- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2006

King’s things

What better way to spend a summer night than curled up with a Stephen King story (assuming you have a taste for the macabre)?

TNT offers just such a treat with tonight’s premiere of “Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King,” featuring the first two of eight minimovies based on the horror writer’s work.

Its stellar cast includes Oscar winner William Hurt and Oscar nominees William H. Macy and Marsha Mason to flesh out some of Mr. King’s short fiction over the next four weeks.

If only the execution were as inspired as the concept.

“Battleground,” airing at 9 tonight, wastes Mr. Hurt in a revenge piece with precious little in the way of surprises, let alone chills. Mr. Hurt plays a hit man who kills a toy mogul, only to feel the wrath of the executive’s miniature creations.

Here’s the deal: Mr. Hurt’s Jason Renshaw returns home after completing his task and finds a package of toy soldiers on his doorstep. It isn’t long before the tiny soldiers start spilling out of the box and open fire on Jason, much to his shock and confusion. He quickly realizes that their small weapons can draw blood and begins a furious counterattack.

“Battleground” is based on one of Mr. King’s shorter stories, and there’s little in the way of setup or character development to expand on the source.

Mr. Hurt, who overplayed his mob character in “A History of Violence” to earn an Oscar nomination earlier this year, soft-pedals Jason to the point of lethargy. A more physical actor should have been used, especially since the show’s creators opt to keep Jason speechless beyond a few choice exclamations.

It’s unfair to lob too many questions during a horror movie, but time and again, we wonder why Jason doesn’t pick up a phone or just burst out of his house to safety. Let’s hope subsequent installments — including “Crouch End,” the second tale in tonight’s debut — leave us too scared to consider such mundane questions.

Soap star’s final show

Benjamin Hendrickson, an Emmy Award-winning actor on the soap opera “As the World Turns,” committed suicide last week with a gunshot to the head, police said.

According to AP, police in Suffolk County, N.Y., were called to Mr. Hendrickson’s Long Island home by concerned neighbors who said they had found him dead in his bed on July 3. News of the death was released Friday evening.

Mr. Hendrickson, 55, was a member of the first graduating class of the Juilliard School’s Drama Division, along with actors Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone. He appeared on Broadway in the early 1980s as a replacement in the title role of “The Elephant Man” and in the 1984 revival of “Awake and Sing!” He played Chief of Detectives Hal Munson for more than 20 years on the CBS soap, now in its 50th year, winning a Daytime Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in 2003.

His final appearance on the show (seen weekdays at 2 p.m. on WUSA-TV Channel 9) airs today.

Must-not-see TV

Either the summer weather is really good or summer programming is really bad: Last week was the least-watched in recorded history for the four biggest broadcast networks.

ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox averaged 20.8 million viewers during the average prime-time minute last week, Associated Press reported yesterday, citing data from Nielsen Media Research.

The previous record was set during the last week of July 2005.

To be fair, Independence Day week often has the fewest viewers of the year. The channels are filled with reruns, and people are spending more time outdoors.

But this summer hasn’t seen many hits to lure them inside. Only one program, NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” recorded more than 10 million viewers, Nielsen said.

In prime time, CBS averaged 6.5 million viewers, followed by NBC with 6 million, Fox with 5.1 million and ABC with 4.8 million.

On cable, USA Network’s new mystery series, “Psych,” garnered 6.1 million viewers, making it the highest-rated new scripted series on basic cable this year, Nielsen said.

For the week of July 3 through 9, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “America’s Got Talent,” NBC, 12 million; “So You Think You Can Dance,” Fox, 9.7 million; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 9.7 million; “60 Minutes,” CBS, 9.1 million; and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” NBC, 8.8 million.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance and Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff and wire

reports.

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