- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 24, 2005

A new ‘Situation’

Conservative TV personality Tucker Carlson was deep into a game of squash earlier this month when he got the call that terrorists had attacked the London subway system.

Within hours, Mr. Carlson found himself in a London studio shooting his new MSNBC talker “The Situation with Tucker Carlson.”

It’s that flexibility that drew the San Francisco native to his latest TV assignment, a nightly political roundup featuring a balanced panel of pundits.

A self-described traditional conservative, Mr. Carlson began his broadcasting career nearly five years ago and still gets flummoxed by reading the teleprompter. Yet he’s worked steadily since entering the field, including high profile gigs on CNN and PBS.

“The Situation with Tucker Carlson,” airing weeknights at 9 on MSNBC, features a list of topical subjects that the host and regular contributors — such as conservative Jay Severin and liberal Rachel Maddow — jaw over, a la ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption.”

And when news breaks, Mr. Carlson jumps all over it —or jumps on a plane to get closer to the action.

Early reviews have been mixed, though all applauded the lack of shouting heard too often on political gab fests.

“I can’t stand incivility. I don’t think it makes for good TV. It’s like watching your parents fight,” says Mr. Carlson, best known in recent months for taking flak from comic Jon Stewart for purportedly engaging in the type of aforementioned histrionics on the now defunct “Crossfire.”

But today’s political labeling isn’t an exact science, he notes.

“The issues are far more confusing than they used to be,” says Mr. Carlson, a staunch critic of the Iraq war. “I agree with the left on a lot of civil libertarian questions and I’m aggressively anti-abortion.”

One matter that isn’t up for debate is that MSNBC sure could use a breakout hit. The network routinely trails both Fox News and CNN in the ratings.

Still, Mr. Carlson reasons that the MSNBC’s underdog status has its perks.

“We’re not waking up every morning thinking how to protect our lead,” he says.

Perry bounces back

“Beverly Hills 90210” star Luke Perry has gone from overnight sensation to failed movie star and, now, back to television star wannabe.

Mr. Perry is joining the cast of “Windfall,” an NBC series following 20 friends who share a massive lottery jackpot and the perils of instant wealth, Associated Press reports.

The show, which also stars Jason Gedrick (“Boomtown”), Sarah Wynter (“24”) and D.J. Cotrona (“Skin”), is set for a midseason premiere in 2005-06.

According to the network, the winners — who split $386 million — find their “initial ecstasy tempered by the thorny, romantic and social complications caused by instant wealth.”

They could always give it back, but that would make for a pretty short series.

More ‘Legal’ briefs

The cast of ABC’s Emmy-nominated “Boston Legal” keeps on growing.

Ryan Michelle Bathe and Justin Mentell will play junior associates in the law firm at the center of the David E. Kelley series, which likely will have its second-season premiere at the end of September, the Reuters news agency reports.

Miss Bathe will portray Sara Holt, a bright woman sometimes chosen for bizarre assignments. The actress’s TV credits include appearances on NBC’s “ER” and two UPN sitcoms, “Girlfriends” and “Half & Half.”

Mr. Mentell will take the role of Garrett Wells, an ambitious young lawyer who has a hard time figuring out when to back off. His credits include Fox Searchlight Pictures’ upcoming film “Roll Bounce.”

Julie Bowen of NBC’s “Ed” previously joined the cast as a smart senior associate who’s on the track to making partner and won’t let anything — including a messy divorce — stand in her way.

“Boston Legal,” which stars James Spader and William Shatner, begins its second season this fall.

Mizrahi’s small talk

The Style Network has enlisted fashion guru Isaac Mizrahi to headline a daily talk show about beauty, style, pop culture and fashion, Reuters reports.

“Isaac” is slated to debut later this year and will be shot in New York in front of a studio audience.

Mr. Mizrahi isn’t a stranger to the entertainment world. He’s appeared in several films, including “Small Time Crooks,” and hosted his own talker on Oxygen from 2001 to 2003.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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