- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A winning ‘Chris’

Is UPN’s “Everybody Hates Chris” the funniest show of the new season?

Maybe. The matter is still up for debate, given the promising start of two other new sitcoms, NBC’s “My Name Is Earl” and CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother.”

Still, it’s easy to see why “Chris,” premiering tomorrow evening at 8, has generated critical acclaim.

The new sitcom — created by comic superstar Chris Rock — doesn’t feel as if it was penned by writers who have simply rehashed the same boilerplate formula that permeates episodic comedy. Nearly every scene rings true and, as a bonus, is topped off by Mr. Rock’s surprisingly gentle narration.

Set in New York, the story begins with young Chris (13-year-old Tyler James Williams) and his family moving from the projects to Bedford-Stuyvesant, a rough but slightly better neighborhood in Brooklyn. He’s the oldest of three and assumes the role of surrogate adult while his parents — mom, Rochelle, (Tachina Arnold of Fox’s “Martin”) and dad, Julius (Terry Crews) — are at work.

That means dealing with a taller younger brother, babe magnet Drew (Tequan Richmond), and Tonya (Imani Hakim), the coddled baby sister who always gets her way. As if this weren’t enough, Chris also has to cope with being bused to an all-white school where casual racism abounds.

It’s hardly new terrain, but Mr. Rock breathes new life into the story line by infusing each episode with fresh authenticity culled from his real-life experiences.

As for the cast: Young Tyler could use some seasoning as Chris, but he’s not bad and likely will improve. Mr. Crews, a former NFL defensive end whose playing days included a stint with the Washington Redskins, scores points for toning down his bluster from the feature film “White Chicks” to play the tough but tender dad.

Wisely, “Chris” doesn’t shy away from the racism the family faces, but it doesn’t condescendingly preach to viewers. Nor does it shoehorn period details into its narrative.

It’s an approach that works and places “Chris” among the season’s best new shows.

Lost’ returns

“Lost” fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

Fresh from its Emmy win, ABC’s celebrated drama begins its sophomore season at 9 tonight with the same intensity that initially made it a hit.

Tonight’s premiere (titled “Man of Science, Man of Faith”) takes viewers back to the mysterious island, where one of the castaways will descend into the equally mysterious hatch — and whatever lurks beneath its surface — that was discovered last season. Meanwhile, many also are wondering what happened to the other castaways who attempted to flee the island by launching a raft into the sea.

ABC has been mum about the season opener, but we do know that two new cast members have been added — Michelle Rodriguez (of the feature film “Girlfight”), who flirted with Jack during a one-episode guest appearance last season, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Abaje (known to cable viewers as Simon Adebisi from HBO’s “Oz”).

But wait … there’s more.

For those hoping to catch up on key happenings or others who feel lost amid the twists and turns of “Lost,” the network is offering a primer, of sorts, with “Destination: Lost.” The hourlong program (airing at 8 p.m., before the season premiere) will feature clips of last year’s big events and behind-the-scenes footage from the show.

Emmys score for CBS

The Emmys and the early start of a new “Survivor” edition helped CBS end the summer in a familiar spot — first place in the ratings.

The 57th annual awards showed a marked increase, from 13.8 million viewers last year to 18.7 million on Sunday night, Associated Press reported yesterday, citing data from Nielsen Media Research.

Although the new edition of “Survivor” was the third-most-watched show of the week, it had a slightly smaller audience than those for recent editions of the long-running reality series.

For the week of Sept. 12 through 18, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “NFL Monday Night Football: Philadelphia at Atlanta,” ABC, 19.6 million; “Emmy Awards,” CBS, 18.7 million; “Survivor: Guatemala,” CBS, 18.4 million; “House,” Fox, 15.9 million; and “NFL Monday Showcase,” ABC, 14.9 million.

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

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