- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 16, 2003

Tawkin’ Danza

Everybody else has a talk show — why not Tony Danza?

The television and Broadway star is in discussions to headline his own chatfest under a deal with Buena Vista Television, according to Reuters News Agency.

The Walt Disney Co.-owned Buena Vista will begin pitching the show to stations at the end of the November “sweeps” period, when some syndication time slots are expected to open up.

The new Danza project — still untitled — will be pitched for daytime and early fringe time periods.

Industry observers pointed to the fact that one syndicated program in danger of being dropped is BVT’s own “The Wayne Brady Show,” which is averaging a 1.0 rating this season to date. Several other high-profile shows under ratings scrutiny include NBC Enterprises’ “The John Walsh Show,” Twentieth Television’s “Good Day Live,” Universal’s “Crossing Over With John Edward” and King World’s “Living It Up! With Ali & Jack.”

Mr. Danza is best known for his television roles in such hit series as “Taxi” and “Who’s the Boss?”

The actor may have risen to fame playing average Joes, but his overlooked talents have been tapped in recent years. He’s found success on the stage with a performance-based show tour and roles on Broadway, including Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh” and Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge.”

Mr. Danza also received an Emmy nomination for his performance on ABC’s award-winning drama, “The Practice.”

More Maher

HBO is renewing free-swinging comic Bill Maher’s political talk show and upgrading it to prime-time status.

“Real Time with Bill Maher” begins its second season at 8 p.m. on Jan. 16, with a second showing that night at 11:30.

The 23-episode season will pause after 10 installments and resume in July, just before the Republican and Democratic conventions.

“Real Time” lets Mr. Maher blend an opening monologue with roundtable sparring featuring confrontational ideologues such as beefy left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore and sleek right-wing motormouth Ann Coulter.

Henson returns

Hollywood Reporter

John Henson will return to television as host and executive producer of his own prime time comedy vehicle on Spike TV.

The former host of E!’s “Talk Soup” will preside over “The John Henson Project,” a half hour devoted to guy-centric humor in the irreverent spirit of the male-targeted cable channel. “Project,” which Mr. Henson will produce with his manager, Rory Rosegarten, will premiere at 10 p.m. on Jan. 11.

The series marks Mr. Henson’s first steady TV gig since leaving “Soup” in 1999.

Since then, he’s been attached to starring roles in several pilots that never made it to air, including separate ABC vehicles as host of his own late-night talk show and prime time comedy series.

Amputee sues Dr. Phil

A former Milwaukee police officer trying to prove her innocence in a 20-year-old murder case is suing the “Dr. Phil” show, claiming false imprisonment before the taping of a show led to injuries and the amputation of her leg, the Associated Press reports.

The suit filed Nov. 10 in Superior Court claims Laurie Bembenek was hurt last year when she tried to escape from an apartment where she says she was taken and kept by producers.

During a panic attack, she tied bed sheets together as a rope but fell from the second floor after the sheets unraveled.

She suffered several severe fractures and the loss of her right leg, the suit said.

Miss Bembenek was set to appear on the syndicated “Dr. Phil” show to get the results of DNA testing on evidence in the murder case that was paid for by the show.

“By having more concern for television ratings and advertising dollars than for the safety and well-being of their guests, the ‘Dr. Phil’ show acted recklessly, carelessly and in a grossly unethical manner,” Miss Bembenek’s attorney, Stephen Bernard, said in a prepared statement.

A spokesman for Paramount Pictures, which produces the “Dr. Phil” show, had no comment for the AP.

The suit also claims negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

It seeks unspecified damages.

Miss Bembenek, 45, is a former police officer and one-time Playboy Club waitress who was convicted in 1982 of murdering Christine Schultz, her husband’s ex-wife.

Eight years later, she escaped to Canada and fought extradition before striking a deal with prosecutors that let her plead no contest to second-degree murder.

She was released because of time served but has continued to seek a further investigation and reviews of evidence that she contends could prove someone else killed Miss Schultz.

Maury’s legal woes

TV Guide Online

A 14-year-old girl is suing District native Maury Povich and his talk show for $25 million, claiming she was raped by a limo driver shortly after an appearance on Mr. Povich’s program in 2001.

The girl — who traveled to New York to tape an “Out of Control Teens” segment of “The Maury Povich Show” — was apparently still under the show’s travel arrangements when the alleged attack occurred.

Cheech joining ‘Amy’

Erstwhile stoner icon Cheech Marin is joining the cast of CBS’ “Judging Amy” as a landscape architect with designs on Tyne Daly’s character.

Mr. Marin, once part of the Cheech and Chong comedy duo known for marijuana gags, was to be seen this television season as part of Fox’s “The Ortegas.” That show got yanked from the schedule with no immediate plans for airing.

The actor’s recurring “Amy” role will begin Jan. 6.

His film credits include a string of “Cheech and Chong” films, plus “Tin Cup” and all three “Spy Kids” features.

“Judging Amy,” starring Amy Brenneman, airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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