- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2006

Open ‘Book’

NBC’s new midseason drama “The Book of Daniel” is the network’s answer to those who say there’s not enough religion in prime time.

Be careful what you pray for.

It must be acknowledged: With its slick production values, powerful cast and arresting subject matter, “Daniel,” which premieres with back-to-back episodes at 9 tonight, is never dull.

However, the show is like a “Saturday Night Live” sketch of how networks completely misunderstand religion and those who practice it.

Daniel Webster (Aidan Quinn, gaining gravitas in middle age) is a convivial reverend trying to spread his faith while keeping his family in some semblance of order. Tonight’s first episode opens with Daniel bailing his daughter out for selling marijuana. She’s a standard-issue rebel who sees nothing wrong with turning a quick buck via illegal drug sales. Clearly, none of her father’s sermons have sunk in. Surely there’s a tiny part of her conflicted by her actions, right? Don’t look for it tonight.

Next up: Peter, Daniel’s homosexual son who hasn’t come out to his unforgiving grandfather and is teased about it by his siblings. And let’s not forget Adam, the adopted Chinese son whose bedding of every available teen girl doesn’t bother papa a bit.

As if every hot button hadn’t yet been pressed, Daniel’s mother arrives for a family dinner, swinging in and out of dementia for both comical and tear-wringing purposes.

“Daniel’s” first official sin is wasting Mr. Quinn’s compelling portrayal of a man suspended between faith and fecklessness. Its sundry other sins will keep faith-based groups counting for weeks, should the series last that long.

“Book of Daniel” assumes its regular 10 p.m. time slot next Friday.

Savage’s next act

“The Wonder Years” alum Fred Savage planned to leave acting behind when he started finding work as a director for hire.

Then, ABC offered him a starring role in a new sitcom about a struggling writer coping with his seriously addled family.

The 29-year-old couldn’t resist.

“Other acting opportunities had come along, but nothing that was tantalizing enough to me to step away from what I found most interesting,” Mr. Savage told Associated Press, referring to work directing children’s shows for the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.

Mr. Savage says “Crumbs” appealed to him because it didn’t have “that setup/setup/joke pattern that has come to define sitcom. I liked that it was about the characters, about the family … and was brave enough not to have a laugh for a few pages.”

The new series bows Thursday on ABC.

As the name implies, the Crumbs are a crumbled family, who nevertheless retain affection for each other. The mother (Jane Curtin) has just been discharged from a psychiatric facility. The father (William Devane) is expecting a baby with his new girlfriend. The broken family also has suffered the death of one of their three sons, and many unspoken memories linger.

Jody, the son who stayed home running the family restaurant, is played by Eddie McClintock. Mr. Savage portrays Mitch, the homosexual prodigal son, who returns home from a failed Hollywood career.

A graduate of Stanford University, Mr. Savage is philosophical about the pitfalls of stardom. “I understand the business,” he says. “I get it. I didn’t buy a plane and then figure out how I was going to pay for it if a show got picked up. I think I bought a sweater.”

Reality signing bonus

The reality television game is good work if you can get it.

Just ask Michael Davies, the man behind ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “Wife Swap.” He just signed a three-year deal with Sony Pictures Television, Reuters news agency reports.

Sources said the partners already are working on several original projects for cable channel GSN (formerly Game Show Network), which Sony owns with Liberty Media, and a pickup deal is imminent.

GSN runs repeats of “Millionaire” and Comedy Central’s “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” which Mr. Davies developed as an executive at Disney’s TV production arm Buena Vista Productions.

In addition to “Millionaire” and “Wife Swap,” Mr. Davies’ producing credits include the Sundance Channel’s documentary series “Iconoclasts” and the soccer documentary “Once in a Lifetime.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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