- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 17, 2005

Old and new on HBO

HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is slated to return Sept. 25, along with a new comedy from the creator of the BBC smash “The Office.”

Both shows will continue the cable pay channel’s reliance on quirky cameos and its assumption that we’re endlessly fascinated by all things Hollywood. Witness the lackluster ratings for both “The Comeback” — and even the highly regarded “Entourage” — and that’s a gamble HBO may regret taking.

“Enthusiasm,” now entering its fifth season, stars Larry David as a comically reborn version of himself trying to make sense of life in and around Los Angeles. Mr. David, who helped create “Seinfeld” and was the model for the sitcom’s George Costanza, whips up each episode’s general story line and then asks his co-stars to improvise dialogue to match the plot.

The new season will, again, feature 10 episodes.

Meanwhile, HBO’s new gamble, “Extras” (from “Office” creator Ricky Gervais), follows an aspiring actor who realizes that the only work he can get in Hollywood is as a bit player. The episodes will feature cameos by a number of real-life movie stars, including Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Stiller, Kate Winslet and Patrick Stewart. Mr. Gervais also starred in “The Office,” which was re-created for American audiences on NBC this year with Steve Carell as the unctuous boss.

“Extras” will have a six-episode run.

SpongeBob’s new role

SpongeBob SquarePants wants children to eat their vegetables — and he doesn’t mind using his star power to make it happen.

Pictures of the happy-go-lucky sea sponge will appear on packages of carrots, spinach and citrus starting next month under licensing deals with produce companies, Associated Press reports. The familiar cartoon favorite won’t be alone. Images of Dora the Explorer and other Nickelodeon characters will also grace the fruit and vegetable packages, according to the network.

Sponge already helps pitch a cart full of foods ranging from cereal to ice cream, but Nickelodeon executives say the foray into the wholesome fruit-and-vegetable market complements network programming attempts to coax children to eat more healthfully.

“If we can use our popular characters and help kids eat better, then we’re all for that,” Sherice Torres, vice president of Nickelodeon and Viacom Consumer Products, told Reuters News Agency.

The deals come as TV executives are countering critics who blame TV programs and advertisements in part for the current rise of obesity in children. A crop of children’s shows such as “Jo Jo’s Circus” on Disney and Nickelodeon’s “Lazy Town” is attempting to inspire young viewers to get up off the couch or rethink their food choices. Even “Sesame Street’s” Cookie Monster changed his tune earlier this year by singing “A Cookie Is a Sometimes Food.”

Say it ain’t so, Cookie Monster.

Getting into ‘Dodge’

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter has been hitting the massage table lately, but it has nothing to do with gridiron aches and pains.

The football star is part of the third season of “Extreme Dodgeball” on cable’s Game Show Network, and the balls in question leave a mark.

“Those balls hurt when they hit you, especially if you get hit in the face,” Mr. Trotter, soaked in sweat after his third game of the day, told Reuters News Agency.

“I skinned my knee yesterday dodging for a ball, but that’s the nature of the sport,” he says.

“Extreme Dodgeball,” premiering tomorrow evening at 10, has evolved from a comical pseudo sport where sumo wrestlers pummeled jockeys into real hit-and-run sports action.

Each team is headed by a celebrity captain. The top four teams will go on to the playoffs, vying for a championship purse of $170,000.

The first competition bounces off with actor Mario Lopez leading the L.A. Armed Response against the Denver Hurlers and snowboard champion Tara Dakides. Later, “Queer as Folk” star Hal Sparks and his Chicago Hitmen go up against Trotter’s Philadelphia Benjamins, who then go toe-to-toe with volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh and the Detroit Spoilers — who, in turn, will battle boxer Mia St. John’s New York Bling.

“Our version of dodgeball has moved away from the fourth-grade game and moved toward the NBA more than anything else,” executive producer Mark Cronin said. The schoolyard game, considered too violent by some, has become an all-out sports craze on college campuses and among adults in recent years.

“Dodgeball is the new softball. It’s very social,” GSN President Rich Cronin says..

The show, to date, is GSN’s highest-rated program among 18- to 34-year-olds.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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