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Bravo's 'Breaking News' finally sees light of day

Sunday, July 14, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Finally, the series TNT ordered, produced 13 episodes of and then discarded will see the light of day. This week Bravo premieres "Breaking News," an excellent drama set at a fictional 24-hour cable news network.

Several TV critics, myself included, wrote about the series last fall when it was seeking a new network. It richly deserves this second chance.

Moving at a break-neck clip, "Breaking News" isn't a documentary, but it gets enough things right about the TV news business and does so in entertaining, dramatic fashion.

Clancy Brown ("Earth 2") stars as I-24 news division president Peter Kozyck. He has his hands full with intelligent, ego-driven anchor Bill Dunne (Tim Matheson) riding roughshod over the newsroom and ambitious but inexperienced reporter Janet LeClaire (excellent newcomer Myndy Crist) trying to get more air time.

LeClaire is an especially interesting character. She's not a dumb blond stereotype, but she is naive. Throughout the first 13 episodes (two air back-to-back this Wednesday at 8 p.m.), Janet grows increasingly cocky only to make a whopper of a mistake in the finale.

Lisa Ann Walter, who was like nails on a chalkboard on "Emeril," brings her brassy demeanor to "Breaking News," where it's a much better fit. She plays Rachel Glass, I-24's executive producer who lives and breathes news at the expense of having a life. She's an almost tragic character.

"Breaking News" rings especially true when journalism ethics become part of the plot. Reporters complain the company is cheap and corporate media synergy threatens to overwhelm the newsroom.

 
 
TV REVIEWS

"Breaking News"

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday on Bravo.

Starring: Tim Matheson, Clancy Brown.


"Door to Door"

When: 8 tonight on TNT.

Starring: William H. Macy, Kyra Sedgwick.

   
 

"There's no history, no reverence for what we do," Dunne complains in the fourth episode.

"There's no reverence anywhere anymore, Bill," Rachel says. "Last year CBS turned their O&O [owned and operated] newscasts into 22-minute commercials for 'Survivor.' It's a different landscape from when you started, from when I started. Now I know how the salmon feel every year."

The series occasionally lapses into the ridiculous, such as when reporter Jamie Templeton (Rowena King) flashes her breasts at a teen-ager to secure a snowmobile while covering an avalanche or when LeClaire gets involved in a hostage situation (though the hostage denouement rings all too true).

Remembering that "Breaking News" was produced before Sept. 11, the show seems prescient in an episode featuring an Osama bin Laden-type character. It also comes off as a little dated when Rachel poo-poos foreign news in favor of domestic coverage.

The chances are slim-to-none that Bravo will produce additional episodes of this expensive series that's undoubtedly the best summer show out there. But at least what was filmed will be seen. Now if we could just get some network to show us all of Fox's unaired "Pasadena" episodes ...

'Door to Door'

A heart-warming film that affirms the power of love and the importance of friendship, "Door to Door" manages to be touching without the treacle.

William H. Macy ("Fargo") stars as Bill Porter, a man born with cerebral palsy who learns the virtues of patience and persistence from his loving mother (Helen Mirren). In the film, inspired by the true story of the real Bill Porter (www.billporter.com), he gets a job with The Watkins Company as a door-to-door salesman in 1955.

It's an uphill battle at first - director Steven Schachter makes that clear by showing Porter trudging up a hill - but over the course of 40 years, he becomes "an invisible thread" in the lives of the people on his sales route. He befriends the lonely (including a character played by Kathy Baker) and resolves feuds among the squabbling.

He takes on an employee to help with deliveries, upright Shelly Brady (Kyra Sedgwick), and wins over those who doubted him at first.

What makes "Door to Door" such a joy is that it doesn't tell Porter's story as an "awww, how sad" tale of a developmentally disabled person. It's a story of determination with a lot of humor, much of it from Porter himself.

"I'm a burden on you," his elderly mother says.

"Well, now we're even," he slyly replies.

Macy, who wrote the film's script with Schachter, seems too old for the role when it begins with Porter as a young man. It's unclear in the film's initial moments whether he's living with a wife or mother (it's his mother). Attempts at reverse aging may also cause a few giggles when Sedgwick is introduced as college-age.

Those are mere quibbles. This feel-good, family-friendly story is primed to touch the hearts of viewers and maybe even coax a few tears of joy.


You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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