- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Hitchcock celebrated

Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday is Sunday, but cable’s Encore Mystery is starting the celebration early with a weekend of the suspense master’s films beginning tomorrow.

The debut of “Hitchcocked!” a half-hour special airing at 8 p.m., explores the work of the British director, who died at age 80 in 1980.

“Hitchcock has influenced just about every filmmaker,” one observer notes at the beginning of the documentary. Filmmakers young and old — including James Wan, the twentysomething director of “Saw,” and Larry Cohen, the 68-year-old TV mystery veteran and writer of the 2002 feature “Phone Booth” — discuss his techniques and themes, as do a few film critics and historians.

Unfortunately, there are no really big names here. We don’t get to hear firsthand how Mr. Hitchcock influenced today’s crop of Hollywood filmmakers, such as Steven Spielberg or Brian De Palma. Still, the contributors are intelligent commentators who cover the main themes of Mr. Hitchcock’s work — “innocence in jeopardy,” voyeurism and sexual dysfunction — and trace his influence. One commentator, for example, describes director David Lynch as “Hitchcock on acid.”

On the other hand, “Hitchcocked!” is almost too meaty. We hear line after great line about the great director’s work but barely get a chance to digest them all.

Mr. Hitchcock was a rare auteur, as popular as he was serious. He was also a consummately visual filmmaker, which can be seen through the documentary’s liberal use of clips from his treasure trove of classics, including “Vertigo,” “Rear Window” and “Psycho.”

As “Waking the Dead” director Keith Gordon says, “You don’t like Hitchcock, you kind of don’t like movies.”

Survey says

The popularity contest between Star Jones Reynolds, a former co-host on “The View,” and Rosie O’Donnell — who joins the ABC chat fest next month — has been decided.

And the winner is … none of the above.

The women had two of the lowest likability ratings of prominent television personalities as measured in a Gallup poll released late Tuesday, Reuters news agency reports.

Miss Jones Reynolds had the lowest favorable rating (19 percent) and one of the highest unfavorable ratings (45 percent) of the survey. She spent nine years on “The View” and had a highly publicized star-studded wedding. Yet, surprisingly, 24 percent of those polled said they had not heard of her.

Miss O’Donnell’s results were similar. She had just a 32 percent favorable rating and the highest unfavorable rating at 60 percent. However, only 1 percent said they had not heard of her.

By contrast, “Good Morning America” co-anchor Diane Sawyer and former “CBS Evening News” anchor Dan Rather won the popularity contest. Miss Sawyer led the list, with 80 percent of those polled saying they had a favorable impression of the ABC News veteran. Just 11 percent said they were unfavorably disposed toward her.

Despite the scandal surrounding a flawed report on President Bush’s Vietnam-era service, Mr. Rather remains popular. His favorability rating was at 70 percent, while his unfavorable rating was 26 percent. Still, Mr. Rather has more support among Democrats (86 percent) than among Republicans (48 percent).

Katie Couric, Mr. Rather’s CBS successor, had a higher favorable rating (60 percent) then either of her competitors — NBC’s Brian Williams and ABC’s Charles Gibson. Miss Couric’s unfavorable rating was 23 percent.

Mr. Gibson had a favorable rating of 55 percent and an unfavorable rating of 8 percent. Just 8 percent of those polled had not heard of Miss Couric, while 27 percent had not heard of Mr. Gibson.

Mr. Williams had mixed results. He received a 47 percent favorable rating, the lowest of the Big Three anchors, but he also received the lowest unfavorable rating in the survey — 7 percent — and 38 percent said they had never heard of him. That’s bad news for Mr. Williams — who at almost two years behind the desk — is the longest-serving evening news anchor currently on the air.

He’s not the only newsman with an awareness issue, though. CNN’s Anderson Cooper followed closely with 39 percent (and a 43 percent favorable rating), while 44 percent hadn’t heard of incoming “Today” co-anchor Meredith Vieira.

Miss Vieira’s old boss, “View” honcho Barbara Walters, did well, with a 66 percent favorable rating (and 28 percent unfavorable).

Regis Philbin received a 65 percent favorability rating, while 22 percent didn’t like him.

The survey polled 1,001 adults older than 18 between July 24 and 27. It has a sample error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance from staff and wire reports.

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