The ShowBuzz Weekly Forecast

Merry December!

You may argue that it's not quite December yet and, technically, you'd be correct. But let's face it: As far as the world of entertainment is concerned, we've been in December since the end of October.

Four very popular authors are out with new books, some nostalgic favorites are out on DVD, and James Taylor and his mountain-stream voice are featured in the "Great Performances" series on public television.

So, all right. It is still November. But just barely. So let's take a peek ahead and get ready to turn that calendar page over just one more time in 2006.

MOVIES

As we roll into December, "The Nativity Story" hits theaters, with Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary, Oscar Isaac as Joseph and Alexander Siddig as the Archangel Gabriel. The age-old story of the birth of Jesus certainly contains enough splendor, emotion and drama to satisfy any moviegoer who prefers a flick with a strong plot and opportunities for spectacle. But, especially at this time of year, it's also a movie that is certain to hit the Christian world right in the heart.

If you're up for just plain silly fun, "The National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj" might fill the bill. Taj moves up in the "Lampoon" pecking order to become the main man. The character, played by Kal Penn (a co-star of 2004's "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle"), is a nerdy-but-lovable exchange student from India who is moving on to England's staid Oxford University, which will not be the same after Taj hits campus.

And if you're a horror fan, there's something for you: "Turistas," about a group of young adventurers whose bus breaks down in an isolated village near a beach in Brazil. Of course, you already knew that there is a dark secret lurking in the jungle, didn't you?


Click here to see a holiday movies preview

TV

A new TBS comedy, "10 Items or Less," turns loose a cast of improv actors, in character, with nothing but an outline for each week's half-hour episode, then lets them wing the dialogue and action. John Lehr, a co-creator of the show, plays Leslie, the owner of Greens & Grains Grocery Store, joined by such other characters as stock boy Carl (Robert Clendenin); Todd (Chris Payne Gilbert), the beefcake butcher in his bloody apron; Ingrid (Kirsten Gronfield), the timid customer service rep; and others trying to keep the store afloat in the shadow of a nearby chain supermarket managed by rival Amy (Jennifer Elise Cox), who used to spurn Leslie's advances back in high school.

Further blurring the line between what's real and what's artificial: The series is taped in a real-life, working grocery store.

"10 Items or Less" premieres at 11 p.m. ET Monday, Nov. 27.

Fox Reality releases "Corkscrewed: The Wrath of Grapes," a new series that follows two TV producers as they pursue a long-held, maybe ill-advised dream. Nigel Lythgoe (executive producer of "American Idol" and a judge on "So You Think You Can Dance") and Ken Warwick (executive producer of "America's Got Talent") were childhood friends on the back streets of Liverpool. Now, with success and money, they feel ready for a fantasy they've been fermenting for years: purchasing a California vineyard. But arriving at the vineyard clad in designer wear, Lythgoe and Warwick don't exactly look the part. And misadventures loom, ranging from vine rot and spreadsheet woes to wild boars. Will their grapes even produce enough wine to help them drown their sorrows? "Corkscrewed" premieres 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29.

"It's strange to be at an event like this and still be alive," marvels the 58-year-old James Taylor. But the beloved singer-songwriter is very much alive, and, surrounded by other musical giants, he is saluted on a "Great Performances" airing 9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29, on PBS (check local listings). "A Tribute to James Taylor" gathers Jackson Browne, Sheryl Crow, Keith Urban, Jimmy Buffett, David Crosby, the Dixie Chicks, Dr. John, Carole King, Taj Mahal, Cheech Marin, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, Sting and many others. It was taped in February at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

MUSIC

The classical dreamboats who comprise Il Divo are out with a new one this week. "Siempre" is a collection with a mix of melody that runs the gamut from "Nights in White Satin (Notte Di Luce)" to "La Vida Sin Amor."

Emmylou Harris teams up with Carl Jackson and others for a collection titled "I've Always Needed You."

David Cassidy and The Partridge Family plasters your Memory Lane with "Could It Be Forever: The Greatest Hits." Here are 25 tracks that include not only the Family's hits but some of Cassidy's work as a solo artist.

"Beats and Places" is the new release from Public Enemy, with the usual prominent sticker that warns of explicit lyrics. Not likely to drive away longtime fans of these rappers.

On "Project Runway: The Original Soundtrack," you don't get Tim Gunn or Heidi Klum, but you do get the music by Harold Barefoot Sanders III that goes with the show.

BOOKS

"Next" is the title of the new book by Michael Crichton, the author who brought the world "Jurassic Park." It's another thriller involving DNA but this time it's about where we're headed instead of where we have been.

For the second time, Clive Cussler teams up with his son, Dirk Cussler, to tell a story, this one titled "Treasure of Khan." This time, the character Dirk Pitt is involved in a deadly struggle for the mysterious treasure of Xanadu.

Dean Koontz gives us "Brother Odd," his third Odd Thomas novel. Thomas is odd because he is one of those who can truly say, "I see dead people," a talent which he uses for good and not evil. In the latest story, he must try to decipher the supernatural signs that are pointing to some kind of disaster, probably involving the monastery in Sierra Nevada mountains where Odd Thomas has been residing.

Finally, it has been a decade since the world has seen a new novel from Joseph Wambaugh, and early reviews of "Hollywood Station" indicate that the author does not disappoint. As Publishers Weekly puts it, "The master proves that he can still deliver." He returns to one of his best subjects, the LAPD, and as Booklist describes it: "The plot careens between cops and criminals, as seemingly random acts of desperation by a group of meth burnouts tie into a Russian criminal mastermind's scheme."

THEATER

Busy week on Broadway.

"Voyages," the first play in the massive trilogy called "The Coast of Utopia" by Tom Stoppard, opens Monday, Nov. 27, at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, with a cast including Billy Crudup, Ethan Hawke and Amy Irving.

2"Company" is a revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical that, in the early '70s, gave modern marriage a run for its money and also gave Elaine Stritch her signature number ("The Ladies Who Lunch"). In this production, Raul Esparza plays the central role of Bobby the bachelor. It opens at the Barrymore Theatre on Wednesday, Nov. 29.

Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy star in "The Vertical Hour," a new play by David Hare directed by Sam Mendes. Poor Bill Nighy did such a great job as Davey Jones in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," and how many Broadway reviewers will make reference to the tentacles that he wore on his face in the name of art? Anyway, the play opens Thursday, Nov. 30, at the Music Box Theatre.

DVDs

If you're a fan of Superman, this is a great week for you. Not only is the most recent theatrical release ("Superman Returns" starring Brandon Routh) out on DVD, but there are also special collections spotlighting Christopher Reeve as the superhero, special "cuts" from director Richard Donner, the old TV series starring George Reeves, the theatrical serial from 1948 and 1950, and even the 1984 "Supergirl" starring Helen Slater and the villainous Faye Dunaway.


Click here to see the "Superman Returns" premiere

Here are a few other titles that will be released Tuesday, Nov. 28:

"A Star Is Born" (1976) is the remake starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. La Streisand herself provides commentary as one of the DVD's extra features, which also include a look at the wardrobe tests for the film.

"St. Elsewhere: Season 1" (1982) is a boon to many TV fans who faithfully recall this series that traced the private and professional lives of the medical staff who worked at St. Elgius Hospital. Not only is the writing top-notch, but you get to see the early work of such actors as Mark Harmon, Howie Mandel and Denzel Washington.

"Peter Cincotti: Live in New York" brings us the singer and pianist who has drawn an audience who swears he's the new Sinatra. While there have been plenty of performers who have aspired to that title, few can lay claim to it with as much reason.