- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Lessons in spin

The gang over at CBS News has been accused by many of spinning the facts on the suspect memos about President Bush’s National Guard records.

Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that the news division’s crown jewel, “60 Minutes,” begins its 37th season Sunday with a profile of the king of “no spin,” Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.

That traditional commentator, he of the self-described “no-spin zone,” lets the news magazine follow him around to show viewers what makes him tick.

“60 Minutes,” returning to its familiar Sunday evening slot at 7, will also likely explore why so many critics, liberal and otherwise, don’t care for Mr. O’Reilly’s bare-knuckled style of broadcasting.

New face on ‘ER’

“ER’s” revolving-door approach to casting keeps spinning tonight, as young actor Shane West (“A Walk to Remember”) enters County General as the hospital’s new intern.

“ER,” starting its 11th season, still stands as NBC’s “must-see TV” Thursday night finisher. Its ratings, however, aren’t quite as healthy as in years past, and it’s not clear how many more cast changes fans will endure.

Moreover, show mainstay Noah Wyle has stated that this will be his last year, severing the drama’s last remaining link to its storied past.

“ER” airs at 10 p.m.

Do the ‘Hustle’

ESPN jumps back into the sports-telepic business with “Hustle,” its high-profile take on tarnished baseball star Pete Rose.

Tom Sizemore, whose own recent troubles with the law make him an ideal casting choice (beyond any physical likeness), stars as the onetime star athlete whose post-playing days have drifted into a lifelong slump.

ESPN’s first sports drama, 2002’s “Season on the Brink,” drew 3 million viewers but earned poor reviews. “Junction Boys,” a balanced look at legendary football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant (also from 2002), followed and drew better notices.

“Hustle,” airing Saturday at 9 p.m., could establish ESPN as the home for trustworthy sports biographies. The network is certainly off to a good start by tapping director Peter Bogdanovich (“The Last Picture Show”) to bring Mr. Rose’s sordid saga to life.

‘Savage’ brood

Men can be savages, but teenage boys are often much worse.

That’s the premise of “Complete Savages,” a new Friday night sitcom from Mel Gibson’s production team.

“Savages,” debuting tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. as part of the network’s TGIF (thank God it’s Friday) lineup, stars Keith Carradine as a firefighting father of five.

These “Savages” live up to their billing. The exception is the brainy Sam (Andrew Eiden), who stands out just for putting a coherent thought or two together. The remaining sons range from obnoxious to odious, and the teen actors look lost trying to make their characters the least bit appealing.

Those who find scenes of a big brother punishing his siblings by trapping them in his sweat-stained armpit will find all of this hilarious.

Mr. Carradine is as guilty as his TV sons are of overacting. The veteran thespian, last seen dodging tumbleweeds on HBO’s “Deadwood,” does improve as the episode wears on. He tries teaching his boys a lesson on cleanliness when the family’s 23rd maid in 10 years abruptly quits in disgust.

And when the script takes time to prove a father’s wisdom overshadows his alpha-male sons’ stubborn side, “Savage’s” real purpose flickers to life.

Mr. Gibson, a father of six, who directed the show’s pilot, clearly wants to celebrate the male psyche while simultaneously mocking its excesses. To pull off that one-two punch, however, will take better writing than the “Savages” pilot proves capable of.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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