Wednesday, January 19, 2000

'Felicity' star's new do doesn't work

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        PASADENA, Calif. — TV critics don't always ask hard-hitting questions on the press tour. Sometimes we ask the questions that millions of TV fans would ask:

        Why did Felicity cut her hair? Does anybody like it so short?

        “The e-mail alone was so overwhelmingly negative about the haircut,” says WB Entertainment President Susanne Daniels, who admits she blew it approving Keri Russell's request to cut her hair last summer.

        WB executives blame low ratings for Felicity (8 p.m. Sunday, Channel 64) in part on the new do.

        “Do I think it affected the show on some level? Yeah, I do, however superficial that seems, unfortunately,” she says.

        Her boss, WB CEO Jamie Kellner, says Ms. Russell's “distinctive” hair was “part of what created the uniqueness, visually.”

        Another problem was moving Felicity's college pals out of her dorm. “She was isolated both physically and emotionally, because she was fighting with her best friend Amy Jo Johnson, and she wasn't dating either one of our two male leads,” Ms. Daniels says.

        Dawson's Creek also made the same mistake last fall after creator Kevin Williamson left to produce ABC's short-lived Wasteland.

        “We strayed on Dawson's. We all know it. We broke the four up, and we did a bunch of things that, in hindsight, you can say, "Well, that wasn't very smart,'” Mr. Kellner says.

        “Both of these shows will come back stronger this spring,” she says.

        BROTHERLY LOVE: Where do film movie scenes that look like Mississippi in 1969? You go to Rabbit Hash.

        Emmy-winning Cincinnati producer Jim Friedman used the Rabbit Hash General Store, and nearby roads, in filming Brotherly Love, the Dreambuilder Celebration special today (8 p.m., Channel 9).

        Mr. Friedmanuses his movie magic in the one-hour original drama about Will Taylor, an African-American air traffic controller whose family is nearly destroyed when he tries to save his brother from drugs and alcohol.

        Kevin Jackson (Rosewood, Conspiracy Theory, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper) stars in the autobiographical story by Will Sims of Indianapolis, winner of the fourth annual Dreambuilder Celebration Scribe Award to encourage African-American writers.

        Mr. Friedman uses 11 Tristate locations to double for locations in rural Mississippi and Louisville. The Artimis highway traffic control center downtown was used for the Louisville air traffic control tower where Mr. Sims worked in the 1980s.

        “We were landing jets all over I-71,” Mr. Friedman jokes.

        The Bracken County Courthouse and jail in Brookville, Ky., were used for the Brandon, Miss., courthouse. Sculptor Ken Bradford replicated the bronze statue of a Confederate soldier out of paper mache.

        Many of the local stagehands who worked on the three previous Dreambuilder dramas also helped on Brotherly Love. Actor Adam Lazarre-White (The Temptations), who starred in Dreambuilders productions of Just Passin' Through and What Angels Fear, did Los Angeles casting as an executive producer.

        Most of the performers are local, including Irvetta McMurtry, the model who was Vanessa Williams' body double on Soul Food. She plays Will's wife, Lisa.

        Tristate viewers may recognize John McLain, Celestial restaurant maitre'd, as the waiter who presents Lisa an engagement ring from Will in a restaurant. The real Will makes a cameo as a police detective in the final scene.

        Although Brotherly Love looks like a network-quality show, the story isn't up to that standard. But that's not the point of the Dreambuilder program, which is “to assist African-American writers, directors and producers” and “facilitate blacks and whites working together on broadcasting projects,” Mr. Friedman says.

        “We are not making the world's greatest movies,” he says. “If I wanted to make a great movie, I wouldn't commit to first-time African-American writers. What we accomplished here was far more than making a great movie.”

        AROUND THE DIAL: City of Angels, CBS' new minority drama, is pre-empted today on Channel 12 for the Miami-Bowling Green basketball game (7-9 p.m.). Dayton's Channel 7 airs it at 8 p.m.

        Miss The Sopranos on Sunday? Catch a rerun at 9 p.m. today on HBO.


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