- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 24, 2004

HBO’s new ‘Friend’

Former “Friends” star Lisa Kudrow is mounting a “Comeback” on HBO.

The premium cable channel has picked up 13 episodes for a series starring Miss Kudrow as a one-time sitcom star trying to revive her career, Reuters News Agency reports.

This art-imitating-life stuff is catching on. First, Kirstie Alley addresses her weight gain on the planned Showtime series “Fat Actress.” Now, Miss Kudrow stares down life post-“Friends” with this new HBO show.

Miss Kudrow and former “Sex and the City” executive producer Michael Patrick King co-wrote the pilot script and will executive-produce the series.

In the pilot, directed by Mr. King, Miss Kudrow was joined by co-stars Robert Michael Morris, Damian Young, Laura Silverman, Malin Akerman, Robert Bagnell and Lance Barber.

A novel ‘Noel’

This weekend, television viewers can catch an original Christmas film on TNT starring Susan Sarandon, Paul Walker, Penelope Cruz and an unbilled Robin Williams. Or they can order the film from Amazon.com for just $4.99.

That is, assuming they missed the movie during its theatrical run, which began Nov. 12 in New York, Miami and other cities.

Confusing? Only for those who haven’t heard of a trimultaneous release schedule, which is just about all of us.

“Noel,” directed by Chazz Palminteri, is getting a unique platform this holiday season — one that could affect how future films reach the masses.

As if the release plan weren’t novel enough, the DVD itself boasts new technology that renders it unwatchable 48 hours after the sealed package is opened. The new discs are meant eventually to offer an alternative to renting DVDs that will let consumers avoid late fees because they never will need to be returned. Left unopened, the disposable DVDs have a yearlong shelf life.

This weekend’s one-day-only airing on TNT, at 8 p.m. Sunday, offers the easiest way to catch the holiday film, which follows a group of isolated souls whose lives intersect in profound ways during the holidays.

Kelsey’s ‘Carol’

Kelsey Grammer’s favorite variation on Charles Dickens’ venerable Christmas story is unconventional, to say the least: “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol.”

“I can still sing most of the songs from it,” Mr. Grammer says during a recent telephone conference call to promote his own take on Scrooge’s conversion.

“A Christmas Carol,” debuting at 9 p.m. Sunday on NBC, lets television audiences see Mr. Grammer away from the Seattle setting of his long-running “Frasier.”

The musical packs its cast with warm, familiar faces, including Jason Alexander, Jane Krakowski and Jesse L. Martin of “Law & Order” fame.

But Mr. Grammer’s Scrooge is front and center, giving him the chance to build a new career after playing the persnickety Dr. Crane for nearly two decades.

“The story is simply one of a man redeemed by love,” Mr. Grammer says in his authoritative baritone.

Playing the classic role gave him a new perspective on the material.

“The character Tiny Tim represents all the hopes of childhood. It was Scrooge’s childhood which was robbed from him,” he says. “We mourn for it, the dreams that didn’t pay off.”

The weight on his shoulders is a burden viewers can see as well as feel.

“He’s become so broken and bent. He’s finally able to stand erect at the end of the production. He’s truly reborn from the feet up.”

The actor doesn’t mind slipping into the shoes of such a familiar character.

“Everybody knows where this story is going,” he says of the new “Carol.” “It’s a little bit like playing Frasier. The fun of watching it was seeing how it got there.”

The telefilm marks the latest in a slow stream of television musicals in recent years.

The actor hopes it is part of a modest trend.

“The human condition,” he says, “is always in need of celebration, and the musical does a good job of that.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports

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