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Didn't you know? Mr. T's back, fool

You can watch him on the rerun channel TV Land, and not because `A-Team' is on. The '80s icon has a reality show.

July 14, 2006|Kate Aurthur, Greg Braxton

A look at some of the highlights as the TV industry unveils its upcoming shows to the entertainment press at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa in Pasadena:

TV Land, a division of MTV Networks, kicked off Thursday's press tour sessions. Before now, the retro rerun channel's most notable original series was last year's "Chasing Farrah," which followed the hazy doings of Farrah Fawcett. But this fall, Mr. T will lead the motivational reality show "I Pity the Fool." The iconic 1980s star, still mohawked after all these years, is, to quote from the press materials, "on a mission to change people's lives by dispensing his own brand of advice."

The sight of an aging Mr. T, in a dark suit and white sneakers, might have seemed poignant, but the questions from the critics focused only on T jokes.

For 45 minutes, it went like this:

"Mr. T, why do you pity the fool?"

"I've followed your career fairly closely: When did you become a self-help guru?"

"Mr. T, can you talk about the transition from 50 pounds of gold chains to a necktie?"

"Have you ever thought of changing your hairstyle?"

"Is there a Mrs. T?"

"Mr. T, who are some of the country's bigger fools?"

"Is there a fool-o-meter?"

Kate Aurthur

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Hurricane Katrina film to air on HBO

Spike Lee did not sit down like other producers or performers presenting projects at the TV industry press tour.

He stood.

It was an indication of how passionately he felt about his new documentary for HBO about Hurricane Katrina, "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts." The four-hour project, which will air in two parts on Aug. 21 and 22, is Lee's examination of the devastation caused by the hurricane, from the failure of the levees to the lack of government reaction.

He said he felt sad and angered by some of the personal stories he found. "This was not a natural disaster, it was a man-made disaster. People did not have to die." Lee said he was at the Venice Film Festival in Italy when the hurricane hit New Orleans, "and I just felt mad and sad. I knew looking at those images that this was going to be a major moment in American history, and I wanted to do something about it."

The filmmaker said he was most angered by reports of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shopping for Ferragamo shoes in New York and going to see "Spamalot" as the crisis was unfolding, President Bush's flyover, "and the slow government response."

Included in the documentary will be rapper Kanye West's controversial statement "President Bush doesn't care about black people" and Bush's initial praise of then-FEMA head Michael Brown, who was heavily criticized for his role in the tragedy. Lee said he would also include segments about conspiracy theories surrounding what some blacks feel was the deliberate bombings of the levees as well as perspectives from scientists that rebut those theories.

He felt that HBO would be the right venue for the documentary because "when people are mad, they curse. And I didn't want to censor anything these people had to say."

Greg Braxton

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FX chief needed a rescuer, it seems

Sometime the news at the TV industry press tour isn't what the broadcast and cable networks put in front of reporters.

Take FX, for instance.

The cable network showcased the new season of the nonfiction series "30 Days," Morgan Spurlock's ("Supersize Me") take on people who walk in others' shoes for a month. The panel discussion focused on producers and participants who had been involved in an episode revolving around illegal immigration.

In the segment, a Cuban man who is passionately against illegal immigration lives with an undocumented family for 30 days. The session was lively enough, with lots of back and forth among reporters, Spurlock and, particularly, Frank George, the talkative man who participated in the episode.

But when the session ended, reporters surrounded FX President John Landgraf and pummeled him with questions that had little to do with the show.

Many of the scribes confronted Landgraf over a recent episode of "Rescue Me," in which a New York City firefighter played by Denis Leary forces sex on his estranged wife. If Landgraf was trying to continue his below-the-radar profile -- particularly at a time when the network does not have new hits to discuss -- it didn't work.

-- G.B.

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