- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Eisner opens up

Michael Eisner is getting into the talk-show business, albeit with baby steps.

The former chief of the Walt Disney Co. will host a new CNBC interview show to air once every two months, according to the network.

The hourlong “Conversations with Michael Eisner” will feature the ex-exec rapping with leaders in the fields of business, entertainment and politics about creativity and innovation.

Actors get Current

Al Gore is turning to a few Oscar-winning actors to help improve the quality of short film submissions to his newly minted news network.

The former vice president’s Current TV, a news operation fueled in part by mini-films created by viewers, is getting a boost from Robert Redford, Sean Penn and other stars, Associated Press reports.

A good deal of Current TV, which has been operating since August, consists of short films by young documentarians. Current says it wants contributions from audience members along with material it solicits from professionals.

To help would-be contributors, the network has just produced a “survival guide” that it is making available through its Web site, www.currenttv.com. The guide includes advice on journalism and storytelling from Mr. Redford and Mr. Penn, along with information from academics, authors and filmmakers.

“We, and by we I mean everyone from a Hollywood director like me to a teenager in rural Texas, can all tell stories about our hopes and fears,” Catherine Hardwicke, writer-director of the movie “Thirteen,” told AP.

“Every day I’m intrigued and sometimes outraged by things that no one talks about,” Miss Hardwicke said. “Current is a chance to be heard, and send think-bombs out into the world.”

Other participants in the project include actor and screenwriter Bonz Malone, author Dave Eggers (“A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”) and Orville Schell, dean of the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Curious ‘Crumbs’

Midseason comedies don’t start off on any shakier ground than ABC’s new sitcom “Crumbs.”

Sure, it’s got a savvy cast led by “Wonder Years” alum Fred Savage and the venerable Jane Curtin from “Third Rock From the Sun” and “Saturday Night Live.”

But the show’s hodgepodge ingredients — a homosexual writer (Mr. Savage) blended with a mom (Miss Curtin) who’s just been discharged from a mental institution, plus a dead brother in the mix for a dash of melancholy — appear to be a recipe for swift cancellation.

Yet “Crumbs,” debuting at 9:30 tonight manages to overcome this potentially disastrous setup.

For starters, the blend of slapstick and remorse fueled by this oh, so dysfunctional family is handled better than most shows ensconced in their fourth or fifth seasons. Maybe its Miss Curtin and company who deserve the applause. Her mentally unhinged momma is a modest hoot, an unplugged harpy who manages to caress, not strangle, the material. And the grown-up Mr. Savage handles his straight man role with aplomb.

Here’s the story: Mitch (Mr. Savage) is a successful Hollywood screenwriter who moves back home following a crippling case of writer’s block. His brother Jack (Eddie McClintock), on the other hand, never left, opting instead to run the family restaurant. In Mitch’s absence Suzanne (Miss Curtin), the brothers’ mother, suffered a nervous breakdown when her husband Billy (William Devane) left her. There’s slapstick and name calling aplenty, but in between the family takes time to mourn for brother Patrick, who died years ago and whose absence is still deeply felt by all.

“Crumbs” is hardly a home run. Some of the predictable banter seems to be what you’d expect from a midseason network replacement, and the humor comes in fits and starts.

But if the show’s creators can juggle so many balls in the opener without all of them hitting the ground, it could mean that weekly servings of “Crumbs” will be worth our while.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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