- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 16, 2004

Willis’ fatherly advice

Spike TV sets aside “Baywatch” reruns and video-game award shows tonight to explore an unsettling issue men everywhere should consider.

One out of every four homes in America doesn’t have a father, the network says, which inspired tonight’s new special hosted by Bruce Willis.

“True Dads With Bruce Willis,” airing at 9, highlights a group of men who took the role of father to heart.

“Today’s men are looking for new role models about how to be a dad — you can’t just come home and watch TV anymore,” says Albie Hecht, president of Spike TV. According to research from Spike TV’s recent nationwide study of men, nearly half of the men surveyed said they don’t spend as much time as they would like with their children.

Mr. Willis, the father of three, introduces us to, among others, Dr. Jonathan Clark, the husband of late astronaut Laurel Clark, who was killed in the 2003 Columbia Space Shuttle tragedy, and Joseph T. Jones, a one-time heroin addict and deadbeat dad who now fights to save Baltimore’s children from the same fate.

Celebrity dads including Matt Lauer, Cedric the Entertainer and New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada also figure in the special.

The HDTV brick road

The WB presents the beloved “Wizard of Oz” this weekend, but this time the classic film gets the HDTV treatment.

The 1939 “Oz,” starring Judy Garland as the girl from Kansas, will air at 7:30 p.m. Sunday in high-definition glory.

Bochco fills cast

Actors Nicki Aycox (“Cold Case”) and Erik Palladino (“ER”) have enlisted to star in an upcoming FX pilot based on the war in Iraq.

The new show, “Over There,” will center on members of an Army unit sent to Iraq on their first tour of duty, Reuters News Agency reports.

Producer Steven Bochco’s cable TV drama also examines the effects of war on those soldiers’ families at home.

Other members of the ensemble cast include Keith Robinson, Josh Henderson, Luke MacFarlane, Sticky Fingaz, Lizette Carrion and Sprague Grayden. Shooting begins in mid-January in Southern California.

Mr. Aycox has been seen in recurring roles on CBS’ “Cold Case” and recently signed up for three more episodes. His big-screen work includes parts in “Jeepers Creepers 2” and the upcoming “Tom 51.”

Mr. Palladino’s credits include the films “Life Without Dick,” “U-571” and “Can’t Hardly Wait,” as well as “E.R.,” on which he played a smug doctor.

Fleder’s full load

Film director Gary Fleder is hardly a household name, but the man responsible for “Don’t Say a Word” and “Runaway Jury” must be on the minds of nearly everyone in the TV business.

Mr. Fleder has a number of projects for the small screen to his credit, plus pending deals with NBC, ABC, UPN, the WB Network and TNT, Reuters reports.

Mojo Films, Mr. Fleder’s Sony Pictures TV-based company is developing the projects on his behalf.

The NBC series, a police soap opera focusing on cadets going through the Boston Police Academy, is being written by Clyde Phillips (NBC’s “Suddenly Susan”).

At ABC, Mr. Fleder is working on a “Silence of the Lambs”-style project along with writer Kevin Fox (“The Negotiator”). The show follows FBI agents who use criminals as experts to help them break tough cases.

Mojo Films also has two dramas in the works with writer Phil Levens (the WB’s “Smallville”), one at the WB and one at UPN.

The WB show involves a young undercover detective who works the streets of Venice Beach; the UPN drama features partners on an elite NYPD squad who investigate high-profile crimes while juggling personal issues.

On the cable side, sibling feature writers Aaron and Matthew Benay are penning a show about ambulance-chasing brothers in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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