- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2006

Back on track

ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” which has been slipping in the ratings of late, serves up a new episode this week after airing a recent repeat last Sunday — its second broadcast opposite “The Sopranos” on HBO. (Only 13.5 million viewers, about half its average, tuned in, according to Nielsen Media Research.)

Sunday’s episode (at 9 p.m.), titled “Could I Leave You,” finds Susan (Teri Hatcher) informing her new beau, Dr. Ron (Jay Harrington), about her arranged marriage to Karl (Richard Burgi), and Bree (Marcia Cross) reluctantly joining Alcoholics Anonymous to thwart her son’s (Shawn Pyfrom) extortion attempt.

In other “Desperate” doings, Gabrielle (Eva Longoria) and her husband Carlos (Ricardo Antonio Chavira) are proceeding with their adoption plans. But Miss Longoria’s character appears destined for a juicier plotline.

Actor Jared Leto reportedly will be cast as Gabrielle’s new love interest when Carlos is sent back to jail, notes the San Jose Mercury News citing a report from E! Online.

Whatever.

ABC, will, presumably, tidy all of this up before “Housewives” caps its second season during the May sweeps with a two-hour finale May 21.

Hudlin jump-starts BET

New Black Entertainment Television President Reginald Hudlin tells the Los Angeles Daily News he plans to keep things hoppin’ over at BET in his efforts to take the 25-year-old network to “a new level.”

He happily notes that the network’s new docudrama, ” ‘Lil Kim: Countdown to Lockdown,” “is the highest-testing series in BET history, and our second season of the reality show ‘College Hill’ had the second-highest testing.”

However, he says, the real bells and whistles are coming — along with a major drumbeat or three — in the new BET series “Season of the Tiger” debuting May 4. “It’s set at Grambling University, and we follow these kids on the football team and on the marching band. Grambling marching bands are fantastic, and Grambling has the winningest college football (organization),” Mr. Hudlin says.

“For the most part, these kids come from tough backgrounds, but they all want to be the best because they’re in a tradition of greatness. It is a feel-good show. Everyone who’s ever complained they never see young people doing positive things, trying to really succeed and strive in life, needs to see ‘Season of the Tiger’.”

Mr. Hudlin — who directed such films as “House Party,” “Boomerang” and “Ladies’ Man” before joining BET last July — says that the network is actively developing original series and movies but that he won’t be behind the cameras. “I’m not going to be making any films, and I miss it,” he says.

“But I love my new job. I get to work with so many great filmmakers and TV producers and actors.”

Oprah tops in talk

To no one’s surprise, Oprah Winfrey’s eponymous chatfest was the nation’s most-watched talk show during the February ratings sweeps, reports MediaWeek.com.

The survey ranked 29 first-run and off-network syndicated programs that were divided into several categories, including talk shows, court shows, game shows, magazine/reality and syndicated off-network sitcoms.

Following “Oprah,” in order, were: “Dr. Phil,” “Live! With Regis & Kelly,” “Maury,” “Ellen,” “Jerry Springer,” “Montel,” “Tyra Banks,” “Martha,” “Tony Danza,” and “Starting Over.”

“Judge Judy” led the pack in the court show category, followed by “Judge Joe Brown,” “The People’s Court,” “Divorce Court,” “Judge Alex,” “Judge Mathis” and “Judge Hatchett.”

“Entertainment Tonight” topped the magazine/reality category. Following were “Inside Edition,” “The Insider,” “Access Hollywood” and “Extra.”

Of the 29 surveyed first-run strips, only four — Paramount’s “The Insider,” Warner Bros.’ “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Extra” and “People’s Court” — were up year-to-year in household viewing, MediaWeek reported. Erosion was similar among all first-run weeklies.

In the cluttered world of off-network sitcoms, only Carsey Werner’s “That ‘70s Show” came out on the plus side, and its gains were primarily due to added exposure on FX. The biggest loser in comedy: NBC Universal’s “Will & Grace,” with a viewership erosion of 34 percent from February 2005. The biggest loser among all first-run strips: Paramount’s “Montel,” with erosion of 19 percent.

An ace up his sleeve

Tennis great Serena Williams will guest star on the April 7 episode of Fox’s “The Bernie Mac Show,” playing an expert on sibling rivalries, reports TVGuide.com.

“Hustle & Flow’s” Anthony Anderson and Shar Jackson (Kevin Federline’s main squeeze before he married Britney Spears) also appear in the episode.

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

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