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MORNING REPORT

March 17, 1995|SHAUNA SNOW | Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press

TELEVISION

A CBS Overhaul?: A courtroom drama featuring Patricia Wettig and Robin Givens, a detective show starring Scott Bakula, a comedy about a fighting married couple played by Cathy Moriarty and Andrew (formerly Dice) Clay and a show about a New York tabloid with Mary Tyler Moore in a recurring role are among CBS programs being developed for the 1995-96 season that were previewed Thursday by Peter Tortorici, the network's entertainment president. In a session for advertisers held at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, home of the "Late Show With David Letterman," Tortorici said that CBS, which has been struggling in the ratings, will rebuild its prime-time schedule next fall with programming that "above all else has to be as fiercely contemporary as our culture's appetite for what's new and what's next." Among other planned fare previewed Thursday: a TV series version of John Grisham's "The Client" with stars including JoBeth Williams and John Heard, a comedy about two 30-year-old female friends from "Sleepless in Seattle" writer Nora Ephron, a police drama about three attractive Los Angeles Police Department officers working undercover in the Hollywood club scene, a buddy comedy from Letterman's company, a drama with talk-show host Montel Williams, a romantic comedy starring Elizabeth McGovern and a comedy with Lorraine Bracco as a single parent in Queens, N.Y.

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Daytime Soap to Nighttime Steam: Actor Patrick Muldoon ("Days of Our Lives' " Austin Reed) will segue from the soap world to "Melrose Place," starting with the two-hour season finale, which is scheduled to air in May. Muldoon, the first actor to sign an exclusive development contract with "Melrose" producers Spelling Television Inc., will return for at least five episodes next season, then will appear in a future Spelling series.

MOVIES

More Than Dreams: Steve James and Peter Gilbert, the filmmakers behind "Hoop Dreams," the basketball documentary that has won many critics' prizes but was ignored in the Academy Awards documentary nominations, have signed their first joint feature-film deal. The duo will make two movies for Savoy Pictures. The first, "Foul," will be based on a best-selling book chronicling the life of former NBA all-star Connie Hawkins, while the second project, "Nagasaki Dust," will be a historical drama based on the wartime play by Colin McKay. James will direct both projects, while Gilbert will serve as director of photography. Both will also co-write the screenplay for "Foul" and co-executive produce "Nagasaki Dust."

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Taos Film Fest: Hollywood folk seem to flock to beautiful sites, like Telluride, Aspen and Cannes, and organizers of the First Taos Talking Picture Festival are hoping their New Mexico spot can draw the crowds as well. The festival, planned for April 6-9, will showcase independent films with entries including Holland's "1-900," Hong Kong's "The Day the Sun Turned Cold" and Britain's "The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb." Also included is a Native American Filmmaker Tribute, honoring Hopi Victor Masayesva Jr., who will screen his controversial documentary "Imagining Indians"; a Latino American Filmmaker Tribute recognizing Gregory Nava ("El Norte" and "My Family") and a Maverick Movie Star Tribute honoring James Coburn, whose 1973 film "Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid" will be shown along with his 1967 satire "The President's Analyst."

CLASSICAL MUSIC

New Opera Subtitles: Seat-back screens that translate opera text into English will make their debut next fall in the Metropolitan Opera's opening-night performance of Verdi's "Otello." The electronic screens, which cost an estimated $2 million, can be turned on or off by each opera-goer and also have filters designed to make them invisible to viewers in adjacent seats. Most U.S. opera companies already display English titles by running them across the top of the proscenium arch, a device known as "supertitles." But New York's Met was long a holdout, with artistic director James Levine once quoted as saying he would allow titles "over my dead body." The other big news for the opera house's 1995-96 season is the long-anticipated Met debut of celebrated Italian mezzo Cecilia Bartoli in a new production of Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte." She will sing the relatively small role of the maid, Despina, in a cast that includes soprano Carol Vaness and mezzo Susanne Mentzer.

QUICK TAKES

Elizabeth Arnold, who covers Capitol Hill for National Public Radio, has received the 1994 Joan Shorenstein Barone Award, established in 1986 to honor excellence in Washington-based national affairs and public-policy reporting. . . . Thomas Church, who plays eccentric maintenance man Lowell Mather on NBC's "Wings," is leaving the series after this season to star in a comedy pilot for Fox. . . . NBC's new half-hour comedy series "In the House," starring Debbie Allen ("Fame") and James Todd Smith, will premiere a week later than previously announced. The show's first episode will now air April 10 at 8:30 p.m. . . . NBC's legal drama "Sweet Justice," starring Melissa Gilbert and Cicely Tyson, will return for a five-week run on March 25 at 9 p.m., one week earlier than previously announced.

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