- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 29, 2006

Harrowing, heroic ‘93’

Prepare to get angry all over again

A&E;’s original film “Flight 93” (airing at 9 tonight) takes us into the skies on the morning of September 11 on the fateful flight — presumably headed to destroy several buildings in the nation’s capital — that, instead, would crash into a patch of land in Pennsylvania, thanks to its heroic passengers.

The made-for-cable film’s cast of unknowns do a yeoman-like job recapturing the names we’ve grown to know from that attack, from former college athlete Todd Beamer to health-care company executive Tom Burnett.

“Flight 93” deals with the horrific subject without exploitation or action-hero exaggerations. The passengers are all, oh, so ordinary, while the terrorists reveal little of their deeper selves beyond their surface savagery.

The film uses public information and flight records to paste the narrative together. When combined, it adds up to one harrowing ride.

Director Peter Markle (the underrated “Saving Jessica Lynch” biopic) has more than just a compelling cast and production crew on his side. He has history, and the collective lump in our throats that returns the moment the first plane smashes into the World Trade Center. All “Flight 93” has to do at that poant is to not squander that raw remembrance, and wisely it doesn’t do anything of the sort.

It’s best, perhaps, at capturing an era which may never return — a time when taking a routine air flight was, indeed, routine.

Sidekick spotlight

Jeff Garlin, best known as Larry David’s beleaguered sidekick on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” will soon get the spotlight all to himself.

The comic actor has signed on for a TBS pilot in which he’ll play a variety show host whose behind-the-scenes struggles are interwoven into each episode, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Garlin, 43, who also has appeared on Fox’s “Arrested Development” and in the feature film “Daddy Day Care,” told Daily Variety this is the kind of show he dreamed of doing since he was a child.

“I play Jeff Garlin, the biggest variety star on television, and pretty much the show follows me getting into trouble each week,” Mr. Garlin told the industry trade publication.

The aptly titled “The Jeff Garlin Program” will harken back to the “Jack Benny” show of old-time TV with a show-within-a-show concept that follows the on-camera and off-camera exploits of a slightly exaggerated version of its star.

Mr. Garlin and Phil Rosenthal, the creator of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” will executive produce the pilot. Production is scheduled to begin in March.

Rifkin rebounds

Actor Ron Rifkin won’t be out of work for long after ABC’s cancellation of “Alias.”

The character actor already has landed a new project: a drama pilot revolving around adult siblings, the Reuters news agency reports.

The upcoming ABC show, titled “Brothers & Sisters,” will feature Mr. Rifkin playing the siblings’ uncle. For the past five seasons, he played Arvin Sloan, the evil head of SD-6, on “Alias.”

Mr. Rifkin’s acting career didn’t begin with his work on the espionage show. He’s been working regularly in movies for years, including such projects as “L.A. Confidential,” “Manhattan Murder Mystery” and “The Negotiator.” On Broadway, he won a Tony Award in 1998 for his role in the revival of “Cabaret.”

In other ABC drama pilot news, actor Chi McBride (Fox’s high school ensemble drama “Boston Public”) has been cast in an untitled project chronicling the experiences of nine strangers caught in a 52-hour hostage crisis stemming from a bank robbery that goes bad.

Mr. McBride, most recently seen in a multiepisode arc on Fox’s hit drama “House” last season, also stars in the feature film “Annapolis,” which opened Friday.

Perry’s Peacock return

Matthew Perry couldn’t stay away from NBC for long.

The former “Friends” star is returning to his old network to star in a dramatic look at life behind the scenes at a sketch comedy show, Reuters reports.

After lengthy negotiations, the actor will join D.L. Hughley and Steven Weber in the untitled drama that’s loosely modeled after shows like NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

Mr. Perry will play a genius comic writer who was forced out of his position as co-executive producer on the sketch show after a dispute with the network, UBS. Mr. Weber will play the ambitious UBS’ chairman, and Mr. Hughley one of the sketch show’s three stars.

Aaron Sorkin, who created the project with Thomas Schlamme, wrote Mr. Perry’s part with the actor in mind.

“A lot is going to be asked of this cast,” Mr. Sorkin and Mr. Schlamme told Reuters. “We still have a number of roles to fill to complete the ensemble, but you couldn’t hope for a better start than these incredibly gifted actors.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from Web and wire reports.

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