- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2006

Mob crusades

HBO is capitalizing on the success of both “The Sopranos” and “Rome” with its latest project.

The cable channel is developing a miniseries about the third crusade, the 12th-century clash between Islam and Christianity, Reuters news agency reports.

The unnamed project is being written by Kario Salem, an Emmy winner for HBO’s 1997 biopic “Don King: Only in America.”

“This is not some dry historical costume drama,” Mr. Salem says. “I think it of it as a medieval gangster epic.”

The story, a co-production with Britain’s Channel 4, will be told through the eyes of leaders Saladin and Richard the Lion-Hearted.

Mr. Salem earned a script order for eight hours on the strength of an outline of more than 100 pages steeped in years of research.

“Rome,” a co-production with the BBC, returns to HBO next month.

Small-screen Spielberg

Steven Spielberg, who helped bring a different war drama — “Band of Brothers” — to HBO, is again producing for television. This time, he’s working with Fox.

Mr. Spielberg has brought two hourlong dramas to the network, Zap2It.com reports. The first is from the director’s “Saving Private Ryan” star Ed Burns and Mr. Burns’ wife, model Christy Turlington. The series will follow five friends trying to make it behind the scenes in the fashion industry.

The other pilot focuses on two World War II-era physicists who travel forward in time to 2007. Their mission is to bring back technology to help the war effort, but one of the researchers falls in love with a present-day woman.

Mr. Spielberg is no stranger to Fox. He’s already executive producing the network’s spring reality series “On the Lot.”

Holiday watch

This weekend, there’s plenty on TV to occupy those looking to take a load off after constant shopping and endless holiday preparations.

On tonight:

• A Christmas Story, 8 p.m. TCM. Don’t shoot your eye out, kid. Here’s an early yuletide gift for those who just can’t wait for TNT’s 10th annual round-the-clock telecast — beginning at 8 p.m. Dec. 24 — of director Bob Clark’s 1983 holiday favorite (adapted from the short story by Jean Shepherd) about young Ralphie’s (Peter Billingsley) quest for a Red Ryder BB Gun in the 1940s.

• Fallen Angel, 11 p.m. Hallmark Channel. When his father dies, Gary Sinise makes what he thinks will be a brief return to his childhood home to clean up and settle his dad’s affairs. Someone else has other plans, and soon he’s reunited with memories and people from his past who will change his life forever. On tomorrow:

• Elf, 8 p.m. CBS. A man raised as an elf at the North Pole sets off on a journey across America in search of his true identity. Will Ferrell stars.

• Home Alone, 8 p.m. TBS. When his family jets off for Christmas in Paris and accidentally leaves him behind, 8-year-old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) must contend with idiotic burglars (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern) — and, of course, that after-shave.

• It’s a Wonderful Life, 8 p.m. NBC. Frank Capra’s sentimental tale of Zuzu’s petals, the downtrodden George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), who’s menaced by the town bully (Lionel Barrymore), and the angel in training (Henry Travers) who gives George a new lease on life.

• Christmas Do-Over, 8 p.m. ABC Family. Christmas meets “Groundhog Day” in this original movie. Jay Mohr (“Jerry Maguire”) stars as a man who is forced to relive one bad Christmas over and over and over again.

• MadTV, 11 p.m. Fox. Jeff Probst temporarily sets aside his duties as host of “Survivor” to hang out with a tribe of comics in this holiday-themed special. On Sunday:

• The Simpsons, 8 p.m. Fox. Homer, Marge, Bart and the rest of the gang team up for a holiday episode. D’oh!

• Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 5:30 and 8 p.m. ABC Family. The always manic Jim Carrey and his usual over-the-top antics soon wear thin in this live-action adaptation of the classic holiday tale about the sourpuss who steals all the cheer.

• The Santa Clause 2, 8 p.m. ABC. Santa (Tim Allen) has big troubles. His son’s misdeeds land him on the “naughty” list, and the jolly old elf must find a Mrs. Claus — pronto.

• ”Over the Top Holiday,” 9 p.m. HGTV. A look at outrageous and over-the-top home holiday displays.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance and Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, wire and Web reports.

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