- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Promising ‘Cases’

Chris O’Donnell’s name has been kicking around pilotville for quite some time. Yet the bland but handsome actor hasn’t been attached to a project — until now.

Fox finally has found a vehicle for the co-star of 1997’s “Batman and Robin” with “Head Cases,” a new legal dramedy premiering at 9 tonight.

And guess what? Mr. O’Donnell’s blandness, a trait that left him flat-footed in feature films, plays nicely on the small screen.

In “Cases,” Mr. O’Donnell is Jason Payne, a hotshot lawyer who suffers a nervous breakdown from his punishing workload. By the time he recovers, he has lost both his job and his family. Enter Russell Shultz (Adam Goldberg), a bright lawyer whose explosive disorder means he’s often on the wrong side of the law. The two meet in a psychiatric ward and, at the urging of Jason’s doctor, explore the possibilities of starting their own law firm.

Russell loves the idea, but Jason would rather get back with his old firm and make amends with his wife. However, Jason and Russell’s inevitable pairing is the episode’s highlight, and getting there proves an agreeable journey.

The new partnership tackles two lawsuits in tonight’s series premiere. Both cases are quirky yet hardly breathtaking. (think second-season “Ally McBeal.”) Still, the fresh interaction between Mr. O’Donnell and Mr. Goldberg is hard to dispute. Their acting styles complement each other so smoothly that the lawsuits served up on “Head Cases” may never have to rise to any creative heights for the show to click.

Star power falters

While Americans are donating generously to Hurricane Katrina relief funds, they’re apparently running out of patience for stars telling them to give.

Friday’s benefit “Shelter From the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast,” was seen by fewer than 24 million viewers despite being shown on 29 networks, Associated Press reports, citing data released yesterday by Nielsen Media Research. That’s less than one-third of the 89 million people who watched its model, the somber “America: A Tribute to Heroes,” which ran shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Nielsen said.

It’s also fewer than the number of people who typically tune in to a new episode of “American Idol” or “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”

The “Shelter” concert — featuring Paul Simon, Mariah Carey, Kanye West and others — competed against a longer benefit on cable’s Black Entertainment Television at the same time. BET got 1.2 million viewers, Nielsen said.

Fox got the jump on the fall TV season, which begins officially next week. It premiered a handful of its programs, pushing “The OC” into the list of the week’s five most popular programs.

ABC took advantage of the start of the National Football League season and some attractive college football matchups to win the week, averaging 8.3 million viewers. CBS had 7.5 million viewers, Fox had 7.4 million and NBC 6.3 million. The WB and UPN both had 2.2 million viewers, and Pax TV had 740,000.

For the week of Sept. 5 through 11, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “NFL Football: Oakland at New England,” ABC, 18 million; “2005 NFL Showcase,” ABC, 16 million; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 12.9 million; “60 Minutes,” CBS, 11.7 million; and “The O.C.,” Fox, 11.5 million.

‘Sneak Peek’ on CBS

CBS, TV’s most-watched network, introduces its fall lineup tonight with a prime-time special featuring snippets from myriad shows.

Charlie Sheen, Jon Cryer and Angus T. Jones, all stars of the network’s “Two and a Half Men,” will host “CBS: Sneak Peek,” a half-hour show of the network’s new offerings. Featured highlights include clips from the new dramas “Ghost Whisperer” and “Criminal Minds” and the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” along with scenes from returning CBS favorites such as “Two and a Half Men,” “Survivor” and “CSI.”

The fun begins at 8 p.m.

Compiled by Christian Toto and Thomas Walter from staff and wire reports.

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