In the perverse fashion of TV, this slow week has two interesting debuts ... at exaclty the same time.
That's 10 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 28). One cable channel has the sometimes-compelling "Surviving Evil" (see previous blog); another has a sometimes-interesting portrait of actor Patrick Dempsey's journey into big-time car-racing. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
Patrick Dempsey is near the top of the
TV world, star of a show (“Grey's Anatomy”) that just won't quit.
So what does he do with his spare time?
The same thing Paul Newman, Steve
McQueen and James Garner did – become a big-time race driver.
“He's climbed the ladder from novice
to expert,” said Bob Scanlon, senior vice-president of the
Velocity cable channel. Now Velocity has “Patrick Dempsey: Racing
LeMans,” a four-week series.
But what about his day job? Shouldn't
“Grey's Anatomy” stardom be enough?
“My moods change dramatically in the
course of 12 months, … depending on where we are in the run of the
show,” Dempsey said. “But it's a different type of passion.”
For good or bad, it's easy to get used
to playing the same doctor for a decade. “When you're in a long
show,” Dempsey said, “there's less discovery …. It doesn't
change. In a race, it changes constantly – every lap, every corner,
every moment …. And that, to me, is very exciting and keeps me
This all began when his wife gave him a
present – a course at the Skip Barber racing school. “She opened
Pandora's box,” Dempsey said. “(Now) I think she realizes it's
important for me.”
The “Grey's” producers – who want
him to keep coming back as Dr. Derek Shepard – have cooperated.
Their insurance company, however, insisted he drive a closed-top car,
limiting his choices. Dempsey picked a Lola prototype … then, as
his team assembled it, learned the company was going out of business.
After much scrambling, he raced LeMans in a Porsche RSR.
He hired two other drivers – his
mentor and a young Lola expert – and some experienced mechanics.
Then came the constant crises … which a reality show needs
“Everywhere you look, there's a”
dramatic story, said producer John Watkins. “It's man against
machine and man against money and … time … and fame. And man
against family obligations.”
Dempsey's family – including a
daughter, 11, and 6-year-old twin boys – may be fine with this.
“The kids love it,” he said. “My
daughter wants to race and she's a good driver already …. She
picked it up on her own. She steals the golf cart and runs around the
– “Patrick Dempsey: Racing LeMans”
– 10 p.m. Wednesdays, Velocity;
starts Aug. 28, for a four-week run
– “Grey's Anatomy,” off the air
this summer, starts its 10th season Sept. 26