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TV Note: Animal Planet to air new 'Wild Kingdom'

Saturday, September 14, 2002

"Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom," the popular wildlife television show of the 1960s and 1970s, is making a return.

A new version of the documentary series will air on the Animal Planet cable channel beginning Tuesday.

The six hourlong specials on animals from the deserts of Africa to the plains of India will be narrated by Alec Baldwin.

Marlin Perkins, host of the original series, died in 1986 at age 81. His assistant, Jim Fowler, continues to make appearances on television and in schools on behalf of sponsor Mutual of Omaha.

Produced by the Omaha-based insurance company, "Wild Kingdom" premiered on NBC in 1963 and ran for nearly 10 years before it went into syndication.

A focus of the new series will be previously unknown and rare species, said John Hildenbiddle, Mutual of Omaha's senior vice president of public relations.

(Associated Press)

9/11 ratings

Television viewers did not shy away from difficult remembrances of last Sept. 11. Instead, they seemed drawn to them Wednesday night.

ABC drew 10.8 million viewers during the 8 p.m. hour for a news special that drew on the recollections of World Trade Center survivors, according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research ratings.

That beat CBS, which had 9.8 million viewers for an hour based on an exclusive interview with President Bush, reconstructing his actions a year ago. NBC had 8.9 million viewers for an hour focusing on air traffic controllers.

Overall, analysts said, TV viewership was higher than it has been this summer, but it was about typical for a mid-September evening.

Fewer people were watching Wednesday than on the previous week, when Fox alone had more than 22 million viewers for the "American Idol" finale.

Ratings for the networks' daytime coverage were not available.

Fox News Channel averaged 1,004,000 viewers on Wednesday, CNN had 922,000 viewers and MSNBC had 316,000, according to Nielsen. All three networks were up over their August averages.

Last year, the news networks combined had 8.1 million viewers Sept. 11. This year, it was 2.2 million.

(David Bauder, Associated Press)

Quecreek movie casting

The cast of ABC's still-untitled movie about the rescue of the Quecreek miners is beginning to jell.

So far the biggest name is actor William Mapother ("In the Bedroom"), cousin of Tom Cruise, who will play miner John Phillippi.

Brad Greenquist ("Ali") will play miner Ronald Hileman; Finn Carter ("Ghosts of Mississippi") will play John Phillipi's wife, Missy; Marisa Ryan ("Wet Hot American Summer") will play Blaine Mayhew's wife, Leslie; and Annie Corley ("Cider House Rules") will play Randy Fogle's wife, Annette.

The movie is set to begin filming Friday in Somerset.

(Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor)

'Becker' moves ... again

CBS has flopped the time slots for its Sunday night sitcoms "Becker" and "Bram and Alice."

The last-minute move was not announced in time to make it into tomorrow's fall preview issue of TV Week.

Beginning Oct. 6., "Becker" will air at 8 p.m. Sunday followed by the new comedy "Bram and Alice" at 8:30.

(R.O.)

'Guardian' theme

When CBS's Pittsburgh-set legal drama "The Guardian" returns with new episodes Sept. 24 it will have a new theme song by The Wallflowers.

Series executive producer David Hollander told Daily Variety he wrote a fan letter to the band and lead singer Jakob Dylan watched episodes of the series before penning "The Empire in My Mind," which Variety described as a "wistful, mid-tempo tune."

(R.O.)

WTAE experiment

The Radio and Television News Director Foundation is working with local stations for a project called "Covering Politics On Air and Online." Pittsburgh's WTAE is one of the participating stations that will be encouraged to "experiment with new ways of approaching political coverage" while integrating televised and online content.

(R.O.)

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