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Tuned In: 'Pet Psychic' proves TV's gone to the dogs

Monday, January 21, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

PASADENA, Calif. -- Just when it seemed TV couldn't get any stranger, Animal Planet unveils an upcoming special called "The Pet Psychic" (8 p.m. tomorrow).

Take a moment to roll your eyes in disbelief.

Feels better, doesn't it?

Sonya Fitzpatrick is the "animal communicator" in question (and there are questions aplenty about how such a thing could get on the air). Think of her as the female, animal-sensitive equivalent of John Edward, the TV psychic on the syndicated series "Crossing Over."

"All animals can speak telepathically," Fitzpatrick said at a news conference on Friday. She speaks with some of them by telephone when their human owners pay for her expertise. She wouldn't reveal how much she charges for such consultations.

"Sometimes, when someone answers [an animal] for the first time in their language, they are very surprised and very excited," she said. "Some animals are more chatty than others. ... It's very exhausting when you are talking one-to-one with animals, because I go on a different level of communication than I do when I'm verbally speaking, and I am on another part of my brain, and animals communicate on a higher conscious level than human beings."

Uh-huh.

Fitzpatrick said when she's talking with a dog, the first thing a dog will ask her is if she's a dog.

"They're very intrigued as to what I am, because I'm speaking like other animal companions. So the first thing I say is, 'Yes, I am a dog right now, but I'm also a human,' " Fitzpatrick explained with utter sincerity. "And they understand that. When I speak to them, I'm using not just words, I'm using my senses, my feelings, my emotions and all of my faculties."

Fitzpatrick speaks with a bit of a British accent, and she's definitely older than the demographic desired by advertisers, but what does that matter when she's setting herself up as a modern-day Dr. Dolittle?

Fitzpatrick said she's able to listen to animals despite a hearing loss she was born with, but she had difficulty hearing a few questions at her news conference.

"One of my rescue dogs ate my hearing aid before I came," she said. "So please bear with me."

But if she's the pet psychic, shouldn't she have known Rover was going to munch on her Miracle-Ear?

TV tonight

History Channel offers "The True Story of 'Black Hawk Down' " at 9 tonight, a two-hour look at the events and book by Mark Bowden that inspired the movie.

AMC's "Backstory" returns for its third season with the first of several news documentaries that go behind the scenes of hit Hollywood movies. Tonight "Backstory" (at 10) looks at "Die Hard." Upcoming installments focus on "JFK," "Goodfellas," "Wall Street," "Predator" and "There's Something About Mary."

Doings in the Buffyverse

Fans of UPN's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" have come to expect a villain-of-the-year each season, affectionately known as the show's "big bad." But this season will be different, said executive producer Marti Noxon.

"This year we wanted to put things a little different, because we had fallen into such a pattern with the big super villains, and once you come up with the plural of apocalypse, you're in trouble," Noxon said. "There will be a big badness, but it might not necessarily come from the same old source."

Noxon promised there will be a wedding this season, but there are no plans for Giles to return until next year.

"The climax of the season is going to be much more about people reaping what they've sown in the course of the year," she said. "It's a little more character-driven than the big, bad thing outside of the characters. Buffy and Willow and all the characters have been creating a lot of chaos in their lives, and that's going to have its own ramifications."

The end of "Buffy" as a weekly television series could come as early as May 2003, when contracts for key cast members expire, including star Sarah Michelle Gellar.

"A lot depends on which of the actors will continue," Noxon said. "It may reach a natural end, which in some ways would be great. We wouldn't want to be one of those shows that just kept going until Xander fights the love-handle monster."

Noxon said it's possible the show could continue without Gellar, but, she said, "It's hard to imagine."

Over at spin-off series "Angel" on The WB, vampire-with-a-soul Angel (David Boreanaz) found himself a proud papa this season, which creates questions about how the show will move forward.

If the baby remains, it could hamper the action-adventure quotient. If the boy gets kidnapped, "Angel" threatens to go the route of "Beauty and the Beast" in its miserable final season.

"Bad things are going to happen," said executive producer David Greenwalt, "and it won't be long before those bad things happen."

Greenwalt promised an additional regular character will join the gang at the end of the season (no, Doyle will not return), adding, "What happens at the end of the season is as cool as when Darla showed up pregnant."

Last week's revelation that Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) is now part-demon was a surprise twist on top of the season's tiptoeing toward a romantic relationship between Angel and Cordy.

"People fall in love, and people move forward," Greenwalt said. "The idea that Angel and Cordelia would have feelings for each other, it scared us all, and it sort of appeared out of the material."

'80s attitude

Fox's "That '80s Show" premieres Wednesday night at 8, and I have the same problem with it as I have with "That '70s Show," which makes light of teen marijuana use. A preview tape of "That '80s Show" includes a cocaine joke.

Two guys in a club check one another for signs of coke. "Is my nose bleeding?" one asks. His friend assures him he's fine. Neither of these characters are series regulars, but it still seems to send a message that cocaine addiction is joke-worthy. Executive producer Linda Wallem disagrees.

"I just felt, being in my 20s in the '80s, it would be unfair to do a show about the '80s without the excess of cocaine," Wallem said. "It was there just like big hair was. My hope is that young kids watching this, it's going to fly over their heads. If not, I'm hoping that parents are going to sit there with their kids ... and it opens up a good dialogue."

Regardless whether cocaine abuse should be a joke, 8 p.m. (7 Central) is too early for such content to air. But the networks proved long ago that money trumps responsibility.

The last word

As press tour came to an end last week, the most revealing quote came from Monica Lewinsky during her news conference for the upcoming HBO documentary "Monica in Black and White."

"You said they'd be nice!" Lewinsky exclaimed to an HBO executive.

Honestly, I didn't think the questions were mean, but given the subject there's was bound to be some uncomfortable moments. But you have to wonder how HBO executives sold Lewinsky on appearing before TV critics in the first place.


Last week, Post-Gazette TV Editor Rob Owen was attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour.

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