- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2007

Desperate husbands

We all know how desperate some housewives can be — but unbeknown to us, so are some husbands.

At least that’s what ABC would like us to believe. Its new series “Big Shots,” premiering tonight at 10 after “Grey’s Anatomy,” is little more than a male version of “Housewives,” the network’s Sunday-night hit. That doesn’t mean its demographic will be any different. Although it focuses on the lives and loves of a group of high-powered male CEOs, its feelings-heavy talk is targeted squarely at women.

So “Big Shots” has problems, but many of them are smoothed over by its exceptional cast. Dylan McDermott (“The Practice”) is Duncan, a cosmetics company CEO who’s having better sex with his ex-wife than before they divorced but might lose his job over a sex scandal involving a very different type of woman. Michael Vartan (“Alias”) is James, a quickly rising exec whose triumphs at work are accompanied by trouble at home — he’s that rare (in Hollywood) faithful capitalist whose wife is cheating on him.

Christopher Titus (“Titus”) is Brody. He runs a crisis-management business but as a henpecked husband spends most of his time dealing with his wife’s crises. The only weak link in the cast is the boyish Joshua Malina, who was great in “Sports Night” and “The West Wing” but is a bit unbelievable here as Karl, the CEO of a billion-dollar pharmaceutical company juggling a wife and mistress.

Maybe it’s his background in stand-up comedy, but Mr. Titus gets almost all the best lines. “Karl, we’re men,” he says while scolding his friend. “When it comes to sex, money or a criminal proceeding, we’re allowed to lie.”

Of his wife, whom he dubs Lady Macbeth, he says, “That woman tolerates no dissent. It’s like being married to Dick Cheney.” (We’re only allowed to see her back in tonight’s pilot.)

Meanwhile, the only women who make real impressions in tonight’s installment are Nia Long (of the “Big Mama’s House” feature films) as a smart and sexy colleague of James’ and Jessica Collins as hot blond mistress Marla.

More unconvincing, perhaps, than Mr. Malina as a powerful CEO or his wife and mistress bonding is how much these guys talk about their feelings.

“All this genuine emotion is making me uneasy,” Duncan finally admits. “We’re supposed to be these alpha males,” Brody agrees.

Then Duncan sums up the show: “Men. We’re the new women.”

Out and about

The first installment of “The War,” Ken Burns’ epic miniseries about World War II, had more viewers than just about everything on the commercial broadcast networks all week, AP reports.

The first of the seven parts garnered PBS 15.5 million viewers on Sunday, according to Nielsen Media Research. Add a rerun that was telecast immediately afterward, and overall views total an estimated 18.7 million people for that night.

In fact, the only network program all week to beat “The War” was NBC’s Sunday-evening telecast of the National Football League game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears.

Mr. Burns is making the talk-show rounds to discuss his opus. The documentary filmmaker will be an interview guest on HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher” tomorrow night at 11. Then on Monday, he’ll stop by NBC’s “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” at 12:35 a.m.

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

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