- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Dog’ days

Cesar Millan says the impulse to become a dog trainer struck “like a bolt of lightning” when he was 13.

“I always felt I had a preference to be around Mother Nature rather than being with humankind,” the man known as the Dog Whisperer admits. “I feel more connected with Mother Nature.”

Viewers can see that connection tomorrow when Mr. Millan’s dog-training series, “Dog Whisperer,” returns to the National Geographic Channel for its second season.

The new year finds the show expanding to a full hour and moving into prime time (Friday evenings at 8). The first new installment follows Mr. Millan as he uses his understanding of dog pack life to tame an unruly yellow lab named Brady.

To dog lovers, Mr. Millan’s handiwork can be nothing short of miraculous. The TV host, owner of the Dog Psychology Center of Los Angeles, can make a dog stop biting, pulling on its leash or chasing neighbors in a matter of minutes.

It’s all about balance, he says.

“There’s no magic. They’re just looking for someone to give them direction,” he says of his furry clients.

It also doesn’t hurt to examine the dog owner as well asthe dog.

“People share intimacy with me when they talk about their dogs,” the Mexico native says. “In conversation you’ll open up… the love you have for the dog makes you surrender.”

That, in turn, can tell him plenty about why a dog behaves as it does.

Mr. Millan, who owns seven dogs, contends that the old saw “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is nonsense. Nor does he care what kind of past the dog endured before finding an owner.

“I evaluate how the dog feels when I arrive,” he says. “I find out, ‘What does he need right now?’ … when I give him that, his mind automatically changes.”

Comedy ‘Kings’

Buddy comedies need something more than flatulence jokes and late-night beer runs.

“Four Kings,” the NBC midseason replacement series debuting at 8:30 tonight, gets it half right.

This tale of four friends who live together in a stately New York house finds some pathos beyond the typical male bonding. Just don’t expect the same kind of insights that made “Sex and the City” such an anthropological treat for women.

“Kings,” from the creative team behind “Will & Grace,” follows four lifelong friends who end up living under the same roof when one of them inherits an old home. When Ben (Josh Cooke from last year’s “Committed”) learns his late grandmother left him her house, he must choose between inviting his three best friends to live with him or inviting his longtime steady (“Related’s” Kiele Sanchez) to move in. Suffice it to say the boys win out, but they also give Ben the kind of unselfish advice he needs to make the final decision.

Tonight’s premiere clicks with some efficient running gags and hints at recurring characters, such as Barry’s ex-girlfriend and her conniving daughters, who could blossom over time.

Seth Green (co-star of the 2003 feature film “Party Monster”), plays the explosive Barry and is the biggest name of the sitcom’s quartet. The actor’s diminutive size and genteel appearance make his rants particularly funny. The other “Kings” — Jason (Todd Grinnell) and Bobby (Shane McRae) — seem appealing enough for the given material, nothing more.

“Four Kings” isn’t as smart as either “My Name Is Earl” or “The Office,” two NBC comedies that move to Thursday nights this week. Yet even in its earliest stages, it’s a better bet than the bedraggled “Will & Grace.”

Koppel’s new Discovery

Ted Koppel is taking his sober news approach to the Discovery Channel — and he’s bringing a gang of former “Nightline” staffers with him.

The longtime “Nightline” host will join the cable channel as its new managing editor to make news documentaries and participate in his trademark town hall-style chats, Associated Press reports. His first program for Discovery is expected in the fall.

He’ll be joined by Tom Bettag, his former executive producer at “Nightline,” who left ABC with Mr. Koppel along with eight other former “Nightline” staffers.

A Discovery spokeswoman would not immediately identify the other former “Nightline” staff members to join him.

Mr. Koppel, 65, left “Nightline” in November after 25 years. The late-night news show he originated has continued on ABC with three new anchors.

Final touchdown

ABC’s “Monday Night Football” got a fitting farewell last week, cracking the top 10 twice in its final commercial television broadcast, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The venerable sports show is moving to ESPN next season, which led to a special highlights show in addition to the last regular “MNF” game broadcast Dec. 26.

In order, last week’s top five most-watched shows were: 1.) CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 2.) ABC’s “NFL Monday Night Football: New England Patriots at N.Y. Jets,” 3.) ABC’s “NFL Monday Showcase,” 4.) CBS’ “CSI: Miami,” and 5.) Fox’s “The O.C.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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