- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 13, 2004

The new special airs at 8 p.m. Sunday.

“The True Story of Troy” promises a version of history untainted by movie producers and A-list stars.

CBS rings jingle bells

It’s May, but CBS is very much in the Christmas spirit.

The Tiffany network has given the seasonal green light to “Say When,” a TV movie to air this holiday season, the Reuters News Agency reports.

Based on the novel by Elizabeth Berg, “Say When” centers on Frank Griffin (“Joan of Arcadia’s” Joe Mantegna), a staid family man whose seemingly perfect suburban life is shattered when Ellen, his wife of 10 years, announces she’s having an affair and wants a divorce. Frank refuses to move out and stays on as Ellen’s roommate, struggling to hold on to his normal life as a father of an 8-year-old daughter while repairing his relationship with Ellen. He also tries dating and signs up for a part-time Santa Claus gig at the local mall.

“What attracted me to the piece is that it’s not saccharine; it is an honest look at family relationships,” executive producer Larry Sanitsky told Reuters.

Mr. Sanitsky previously produced CBS’ successful adaptation of the Berg novel “Open House” last Christmas.

Mr. Mantegna earned an Emmy nomination for his role in CBS’ miniseries “The Last Don” and also starred on the network’s short-lived drama “First Monday.” He next appears in the feature “Stateside.”

Savvy viewers may know Mr. Mantegna from his voice-over work on “The Simpsons.” He plays the recurring character Fat Tony, a Springfield mob boss, on the Fox show.

Andy’s return?

It would be typical of Andy Kaufman’s bizarre brand of comedy if he returned from the great beyond just to complete a gag.

The comic actor died of lung cancer on May 16, 1984, but according to legend, the eccentric comedian said if he were faking, he’d resurface 20 years later to the day.

So, just in case, a party is being planned by Bob Zmuda, Mr. Kaufman’s best friend and partner, at the House of Blues in Los Angeles on Sunday, the Associated Press reports.

“Over 100 personal ads will be taken out across the country and abroad, reminding him of his words. Will he show?” Mr. Zmuda asked on the Web site for Comic Relief, a series of shows that raise money for health care for the homeless. Mr. Zmuda founded Comic Relief after Mr. Kaufman’s death.

VIP tickets to the Andy Kaufman Dead or Alive? tribute offer “select seating and celebrity reception (hopefully with Andy).”

The tribute also promises a performance by Las Vegas lounge lizard Tony Clifton, one of the comedian’s characters.

Mr. Kaufman was best known as the lovable foreign-car mechanic Latka Gravas on the 1970s TV sitcom “Taxi.”

Jim Carrey portrayed the comic actor in Milos Forman’s 1999 film “Man on the Moon.”

‘24’ fans bare teeth

British actor Paul Blackthorne, the star of Fox’s “24,” is learning how intensely American audiences watch their favorite shows the hard way.

“They are lunatics, aren’t they? Absolute lunatics,” the actor told the Reuters News Agency about the fans of “24.”

But it’s clear from his voice that he means it in the nicest possible way. The feeling may not be mutual, considering he plays the dashing, yet despicable Stephen Saunders — the terrorist brain behind this season’s virus attack.

“It’s been happening a lot that people have been noticing me and looking at me in a slightly unnerved way,” he says.

It’s not the first time. Years earlier, he played an arrogant colonial official in the Oscar-nominated Bollywood blockbuster “Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India.”

“A lot of India loves to hate me, and now it seems to be half of America,” he said.

The intensity could be ratcheted up a few more notches, depending on how Fox ends this season. But Mr. Blackthorne already has plans to skip the country — for soccer, not for fear of “24” fans, he promises.

“I’m going back to the old country to watch England play in the European championships. I imagine the fever is just now starting up,” he said.

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