- The Washington Times - Monday, February 28, 2005

‘Amazing’ return

Not every reality show gets drubbed by high-minded critics.

Take “The Amazing Race,” CBS’ athletic competition entering its seventh season tonight. TV scribes immediately embraced the show back in 2001. Fans were a tougher sale.

No more. The reality contest’s ratings have caught up to the critical acclaim, something that doesn’t surprise show creators Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri one bit.

“Race” began a week before the September 11 attacks, Mr. van Munster says, a time when international travel took a serious hit.

“People didn’t want to see Americans traveling in an airport,” he says of the show’s first few weeks.

Miss Doganieri credits the proverbial word of mouth for getting the show on the right ratings track.

The dramatic interactions between players criss-crossing the globe is as compelling as any faux theatrics seen on “The Simple Life” and other reality fare.

“The idea is an honest concept anyone can understand. There’s no need for artificial back-stabbing,” he says. “If you cast it well, the story will tell itself.”

“The Amazing Race” pits two-person teams in a race around the world for a million-dollar prize. The teams consist of couples — sisters, siblings, husbands and wives — all willing to push themselves to their physical limits while exploring strange new cultures. This time around, CBS attempts some clever self-promotion as former “Survivor” contestants Rob Mariano and Amber Brkich make up one of the 11 squads. The show airs at 9 Tuesday nights.

Miss Doganieri says there’s little chance the show is ready to call it a day, not with all the potential cities to visit.

“Every time we throw the map of the world up on the wall, we’re fighting over where we want to go next,” she says of the creative process she and her husband go through at the start of each season.

Manheim’s brood

“The Practice’s” Camryn Manheim is about to enter the world of soccer moms.

The actress and the WB Network are teaming up for an untitled comedy featuring Miss Manheim as a single mother who moves to suburbia, Reuters News Agency reports.

Meanwhile, Fox also has the suburbs in mind with a new comedy involving twentysomething pals in a blue-collar town near Boston.

The show, dubbed “Dirtbags,” features a few friends who never left their Beantown roots and some others who flew the coop and decided to fly right back.

Tarantino’s ‘CSI’

Most directors refuse to go near the small tube when they have hit it big at the movies.

Not Quentin Tarantino.

The quirky auteur behind the “Kill Bill” films is returning to television to direct this season’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” finale, Reuters reports.

Mr. Tarantino is also lending his pen to the task for the CBS series, coming up with the episode’s story, too.

The installment will shoot in early April and air May 19, the network reports.

In 1995, Mr. Tarantino directed an installment of NBC’s “ER.”

Mr. Tarantino has long been a fan of the stylish forensic drama, as series creator and executive producer Anthony Zuiker learned when he bumped into the director at an awards show during “CSI’s” first season.

The “CSI” team has pursued him to direct an episode for some time, and after members of the crew ran into him a few weeks ago while the show was doing some location shooting in Las Vegas, the stars finally aligned for him to helm the show’s fifth-season closer.

The finale’s plot finds one of the key members of the CSI team, led by Gil Grissom (William Petersen), in serious jeopardy.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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