- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Bernsen’s inner ‘Mole’

Corbin Bernsen recalls watching the old “Divorce Court” show as a child, riveted by the raw emotions on display.

Today’s reality shows aren’t much different, the erstwhile “L.A. Law” star figures.

Mr. Bernsen, 49, should know a bit about reality television. He starred in last year’s “Celebrity Mole” and does the honors once more for its sequel, “Celebrity Mole: Yucatan.”

The new installments begin at 10 tonight on ABC.

He understands that some will see his reality-show side career as a step down from television series and feature work, but says he finds the mental challenges irresistible.

“It’s not ‘Fear Factor.’ It’s a real mind tease. That’s why I went back,” Mr. Bernsen says.

Both Mr. Bernsen and Stephen Baldwin return from last season’s “Mole.” The new faces include professional bad boy Dennis “The Worm” Rodman, “Growing Pains’” Tracey Gold, “The Cosby Show’s” Keishia Knight Pulliam, former MTV video jockey Ananda Lewis, supermodel Angie Everhart and comedian Mark Curry (“Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper”).

Former NFL star Ahmad Rashad returns as ringmaster, guiding contestants through a series of physical and mental challenges. Of course, one of the six is secretly “the Mole,” the player cast to disrupt the proceedings.

Being a return player hardly gave Mr. Bernsen an edge, he says.

“It was a disadvantage,” he notes. “The most skilled person in the whole thing was Dennis Rodman. Any one skill you really want is animal instinct. He’s got that. I learned why he was such a good rebounder. .. I just know that he could see a ball go up and know exactly where it’d come off the boards, and he’s there.”

“For all you know, he’s thinking about strippers and Cancun,” Mr. Bernsen says.

Mr. Bernsen understands the appeal reality shows possess.

“There’s something live about it even though it isn’t live,” he says. “We like seeing real emotion.”

That said, not every manufactured situation with a group of B-level actors can be a ratings hit.

A good reality show is like any other program, Mr. Bernsen says.

“It’s got a setup, an activity, an Act II and Act III,” he says — which in the “Mole’s” case is the “execution,” where one player each week gets cut at the show’s end.

Seinfeld’s ‘Curb’ appeal

What did Larry David do when Jerry Seinfeld dropped by the Manhattan locale where cameras were shooting his improv comedy, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”?

Work him into the story on the fly, of course.

Mr. Seinfeld makes a cameo appearance in an upcoming “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the Associated Press reports. The HBO comedy began its fourth season last Sunday.

“But don’t blink,” Mr. David told Newsweek magazine in its Jan. 12 issue.

He said the comedian, with whom he created “Seinfeld,” showed up on the set during a Manhattan shoot and agreed to the brief part.

“Enthusiasm” stars Mr. David as himself, a cranky comedy writer. He figured he’d do 10 episodes a year, compared to the 23 required for a network series, and that production would take eight months at the most.

Even though the shows are mostly improvised, he found that writing 10 episode outlines takes so long he has to begin working on a new season as soon as he finishes the last one.

“I’m working all the time,” the 56-year-old said. “It’s 51 weeks a year. I’m working more days on this show than I did on ‘Seinfeld.’ … It’s not OK at all. It’s the opposite of OK.”

Grushow exits Fox

Associated Press

Reality isn’t pretty for Fox Television Entertainment Group Chairman Sandy Grushow.

Mr. Grushow, whose responsibilities included the ratings-challenged Fox Broadcast Channel, has resigned.

The ex-chairman is leaving to form his own production company based at 20th Century Fox, called Phase Two, effective immediately, it was announced this week.

“This was a very complicated decision for me to make,” Mr. Grushow said in a statement. He concluded it was better to exercise a production option in his contract rather than sign another executive agreement, he said.

Mr. Grushow’s contract was to expire this summer. A successor was not expected to be named immediately.

Fox Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Peter Chernin said in a statement that Mr. Grushow’s “determination and savvy leadership over these past years have helped make the network and studio what they are today.”

Gail Berman, entertainment president of the Fox network, and Gary Newman and Dana Walden, co-presidents of Twentieth Century Fox Television, will be reporting directly to Mr. Chernin.

Fox TV began the season with an unprecedented bang, topping the prime-time ratings for three weeks in a row with stellar baseball post-season broadcasts, which gave Fox a boost among younger viewers.

However, a ripple effect for regular series didn’t follow. The network was hit by the failure of a second edition of the reality show “Joe Millionaire,” which tanked and took the new drama, “Skin,” with it.

Returning Fox shows, including hits like “24,” also saw a drop in ratings. Fox isn’t alone in its woes, with broadcast television suffering ratings declines and finding audiences unreceptive to many new shows.

Mr. Grushow was promoted to the newly created position of Fox TV group chairman in 1999, overseeing the company’s TV production studio, Twentieth Century Fox Television, and the Fox network. He had been president of the studio since 1997.

During his tenure, the company became a leader in network TV production, with such series as “The Practice,” “Judging Amy” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Mr. Grushow’s association with News Corp. began with an internship at its film studio in 1983. As a Fox TV executive during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mr. Grushow introduced several hit series on the network, including “The X-Files” and “Beverly Hills, 90210.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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