- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2006

It’s all about Fantasia

“American Idol” winner Fantasia Barrino will play herself in a Lifetime movie that will show how the teenage single mother overcame poverty, sexual abuse and illiteracy to win the hit talent show.

The movie, tentatively titled “Life Is Not a Fairy Tale: The Fantasia Barrino Story,” will premiere in August on the women’s cable channel. Choreographer-actress-director Debbie Allen will direct from an adaptation of Miss Barrino’s autobiography, “Life Is Not a Fairy Tale,” notes the Hollywood Reporter.

Tony-winner Viola Davis — whose feature film credits include “Traffic” and “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” — and Kadeem Hardison (Dwayne Wayne on NBC’s “A Different World”) will portray the singer’s parents, Diane and JoJo Barrino. Actress Loretta Devine, most recently seen in “Crash,” has been cast as her grandmother Addie, and newcomer Jamia Simone Nash will play the young Fantasia.

Back in the game

Former daytime talk-show host Ricki Lake is coming back to TV — as a prime-time host.

According to the New York Daily News, Miss Lake will host CBS’ summer “Gameshow Marathon,” a series based on a British hit, in which classic game shows are re-created with celebrity players. “Marathon,” which premieres May 31 at 8 p.m., will feature former “Saturday Night Live” regular Tim Meadows, actor Leslie Nielsen, actresses Kathy Najimy and Brande Roderick, ‘N Sync member Lance Bass and former “Trading Spaces” host Paige Davis playing such games as “Let’s Make a Deal” and “Press Your Luck.” Each episode will have the stars playing one of the games, with one of the celebs getting the boot in every show.

Also coming this summer from CBS:

• “Tuesday Night Book Club” (debuting June 13 at 10 p.m.), an hourlong show built around real women in a middle-class suburb as they get together weekly and deal with their day-to-day lives.

• The second edition of the network’s “Rock Star,” this time dubbed “Rock Star: Supernova.” The program, debuting July 5 at 8 p.m., will follow Tommy Lee and others as they seek a lead singer for a new band.

• “Big Brother 7: All Stars,” will get under way July 6 at 8 p.m. This time out, fans will be able to vote on who, from a group of former “Big Brother” players, gets into the game.

Whisperer’s‘ dog days

A television producer has sued dog trainer Cesar Millan, star of TV’s “Dog Whisperer,” claiming his Labrador retriever was injured at Mr. Millan’s training facility after being choked with a collar and forced to run on a treadmill.

In the lawsuit, filed Thursday, in Superior Court, “8 Simple Rules” producer Flody Suarez says he took 5-year-old Gator to the Dog Psychology Center on Feb. 27 to deal with fears of other dogs and strangers, Associated Press reports.

Hours after dropping off the dog, Mr. Suarez says, a worker called to tell him the animal had been rushed to a veterinarian. Mr. Suarez later found the dog “bleeding from his mouth and nose, in an oxygen tent gasping for breath and with severe bruising to his back inner thighs,” according to the complaint.

Workers at the facility are accused in the suit of placing a choke collar on the dog, pulling him onto a treadmill and forcing him to overwork. Mr. Suarez says he has spent at least $25,000 on medical bills, and the dog must undergo more surgeries for damage to his esophagus.

The lawsuit claims breach of contract, fraud, animal cruelty and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other allegations. It seeks more than $25,000 in damages. A call by AP to Mr. Millan at the Dog Psychology Center was not returned immediately. The facility is also named as a defendant.

The lawsuit was the second filed against Mr. Millan in one week.

On April 28, his former publicist, Makeda Smith, and her partner, Foster Corder, sued Mr. Millan and other defendants, including the National Geographic Channel, which airs Mr. Millan’s show. That suit claims breach of contract, copyright infringement and breach of a confidential relationship, claiming that Miss Smith originally conceived the name “Dog Whisperer” for Mr. Millan.

Though she and Mr. Corder — who, together, are seeking more than $5 million in damages — attempted to sell a pilot episode written by Mr. Corder, Mr. Millan “went on his own” and pitched the show to the National Geographic Channel and two production companies without the plaintiffs’ knowledge, the lawsuit claims.

A spokesman for the National Geographic Channel declined comment.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse and Christian Toto from Web and wire reports.

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