- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2004

Chilling ‘Ring’ on HBO

“The Ring,” the 2002 sleeper hit derived from a smash Japanese film “Ringu,” airs tonight at 9 on HBO.

The film stars Naomi Watts as a reporter who finds a video that, when watched, promises its viewer will die in seven days.

Now she has to uncover the truth behind the video or become its latest victim herself.

Director Gore Verbinski (“The Mexican”) creates some spooky sequences with the material, which with all its flaws still outclasses the bulk of today’s horror films. A sequel is expected to be released later this year.

Covering war

The Discovery Times Channel brings war home tonight with the help of some of the best-known war correspondents in American journalism.

The four-part “Reporters at War” enjoys its U.S. premiere at 8 p.m., featuring firsthand accounts from Morley Safer, Dan Rather, Walter Cronkite and other venerable reporters. Each describes what it was like reporting from the frontlines.

The specials explore the most crucial war moments of the past 150 years, beginning with Matthew Brady’s first combat photo of the Civil War.

Tonight’s chapter, “Witness to History,” examines recent wars and how journalists covered them.

The media wavered between accuracy and patriotism, the special says; the two often intersecting in intriguing ways.

The final three “War” installments will unfold over consecutive Tuesday nights.

‘Sopranos’ sing again

The maddening wait for all-new “Sopranos” episodes is coming to an end.

HBO has settled on March 7 to kick-off the New Joisey mobster series’ fifth season, according to E! Online.

The 13 new episodes will be sweet relief to patient viewers who have been waiting to catch up with Tony and company since Dec. 8, 2002.

To recap: In the season finale, Carmela turned the tables on her cheating hubby, kicking Tony to the curb after receiving an irate phone call from his latest gal pal, Irene.

Edie Falco’s role as a mob mama scorned garnered her an outstanding lead actress Emmy, while James Gandolfini took home the TV trophy for outstanding lead actor.

HBO has inked a deal with series creator David Chase for a sixth, and likely final, season —but don’t hold your breath for those future chapters in the life of “The Sopranos.” Production on the final 10 episodes isn’t expected to begin until early 2005.

E! Online has revealed a few tidbits about the upcoming season:

• Tony and Carmela’s marriage won’t be mended any time soon. She may even begin dating other people. Let’s hope their life insurance premiums are up to date.

• The show’s penchant for ghostly guest appearances shows no sign of abating. Among those expected to awaken from sleeping with the fishes are Vincent Pastore (aka Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero), David Proval (Richie Aprile), John Heard (Detective Vin Makazian), Al Sapienza (Mikey Palmice), Dan Grimaldi (Philly “Spoons” Parisi) and Jason Cerbone (Jackie Aprile Jr.). Even Joe Pantoliano (Ralph Cifaretto), who captured an Emmy for his guest role, could return if producers can work around his shooting schedule on CBS’ “The Handler.”

• Indie darling Steve Buscemi (“Fargo,” “Miller’s Crossing”) will join the cast for its fifth and possibly sixth seasons. The actor/director also will step behind the camera to lens a few episodes.

• Veteran character actor Robert Loggia also joins the show as a mob boss looking to reclaim his turf after being sprung from prison.

It’s a credit to “The Sopranos” that at a time when public tastes flit from “Survivor” to “Joe Millionaire,” interest in all things Tony remains high. Good writing will do that for a show.

Norville in prime time

MSNBC is betting the woman who couldn’t fill Jane Pauley’s shoes will give their prime time lineup a jolt.

Former “Today” co-anchor Deborah Norville is poised to return to the NBC News fold with a nightly MSNBC show that’s expected to debut later this month, according to Reuters News Agency.

The cable network has been hunting for a new show to fill the hole in its weeknight prime-time lineup that was left by November’s cancellation of “Buchanan & Press.”

MSNBC has since shifted “The Abrams Report” from 9 p.m. to the 6 p.m. slot formerly occupied by “B&P;,” leaving the void at 9 p.m. that Miss Norville’s interview-driven program is expected to fill. She’ll be competing with CNN’s “Larry King Live” and Fox News’ “Hannity & Colmes” — that hour’s cable news giants.

An MSNBC spokesman declined comment on the Norville situation, and representatives for Miss Norville could not be reached, Reuters reports.

Even with her new MSNBC gig, Miss Norville will continue to anchor “Inside Edition,” the syndicated news magazine. The anchor is under contract through the end of the 2004-05 TV season.

Miss Norville has been with “Inside Edition” since 1995. She had a rocky tenure in 1990-91 as co-anchor with Bryant Gumbel of NBC’s “Today,” a job she started amid intense media coverage of the purported rivalry between Miss Norville and her “Today” predecessor, Miss Pauley.

Before joining “Inside Edition,” Miss Norville worked for various CBS News programs.

‘No. 1’ ratings so-so

CBS did only modest business on Friday with its headline-generating “Michael Jackson Number Ones” special, Reuters News Agency reports.

The tribute special, originally scheduled to air in November but yanked after Mr. Jackson’s arrest on child molestation charges, averaged 10.6 million viewers and a 3.6 rating/11 share among adults 18 to 49 from 8 to 9 p.m., according to preliminary estimates from Nielsen Media Research.

That’s slightly better than what CBS has averaged in the time slot among adults 18 to 49 with its freshman drama “Joan of Arcadia,” but not a big number considering the legal imbroglio that has enveloped its subject.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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