In the Loop

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Saving Face

Unsure what to buy that special tween in your life? We're sold on the CSI
Forensic Facial Reconstruction Kit, manufactured by Planet Toys through a licensing deal with CBS.

The kit's centerpiece is a skull on a stand. By following instructions, kids re-create the facial structure of an unidentifiable "victim," using molding clay, pins and other instruments. (Those youngsters in need of a visual aid can watch the Oct. 13 episode CSI: N.Y., which involves facial reconstruction.)

"Obviously, it's an adult show, but we're looking for the younger scientists—the aspiring crime-scene investigators," says Planet Toys Director of Marketing John Tullock. While the manufacturer thinks the kit is appropriate for ages 8 and up, it's sophisticated enough for high school students.

Other CSI
toy kits will appear on shelves later this month. A forensic kit includes experiments in fingerprinting, casting tire tracks, and synthetic blood analysis. Another kit simulates DNA-analysis experiments, employing a remarkably realistic centrifuge. All will be sold exclusively at Toys "R" Us.

"It is difficult and results will vary," says Tullock, who consulted extensively with scientists and biological companies while testing. He says the DNA and forensic kits are so realistic, they require adult supervision. Think of it as an opportunity for quality time with the kids.

Special Delivery: South Park

The folks at Comedy Central are eagerly awaiting Oct. 27. That's when they get new episodes of South Park, the network's long-running hit. Let's just hope show creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker will deliver.

The boys have been consumed by their new puppet terrorism movie, Team America: World Police, dubbing new dialogue as recently as last Thursday. And they'll be doing press for the movie until its Oct. 15 premiere.

It's not like they have extra South Parks
in the can. Unlike most series, the cartoon rarely produces much ahead of its air date. Stone and Parker are famous for writing scripts just a week ahead and reworking up to the last minute. An episode slated to air at 10 p.m. ET Wednesday often ships by around 5:30 p.m. that day. "I wouldn't say we're nervous," says one network executive, "but it's a question mark." Obviously, an understatement.

And Comedy Central has a fair amount riding on the new installment. The new South Park
episode leads into the debut of a new series, Drawn Together, an animated reality show that's Real World
-meets-Cartoon Network.

Matthews on Tanner

MSNBC host Chris Matthews is one of many news cameos in the new Sundance Channel series Tanner on Tanner, a sequel to the political satire Tanner '88. The fake documentaries were written by Doonesbury
cartoonist Garry Trudeau and directed by Robert Altman. Sex and the City
star Cynthia Nixon returns as Alex, daughter of unsuccessful political candidate Jack Tanner (Michael Murphy). Alex is documenting her father's trip to this year's Democratic National Convention, where they encounter dozens of real-life politicos.

In the third installment, which debuts Oct. 19, the Hardball
host barges in on Jack Tanner as he interviews former presidential candidate Howard Dean. "This is more important," Matthews shouts across a fence at Alex, explaining that he needs Dean for a pretaping. "This is MSNBC!"

When Alex protests, Matthews appeals directly to Dean, yelling, "We gave you all that free airtime! Come on, you owe us!" Dean relents, and the Tanners' exclusive interview is cut short.

Matthews tells B&C
his act was purely improvisational. "I can assure you it was spontaneous. It wasn't strategic," he says, adding that the former Vermont governor plays his own version of hardball. "Dean was always a pretty hard get for us." Matthews' take on Tanner? "I looked like a crazy guy, didn't I?" he says. "The people in the crowd thought it was for real."

Watch out, Chris. You know what happened to Howard Dean when he started screaming.

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