- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2003

‘Sopranos’ sing again

Our collective “bada-bing” withdrawal is about to end.

New episodes of HBO’s “The Sopranos” will begin airing in March, according to the network.

The show’s fifth season has a tough act to follow. Season four may have had its detractors, but most loved watching Ralphie (Joe Pantoliano) give Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) fits, only to meet a rather horrific end.

The cable network also announced that the final eight “Sex and the City” episodes will begin airing at 9 p.m. Jan. 4. Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” another critics’ darling, follows with new programs at 9:30 on the same night.

Tomlin toasted

Friends and colleagues didn’t just praise Lily Tomlin at her Mark Twain Prize ceremony last month. They toasted her array of insightful characters, each of whom taps universal truths.

What sounds like an erudite affair proved nothing of the sort. The Oct. 26 event at the Kennedy Center airs at 9 tonight on WETA-TV.

Among the obvious guests were Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton, Miss Tomlin’s cohorts from the 1980 film, “Nine to Five.”

Less clear is the rationale for comic Dave Chappelle’s appearance, but let’s not sweat the details. The D.C. native’s short, blistering set proved the night’s zenith.

Robin Williams, Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg appear via videotape, but only Miss Goldberg’s chat resonates with humor and appreciation for a fellow chameleon.

Unlike Bob Newhart’s drab celebration last year, this Mark Twain event soared whenever the video monitor clicked into life. Snaps of Miss Tomlin’s acerbic yet warm characters have aged as gracefully as the star herself.

Miss Tomlin could be sassy, sexy, serious or stiff; whatever the character and scene demanded. Comically fearless like the best of her peers, she soaked in the adulation during the program and later capped the affair with a witty acceptance speech.

And, in a promising nod to the future, young comic Sarah Jones moved with quicksilver speed between characters. That performance, more than any other testimony, might speak best as to Miss Tomlin’s enduring influence.

Greed isn’t good

A top Fox executive told Associated Press this week that the network “got greedy” in ordering a second edition of “Joe Millionaire.”

A television network motivated by greed, not content? It’s a crazy world.

In nine months, the show has gone from one of TV’s most surprising successes to the new season’s most spectacular flameout. Maybe the first “Joe,” Evan Marriott, was smarter than we all thought.

The final episode of its second season was to air Monday.

“Our instincts told us from the very beginning that ‘Joe Millionaire’ was a one-time stunt, and I think we got greedy,” said Sandy Grushow, Fox television entertainment chairman, on Monday.

About 40 million people watched in February when hunky Mr. Marriott revealed to the woman he picked that he really wasn’t a millionaire. The series as a whole drew an average of nearly 23 million viewers.

Some critics doubted that the show’s concept would bear repeating, but Mr. Grushow said in February, “We’re obviously optimistic that it will perform extremely well when it returns.”

Yet, despite moving its setting to Europe to find gullible women, audiences have yawned. This season, the series has averaged 6.5 million viewers (ranked No. 85 for the season), with 5.4 million tuning in last week, according to Nielsen Media Research.

“We tried to sneak it by the American public a second time, and we got called on it,” Mr. Grushow said.

Reality nuptials

And they said it wouldn’t last … through sweeps month.

“The Bachelorette’s” lovely Trista Rehn is marrying Colorado firefighter Ryan Sutter at 9 tonight on ABC. We can’t watch the “I do’s” just yet, though. The network is turning their special day into a three-episode miniseries. Tonight, viewers will watch the preparations leading up to the big day, such as dress fittings and meetings with the wedding planner — and, we suppose, checking Nielsen ratings and demographics data.

Ah, true love, reality style.

Barker turns 80

Bob Barker wants his fans to “come on down” and help him blow out his 80 birthday candles. The veteran game show host will celebrate his 80th birthday with a television special next month.

The host of the longest-running game show in television will preside over “The Price Is Right Million Dollar Spectacular,” a CBS special airing at 8 p.m. Dec. 13, a day after Mr. Barker’s actual birthday, according to Associated Press.

Mr. Barker will be joined by guests Larry King and Chuck Norris, who taught Mr. Barker karate before becoming the star of “Walker, Texas Ranger.”

Videotaped greetings will air from actors on other CBS shows, including Ray Romano, David James Elliott, Catherine Bell, Ted Danson and Charlie Sheen.

During the program, contestants will have a chance to spin the Big Wheel for $1 million. The showcase winner will win the largest amount in cash and prizes ever won by a single contestant in the “The Price Is Right’s” history.

In 2002, Mr. Barker broke Johnny Carson’s record for continuous performances on the same network show.

Mr. Carson retired from NBC’s “The Tonight Show” in 1992 after 29 years, seven months and 21 days.

Mr. Barker is in his 31st year hosting a show that began in 1956 with Bill Cullen. Previously, he hosted “Truth or Consequences” for 18 years.

“The Price Is Right” suffered a big loss recently with the passing of longtime announcer Rod Roddy. The 66-year-old performer died last month after battles with breast and colon cancer.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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