- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2007

‘24’ down but not out

David Fury, co-producer of “24,” is taking on a sea of unhappy fans who say the acclaimed Fox drama ain’t what it used to be.

Mr. Fury, as TVWeek.com noted, seemed to be especially peeved by a story in Monday’s Los Angeles Times titled “Is Time Running Out for ‘24’?”

According to the newspaper, “more than one-third of viewers have bailed since the special four-hour season premiere that aired over two consecutive nights back in January.”

“Last week, with a fresh episode designed to lay the groundwork for what the creators promise will be a typically suspenseful finale next month, ‘24’s‘ ratings in the key young-adult category swooned to their lowest level in more than three years, with a total audience of just 10.4 million, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research,” the story continued.

The drama also failed to make Nielsen’s Top 20 cut for the week of April 23 through 29, based on figures released Tuesday.

“It’s been a very tricky year for us; it’s been very difficult,” TVWeek.com quotes Mr. Fury as saying. “This is year six, and you try to keep the plates spinning on this show. You try to keep things interesting, find new ways to tell the story, and unfortunately, we wound up repeating ourselves somewhat. I still would claim that regardless of the quality drop-off that people are saying the show’s still very strong. It’s still one of the best things on television.”

He also attributed the show’s seeming decline to several obstacles, including a lack of “mapping-out stories” and story arcs and killing off a significant number of characters.

“In the early seasons of ‘24,’ they did try to map out stories and arc out stories a little bit more than they did in seasons four and five,” Mr. Fury said, “and four and five turned out to be the two most successful seasons of the show. It just so happens that maybe this year it’s caught up with us.

“There are relationships that Jack had that we can’t exploit anymore, and that’s certainly a problem,” he added. “We don’t have those people to pull from anymore for stories, and it becomes harder for the audience to latch on to new characters. It takes time for those characters to garner the same affection that the older characters did.”

Mr. Fury said next season already has been hashed over and that viewers can expect to see a new approach toward writing the episodes, with a mixture of “winging it” and plotting out story arcs. He also promised more of the show’s characteristic twists and turns, which he said will have fans coming back for more.

“After winning the Emmy last year, we had nowhere to go but down anyway,” the producer joked. “They’d have to be gunning for us; there’s no way to keep this good press up.”

Happy times for Wilmer

Wilmer Valderrama and the producers of “American Idol” are teaming up.

The actor, who starred in Fox’s “That ‘70s Show” and has branched into production (MTV’s “Yo Momma”) and movie roles (“Fast Food Nation”), will develop and possibly star in series projects for FremantleMedia North America, Associated Press reports.

Mr. Valderrama, 27, will establish offices at Fremantle in Burbank, Calif., for the actor’s WV Enterprises, his publicist said. He’s also set to star in a feature-film version of the series “CHiPs” as “Ponch” Poncherello, the motorcycle-riding California highway patrolman originally played by Erik Estrada in the 1970s show.

CNN celebrates Brown

On the weekend of what would have been James Brown’s 74th birthday, CNN tells the story of the man raised in a brothel who rose to become the Godfather of Soul.

On “James Brown, Say It Proud” (premiering tomorrow at 8 p.m.) CNN correspondent Don Lemon interviews the Rev. Al Sharpton, music greats Little Richard and Bootsy Collins, band mate Bobby Byrd and superstar Usher (who considered Mr. Brown a mentor and recounts how much Mr. Brown’s advice meant to him).

Mr. Brown’s family members; his business manager, Charles Bobbit; and his biographer, Bruce Tucker, also reveal the sensitive and complicated character behind the cultural legend.

On tap tonight

• ABC is betting on hefty ratings for tonight’s installment of its newsmagazine “20/20” (10 p.m., WJLA-ABC7) when the so-called “D.C. Madam,” Deborah Jeane Palfrey, reportedly will spill the names of the city’s movers and shakers who used her services. Brian Ross, ABC News’ chief investigative correspondent, does the interviewing.

Federal prosecutors have accused Miss Palfrey, 50, of running an outcall prostitution ring that reportedly charged its clients $300 per hour. Miss Palfrey denies the charges and maintains that she was sending independent contractors on legal fantasy appointments.

• D.C. native Henry Rollins will celebrate the Stooges on his eponymous talk show on cable’s Independent Film Channel at 11 p.m. Band members Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton and Mike Watt will discuss their history, their recent reunion (after a 33-year hiatus) and their latest album, “The Weirdness,” released earlier this year. Oh, and they also perform.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff,Web and wire reports

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