- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 14, 2004

Urban ‘Scarface’

So much of TV programming leaves us scratching our heads, but USA Network’s planned “Scarface” update makes perfect sense.

The network’s new series will move the gangster classic from Miami to Los Angeles and feature a predominantly black cast, Reuters News Agency reports.

Many rap stars and hip-hop fans swear allegiance to the 1983 film starring Al Pacino as a Cuban drug lord.

The four-hour miniseries, set during the crack epidemic of the ‘80s, could be in production as early as the fall and in time for a 2005 debut, Charles “Chic” Eglee, a consulting producer on FX’s The Shield,” told Reuters. Mr. Eglee has been signed to write and executive-produce the project.

USA’s Universal Studios parent holds rights to the characters and the “Scarface” name, which the miniseries would likely retain. No casting decisions have been made yet.

“It’s an iconic story that needs to be told every generation, so there’s a huge responsibility here,” said Mr. Eglee, a veteran TV scribe whose pen helped create “Dark Angel” and “Murder One.”

Just as the 1983 film was a creative departure from the 1932 original, which depicted the rise and fall of gangster Tony Camonte, the new “Scarface” will not be a strict adaptation of the source material.

Mr. Eglee will create a new cast loosely based on most of the primary characters.

By re-imagining the story on the rough streets of inner-city L.A., Mr. Eglee also will be giving the young, urban fan base a “Scarface” of its own.

“Given the fact that ‘Scarface’ was so completely embraced as an icon of hip-hop, it’s logical to re-tell that character in an iteration that is Afrocentric,” said Mr. Eglee, who is bringing aboard rap producer Defari to develop a soundtrack and serve as a technical adviser on the miniseries.

Thomas’ ‘Deceit’

Marlo Thomas goes the made-for-Lifetime route once more tonight, starring as a grieving widow who becomes a suspect in her husband’s death.

“Deceit,” which co-stars William Devane, casts “That Girl” as a woman whose rich husband disappears at sea. The tragedy takes a wicked turn when the lies her late husband spun before his death persuade police to consider his widow’s hand in his death.

The suddenly busy Miss Thomas can also be seen wrapping up a five-episode arc on NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” The NBC legal drama airs at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

“Deceit” debuts at 8 tonight on Lifetime.

‘Practice’ a goner

“The Practice” has run out of legal options at ABC.

David E. Kelley’s Emmy-winning drama will bow out May 16 after eight seasons, Reuters reports.

The stubborn series won’t go gently into that good night, though.

The final episodes of the ABC show will set up a spinoff series, which already has been given a 22-episode order by the network for the fall.

Sources said the pickup is not contingent on any actor, but speculation is that the latest additions to the show — James Spader and Rhona Mitra — have been approached for the spinoff.

In an episode to air this season, Mr. Spader’s character, Alan Shore, is set to quit the firm for the high-priced world of civil law, where the new series will be set. Details about the spinoff are still sketchy, but it’s said to be lighter in tone than “The Practice.”

That might give Mr. Kelley, who gave his “Ally McBeal” some grand fits of whimsy, a chance at some more wry legal gags.

Sources said Mr. Kelley, ABC and producer 20th Century Fox TV evaluated whether to pick up “The Practice” for a ninth season or spin off the series into a new drama before mutually agreeing on the latter.

“David, with the help of a truly extraordinary cast, accomplished the impossible. … They breathed new life into a show that had been on the air for seven years,” ABC entertainment president Susan Lyne told Reuters.

“The Practice” was on the fence last spring until clinching an 11th-hour pickup for an eighth season. The renewal involved serious cost-cutting measures. Mr. Kelley axed show stalwarts Dylan McDermott and Lara Flynn Boyle, among others, and brought Mr. Spader and Miss Mitra on board.

“This is very gratifying,” Mr. Kelley told Reuters. “Last year, it seemed that the series was over. Instead, we’ve been given the opportunity to evolve and go on.”

It also ensures the prolific writer will have at least one show on the 2004 fall schedule. His 2003 fall series “The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H.” quickly succumbed to low ratings.

This season’s “Practice” scored modest ratings gains over last year’s model. The show regularly held onto or built on its “Alias” viewers and demographic lead-in, ranking third in the time period, behind NBC and CBS.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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