- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 10, 2005

‘Idol’ gossip ignored

Any fear Fox had that a reported affair between “American Idol” judge Paula Abdul and former contestant Corey Clark would hurt the show’s ratings appears to have been unfounded, at least for the moment.

The singing contest drew 25.4 million viewers last Wednesday, nearly the show’s season average, according to Associated Press, citing Nielsen Media Research figures released yesterday.

Tuesday’s “Idol” audience came in at just 1 million viewers short of that mark, but it was the following night when ABC’s “Primetime Live” televised an hourlong special detailing Mr. Clark’s claims to an audience of 13.7 million people — a solid but not spectacular showing for a look at the seamy side of TV’s most popular game.

CBS, led as usual by “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” easily won the week’s ratings competition, while the first of a two-part Elvis Presley miniseries cracked Nielsen’s top-20 list.

CBS averaged 13.2 million viewers per show last week. Fox was second with 10 million viewers and won among the 18-to-49-year-old audience sought by advertisers. ABC had 9.9 million, NBC had 9.7 million, the WB and UPN both had 3.3 million viewers, and Pax TV had 570,000.

For the week of May 2 through 8, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 26.6 million; “Desperate Housewives,” ABC, 26.1 million; “American Idol,” (Wednesday), Fox, 25.4 million; “American Idol” (Tuesday), 24.4 million; “CSI: Miami,” CBS, 20.7 million.

Sharif in for ‘Ten’

The new version of “The Ten Commandments” has added veteran actor Omar Sharif and “Lost’s” Naveen Andrews to its roster of stars, Reuters News Agency reports.

Also joining the cast of the ABC miniseries about Moses is Scottish actor Dougray Scott, who nearly became Wolverine in the “X-Men” features and has starred opposite Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible II.”

Production is slated to begin May 23 in Ouarzazate, Morocco. The premiere of the two-part, four-hour epic is targeted for next season, with a budget estimated at more than $20 million.

Robert Halmi Sr., the filmmaker behind such extravaganzas as “Legend of Earthsea” and “Dinotopia,” will serve as executive producer for the Hallmark Entertainment project, which will portray the story of Moses and the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt in 13th century B.C.

Mr. Scott, who worked with ABC and Mr. Halmi on 2000’s “Arabian Nights,” will portray Jethro, a priest and the father of Moses’ wife, Zipporah. The Oscar-nominated actor is no stranger to period epics, having starred in such feature films as “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Dr. Zhivago” and “Funny Girl.”

“The Ten Commandments” follows the Bible’s dramatic story of Moses from his narrow escape from death as a child to his noble feat of freeing the Israelites to his great miracle of parting the Red Sea.

New role for Dalton

Former James Bond star Timothy Dalton got a crash course in the Hercules legend while shooting the new NBC film based on the mythical Greek strongman.

Before taking on the role of Hercules’ stepfather, the 59-year-old actor had only a superficial grasp of the history behind the legend.

“I thought it was just about a strong he-man. I didn’t realize it was quite a revolutionary story, too,” Mr. Dalton told Associated Press. “The thing about the Jesus legend is it’s all about getting into a heaven outside Earth. The Hercules legend is about finding, in a sense, heaven on Earth by growing to your highest fulfillment.”

Mr. Dalton keyed into this notion as the hook to playing Amphitryon in the new three-hour miniseries, debuting Monday at 8 p.m.

The actor made his film debut as the young king of France in 1968’s “The Lion in Winter,” starring Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn. Since then, on both stage and screen, he has tackled various historical roles and classic parts made famous by others, including several tempestuous lovers such as Heathcliff in “Wuthering Heights” (originally played by Laurence Olivier), Rhett Butler in “Gone With the Wind” (synonymous with Clark Gable) and Rochester in “Jane Eyre” (notably depicted by Orson Welles).

“It just happened, but I suppose there’s a side of myself that walks into the lion’s mouth, which I think I must stop doing,” Mr. Dalton said.

Recalling his portrayal as the world’s most famous spy, Mr. Dalton said his dark interpretation of Bond didn’t click with fans, nor did he revel in the experience. An escape clause in his contract kicked in when extensive litigation between producers and the studio delayed the start of his scheduled third 007 adventure. He was free.

“It was a bit imprisoning, and still is, to an extent,” Mr. Dalton said of his Bond days.

HGTV’s smart advice

HGTV’s newest show lets viewers get the most designer bang for their buck.

“What You Get for the Money,” airing Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m., lets viewers know the best ways to stretch their hard-earned dollars when buying a home.

Tonight’s episode (hosted by Mike Siegel) compares how much home $800,000 will buy in six housing markets — ranging from a 4,000-square-foot building with four bedrooms in Austin, Texas, to a 1,300-square-foot space near San Francisco’s Mission District.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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