- The Washington Times - Monday, May 29, 2006

Rescue’ heats up

The dog days of summer are about to get steamier with the return of FX’s fireman drama “Rescue Me.”

The series, starring Denis Leary as a world-weary firefighter, begins its third season tonight at 10 on the cable network. New to the cast is Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, who appears in the second episode as the sexy older woman in the life of fireman Franco Rivera (Daniel Sunjata).

The dilemmas take hold right from the start. As always, Tommy Gavin (Mr. Leary’s character) is preoccupied with family matters. On tonight’s season opener, Tommy and his ex-wife, Janet (Andrea Roth), finally agree to sit down and talk for the first time since the death of their son.

It won’t be an easy conversation, Scripps Howard News Service reports. A hopeful Tommy doesn’t know Janet has a new man in her life — and she doesn’t want to tell him since Tommy’s temper has always been a source of conflict in his relationships.

His nephew should remember that as well.

Tommy is more than a little surprised to find out who his 16-year-old nephew is secretly seeing, and he visits the new lover in hopes of ending the affair.

As if this weren’t enough to drive Tommy to the brink, he also makes a startling discovery that changes everything on his father’s 83rd birthday.

Meanwhile, there’s also Chief Jerry Reilly’s (Jack McGee) gambling problem, and the financial bind it’s put him in.

Ailing Liz chats it up

If you believe the tabloids, movie icon Elizabeth Taylor can expect a visit from the Grim Reaper any day now — but, apparently, not before she chews the fat with Larry King.

The two-time Oscar-winner, 74, who, of late, has been rumored to be at death’s door, will appear on CNN’s “Larry King Live” tonight at 9, to reveal never-told secrets (Gee, after eight marriages we wonder what they are) and take on-air phone calls.

Miss Taylor’s publicist, for the record, insists that the rumors of the actress’s impending death are greatly exaggerated and that she isn’t nearly as sick as the tabloids proclaim.

Tonight, Mr. King’s viewers can see for themselves.

Bonds strikes out

Despite all the fuss, TV viewers just aren’t that interested in seeing “Bonds on Bonds,” ESPN’s show about baseball slugger Barry Bonds.

The documentary series, which followed the “Shambino” as his quest to pass Babe Ruth’s home run total dragged on, has struck out with viewers, reports Reuters news agency. On Friday, Disney-owned ESPN announced it was throwing in the towel and pulling the show sooner than expected, said network spokesman Mike Soltys. The show’s ninth episode aired last week.

“Bonds on Bonds” was originally conceived as an insider’s glimpse of the famously combative slugger, chronicling his week-to-week effort to overtake Ruth’s second-place milestone of 714 career home runs and then chase Hank Aaron’s all-time record of 755 homers. But Bonds, 41, who missed most of last season due to a knee injury and still seems stiff on his feet, has started this year in a relative slump, taking nearly two months to chalk up the six home runs he needed to tie Ruth’s mark on May 20.

Excitement over Bonds’ achievement has been diminished by widely held suspicions he was using steroids at the height of his career, though he denies ever knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs. ESPN also took heat from sports writers for celebrating an athlete who appeared to have broken baseball’s rules.

In the meantime, the San Francisco Giants outfielder has been overshadowed by the performance of St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, 26, who currently has 23 home runs.

“Bonds on Bonds” originally was expected to run 10 weeks or longer, but the show never generated much enthusiasm with viewers, averaging a tune-in of just 450,000 households per episode — a fraction of ESPN’s reach of 91 million homes.

Director-producer Mike Tollin could not be reached for comment.

Shatner’s horse sense

William Shatner is doing what he can to bring peace to the Middle East.

The erstwhile Capt. Kirk was in Israel yesterday to promote “therapeutic riding,” Associated Press reports. He hopes to raise $10 million for nearly 30 riding programs in the country.

Mr. Shatner, a long-time horse aficionado, said that placing injured people on horseback has been shown to improve their conditions.

“We know that the use of a horse in their therapy takes them beyond their handicapped body, their injured body, and into another area of health,” he told AP.

The Emmy-winning “Boston Legal” star has long been involved with Ahead for Horses, a Los Angeles charity that works with physically and mentally disabled children through horseback riding.

He hopes his new fund, launched with the nonprofit Jewish National Fund, will contribute to Mideast peace. The actor stressed that every citizen of Israel, as well as Palestinians, Jordanians and Egyptians, will be encouraged to participate.

Mr. Shatner and his wife, Elizabeth, are on their second trip to Israel, where they are visiting many of the riding centers and meeting with people that benefit from the treatment.

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

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