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‘Arli$$' Opens Door to Gay Athlete

TIMES STAFF WRITER

His ambition soars higher than a Sammy Sosa homer, and his ego is bigger than Shaq’s basketball shoes. But sports agent Arliss Michaels is a dependable advisor and friend to the athletes he represents.

Arliss shows what he’s made of on Sunday’s episode of “Arli$$" (9:30 p.m., HBO), when a major-league pitcher client confides that he’s gay and wants to live openly.

The episode was completed before a comment by New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine and an item in a New York Post gossip column spurred speculation in late May that a ballplayer was about to go public regarding his sexuality. The repercussions of such an event are thoughtfully addressed here by writer Chrisanne Eastwood, director Jonathan Fink and series creator Robert Wuhl.

As so often happens, Arliss (Wuhl) doesn’t at first notice what’s going on because he’s let his head get so big that his eyes have swollen shut. Dreaming of gold-record glory, he envisions a “We Are the World"-type project to raise money for high school athletic programs. Meanwhile, the pitcher (played by former “Melrose Place” hunk Grant Show) meets and falls for an openly gay rock star (Robin Atkin Downes), whom Arliss pursues for the recording.

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Guest appearances are a regular feature of “Arli$$,” and the lineup for this episode is particularly inspired. Arliss turns for advice to former Dodgers and Padres player Billy Bean, who came out after he left the majors. His comments, said to be his personal views, infuse life experience into this culturally complex issue.

On a lighter note, musician Bruce Hornsby and Olympic figure skater Tara Lipinski are among those who show up for the recording session.


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