- The Washington Times - Monday, December 27, 2004

Alley’s calorie crunch

Who knew an actress could balloon up in weight and still get plenty of work?

“Cheers’” Kirstie Alley already parlayed her new, zaftig figure into a Showtime series called “Fat Actress.”

Now, Miss Alley will appear in ads for the Jenny Craig weight-management program, Associated Press reports.

Miss Alley, who has said she wants to lose the weight that prompted her new Showtime series, will star in Jenny Craig Inc.’s 2005 advertising campaign. The TV commercials will begin airing Jan. 10, the Carlsbad, Calif.-based company announced last week.

“I had a great time getting fat and now I’m going to have an even greater time losing weight,” the 53-year-old actress says.

Miss Alley’s goal is to lose more than 50 pounds. She lost more than 15 pounds on the program 14 years ago, the company said, and kept it off for more than 10 years.

The commercials will track the Emmy-winner’s progress, as will a weekly blog she’ll pen on the Jenny Craig Web site.

Her Showtime series premieres in March.

Johnson remembered

ESPN’s fledgling film division is gearing up for a film based on the life of the first black heavyweight boxing champion, but the network has some stiff competition.

The channel’s upcoming TV movie on Jack Johnson will be beaten to the punch by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns’ “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson,” the Reuters News Agency reports. The latter film can be seen next month on PBS stations nationwide. It debuts Jan. 17 and 18 on WETA-TV.

ESPN’s version, currently untitled, is expected to air sometime next year.

Mr. Johnson won the title in 1908, inflaming racial tensions in the United States throughout his seven-year title reign and the rest of his turbulent life. His championship victory sparked race riots, and he fled the United States in 1913 after being convicted of violating the Mann Act, which was designed to combat the transportation of prostitutes. In this case, Mr. Johnson was traveling with his future wife. He returned in 1920, after losing his title in Cuba, to serve out his yearlong prison sentence.

He died in a 1946 car crash, aged 68.

“Jack Johnson knocked loudly on the door of a deeply segregated society,” Mark Shapiro, executive vice president for programming and production at ESPN, told Reuters. “With defiance, he mounted a force of courage still felt a century later. His story belongs not only to boxing but to our national heritage.”

‘The Real’ Austin

MTV’s “Real World” is bringing its blend of drunken debauchery and cloying confessionals to Austin, Texas.

“We’ve been thinking about Austin for a long time,” Jon Murray, the show’s co-creator and executive producer, told Associated Press. “It’s a great college town. It’s a great music town. It’s just a really young place. People go to college there and just don’t want to leave.”

The show brings together seven strangers between the ages of 18 and 24 to live in a swanky loft or house and films them around the clock, at home and on the town.

The 16th season’s seven cast members will start getting real in the Lone Star state early next year. The 24 episodes will begin airing in June.

Mr. Murray said Austin has long topped his list of places to strand the strangers. Other contenders included Washington, Atlanta, Denver, “somewhere in Montana” and Sydney, Australia.

“Austin has a small-town feel, but it has a lot of things going for it in terms of diversity and entertainment that make it feel metropolitan,” he said.

Mr. Murray wouldn’t say where the house is in Austin or reveal the identities of the seven strangers, though he said his casting staff did “a bit of an outreach to people returning from Iraq.

“The idea of someone who was in Iraq, well, that would certainly meet that criteria. Ultimately, we choose from people who apply,” he said.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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