- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 4, 2006

Farina returns badge

The “Law & Order” revolving door is spinning anew.

Series actor Dennis Farina is turning in his badge, the Associated Press reports. Mr. Farina has decided to leave his role as New York police Detective Joe Fontana after two seasons on the NBC drama to pursue other offers and projects being developed by his production company, his spokeswoman, Lori De Waal, told AP.

The actor’s movie credits include “Get Shorty,” “Midnight Run,” “Out of Sight” and the upcoming “Purple Violets” and “You Kill Me.”

Dick Wolf, creator and executive producer of “Law & Order,” said that he respected Mr. Farina’s decision and looked forward to working with him again.

Mr. Farina’s departure isn’t the only change for “L&O;,” which has a long history of cast turnover. Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Borgia, played by Annie Parisse, was killed in the season finale as she investigated a murder case.

Miss Parisse was part of a succession of actresses playing young female prosecutors paired with assistant D.A. Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston), including Jill Hennessy, Carey Lowell, Angie Harmon and Elizabeth Rohm.

Mr. Farina had succeeded longtime series fixture Jerry Orbach, whose Detective Lennie Briscoe was to be featured in a “Law & Order” spinoff before Mr. Orbach’s death in 2004.

There was no announcement of cast additions for next season, a “L&O;” spokeswoman told AP.

Dion’s new ‘Deal’

The contestants on tonight’s season finale of “Deal or No Deal” will have Celine Dion to help make a major decision, the Scripps Howard News Service reports.

We’re guessing the other great mind of our time, Stephen Hawking, wasn’t available.

Tonight’s episode, airing at 8 o’clock on NBC, will expand to 90 minutes and feature a potential prize package of $5 million for the winner.

Miss Dion will appear via satellite as part of the program.

“Around our house, ‘Deal or No Deal’ rules,” the singer said in a statement. “My son Rene-Charles is a very enthusiastic ‘at-home’ contestant, and my husband and I are right there with him.”

So far no one has won the $1 million hidden within one of 26 briefcases.

The biggest amount won this season was $464,000 (obtained from a deal with the show’s shadowy banker). One contestant had the $1 million briefcase but unwittingly traded it away for $215,000.

Nonetheless, “Deal” has remained an unexpected hit for a network sorely in need of popular programming in prime time. It is NBC’s No. 1 show in the 8 o’clock hour this season.

FX heats up

The first episode of FX’s firehouse drama “Rescue Me” scorched the ratings charts, the Reuters news agency reports.

Tuesday’s telecast, which stars Denis Leary as a burned out firefighter, delivered 3.2 million total viewers, a 10 percent increase from last season’s first episode. The returning show also drew more of the coveted 18 to 49 year-old demographic than the previous season.

The news capped a hopeful May for FX, which averaged 15 percent more viewers for the month compared to May 2005. The boost put the channel in fifth place of all ad-supported cable channels.

TNT came in first in that category for May, aided in part by its NBA playoff coverage.

The stars of FX’s “Nip/Tuck” got some good tidings of their own last week. Both Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon will net more than $100,000 an episode for the show’s upcoming fourth season, figures that nearly double their pay for season three, according to Reuters.

The show’s fourth season is slated to begin shooting tomorrow.

“Nip/Tuck” follows a pair of plastic surgeons plying their trade in the superficial streets of South Florida.

Compiled by Christian Toto and R. Denise Yourse from staff and wire reports.from wire reports.

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