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TV Note: Richard Dreyfuss brings Mr. Holland to TV series

Saturday, July 28, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Richard Dreyfuss comes to television in the CBS drama "The Education of Max Bickford," playing a college professor baffled by the modern world. The Academy Award winner (and nominee for "Mr. Holland's Opus") said he opted to step into a TV series now because he's tired of traveling.

"I've been living my life in three- month increments since I was 23 years old: three months on this project, three months on that project, on the road here, on the road there," Dreyfuss said. "It really became a burden, and it wasn't good anymore. When we began to get into this process, it began to occur to me that what I could do was assume this costume and not take it off so quickly."

"Angel" action

Get ready for a more action-packed "Touched by an Angel" this fall as the Sunday night staple moves to Saturday, airing at 8 p.m.

"I won't say the word 'edgier' in a violent way or a disturbing more adult way by any means," said executive producer Martha Williamson. "But there's a Saturday night desire to get a rush, and I think you're going to see that in the shows we are doing."

Part of the show's new energy will come from the addition of Valerie Bertinelli, who joined the cast late last season as the newly created angel Gloria.

"It's as if you found someone who had been in a closet and brought them out 30 years [later] and catch them up to the world, only you're trying to catch her up on 5 million years of existence ... She knows nothing about human beings. She has a computer-like brain. She can learn in an instant, but she doesn't know how to use her heart. Monica, who is all heart, is going to spend the year teaching her how to do that."

Roma Downey, who plays the angel Monica, said she's glad to become more of a mentor and less an angel-in-training to Tess (Della Reese).

"Martha and I realized there needed to be some maturation for Monica or else I was going to start looking really stupid if I didn't seem to be learning something after all this time," Downey said. "This gives me the perfect opportunity to now apply some of that wisdom, compassion, whatever it is I've learned during this time to the character of Gloria."

Mandy Patinkin, introduced last year as the devil, may return, and heaven will make more of an appearance than in the past.

"We're going to be lifting the veil away from the other side a little bit -- necessarily, in order to teach Gloria -- and taking peeks into finding out a little bit more of what heaven is like," Williamson said.

Despite a loyal audience, "Touched by an Angel" has never been a critical or awards show darling. That's fine by Williamson and her cast.

"I know it sounds corny and sentimental, but I don't know anyone on 'The Sopranos' who gets a letter that says, 'You saved my life,' 'You saved my marriage,' " Williamson said. "Those are the Emmys that we live with."

Kids say the darndest things

More than a decade ago, writers for CBS's sitcom spin-off of the movie "Uncle Buck" came under fire for sullying the mouth of a child actress when she was given the dialogue "You suck."

How sadly quaint.

In the pilot for Jim Belushi's ABC sitcom "According to Jim," a child character repeatedly informs no one in particular, "I have a vagina," mispronouncing it as "bagina."

One of the show's producers defended the dialogue, saying it came out of a real experience with her own daughter.

"It's just a very innocent child asking a question," said Jonathan Stark, another executive producer.

Post-Gazette TV Editor Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association summer press tour.

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