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Tuning In

- The Washington Times - Friday, May 2, 2008

New 'Hills' adds 3 more

The CW had to go to Canada to find its

" Beverly Hills, 90210" spinoff equivalent of Brenda Walsh.

Canadian-born Shenae Grimes has landed the female lead role in the much-anticipated teen drama, says Zap2it.com, citing a story in the Hollywood Reporter. The announcement puts to rest speculation that Hilary Duff would land the role.

Miss Grimes, 18, will play West Beverly Hills High School student Annie Mills, the daughter of Celia Mills (Lori Loughlin). Annie is seen to be similar to Brenda Walsh, a role in the original "90210" played by Shannen Doherty, because both characters move to Beverly Hills during high school.

Meanwhile, two more famous faces are moving into the new "90210," THR says.

Ryan Eggold and Jessica Walter also have joined the cast.

Miss Walter— an Emmy nominee for her role on "Arrested Development" — will play Tabitha Mills, the former Hollywood star grandmother whose alcohol problem triggers the move her son and his family make from Kansas to Beverly Hills.

Mr. Eggold will play Ryan Matthews, a cool English literature teacher at West Beverly High whose unorthodox teaching style puts him at odds with his fellow faculty members and sometimes too close to his students.

On TV, rich in vogue

The economy may be tanking, but on TV, rich is in — at least in terms of next season's network shows in development.

According to MediaWeek.com, ABC has ordered a pilot presentation for the comedy "Roman's Empire," the story of a guy who can't get away from his ex's wealthy family. On CBS, the comedy pilot "Single White Millionaire" stars Fred Savage ("The Wonder Years") as a rich guy looking to settle down. The CW ordered pilots for its aforementioned "Beverly Hills, 90210" spinoff and for "How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls" — a drama about the tutor of two high-society teens.

Fox, meanwhile, has ordered the "Upstairs/Downstairs"-style comedy pilot "The Inn," while NBC already has ordered the series "The Philanthropist," a drama about a rebel billionaire.

Dating as far back as the Great Depression, on-screen affluence has offered audiences a compelling form of escapism. "I think there is an element of fantasy fulfillment," says Thom Sherman, the CW's executive vice president for drama development.

However, as with any other genre, setting shows among the wealthy does not guarantee ratings. Bravo's "Real Housewives of New York City" and "Millionaire Matchmaker" have performed modestly for the cable network, MediaWeek notes, with each show drawing about 1 million viewers. ABC's "Big Shots" fared poorly this season. The last of its 11 episodes aired Jan. 24, with the series averaging fewer than 8 million viewers.

Discovering the 'Wild'

The Silver Spring-based Discovery Channel rolls out new episodes of "Man vs. Wild" when the hit series premieres its fourth season at 9 tonight.

This time, English mountaineer and adventurer Bear Grylls ventures into the landlocked country of Zambia in southern Africa. Before heading into the bush, he'll show viewers how to survive some of the world's biggest rapids.

Also airing this weekend:

Today

The Oprah Winfrey Show (4 p.m. WJLA-ABC7) — Batten down the couches. Tom Cruise is making another visit to "The Oprah Winfrey Show" for a two-part interview. O-watchers surely will recall his 2005 appearance, when the actor jumped up and down on the talk-show queen's sofa in an exuberant expression of love for his then wife-to-be, actress Katie Holmes. This time, Mr. Cruise will be interviewed today by Miss Winfrey from his home in Telluride, Colo. He'll appear in her studio on Monday. Note to Oprah's couch: You've been warned.

Tomorrow

The Astronaut Farmer (8 p.m. HBO) — Billy Bob Thornton stars as the gutsy Texas rancher who constructs a rocket in his barn with plans for an orbit around the Earth. Virginia Madsen, Bruce Dern and Tim Blake Nelson co-star.

Sunday

Masterpiece Theater: Cranford (9 p.m., WETA-Channel 26 and WMPT-Channel 22) — Based on three serialized 19th-century Elizabeth Gaskell novels, "Cranford" chronicles the absurdities and tragedies in the lives of the people in the fictional town of Cranford (reportedly modeled after Knutsford in Cheshire, England) in 1840 — when the small market community is on the cusp of remarkable change. Michael Gambon, Judi Dench and Imelda Staunton are among the stars.

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