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Two Tales of a Pope

November 21, 2005 12:00 AM

With the passing of Pope John Paul II earlier this year, the broadcast networks wasted no time getting the late pontiff's life story ready for TV. ABC and CBS each have biopics profiling the life of the late pope, born Karol Wojtyla, a former actor who entered the seminary during the Nazi occupation of Poland and rose in the church during Communist rule. But with such a sweeping life to depict, how do you tell the story? ABC's two-hour movie starts with John Paul II's (Thomas Kretschmann) historic visit to Jerusalem in 2000 and uses extensive flashbacks as the pope prays. CBS's more ambitious four-hour miniseries (Cary Elwes and Jon Voight share the role) begins with the 1981 assassination attempt in Rome before moving to flashbacks and saves the Jerusalem visit for much later. ABC airs its

version Dec. 1, while CBS will run its miniseries Dec. 4 and 7. -Christopher Lisotta

NBC News in the Swim

NBC, like other broadcast networks, has seen the future and believes it clearly involves the Web. "NBC Nightly News" was the first show in the NBC News family to jump into the Internet stream when on Nov. 7 it took up a daily berth at 10 p.m. (ET) on MSNBC .com. The next two NBC News shows to be webcast for free will be "Meet the Press With Tim Russert," the king of the Sunday newsmaker shows, and "Today," the most-watched network morning show, said NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker in an address to Medill School of Journalism students at Northwestern University last week. Expected to go first-most likely within a few weeks, according to an NBC News insider-is "Meet the Press," because it will be the easiest to post on the Web. Streaming "Today" will be more complicated, owing to such challenges as rights issues surrounding the frequent music segments. If, as Mr. Zucker posited, "Nightly's" ratings have increased due to the newscast's being made available on-demand, just imagine how "Today" must be anticipating every single additional Web viewer in its fight to expand its lead over ABC's "Good Morning America." -Michele Greppi

A Creative Voice Silenced

Nickelodeon prides itself on being a friendly environment for creative talent, but it does have its limits. Carlos Ramos, creator of the network's new animated series "The X's," about a family of super-spies, told Nickelodeon he wanted to perform the voice of Glowface, the villain. The network denied the request, saying he had to audition like everybody else-even for his own show. The role eventually went to Chris Hardwick, who Mr. Ramos agrees nailed the part. -James Hibberd