- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2005

OC’ to tease ‘Sith’

Fans of Fox’s “The OC” will get a sneak peek tonight at the final fresh chapter in the “Star Wars” franchise.

The world premiere of the new “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” trailer will debut during tonight’s episode of the hit teen drama.

Tonight’s “OC,” featuring guest appearances by Billy Campbell and Johnny Messner, airs at 8.

“Revenge of the Sith,” which explains how Anakin Skywalker becomes the villainous Darth Vader, arrives in theaters May 19.

‘Friends’ forever

This week’s lineup of new shows on DVD features the latest available season of NBC’s “Friends,” a show the network wishes it still had on its withering Thursday lineup.

The ninth-season package includes guest appearances by Freddie Prinze Jr., Hank Azaria, Jon Lovitz, Dermot Mulroney and Jeff Goldblum — and finds some of the “Friends” preparing for parenthood.

The four-disc set features 23 episodes plus the expected crush of rare footage, a gag reel and commentary tracks.

Also out this week on DVD:

m The WB’s “Popular” lasted just two seasons (1999 to 2001), but it earned a devoted following of those addicted to the show’s snarky views of high school life.

Fans can revisit the episodes with “Popular: The Complete Second Season,” featuring commentaries by show stars Leslie Bibb and Bryce Johnson.

m Fans of the classic “Columbo” series also can check out the second season of the popular 1970s hit.

“Columbo: The Complete Second Season” (1972 to 1973) follows the perpetually disheveled gumshoe (Peter Falk) as he nags the truth out of a series of criminals. The four-disc set features eight feature-length episodes from the old “NBC Mystery Movie” showcase. Among the celebrity guest-star “murderers” thwarted by Columbo: John Cassavetes, Robert Culp, Leonard Nimoy and Martin Landau.

Grammer gets sketchy

The man we know as Frasier is hoping for success in the world of sketch comedy.

“Kelsey Grammer Presents: The Sketch Show” debuts on Fox this weekend, offering an alternative to the “MadTV” and “Saturday Night Live” brand of comedy.

The program, an offshoot of a British comedy program, sets up shop Sunday at 9:30 p.m. for a six-week run.

“The Sketch Show” will feature five actors, including Mary Lynn Rajskub of Fox’s “24.” A precious few TV viewers will remember Miss Rajskub’s work in a previous sketch comedy show dubbed “The Downer Channel.” Its swift demise was well-deserved.

A work in ‘Progress’

It’s an uncanny coincidence that John Stamos signed on to play a luckless bachelor for a new TV series just as his own marriage to the gorgeous Rebecca Romijn officially ended.

But that slice of real life gives “Jake in Progress,” the new ABC sitcom starring Mr. Stamos, a much-needed boost.

Shot without a laugh track — which in itself makes it worth our respect — “Jake” follows a slick Manhattan publicist trying to juggle his eclectic clients and his increasingly less satisfying state of being single.

“Jake” premieres with two back-to-back episodes Sunday at 9 p.m. before settling into its regular 8 p.m. time slot on Thursdays.

Sunday’s second installment (airing at 9:30) finds Jake doing a balancing act. He attempts to assuage his client Dakota — a member of a successful homosexual modeling trio who wants to publicly proclaim his heterosexuality — and at the same time, hopes to appease the woman he’s dating (former MTV “Remote Control” hostess Alicia Coppola) by arranging a date for her unhappy cousin.

Mostly appealing, “Jake” is helped by a stellar support squad that includes TV veterans Wendie Malick (HBO’s “Dream On” and NBC’s “Just Shoot Me”) and Rick Hoffman (“The Bernie Mac Show,” “The Practice”), both of whom help the show overcome its silly subplots and dearth of big laughs.

Still, it’s Mr. Stamos, the former “Full House” star, who gains our trust early on. If the show lets him build on his character’s earnest wish to meet Miss Right, it could make for a compelling story arc.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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