- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2007

‘Life’s timely message

Rapper, actress and Oscar-nominee Queen Latifah sheds the glam image we’ve all grown accustomed to for a turn as an HIV-positive mom in HBO’s “Life Support,” airing tomorrow evening at 8.

She’s Ana Wallace, a married mother of two who copes with the ravages of her illness while also working as an activist against AIDS and raising her two daughters — Kelly (Rachel Nicks), a beautiful high school basketball star, and her younger sister, Kim (Rayelle Parker).

Ana’s load is lightened by the help of her supportive husband, Slick (“The Wire’s” Wendell Pierce), who is also HIV-positive. Both caught the disease, we gradually learn, through a youthful dalliance with drugs — namely crack cocaine — in the 1980s.

There are other troubles, too.

Because of her drug addiction Ana lost custody of Kelly to her mother, Lucille, a no-nonsense schoolteacher played by Anna Deavere Smith (“The American President”); a situation that’s caused lingering friction between mother, daughter and grandmother.

A large chunk of the story, though, is devoted to Kelly’s friend Amare (Evan Ross, Diana Ross’ youngest son), a homosexual teen, who’s both homeless and stricken with AIDS. After Lucille bans him from visiting her home, Kelly secretly harbors the young man in her room when his older sister (played by Mr. Ross’ real life big sis, Tracee Ellis Ross, of the CW’s “Girlfriends”) casts him aside — as does his sometime boyfriend, a married record producer with a wife and young children (“Soul Food’s” Darrin Dewitt Henson).

Fearing discovery by Lucille, the increasingly ill Amare abruptly leaves the house, disappearing into the streets and leaving his life-saving AIDS medication behind. From there, it becomes a race against time to locate him and, hopefully, prevent his death.

“Life Support’s” message — in the wake of the devastating, real-life statistics of AIDS in the black community — could not be more timely. But the film (directed by music critic-writer Nelson George and executive produced by Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx and Miss Latifah) simply tries to do too much. Rather than sinking its teeth into any one of the story’s troubles, we mainly get snapshots of the continuing conflicts — family troubles, the day-to-day struggles and cultural attitudes of those dealing with AIDS, men on the “down-low” and the issues surrounding Amare (the movie’s most compelling story line) — that don’t always cohesively gel.

“Life Support” wants to do the right thing, and its heart is certainly in the right place. It’s an important film, but one that could have been so much better.

‘Truth’ on Showtime

“An Inconvenient Truth,” former Vice President Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary about the dangers of global warming, makes its premium cable debut Sunday at 8 p.m. on Showtime.

Immediately following, the network will air a special update produced last year as a follow-up to the film’s release, in which Mr. Gore — who was just nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on the topic— further discusses the ways in which the global warming problem has grown, while offering practical ways to confront it.

Life after ‘Heroes’

Tawny Cypress and Kate Burton may not have futures on “Heroes” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” but both actresses have landed Fox pilot gigs, reports Zap2it.com.

According to the industry trade papers, Miss Burton, Emmy nominated for her work as Meredith’s ailing mom on “Grey’s,” will play a judge in Fox’s “Supreme Courtships,” a series about the lives and loves of Supreme Court judges and their randy clerks. Kurtwood Smith was previously announced as another judge.

Camille Guaty, who has done time on both ABC’s “The Nine” and Fox’s “Prison Break” this season, has also been added to fellow clerks Shane West, Zachary Knighton, Leslie Odom Jr. and Bridget Regan.

Meanwhile, according to Variety, Miss Cypress (Simone on “Heroes”) will appear in the New Orleans buddy cop drama “K-Ville” along with Cole Hauser and Anthony Anderson (“Hustle & Flow”). Also new to that pilot is John Carroll Lynch (“Fargo,” “Zodiac”).

Kaplan in, Hartman out

CBS News yesterday fired the executive producer of Katie Couric’s struggling “CBS Evening News” broadcast and appointed former CNN and MSNBC president Rick Kaplan to the job, Associated Press reports.

Mr. Kaplan replaces Rome Hartman, said CBS News President Sean McManus. Mr. Hartman had held the position since before Miss Couric began at CBS last September.

The newscast has been a distant third in the ratings behind ABC and NBC. During last month’s pivotal ratings “sweeps” period, Miss Couric’s average of 7.6 million viewers was 6 percent down from what Bob Schieffer recorded in February 2006.

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

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