- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 26, 2003

Art imitates life

Actor Carlos Bernard is obsessed with the war against terrorism.

When he arrives on the set of Fox’s “24” he gets to live out some of that war’s worst-case scenarios.

“I read everything [on terrorism] I can get my hands on,” Mr. Bernard says. “To put it into my work is cathartic in a sense.”

For the second straight season, “24” revolves around a terrorist plot seemingly ripped from our worst nightmares. This time, terrorists will try to spread a flesh-eating virus via the drug trade, and it’s up to Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) and his cronies at the Counter Terrorist Unit to stop them.

The new season begins at 9 tomorrow night on Fox.

Mr. Bernard understands the sensitive nature of the subject matter.

“Terrorism … is something we have to deal with but our show is removed enough from reality, it plays out more like a spy novel.”

Last year, the show blossomed from a critical darling to a modest hit for Fox, which considered canceling “24” during its first year due to anemic ratings. Mr. Bernard says the cast knew from the start the show was something special. That isn’t always enough for networks. He recalls how NBC’s “Cheers” nearly got canceled in its first year, as did “Seinfeld.”

“You work on enough [junk] you know we had something good,” he says. “Thankfully, Fox really stuck by us.”

What helped even more, perhaps, was the release of the first season on DVD before the second season began.

“It helped people get into it,” the actor says.

In season three, we find Mr. Bernard’s Tony Almeida isn’t the man he used to be. Set three years after season two, the new episodes find Tony feeling more confident about his role leading the counter-terrorism unit.

“Last year, Tony was sort of thrown into the fire,” Mr. Bernard says. “He was a little hesitant about it. He was trained as a field agent, a Marine, and here he is running the office. That’s a conflict for him.”

Mr. Bernard is given plenty of room to shape his own character. The show’s writers “have taken scenes I’ve written and stuck them in the show as they were,” he says.

He says the show’s truncated time frame isn’t as unfriendly to character growth as some might think.

“You think about life and those times when you really grow as a person are from pretty stressful periods, sometimes concentrated in a week or a day.”

Of course, few people have the kind of days Jack Bauer and Tony Almeida have.

‘Reality’ bites dust

The recently announced “Reality Awards,” aimed at celebrating the best in reality television, have had the rug pulled out from under them.

Producer Don Mischer and ABC canceled the planned show after competing networks declined to participate, according to the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com).

The show was to take place Nov. 23 and air shortly thereafter before the November sweeps period wraps.

In an interview with Daily Variety, Mr. Mischer said: “We need the cooperation of all the networks to show clips of shows that would be nominated.

“We were simply denied that use.”

Better put the tux back in the closet, Evan Marriott.

Kelley strikes out

Acclaimed producer David E. Kelley, once a darling of prime-time dramas, is now 0-for-2 on his two most recent creations.

Last year’s “Girls Club” tanked on Fox, and his newest series, “The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H.” on CBS, has just fallen victim to the ratings wars, according to Reuters News Agency.

CBS on Wednesday said it was placing “Brotherhood” on indefinite “hiatus,” pulling the show off the air at least through next month to make way for several specials during the November ratings sweeps. The Viacom Inc.-owned network left open the possibility the drama could return later.

But Mr. Kelley announced to the cast and crew later in the day he was shutting down production of the show altogether, a spokeswoman for his company said.

The program, a quirky family drama starring Randy Quaid as a small town police chief and one of three discontented fortysomething brothers, drew critical plaudits but failed to catch on with viewers in its Wednesday time slot at 10 p.m., airing opposite NBC’s ever-popular “Law & Order.”

The series averaged fewer than 7 million viewers a week in five episodes and ranked No. 72 among all prime-time programs so far this season.

In an interview with Reuters last week, Mr. Quaid said he and other cast members were aware the series faced “formidable” odds against “Law & Order” and suggested his show might be better off moving to a new night.

“I would really hate to see the show disappear, because the quality of it is so good and I think people need a chance to check it out. Viewing habits are tough to change,” Mr. Quaid said.

The apparent demise of “Brotherhood” marks the latest in a string of hard knocks for Mr. Kelley, creator of such prime-time favorites as “Ally McBeal,” “Chicago Hope” and “Picket Fences.”

His legal drama “Girls Club” was canceled by Fox last fall after just two episodes. Meanwhile, “The Practice” was moved by ABC from its longtime Sunday night slot to Monday nights, where it was crushed in the ratings.

The show narrowly won a renewal this season, back on Sunday nights, but only after Mr. Kelley agreed to an overhaul of the show that included the departure of stars Dylan McDermott, Lara Flynn Boyle and four other series regulars.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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