “Frasier” and most recently seen in the indie film hit “Garden State,” will play Logan’s first lady. Miss Britton, best known for her work on “Spin City,” is apparently going to be Bauer’s latest love interest. (Good luck with that.) And Brady (“Thirteen”) will reportedly play Miss Britton’s son, a teenager who has a strong bond with Bauer early in the season, E! Online says.

Fox declined, however, to elaborate on any plot points for next season.

Job security

Kristin Chenoweth, the multitalented singing star of stage (“Wicked”) and screen (“Bewitched”), will return to her role as communications specialist Annabeth Schott on “The West Wing” for at least nine episodes this season, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Miss Chenoweth says she and the rest of the cast of the NBC drama still have no idea whether the next president will be played by Alan Alda or Jimmy Smits.

“Everybody at ‘West Wing’ is anxious to find out” who will win the election, says the Tony-winning actress.

Luckily for Miss Chenoweth, she may have a job whatever the outcome. Although her character is working for a Democratic White House, it’s never been revealed whether she has partisan leanings or is just a hired gun.

‘Weeds’ takes root

Desperation?

The housewives on Wisteria Lane should take a day trip to the equally picturesque but even more problematic TV town of Agrestic, Calif. That’s the setting of the new Showtime series “Weeds,” premiering Sunday night at 11.

The weekly half-hour dramedy revolves around Nancy, a newly widowed suburban mother (played by Mary Louise Parker) who ends up selling marijuana to her neighbors — all to maintain the upper-middle-class lifestyle to which she and her children have become accustomed, Associated Press reports.

Miss Parker, though, was more … (ahem) blunt with her description.

“Oh, it’s about pot,” the Tony-winning Miss Parker joked with AP Television News before getting serious. “It’s about suburbia and the myth of suburbia … and how it seems like normalcy and perfection and what is actually behind that, how that actually doesn’t exist.”

Elizabeth Perkins (now on the big screen in the comedy “Must Love Dogs”) portrays the sad-funny-infuriating Celia, a ruthless mother, tortured wife and alcoholic, pill-popping mess. Think Lady Macbeth meets Sue Ellen Ewing of “Dallas” fame.

“Weeds” marks a rare dramatic turn for Kevin Nealon after his nine-year run on “Saturday Night Live.” Romany Malco and Tonye Patano provide, respectively, the heart and soul of the story — surprising when you consider that they play Nancy’s drug suppliers.

Miss Patano insisted that the pot is not the show’s focal point.

“It’s about much more than that,” notes the screen and Broadway veteran. “The big questions (the show) raises are so much more interesting: ‘Why do people do it?’ ‘What do people really need in their lives?’ ”

All the “Weeds” principals said they were prepared for controversy over the show.

Lending their voices

A number of celebrity voices will be heard on the 17th season of Fox’s animated hit “The Simpsons.”

According to Mediaweek.com, actor Alec Baldwin will lend his voice to the season premiere, which airs September 11. Other upcoming guest voices include Kelsey Grammer, William H. Macy, Ricky Gervais, NFL-quarterback-turned-sportscaster Terry Bradshaw, Lily Tomlin, Oscar-winner Frances McDormand, former NBA great Dennis Rodman and New York Yankees pitcher Randy Johnson.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports.

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