- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 22, 2005

Bernard’s final hour?

It’s no surprise that “24” star Carlos Bernard won’t say a peep about tonight’s season finale of the critically acclaimed Fox TV drama.

Even he may not know for sure what’s in store for his character, captured at the end of the last episode by a terrorist — or, perhaps, by his fellow CTU agents.

The show’s creators have purposely kept their cast in the dark.

“Every year has been different,” Mr. Bernard says of “24’s” four-year run. “The second year they actually gave us a fake script where the last 10 pages were completely different [from the finished product].”

Tonight’s two-hour finale, beginning at 8, brings closure to the terrorist storyline that could see a nuclear strike on a major U.S. city.

Mr. Bernard, an aspiring writer himself, is getting a crash course in how to blend high-wire tension with credible characters and motivations.

“I’m just continually blown away by the writers’ ability to come up with the new stuff,” he says.

What he knows for sure, though, is that his fellow actors approach life on “24” … well, one day at a time, despite its strong fan base and the show’s recent two-year extension.

“There’s no sense of security on the show,” Mr. Bernard says. “I treat each year like I’m doing a film… it makes you appreciate every day more.”

For now, Mr. Bernard can expect to co-star in “10.5,” NBC’s forthcoming sequel to its popular miniseries next year, as well as a possible role in an upcoming independent film.

Yet fans who can’t wait until tonight to find out how Mr. Bernard’s Tony Almeida character and show star Kiefer Sutherland save the day can attempt to find answers online.

“There’s a site for the show on the Internet from Fox that has a chat room with a spoiler section,” he says — Mr. Bernard quickly adds, its content is filled with rumors.

‘Shield’ takes five

FX’s gritty cop drama “The Shield” has only four more episodes to go in its fourth season, but the show will return for a fifth, Reuters News Agency reports.

An announcement of a 13-episode pickup for year five is imminent from the cable channel, sources told Reuters, although FX representatives declined to comment on the matter last week.

For “Shield” creator/executive producer Shawn Ryan, the network’s vote of confidence comes on the heels of CBS’ pickup of “The Unit,” a drama about an elite special operations unit that Mr. Ryan is executive producing along with noted playwright David Mamet.

The renewal also gives FX the comfort of having an established show to bank on just as the basic cable network is poised to unveil a number of new series including “Over There” — a drama set against the backdrop of the war in Iraq — and the upcoming “Thief,” starring Andre Braugher.

News of the likely pickup continues “The Shield’s” current good fortune. The show is enjoying a strong fourth year, rebounding from the dip it took in season three. It’s averaging 3.2 million viewers in its Tuesday time slot at 10 p.m., up from its third-season average of 2.5 million viewers. But those numbers likely include a few parental advocacy groups, no doubt concerned about the show’s raw content.

“The Shield” also got a boost when film star Glenn Close signed on to portray Capt. Monica Rawling, a tough authority figure to rein in loose-cannon cop Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis). But the Oscar-nominated actress won’t be back for season five, so it remains to be seen how her loss will affect the series.

The current season wraps June 14.

Girl’ begets two

Oxygen is getting such a kick out of its prankster showcase “Girls Behaving Badly” that it’s green-lighting two spinoffs from the puckish show.

“Girls,” which will debut in national syndication this fall, will yield “Girls Behaving Badly: Revenge of the Boys” and “Kids Behaving Badly” this summer, Reuters reports. The original “Girls” is currently in its fourth season on Oxygen.

Geoffrey Darby, president of production at the cable network, likened the expansion strategy on “Girls” — Oxygen’s first property to reach syndication — to the stable of spinoffs from NBC’s “Law & Order.”

“We look at this as the Dick Wolf theory,” Mr. Darby told Reuters, referring to the creator of the crime drama franchise. “We wanted to see where can we take what works on ‘Girls Behaving Badly’ and move it into other areas like kids and boys and make it successful.”

The half-hour “Girls” spinoffs are both being deployed in unusual fashion, which could revolutionize the way other new programs are introduced on cable.

“Kids,” which substitutes youngsters for the adult women playing pranks on unsuspecting people, will be simultaneously introduced on Oxygen along with one of its new video-on-demand platforms, Oh! Baby. Viewers will be able to sample all of the 10 “Kids” episodes on VOD, while each installment will air Saturday mornings on a weekly basis beginning June 25.

Oh! Baby is one of two Oxygen VOD brands that will be introduced in July to digital subscribers of Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable.

“Boys,” which will replay favorite “Girls” pranks but instead will feature a male cast, will air on five consecutive nights at 10 beginning July 25. It will likely return as a series, but that depends on its ratings.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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