- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 16, 2004

‘Salem’ revisited

Andre Braugher understands the appeal of Stephen King’s oeuvre, and it has little to do with the shrieking horrors that fly out of the author’s imagination.

Mr. Braugher, who co-stars in the TNT remake of Mr. King’s “Salem’s Lot,” says the author’s ability to turn misfits into heroes makes his stories timeless.

“It’s most frightening because it’s somebody just like you,” Mr. Braugher says of Mr. King’s protagonists. “We don’t have revolvers with silver-tipped bullets. We’re just trying to… survive on our own wits.”

The film stars Rob Lowe as a writer who returns to his hometown to discover that a great evil has taken the sleepy hamlet hostage. “Salem’s Lot” boasts a reputable cast, including Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer, James Cromwell and Samantha Mathis. The four-hour telepicture, which favors reflection over orchestrated frights, begins Sunday evening at 8 and concludes at the same time the following night.

Mr. Braugher, best known for his work on NBC’s “Homicide: Life on the Street,” describes his character as a hermit whose intellectual prowess has made him an outcast.

“He believes in the goodness of human spirit, contrary to his own senses,” Mr. Braugher says.

The story may teem with vampires, but he sees the film as an exploration of domestic evil and a town’s cowardice in facing up to it.

At the end of the day, it’s still a vampire feature, a subject of which modern artists never seem to tire.

Vampires reflect our ongoing fascination with youth culture and sexuality, Mr. Braugher says.

“Their power and sensuality extend beyond our human realm. Once you get past the evil, they’re very attractive creatures,” says Mr. Braugher, who returns to episodic television in a few weeks with a short stint on Fox’s “The Jury.”

“Salem’s Lot” director Mikael Salomon says his new version of Mr. King’s story is much more faithful to the text than the 1979 television feature starring David Soul and Lance Kerwin.

“If you look at it now, it’s hopelessly dated,” Mr. Salomon says of that film, directed by “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s” Tobe Hooper.

The TNT miniseries can’t serve up the gore as feature films can, but Mr. Salomon didn’t chafe under the medium’s restrictions.

“It’s much more interesting to follow your characters to see how they perceive the dread,” he says. “What you don’t see is much more scary.”

It’s a celebration

NBC celebrates the Apollo Theater Foundation’s 70th anniversary Saturday with a star-studded prime-time special.

“Apollo at 70: A Hot Night in Harlem” features Denzel Washington, Ashanti and Brian McKnight coming together for a benefit show at New York’s historic theater.

The special, airing at 8 p.m., will combine music, comedy and dance segments with film clips commemorating the theater’s history.

ABC’s got game

The brass at ABC must wish the basketball playoffs could last year-round.

Three games of the NBA finals, between the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers, telecast on ABC, were easily the week’s three most-watched prime-time programs, Associated Press reports.

The television competition appears to be evaporating as we head into summer. CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” attracted 13.8 million viewers, about half its usual number for first-run episodes.

The premiere of Fox’s new drama “The Jury,” one of several new shows the network is introducing this summer, drew just 4.2 million viewers.

For the week of June 7 through 13, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “NBA Finals, Game 4: L.A. Lakers at Detroit,” ABC, 20.3 million; “NBA Finals, Game 3: L.A. Lakers at Detroit,” ABC, 16.2 million; “NBA Finals, Game 2: Detroit at L.A. Lakers,” ABC, 16.1 million; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 13.8 million; and “Without a Trace,” CBS, 13.3 million.

New to view

This week’s DVD releases include a banner season for one of television’s best sitcoms and the maiden voyage of a cutting-edge FX drama.

“The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season” features 22 episodes of the animated clan at its zenith. The best reasons to check out Season 4 (1992 to 1993) include “Homer the Heretic,” when the family patriarch decides to form his own religion — which allows him to sleep late on Sunday mornings — and “A Streetcar Named Marge,” a witty musical spoof on the Tennessee Williams classic.

Bonus features include commentary tracks by series creator Matt Groening and executive producers Al Jean and Mike Reiss, along with several actors, writers and directors. The four-disc package, priced at $49.98, also includes deleted scenes and animated storyboards.

Also out: FX’s “Nip/Tuck,” which returns Tuesday at 10 p.m. for its second season. The series follows two Miami-based plastic surgeons and their morally ambiguous lifestyles. Sean (Dylan Walsh) is the more decent of the pair, while Julian McMahon’s Christian is the kind of shallow womanizer who epitomizes the very worst about the profession.

“Nip/Tuck: The Complete First Season,” priced at $59.98, includes more than 30 minutes of deleted scenes, a “making of” documentary and a gag reel of outtakes.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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