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RICK DU BROW

Gary Coleman's Comeback Bid--at 25

March 23, 1993|RICK DU BROW

TV or not TV. . . .

COMEBACK: Hard to believe, but Gary Coleman turned 25 last month.

And the former child star of "Diff'rent Strokes," moving back to Los Angeles after living in Colorado, makes a bid to renew his TV career tonight, playing himself on ABC's "The Jackie Thomas Show."

"The show does not center around me," he says. But he adds that he was "shocked and very grateful" when the series' star, Tom Arnold, asked him to appear as a guest.

"I'm still semi-retired," says Coleman, "because of the people who say, 'What have you done lately?' and then won't give you something so that you can answer that question.

"It takes people like Tom and Roseanne Arnold to cut through all that and know that that was then and this is now, and that this person is 25 years old and in complete control of his life. It's time for me to move on to the next level."

Last month, a judge awarded Coleman more than $1 million during a lengthy suit against his parents and another trustee over such matters as commissions, salaries, fees and pension distributions from 1982-87.

Now leasing a condo in West Los Angeles, Coleman says he sold his Denver-area home last November and returned here "because it became impossible to stay there and maintain a career. I wanted to live there."

As for his future, he says he's trying to develop a syndicated sitcom "in which characters who work in a video store and a movie theater comment on current entertainment, giving yeas and nays. Also, I love model trains, and this year I hope to be in the manufacturing end."

*

PAYDAY: Oh my--that was quite a special thrashing that David Letterman gave NBC on his show Friday night.

The occasion was the well-publicized visit of Dan Rather, anchor of Letterman's soon-to-be new network, CBS.

In opening remarks, Letterman zinged NBC's hurry-up TV movie production about the Waco, Tex., cult standoff. Then, as one of his "Top 10 signs that it's your cab driver's first day," he cracked: "You recognize him as former head of NBC News Michael Gartner."

When Rather came on and said he was "very glad" the show was moving to CBS, Letterman responded: "Take me with you now, Dan."

And finally came Letterman's piece de resistance :

It started when Rather said it was good that Letterman wasn't planning to use the old CBS Broadcast Center because it's "a total mess" and "there are still rats in that building."

Replied Letterman: "The rats in this building are programming the place."

Oh, by the way, Rather later sang "Wabash Cannonball." It was one of those nights.

*

APPETIZER: The TNT cable channel's warm-up for next week's Academy Awards show gets under way Wednesday with "Singin' in the Rain," starring Gene Kelly, highlighting the start of five days of films from MGM and Warner Bros. The great musical airs at 7:35 p.m.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday belong to MGM, including a rerun of the three-part documentary "MGM: When the Lion Roars," scheduled for 5 p.m. on each of those days. You can also catch one of the best films ever made about Hollywood, "The Bad and the Beautiful," at 7:35 p.m. Thursday.

Saturday and Sunday belong to Warner Bros. A documentary, "Here's Looking at You, Warner Brothers," is set for 5 p.m. Saturday, with hosts including Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Barbra Streisand.

Among the weekend's many Warner Bros. films on TNT, Bette Davis appears in "Now, Voyager" at 7:15 p.m. Saturday, while Sunday's lineup includes "The Big Sleep" (8 a.m.) and "Key Largo" (10:30 a.m.).

The Oscars air Monday on ABC.

*

DOUBLE DUTY: Denise Nicholas, the former "Room 222" star who is Carroll O'Connor's romantic interest in CBS' "In the Heat of the Night," wrote the script for Wednesday's episode of the police series.

It's about the daughter of a black sharecropper who returns to a Mississippi town to file a claim against the estate of a founder of the community.

O'Connor is co-executive producer of the series and rides herd on the scripts, so Nicholas has had to deal with him on a different level in the three shows she has written for the drama since last season.

"My relationship with Carroll O'Connor is so complex that it makes my head spin," she laughs. "I've been friends of him and his wife, Nancy, for years. Now we're acting colleagues and he's also my boss. Now I'm writing and he's my mentor and boss. Sometimes I just look at him and I scream, 'I don't want any of this.' Thank God I like him."

Nicholas, who has a home in the Hancock Park area, portrays a black city councilwoman in the Mississippi-set series in which O'Connor plays a police chief. She says O'Connor told her that the show will return next season. As for their ongoing relationship in the series, she says: "It will continue. Where it goes, I don't know. That's in Carroll's head. Only he knows."

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