- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2006

A special salute on PBS

When Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise host Sunday’s annual “National Memorial Day Concert” on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, they’ll have special guests on hand: relatives who served in World War II.

“I’m going to be bringing my Uncle Jack this year,” Mr. Sinise said, referring to 83-year-old Jack Sinise, who flew 30 missions over Germany as a B-17 navigator.

Mr. Mantegna’s guest of honor is his uncle, William Novelli, also 83, who was part of Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army and is among several WWII veterans in Mr. Mantegna’s family, Associated Press reports.

They are just two of the many men and women whose military service deserves the nation’s attention and thanks, the actors said. “Unless there’s some immediate relative that draws your attention to the meaning of the holiday, it’s very easy to forget,” Mr. Mantegna told AP. “I would hope that people come away from the concert thinking, ‘Wow, so this is what the holiday is about.’”

Now in its 17th year, the event (airing Sunday at 8 p.m. on WETA-Channel 26) typically draws a crowd of 300,000 and is watched by as many as 10 million viewers on public television stations, making it one of PBS’ highest-rated performance shows each year. The program also is carried by National Public Radio and in more than 135 countries on the American Forces Radio and Television Network.

Sunday’s performers will include country music stars Lee Ann Womack and the duo Big & Rich; actors Charles Durning and Dianne Wiest; opera singer Frederica von Stade; Daniel Rodriguez, the singing ex-New York police officer; and Erich Kunzel and the National Symphony Orchestra.

‘Desperate’ slide

Is “Desperate Housewives” experiencing a sophomore slip?

Ratings for ABC’s campy prime time soap, which concluded its second season last Sunday, were down 5 percent compared to last year’s, representing 1.2 million lost viewers, notes E! Online, citing data from Nielsen Media Research.

The show’s decline was similar to that of CBS’ “CSI,” which lost nearly 1 million viewers in its sixth season, down 4 percent from last year. But ABC needn’t worry. The “Housewives” finale ranked fourth among last week’s most watched shows with 24.2 million viewers, Nielsen reports.

Sour grapes?

While we’re on the subject of “Housewives,” former “ER” star Alex Kingston claims she didn’t get the Felicity Huffman part on the ABC hit because she wasn’t skinny enough.

According to the Denver Post, Miss Kingston told the London Evening Standard: “I didn’t get the part, and I know why: Irrespective of acting ability, I’m just way too big. The women are all size 2 and go perfectly together. But to me, they didn’t look like desperate housewives, but desperate glamour models.”

Grammys make a move

The Grammy Awards, which suffered a midweek ratings slump this year, will return to Sunday night in 2007. The 49th annual event will air live on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 11.

According to AP, this year’s Wednesday-night telecast competed with “American Idol,” drawing 17 million viewers, compared with 28.7 million for the Fox talent competition. The telecast drew its lowest ratings since such record-keeping began in 1977. Last year’s show, airing opposite ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” was seen by 18.8 million people, with 26.3 million viewers in 2004. Grammy nominations will be announced Dec. 7.

New ‘Raisin’ for ABC

Sean “Diddy” Combs and ABC are bringing a version of the classic play “A Raisin in the Sun” to television, reports Zap2it.com.

The movie adaptation of the Lorraine Hansberry play will star Mr. Combs and his castmates from the Tony-winning revival that debuted on Broadway in 2004. The hip-hop mogul will also produce the TV film, along with Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (“Chicago,” “Life with Judy Garland”).

ABC’s version of “A Raisin in the Sun” will also star Sanaa Lathan (“Something New”), Phylicia Rashad (“The Cosby Show”) and three-time Tony-winner Audra McDonald. Miss Rashad and Miss McDonald won Tony Awards for their roles in the revival, and Miss Lathan was nominated.

“A Raisin in the Sun” tells the story of the Youngers, a black family on Chicago’s South Side, and their differing ideas on how to make a better life. It was the first play written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway. Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee and Louis Gossett Jr. starred in its original 1959 cast and reprised their roles in the acclaimed 1961 feature film.

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

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