- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2008

Stars lend a hand

The competition among TV networks, movie studios and A-list stars can be fierce, but the fight against cancer will unite them Friday at 8p.m.

More than 60 celebrities will participate in “Stand Up to Cancer,” a live fund- and awareness-raising television special that will air simultaneously on ABC, NBC and CBS.

According to Associated Press, Jessica Alba, Halle Berry, Jack Black, Sheryl Crow, Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Garner, Diane Keaton, Rob Lowe, Sharon Osbourne, Keanu Reeves and Carrie Underwood are among the stars set to appear. They’ll join previously announced participants including Salma Hayek, Scarlett Johansson, Lance Armstrong, America Ferrera, Meryl Streep, Charlize Theron and Forest Whitaker.

The celebrities, along with network news anchors Katie Couric, Charles Gibson and Brian Williams, will deliver an evening of “edutainment,” says executive producer Laura Ziskin, a cancer survivor who helped establish the event and the nonprofit group behind it.

The evening’s other highlight: Mariah Carey, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige and Rihanna are among a group of singers who will debut their single, “Just Stand Up,” which will benefit cancer research.

Probing child pageants

TLC on Sunday will offer back-to-back specials showcasing the reality and behind-the-scenes dynamics of child beauty pageants: “Painted Babies at 17” at 9 p.m., followed by the premiere of “Toddlers & Tiaras” at 10 p.m.

“Painted Babies at 17” updates the lives of Asia Mansur and Brooke Breedwell, two of the subjects from the special “Painted Babies.” Now 17, Asia and Brooke voice their opinions and reveal the impact their exposure to the pageant scene had on them at a tender age. They also tell whether they are still competing and why they’ve either chosen to stick with the trade or walk away from pageant life for good.

Next, “Toddlers & Tiaras” follows four young girls and their families as they prepare to compete in the Universal Royalty Pageant in Texas. The hour chronicles the story of Karlee Hunt, 7, who has been competing for two years and has several crowns to her name.

Showtime for Vick dogs

Four pit pulls rescued from an illegal dog-fighting operation organized by former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick will be featured in “Dog Town: Saving the Michael Vick Dogs,” a multipart series starting Friday at 9 with a two-hour premiere on the National Geographic Channel.

Since their rescue, the dogs have been recovering at Best Friends Animal Society, a no-kill animal shelter north of Kanab, Utah.

Michelle Besmehn, Best Friends’ dog care manager, told the Salt Lake Tribune the dogs have made great progress since arriving in January. A federal court imposed the criteria that gave the dogs to Best Friends after they were rescued from Vick’s Virginia dog-fighting operation.

Vick, a former NFL star, was sentenced in December to serve 23 months in federal prison for his role in the operation. He and three co-defendants raised and trained pit bulls for fighting. Poorly performing dogs were killed.

Also on tap this weekend:

Friday

Samurai Girl (8 p.m., ABC Family) - An action-packed, fantasy-sparked miniseries following the transformation of 19-year-old Heaven Kogo (Jamie Chung) from her sheltered status as the daughter of a powerful father in Japan to a samurai on a quest for justice.

Saturday

At the Movies (Check local listings) - The balcony is reopened, this time with new hosts Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz - as the syndicated show begins its 23rd year. Movies being reviewed include “Burn After Reading” (starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt) and “Babylon A.D.” (starring Vin Diesel).

Sunday

True Blood (9 p.m., HBO) - The latest series from Oscar winner Alan Ball (“American Beauty”) - who also created HBO’s acclaimed “Six Feet Under” - kicks off its 12-episode season with this wryly humorous tale of vampires and romance. Based on the popular novels by Charlaine Harris, the series stars Oscar winner Anna Paquin (“The Piano”) as Sookie Stackhouse, a Bayou waitress who can read minds. Her life becomes even more interesting and complicated when she encounters her first vampire patron - 173-year-old Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) - and the two outsiders immediately are drawn to each other. Mr. Ball penned the series premiere, “Strange Love,” and also directs.

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

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