The latest news from the TV beat

By Dan Snierson and Lynette Rice
Updated January 07, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

Who’s Zoomin’ Who?

Talk about space invaders: In 1995, the viewer-challenged Starz! cable net debuted The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, a cheesy telepic about the star of a ’50s TV show who’s beamed up to space to save a goofy civilization. On Dec. 25, DreamWorks debuted Galaxy Quest, a cheesy film about five stars of a ’70s TV series who are beamed up to space to save some goofy aliens. Coincidence? Perhaps, but it gave pause to Zoom cowriter David Goodman (now a creative consultant for Stark Raving Mad). ”It does sound similar, doesn’t it?” he admits. (”It’s purely coincidental,” says DreamWorks spokeswoman Vivian Mayer.) Either way, don’t expect anyone to make a fuss. The original brain behind Zoom, director Brian Levant, isn’t too bent out of shape about the ”homage.” Although a source close to Levant said the similarities between Zoom and Galaxy left the director ”a little uncomfortable,” he’s not interested in reprisals. Hmm, could it be because he directed The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas for Amblin Entertainment—the company headed by DreamWorks titan Steven Spielberg?

Will Power

Who says sitcoms and politics make strange bedfellows? Not Max Mutchnick. The Will & Grace creator recruited his cast for an ad opposing a California initiative to uphold the state’s heterosexual definition of marriage. The March ballot measure, Mutchnick says, is ”such a divisive piece of legislation” he had no trouble talking the actors into the out-of-character ad. Trouble is, he didn’t talk to NBC—which learned of the spot via reporters (the net quickly distanced itself, saying it doesn’t endorse political advertising). Mutchnick has since made nice by orchestrating some Peacock cross-promotion. He sent the W&G cast and crew to New York City recently to parody an actual Today show event in an upcoming episode: Seems one man professed his nuptial hopes to another outside the news studio in front of Al Roker and the TV audience. Future opponents of the initiative, perhaps?

Felicity Enters the Zone

When the Felicity folks started filming their Jan. 23 tribute to the sci-fi classic The Twilight Zone, the cast and crew traveled through a new dimension of sight and sound. ”Keri [Russell] is like Janet Leigh in this episode—it’s incredible,” says series cocreator J.J. Abrams. ”When you see her, you cannot believe she’s not a 1950s TV or movie star.” The black-and-white episode features our heartsick heroine stumbling upon a place called the Clinic, which claims to cure the lovelorn. Inspired after attending a Twilight Zone tribute, Abrams consulted with veteran Zone writer George Clayton Johnson, then scripted a reverent parody and tapped Zone’s Lamont Johnson to direct the episode (which was shot using vintage cameras). Question is, Will Felicity‘s young fans get the joke? Assures Abrams, ”I think we have a smart, clever audience that will embrace the challenge.” — Dan Snierson

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