- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2003

The bland ‘Life’

Fox is presenting another video that should make Paris Hilton ashamed.

The leggy socialite is starring in the network’s new reality series “The Simple Life.” It debuts at 8:30 tonight, with another new episode following at the same time tomorrow.

Miss Hilton and real-life gal pal Nicole Richie (daughter of singer Lionel Richie) abandon their posh lifestyles to live on an Arkansas farm for a month. Cameras track their every move, from the local dairy farm to the home of the Ledings, the amiable clan that takes them in.

The alleged appeal of the show is twofold: mocking the simple life while simultaneously ribbing the rich girls. Fox’s show scores a bull’s-eye on both fronts. It just can’t be bothered to entertain us.

About the only reward in the first two segments is watching Miss Hilton admit she doesn’t know what Wal-Mart is. That’s a moment destined to hit the pop-culture echo chamber.

Fox clearly hopes for a hit in the grand tradition of E!’s “The Anna Nicole Show.” Instead, we feel little for the two spoiled princesses, whose barely audible complaints aren’t witchy or funny enough to spark our interest.

The canceling of Miss Hilton’s promotional tour to support the show won’t help. She is keeping a low profile following the release of a poorly lit home movie in which she has sex with ex-beau Richard Salomon.

Money can’t buy you love, nor can it rent some much-needed anonymity.

Tracy’s travails

“Saturday Night Live’s” Tracy Morgan has arrived. The likable comic has a mediocre sitcom to call his own.

“The Tracy Morgan Show,” debuting at 8 tonight on NBC, finds Mr. Morgan heading up a typical blue-collar brood.

As midseason fare goes, “Morgan” could be worse. Just don’t expect much in the way of originality or laughs.

Mr. Morgan evolved from an unnecessary bit player to a welcome performer on “SNL,” so it’s not so far-fetched to see him earn this promotion.

Here he’s the addled dad of a typical nuclear family doing his best for the missis (Tamala Jones) and trying not to step on his adorable sons’ punch lines (Marc John Jefferies and Bobb’e J. Thompson).

The comedy comes to life on the job, where Mr. Morgan works as a mechanic. His workplace sidekicks, John Witherspoon and rapper Heavy D, give the show its only jolt. Their running gag about how unhip Christmas songs are provides the show’s sole saving grace.

The premiere episode finds the good-hearted Tracy mixing it up with a department store Santa. A second episode of “Morgan” airs at 8:30 p.m.

Corbett’s back

John Corbett is getting another big fat chance at television stardom.

The co-star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” will return to television following his buzz-worthy performances on FX’s “Lucky,” according to Reuters News Agency.

The actor, who got his break on “Northern Exposure” and earned good notices as Carrie’s ex-boyfriend on “Sex and the City,” has been tapped to star in ABC’s untitled drama pilot set in a luxury hotel in the Bahamas.

The show revolves around the interactions among guests and hotel staffers. Initially developed this past development season for fall 2003 consideration, it was pushed to midseason in March.

Mr. Corbett will play the hotel’s manager, while Michael Rispoli will play the chief of security. Jenny Wade (MTV’s “Undressed”) will play the assistant manager, and Sara Ramirez (HBO’s “Baseball Wives”) a housekeeper.

The handsome actor recently completed Garry Marshall’s comedy “Raising Helen,” in which he stars opposite Kate Hudson and Joan Cusack, and Joel Zwick’s “Elvis Has Left the Building,” which he top-lines with Kim Basinger.

A Peanuts Christmas

Charlie Brown and the gang are back with the venerable yuletide special “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

This time, ABC is surrounding the special with a series of never-before-seen vignettes tied to the season.

The hourlong special is based upon the beloved Peanuts characters, brought to life by Charles M. Schulz.

The digitally remastered “A Charlie Brown Christmas” finds Charlie bemoaning the commercialization of the holiday. Lucy suggests he try directing the school Christmas pageant to remind him of Christmas’ spiritual roots. Chaos ensues until Linus’ touching monologue on the real meaning of the special day.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” airs at 8 tonight on ABC.

Bravo antes up

Bravo is betting audiences are itching to watch their favorite celebrities wrassle with Lady Luck.

“Celebrity Poker Showdown,” hosted by Kevin Pollack (“A Few Good Men”), premieres at 9 tonight.

Ben Affleck, Don Cheadle, Carrie Fisher, Tom Green and Martin Sheen are among the celebrities pushing their luck on the new show.

The six-part, one-hour series was filmed before a live audience at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

Tonight’s episode pits five celebrities against each other for a chunk of the show’s $250,000 prize pool. The winner from each week’s game will go on to compete in the championship in the final episode.

The overall winner of no-limit Texas hold ‘em poker will give the winnings to the charity of his or her choice.

Hidden cameras will show the hands of each player. Eliminated players will be able to add their 2 cents courtesy of the “Losers Lounge.”

Tonight’s episode features Mr. Affleck, Mr. Cheadle, David Schwimmer (“Friends”), Emily Proctor (“The West Wing”) and Willie Garson (“Sex and the City”).

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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