- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2006

New take on the Bard

Purists may flinch, but pure delight is in store when four Shakespearean plays get a contemporary makeover on BBC America’s “ShakespeaRe-Told.”

The series comes to praise Shakespeare, not to bury him, with lively adaptations that give devotees a chance to appreciate anew the Bard’s grasp of human nature and allow the wary a new way into the writer’s storytelling, notes Associated Press.

Hey, if fine actors including Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton (“Vera Drake”), Shirley Henderson (“Trainspotting”), Damian Lewis (“Band of Brothers”) and Rufus Sewell (“The Legend of Zorro”) were game for it, who are we to turn up our noses?

The plays begin Sunday on the cable channel with “Much Ado About Nothing” at 7 p.m. Mr. Lewis and Sarah Parish (“The Wedding Date”) star as Benedick and Beatrice, former lovers and rival TV co-anchors.

Colleagues trying to end their on-air hostility conspire to reunite them, while weather girl Hero (Billie Piper) and sports anchor Claude (Tom Ellis) discover how volatile love, or at least passion, can be. In one charming scene, Benedick reads one of Shakespeare’s sonnets aloud while Beatrice translates it into modern-speak.

Other films in the series — also airing at 7 p.m. on consecutive Sundays — include “Macbeth,” starring James McAvoy as top London chef Joe Macbeth, beset by jealousy and a scheming wife, on Aug. 13; “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” about the magical wedding anniversary of ex-hippies Theo and Polly (Bill Paterson, Miss Staunton), on Aug. 20; and “The Taming of the Shrew,” with Miss Henderson as a ruthless politician who realizes a husband could mean votes and Mr. Sewell as the man for the job, on Aug. 27.

Bye, bye ‘Eye’?

David Collins, creator of Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” is vehemently refuting a Web report that the cable network has canceled the popular makeover series.

“We have not been canceled at all,” Mr. Collins told the Cincinnati Enquirer. Bravo publicist Nora Grudman also confirmed that the show, seen Tuesdays at 10 p.m., has not ended, the Enquirer reported.

Both Mr. Collins and Miss Grudman were reacting to a report posted Wednesday on the Internet Movie Database Web site (www.imdb.com). It quoted Jai Rodriguez, one of the “Fab Five” experts on the show, saying: “We haven’t been asked back for 2007.”

TMZ.com also reported that the show — which debuted in 2003 — had not been canceled.

“Queer Eye” just completed filming for its fifth season to air next year on Bravo, Mr. Collins said. Bravo has not yet negotiated a sixth season, although the network wants more shows, Miss Grudman adds.

“Our hope is it will continue. It’s the core of our Tuesday-night strategy. It’s not over. It’s not done,” she said.

Bravo usually orders a new season in September or early October, said Mr. Collins, the series’ executive producer.

Report: More Star woes

It’s just not her year.

Star Jones Reynolds, recently dismissed from “The View,” has been telling friends that her marriage is about to fade out, the New York Post reports.

“Reality has finally caught up with them,” one friend who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the newspaper.

Her confession to her pals is something new for Miss Jones Reynolds, who had previously denied rumors that her 21-month marriage to Al Reynolds was on shaky ground.

Miss Jones Reynolds, an American University graduate and former Brooklyn prosecutor, earned the nickname “Bridezilla” by shamelessly plugging the freebies that stores and companies provided for her lavish 2004 wedding. Following the nuptials, she suddenly slimmed down in a suspiciously short period of time — apparently to please her husband.

The lawyer-turned-entertainer, who was told last April that her “View” contract would not be renewed, dropped a bombshell by telling the show’s live audience on June 27 that she would be leaving. That did not make ABC execs — or co-host Barbara Walters — very happy. They had hoped to carefully orchestrate her termination, and it all ended with a war of words between the two women.

But the messy departure briefly turned the show into must-see viewing. Ratings shot up immediately afterward, but have since come back down to Earth, the New York Post reports.

A date with the Smiths

“Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” the 2005 film that begat the superstar couple known as Brangelina, makes its HBO debut tomorrow evening at 8.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie heat up the R-rated film as married assassins who have no clue about each other’s profession — until each is assigned to rub out the other.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports.

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