- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Meloni ‘Scrubs’ in

Actor Christopher Meloni says the dramas he finds himself in these days are “so rough and tumble … you have to take a shower afterward.”

That won’t be necessary tonight as the star of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” drops by for a new episode of NBC’s “Scrubs.”

Mr. Meloni, who spent his formative years in Glover Park, Chevy Chase and Alexandria, plays a prickly doctor brought in to treat the son of Dr. Cox (actor John C. McGinley).

The role “was a real outlet, a wonderful, beautiful opening up of pressure valves,” the star of “SVU” and HBO’s “Oz” said during a recent conference call to promote the episode.

Tonight’s show isn’t his first stab at comedy. He played it straight as Julia Roberts’ jilted groom in “Runaway Bride” and turned in a memorable performance in the otherwise drab “Wet Hot American Summer” as a rage-oholic chef.

The actor describes his “Scrubs” character as “a little eccentric, a little acerbic.

“I think once you get to know the guy, he might be OK.”

You might get that chance because both he and the network left open the possibility of a return engagement.

“Scrubs,” which celebrates its 100th episode Nov. 18, airs at 8:30 Thursday nights.

Mr. Meloni is pretty familiar with that milestone. He guest-starred on “NYPD Blue” while the cast was celebrating its 100th episode, and his own “SVU” also has reached that marker.

“Everyone on the set looked at each other [and said], ‘Should we recount this?’ It goes by so quickly,” he says of his current cast mates.

“I’m glad to say, for us, it’s still fresh and passionate,” the actor says of his show.

Audiences apparently agree, given the strong ratings all things “Law & Order” muster.

Both “SVU” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” released DVD packages this week featuring their first full seasons plus the usual array of DVD extras. Both retail for $59.98.

This year’s “SVU” will spend more time with Detective Elliot Stabler (Mr. Meloni’s character) and his family life, Mr. Meloni says.

That’s fine with him, in small doses.

“I find it difficult to shoehorn them in because the stories move so quickly,” he says.

“The inherent drama is the twists and turns of the stories.”

More ‘Surreal’ stars

Tammy Faye Messner and adult movie star Ron Jeremy are among the once and future stars sharing a Hollywood Hills mansion during the second season of WB’s “The Surreal Life,” the Associated Press reports.

The former televangelist’s wife and the porn king will live in the house and act as hosts for 11 days.

They’ll have four other roommates: rapper Vanilla Ice, “CHiPs” star Erik Estrada, former “Baywatch” actress Traci Bingham and “Real World: Las Vegas” cast member Trishelle.

They’ll also have a celebrity guest move in each week on the reality show, which began shooting Monday.

“We wanted to get worlds colliding, and I think that’s what we’ve achieved,” WB alternative chief Keith Cox says, noting that assembling the cast was quite an effort.

“It’s one of those tricky puzzles,” he says.

“You have to start with certain cornerstones and then build inward. Tammy Faye was actually one of the first people we cast.”

Cameras will follow the celebrities around the house and on field trips to show them interacting with everyday folks.

The new season of “Surreal Life” is expected to air early next year. WB has ordered six half-hour episodes.

Last season, the show included MC Hammer, Corey Feldman, former Playboy playmate Brande Roderick and former “Webster” star Emmanuel Lewis.

Baseball bests the rest

Once again, the boys of summer crushed the shows of fall.

The climactic seventh games of the National League and American League playoffs both drew more than 26 million viewers, according to the Associated Press. CBS and NBC switched to reruns to avoid competing with the popular baseball matchups.

Comparatively, the World Series matchup between the New York Yankees and the Florida Marlins was a letdown.

The opening series game was seen by 17.7 million people on Saturday, and the second game had 20.6 million viewers, a Nielsen Media Research reports.

That’s still up 9 percent from the opening games of last year’s record-low-rated series between the Anaheim Angels and San Francisco Giants, however.

While the ratings were an unexpected bonanza for Fox, competing networks are worried that baseball is pulling people away from the opening of a new TV season. All other broadcast networks had lower ratings last week than for the comparable period in 2002.

Fox did take a hit, though, with two original shows sandwiched between the balls and strikes.

Despite heavy promotion, “Skin” and the new season of “Joe Millionaire” flopped Monday, each drawing fewer than 7 million viewers.

“Joe Millionaire” was last winter’s surprise hit, with viewers drawn to the twist of women chasing a single man they were fooled into thinking was rich.

The series finale drew 40 million viewers in February.

Despite many people considering the “Joe Millionaire” premise a one-shot joke, Fox ordered a sequel. It has the same twist, but this time features European women.

It was seen by an estimated 6.6 million people Monday, placing fifth in its time slot, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Even the WB fared better with “7th Heaven.”

“Skin” was the bigger disappointment. The drama about an ill-starred relationship between a pornographer’s daughter and a district attorney’s son was seen by 6.5 million people — less than the premiere of last season’s “Girl’s Club,” which was canceled after two episodes.

For the week of Oct. 13 through 19, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships are: American League Championship Series, Game 7: Boston vs. N.Y. Yankees, Fox, 27.5 million; National League Championship Series, Game 7: Florida vs. Chicago, Fox, 26.5 million; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 21.6 million; World Series, Game 2: Florida vs. N.Y. Yankees, Fox, 20.6 million; National League Championship Series, Game 6: Florida vs. Chicago, Fox, 19.4 million.

Short takes

From TV Guide Online:

• Tennis great Billie Jean King will play a judge in an upcoming episode of “Law & Order,” her favorite TV show

• UPN has cut “The Mullets” from its schedule.

The series — starring David Hornsby, Michael Weaver, Loni Anderson and John O’Hurley — aired Tuesday evenings.

No replacement has been announced for its 9:30 slot.

• Oscar-nominee Will Smith is heading back to the small screen.

The erstwhile Fresh Prince will guest star on the Nov. 18 episode of UPN’s freshman sitcom “All of Us,” during the all-important November sweeps.

As previously reported, the actor — who produces the sitcom with wife Jada Pinkett Smith— will play a college buddy of Robert (Duane Martin) and Neesee’s (LisaRaye), who returns to L.A. and winds up crushing on Neesee.

m Clay Aiken is proving to be the most successful loser in history. The “American Idol” runner-up’s debut CD, “Measure of a Man,” entered Billboard’s album chart at No. 1 with sales of 613,000 copies this week . By comparison, “Idol’s” inaugural champ, Kelly Clarkson, moved 297,000 units during her album’s first week in stores last April.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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