- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 27, 2005

‘Masters’ scary debut

Showtime is turning over 13 programming hours to some of the horror genre’s biggest names.

Too bad the first installment of its “Masters of Horror” series looks like it could have been directed by just about anyone.

The first of 13 one-hour films begins tonight with “Incident On and Off a Mountain Road” from “Phantasm” director Don Coscarelli.

Ellen (Bree Turner), a bright and beautiful young woman with lousy taste in men, crashes her car on a lonely stretch of highway. She gets out to inspect the damage and is set upon by Moonface, a serial killer with a complexion that makes Elvira look like the Coppertone girl.

Sandwiched between their chase sequences are glimpses of Ellen’s courtship with an avowed survivalist (Ethan Embry), who taught her some of the skills she’s using to stay alive.

Suffice to say MacGyver has nothing on this gal, although she might have been better off just running rather than setting up her elaborate booby traps.

The romantic bits make no sense, but then again not much of “Road” does. Why would Ellen fall for such a boor? And we’re left waiting to see just how the flashbacks and horrific present will merge.

The mini-movie’s production values mirror those of a low-budget film, and the acting is a touch better than some recent horror hits, like last year’s “Saw.”

It’s a shame the series couldn’t open with a scarier outing for Halloween weekend, but given the roster of directors tapped for the project, including Tobe Hooper (1974’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”), Joe Dante (“Gremlins”), John Landis (“American Werewolf in London”) and Dario Argento (“Suspiria”), we’ll keep watching — and waiting — for bigger scares.

“Masters of Horror” airs at 10 p.m. Fridays on Showtime.

It’s Mullally’s turn

“Will & Grace” standout Megan Mullally is ready to fly solo.

The actress’s syndicated daytime show has been cleared in four top markets for a fall 2006 debut, an important step in its efforts to reach a nationwide audience, Reuters news agency reports.

Syndicator NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution announced Monday that it has cleared the one-hour talk-variety show on four NBC owned-and-operated stations: WNBC-TV New York, KNBC-TV Los Angeles, WMAQ-TV Chicago and KNTV-TV San Francisco. Further clearances are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Details about the format for the as-yet-untitled show still are being kept under wraps. Barry Wallach, the president of NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution, declined to give specifics to Reuters other than to reiterate that it’s a talk-variety show that will feature celebrity guests, skits, humor and some musical elements.

“Megan will have her unique personality wrapped into the fabric of this show,” Mr. Wallach said. “She’s a comedian, a singer and a great actress — all those characteristics will be taken advantage of.”

The Emmy winner plays the bawdy Karen on NBC’s long-running “Will & Grace,” now in its final season.

‘Sopranos’ new hit

HBO’s “The Sopranos” takes its sweet time between new seasons, leaving cast members and extras alike with plenty of down time.

Several “Sopranos” players are using that slacker schedule to film an indie mob drama throughout the Big Apple, Reuters news agency reports.

“Made in Brooklyn” is a single-story compilation consisting of four short films that focus on the area’s people and hangouts.

The HBO show’s Sharon Angela is making her directorial debut on one of the films. Other “Sopranos” actors onboard include Richard Portnow, Vincent Curatola, Michael Rispoli, Katherine Narducci and Dan Grimaldi.

Jon Sheinberg, one of the executive producers, said the effort is “like ‘The Sopranos’ meets Comedy Central.”

“The cast and crew of ‘Made in Brooklyn’ features (talent) who … share a goal of capturing the art of humor in everyday life,” he added, likening the film to Doug Liman’s “Go.”

The filmmakers are aiming for a first-quarter release next year.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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