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Abducted kids show draws ire

Child-protection experts and media watchers are alarmed about an effort by a reality-TV producer to create a CBS show that attempts to find and recover abducted children with a team of former military and former law enforcement personnel.

Not yet placed on the CBS fall schedule, "Recovery" comes from Mark Burnett Productions, the company whose big hits are "Survivor" on CBS and "The Apprentice" with Donald Trump on NBC. The network distributed preliminary publicity material that describes the program's concept as taking "viewers along on an emotional and life-changing ride, from the abduction to the search in all its intensity to the reunion of child and parents."

Individuals and organizations that work on behalf of missing children, including the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, say the show's premise runs contrary to the commonly held principle of relying on legal authorities to handle recovery cases. They also were scathing in their criticism of using such cases for any entertainment purpose.

"The idea for Mark Burnett's new reality show of snatching children sickens me," said Lindsey Brooks, investigating manager for Child Quest International in Campbell, Calif. "These children he plans to recover have already been extremely emotionally damaged by being abducted. Now Burnett wants to exploit them by being on a TV show."

CBS declined through a publicist to provide more details, respond to critics, or discuss its timetable for making a decision about the show. Messages left on an answering machine at Burnett's company were not returned.

Rick Smith, a former longtime FBI agent, said he thought using a private team to recover children was "a terrible idea," but also he could see it working "if it was in conjunction with law enforcement and law enforcement had the lead role."

Marc Klaas, whose daughter Polly was kidnapped from her Petaluma, Calif., home and murdered in 1993, said he supports the idea of bringing more attention to missing children. But he added that CBS and Burnett appeared to be developing the show "under a veil of secrecy" instead of immediately bringing attention to the children involved.

"What that tells me is that they're more concerned with themselves than the missing children," Klaas said.

A story in the entertainment trade publication Variety, which included comments from Burnett, said the show has been under development for 18 months, but "kept under wraps so as to not endanger the secret rescue missions conducted for the pilot" episode.

Matthew Felling, media director at the Center for Media and Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., said "Recovery" raised "serious concerns," assuming it gets on the air, about provoking kidnappers who want to outsmart the show's operatives or giving them hints about avoiding capture.

If that results in even one child not being rescued, "the program is complicit in the kidnapping," Felling said.

Jones to head 'God' TV project

After more than two years in development, ABC and Harpo Films are moving forward with production on "Their Eyes Were Watching God," the latest installment in the network's "Oprah Winfrey Presents" telefilm series.

Quincy Jones has joined the project as an executive producer. Halle Berry stars. Michael Ealy, Tony winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and Emmy winner Ruby Dee are set to costar.

"God" was adapted from the 1937 novel by Zora Neale Hurston -- long considered a masterpiece of African-American literature -- by Suzan-Lori Parks, the first black woman playwright to win the Pulitzer Prize. Production on the movie has begun in Los Angeles for a premiere during the 2004-05 season.


Globe on NECN

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* 9:30a.m.: "Talk of New England"* 12:30 p.m.: "Globe at Home" -- Music writer Joan Anderman and Cambridge-based singer/songwriter Michael Tarbox.

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1 p.m. WGBH-FM (89.7) -- "Boston Symphony Orchestra Live." James Conlon conducts Zemlinksy's "The Mermaid" and Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto.

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