- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Najimy’s new gig

The Lifetime network is trying to balance its melodramatic lineup with a bit of comedy, courtesy of the co-star of the “Sister Act” movies.

Actress Kathy Najimy, who worked alongside Whoopi Goldberg (as Sister Mary Patrick) in 1992’s “Sister Act” and its sequel, “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit,” the following year, is in preliminary discussions with Lifetime to produce and star in her own prime-time series for the women’s cable network, according to Reuters News Agency.

Details of the project are unknown, but the actress is taking a look at the production in order to blend some comedic elements into the dramatic mix.

Lifetime already offers several original dramatic series, including “The Division” and “Strong Medicine.”

Miss Najimy, whose credits include the voice of Peggy Hill on Fox’s long-running “King of the Hill,” formerly co-starred in the NBC comedy “Veronica’s Closet” with Kirstie Alley.

Living ‘La Bamba’t

AMC’s new reality series let a romantic man “become” singer Ritchie Valens to impress his bride-to-be as part of “Into Character,” a half-hour show, that lets regular folk relive classic movie scenes.

Tonight’s “Into Character: La Bamba,” airing at 10 on the cable channel, follows Todd Smaretsky’s training to perform “La Bamba” for his fiance to better experience her Mexican heritage and appeal to her protective parents.

The problem is, Mr. Smaretsky doesn’t know how to sing, play guitar or speak Spanish.

Will the future groom learn enough to woo his love with the classic song?

Maybe… maybe not.

You can, however, compare notes with the 1987 biopic “La Bamba,” starring Lou Diamond Philips as the doomed Mr. Valens, at 7:45 p.m. and after “Into Character” at 10:30 p.m.

Experts wanted

Any network planning to air more than 1,000 hours of Olympic coverage is going to need plenty of experts to break it all down.

Hence, NBC’s plan to spread 1,210 hours of the Games over six networks means it needs to find commentators from some unlikely sources.

Pat Croce, the former president of the Philadelphia 76ers and current basketball studio analyst for NBC, got the call because he’s a black belt in tae kwon do.

Bill Clement, one of the best-known hockey announcers, was tapped by NBC because he was a badminton champ while growing up in Canada.

Other expert hires, though, came about accidentally.

Champion triathlete Siri Lindley was being interviewed by NBC Olympics honcho David Neal for an announcing job recently when she casually mentioned coaching field hockey at Princeton University a decade ago.

Her cell phone rang before she even reached her hotel after the interview. Miss Lindley didn’t have just one new job. She had two — as NBC’s Olympics commentator for both the triathlon and field hockey.

In all, NBC will have 99 on-air announcers at the Summer Olympics in Athens, compared to 67 in Sydney in 2000. Many are familiar: Rowdy Gaines for swimming, Dwight Stones for track and field, Doug Collins for basketball.

Still, 51 of the announcers will be working the Summer Olympics for the first time. With NBC committing many more hours to Olympic coverage than in the past five Summer Games combined, they’ll have plenty of on-the-job training.

Mr. Croce, a part-time motivational speaker, will have no trouble spreading his enthusiasm for his sport.

“I love the martial arts,” he told AP. “I’ve been doing it since I was 18 years old.I’m a fourth-degree black belt. I train hard. I would love to train with the athletes. When I was covering basketball, I couldn’t train with them.”

Second ‘Standing’

NBC is so confident about the second season of “Last Comic Standing” that it has decided to double up on the show’s exposure.

From June 30 through July 28, the original episodes of the stand-up comedians competition, which air Tuesdays at 9 p.m., will be rebroadcast the following night, at 8 p.m.

“Standing” stars comic Jay Mohr hosting a competition to find the best undiscovered talent in the country.

Meanwhile, episodes of Bravo’s makeover hit “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” previously scheduled to air on NBC in the 8 p.m. slot June 30, July 7 and July 14, will be rescheduled.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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