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'JAG' goes Hope for the holidays

The cast of "JAG" is gearing up for an episode that pays tribute to Bob Hope's USO missions

December 14, 1999
Web posted at: 4:44 p.m. EST (2144 GMT)

From Paul Vercammen
CNN Entertainment News Correspondent

VALENCIA, California (CNN) -- The CBS naval action-drama "JAG" is paying tribute to Bob Hope's goodwill USO missions to entertain United States troops stationed overseas.

Tuesday's episode is titled "Ghosts of Christmas Past" and airs at 8 p.m. ET/PT. It begins when Lt. Cmdr. Harmon "Harm" Rabb Jr. (David James Elliott) makes his annual visit to the Vietnam Memorial to pay respects to his father, shot down on Christmas Eve, 1969. At the memorial, Harm meets an attractive woman who says she knew his father.

As the story line goes, she used to be a singer in a traveling USO tour, and she met Harm Sr. shortly before his death. Elliott stars as Harm and his father in this episode, and many familiar faces turn up playing different roles. The show also incorporates footage from Hope's USO days to give the piece "a documentary feel," Elliot says.

"It just reminds me of being a kid and Christmastime -- you know, watching TV," says co-star Catherine Bell, who plays Lt. Col. Sarah "Mac" MacKenzie. She cast aside her regulation khakis for a sexy 1960s look, which stunned the cast and crew members.

Catherine Bell in her sexy 1960s look

"I'm walking around on set," she says, "and the guys are like, 'Hi. How are you doing? Oh! Catherine.' They felt really bad. They must have been thinking something they shouldn't have been."

Bell also took up smoking for the part -- almost. "I had to learn how to smoke for this," she says, sporting a fake cigarette. "I never held one before so I'm using the fake one. Its got cotton and powder you inhale it and powder comes out."

Instead of Lt. Harriet Boumont Sims Roberts, Karri Turner plays the wild-haired comic Phyllis Diller. "She (Diller) must have just taken her wigs and thrown them into a suitcase," Turner says, "and you know that's the life. That's the kind of comedian to be, vanity-free. Just kind of throw your hair on and call it a day."

Patrick Labyorteaux's character Lt. Bud Roberts, usually grounded by a stack of law books, flies a plane in this episode. "It's the weirdest thing to play a completely different character than what you usually play on the same show," he says.

Once canceled by NBC, "JAG" is in its fifth year on CBS, consistently scoring in prime time's Top 20 shows, without much hype and hoopla -- TV's ultimate last laugh.

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