- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2008

3 join ‘Class’ cast

Patricia Heaton, Treat Williams and Jimmy Wolk have been tapped to star in “Front of the Class,” a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation for CBS.

The drama is based on the true story of Brad Cohen (played by Mr. Wolk), who was challenged with Tourette’s syndrome from a young age but defied all odds to become a gifted teacher. He was ridiculed in school because of his condition until the school principal used the school assembly to educate the faculty and students about Tourette’s syndrome. Miss Heaton and Mr. Williams play Brad’s parents.

Production on the film has begun in Shreveport, La., the Hollywood Reporter says.

NBC decks its hall

The holiday season might be three months away, but NBC already is feeling the spirit, adding several seasonal specials, Variety says.

Three programs — “Greatest Holiday TV Specials and Movies,” “Greatest Holiday Songs” and “Greatest Holiday Home Videos” — are from Juma Entertainment. The Peacock’s roster of holiday fare also includes the animated entry “Macy’s Presents Little Spirit: Christmas in New York.”

“Little Spirit” features the voices of Danny DeVito, Lucy Liu, Freddy Rodriguez (HBO’s “Six Feet Under”) and NBC News anchor Brian Williams, among others. Tony-winning rocker Duncan Sheik (“Spring Awakening”) provides the music for the special, which centers on a boy who loses his dog right before Christmas.

The new specials join returning entries such as “Christmas in Rockefeller Center,” “The National Dog Show Presented by Purina” and NBC’s exclusive run of Frank Capra’s 1946 holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Channeling ‘Coco’

Perhaps Shirley MacLaine — as well-known for her beliefs in reincarnation as she is for her acting — summoned forth a prior life to portray trendsetting designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (1883-1971) in a made-for-cable biopic airing Saturday on Lifetime.

Though the “network for women” mostly churns out lighter fare in its original movie offerings, the Oscar-winning Miss MacLaine (74) offers a solid turn as the style icon whose name remains synonymous with haute couture nearly 40 years after her death.

In “Coco Chanel,” a three-hour portrait beginning at 8 p.m., Miss MacLaine steps into the designer’s shoes well into her later life. Newcomer Barbora Bobulova plays Miss Chanel in her formative years, and veteran actor Malcolm McDowell co-stars as Marc Bouchier, her confidant and business associate.

Canadian director Christian Duguay begins his film in 1954, as the demanding and often difficult Miss Chanel (then at a low point in her life) plans a comeback for a fabulous career upended by World War II and a love affair with a German officer and spy. Through a series of flashbacks spanning 60 years, she recounts her rags-to-riches tale from her hardscrabble days as an orphan in the French convent where she developed her sewing skills to her creation of such fashion staples as the “little black dress” and signature No. 5 perfume.

The 1954 fashion collection was a flop, but the tenacious Miss Chanel would rally to future greatness.

Although the film’s clothes and attention to period detail are impeccable, it omits some of the more controversial tidbits of the fashionista’s life, such as her reported lesbianism and an alliance with the Nazis.

“Whenever I mentioned those things, they told me, ‘That’s not the story we’re telling,’” Miss MacLaine said in an interview with the New York Times Syndicate.

Other programs on tap this weekend:

Friday

Walking the Bible: Go Forth: From Creation to Abraham (10 p.m. WETA-Channel 26) — Part one of three. Author Bruce Feiler (“Walking the Bible”) visits the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, believed to be the location of the Garden of Eden, and Mount Ararat, where Noah’s ark is said to have landed.

Sunday

Mad Men (10 p.m., AMC) — Another new episode from the Emmy-nominated series, now in its second season. Sunday’s installment, “Night to Remember,” finds Father Gill (Colin Hanks) persuading Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) to contribute to a pro bono church project. Meanwhile, to win the business of a foreign beer brand, Duck (Jon Hamm) and Don (Mark Moses) try to create market appeal to a new demographic. Also, Harry (Rich Sommer) is overwhelmed with the workload in his department and recruits assistance from an unlikely source. Talia Balsam also guest stars.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports

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