- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2005

Familiar faces return

TV is getting into the recycling game this fall, bringing back a parade of familiar faces hoping to stave off early pink slips.

UPN has hired “One on One’s” Holly Robinson Peete to co-star opposite Shannen Doherty (“Charmed”) in its pilot “Wingwoman,” Reuters News Agency reports.

The actress, whom some will remember from Fox’s “21 Jump Street,” will play the boss of Miss Doherty’s character — a single woman who helps her male clients find their soul mates.

Meanwhile, at the WB, actor French Stewart, from NBC’s “3rd Rock From the Sun,” is joining the cast of the pilot “Best Laid Plans” with “Frasier” alum Jane Leeves.

Mr. Stewart will play the metrosexual friend and co-worker of Miss Leeves’ character, a woman dealing with the fallout after her daughter meets her anonymous-sperm-donor father.

Who knows? The new role might let Mr. Stewart actually open his eyes for a change — although his squinty turn as “3rd Rock’s” Harry Solomon helped make the show an NBC mainstay for five seasons.

Up in the air

The angst of the Bluth family multiplied in Sunday’s season finale of “Arrested Development.” But it’s nothing compared to what fans will suffer if Fox’s unconventional sitcom isn’t renewed for a third season.

Despite a best-comedy-series Emmy and lavish critical praise, the series about a wildly dysfunctional Southern California family has been unable to pull respectable ratings, Associated Press notes.

Viewership, in fact, has eroded a bit in the show’s second season. This year, “Arrested Development” has drawn an average 5.9 million viewers weekly, a dip from the 6.2 million it averaged for the 2003-04 season.

A Fox management change also could affect the sitcom, which was developed and given a second chance under Fox entertainment chief Gail Berman. But Miss Berman left Fox for a job at Paramount Studios, and it’s uncertain whether her replacement, Peter Liguori, will have the same affection for the show. Its fate will be revealed when Fox announces its 2005-06 lineup in May.

In Sunday’s finale, the Bluth family’s very foundation is rocked: The model house for their star-crossed real estate development is falling apart because of shoddy plumbing.

Meanwhile, brother Gob (Will Arnett) has proudly produced a CD of his ventriloquism act with a black dummy. Maybe “it will heal this country a little bit,” Mr. Arnett’s character says, although the CD’s racist lyrics send a black studio technician storming out.

“Arrested Development” stars Jason Bateman, who won a Golden Globe for his role as Michael, the Bluth family’s atypically normal son. Others in the powerhouse ensemble cast are Jeffrey Tambor, Portia de Rossi and Jessica Walter.

Sunday’s half-hour ended with scenes from the next episode, the one that would open the fall season. Yet devotees can only hope the optimism isn’t misguided.

Clay tackles bullies

Multiplatinum-selling singer Clay Aiken will talk about his own experiences with bullying on today’s “Dr. Phil.”

The syndicated show, hosted by psychologist Phil McGraw, is seen weekdays at 3 p.m. on WRC-TV, Channel 4.

“He talks about his own experiences being bullied,” RCA Records publicist Roger Widynowski told Associated Press, adding that the bullying occurred “verbally … throughout his whole school career. Mostly through elementary and junior high.”

Faye Parker, Mr. Aiken’s mother, confirmed that he was picked on but said she didn’t know to what extent.

“I don’t know that he was bullied so much as he was just ignored,” she said. “So I don’t know. We’ll have to hear more about his story when he tells it on TV.”

Mr. Aiken may also share the bullying stories of youngsters he worked with during his days as a counselor at A.E. Finley YMCA in Raleigh, N.C., Miss Parker said.

Besides accounts of bullying in his book, “Learning to Sing,” Mr. Aiken has occasionally recounted the rougher aspects of his school days in magazine interviews.

“The first two years of high school, I was shy,” the “American Idol” runner-up told Cosmo Girl. “I got picked on for the way I was dressed. I had Coke-bottle glasses, and my hair was just atrocious.”

Sometimes, the bullying was more than verbal. “I actually started convincing myself that wedgies were compliments,” Entertainment Weekly quoted Mr. Aiken as saying.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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