- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 23, 2005

‘Universe’ contracts

CBS has seen enough of its freshman comedy “Center of the Universe” after sensing the same is true of its audience.

The network pulled the John Goodman sitcom off its schedule effective immediately, the Reuters News Agency reports.

CBS will air “The King of Queens” reruns in the show’s Wednesday 9:30 p.m. time slot until veteran “Yes, Dear” returns to the schedule and takes over the time period Feb. 16.

Both “Queens” and “Yes, Dear” ran in a Monday 8 to 9 p.m. block during the 2002-03 season.

“Universe,” which boasted a reputable cast including Jean Smart, Ed Asner and Olympia Dukakis, failed to impress either viewers or critics.

‘Idol’ worship

Fox entertainment president Gail Berman told reporters last week not to expect the new season of “American Idol” to perform as well as past years as a way of curbing expectations.

Miss Berman was right about the show not duplicating last season’s ratings.

The two-hour “Idol” premiere averaged 33.5 million viewers and 14.0 rating/33 share in the adults 18 to 49 demographic, according to preliminary estimates from Nielsen Media Research.

According to Fox, Tuesday’s telecast marked the third-highest ratings in Fox’s 18-year history (excluding Super Bowls and a handful of other sports telecasts), behind only the “Joe Millionaire” finale in February 2003 and the second season finale of “Idol” in May 2003. This year’s opening salvo of amateur singing also improved on last year’s season premiere by 9 percent in adults 18 to 49 and by 16 percent in total viewers.

Sundance selections

Comic actor Jay Mohr hosts the Sundance Channel’s coverage of its namesake’s annual film festival starting tonight.

The program airs at 9 p.m. and will be followed at 10 p.m. by last year’s Sundance selection “Control Room.” The documentary goes behind the scenes of how the U.S. and Arab media covered the Iraq war.

The Sundance Film Festival, founded by Robert Redford, is the premiere independent movie showcase in the United States.

Heche’s new ‘True’

Anne Heche must be feeling pretty comfortable with her decision to focus on television instead of working in films at this stage in her career.

The actress, who garnered kind notices after becoming a recurring character on the WB’s “Everwood” last season, is set to star in that network’s new comedy pilot “True,” Reuters News Agency reports.

Miss Heche plays a young woman whose boyfriend breaks up with her while she’s in labor with their baby, causing her to move back with her parents. The man doesn’t leave her life completely, though, and the ordeal is a wake-up call for the new mother, a chronic procrastinator and perpetual student who has remained in school to delay venturing into the real world.

Miss Heche received an Emmy nomination last year for her portrayal of a drug-addicted mother in the Lifetime original movie “Gracie’s Choice” and also received a Tony nomination for her role in Broadway’s “Twentieth Century.”

Fresh ‘Cuts’

A new UPN comedy spun off from the network’s “One on One” sounds suspiciously like Ice Cube’s stylin’ franchise “Barbershop.”

The show’s producers beg to differ, claiming the new show’s genesis took root before the 2002 sleeper hit reached theaters.

“We had a barbershop on our show before the movie ‘Barbershop’ premiered,” Eunetta Boone, executive producer of “One on One” and “Cuts” told Cox, adding that expanding on the concept had obvious comedic benefits. “Basically, we’re doing a seaweed scrub in the hood.”

“Cuts,” which will premiere at 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 14, stars Marques Houston (“Fat Albert”) as a former “hairdresser to the rap stars” who now manages his family’s barbershop, according to the Cox News Service. Enter “American Pie” beauty Shannon Elizabeth as a spoiled party girl whose family’s chain acquires the shop and who has big ideas about turning it into a day spa.

The new sitcom will have to compete with Showtime for the best clipper gags. The pay network is planning an original comedy series directly based on Ice Cube’s “Barbershop” features in the coming months.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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