- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2003

A Peanuts ‘Pumpkin’

For many television viewers, it isn’t Halloween until the Great Pumpkin makes an appearance.

The Peanuts classic “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” makes its annual visit at 8 tonight on CBS.

The beloved special, from the mind of the late Charles M. Schulz, finds Linus waiting patiently, to the dismay of his young pals, for an appearance by the Great Pumpkin. The 1966 animated classic includes all the comic strip regulars, from Snoopy and Charlie to Sally and Lucy.

Time for ‘24’

The “Can You Top This?” principle of American entertainment will be tested by tonight’s third-season premiere of Fox’s “24.”

The dynamic series evolved from critical darling into commercial success last year with its spine-tingling suspense and real-time action, but today’s audiences want to know, “What have you done for me lately?”

Tonight’s season premiere, airing at 9, bodes well for Kiefer Sutherland and company. The show, presented tonight without commercial interruption, revels in the same hair-trigger tension as in previous seasons.

Jack Bauer (Mr. Sutherland) remains a tortured hero, though this year’s model features a new wrinkle that promises to up the intensity. Two romances appear ready to boil this time around … and it’s at least one too many for a show that purportedly takes place in one day. The extra plotting seems an unwise bid for female viewers uninterested in the adrenalized mayhem.

This season — set three years after last season’s activities — finds the president (Dennis Haysbert) fully recovered from an assassination attempt. Or is he?

A new terrorist group, meanwhile, has left a plague-infected corpse outside a government health agency as a not-too-subtle warning. The guilty party quickly follows up with a phone call demanding the release of a drug kingpin Jack spent the past three years chasing.

“24” still teems with film-quality visuals, from split screens that make narrative sense to deadly serious acting across the board. Its romantic excesses could undermine future episodes, but if past seasons are any indication, it’s more likely the affairs won’t matter compared to the tick-tick-tick of the plot’s final hours.

Aretha’s royal walk

The legendary Aretha Franklin gets more than just “Respect” tonight from Black Entertainment Television.

The Queen of Soul will receive the ninth annual BET Walk of Fame honor during a 9 p.m. telecast, with entertainers young and old joining in the celebration.

Miss Franklin became the ninth entertainer to join the BET Walk of Fame at a ceremony held Saturday at the network’s District headquarters. Feting Miss Franklin in song were Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys (singing “I Never Loved a Man”), Norah Jones (singing “Daydreaming”), Chaka Khan, Gerald Levert, Eddie Levert, Seal and gospel music superstar Yolanda Adams.

Radio personality Donnie Simpson hosted the affair, which also raised funds for the United Negro College Fund. Celebrity guests included former D.C. mayor Marion Barry, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, actor Darryl “Chill” Mitchell (of NBC’s “Ed”), Grammy-winner James Ingram, former light heavyweight champ Michael Spinks and gospel music great Richard Smallwood.

Art of the deal

Creators of the Casino and Gaming Television network are betting that a national interest in gambling will translate into a desire to watch it on TV.

The new network is scheduled to begin in 2004 as a digital cable and satellite channel, the Associated Press reports, and is planning such shows as “Winning Hand” — with poker experts offering tips on the game — and “Dusk ‘Til Dawn” — a tour of night spots in Las Vegas, Monaco and other gambling destinations.

The millions of Americans who bet represent a vast potential audience, David Hawk, co-founder and co-chairman, told the AP.

Other “niche” channels, such as the Golf Channel, have succeeded with a smaller pool from which to draw, Mr. Hawk said. About 25 million people visited golf courses last year, half the number of casino-goers, he said.

Mega seeks seat

He was born William Collins, a Philadelphia native who at an early age became involved in politics and community service.

Then, in 2002, on CBS’ first edition of “Big Brother,” he was known as Mega to viewers of the network’s reality show.

Today he’s Will Mega, one of six candidates seeking two at-large seats on the Philadelphia City Council, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Mega, 32, is running on the Education Party ticket and calls himself a “hip-hop political-activist candidate.”

During his “Big Brother” appearance, he became known as the most confrontational roommate in the 10-member household — and was the first person sent packing.

Mr. Mega, who is black, said his prime objective on the show was to use it as a vehicle for discussing race relations.

After its beginning, though, the New York Daily News reported that Mr. Mega was once known as Hiram Ashantee, an organizer of the New Black Panther Party who worked for Nation of Islam outcast Khalid Abdul Muhammad. Mr. Muhammad, who died in 2001, became known for virulent attacks on Jews, gays and whites.

Mr. Mega won’t say why he left the organization; his Web site cites “ideological differences.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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