- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2007

D.C. talent on Starz

Fans of edgy comedy will have a new outlet for shtick with tonight’s kickoff of the new Starz Comedy Hour.

The cable channel has assembled an eclectic lineup of three new shows, starting with “Head Case” at 11 p.m. Alexandra Wentworth plays Dr. Elizabeth Goode, an “it therapist” serving Hollywood’s elite. The intriguing premise enables producers to fill the show with cameos. Look for actors Sean Hayes, Jane Kaczmarek, Jason Priestley and Andy Dick — as well as musicians Liz Phair and Alanis Morissette — to visit her couch.

Miss Wentworth is famous for her stint on the sketch comedy series “In Living Color,” but here in the District, she’s also known as the wife of George Stephanopoulos, ABC News’ Washington correspondent and a former adviser to President Clinton. Miss Wentworth is the daughter of Eric Wentworth, who was a reporter for The Washington Post, and Mabel Cabot, who was first lady Nancy Reagan’s social secretary in the White House.

Following “Head Case” is the new half-hour series “Martin Lawrence Presents 1st Amendment Stand Up” at 11:15 p.m. The show is executive-produced by Mr. Lawrence — star of “Wild Hogs” and the “Big Momma’s House” film franchise and a 1983 graduate of Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt — who passed off the hosting duties to stand-up comic Doug Williams.

Tonight’s premiere also features another local talent, D.C. funnyman Donnell Rawlings.

The comedian will be familiar to fans of Comedy Central’s “Chappelle’s Show.” When Dave Chappelle jumped ship and ran off to Africa, Mr. Rawlings took his place as host of the “Lost Episodes.” He also appeared in other “Chappelle’s Show” sketches, displaying an unusual talent for a stand-up comedian: He learned to speak Korean while stationed in South Korea with the U.S. Army.

“Chappelle’s Show” fans will remember Mr. Rawlings as Beautiful, a character who sports a Jheri-curl hairstyle, wears flamboyant, attention-grabbing suits and spews a barrage of insults in Korean. Mr. Rawlings’ list of credits also includes guest-starring roles on HBO’s “The Wire” and two episodes of NBC’s “Law & Order.”

Rounding out the hourlong comedy block is “The Bronx Bunny Show,” a remake of a British cult hit puppet interview show, at 11:45 p.m. Its star, Bronx Bunny, is described as a “street-wise, Hugh Hefner-idolizing” bunny from the Bronx. After hosting his own cable-access show in New York, Bronx hopped to the West Coast and is trying to make it big in Los Angeles with his sidekick Teddy T, a cigarette-smoking panda.

The duo aren’t particularly nice to the celebrities who appear on their cable-access show, which this season will include Howie Mandell, Cheech Marin, Eric Roberts, George Takei, Beverly D’Angelo and Ron Jeremy.

Dr. Burke’s new role

“Grey’s Anatomy” star Isaiah Washington will star in the indie drama “The Least of These,” playing a priest returning to the Catholic high school where he once was sexually abused. According to the Hollywood Reporter, his character replaces a missing teacher who molested several teenage boys and might have been killed by one of them. Production begins in June.

It’s the actor’s first new role since he made derogatory comments about homosexuals on the set of his hit ABC show and later at the Golden Globes — where the remarks forced him into a much-publicized stint at a treatment center for psychological counseling. Mr. Washington, who plays Dr. Preston Burke on the series, was unavailable for comment.

Bad week for NBC

It was a lost week in the television ratings game for NBC.

The network, which dominated TV in the late 1990s and earlier this decade, averaged just 6.8 million viewers in prime time last week, Associated Press reports, citing data released yesterday by Nielsen Media Research. That’s believed to be the lowest weekly average NBC has recorded during a TV season since the advent of Nielsen’s “people meters” 20 years ago, and likely ever.

Elsewhere, although “American Idol” keeps humming along for Fox, the network’s most recent attempt to establish a new action drama hit a major pothole. Sunday’s two-hour premiere of “Drive,” a series about a mysterious cross-country race, was seen by just 6 million viewers.

CBS averaged 11.3 million viewers for the week. Fox was second with 10.3 million but won handily among the 18-to-49-year-old audience that advertisers seek, and ABC was third with 9.3 million viewers. Following were NBC with 6.8 million, the CW with 2.7 million, My Network TV with 880,000 and the I network with 600,000.

For the week of April 9 through 15, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: 1) “American Idol” (Wednesday), Fox, 28.5 million people; 2) “American Idol” (Tuesday), Fox, 26.7 million; 3) “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 22.1 million; 4) “House,” Fox, 21.5 million; and 5) “Dancing With the Stars” (Monday), ABC, 18.8 million.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance and Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports.

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