Douglas’ touch to be in ‘Angel’

GOOD MORNING: Kirk Douglas is going back to work. Douglas, now basking in Oscar-nomination talk for his performance in “Diamonds” while receiving continued congrats on his Bar Mitzvah on his 83rd birthday, will next guest in a seg of “Touched by an Angel,” which lenses next month and is already being aimed for sweeps. The seg, written by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and Allen Estrin, is Bar Mitzvah-themed. This time it’s Kirk Douglas’ grandson who is an — unwilling — Bar Mitzvah candidate. His rebellious sentiments are echo’d by grandpa Kirk, while the boy’s dad (Kirk’s son) insists the services be held. Writer Telushkin had also assisted Kirk when he prepared for formal Bar Mitzvah training by Rabbi David Wolpe. Telushkin and Allen Estrin have also teamed on three episodes of “The Practice” … The “Touched By An Angel” seg is to be directed by Jeff Kanew who had directed Kirk (and Burt Lancaster) in 1986’s “Tough Guys,” and Douglas in “Eddie Macon’s Run” in 1983. Kanew also worked as “a friend” with Kirk as he readied to convert his “Diamonds” role from Alzheimer patient to a feisty, recovered stroke victim … This week, Douglas is in N.Y. receiving the many bouquets for that performance. He also caught “Waiting in the Wings” Tuesday to applaud his “Diamonds” costar and longtime friend Lauren Bacall onstage. He and wife Anne suppered Bacall at Orso’s … The applause goes on for Kirk Sunday, when he’s honored at the Palm Springs film fest.

THE COMPLIMENTARY CHORUS FOR “SOPRANOS” continued — East to West Coast — with Tuesday night’s DGA screening of episodes one and three of the new season. (No. 2 has too many secrets to divulge ahead of time!) While creator-producer David Chase and most of the cast remained in N.Y. and N.J. to wind the second season next week, the series’ exec producer Brad Grey, plus exec producers Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess and many of the L.A.-based series makers took bows. Chris Albrecht, HBO’s president of Original Programming proudly welcomed them all. I asked Albrecht his (HBO’s) feelings about the planned merger of AOL/Time Warner. He said he’s “thrilled” by the merger’s many potential prospects. In particular, HBO could get further distribution and marketing where countries control local cable companies. And, of course, HBO has the potential to produce more content (shows) for them. Albrecht is planning to expand HBO’s “content” — currently “Sopranos,” “Sex In The City” and “Oz.” And Grey’s banner continues to expand its “content” as well as it readies feature production with WB’s “City by the Sea” to be directed by Michael Caton Jones with, it is hoped, Robert De Niro starring … Among new “Sopranos” cast members on hand Tuesday was David Proval who plays Richie, one of the most menacing characters to come on screen in decades. He told me he originally read for the role of Tony Soprano — but agrees that Jim Gandolfini is perfection in the role “Even though I turned green with envy.” However, Chase, who had once cast Proval in “Rockford Files” segs, recalled him for this second season in this role — he had the preview audience eating out of his hand. Proof of Proval’s versatility — last week, he guested in a “West Wing” seg, playing — a rabbi. Keeping the mood of the series, which has many scenes sizzling with Italian cooking, Along Came Mary’s pasta-ful post preem party boasted Italian sausage, baked ziti, grilled steak Fiorentina, tiramisu, gelati, zabaglione, cannoli, biscotti, Pinot Grigio and Chianti. Mama mia! Oh yes, “Sopranos” bows Sunday, 9 p.m.

MEANWHILE, OVER AT THE TV ACADEMY, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Walt Disney TV screened and partied its “The Loretta Claiborne Story,” executive produced by Timothy Shriver, Susanne de Passe and Suzanne Coston. The Special Olympics-themed real life story brought out Eunice, Sargent, Maria and Bobby Shriver — all of whom have helped make the Special Olympics so special. In the pic, Arnold Schwarzenegger (Maria’s husband and a great supporter of Special Olympics), makes a real-life appearance from his youth. Also on hand, costars Kimberly Elise, Camryn Manheim and Tina Lifford. This (G?) family TV show also airs Sunday — 7-9 p.m. (ABC) in time for you to watch the (R?) “Sopranos” at 9 (HBO). Ah, that’s show biz.

DIANE WARREN GETS A BBC2 SPECIAL, an in-depth docu on the dozens of key artists — and movies — for whom she has written. The non-stop talented Warren (who also gets a special Daily Variety tribute Jan. 21), tells me she is now also writing a love song for the love story-themed “Pearl Harbor” for Jerry Bruckheimer as well as a song for his “Coyote Ugly.” And “Painted on My Heart” for the Nicolas Cage starrer, “Gone in 60 Seconds.” While Warren continues her non-stop song-creating sked, her main interest, however, is VH1’s “Save The Music” program to fund school music programs. She is understandably concerned about the slashing of music programs in early education programs. The multi-Grammy nominated Warren reminds, “Music education is proven to help make future life better.” … Ruth Friedman, widow of former MCAgent Harry Friedman and mother of Rogers & Cowan exec VP Sandy Friedman, died Tuesday. … Charles and Sandra Winkler welcomed daughter Maya Nelson Winkler Tuesday. The happy first-time grandparents are Margo and Irwin Winkler. New papa Charles directs many “Beggars and Choosers” segs and mama Sandra is a “Y&R” regular.

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