- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2003

More politics for Rob

Rob Lowe may have left “The West Wing” last year, but he never strayed outside the Beltway.

The actor’s new drama, “Lyon’s Den,” follows a do-gooder D.C. lawyer trying to untangle right and wrong in a city infamous for confusing the two.

The first episode airs at 10 p.m. Sunday on NBC.

The pilot turns on the apparent suicide of a senior partner of a major District law firm. The man’s death rocks Jack Turner (Mr. Lowe), who studied ethics years earlier under the man’s tutelage and saw him as a father figure within the firm.

Jack’s own father, a powerhouse senator played by Rip Torn, isn’t nearly as obsessed with ethics, a fact that has forged a permanent rift between the two. Jack could have followed in daddy’s footsteps. Instead, he leverages his famous last name to help the downtrodden in an offshoot pro bono law clinic.

Mr. Lowe is a good fit here; his too-pretty face is starting to show welcome signs of maturity. Rip Torn excels (what else does he ever do?) in what appears to be a recurring role, and the supplemental stories provide intriguing counterpoint.

‘Arcadia’ spirits on

“Joan of Arcadia” does more than pluck Joan Osborne’s God-inspired single, “One of Us,” for its theme song — it takes its lyrics a mite too seriously.

“The Ring’s” Amber Tamblyn stars as Joan, an otherwise normal teen who begins running into different people all claiming to be God. The Almighty first appears in the form of a Christian Slater look-alike. Later, God is the saucy lunch lady at Joan’s school cafeteria.

Surrounded by a savvy group of acting veterans, including Joe Mantegna and Mary Steenburgen, Miss Tamblyn convincingly conjures both disbelief and stark curiosity.

The snappy title belies a curious and well-intentioned show, and “Arcadia” manages to avoid the schmaltz of “Touched by an Angel.”

Ripa revs up ‘Hope’

Kelly Ripa has it all — too much, in fact. The mother of three banters with Regis Philbin each morning on “Live With Regis and Kelly” and was until recently a long-standing member of the “All My Children” soap family.

Now, she’s the co-headliner of “Hope & Faith,” a formulaic sitcom airing at 9 tonight that tries to be adult enough for parents and silly enough for teens.

“Hope & Faith” features Faith Ford (“Murphy Brown”) as Miss Ripa’s comic foil and sitcom mainstay Ted McGinley (“Married … With Children”) as Miss Ford’s exasperated hubby.

Miss Ripa and Miss Ford star as diametrically opposed siblings stuck with each other, for better or worse. Miss Ripa is a soap opera diva — what a stretch — whose character is ungraciously killed off.

Now broke, she’s forced to lean on her reliably staid sister Hope (Miss Ford).

The show falls within ABC’s family friendly time slot, which both lowers our expectations and makes the pilot’s few sexual references seem awkward.

However, the cast is strong, and Miss Ripa’s winning streak appears safe.

‘Rules’ rules ratings

Buoyed by the return of late John Ritter’s sitcom “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter” (17 million viewers), ABC won the first Tuesday of the new season among adults 18 to 49, TV Guide Online reports.

“Rules” also gave a boost to the premiere of new comedy “I’m with Her,” which attracted 13.1 million viewers.

Elsewhere, CBS’s “JAG” spinoff “Navy NCIS” averaged a respectable 12.4 million viewers, and NBC’s relocated “Law & Order: SVU” easily beat ABC’s “NYPD Blue” and CBS’s “Judging Amy” at 10 pm.

The WB’s new teen drama “One Tree Hill,” meanwhile, fouled out with a lousy 2.8 million viewers.

New faces

Here’s a scoop from the current issue of TV Guide magazine: “That ‘70s Show” has found its new Laurie.

“Mad TV” funny gal Christina Moore will step into the platform shoes of Fez’s bride, originally played by Lisa Robin Kelly.

In other casting news, Beverly D’Angelo is joining the cast of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” as a legal aid attorney who clashes with the new assistant district attorney (Diane Neal).

Joe goes solo

Actor Joe Pantoliano has forged an impressive film career as the secondary character who gets the best lines or leaves the biggest imprint.

He’s now center stage on CBS’s “The Handler,” debuting at 10 tonight.

The actor’s arresting turn as Ralphie, who met a gruesome end on HBO’s mob hit, “The Sopranos” last season, convinced CBS he deserved the spotlight all to himself. CBS was right.

Mr. Pantoliano radiates the kind of authority the show’s lead character demands. He stars as Joe Renato, an FBI agent who “handles” his fellow agents to make them better crime fighters.

None of the plot strands uniting the pilot episode will jar or tease viewers like they should, and one ends with an unflattering gimmick.

Mr. Pantoliano may be modest in height and physical heft, but his larger-than-life persona here makes “The Handler” a good bet for the new season.

Risque ‘Secrets’ back

Decency advocates, start your letter-writing campaigns.

CBS is bringing back its much maligned Victoria’s Secret model show this November, the kind of bold play for ratings which routinely draws moral outcry — and viewers.

“The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” will feature supermodels Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks and Gisele Bundchen offering their unique tribute to Broadway. The underwear this time around will have a theatrical theme, we’re told, including Broadway-style dancers flanking the scantily clad models.

The special, airing Nov. 19, will give us a peek at the making of a much celebrated fashion show and also musical performances from singers to be announced at a later date.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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