‘Heroes’ in Passing

May 16, 2005  •  Post A Comment

There are the first anniversaries that mark a year in the life of something or someone, and there is the first anniversary of the “CBS Evening News” feature “Fallen Heroes.” During its first year of acknowledging U.S. military casualties of the war in Iraq, CBS News has packed so much more than obituaries into 260 20-second capsules.

“They tell you as much about the family as about the person-how willing some of them are to make this sacrifice for their country,” said Jerry Cipriano, the “Evening News” news editor and head writer who supervises the small production team that has interviewed the families to turn out these mostly random moments of poignance for a year.

It is a challenge to “get the essence of this person into that short a time,” said Mr. Cipriano, who can quickly list several stories that had particularly memorable layers and ironies. But one warranted a follow-up. In the segment on Chief Warrant Officer 2 Lawrence Shane Colton, who was killed in April 2004 when his Army unit’s helicopter was shot down near Baghdad, was a mention of the 1968 Camaro he and his 11-year-old son Lance were restoring together.

Young Lance had vowed to finish the job on his own, but he didn’t have to because so many people offered money, materials, manpower and moral support.

Mr. Cipriano concedes that working on “Heroes” can be unbearably sad at times, but he also said that in a business that can sometimes cause one to wonder “if you’re doing any good,” he finds this assignment “just so satisfying.”

Joy in ‘Falls’

After the networks wrap their 2004-05 season and May sweeps, HBO serves up 5%BD; hours of must-see TV. The two-part “Empire Falls,” adapted by Richard Russo from his own Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, debuts at 9 p.m. Saturday, May 28, and Sunday, May 29.

The cast is almost as large as the population of the small Maine town in which the story is set, but there is not one ensemble member who does not get the opportunity to score a home run, from Joanne Woodward as the manipulative town matriarch to Danielle Panabaker as the daughter of one of her longest-running pawns (Ed Harris) to Philip Seymour Hoffman as a man of many heartbreaks and Aidan Quinn as, well, The Insider will say no more.

But Paul Newman and Estelle Parsons seemed to take such joy in every movement in character that watching them play, respectively, the town coot and a mother-in-law who’s got her daughter’s number and her son-in-law’s back is a real kick for the audience.

And it only adds to the viewer’s enjoyment to know that Mr. Newman read and so loved “Empire Falls” that he touted it to HBO. He more than earned the executive producer credit he shares with Scott Steindorf, director Fred Schepisi and Marc Platt.

The Insider’s sense of humor is on vacation. It is expected-though not promised-to return next week.