- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2005

FX inks ‘Bat’ pact

“Batman Begins” just hit cineplexes last week, and already FX has gobbled up the rights to put the Dark Knight in the homes of cable subscribers.

The cable channel stepped up late last week to buy out the post-pay-TV window for the latest incarnation of Warner Bros.’ Caped Crusader franchise, Reuters News Agency reports. Sources said FX will share the rights to the movie with fellow basic-cable channel AMC in a deal valued at about $25 million.

Sources said Warners is shopping “Batman” rights to broadcast networks. But FX is ensured of having the first crack at airing the movie in late 2007 or early 2008, after its pay-TV debut.

“Batman Begins” was included as part of a larger deal between FX and AMC for at least a dozen recent Warner Bros. features, including “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” “The Last Samurai,” “Constantine,” “Troy” and “Ghost Ship.”

Representatives for FX and Warners declined comment on the deal.

‘Geek’ not so weak

The WB Network has added some ratings muscle to its lineup, and it has a group of “Geeks” to thank.

The hot summer reality show “Beauty and the Geek” just earned a second season, Reuters reports.

The show, which pairs beautiful women and nerdy guys in teams competing for $250,000, has shown impressive growth in its three airings, pulling 4.5 million viewers and winning its Wednesday time slot (from 8 to 9 p.m.) June 15 in two key demographic groups — ages 18 to 34 and 12 to 34.

The WB has given it an eight-episode pickup (that’s two more episodes than the first installment) for a second cycle to premiere during the 2005-06 season, possibly midseason. Actor Ashton Kutcher is one of the show’s producers.

A bewitching Mills

Nicole Kidman is getting all the headlines this week for her magical turn in the new “Bewitched,” but veteran actress Juliet Mills has been casting spells for years as part of the daytime soap “Passions.”

Since 1999, Miss Mills — a member of a prominent acting family — has been displaying a darker side as the witch Tabitha Lenox in the NBC daytime soap. Tabitha used to cast her spells over the townsfolk of Harmony with the help of Timmy, a living doll played by Josh Ryan Evans. But Mr. Evans, who stood 3 feet 2 inches, died in 2002 at age 20.

With Timmy gone, Tabitha needed another young accomplice. The magic element in “Passions” allows for anything to happen, so the 300-year-old Tabitha got pregnant and gave birth to Endora, also a witch.

“The whole story line was so bizarre. You can’t think about these things too much because they don’t make a lot of sense,” the 63-year-old actress told Associated Press. “But now I have a beautiful little girl to work with.”

Miss Mills was just a baby herself when she made her brief film debut in “In Which We Serve,” which starred her father, John Mills, and was written and directed by her godfather, Noel Coward.

But to many, she is best known for playing Phoebe Figalilly, who brightened the lives of a single dad and his brood in the 1970s sitcom “Nanny and the Professor.”

Executive producer Lisa de Cazotta says Miss Mills has found “just the right balance” in playing Tabitha, a seemingly “sweet eccentric” who can “then really zap you.”

‘Family’ matters

The honeymoon continues for “Family Guy” fanatics.

The makers of the cartoon series, recently resuscitated by Fox, will soon release a direct-to-DVD movie, Reuters reports.

Slated to hit store shelves Sept. 27, the DVD follows Stewie, the maniacal baby genius, having a near-death experience that prompts him to change his ways. Instead of seeking to dominate the world, he sets out on a road trip to find his real father.

The unrated “Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story” — clocking in at 83 minutes — is something of a thank you to the show’s fans who bought so many DVDs, show creator Seth MacFarlane told Reuters.

The first-series DVD boxed set sold more than 2.5 million units, the second-highest sales tally of any TV DVD release, behind the first season of “Chappelle’s Show.” Two subsequent packages boosted “Family Guy’s” total sales to about 4.5 million units.

The irreverent series, aimed at adults, went on the air in early 1999 and was canceled in 2003, only to return to the Fox lineup last month after the overwhelming demand for the show on DVD.

The DVD will offer several special features, including deleted scenes, stills galleries and a commentary from Mr. MacFarlane.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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