JUDY SLOANE REPORTS ON THE FALL TV SEASON 2001, FROM THE TELEVISION CRITICS ASSOCIATION PRESS TOUR

Report by Judy Sloane
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Every January and July television journalists from all over the States converge at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Pasadena, California, to attend days of press conferences where the networks and cable channels reveal their new programs. Here are a few of the best shows for this upcoming season:

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Othello (PBS):

The familiar story of William Shakespeare's Othello is played out in the unfamiliar setting of contemporary London in this updated version of the infamous play. Written by Andrew Davies (Bridget Jones' Diary), and based on Shakespeare's tragedy, the PBS movie stars Eamonn Walker as John Othello, who becomes the first black commissioner

of the Metropolitan Police, after he dramatically dispels a riot sparked by the death of a black man in police custody. Keeley Hawes portrays Dessie, the love of his life, and Christopher Eccleston plays John's best friend and fellow police officer, Ben Jago, who is consumed by jealousy and rage when he is bypassed for the top job at the Met.

Although he didn't have the chance to speak Shakespeare's eloquent dialogue, Eamonn Walker acknowledges that playing Othello was still a 'daunting' proposition.

"Acting is not easy at the best of times," he says, "and I wanted to do a proper job. My whole career as an actor, I've been told, 'I would love to see your Othello.' I knew that I wanted the Othello I did to be very, very different. When I read Andrew Davies' script, it was the opportunity (I was looking for). It's going to talk to many people on many levels. We get to understand betrayal and jealousy, and Andrew's injected into it the latent racism between the Metropolitan Police and British politics, which is there. He has very subtly taken that on board. I was very glad to be a part of it."

Eamonn Walker as Othello with Chris Ecclestone as Iago

For her role as Dessie, Keeley Hawes purposely chose not to peruse Shakespeare's play. "I thought long and hard when I was offered this show about the way I was going to go about it. I think Dessie was written by Andrew as a much stronger woman, with many more layers, and I wanted to approach it as my own character."

Keeley Hawes as Dessie with Othello
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Othello can be seen on Masterpiece Theatre this winter. Photos © BBCWW / PBS, 2001.
Text by Judy Sloane © Visual Imagination 2001. Not for reproduction.