- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2003

‘Mac’ is back

Fox’s “The Bernie Mac Show” gets the star treatment when it returns for a second season this weekend.

Basketball’s Shaquille O’Neal drops by “Mac” during its season premiere at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, and Ellen DeGeneres plays herself the following week.

Mr. O’Neal stars in the new episode, dubbed “Eye of the Tiger.” Young Jordan (Jeremy Suarez) follows Bernie’s advice and tries out for his school’s basketball team.

The coach takes a quick look at the boy’s skills and decides the youngster is better off trying gymnastics — specifically, the anything-but-macho form of the sport called ribbon dancing.

The following week, Miss DeGeneres appears with Bernie as herself. That episode finds Wanda (Kellita Smith) quitting her job and becoming a major thorn in Bernie’s side as he prepares for an appearance on Miss DeGeneres’ eponymous show.

Bernie Mac can also be seen these days in a supporting role in “Bad Santa,” a dark holiday comedy starring Billy Bob Thornton as an ornery department store Santa.

‘Greenlight’ in limbo

TV Guide Online

HBO has nixed a third season of “Project Greenlight,” but producers are this close to signing a deal to bring the acclaimed series to NBC-owned Bravo.

The 13-week documentary series chronicles the making of a feature film by a previously unknown filmmaker. The finished films later open in movie theaters — though none, to date, has found box office success.

Oscar-winners Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are “Greenlight’s” executive producers, and created the series with producer Chris Moore.

New news channel

Just what we need: another 24-hour news channel to devote every waking moment to the Michael Jackson molestation case.

Television Week is reporting that Walt Disney Co.’s ABC television and its affiliates are planning a joint 24-hour news digital television channel with a big commitment to local programming, according to Reuters News Agency.

However, the plan for a competitor to such cable news channels as CNN and Fox News Channel could be scrapped if federal regulators do not require cable television operators to carry new digital signals being developed by broadcasters, the magazine said on its online edition.

“We’re working with ABC to develop a joint affiliate/network initiative that’s heavy on localism,” Deb McDermott, chair of the ABC Television Affiliates Association and executive vice president of television owner Young Broadcasting, was quoted as saying.

ABC, which has been testing digital broadcasting, confirmed it was talking with affiliates but declined to give details.

“We are in discussions with our affiliate board regarding uses of the digital spectrum that can benefit the networks, our affiliates and the public,” the network said in a statement.

Traditional television networks such as ABC are developing digital channels they can broadcast over the air, part of the move to high definition and digital television.

ABC also wants the Federal Communications Commission to require cable operators to carry the channels it creates, an issue regulators are considering.

The network’s 10 owned stations plan to roll out digital broadcasts soon, after testing at ABC’s KFSN in Fresno, Calif.

Trump’s turn on NBC

TV Guide Online

Donald Trump’s NBC reality gamble “The Apprentice” will air Wednesdays at 8 p.m. beginning in January.

The series will test the abilities of 20 candidates in New York’s corporate jungle, and lands the winner a six-figure salary job as Mr. Trump’s aide, CNN.com reports. Mr. Trump will personally fire one candidate each week.

In other NBC news, “Ed” moves to Fridays at 9 p.m. in January and February, where it will replace a hiatus-bound “Miss Match.” NBC insists, however, that the Alicia Silverstone dramedy will return in March.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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