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On the Tube: 'Big Brother' chiefs warn of surprises

Thursday, July 04, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Take this as you will: For some, the return of CBS's "Big Brother" is a clarion call; for others, it's a dire warning.

The third edition of the voyeuristic show that puts contestants together in a house like human veal premieres at 9 p.m. Wednesday (additional episodes will air each week at 8 p.m. Saturdays and Thursdays).

Arnold Shapiro, who produced last year's edition (which proved more popular than the original), returns as executive producer alongside Allison Grodner. In a teleconference last week, the pair said a few twists in game play will be forthcoming, but they wouldn't say what those twists will be.

"The people coming in have worked it all out and think they have the perfect strategy, and all of them are in for a few surprises," Shapiro said.

"The new elements will indeed affect strategy and the playing" Grodner added.

"The other thing we're doing this year is, we're attempting to be a little tougher on these people," Shapiro said. That means more challenging competitions and the possibility of having to eat only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for more than three days.

Last year's show found controversy early on when cast member Justin Sebik put a knife to the throat of another contestant. Although it was done in jest and he didn't intend any harm, it was still a violation of the show's rules and he was quickly evicted.

"The media jumped on that and it became our signature, but that occurred in eight seconds and we dealt with it immediately. ... That's a rule we have now," Shapiro said, joking. "No more holding a knife to the neck. That's absolutely forbidden."

But seriously, folks ... Shapiro and Grodner said they're more confident with the screening process this go-around.

"We have done everything humanly possible to know the backgrounds of these people because of everything we learned last year," Shapiro said. "Allison and I will talk with each house guest individually, and we will be very thorough about violence and threats of violence as things we absolutely will not tolerate."

This year's roster of contestants won't be announced until tomorrow on "The Early Show," but Shapiro said the contestants are champing at the bit to get into the redecorated "Big Brother" house.

"They're extremely competitive people," he said, "each of whom is so confident he or she will win because they have the advantage of watching last year. We think they're going to be smarter in playing the game."

Of course, with "Big Brother," even "smarter" is relative.

Remember 'WENN'?

It's been almost four years since AMC canceled its original series "Remember WENN," which was set at a Pittsburgh radio station in the early '40s.

The Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack, N.Y., has announced plans to produce "Remember WENN -- The Musical," which is scheduled to run at the theater March 22 to April 6, 2003.

Series creator Rupert Holmes will write the music and book, translating the TV show to the stage.

"My hope is to have as many original cast members as possible in it," Holmes said in a phone interview.

VJs regain popularity

This spring, WNPA had a VJ on the air introducing prime-time UPN shows, and soon WCWB may have its own pair of hosts.

Station manager Alan Frank said The WB affiliate plans to hire one or two "station personalities" to do on-air promos and to represent the station at promotional events.

Though MTV has less use for on-air talent now than in its early days, for local stations without much history of local programming or known personalities, it's a sensible move.

KDKA/WNPA director of marketing Mike Gerst said he hired VJ Shane Gallant in March to help create an image for WNPA. In addition to introducing prime-time programs, he'll make appearances at events.

"He's the voice and face of the UPN station as it relates to the community," Gerst said. "When you find yourself in a situation with a station that doesn't have a lot of identity or no identity, this is a way to give it an identity in the marketplace that's young, dynamic and appealing to the younger audience that watches UPN programming."

Local murder case

The A&E series "American Justice" premieres "While the Children Slept" (9 p.m. Wednesday), a one-hour look at the 1994 murder of Maryann Boczkowski in Ross. Her husband, Tim, who claimed he found her dead in the hot tub, was convicted of her murder.

"While the Children Slept" includes interviews with Tim Boczkowski's children.

Washington rediscovered

PBS's "Rediscovering George Washington" airs tomorrow at the unlikely hour of 1 p.m. The 90-minute program is hosted by historian Richard Brookhiser, who gives tours of places that played a major role in Washington's life.

Portions of the film were shot in Western Pennsylvania, though it remains to be seen what made the final cut.

Indie 'Road Trip'

Independent producer K. Mac McCarney begins production next week on a 13-episode travelogue series titled "2 for the Road: From Sea to Shining Sea."

McCarney, previously based in Orlando, Fla., with his Cinema Six Entertainment Group, has been in Pittsburgh caring for his elderly parents. He plans to produce the series out of temporary offices here and may open a permanent office in Pittsburgh later this year.

McCarney will host the series with Florida school teacher Thomas Devine, visiting attractions during the coast-to-coast tour. Former President Jimmy Carter will give the pair a tour of Plains Inn & Antiques in Plains, Ga., on July 13.

"Road Trip" is being produced independently with an eye toward selling it to the Travel Channel.

Westward, ho!

Anyone planning a vacation out West to a National Park this summer can get a primer on park lodging and architecture from PBS's "Great Lodges of the National Parks," which airs 8 p.m. Wednesday on WQED/WQEX for the next four weeks.

First up, next Wednesday's "Grand Lodges" tells about the construction of Yellowstone's Old Faithful Lodge and Yosemite's Ahwahnee Hotel. Other installments look at "Canyon Lodges" (Grand Canyon), "Glacier Lodges" (Montana) and "Pacific Northwest Lodges" (Mount Rainier).

'Oz' sing-along

TCM will air a commercial-free sing-along version of "The Wizard of Oz" at 6 tonight. The showing will feature lyrics to the film's songs at the bottom of the screen.

'24' on DVD

Expect to hear an announcement about the DVD release of the first season of Fox's "24" sometime later this month. Sept. 17 appears to be a likely American release date, just before the launch of the show's second season.

Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.

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