- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Grant’s acts of faith

Amy Grant never thought she would be NBC’s next TV star. Miss Grant, who has sold more than 25 million records in the contemporary Christian music and mainstream pop markets since her debut album in 1977, says she doesn’t watch much TV.

However, millions of viewers tuned in for last week’s debut of “Three Wishes,” Miss Grant’s new reality show, where she makes dreams come true in small towns across America. The series airs Fridays at 9 p.m.

“For me, it’s not about a TV show,” Miss Grant says. “For me, this is about life.”

Yet the superstar artist doesn’t plan to shelve her guitar. Miss Grant gives a free concert in each town she visits. And she plans to write and record new music during breaks from shooting the series.

“I’m glad to be able to invest my time and energy into something that means something to me, my family and work,” Miss Grant says. “That wish has been granted.”

Along with integrating her music into the show, Miss Grant — who is married to country music superstar Vince Gill — says she feels the series gives her an opportunity to put her faith into action. She says one of her favorite quotes is by St. Francis of Assisi, who proclaimed, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

“If the Gospel really is good news, God loving man in a tangible way, then I think this show really is about loving, compassion and helpfulness,” Miss Grant says. “To me, those are all components of faith.”

‘Night’ moves

“The Night Stalker,” the spooky thriller starring Darren McGavin, lasted one season on ABC, but the 1972 series left an impression on “The X-Files” writer/producer Frank Spotnitz.

The longtime scribe is the driving force behind the network’s revamped “Night Stalker,” debuting at 9 tonight.

Stuart Townsend stands in for Mr. McGavin, who wore a porkpie hat while bravely staring down a succession of monsters as hard-nosed reporter Carl Kolchak.

Mr. Townsend’s Kolchak is a baby-faced crime reporter who lost his wife to mysterious causes years earlier. He’s been covering murders ever since, a passion that gets him in trouble at his new newspaper gig in Los Angeles.

Perri Reed (“Bring It On’s” Gabrielle Union), the paper’s crime reporter, doesn’t like getting beat on her own turf, but the two team up to uncover the cause behind a number of bizarre killings.

Hint: The murderer doesn’t walk on two legs.

The original “Stalker” boasted more thrills than a cheesy ‘70s drama rightly should have. Likewise, the folks behind its successor don’t skimp on the chills.

The series so far lacks the original’s offbeat humor, but it’s also an engrossing hour of supernatural TV.

Yet if ABC has to woo younger viewers with a hipper, more handsome Kolchak, they could do far worse than the intriguing Mr. Townsend.

TiVo fans take note: Blink and you’ll miss a digitally inserted Mr. McGavin circa 1972 roaming the newsroom.

TWC fights bias claim

The judge hearing an age discrimination claim filed by a former reporter for the Weather Channel asked lawyers on both sides to consider whether TWC is a business or a form of entertainment.

The answer may help decide Marny Stanier Midkiff’s lawsuit, which claims the Atlanta-based cable network dismissed her in favor of younger, sexier forecasters, Associated Press reports.

Miss Midkiff was 41 when she was fired in 2003.

At Monday’s evidentiary hearing, her lawyer, Dan Klein, introduced a 2002 memo from a network official that said viewers described TWC’s female broadcasters as matronly, dowdy and old.

The memo was meant to bolster Miss Midkiff’s claim that TWC purged older employees, particularly women. But U.S. Magistrate Christopher Hagy expressed skepticism.

If the Weather Channel is an entertainment entity, “What does it matter?” Mr. Hagy asked.

“Are you telling me if I’m running a motion picture studio and I need a starlet or I need a 19-year-old, that’s illegal?”

Mr. Klein argued that the network crossed the line when it fired Miss Midkiff.

For eight years, Miss Midkiff was a manager for TWC’s on-air meteorologists, a job that required her to appear on air about 20 percent of the time. When her position was cut, she claims, she was not offered an on-air role simply because of her age.

“We’re not saying the company’s prohibited from making a decision based on looking proper. Even based on whether the person’s good-looking,” Mr. Klein said. “But not age.”

Bill Boice, who represents the Weather Channel, argued Miss Midkiff’s firing was simply a way to free up money for future investment.

“There’s no evidence of any pretext” involving Miss Midkiff’s dismissal, he said.

No trial date has been set.

Compiled by Jen Waters and Christian Toto from staff, Web and wire reports.

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