- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Slow ‘Starter’

USA Network’s “The Starter Wife,” premiering at 9 tonight, has to be one of the most highly promoted miniseries ever.

Besides airing the usual barrage of television ads, the cable channel has been blanketing the streets with news of the series literally. Streets in New York, for instance, not only were littered with the remains of “Starter Wife” postcards, but also had what can only be described as huge “Starter Wife” stickers stuck on the pavement.

Whether the show lives up to the hype remains to be seen. Tonight’s two-hour installment is uneven, sometimes feeling like a good episode of “Sex and the City” but more often feeling as if it’s trying very, very hard to be a good episode of that storied HBO hit.

“The Starter Wife” is based on the New York Times best-seller of the same name by Gigi Levangie Grazer. It’s about a subject the author knows all too well. She’s married to “A Beautiful Mind” producer Brian Grazer.

The series has a familiar face in Debra Messing (“Will & Grace”), who stars as Molly Kagan, a Hollywood wife who appears to be happily married to a studio head. So when her husband of 10 years, Kenny (Peter Jacobson), tells her over the phone that he wants a divorce, the news seemingly comes from nowhere. Even less believable is her reaction: “Oh my God. I’m a starter wife,” she says within seconds of receiving the dreaded news.

Rejection from her husband also means rejection from the tight Hollywood community. She can’t get a table at a hot restaurant, and her spa membership is revoked. Yet, it’s hard to feel sorry for a single mother who can afford to live in a nice house and take fabulous vacations.

“Sex and the City” was a phenomenon because just about every woman could relate to one of its four characters, but few of us can identify with a woman who moves to Malibu to get away from it all. (And must every fictional woman in the post-“Sex” era have a homosexual friend?)

“The Starter Wife” at times feels merely like a dumped wife’s fantasy. Still, the sometimes sharp dialogue and winning performance from Miss Messing keep the series from going overboard into cliche. The series also is helped by the always sublime Judy Davis (an Emmy winner for her stunning portrayal of Judy Garland in 1998’s “Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows”) who plays a friend in rehab.

A hunky young love interest also is introduced within the show’s first half hour, but more intriguing is a possible relationship with another studio exec this time with a heart as played by Joe Mantegna.

CC considers Sandler

Comedy Central reportedly is considering re-imagining Adam Sandler’s “Gay Robot” pilot as a potential animated series, says Zap2it.com, citing a story in the Hollywood Reporter.

According to published reports, Comedy Central had considered redeveloping the property after clips of “Gay Robot” acquired a cult following on MySpace and YouTube.

Sony Pictures Television, along with Mr. Sandler and Jack Giarraputo’s Happy Madison Productions, did “Gay Robot,” based on Mr. Sandler’s skit, in live-action form, for Comedy Central back in 2005. The cable network opted not to pick up the pilot, which featured the voice of Nick Swardson, who also co-wrote the pilot with Tom Gianas and originated the character on Mr. Sander’s comedy album “Shhh Don’t Tell.”

“Gay Robot” tells the story of a robot who turns out to be homosexual after his designer accidentally spills a wine cooler on his circuits. In the pilot, the rainbow-festooned title character was prone to hanging out with a group of fraternity boys who tried to get him a date to the homecoming dance.

“Gay Robot” has 32,000-plus MySpace friends, and the clips on YouTube have tens of thousands of page views, Zap2it.com reports.

Baer to open casino

Max Baer Jr., who as Jethro in the 1960s sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies” lived off his uncle Jed’s oil riches, hopes to strike it rich in the gambling market.

Mr. Baer bought 2.5 acres last week for a planned casino near Minden, Nev., for $1.2 million.

“I’m putting my money where my mouth is and buying the property,” he tells Gardnerville’s Record-Courier.

The actor, 69, is the son of former heavyweight boxing champion Max Baer.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance and Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, wire and Web reports.

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