- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 14, 2005

Mourning glory

With “Six Feet Under” scheduled to wrap its four-year run on Sunday, HBO will tonight air a two-part retrospective on the show’s five seasons beginning at 8 p.m.

The network also will air “Six Feet Under: In Memoriam,” Sunday at 8 p.m. before the series finale at 9 p.m.

“SFU,” a black comedy about a California mortuary owned by a dysfunctional family, is leaving HBO at a time when the network is having difficulty establishing new breakout hits.

While “SFU” may have lost some of its “must-see” status, it established a following and has remained a critical favorite and consistent Emmy nominee throughout its run. The show also has regained some of its former glory this season, particularly with the unexpected passing of Nate Fisher (Peter Krause).

We still love Lucy

The company that developed the “Q score” that broadcasters and advertisers quietly consult to measure a personality’s popularity has done a survey that tests the reputation of performers who have gone on to that big soundstage in the sky. And they found that Lucille Ball is America’s most beloved dead star.

The red-haired sitcom star of the 1950s and ‘60s, who died in 1989, also has topped past “Dead Q” lists as her comedies seemingly live forever on television, Steve Levitt, president of Marketing Evaluations Inc., which conducts the tests, told Associated Press.

For 41 years, Mr. Levitt’s company has given consumers a list of names and asked if they know the people and to rate how much they like them. From their responses they calculate the Q score, a measure of both familiarity and likability. Bob Hope, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Red Skelton follow Miss Ball on the popularity list. Tom Hanks has been the most popular live star in the last few surveys.

Dead stars still do business, though. Coors used film clips of Mr. Wayne in a popular commercial, while Fred Astaire has danced to hawk a vacuum cleaner.

“Some of these deceased personalities have Q scores equal to or greater than some of the live personalities we measure,” Mr. Levitt said.

Two performers — Johnny Carson and John Ritter — are relatively new to the list but have already found favor in the eyes of the survey. Both rank in the top 10 of most popular dead stars. Other stars in the top 10 include “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz and “Highway To Heaven” star Michael Landon.

On the other hand, diet doctor Robert Atkins had the lowest score of the 169 personalities available to be selected. Rapper Tupac Shakur and attorney Johnnie Cochran also have high negative ratings, Mr. Levitt said.

Round 2 for ‘Contender’

There’s good news for fans of “The Contender.”

The Mark Burnett-produced boxing reality show will be reborn on ESPN after failing to find an audience on NBC, Reuters news agency reports.

The unscripted drama about the lives of 16 professional boxers as they compete for the chance to change their lives will air as part of ESPN Original Entertainment programming. Executive producers will be Mr. Burnett, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Sylvester Stallone, ESPN announced Thursday. Casting and production on the series, which will air in prime time beginning April 2006, will get under way immediately, the cable network said on its Web site.

Compiled by Thomas Walter and Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports.

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