- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Surreal’ on steroids

VH1’s “The Surreal Life” is taking a swing at ratings gold by hiring admitted steroid abuser Jose Canseco to star in its next installment, Associated Press reports.

The show’s fifth season, debuting in September, will feature the former Oakland Athletics star along with six other celebrity has-beens looking for a career boost.

The show tapes a group of C-listers 24/7 as they live and play together in a Hollywood Hills mansion.

The new cast includes “America’s Next Top Model” judge Janice Dickinson, Sandi “Pepa” Denton of the female rap group Salt-n-Pepa, Bronson Pinchot from ABC’s “Perfect Strangers,” District resident and former “The Apprentice” hopeful Oma-rosa Manigault-Stallworth, British model Caprice and motorcrosser Carey Hart.

The first two “Surreal Life” seasons debuted on the WB before the show moved to VH1. Past cast members include rapper Flavor Flav, entertainer Charo, televang-elist Tammy-Faye Bakker Messner, porn star Ron Jeremy, rapper Vanilla Ice and actor Corey Feldman.

This season’s cast of characters features former “Brady” Christopher Knight; rap star Da Brat; and Verne Troyer, who starred as Mini Me in the last two “Austin Powers” features.

Hoops boost CBS

Despite more than 24 million viewers, those “Desperate Housewives” couldn’t help ABC beat the NCAA surge in last week’s ratings.

CBS’ broadcast of the men’s basketball tournament garnered the highest number of viewers for the sports competition since 1994 and helped the network to yet another ratings victory, Associated Press reports.

Last weekend’s four regional finals, including three games that went into overtime, drew an audience that was 44 percent higher than last year’s broadcasts, according to Nielsen Media Research.

CBS will likely be on top again with Louisville, Illinois, North Carolina and Michigan State in this weekend’s Final Four.

Meanwhile, ABC’s “Housewives” returned to ratings glory after a nearly two-month hiatus that left some fans grumbling. Sunday’s original episode was seen by 24.1 million people.

For the week, CBS averaged 13.9 million viewers and won among the all-important 18-to-49-year-old demographic that advertisers crave. Fox was second with 10.3 million viewers, ABC had 8.7 million, NBC 8.6 million, UPN 3.2 million, the WB 2.6 million and Pax TV 540,000.

For the week of March 21 through 27, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships, were: “American Idol” (Tuesday), Fox, 27.6 million; “Desperate Housewives,” ABC, 24.1 million; “American Idol” (Wednesday), Fox, 20.9 million; “American Idol” (Thursday), Fox, 20.2 million; “Survivor: Palau,” CBS, 19.2 million

BET has Faith

Black Entertainment Television takes viewers inside the recording life of R&B; singer Faith Evans, the former wife of slain gangsta rap superstar the Notorious B.I.G.

Tonight’s 30-minute special, airing at 7:30 p.m., trails Miss Evans through her day-to-day recording sessions with producers Jermaine Dupri and Carvin & Ivan. We also see her hitting the gym and looking glamorous for a photo shoot in preparation for “The First Lady,” her first new album in nearly three years. The CD arrives in record stores Tuesday.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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