- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2006

Walters’ Oscar warm-up

Billy Crystal might not be hosting the Oscars telecast this year, but another Academy Award tradition will go on as expected.

ABC’s Barbara Walters will host the 25th annual Academy Awards edition of her self-titled interview show at 10 p.m. on March 1, according to www.thefutoncritic.com

The special will air four days before the 78th annual awards presentation on March 5. The interview show typically runs right before the telecast, but this year the Oscars will begin 30 minutes earlier than in previous years.

Miss Walters says the move will give her more flexibility in landing big guests.

The shift also delights ABC executives.

“We’ve been wanting to expand the celebration of the Oscars for some time, and moving Barbara’s special to Wednesday as part of our strategy for the February Sweep makes it the true national kickoff event for the awards broadcast,” said Steve McPherson, president, ABC Entertainment. “Her specials are always star studded and glamorous — now they’ll signal that even more is on the way.”

The list of celebrities included in the special will be announced shortly.

Spielberg’s Sci-Fi reunion

Director Steven Spielberg was so “Taken” by his first collaboration with the Sci-Fi Channel he decided to reteam with the network.

The channel has greenlighted a new, 12-hour miniseries called “Nine Lives,” the Reuters news agency reports.

“Nine Lives” will focus on characters who are each grieving over the loss of a loved one and somehow discover how to reunite with them in the afterlife through near-death experiences, Sci-Fi executives said last week during parent company NBC Universal Cable’s portion of the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif.

Sci-Fi collaborated with Mr. Spielberg on the Emmy-winning 2003 miniseries “Steven Spielberg Presents Taken.” Les Bohem, who wrote “Taken,” also will pen the script for “Lives” and will serve as an executive producer with Mr. Spielberg.

Sci-Fi also announced three new reality series last week, including “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?” which will follow Stan Lee as he challenges contestants to create their own superhero in a six-episode, one-hour series. The other series are “Medium at Large,” which follows psychic Char Margolis, and “The Gift,” featuring eight persons who compete in a “boot camp for intuitives” to test their psychic abilities.

The network also promises a scripted comedy drama called “The Bridge” in which a group of flawed souls are trapped in purgatory and must effect positive changes to get out, and “Warehouse 13” about a federal forensic accountant and an assistant U.S. attorney banished to a storage facility after bungling a government case.

TV Land talks culture

TV Land will honor the influence of black performers on American culture with a new three-part special next month.

“That’s What I’m Talking About,” to be hosted by Wayne Brady, will bow at 10 p.m. Feb. 1 and run for three consecutive nights. The three 60-minute installments will feature commentary from Harry Belafonte, Diahann Carroll, Paul Mooney, Spike Lee, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Wanda Sykes, DL Hughley and Greg Anthony, among others on how blacks are perceived both on and off screen.

“The result of this collaboration is an energetic, meaningful and honest conversation, rarely if ever seen on television and one that is important to our audience,” said Larry W. Jones, president, TV Land and Nick at Nite.

That means everything is fair game, from the most influential television shows, interracial dating, the popularity of athletes and how different generations view the progress made toward racial equality.

Given Mr. Belafonte’s recent remarks in which he called President Bush the biggest terrorist in the world, it might be best to give his insights a wee less weight than his colleagues.

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

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