- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 28, 2012

‘Dancing with the Stars’ names next celebrity dancers

Urkel, the Empress of Soul and one of the Green Bay Packers are waltzing onto “Dancing With the Stars.”

“Family Matters” actor Jaleel White, singer Gladys Knight and National Football League player Donald Driver will be among the 12 celebrity contestants on the next season of the ABC dancing competition, according to the Associated Press. Other famous faces participating in the 14th edition include “The View” co-host Sherri Shepherd, singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw, “Little House on the Prairie” actress Melissa Gilbert and Disney Channel star Roshon Fegan.

The new cast, which also includes tennis player Martina Navratilova, “Melrose Place” actor Jack Wagner, telenovela star William Levy, operatic singer Katherine Jenkins and “Extra” co-host Maria Menounos, was announced Tuesday on “Good Morning America.” The contestants will dance their first routines with their professional partners March 19 and March 26, and the first couple will be eliminated March 27.

Last season, actor J.R. Martinez and professional partner Karina Smirnoff took home the mirrorball trophy with reality TV star Rob Kardashian and partner Cheryl Burke coming in second place in front of former talk show host Ricki Lake and partner Derek Hough. Other previous champions include “Dirty Dancing” actress Jennifer Grey, Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger and gymnast Shawn Johnson.

Spader won’t return to ‘Office’ next season

Actor James Spader’s stay at “The Office” will be short.

NBC said Monday that Mr. Spader, who appeared in last season’s finale and more this year as the oddball boss Robert California, won’t be back next year, the Associated Press reports. NBC sought his star power to help make up for the absence of Steve Carell, who left the Thursday night comedy last spring.

Paul Lieberstein, the show’s executive producer, said NBC’s initial commitment to Mr. Spader was only for last year’s finale. But he said Mr. Spader’s scenes proved so compelling “that those two scenes became a season.”

Mr. Lieberstein said Mr. Spader never wanted to stay beyond this year.

Muslim lifestyles TV station dropped from Verizon lineup

The future of a Muslim lifestyles television station that survived its founder’s murder conviction is again in question after Verizon FiOS decided to drop it from the lineup.

Bridges TV General Manager Hunaid Baliwala said Monday that Verizon has told him the station’s viewership is too low and that, as of March 15, it will no longer be carried. According to the Associated Press, Verizon confirmed that it’s dropping Bridges TV, but noted that it is still available through the station’s website.

Bridges, an English-language station intended to foster understanding between the West and Middle Eastern and South Asian religions and cultures, is carried in more than two dozen markets, including the District, Los Angeles, Boston, Detroit and Dallas. Verizon FiOS, a fiber-optic network that provides Internet, phone and TV service, is the carrier in all but a handful of cities.

“If we had known something like this was happening, we could have done things to improve,” said Mr. Baliwala, who said Verizon gave the station one month’s notice and has not responded to his request for viewership numbers.

Bridges TV was founded in 2004 by Muzzammil Hassan and his wife, Aasiya, as a platform to dispel negative stereotypes about Muslims. It managed to stay on the air after Hassan was convicted last year of beheading his wife in 2009. Hassan, who is in prison, has not been involved with the station since his arrest.

The station moved its headquarters from suburban Buffalo to New York City last year for better access to programming and personnel, Mr. Baliwala said, and it is in the process of upgrading its mix of news, political discussion, sports and cooking.

“We try constantly to dispel negative stereotypes and hatred that’s going out there, and this effectively limits that. And so the Muslim community especially, the Middle Eastern South Asia community, lose a voice in the mainstream media,” Mr. Baliwala said. “You think about all the other channels that Verizon has. None are what we are trying to do. None of them actually do what we do, so it’s disappointing that they made that decision.”

McCain won’t tune in to HBO’s ‘Game Change’

When it comes to HBO’s upcoming television movie, “Game Change,” Sen. John McCain is sticking to his guns and standing by his 2008 vice-presidential running mate Sarah Palin.

“This new movie that comes out, [people] ask me if I’m gonna watch it,” Mr. McCain said, according to the L.A. Times. “I tell them it’ll be a cold day in Gila Bend, Arizona.”

“Game Change” is based on the book of the same name about the 2008 presidential election by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. It also focuses largely on Mrs. Palin’s candidacy for vice president.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Mr. McCain’s vow not to watch “Game Change” follows a news conference held last week by Palin staffers in which they said the film was packed with inaccuracies and depicts events that didn’t happen.

Mr. McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain, also made her disapproval of the film public last week on MSNBC when she said, “I didn’t like this book, I didn’t like this movie.” And pronounced, “Oh, Republican voters don’t watch HBO.”

“Game Change” stars Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore and Ed Harris. It premieres at 9 p.m. March 10.

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.