- - Sunday, April 22, 2012

For Cybill Shepherd, her role on “The Client List” is all about happy endings.

After a career as a teen model in the late 1960s, she made her transition to film as the muse to boyfriend-director Peter Bogdanovich in his critically beloved “The Last Picture Show” and then scored commercial and critical success again in director Elaine May’s “The Heartbreak Kid” and Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver.”

But two ambitious big-screen Bogdanovich disappointments (“Daisy Miller” and “At Long Last Love”) were, in part, the reason she retired in the late ‘70s.

Miss Shepherd returned with two successful TV series, the ‘80s detective comedy “Moonlighting” and the ‘90s sitcom “Cybill,” the memories of both tarnished by stories of behind-the-scenes strife after Miss Shepherd was snubbed by the Emmys while she watched co-stars Bruce Willis and Christine Baranski go home with the gold.

She addressed those issues in her 2000 autobiography, denying behind-the-scenes arguments but admitting, “The grain of truth is this: Who doesn’t want to win an Emmy?”

Since then, the 62-year-old Miss Shepherd has focused on family and work. Despite eternal leading-lady looks, she took on a blast of colorful supporting character-actor roles. Now she’s a regular in Lifetime’s “The Client List,” which last weekend saw its audience grow to 2.9 million viewers, making it the network’s second-highest-rated Sunday series, right behind its perennial hit “Army Wives.” In demographic-focused cable-network terms, it’s a breakthrough hit.

In the series, Miss Shepherd portrays the Bible-thumpin’, tough-Texas-talkin’ mama Linette with the tease-it-to-Jesus hairdo. Her only child, Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Riley, is forced to support her family working as a masseuse — and not the kind her mama thinks.

It takes some doing to get Miss Shepherd’s shoulder-length golden hair to that high state. “[Linette’s hair] has got a life of its own. You learn to do it. I can’t do it on myself like that,” she said. “But I’ve had hairdressers, and they just make my hair huge.”

And then there’s that accent. Memphis, Tenn., native Miss Shepherd naturally has a soft, sultry drawl but had to get the stronger Texas sound down for “Picture Show,” and it still proves no small feat.

For Miss Shepherd, the “Client List” role feels a bit like following in the shoes of her mentors. She was just 20 when she did “Picture Show” opposite veterans Eileen Brennan, Ellen Burstyn and Cloris Leachman (the latter winning an Oscar for her performance). “And they were all playing these wonderful older characters in their prime. And I feel like this is my chance to do that.”

Off-screen, the twice-divorced Miss Shepherd is very close to her three children, “but I don’t have kids at home anymore. I have a 15-year-old cat.” And there is a boyfriend. “Mum’s the word. We’ve managed to stay under the radar.”

But not as an actress: In addition to “Client List,” it’s likely she’ll return to “Psych,” on which she has made guest appearances, and she just signed to appear as a guest on “Hot in Cleveland.”

Lukewarm performance sends ‘Idol’ finalist packing

“American Idol” viewers apparently weren’t caught in a romance with Colton Dixon.

The 20-year-old alt-rocker was revealed Thursday to have received the fewest viewer votes on the Fox talent competition. According to the Associated Press, Mr. Dixon was eliminated from “Idol” after delivering lukewarm renditions of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and Earth Wind and Fire’s “September” on Wednesday’s evening of old and new tunes. It was his first time in the show’s bottom three.

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