- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2003

In praise of men

Spike TV trades in stale beer and chips for wine and cheese tonight as it helps honor GQ’s Men of the Year.

Tonight’s live telecast of the “GQ Men of the Year Awards,” airing at 9 on the “network for men,” captures the magazine’s eighth annual salute to men’s excellence in music, fashion, sports, comedy, film and television.

Charlize Theron, Eva Mendes, David Spade and Mandy Moore are among the presenters tapped for the event. Comic John Henson of “Talk Soup” fame will pepper celebrities with questions as they brave the red carpet.

The November 2003 GQ magazine, featuring the Men of the Year winners, is expected to hit newsstands today.

Anything but ‘Average’?

NBC hopes its quirky new dating show, “Average Joe,” can spark some above-average viewership for the November sweep ratings survey, Reuters News Agency reports.

The network said Friday that its latest reality series, which offers 16 ordinary guys a chance to win the heart of an attractive former beauty queen, will premiere Nov. 3 for a six-week run.

To make room for the unscripted relationship series in Monday’s 10 p.m. slot, NBC will move its police-and-fire drama “Third Watch” to Friday evenings at 10 beginning Oct. 31.

The original occupant of that Friday slot, the critically lauded but low-rated crime drama “Boomtown,” was benched by NBC earlier this month and replaced with repeats of the popular detective series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

NBC said then that it planned to bring “Boomtown” back to its prime-time schedule sometime in the future, but this latest program shuffle means the show likely will remain sidelined through the upcoming November ratings sweep.

The Peacock network also said final adjustments to its November lineup were still in the works. November is one of three monthlong periods each year when the networks put on their best shows while city-by-city viewership is gauged in more than 200 markets to allow local TV stations to set future advertising rates.

NBC is hoping to catch the same lightning in a bottle that Fox generated in January with “Joe Millionaire,” in which a bevy of attractive young women vied for the affections of a construction worker who posed as the heir to a fortune.

“Average Joe” turns that concept on its head by bringing an attractive NFL cheerleader to a luxury estate in Palm Springs, where she expects to choose from 16 desirable hunks.

Instead, she is introduced to a group of affable but admittedly average-looking guys, some of them self-described “nerds” and “geeks” who see the chance of a lifetime when they size up their competition. NBC promises to add yet another twist midway through the series that will turn everyone’s expectations upside-down.

Pleshette joins ‘Rules’

The makers of “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter” have added another television veteran to the show’s mix.

Suzanne Pleshette of “The Bob Newhart Show” will join the ABC comedy to help fill the void left by the death of the show’s star John Ritter, Reuters reports.

ABC, owned by Walt Disney Co., vowed to continue the comedy after Mr. Ritter’s sudden death last month. Mr. Ritter’s final episodes, shown after his death, have been ratings winners.

Miss Pleshette will join James Garner as the parents of widow Cate Hennessy, played by Katey Sagal, and grandparents to her teenage children.

The network announced Mr. Garner’s addition last week.

The grandparents are separated but put aside their differences to comfort the family after the unexpected death of Paul Hennessy, Cate’s husband, who was played by Mr. Ritter.

Miss Pleshette and Mr. Garner will join the show for a one-hour special Nov. 4, the first post-Ritter show. Mr. Garner is slated to continue for at least the following three episodes.

Miss Pleshette, a mainstay on network TV since the 1950s, left NBC’s “Good Morning Miami” after starring in the first season of the show last year.

‘Office’ gossip

Ricky Gervais, who plays the hopelessly out-of-touch boss David Brent on the award-winning British sitcom “The Office,” says it’s time to call it quits.

But American fans of the series, broadcast stateside on cable’s BBC America, can look forward to a domestic version of the mockumentary sitcom about mundane office life next year, Reuters reports.

The project will be a collaboration between Mr. Gervais and Greg Daniels, creator of the animated comedy show “King of the Hill,” the chubby British comedian said.

“A nationwide search for the American David Brent is under way,” Mr. Gervais told Reuters about the self-absorbed, longing-to-be-liked-but-clueless office middle manager he portrays. He said he will be a consultant and guardian of the “soul” of the show.

The second season of “The Office” premiered last Sunday for its U.S. audience, but those were the final six episodes of the series that won a slew of British TV comedy awards.

“It’s best we sort of end soon, even though people might think they want more,” said Mr. Gervais, co-creator, co-writer, co-director and star of the show, which uses the fake documentary style of such offbeat films as “This Is Spinal Tap” and “Best in Show.”

New viewers and avid fans alike still have time to catch up on last season along with something to look forward to on the program, which has been hailed as “television’s funniest show” by the New York Times and called “wincingly well-observed” by Entertainment Weekly.

The six episodes from the first season were made available on DVD this month, and Mr. Gervais is putting the finishing touches on two 45-minute Christmas specials to run on back-to-back nights in Britain.

As for the show’s U.S. incarnation, Mr. Gervais was adamant that it be all-American but insists that the basic elements remain in place.

“I think you have to keep that fake documentary element to it,” he said.

“It gave it another layer. It’s like the people at home are almost like another character.”

More ‘O.C.’

Fox has asked for an additional five episodes of “The O.C.,” bringing the show’s full-season order to 27, TV Guide Online reports.

The thinking person’s “90210” returns from hiatus on Oct. 29.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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