- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2006

Elfman ‘Courts’ return

We guess film stardom wasn’t in the cards for “Dharma & Greg’s” Jenna Elfman.

The quirky beauty appeared in “EDtv” and “Keeping the Faith,” but didn’t light a fire under audiences or studio executives.

That’s a shame, since she sports the kind of mercurial allure that’s missing in this age of Botoxed beauty.

So it’s back to the small screen for Miss Elfman, fronting a new CBS sitcom that takes partial advantage of her comic chops.

“Courting Alex” turns her Dharma character on its head. She’s now a cutthroat attorney trying to make sense of the dating scene. She should by all rights fall for Stephen (Josh Stamberg), a colleague who is everything she could want on paper. But no, she develops an irrational crush on a local tavern owner (Josh Randall) in tonight’s episode, a setup that appears to fuel enough conflict for a season or three.

Sitcom and screen pro Dabney Coleman is on hand as Alex’s father, and while he doesn’t have much to gnaw on so far his presence alone equals a big plus.

So too, does drop-in neighbor Julian (Hugh Bonneville), whose droll demeanor is augmented by some crisp line readings.

“Alex” isn’t as laugh obsessed as too many modern sitcoms, letting its stars breathe and find whatever charms can be had in this modest vehicle. That doesn’t mean the show couldn’t use some tinkering. Much of the first episode feels too familiar to warrant much excitement, and it’s hard to rally support for a workaholic who fights her romantic instincts every step of the way.

“Courting Alex” debuts at 9:30 tonight on CBS.

More ‘Idol’ viewing

“American Idol” fanatics soon won’t have to wait months between new seasons to catch their favorite show.

Past editions of the wildly popular singing show will begin airing in weekend syndication this fall, the Associated Press reports.

“American Idol Rewind” will premiere this September with “AI’s” and will offer a “streamlined, enhanced program” with unseen footage and behind-the-scenes information, according to its producers and syndicator.

The recycled version was announced last week by FremantleMedia North America, which produces “AI” with 19 Entertainment and Tribune Entertainment.

The reruns will give viewers their first chance to “track each winner throughout the season, from beginning to final performance,” says “AI” creator Simon Fuller.

“American Idol Rewind” has been cleared by Tribune and Sinclair stations representing more than half the country and nine of the top 10 media markets, according to Dick Askin, president and chief executive officer of Tribune Entertainment.

The original Fox series is holding strong in its fifth season, with the Wednesday debut episode ranking as the most-watched “Idol” season opener yet. Past winners include recording successes Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.

Fox has avoided diluting its star performer by scheduling the series only once per season. Sister channel Fox Reality aired a marathon rerun of the 2005 season in the weeks leading up to the start of the new season.

Girlfriends’ spinoff

UPN’s “Girlfriends” may have some new gal pals in the near future.

The successful sitcom will feature an all-new group of characters in an upcoming episode that will double as a “backdoor” pilot for a spinoff series, the Reuters news agency reports.

The potential spinoff will focus on women involved in various ways with professional football players.

“Girlfriends,” now in its sixth season, revolves around the lives and loves of four women, a restaurateur, a divorcee, a free-spirited vegan and a self-involved married woman. The show’s creator, Mara Brock Akil, is set to write the spin-off episode and would executive produce the new series with “Girlfriends” executive producer Kelsey Grammer.

‘Thief’ in the wings

Those who relish the button-pushing programming over at FX won’t have series withdrawal when “The Shield” wraps its current season in March.

The channel is planning to debut its new dramatic series, “Thief,” March 28, the week after Michael Chiklis and Co. shut down the police precinct’s fifth season, Reuters reports.

“Thief” stars Andre Braugher as the head of a gang of criminals who find themselves in profound danger and at a moral crossroads.

Compiled by Christian Toto from Web and wire reports.

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