- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2005

Country cycles back

Country crooner Brad Paisley sees his kind of sound coming back into vogue, but he insists it’s more about the quality of the music than any other factor.

“It’s getting a little more respect. It goes through cycles,” he says. “The danger is becoming any sort of fad or hot item.”

The Academy of Country Music Awards, airing at 8 tonight on CBS, will showcase the genre’s finest at a time when a number of country acts are seeing big sales figures.

Entertainment Weekly proclaimed exactly that a few weeks ago with its cover story featuring, among others, Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson.

Mr. Paisley, up for five nominations tonight, says there’s an upside to being the flavor of the month even if it never lasts.

“The fans don’t always leave. You gain some with any resurgence,” he says, adding, “The core group never goes away. There are plenty of country music fans to keep us all in business.”

Being nominated isn’t as important to his career as in years past.

“Your first few are life-altering in some ways,” he says. Now, TV exposure is the key perk for an established player like himself.

Mr. Paisley will perform his new single, “Alcohol,” tonight when he joins an impressive group of performing stars, including Alan Jackson, George Strait and Toby Keith.

The national exposure should convince skeptics of country music’s strength, Mr. Paisley says.

“No matter what shirt or hat you wear,” he notes, “it all comes down to the song underneath.”

Critics prevail

Score one for the critics.

Fox’s “Arrested Development” will return for a full third season this fall. The ongoing saga of the Bluth family, a single camera comedy with no laugh track, draws raves from critics and even won an Emmy last year for Best Comedy. But viewership remained stagnant in its second season, leading many to believe Fox wouldn’t renew the show for a third go around.

NBC plays it safe

NBC, staggered after a year of declining ratings and no breakout shows, is reinventing itself with a bold fall lineup.

If only.

The biggest name in next year’s new crop of shows is Martha Stewart, and the network has planned only one new fall comedy, Associated Press reports.

The first of the six broadcast networks to unveil its fall lineup during this week’s “upfront” presentations for media buyers, major advertisers and industry types, NBC said yesterday that it will introduce six new series in September.

The lone new comedy the struggling network announced is “My Name is Earl,” which stars “Chasing Amy’s” Jason Lee as a downtrodden lottery winner. NBC promised two other new comedies would come on the air sometime next season.

Miss Stewart will star in an offshoot of the hit reality show “The Apprentice,” as expected. What came as a surprise yesterday was news that “Law & Order: Trial by Jury,” a short-lived spinoff of Dick Wolf’s enduring cops-and-courts franchise, got a pink slip. Other shows not returning next year include “The Contender” and “American Dreams.”

Two veteran shows not on the September schedule, “Scrubs” and “Fear Factor,” will return at some point, network officials said. Another aging show, “The West Wing,” will move to Sunday nights.

NBC will air three new dramas: “E-Ring,” a Jerry Bruckheimer production with Dennis Hopper and Benjamin Bratt, about life in the Pentagon; “Fathom,” about a creepy new form of sea life; and “Inconceivable,” a medical show set in a fertility clinic.

The network is finishing up a miserable season, slipping to fourth among the 18-to-49-year-old viewers its advertisers covet. NBC failed to replace the departed “Friends” and “Frasier” with any new hits.

Reverend’s ‘Run’

MTV is greenlighting a new reality show featuring a member of Run DMC.

Reuters News Agency says the show, “Run’s House,” will follow the everyday life of Reverend Run, a member of the seminal rap group.

“House,” which the cable network is calling “television’s first hip-hop reality sitcom,” will focus on Run (aka Joey Simmons) as he attempts to record his first solo album while juggling family life with his wife, former rapper-singer Justine, and five children, who range in age from nine to 21. The series is set to debut in the fourth quarter.

“Literally, MTV grew up on Run-DMC and vice versa, but I was surprised to see what his family life was like,” Brian Graden, president of entertainment at MTV Networks Music Group and president of the new homosexual-themed channel Logo, told Reuters. “With five kids who have Run for a dad, it’s an incredible reality, [but the series also shows] how ordinary their actions are in a beautiful way.”

Asked by Reuters how this will differ from other celebrity-centric reality shows the cable network has aired, such as “Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica,” “The Osbournes”and “Meet the Barkers,” Mr. Graden pointed to the characters: “just as one sitcom is different from another,” he said. “We wouldn’t have done this if the underlying characters weren’t incredibly dynamic.”

For his part, Run hopes viewers take away something positive about the hip-hop world.

“I’m not trying to fight stereotypes; I’m just trying to give another perspective and show what rap is all about, especially for someone who knows only the negative things,” he told Reuters.

Run’s brother, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, who serves as a creator and executive producer, likened the series to “‘Father Knows Best’ on steroids.”

“The show will have a tremendous amount of inspiration and all kinds of edge,” Mr. Simmons said. “It’ll hit the high notes in hip-hop that the media doesn’t always show.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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