- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2005

All-day storm aid

Fundraising efforts for tonight’s “Shelter From the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast,” airing simultaneously on all six broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, UPN and the WB) at 8 p.m., are expanding from prime time to other parts of the day, notes the Hollywood Reporter.

Phone lines previously scheduled to be available only during tonight’s special will open at 7 this morning on the broadcast morning shows (including NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America”), as well as on local affiliate programs on Fox, the WB and UPN. The fundraising opportunities will continue throughout the day, from ABC’s late-morning talk show “The View” through such late-night programs as NBC’s “Last Call With Carson Daly.” Donors will be given the option of contributing to the American Red Cross or Salvation Army.

Entertainers scheduled to appear on tonight’s star-studded benefit concert include Sheryl Crow, Ellen DeGeneres, the Dixie Chicks, Chris Rock, Alicia Keys, Randy Newman, Paul Simon, Jennifer Aniston, Rod Stewart, Cameron Diaz, Neil Young, Jack Nicholson, Ray Romano, Sela Ward and a host of others, according to nbc.com.

In addition to the six broadcast networks, the simulcast will also be seen on a number of cable channels, including ABC Family, the Black Family Channel, Bravo, E!, Fox Reality, FX, Ovation, Oxygen, Pax, PBS, SOAPnet, TBS, the TV Guide Channel, the Silver Spring-based TV One, USA Network and WGN.

The special will also be broadcast in at least 95 countries worldwide.

‘War’ weary

The new Fox sitcom “The War at Home” will likely leave viewers shellshocked.

Heck, the male lead calls Mary Tyler Moore a nasty name before the first commercial break.

The comedy, debuting Sunday evening at 8:30 (following “The Simpsons’ ” season premiere), is a descendant of “Married … With Children” where the parents alternately resent and love their kids.

Dave and Vicky (Michael Rapaport and Anita Barone) are young enough to remember the games they used to play as teenagers, but that doesn’t help much with their troublesome trio of children. Their oldest child Larry (Kyle Sullivan) appears to be homosexual — but wink, wink, really isn’t. Whatever cultural advances “Will & Grace” forged regarding homosexuals in sitcoms is dissolved within this silly subplot.

Worse, the pilot’s story line involving young Hillary (Kaylee Defer) dating a black student paints Dave as a quasi-racist. Archie Bunker was a racist, too, but the superior writing in “All in the Family” made his character three-dimensional — not merely a bigot — and runs rings around this “War.”

Dave addresses the camera directly (apparently, a wobbly device given the execution), but the revelations hardly merit all the fuss. Still, give them props for trying. It’s an attempt, at least, to bring a fresher concept to the stale sitcom format.

Mr. Rapaport, a go-to character actor with a proclivity for deadbeat parts, can’t muster so much as a warm chuckle here, although the blame lies more with the writers than the performers.

“The War at Home” debuts at 8:30 p.m. surrounded by season premieres of “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “American Dad.“‘Dad’ bows on Fox

Fox’s “American Dad” began life as a sort of “oops, we’re sorry” to “Family Guy” creator Seth McFarlane for canceling that show too soon.

“Dad” found a berth on Fox earlier this year. It featured some of “Family Guy’s” irreverent humor but never quite matched that show’s intense barrage of pop culture jokes. Yet “Dad’s” season premiere (Sunday evening at 9:30 p.m.) goes a long way toward justifying the network’s faith in Mr. McFarlane’s pet project. The animated series follows uber-conservative Stan Smith, a gung-ho CIA operative who doesn’t mind stepping on everyone and anything to preserve the American way. Combine that with the typical nuclear family, a space alien and a talking fish, and you have a formula for well, so far, we’re not quite sure. Sunday’s installment crystalizes the show’s incongruent elements, but still has its scattershot moments.

…The season premiere finds Stan’s boss (smartly voiced by Patrick Stewart) dangling a promotion in front of Stan, while he’s also dating Stan’s tree-hugging daughter Hayley.

Along the way, we get some savvy gags about CIA picnics the boring suit contest, the germ warfare tank, etc. We also see the supporting creatures really start to shine. Klaus the talking fish narrates a few scenes as though he were contributing the voiceover track to the inevitable DVD extras. It comes off as funny as it sounds. The cartoon is still too grisly and mature for youngsters, and some may bristle at the snipes toward our intelligence agencies. But, for the first time, “American Dad” deserves a spot on the Fox lineup based chiefly on its own merits.

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

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