Tuned In: 'Touched by an Angel' actress returns for holiday TV movie

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- New Christmas-themed cable movies will continue to splash forth in a deluge over the next few weeks, including GMC's "Christmas Angel" (7, 9 and 11 p.m. today and Sunday), which stars former "Touched By an Angel" regular Della Reese.

Actually, Ms. Reese makes more of a cameo appearance as a woman living in a thought-to-be-abandoned house that children throw rocks at because they think it's a kind of wishing house and the rocks activate the wishes.

Then the wishes start coming true, much to the amazement of the children. That's an intriguing premise for a Christmas movie but perhaps not enough of a hook for a two-hour film. Or maybe this one, written by Andrea Gyertson Nasfell and directed by Brian Herzlinger, just gets to the big reveal too soon. From then on it's sort of a standard, squishy, feel-good, Hallmark-y cable movie about a little girl with a single mom (Teri Polo) who wants her mom to find a husband with an occasional Bible verse thrown in for good measure. For fans of "Touched by an Angel" who miss a weekly dose of spiritual TV, that may be enough.

At an August GMC press conference during the Television Critics Association summer press tour, Ms. Reese said she enjoyed playing a character who turns out to have a background as a famous singer.

"People think that being in show business is just excitement, and they send the limousine and they take you up to the stars and they dress you in minks and things of that nature, but they don't tell about when the hit records don't come anymore," she said. "And this told about this woman who had been a major star and now here she was with something [wrong with her]."

Ms. Reese said the story works as a Christmas-themed movie, but it didn't have to be set at the holidays.

"In everybody's life there's some [difficulty] happening, and this is a chance for you to see someone express what's happening," she said. "It's much like 'Touched by an Angel' in that respect."

Locally, GMC can be found on Comcast (Channel 189 on traditional systems, Channel 156 in former Adelphia areas), Verizon's FiOS TV (Channel 224), DISH Network (Channel 188) and on DirecTV (Channel 338). Armstrong Cable does not carry GMC.

Revisiting 'Downton Abbey'

PBS's "Downton Abbey" returns for its third season on Jan. 6, but the public broadcaster wants to keep the series in viewers' hearts and minds, so this weekend it offers a recap special, "Downton Abbey Revisited" (8-9:30 Sunday, WQED-TV), hosted by "devoted fan" Angela Lansbury. The program also doubles as a fundraising pledge special.

In that 90 minutes there's about 50 minutes of program time, leaving 40 minutes devoted to pledge and encouraging donations to PBS stations.

PBS has tried pledging on their marquee shows in the past, and they never seem to do as well as the dreck that often turns up as pledge specials. Perhaps pledging mega-hit "Downton Abbey" will prove more successful.

In addition to looking back on past seasons, "Revisited" also offers sneak peeks at some scenes from season three, including the introduction of Cora's mother, Martha Levinson, played by Shirley MacLaine.

"Dearest Mary, tell me all of your wedding plans," Martha says to Mary Crawley. "And I'll see what I can do to improve them."

WQED celebrates Sebak

Next week WQED-TV will toast producer Rick Sebak's 25 years with the station on "Experience" (7:30 p.m. Monday) with "What Makes Rick Tick?" by producer Pierina Morelli.

It will be followed a few days later by Mr. Sebak's latest local special, "25 Things I Like About Pittsburgh" (8 p.m. Thursday), celebrating 25 aspects of living in Pittsburgh that appeal to Mr. Sebak. The program will be streamed live, 8-9 p.m. Thursday, at WQED.org.

Nick introduces 'Marvin'

Already this season we've seen a fish-out-of-water aliens show with ABC's clever, smarter-than-you'd-think "The Neighbors." But now there's another fish-out-of-water aliens show that's as dumb as you might expect.

Lucas Cruikshank, who created the screechy-voiced online character Fred, a character that later became a TV star in Nickelodeon cable movies and a "Fred" series, moves on from one annoying character to another in "Marvin, Marvin" (8:30 tonight, Nick).

Marvin is an alien from the planet Klooton whose parents sent him to Earth to keep him safe from space invaders. In his natural state, 580-year-old Marvin has blue skin and four eyes, but he manages to cloak himself as a human in an effort to fit in with his human family.

Marvin eats six boxes of cereal for breakfast, which he blames on having five stomachs.

"But one of them is only used for mating calls," he says before making stomach gurgling sounds. Human music makes him lose control of his limbs, and his alien ears are located approximately where his human butt is, which requires him to ask humans to speak toward his rear end if they intend to whisper.

The first episode is a series of these gimmicks that "Marvin" attempts to milk for laughs, which may work given its intended audience.

Mr. Cruikshank is certainly a likable bundle of energy. It would be interesting to see him put that energy to work in a less predictable/terrible show.

Channel surfing

Starz has canceled the Kelsey Grammer drama series "Boss" after just two seasons. ... CBS canceled freshman sitcom "Partners" late last week, while ABC canceled "Last Resort" and "666 Park Avenue" but will air the remaining episodes in the initial 13-episode orders of both shows. ... Showtime ordered a third season of the Lisa Kudrow comedy "Web Therapy." ... Discovery Channel has canceled "Dirty Jobs," according to a blog post by the show's host, Mike Rowe. "Dirty Jobs" joins "American Chopper," another long-running Discovery series that recently got the ax, according to EW.com. ... Deadline.com reports that Chevy Chase will leave NBC's "Community" effective immediately. Most of the show's fourth season has already been filmed, Deadline reports, so he'll only be missing from a few episodes toward the end of the season that begins airing Feb. 7. ... The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh has begun its 13th annual "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" sweater drive. The museum will collect donations of new and/or gently used adult and child-size sweaters in receptacles in the museum lobby through Dec. 16. ... New episodes of TNT's "Rizzoli & Isles" and "Leverage" air at 9 and 10 p.m. respectively beginning Tuesday. ... Cable's Encore channel will rerun the classic miniseries "The Thorn Birds" at 8 p.m. Dec. 10-13. ... The Pittsburgh Soaring Club, which fosters interest in motor-less flight, will be featured next week on "Awesome Adventures" (7:30 a.m. Thursday, WPGH) in a segment filmed locally in August. Video cameras on the ground and in the club's towplane and sailplane captured the outing.

Tuned In online

The TV Q&A column is on a Thanksgiving break this week but will return Friday as long as folks submit questions at http://old.post-gazette.com/tv/questions/qaform.asp.

This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood," "American Horror Story," "Dance Moms" and "Marvin Marvin." Read online-only TV content at www.post-gazette.com/tv. The Tuned In podcast also took the holiday week off.


TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.


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