- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2005

‘Fran’ drones on

Admit it, television hasn’t been the same without the nasal drone of “The Nanny’s” Fran Drescher.

The shapely comic actress with the Long Guyland accent is back on TV as part of The WB’s new “Living with Fran” sitcom.

Supposedly drawn from the actress’s real-life romances with younger men, “Fran” finds the Emmy winner shacking up with a man (Ryan McPartlin) roughly half her age.

The show’s coarse humor, involving foul wisecracks and a recurring irritable-bowel-syndrome gag line, make it unsuitable for family viewing. And its assembly-line humor and broad overacting will repel most everyone else.

Still, the premise remains novel — even if the jokes are sold just a touch too hard — and some women will welcome seeing an attractive mother figure dating a hottie, a direct reversal of the slob romances found on “The King of Queens” and “According to Jim.”

That isn’t enough to recommend this comeback vehicle, at least based on its first installment.

“Living with Fran” airs at 8:30 tonight on the WB.

Supervolcano study

Volcanos are frightening enough, but the term “supervolcano” should scare anyone who has ever stumbled near one.

The Discovery Channel gets to the core of major eruptors with “Supervolcano,” a special airing at 10 p.m. Sunday.

The show tells us that Old Faithful, which calls the Yellowstone National Park home, is considered a “supervolcano,” something 64 percent of adults didn’t know, the channel reports.

“Supervolcano” is a dramatic portrayal of what could happen should such a volcano erupt. These natural vents in the earth are deemed “super” if they can erupt with a magnitude of 8 on the Volcano Explosivity Index, a number that translates into the emission of more than 1,000 cubic kilometers of magma.

To gain a better idea of that kind of explosiveness: the special says the force of a single super-eruption at Yellowstone would be the equivalent of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs exploding every second.

BET gets original

BET is breaking precedent by creating a lineup of original shows for the first time in its 25-year history, Reuters News Agency reports.

The Viacom-owned network is preparing to introduce a new prime-time series each quarter, beginning this month. Upcoming projects include a hip-hop-flavored version of “The Apprentice” with mogul-in-the-making Damon Dash in the Donald Trump role.

Omarosa, call your agent.

Also under development is a companion for BET’s afternoon powerhouse “106 & Park” series and a weekday late-night talk show.

But the infusion of originals might create casualties as well, with BET considering canceling its 11 p.m. newscast, “BET Nightly News.” The network has been criticized in recent years for cutting back on its news content.

Overseeing the expansion is Stephen Hill, who has been promoted to executive vice president for entertainment and music programming, and Robyn Lattaker-Johnson, vice president for programming development since coming over from a similar post at the Sci-Fi Channel two months ago.

“We realized if we’re going to make our mark, it’s in original programming,” Mr. Hill told Reuters. “We know it’s ambitious, but it’s a long time coming.”

BET traditionally developed and produced internally what little series programming it carried, but the network now has set up a development unit that has been busy hearing pitches.

First up is the April 21 launch of “Blowin’ Up!: Fatty Koo,” a joint production with Sony Music that follows the grooming of a new band signed to the label.

Unscripted programming will remain the focus through the fourth quarter, when BET unveils “Ultimate Hustler,” which tests the business acumen of contestants guided by Mr. Dash, CEO of Rock-A-Fella Records and a film producer whose titles include “The Woodsman.”

Rather than slapping down would-be apprentices with Mr. Trump’s trademark “You’re fired,” Mr. Dash will snatch the Roc-A-Fella gold chain off the neck of losing contestants.

Whoopi’s back

Whoopi Goldberg revisits some of the characters who helped propel her Oscar-winning career in an HBO special to debut tonight.

“Whoopi: Back to Broadway, the 20th Anniversary” airs at 10 tonight and features material from the comic’s recent 12-week New York run.

The special includes Miss Goldberg’s valley-girl character, a new visit with her smart-mouthed panhandler and plenty of swipes at the current administration.

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