- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 13, 2005

Willard gets real

How bad can a reality show be if it boasts the droll wit of Fred Willard?

“Mr. Romance,” a new reality show competition on cable’s Oxygen network, puts the “Best in Show” star to that very test.

The show, debuting at 10 tonight will pit a dozen models against one another in their quest to grace the cover of the next Harlequin romance.

Along with Mr. Willard, other celebrities on hand include Fabio — who knows a thing or two about beefy cover shots — and show creator Gene Simmons (Yes, that Gene Simmons, the tongue wagger from Kiss), who seems to be the last person you’d expect to find on an all-women’s network.

Then again, where else would the infamous cad want to be?

Guilty Gotti pleasure

Rare is the person who admits to being a reality show junkie, and rarer still is finding someone who owns up to watching A&E;’s “Growing Up Gotti.”

Yet enough people did just that to earn the show a second season, beginning tonight at 9 on the cable network.

“Gotti” follows four members of the family of the late mob boss John Gotti — his daughter Victoria and her three spoiled sons — as they go about their daily lives.

Tonight’s episode finds Miss Gotti (who is also a best-selling novelist) heading to Aspen for ski slopes and fun in the hopes of meeting some eligible bachelors. Too bad she arrives smack-dab in the middle of Gay and Lesbian Ski Week.

Wrestling Spike’d

Spike TV, the channel for men, is getting out of the ring with the WWE.

The Viacom-owned cable channel terminated negotiations with World Wrestling Entertainment over the group’s prime-time powerhouse “WWE Raw” as well as several other WWE-branded series, Reuters News Agency reports.

Vince McMahon’s wrestling empire reportedly has been exploring other options, including a return to its former home, USA Network.

A WWE spokesman declined comment, and Spike TV would not elaborate on a statement about its desire to invest in original programming and new acquisitions.

The move means one of cable’s most-watched programs of the past decade is up for grabs after five years on Spike TV, formerly known as TNN until 2003. The two-hour “Raw” was the highest-rated program on cable this past week among viewers 18 to 49, according to data from Nielsen Media Research.

Despite the show’s strong numbers, sources told Reuters that Spike was balking at paying an increase in license fees that would have cost Viacom an estimated $40 million annually. The WWE delivers 260 hours of programming 52 weeks per year, including the weekend series “Heat,” “Velocity” and “Experience.”

Lynn’s latest honor

That coal miner’s daughter keeps collecting accolades.

Country legend Loretta Lynn will receive Country Music Television’s Johnny Cash Visionary Award next month, just days before her 70th birthday, Associated Press reports.

The award recognizes an artist’s musical vision, innovative music videos and pioneering initiatives in entertainment. It was known as the Video Visionary Award but was renamed in honor of Mr. Cash, who died in 2003 at age 71.

Miss Lynn will be honored April 11 during the live broadcast of CMT’s 2005 Music Awards, hosted by comedian Jeff Foxworthy, from the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville, Tenn. She turns 70 on April 14.

The singer picked up two Grammy Awards last month for her celebrated album, “Van Lear Rose,” produced by Jack White of the White Stripes.

The Dixie Chicks won the first Video Visionary Award in 2002.The other award winners were Mr. Cash himself in 2003 and Reba McEntire last year.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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