- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 28, 2003

‘O.C.’ switcheroo

Fox’s new drama “The O.C.” tackles a new time slot — moving to 9 p.m. Wednesday nights — after a successful early run that began in July.

The initial ratings proved modest, but viewership keeps growing, and the network has ordered a full season’s worth of episodes. Getting a jump on the rest of the fall season has paid off for the new weekly yarn.

This week’s episode finds Julie (Melinda Clarke) preventing Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie) from visiting Marissa (Mischa Barton), who is hospitalized from a possible drug overdose. It’s this kind of hyped-up melodrama that could make “The O.C.” this generation’s “Melrose Place.”

Painfully long ‘Minute’

It would be far too easy to sum up Fox’s “A Minute With Stan Hooper” as saying it’s 29 minutes too long — but it would be accurate.

The new Fox sitcom, starring Norm Macdonald as a features reporter for a major news show, stockpiles awkward moments like a squirrel gathers nuts.

“Hooper,” airing tonight at 8:30, finds its star at the uncomfortable center of a “Newhart”-style ensemble. Suffice to say Mr. Macdonald is no Mr. Newhart.

The “Saturday Night Live” veteran’s Stan Hooper is a folksy, roaming Charles Kuralt-style reporter pretending to survey the Middle American scene while never leaving his own snug abode in Manhattan. Now he has decided to move to a quintessential American small town along with his doting wife, played by Penelope Ann Miller.

The show marks the second use of the city-slicker-gone-country plot on network television this fall — ABC’s “Married to the Kellys” is only marginally better.

In the “Hooper” pilot, the couple rent a home, which contractually comes with an intrusive butler, one of many show elements that make no sense to anyone save a shut-in TV scribe.

Even what should be the show’s signature moment, the titular minute at its end, is D.O.A.

The stale cheese gags, down to a sculpture of Stan’s head made as a welcoming gift, don’t help matters. The usually restrained Fred Willard is forced to overact to catch up to the rest of the cast.

“A Minute With Stan Hooper” smells as though it’s well past its expiration date.

Dual home for ‘Rome’

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it’s taking two major networks to create a new series based on the ancient city.

Production will begin next year on “Rome,” a new drama produced by HBO and the BBC. The first 12-episode season will air on both networks in 2005.

The new series will be shot at Rome’s Cinecitta Studios as well as locations throughout Europe and North Africa.

“Rome” will focus on two Roman soldiers and their families. Set in 51 B.C., the show will explore the politics and social upheavals during the time of Gaius Julius Caesar. Turns out today’s partisan battles are nothing compared to the machinations behind turning a republic into an empire.

High five on CBS

CBS has extended full-season, 22-episode orders to five of its new fall series: “Joan of Arcadia,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Navy NCIS,” “Cold Case” and “The Handler,” TV Guide Online reports.

As previously noted, the Eye network has put “The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire” on “hiatus.”

Separate in the city

Cynthia Nixon is going solo in the city.

The “Sex and the City” star has split with her longtime companion, Danny Mozes, E! Online reports.

Miss Nixon’s manager confirmed the breakup yesterday, saying that the two uncoupled this summer.

News of the separation, described as “very amicable,” comes just months after Miss Nixon gave birth to her second child with Mr. Mozes, a Gotham-based English professor and photographer. Charles Ezekial Mozes was born last December. Their first child, a daughter named Samantha, was born in 1996. Miss Nixon and Mr. Mozes, both 37, had known each other since junior high and have been dating since their college days. Miss Nixon has said they wouldn’t marry, because “I love him too much.”

Miss Nixon, a two-time Emmy nominee for her role as “Sex and the City’s” sarcastic single-mom lawyer Miranda Hobbes, is currently wrapping the swan-song season of HBO’s hit comedy, in which Miranda will reportedly marry.

Robbins to fete Cash

Tim Robbins will host the Johnny Cash Memorial Tribute at Ryman Auditorium Nov. 10, the Associated Press reports.

The actor-activist can be seen currently in theaters in Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River.”

Artists confirmed to take part in the service include Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Travis Tritt, Rosanne Cash, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, John Mellencamp, Sheryl Crow, Hank Williams Jr., Randy Scruggs, Marty Stuart, Cowboy Jack Clement, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Larry Gatlin and George Jones, Mr. Cash’s longtime manager, Lou Robin, told the Nashville Tennessean.

Five hundred people will win tickets to the tribute in a lottery.

Winners were chosen Monday in a drawing and will be notified by phone no later than Friday.

The two-hour tribute will be taped and is set to air Nov. 15 on Country Music Television.

Mr. Cash died Sept. 12 at age 71 of complications from diabetes.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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