Dick Van Dyke sleuthing again


Published: Sunday, January 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 31, 2005 at 10:24 p.m.

Veteran crimebuster Dick Van Dyke is back on the job.

''Murder 101,'' airing 9 p.m. Saturday on Hallmark Channel, returns the former ''Diagnosis Murder'' star to the ranks of detectives. In the new film, Van Dyke plays off his age (he turned 80 in December) as Dr. Jonathan Maxwell, a criminology professor whose memory may falter but who still gets the clues and the bad guys.

The movie joins Hallmark's ''Mystery Movies'' rotating franchise, which includes John Larroquette in ''McBride,'' Kellie Martin in ''Mystery Woman'' and Lea Thompson in ''Jane Doe.''

Maxwell's first case: A company executive dies in an explosion at his home and an investigative reporter (Tracey Needham, formerly of ''JAG'') is arrested in the crime. She was working at his firm, trying to uncover corporate wrongdoing, and may have been romantically linked to him.

But the sage Maxwell is suspicious - and the game's afoot, as he discovers no shortage of corporate intrigue and potential killers.

''Murder 101'' reunites Van Dyke with his ''Diagnosis Murder'' co-star and son, Barry Van Dyke, who plays a private eye. The film features Carmen Argenziano (''Stargate SG-1''), Tony Denison (''The Closer'') and Roxanne Hart (''Chicago Hope'').

Dean Hargrove, who worked on Van Dyke's CBS series, is the executive producer. In a tip of the hat to ''Diagnosis Murder'' (1993-2001), Hallmark will rerun the series daily at noon EST starting Tuesday. Want to make it a real Van Dyke festival, laughs included? Tune into TV Land for daily reruns of the classic '60s sitcom ''The Dick Van Dyke Show.''

Other shows to look out for:

  • Academy Award-winning actress Diane Keaton stars in the CBS movie ''Surrender Dorothy'' as a mother who, grieving over the death of her only child in an accident, seeks comfort in piecing together her recent life.

    Natalie (Keaton) moves into the summer house that her daughter, Sara (Alexa Davalos), shared with roommates, including a playwright (Tom Everett Scott) who thought of Sara as his muse. Together, the bereaved parent and Sara's friends deal with secrets brought to light and come to understand what Sara meant to them.

    The drama, airing at 9 tonight, is based on Meg Wolitzer's book, with the script by Matthew McDuffie.

  • A new cable channel makes its bow on New Year's Day, and it doesn't take a detective to figure out its intent: Sleuth, from NBC Universal Cable and drawing on its stock of programs, is on the trail of crime, mystery and suspense series.

    Beginning at 6 a.m. today, the channel will air pilot episodes including ''The A-Team,'' ''Knight Rider,'' ''Simon & Simon,'' ''Miami Vice,'' ''Columbo,'' ''The Rockford Files'' and ''Magnum, P.I.'' Only a select group of viewers can bask in the nostalgia for now: upon its launch, the channel will reach some 5 million homes via Time Warner Cable, the first to carry Sleuth.

    Attention all children and fans of visual creativity - check out PBS KIDS' ''It's a Big Big World,'' debuting Monday. Using a style called ''Shadowmation,'' the series combines puppetry, animatronics and computer-generated imagery to teach young viewers about science and geography.

    At its center is the World Tree, set in a rainforest and home to a variety of animals and habitats to be explored with the help of Snook, the giant sloth. His buddies include marmoset siblings Smooch and Winslow, tree frog Wartz and wise turtle Madge.

    The goal, said series creator Mitchell Kriegman, is to ''present science not just as a bunch of facts, but as a process of discovery.'' And ''It's a Big Big World'' looks darn cool, too.

    ''The Mummy Who Would be King,'' airing 8 p.m. Tuesday on PBS' ''NOVA Presents,'' examines the fascination with Egyptian mummies in general and one preserved corpse in particular, which languished in obscurity in a Niagara Falls museum. Could these be the remains of a long-lost royal?

    To investigate the possibility, archaeologists, scientists and an orthodontist use genetic testing and other techniques to try to determine the body's identity.

    In the 1960s, the mummy was studied and declared a fraud. But with new methods of inquiry, and with the final call going to Egypt's director of antiquities, the answer could be different this time.

    ---

    EDITOR'S NOTE - Lynn Elber can be reached at lelber@ap.org

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