- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Chamberlain goes bad

Audiences got to know actor Richard Chamberlain from his kindhearted roles as Dr. Kildare on the 1960s NBC show and Father Ralph in the “The Thorn Birds.”

Now the 72-year-old actor is turning to the dark side for a new Hallmark Channel film.

Mr. Chamberlain plays a corrupt governor who will stop at nothing, including having his adopted daughter murdered, to get what he wants in “Blackbeard,” Associated Press reports.

“I am a very bad guy in this, and it’s great fun,” Mr. Chamberlain says. “Playing leading men is wonderful, but the parameters are very narrow. Character work allows you so much more freedom, and it’s such a joy for me.”

“Blackbeard” (airing Saturday evening at 8) reunites Mr. Chamberlain and Rachel Ward for the first time since their pairing in the acclaimed 1983 TV miniseries “The Thorn Birds.”

“One of the great excitements for me in taking this job was because I knew Rachel was going to be on-board,” Mr. Chamberlain says.

However, the two don’t have any scenes together.

“We got to see each other in Thailand, where we were filming, and catch up after all these years, and it was wonderful,” he says.

Perry’s new ‘House’

Tyler Perry unexpectedly conquered film with his twin hits “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” and “Madea’s Family Reunion.”

Now he’s trying to bring his Midas touch to television.

“House of Payne,” a new series created by Mr. Perry, premieres this weekend on WDCW-TV, formerly WBDC. (Check local listings.)

The station will broadcast five consecutive episodes from 8 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday night, with five more episodes airing the following Saturday (June 24) in that time block.

The series stars Allen Payne of “New Jack City” fame as a fireman forced to move himself and his family in with his parents after his own home goes up in flames. Mr. Payne’s co-stars include Cassi Davis and LaVan Davis, both from the stage production of “Madea Goes to Jail.”

Kudrow’s old friends

Lisa Kudrow’s “Comeback” fizzled last year, but her real-life resurgence is in full swing.

The former “Friends” star and her producing partner, Dan Bucatinsky, have signed a two-year TV development deal with her old employers at NBC, Reuters news agency reports.

Under the pact, NBC Universal Television Studio will get the first crack at the duo’s comedy and drama projects, moving Miss Kudrow and Mr. Bucatinsky’s three-year-old production company Is or Isn’t Entertainment from its original home at Warner Bros. TV.

“Lisa and Dan have an incredibly sophisticated and distinctive taste,” says Shelley McCrory, senior vice president for comedy series at NBC Universal TV.

Though the deal is for Miss Kudrow and Mr. Bucatinsky’s services as producers, Miss Kudrow is said to be open to starring in a project the two develop if the right one comes along.

Under their earlier pact with Warner Bros., the pair developed and produced such projects as the HBO comedy series “The Comeback,” which starred Miss Kudrow, and the pilots “All In” for NBC, an untitled comedy starring Aisha Tyler for CBS and “Beck and Call” for UPN.

Is or Isn’t also produced the 2003 ABC Family film “Picking Up and Dropping Off,” and Mr. Bucatinsky wrote and executive-produced the 2005 CBS pilot “The Commuters.”

Miss Kudrow’s long history at NBC as a co-star on the network’s hit comedy “Friends” and her great working relationship with NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly over “All In” was a factor in the duo’s decision to ally with NBC Universal.

The two already are working on their first project under the deal — an adaptation of the book “But Enough About Me” by Jancee Dunn, which Mr. Bucatinsky has optioned for television.

Separately from the deal at NBC Universal, Is or Isn’t Entertainment has partnered with “Project Runway” producer Magical Elves Productions for an unscripted show set in the world of sketch comedy.

The project, which draws on Miss Kudrow’s and Mr. Bucatinsky’s experience in sketch comedy early in their careers, is in development at Bravo.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff, Web and wire reports.

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