- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2003

‘Skin’ meets the Bard

Surely Shakespeare never intended “Romeo and Juliet” to be set amidst a pornography empire.

Yet so goeth Fox’s “Skin,” and while admirers of great literature won’t be pleased, those weaned on sudsy melodrama should be thrilled.

Plenty happens in tonight’s slick premiere, airing at 8, but its smooth plotting makes it easy to digest.

Pitting a porn king versus an overzealous district attorney smacks of obviousness. Cross-pollinating that with a “Romeo and Juliet” romance ups the dramatic ante. Stir in a heady blend of morality plays, and top it with Ron Silver as a most complex smut impresario and you have a recipe for must-see television…with apologies to NBC’s Thursday lineup.

Young D.J. Cotrona (think Josh Hartnett, but with a pulse) stars as the Romeo to lovely Olivia Wilde’s Juliet, or Jewel as she’s called here. The two meet and fall in love, oblivious to the war being waged by his D.A. father (Kevin Anderson) and her father, Mr. Silver’s porn king.

The couple emit a cascade of sparks, but their love is threatened by family ties.

Some of the dialogue lands with a thud, but for the most part the writing ably supports the intricate plot lines.

“Skin” seems like it would be too titillating for the 8 p.m. hour, and one scene featuring a bevy of beauties borders on the inappropriate. The rest, however, is far less exploitative.

Moralists will argue painting the porn biz as just another trade helps normalize it, and they have a point. Mr. Silver’s character is no saint, though — and the show potentially could explore the wounded nature of too many porn stars.

Garner joins ‘Rules’

Emmy Award-winner James Garner has landed a recurring role on “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter” which resumes production today following the death of star John Ritter.

Mr. Garner, best known in television circles as the wily private detective of “The Rockford Files,” will portray the father of Katey Sagal’s character for four episodes. He will help the family recover from the sudden death of family patriarch Paul Hennessy (Mr. Ritter).

The “Three’s Company” star died last month from an undiagnosed heart malady.

The first “8 Simple Rules” without Mr. Ritter will be a special one-hour episode that will air sometime next month during the November sweeps.

Mr. Garner starred in last year’s short-lived drama “First Monday” for CBS.

Mayberry redux

Andy Griffith, Ron Howard, Don Knotts and Jim Nabors will take a sentimental journey back to the fictional town of Mayberry next month in a CBS reunion special 35 years after the “Andy Griffith Show” ended its run, Reuters News Agency reports.

Mr. Griffith, 77, who starred as the affable, folksy sheriff and widowed father, Andy Taylor, will host and narrate the one-hour special, slated for Nov. 11, shot on a replica of the courthouse set that appeared in the classic comedy series.

He will be joined by former co-stars Mr. Howard, 49, who played his red-haired son, Opie; Mr. Knotts, 79, who portrayed Andy’s bumbling deputy Barney Fife; and Mr. Nabors, 73, the naive but lovable gas station attendant at Wally’s Filling Station.

The special will feature the four veterans reminiscing about the series, highlights from the show, and separate interviews with other surviving cast members, including George Lindsay (Goober) and Betty Lynn (Barney’s girlfriend, Thelma Lou).

Mr. Griffith and Mr. Howard also will return to the spot in the Hollywood Hills where the famous “fishin’ hole walk” from the show’s original opening sequence was shot. Their re-creation of the segment will be intercut with original footage, as the grown-up Howard throws a rock in time with his 6-year-old self.

Set in the small, sleepy town of Mayberry, N.C., the homespun situation comedy debuted in 1960 and ran for eight seasons, until Mr. Griffith left the show in 1968, leaving the supporting cast to carry on with a new star, Ken Berry, in the retitled series “Mayberry R.F.D.”

A nostalgic reunion of the original cast members — the made-for-TV film “Return to Mayberry” — aired in April 1986 and was the highest-rated movie that season.

Mr. Griffith went on to star as a canny defense lawyer in the long-running 1980s-‘90s murder mystery drama “Matlock.”

Mr. Knotts quit “The Andy Griffith Show” in 1965 to host his own variety series and later appeared for five years on the sitcom “Three’s Company,” playing landlord Ralph Furley. He later became a regular on “Matlock.”

Mr. Nabors, who joined “The Andy Griffith Show” in 1963, left Mayberry after a year and a half to join the Marines as the star of his own spinoff, “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”

Mr. Howard has had perhaps the most storied post-Mayberry career.

He appeared as a child actor in such films as “The Music Man” and “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” before landing a starring role a decade later as a teenager in George Lucas’ “American Graffiti.” That role led in turn to his signature portrayal of all-American teenager Richie Cunningham in the long-running ABC comedy “Happy Days.”

Mr. Howard later segued into a career as a filmmaker, directing such box office hits as “Splash,” “Cocoon,” “Apollo 13” and the Oscar-winning drama “A Beautiful Mind.”

Governor O’Brien?

Pat O’Brien, co-anchor of the syndicated “Access Hollywood” entertainment show, says he’d like to run for governor of South Dakota someday, the Associated Press reports.

What’s next? Mary Hart for the U.S. Senate?

“I have always said I would like to come back and run for something there, participate in government,” Mr. O’Brien told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

His political aspirations first came to light in an interview in the upcoming issue of GQ magazine.

Mr. O’Brien, 55, is a graduate of the University of South Dakota.

He joined “Access Hollywood” in 1997.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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