- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2007

Aliens in our midst

Watching the pilot of “Aliens in America,” debuting tonight at 8:30 on the CW, it’s hard to see what all the fuss was about.

“It made some critics here sick,” one writer declared during the Summer TV Press Tour, when critics got their first look at the new sitcom. Still another said “Americans are depicted as bigoted and stupid” and are “shown the way by a young man from the Middle East.”

That’s like saying “Trainspotting” makes all Scots look like heroin addicts. It’s certainly true that many of the denizens of small-town Wisconsin in “Aliens” are a little afraid of the Muslim in their midst. But that’s satire, and “Aliens in America” is a pretty funny, well-constructed representative of that genre.

Moreover, unlike much of satire these days, it also has heart.

The series starts when Franny and Justin Tolchuk (Amy Pietz, “Caroline in the City,” and Scott Patterson, “Gilmore Girls”) decide to get an exchange student so that their geeky and unpopular son, Justin (Dan Byrd, “The Hills Have Eyes”), will have a friend. The brochure promises a handsome, blue-eyed boy from Western Europe, so they’re understandably surprised when Raja (Adhir Kalyan) shows up from Pakistan.

Justin is at first embarrassed by Raja — he doesn’t get that showing anything but a modicum of friendliness to another boy means you get labeled “gay” by the cool kids. But he soon warms up to the guy who is even more of an outsider than he is. He tells his mom to quit worrying that Raja might be a terrorist. Her response? “So now Madora isn’t important enough to blow up? Where’s your civic pride?”

“Aliens in America” follows the third season premiere of “Everybody Hates Chris,” which airs at 8 p.m. on the CW. Comedian Chris Rock, whose childhood serves as the basis for the series, finally makes a guest appearance as Chris’ guidance counselor.

More ‘Mad’ on AMC

AMC confirmed last week that it will renew its original drama series “Mad Men” for a second season, with an eye toward a summer 2008 premiere, MediaWeek.com reports.

The network has ordered 13 new episodes of “Mad Men,” its first foray into original scripted series.

Set in a New York ad agency in 1960, the critically acclaimed series debuted July 19 to 1.65 million viewers, bettering AMC’s average second-quarter prime-time delivery by 77 percent.

Leave it to Eddie

The actor who played Eddie Haskell on TV’s “Leave It to Beaver” is suing the Screen Actors Guild, claiming the union is sitting on $8.1 million it collected from foreign royalties and should distribute to actors, Associated Press says.

Ken Osmond, 64, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court accusing SAG of unjust enrichment and violations of the state’s business code. The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of at least 30,000 actors and others.

A call to a SAG spokeswoman seeking comment was not returned, AP said.

Mr. Osmond contends that since at least 1996, SAG has collected royalties for use of TV and movie productions outside the United States in the form of levies for video rentals, private copying, cable transmissions and other uses of the productions. He claims SAG collected the funds on behalf of himself and other actors without obtaining their permission and without telling them it had done so. The lawsuit also contends that the guild has collected more than $8 million but paid out only about $250,000.

“SAG stated that paying out the monies was ‘complex,’ and that it did not have a system in place to pay out such monies,” the lawsuit claims.

Mr. Osmond played the troublemaking Eddie on “Leave It to Beaver” in the 1950s and 1960s. He is also a retired Los Angeles police officer.

On tap tonight

MyNetwork TV rolls out two new offerings for the Monday evening lineup — including “Celebrity Expose” at 8 p.m., which joins the crowded and ever-growing field of shows about stars. As if we needed more information on troubled celebs, tonight’s premiere episode focuses on Lindsay Lohan, and next week’s installment (Oct. 8) features Britney Spears. “Access Hollywood’s” Tony Potts is the host.

“Control Room Presents,” featuring concert performances from platinum-selling artists at venues around the world, as well as behind-the-scenes interviews and back-stage access, follows at 9 p.m. with Maroon 5 at Montreal”s Cabaret Club.

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

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