- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2006

Ellroy’s dark places

Court TV adds some seriousness to its sensationalism tonight at 10 with the premiere of “Murder by the Book.”

The five-part series features some of the country’s top crime novelists exploring the real-life murder cases that have inspired them. Tonight’s fast-moving premiere, featuring “L.A. Confidential” and “The Black Dahlia” author James Ellroy, is one of the most compelling things on television in recent weeks.

Mr. Ellroy’s mother was slain outside Los Angeles in 1958, when the author was just 10 years old. The novelist previously wrote about the unsolved case in his 1996 memoir, “My Dark Places.”

Mr. Ellroy is remarkably frank in discussing the story. “I have exploited my mother’s death to boost book sales and raise my media profile,” he declares. “This program redresses that moral imbalance and stands as my final statement on the case of Geneva Killiker Ellroy.”

He’s also very forthcoming about his own feelings about his mother’s death. “I am relieved,” he remembers thinking when the police gave up on finding the killer less than a year after the murder. “I want her gone.”

His mother’s slaying led Mr. Ellroy to an obsession with another killed Los Angeles woman — Elizabeth Short, better known as “The Black Dahlia” — and a career writing crime fiction.

Mr. Ellroy says the survivors of a violent crime “can never have closure.” But the novelist is making this “final statement” so he can finally have his mother to himself.

Michael Connelly, Faye Kellerman, Jonathan Kellerman and Lisa Scottoline will be featured on “Murder by the Book” the following Mondays.

Big impressions

Legendary Canadian comedian Rich Little will appear on “The Late Show with David Letterman” tonight to kick off the show’s “Impressionist Week,” the network announced.

The talk show, which runs weekdays on CBS at 11:35 p.m., will feature impersonators all week long. Tomorrow night, superstar impressionist Fred Travalena makes an appearance. On Wednesday, Gordie Brown will perform and on Thursday, “Mad TV” star Frank Caliendo is on. Actor and comedian Kevin Pollak ends the week on Friday showing off some of his mimicry skills.

“Impressionist Week” follows the well-received “Ventriloquist Week,” which was featured on the “Late Show” the week of Sept. 18. TV Guide said that week “kept the spirit of ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ alive.”

‘Idol’ loser’s sitcom

Kellie Pickler may not have come even close to winning “American Idol,” but her career is taking off anyway.

The country music singer now has a development deal with Fox, Cynopsis reports.

The same network that airs “Idol” is working on a sitcom vehicle for Miss Pickler. According to Variety, the singer will star as a naive Southern girl who discovers her long-lost father is a governor running for president.

Miss Pickler’s debut album, “Small Town Girl,” was released by BNA Records last month. It has reached No. 9 on the Billboard 200 chart. Quite an accomplishment for the 20-year-old, who reached only sixth place on “American Idol” earlier this year.

Not-so-silent Bob

Kevin Smith and James Purefoy have rounded out the cast of the Showtime comedy pilot “Manchild,” Reuters reports.

The project is a remake of a BBC series and centers on a group of fortysomething male friends facing midlife crises.

Mr. Smith, better known as a film director, will play Paul, the group cynic, an angry divorced man who hates himself, his ex-wife and his ex-wife’s perfect new husband. If “Manchild” is picked up, it will mark Mr. Smith’s first regular prime-time gig. He executive produced ABC’s short-lived animated series “Clerks,” which was based on his well-regarded independent feature film. Mr. Smith has played a character named Silent Bob in most of his movies, most recently in “Clerks II.”

British actor James Purefoy will play Joe, the group’s ad hoc leader. The attractive and wealthy man doesn’t date anyone over 25. Mr. Purefoy stars as Mark Antony on the HBO series “Rome,” which is wrapping production on its second and final season. His feature credits include “Vanity Fair,” “Resident Evil” and “A Knight’s Tale.”

“Sex and the City” star John Corbett and frequent series television guest Paul Hipp were previously announced as members of the show’s cast.

• Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance from Web, wire and staff reports.

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