- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Judging ‘Daniel’

Television finally is getting religion, but a conservative watchdog group isn’t too pleased with the results.

The American Family Association, critical of network television shows since the 1970s, is taking aim at NBC’s upcoming drama “The Book of Daniel,” Reuters news agency reports.

The group says the show, debuting Jan. 6, features a risque depiction of a fictional Christian community and through its Web site (afa.net) is urging the public to e-mail complaints to NBC Universal Chairman Bob Wright.

In his statement, the Rev. Donald Wildmon, a Methodist minister and AFA’s chairman, took aim at the show’s title character (played by Aidan Quinn), described by Mr. Wildmon as a “drug-addicted Episcopal priest whose wife depends heavily on her midday martinis.”

He also criticized the portrayals of homosexual characters in “Daniel” as well as the show’s “very unconventional” inclusion of Jesus — who is depicted in the series in conversations imagined by the priest.

Mr. Wildmon also asked Mr. Wright to inform NBC affiliates that they aren’t required to air “Daniel.” To date, no affiliate has announced plans to pull the show, but some stations reportedly have received e-mail complaints about promos for the series.

“‘The Book of Daniel’ is a fictional drama about an Episcopalian priest’s family and the contemporary issues with which they must grapple. We’re confident once audiences view this quality drama themselves, they’ll appreciate this thought-provoking examination of one American family,” an NBC spokesman told Reuters.

Howie’s new ‘Deal’

Viewers desperate for fresh programming last week turned to Howie Mandel for help.

The former “St. Elsewhere” co-star’s new game show “Deal or No Deal” made up one-third of Nielsen Media Research’s top 15 prime-time programs for last week, Associated Press reports.

NBC ran five hourlong episodes of the new game show as counter-programming against the usual seasonal reruns. The scheduling mirrored ABC’s approach at the beginning of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” trying to build momentum at a time when there was little else going on in TV. “Deal” didn’t wow viewers like “Millionaire” once did, but it attracted them to time slots where NBC has struggled.

Barbara Walters’ ABC News special on how different religions view heaven was another winner for the week before Christmas and Hanukkah, drawing 13.8 million viewers.

CBS won the week — as it has every week this TV season — with an average of 10 million viewers. NBC had 7.7 million viewers; ABC 7.3 million; Fox had 6.8 million; and UPN averaged 3 million. The WB had 2 million and Pax TV had 380,000.

For the week of Dec. 19 through 25, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “CSI: Miami,” CBS, 20.33 million; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 18.93 million; “Two and a Half Men,” CBS, 17.7 million; “Out of Practice,” CBS, 15.01 million; “Without a Trace,” CBS, 14.37 million.

Model behavior

Benched “America’s Next Top Model” judge Janice Dickinson is starting her own modeling agency and letting cameras capture every part of the process.

Cable’s Oxygen network has given the green light to the tentatively titled “The Janice Dickinson Project,” in which the former supermodel juggles motherhood and her new business, Reuters reports.

She will whittle down a lineup of more than 500 aspiring models to five finalists, who will be the first to be signed by her agency.

Miss Dickinson was a judge on the first four installments of the UPN hit “America’s Next Top Model,” a reality series and competition hosted by just-retired supermodel Tyra Banks. She also appeared on VH1’s reality series “The Surreal Life.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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