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Tuned In: Meet the new guys for the midseason

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

HOLLYWOOD -- In television, there are always second chances. Even when a network's fall schedule implodes, there's always a chance for redemption at midseason. That time to try, try again is upon us.

For the next two weeks, broadcast and cable networks will unveil their midseason replacements here at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. But so far, other than a few new reality series, the broadcast networks haven't offered preview tapes of many winter/spring offerings to critics. CBS, Fox and NBC didn't bother to send tapes in advance, with some networks claiming their series weren't ready to be seen. Uh-oh.

Leave it to cable to step into the fray. Pittsburgh plays a role in the upcoming TNT movie "The Winning Season," which is set in the 'Burgh, even if it was not filmed there (because it's cheaper to film in Canada, Winnipeg played Pittsburgh).

Based on the children's book "Honus & Me," the film follows Joe, a boy who time-trips back to the 1909 World Series to get a Honus Wagner baseball card signed by the player himself. But the boy also finds he's matured into a young man (Shawn Hatosy) and gets into escapades with Honus (Matthew Modine) and his girlfriend, Mandy (Kristin Davis), and other Pittsburgh Pirates players.

Premiering April 4, the family-friendly film was executive produced by David Rosemont, who most recently executive produced the acclaimed TNT movie "Door to Door."

"I love baseball movies, because there's more to them that resonates that so often has nothing to do with baseball," Rosemont said. "When I got the book, I saw the potential relationships between Joe and Honus and Mandy and Honus. The ideas of chance and commitment, all the wonderful lessons that Honus gives and his purity of intention he could give to Joe. All these messages are very contemporary and resonate."

Rosemont spoke to Wagner's granddaughter before filming began last year.

"She spoke of [her grandfather] as a man who put the gentle in gentleman, which only validated even more of what we were doing collectively as a group here," Rosemont said. "We can show there is still honor and integrity and sincerity in the people who play baseball and people in sports. I don't really have a sense of who knows Honus and who doesn't. I hope this movie does a lot for his memory and all the things he had to say about playing baseball."

'Guardian' in the 'Zone'

Like its lead character, Pittsburgh-set legal drama "The Guardian" has been careening down a depressive path for two months now. Last night's episode, in which Nick Fallin (Simon Baker) cheated on his pregnant girlfriend, Lulu (Wendy Moniz), was particularly grueling. But it was also a relief to hear Burton (Dabney Coleman) finally call his son on his selfish ways. Someone needed to say it.

Next week's episode, "Beautiful Blue Mystic," takes "The Guardian" into "Twilight Zone" territory as Nick hallucinates a rehab center where Maureen McCormick (a k a Marcia Brady) is the receptionist. From there the hour gets stranger still, although at least it's in keeping with Nick's established childhood issues. It's still a depressing hour, even by "Guardian" standards, and I still want the show to pull out of its current slump, but "Blue Mystic" is at least an interesting experiment, even if it's not altogether successful.

'Simple Life' redux

After a month of episodes, my opinion of the stars of "The Simple Life" has changed. In my original review I said celebutants Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie were not necessarily bad people, just accustomed to a different way of life. Turns out, they're pretty despicable, treating others terribly, laughing while they steal, looking down their noses at those around them.

Tonight's episode, airing at 8:30 on Fox, shows the pair playing with the emotions of some local boys in the Arkansas town they've been plopped into. Their surrogate mom, Janet, tries to explain the effect they're having on the local male population, but the girls don't get it. More importantly, they don't care, content to do what makes them happy at the expense of those around them.

The Altus boys don't know what's hit them when these more worldly women show an interest. The poor guys don't stand a chance.

Do I still get a kick out of "The Simple Life"? Absolutely, if for no other reason than it shows the values of the people in Altus are superior to those of the rich witch invaders. And while Paris and Nicole may be mean and impolite to the people around them, laughing at their yokelness, the joke is on the jetsetters. America is laughing at them.

Post-Gazette TV Editor Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour. Reach him at 412-263-2582 or .

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