Monday, February 23, 2004

Whoopi, Swayze reunite

Patrick Swayze plays a choreographer who dances back into Mavis’ (Whoopi Goldberg) life on tonight’s new episode of NBC’s “Whoopi.”

Their reunion is the first for the two actors who starred in 1990’s “Ghost” — one of the biggest film hits from that decade and the movie for which Miss Goldberg earned an Oscar as best supporting actress.

As the story goes, Mavis was a one-hit singing wonder back in the day under the tutelage of Mr. Swayze’s character. Now her former choreographer has found religion, and Mavis intends to undermine his newfound faith.

The duo, Mr. Swayze says during a phone press conference to drum up interest in the episode, get to strut their stuff on — where else ? — the dance floor.

“I was throwing her little self all over that stage,” says Mr. Swayze, a longtime dancer whose 1987 smash “Dirty Dancing” is being revised this Friday on the big screen with “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.”

Dancers, if nothing else, know discipline. Yet working on the show pushed the actor’s limits.

“I’ve never done a sitcom before,” says Mr. Swayze, a self-described “motormouth.” “You’re shot out of a cannon … I had to memorize massive amounts of material.”

He says he shares Miss Goldberg’s irreverent sense of humor, the same kind of button-pushing tactics that fuel “Whoopi,” the show.

Tonight’s episode is part of a minor resurgence for Mr. Swayze, whose career peaked with 1990’s “Ghost” and hasn’t seen nearly that level of fame since then. The “Whoopi” appearance, combined with his affectionate cameo in “Havana Nights,” could help redefine the 51-year-old actor.

“I loved my experience doing the cameo,” says Mr. Swayze, who embraces the fame the original film still brings him. “I think these kids are really talented.”

A “Dancing” sequel has been in the air for years, but the actor says he once turned down a $10 million payday because the project was inferior.

“Whoopi” airs at 8 tonight.

Staffers’ wanted

We know all the key political players this presidential season — from Howard Dean to Al Sharpton.

Now the Discovery Times Channel lets us meet the young army of staffers who keep the campaigns going with “Staffers,” a six-part series beginning at 8 tonight.

The first episode tracks Wesley Clark’s bodyguard, Amad Jackson, as he interacts with the former candidate, revealing sides of Mr. Clark we often don’t see. Tonight’s outing also follows Sandra Abrevaya, Mr. Dean’s 24-year-old deputy press secretary, and Chris Lavery, Sen. Joe Lieberman’s deputy political director and a former intern in the Clinton White House.

Travels with Cliffie

John Ratzenberger — he’s Cliff from “Cheers” if the name doesn’t ring a bell — is starring in a new Travel Channel series highlighting the best this country has to offer.

“Made in America,” airing at 9 tonight, finds Mr. Ratzenberger traveling to 25 cities to find the best places and products in the United States.

Tonight’s installment finds the actor visiting Chantilly to discuss the history of Pan Am Clippers. In the 1920s, Pan Am’s founder, Juan Trippe, wanted an airline for the “average man” to travel overseas and produced a series of planes meant to hop from the United States to Europe. The airplanes were dubbed “clippers” to harken back to the day when clipper ships sailed the oceans.

Super’ scores

Associated Press

Television viewers welcomed Regis Philbin and “Super Millionaire” back with open arms.

The new version of the game show that used to be known as “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” was Sunday night’s most popular broadcast show, with 17.5 million viewers, Nielsen Media Research said yesterday.

The show competed directly with the final episode of the Emmy-winning comedy “Sex and the City” on HBO. Ratings were not immediately available for the pay cable program.

“Super Millionaire” offers prizes of up to $10 million, or 10 times the jackpot of the old show, and a handful of new lifelines.

ABC shelved “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” once a sensation, after overusing it and seeing its ratings plummet. It had last aired in June 2002.

Sunday was the first of five episodes running this week as part of a sweeps-month stunt. ABC executives promised to resist repeating its mistake of overusing it. But the ratings offer temptation: it was the slumping network’s most-watched Sunday night without sports programming this season.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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