- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 12, 2004

Grounded ‘LAX’

Even before September 11 we figured plenty of drama went on behind the scenes at your average big-city airport.

Now, we get to see that human dynamic in full color with “LAX,” which welcomes both Heather Locklear and Blair Underwood back to the small screen.

“LAX,” which debuts at 10 p.m. tonight on NBC, banks on our current fascination with air travel in light of terrorism fears but rarely grounds the drama enough to make us forget our troubles.

Miss Locklear, one of TV’s surest bets and a co-producer here, plays the tough but sexy airport executive bucking to run the whole show when the LAX chief commits suicide on the runway.

Only Mr. Underwood, his cocky strut as unrelenting as reinforced steel, stands in her way.

Clearly the show wants us to care about the ongoing power struggle which bubbles with sexual as well as professional tension. We’re told the two “hooked up” a while back after one too many martinis but it did little to make them friends.

So far, the chemistry between the two barely registers, but that could change given the two actors’ track records.

Elements of “LAX” hint at the richness inherent in such a large-scale operation, and each week could focus on a new passenger either stuck at the airport or awaiting a loved one with intriguing tales to tell.

But watching drunken Serbian pilots refuse to leave the cockpit, one of two big scares drummed up in tonight’s opener, might not be what of which the average viewer wants to be reminded.

Jackson’s ‘Lot’

Believe it or not, plenty of folks still see Michael Jackson as the innocent King of Pop.

Trio’s “Parking Lot” gets up close and personal with these fans in the latest installment of its cheeky reality show.

“Parking Lot: Michael Jackson,” which bows at 9 p.m. tonight, follows Mr. Jackson’s loyal legions to his Neverland ranch in California as well as outside the Santa Barbara courthouse where the pop singer was arraigned on charges of child molestation earlier this year.

We meet the fan who remains celibate in support of the so-called “Wacko Jacko” as well as those who use Mr. Jackson’s wardrobe as their own style kit.

“Parking Lot” is the spinoff of “Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” a 15-minute cult film which interviewed soused fans seen outside a Judas Priest concert in Maryland.

‘Discovery’ HDTV

Comcast digital cable subscribers have a new, crystal clear reason to check out the latest Discovery channel programming.

The cable giant and Discovery Communications have teamed up to provide Discovery HD Theater throughout the D.C. region.

Discovery HD Theater’s lineup includes “Trading Spaces,” “Rides” and “The Jeff Corwin Experience.” The channel also serves up original specials and documentaries in the HD format.

Today, the channel is available in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, the District and Prince William County. The Arlington/Alexandria region will be added on Wednesday.

Wyle waves goodbye

The final continuous link to “ER’s” earliest days is bidding the show adieu.

Or is he?

Noah Wyle, Dr. John Carter, told the E! network last week he plans to leave the show at season’s end, according toAssociated Press.

“I’ve just got other stuff going in my life right now,” Mr. Wyle told “E! News Live.” “I’ve got a son, I’ve got family and friends that said goodbye to me 12 years ago and are wondering when I’m coming back, and this little urge to scratch a different kind of itch in my career, and it’s just coming to the end of the character’s run.”

The actor began the show as the impressionable young resident among a powerhouse cast that included Anthony Edwards, George Clooney, Eriq La Salle and Julianna Margulies. As they all gradually left, Mr. Wyle became the show’s promotional centerpiece.

The AP reports Mr. Wyle’s declaration might not be the end of the discussion. The actor reportedly didn’t tell series creator John Wells or the producers of his intentions, says Mr. Wyle’s spokesman, Eddie George.

A Warner Bros. spokeswoman told AP only, “people are going to have to stay tuned to see what’s happening.”

The “ER” contract for Mr. Wyle, a five-time Emmy Award nominee, expires at the end of this season.

“ER” won’t shut its doors should Mr. Wyle depart. NBC already inked an agreement to run the show through the 2005-06 season and its ratings, while not as white-hot as in the past, still prove respectable.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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