- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 28, 2004

American ‘Pet’ Idols

Who’s to say Fluffy or Fido doesn’t aspire to be the next Clay Aiken?

Not Animal Planet, which broadcasts the third season opener of its “American Idol” for pets, “Pet Star,” tonight.

The talent show, hosted by former “Saved by the Bell” star Mario Lopez, pits creatures large and small against each other to prove which one can best charm viewers’ socks off.

It’s not just bragging rights for which these creatures are fighting. The winner’s owner will walk away with a $25,000 grand prize. Among the animals gearing up for this season’s challenge include a pair of hedgehogs, a dog that performs a Scottish dance and musical guinea pigs.

“Pet Star’s” new season begins at 8 p.m. tonight on Animal Planet.

Forensics at work

Paul Dowling takes a pregnant pause before picking his favorite “Forensic Files.”

Who could blame him? The Court TV crime show recaps fascinating cases where modern science saves the day by bagging the bag guy or setting innocent men free.

When pressed, the show’s creator and executive producer recalls a murderer busted when officers matched plant DNA found in the back of a pickup to where the murder victim was dumped.

Better yet was a rape victim in Canada who proved her doctor’s guilt in the crime by proving he surgically implanted a tube of someone else’s blood beneath his skin to trip up DNA testing.

Murder mysteries have transfixed television audiences for years, so Mr. Dowling isn’t surprised that a show like his — along with the popular “CSI” franchise, of course — stirs so much interest.

The trial of the last century — the O.J. Simpson murder case — brought forensic science into our living rooms, he says. “It left most fair-minded people to question, ‘What is this? Why the debate?’”

Potential “Files” come either from the headlines, from fans of the show or from forensic science conferences.

“We get a lot of great stories from there,” he says of the latter.

Shows like CBS’ “CSI: Miami” is set in major metropolitan areas, but Mr. Dowling says crooks may have a harder time fleeing justice in more modest hamlets.

“In almost any small town you’re likely to get caught,” Mr. Dowling says. “Generally they don’t have as many cases, so they have a little bit more time.”

“Forensic Files” airs at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. weeknights.

Banned ‘Family’ returns

All of broadcast television seems skittish these days, what with the “Monday Night Football”/”Desperate Housewives” promo debacle and the yanking of “Saving Private Ryan” from various outlets.

Yet here comes Fox, the network that once pulled an episode of “Family Guy” due to claims of anti-Semitism, willing to air the very same episode next month.

The network said this week that the controversial “When You Wish Upon a Weinstein” episode of the animated sitcom will make its broadcast debut at 9:30 p.m. Dec. 10, the Reuters News Agency reports.

Fox declined comment to Reuters, but sources said the network was emboldened to air the episode because it has already run twice on cable’s Cartoon Network without drawing any complaints. Its inclusion on a “Family Guy” DVD didn’t set off waves of protest, either.

The episode in question pokes fun at classic Jewish stereotypes, including their money-handling skills. “Weinstein” will air on Fox with one alteration that passed muster on Cartoon and the DVD: When a character breaks into a song called “I Need a Jew,” a lyric that originally read “Even though they killed our Lord” is omitted in favor of “I don’t think they killed our Lord.”

“Family Guy” originally aired on Fox in 1999 but lasted only two seasons due to poor ratings. The show later resurfaced on DVD and became a classic comeback story with monster sales. Fox plans to air new episodes of the resuscitated sitcom next year.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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