- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 26, 2006

Wells’ college daze

Mega-producer John Wells (“ER”) is going back to the home of his alma mater to shoot his new drama pilot, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Wells, who graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, is shooting “Smith” in the Steel City near the campus’s Mellon Institute building, which will stand in for the fictitious Tanner Museum.

Warner Bros. officials declined to discuss the crime drama in any significant detail. We do know the show’s stars — Ray Liotta, best known for his role in the film “Goodfellas,” and “Sideways” star Virginia Madsen.

Crews will be filming through Thursday in the city’s Oakland section. Pittsburgh was chosen because officials connected to a Chicago art museum wouldn’t let it be shot there, according to Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office.

Mr. Wells also has worked on the long-running political drama “The West Wing.”

HBO’s unscripted ‘Sex’

HBO must miss Carrie Bradshaw and her gal pals something fierce.

The pay network is finalizing a deal for an unscripted comedy pilot described as “an attempt to capture the vivacity, sexuality and friendship of women in a big city under the banner of a reality show,” sources told the Reuters news agency.

If that sounds like a reality show version of HBO’s hit series “Sex and the City,” it’s no coincidence.

The new show comes from “Sex and the City” co-producer and writer Amy Harris.

It is unclear where or when HBO will shoot the pilot. HBO declined comment.

The pilot order is a rarity for a network that leans heavily on scripted comedies, dramas and long-form projects. But HBO has dabbled in some reality series in recent years, including “Family Bonds” and “Project Greenlight.”

“Sex,” which featured a quartet of women navigating social and romantic challenges in Manhattan, ran from 1998-2004. Miss Harris previously wrote for HBO’s short-lived Lisa Kudrow series “The Comeback.” She also co-wrote the upcoming Lindsay Lohan movie “Just My Luck.”

Chef’s popular farewell

“South Park’s” public spat with former show regular Isaac Hayes gave the long-running cartoon its highest-rated premiere since 2002, AP reports.

An estimated 3.5 million viewers, including 2.3 million in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49 age bracket, tuned in to watch the show unleash a new salvo against Scientology.

In the episode, the first of the series’ 10th season, Mr. Hayes’ Chef character was brainwashed by the Super Adventure Club and then apparently killed off.

Mr. Hayes, a soul singer best known for composing the Oscar-winning theme to the movie “Shaft,” has voiced Chef since 1997. The outspoken Scientologist quit the show last week, saying he could no longer tolerate its religious “intolerance and bigotry.”

Series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker immediately blasted back, saying Mr. Hayes left because he couldn’t stomach an episode from last November that mocked Scientology and its celebrity followers, including Tom Cruise. A rerun of that episode, called “Trapped in the Closet,” was then yanked off the air without notice last week, resulting in rumors that Mr. Cruise made demands to pull it. The actor’s spokesman denied it. Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker said there would be retribution via their crudely animated heroes.

Without Mr. Hayes’ participation, the pair cobbled together clips of his character for Wednesday’s episode, in which the Super Adventure Club that Chef joins turns its brainwashed members into child molesters. “South Park’s” impish grade-schoolers try to save him, but he is burned, stabbed and mauled by a mountain lion and bear. They try to revive him, and it’s not clear if they succeed.

“We shouldn’t be mad at Chef for leaving us,” one of the children says. “We should be mad at that fruity little club for scrambling his brains.”

• Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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