Feature: Jim Belushi heats up the grill

PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter

LOS ANGELES, May 6 (UPI) -- Jim Belushi is riding high, with a hit TV show, a new music CD with pal Dan Aykroyd and plans for a summer of more or less nonstop barbecue.

Belushi's ABC comedy "According to Jim" is a solid ratings performer heading into the closing weeks of its second prime time season. The show will air its season finale on May 20, the same day that Belushi and Aykroyd release "Have Love Will Travel" -- a collection of R&B tunes including "300 Pounds Of Joy," "Cadillac Man," "Time Won't Let Me," "Driving Wheel" and "Polk Salad Annie."


Belushi and Aykroyd have several tour dates set up -- including a May 17 appearance on "Saturday Night Live," a May 24 gig at the Aladdin in Las Vegas and a June 12 appearance at the Ottawa Cisco Systems Bluesfest.

Along the way, Belushi makes time to indulge one of his passions -- barbecue -- as a celebrity judge for A&W Root Beer's national outdoor cooking contest. Belushi will help select the best all-American cookout, choosing from among five finalist cookouts across the country.


All in all, Belushi seems to be having a pretty good time.

At 48, he has outlived his brother John by 15 years. But in an interview with United Press International, Belushi said he still feels younger than his brother, who died of a drug overdose at 33 in 1982.

"I still feel younger than John," he said. "John was 5-and-a-half-years older than me. When he was a senior in high school I was in eighth grade."

Belushi has appeared in more than 40 feature films -- including "About Last Night," "K-9," "Mr. Destiny," and "Red Heat." Like his older brother, he was a cast member of "Saturday Night Live."

Now he has a solid TV comedy hit.

"According to Jim" features Belushi in a familiar comedy setting -- as a husband-father whose world-view is slightly out of sync with the world he actually lives in. Courtney Thorne-Smith ("Ally McBeal") plays his wife Cheryl.

The show currently airs back-to-back episodes at 8:30 and 9:00 p.m. on Tuesdays, averaging 10.6 million viewers at 8:30. That's good for a second-place finish behind Fox's "American Idol" among adults 18-49.

According to ABC, the first time the show ran in the 9:00 p.m. slot on April 1, it easily beat NBC's "Frasier" among adults 18-49 -- becoming the first TV comedy to beat an original episode of "Frasier" in more than five years.


In the one-hour season finale, Cheryl surprises Jim on a family trip to Las Vegas by arranging a reunion with his estranged sister -- played by Jennifer Coolidge ("Legally Blonde," "American Pie"). The episode also features Vegas entertainer Wayne Newton as himself.

Belushi generously gives credit to his co-star for the show's success.

"She's just so damn good looking, and the chemistry we have is fun," Belushi told UPI. "We really made a conscious effort to stay away from the 'dumb husband and the bitchy wife.'"

Aykroyd has guest-starred on "According to Jim" twice, most recently on a one-hour special in January, when the storyline called for Belushi and Aykroyd to perform "Have Love Will Travel," the title song from their new CD.

Because both men play harmonica, the instrument is featured prominently throughout the CD. Aykroyd sings more on this project than he did on "The Blues Brothers" recordings with John Belushi.

"Danny does 'Time Won't Let Me' and 'Polk Salad Annie,'" said Belushi. "I said, 'John should have let you sing more -- you are really good.'"

Belushi frequently travels with the Sacred Hearts, the band he recorded the CD "36-22-36" with several years back.


"I do between 40 and 60 shows a year with them," he said. "About 10 of those shows Danny Aykroyd comes in with us. Now we're starting the 'Have Love Will Travel Review.'"

The band will appear at the House of Blues in Hollywood on Sept. 4, at a party for the winner of the A&W contest.

"I went along with it cause I'm a big barbecue freak," he said. "Even in freezing weather."

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