- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 22, 2006

Barney’s hip new pal

Barney, the big purple dinosaur with the singsong voice, will be getting a new pal to help drag him out of the musical prehistoric ages, reports the New York Daily News.

Producers hope that Riff, an orange-and-yellow hadrosaur, will jazz up the show with a broader range of musical styles, including Latin, reggae, classical, jazz and country.

Riff, who will be introduced as the cousin of dinos Baby Bop and BJ, will make his own instruments and help teach such musical concepts as volume, rhythm and tempo.

A crest on top of his head will light up in different colors when he plays music.

Riff — who fancies eating celery with cheddar cheese and raisins and saying such things as “Tippity-top” — will make his debut on the new season of “Barney & Friends” on PBS Kids on Sept. 18.

Brides behaving badly

With HBO’s “The Sopranos” and “Big Love” on summer hiatus, why not make the WE channel’s “Bridezilla” your next guilty pleasure?

Now in its third season, the cable reality series — whose motto is “engaged, enraged and about to be committed” — follows the anguish, stress and (sometimes) tantrums thrown by brides-to-be while planning their all-important wedding day.

This week’s installment (Sunday at 10 p.m.) continues the story of Marsha, whose out-of-control nuptials (complete with 50 attendants and a second reception plus a $1,000 wedding cake, according to ETonline.com) and rants against her fiance Archie are prime examples of the show’s title. When last seen (in previews hyping this week’s episode), Archie was in tears after yet another berating by his sweetheart. Hopefully, he’ll have the backbone to give this shrill, overbearing windbag the old heave-ho.

WE hasn’t said but hints that there will be “a surprise” in store.

Among the weekend’s other highlights:

• On NBC — “America’s Got Talent”: Or does it? Only you can decide when these assorted oddball contestants take the stage — and vie for $1 million in prize money — during back-to-back installments airing tonight from 9 to 11. Regis Philbin hosts this latest performing showcase from “American Idol’s” Simon Cowell (the show’s executive producer); pop star Brandy, actor David Hasselhoff and British personality Piers Morgan are the judges.

• On HBO — “Cinderella Man”: Cable premiere (tomorrow at 8 p.m.) of filmmaker Ron Howard’s 2005 Oscar-nominated account of Depression-era boxing champ Jim Braddock, a supposedly washed-up fighter who overcame near-impossible odds to regain his championship status and become an inspiration in the 1930s. Memorable performances by Russell Crowe as Braddock, Paul Giamati as his manager Joe Gould and a stirring score by Thomas Newman.

• On Showtime — “Huff”: In the season finale (Sunday at 10 p.m.) Huff (Hank Azaria) answers Russell’s (Oliver Platt) call in time of tragedy while Izzy (Blythe Danner) slows down her drinking and visits Teddy (Andy Comeau) in his time of dire need. Meanwhile, Byrd (Anton Yelchin) vents anger and frustration about his family, and Beth (Paget Brewster) tells Alec (Warren Derosa) they are just friends. A word of caution to “Huff” fans: Showtime — a nanosecond away from becoming premium cable’s “must see” network — has not yet renewed the show.

Embracing the Bard

Aspiring thespians can brush up on their Shakespeare with a new five-part DVD series conducted by Cicely Berry, legendary voice director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The series, available today, will be hosted by Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons and will feature 20 actors from both sides of the Atlantic, most of whom had never met before. Convened in New York, the actors — including Emily Watson, Helen Hunt, Samuel L. Jackson, Victor Garber, Blythe Danner, Lindsay Duncan, Toby Stephens, Claire Danes, Cherry Jones, Tony Goldwyn and Robert Sean Leonard — participated in three days of intensive Shakespeare workshops.

But the group didn’t sign up to demonstrate “how to” perform Shakespeare for the general edification of the theater-going public. Their reason for attending these workshops was entirely selfish. They flew in from Hollywood and London for the chance to study with Miss Berry, who is the subject of the upcoming PBS documentary “Where Words Prevail.”

Among the topics Miss Berry takes up with her stellar cast are the fundamentals of meter and rhythm and how they inform character, how vowels convey emotion and how sound and meaning are linked to feeling.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports.

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