- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2004

Spade ‘Rules’

It’s official: king of smarm David Spade is a bona fide cast member of ABC’s “8 Simple Rules,” formerly known as “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.”

The former “Saturday Night Live” comic guest-starred on three episodes of the sitcom this season as the nephew of Katey Sagal’s character.

Should the show get extended for a third season, the cast will have Mr. Spade to kick around for a full year.

Mr. Spade’s barbed wit, which dulls appreciably on the big screen (see, or rather don’t see “Joe Dirt” or “Black Sheep”), proved a reliably snarky presence on the long-running “Just Shoot Me,” which was unceremoniously canceled last summer.

The producers of “8 Simple Rules” have been shuffling the cast all season long following star John Ritter’s death in September. “Rockford Files” alum James Garner already has been added as the family’s grandfather.

McEnroe’s new racket

CNBC cannot be serious.

Former tennis great John McEnroe, never a shrinking violet on the court, will join the news network’s blooming prime time lineup, according to the Associated Press.

The ex-athlete’s talk show will air at 10 p.m., directly after comedian Dennis Miller’s new talk show premiering later this month.

The combative Mr. McEnroe has proven to be an adept broadcaster with wide-ranging interests, said Pamela Thomas-Graham, CNBC president.

“He’s a rebel in many ways,” she told the AP. “I think that’s fun for our viewers. A lot of our viewers are entrepreneurs and they like that rebellious attitude in him.”

Mr. McEnroe will keep all his broadcast commitments as a tennis commentator, and CNBC may telecast his shows on location from the sites of tennis tournaments to accommodate him, she said.

Mr. McEnroe isn’t a stranger to television. He hosted the short-lived ABC game show “The Chair” in 2002.

Struggling CNBC, whose fortunes as a network nose-dived about the same time as the stock market, is trying to revive its prime time lineup. CNBC runs business-oriented programming during the day but seeks a wider audience at night. It hasn’t had a signature nighttime program since Geraldo Rivera left for the Fox News Channel in 2001.

CNBC’s hourlong general newscast, with John Siegenthaler replacing Brian Williams, will air at 8 p.m., followed by Mr. Miller and Mr. McEnroe. Current prime-time shows, “The Capital Report” and “Kudlow & Cramer,” will be shown earlier in the day.

Wire’ gets a jolt

HBO’s sleeper series “The Wire” will get a transfusion of creative juices this upcoming season with two heralded crime writers coming aboard.

Dennis Lehane (“Mystic River”) and Richard Price (“Clockers”) will help pen the show’s third season, which begins shooting in April.

The show already has crime novelist George Pelecanos (“Soul Circus”) in the fold.

The Baltimore-based crime series doesn’t get nearly the ink that “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City” or even the ill-fated “K Street” have earned, but critics routinely trip over themselves to praise it.

New episodes should be ready for air by late summer.

The show’s writing staff already includes creator and executive producer David Simon, a crime author himself (“Homicide,” “The Corner”).

“The Wire’s” first season captured the national drug war as seen through the lens of a West Baltimore housing project. Last season focused on a longshoremen’s union struggling to survive in a new economic landscape. This year, “The Wire” explores a city’s underground drug economy and how the local politicians address the situation.

“Look for election-year politics to play an important part in the events that unfold,” Mr. Simon said in a statement released by HBO.

“The Wire” stars returning actors Dominic West, Sonja Sohn, Lance Reddick and Wendell Pierce.

TV One bows

The black audiences in the District and beyond have a new viewing alternative starting today.

TV One, a channel devoted to black viewers, makes its Comcast debut in the District and Baltimore as well as other parts of the country.

The new channel, which will compete with BET, is being added to Comcast customer’s expanded basic package.

The channel promises a broad range of programming, from classic films to fashion and music touching on black cultural themes and interests. The network made news in recent weeks by securing broadcast rights to the sitcoms “Good Times” and “227.”

Tim Reid, an actor, director and producer best known perhaps for his work on “WKRP in Cincinnati,” will serve as the network’s senior executive supervising producer.

Idol’ returns

Reality TV’s head grouch is rested and ready to roast another flock of would-be “Idols.”

The re-launch of “American Idol,” premiering at 8 tonight on Fox, means Simon Cowell’s rehearsed tirades will once again dominate the airwaves.

The network’s deliriously popular — and profitable — “American Idol” will be seen over three consecutive nights in the 8 p.m. slot.

What began as a modern version of “Star Search” quickly grew into a hit-making machine. Former winners like Kelly Clarkson and Ruben Studdard translated their victories into chart-topping records. Even “Idol” runner up Clay Aiken found legitimate Billboard glory. Their elation, though, may be short-lived.

Who knows how long their fame will last, given the precipitous drop first season runner-up Justin Guarini experienced over the past year, starring in a box office stinker (“From Justin to Kelly”) and getting dropped by his record label after one lackluster outing.

Only time will tell if this overproduced karaoke fare will provoke more “Idol” worship among viewers.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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