- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2003

‘ER’ says, ‘Hi, Bob’

Bob Newhart calls his appearance on NBC’s “ER” his “first intentionally dramatic role.”

The self-effacing comedian begins a three-episode story arc on the hit medical drama tonight, a departure from a lifetime of dry, biting wit.

Mr. Newhart plays a patient coping with macular degeneration, an eye disease that is slowly robbing him of his sight.

“I was highly complimented that they thought I was up for portraying the role,” Mr. Newhart said during a recent conference call to promote his appearance.

“I’m not a trained actor. Whatever I know about acting I learned from being a stand-up comic,” the Mark Twain Prize winner said.

He accepted the role, in part, he said, because he felt a bond with the character.

“I knew the frustrations this guy had,” he said. “All his life he was an architecture model maker. Everything he ever did was with the coordination of his hands and eyes.”

Mr. Newhart, 74, admits this kind of role doesn’t come around routinely for him.

“I feel most comfortable in comedy; I know what works for me,” he said. “I hate the term ‘stretch.’ I’ve heard it used by actors too much. It’s a serious role and a serious problem in the health care community.”

He promises his television turn “isn’t a case of the hidden Hamlet in every comedian.”

Mr. Newhart’s own health has been strong, something for which he gives his wife some credit.

“I married the right woman, and she doesn’t let me get full of myself, as much as I try,” he said. He also thinks his occupation played a role in his good health.

“I think laughter has a lot to do with longevity; I really do,” he said. “I still do stand-up. It keeps me young. It keeps me thinking young.”

The comedian will co-star in next month’s big-screen feature “Elf” with Will Ferrell but has no plans to return to the world of sitcoms.

“I don’t think there’s a great interest in my demographic. I don’t see myself doing another series. I don’t feel badly about it. It’s somebody else’s turn. I have no complaints.”

NBC’s “ER” airs at 10 Thursday nights.

Lifeless ‘Calling’

Fox takes a stab at the “X-Files” crowd tonight with “Tru Calling,” a supernatural drama with a can’t-miss gimmick.

Eliza Dushku (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) stars as Tru, a young woman still reeling after the long-ago murder of her mother. If only she could have helped in some way, she thought at the time and still does.

She lands a job in the local morgue after college graduation, and one night she hears a disembodied voice that leads her to one of the day’s new arrivals — a woman killed before her time.

Soon, a la Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day,” Tru wakes up to what she thinks is a new day but discovers that she is reliving the day that just passed. That gives her time to try to prevent the woman’s death, a plot mechanism that apparently will be the show’s calling card.

Unfortunately, a plot that sounds hair-raising on paper is less so on-screen. Miss Dushku seems all wrong for the part, too glamorous one moment, too glib the next. It may take weeks for the show to find its voice or at least manage a few good scares.

The concept for “Tru Calling” seems ripe for meatier episodes and, judging from the promise she showed in “Buffy,” Miss Dushku may well grow into what right now is a rather flimsy role.

Fox slams competition

Baseball’s post-season renaissance led Fox to its third straight weekly win in the prime-time ratings, a first-ever accomplishment, the Associated Press reports.

All four of the World Series games finished in Nielsen Media Research’s top 10, led by the climactic sixth game. An estimated 23.2 million people watched the Florida Marlins beat the New York Yankees on Saturday night for the championship.

Even against World Series competition, CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” drew the week’s most viewers.

Fox’s glee was tempered, however, by the disastrously poor showing of the “Joe Millionaire” season premiere and the debut of “Skin.” Both shows were seen by fewer than 7 million people, despite heavy promotion.

Other shows on the danger list, based on low ratings, are NBC’s “Miss Match,” ABC’s “L.A. Dragnet” and “Karen Sisco,” and Fox’s “Boston Public,” flailing in its move to Friday night.

NBC’s “Nightly News” won the evening news ratings race, averaging 9.6 million viewers (6.8 rating, 14 share). ABC’s “World News Tonight” had 8.7 million (6.3, 13) and the “CBS Evening News” had 7.3 million (5.3, 11). A ratings point represents 1.084 households, or 1 percent of the nation’s estimated 108.4 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of Oct. 20 through 26, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships, were: “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 27.6 million; World Series Game 6: Florida at N.Y. Yankees, Fox, 23.2 million; World Series Game 4: N.Y. Yankees at Florida, Fox, 20.9 million; “Survivor: Pearl Islands,” CBS, 20.2 million; World Series Game 5: N.Y. Yankees at Florida, Fox, 19.9 million

Casting an ‘Eye’

New York Post

Scout Productions, which owns the rights to “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” might be planning to replace the Fab Five.

The company has just placed an ad on craigslist.com seeking gay men 25 to 40 years old with “terrific personalities as well as a great sense of personal style” for a TV series “building on the success of ‘Queer Eye.’”

With the original cast members publicly whining about their pay, “This could be a shrewd move on the part of Scout to maintain control of the show,” comedian Gay Boy Ric observes on the Web site GTV E-MailAlerts.

New episodes of “Queer Eye” will begin airing Nov. 18.

Selleck to play Ike

Hollywood Reporter

Tom Selleck has been tapped to depict President Eisenhower in a two-hour telefilm for A&E; about the buildup to D-Day.The production of the tentatively titled “Eisenhower: Thunder in June” is being fast-tracked for a spring airdate, timed to the 60th anniversary of the historic invasion.

“Eisenhower” will be written by Lionel Chetwynd (“DC 9/11: Time of Crisis”), who also will executive-produce with Stephanie Germain and A&E;’s Delia Fine.

The film will be produced by Sony Pictures Television.

Adios, ‘Luis’

Fox is pulling the plug on “Luis,” its Friday-night sitcom starring the terrific character actor Luis Guzman.

The freshman sitcom isn’t alone on the scrapheap. CBS already has put “The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H.” on hiatus, with word that creator David E. Kelley has thrown in the towel, and NBC yanked its sex-obsessed sitcom “Coupling” from the November sweeps.

Short takes

TV Guide Online

• R.E.M. will perform an acoustic version of “Losing My Religion” during “Boston Public’s” Christmas-themed episode Dec. 19.

As part of the deal, producers agreed to play the group’s new single “Bad Day” in the background of the episode. So, everyone wins.

• The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People released its annual report card on diversity Tuesday and gave high marks to CBS and Fox for their gains in hiring minority actors during the 2002-03 TV season.

NBC and ABC also showed improvement compared to the previous year, the group said.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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