- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2005

Joint venture

Real-life husband and wife Connie Chung and Maury Povich will be united on-screen for a weekend news show, MSNBC said yesterday.

Miss Chung, a former CBS newswoman, has been inactive since CNN pulled the plug on her prime-time news show in 2003. Her husband, a District native and former news anchor for WTTG-Fox 5, is in his eighth year as host of the syndicated daily talk show “Maury.”

According to Associated Press, the new program, as yet untitled, is described as a look at the week’s headlines, from politics to pop culture, and will have guests. It’s the first time the couple have worked together on a national news program. The show debuts Jan. 7.

“Maury’s been on my case to get out of the house and get back to work, but I didn’t want to until he came up with this idea,” Miss Chung says. “The question is not whether the program will last. … The question is, ‘Can our marriage survive?’”

Saluting ‘Days’

SoapNet is pulling out all the soapy stops to celebrate today’s 40th anniversary of NBC’s long-running daytime drama “Days of Our Lives” (seen weekdays at 1 p.m.).

The cable channel will air the first two episodes of “Days” at 6 tonight, Scripps Howard News Service reports. The half-hour episodes will feature characters that are still on the show: model homemaker Alice Horton, who dusted and baked in a dress and heels; Mickey Horton, a young maverick lawyer; and Julie Olson Williams, a troubled teen.

Of those three characters, only Frances Reid continues in the role she originated as Alice, now a matriarch and pillar of society in the fictional Salem. Mickey (now played by John Ingle) is a silver-haired fox involved in a geriatric love triangle; and Julie (the durable Susan Seaforth Hayes) has settled down and is a happily married woman.

SoapNet’s celebration continues with six episodes highlighting “Days’” longtime supercouple, Bo and Hope, airing at 8 p.m. Nov. 25.

LaBelle of the ball

UPN is staging a star-studded tribute to powerhouse vocalist Patti LaBelle at 8 tonight.

The program, taped at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas, honors Miss LaBelle’s 45 years in show business and will be hosted by Tracee Ellis Ross (of UPN’s “Girlfriends”).

Musical guests include Nelly, Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child, Michael McDonald, Gerald Levert, Boyz II Men, Ashanti, Mario and Yolanda Adams. Miss LaBelle also will reunite with her LaBelle band mates, Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx, for the trio’s first performance in five years.

Dueling popes

CBS’ highly touted miniseries about the late Pope John Paul II may have the Vatican’s blessing, but a competing project from ABC will hit the airwaves first.

The Walt Disney Co.-owned network last week announced plans to air its quietly developed drama “Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II,” Dec. 1, three days before the CBS production that has received far more attention, Reuters news agency reports.

A CBS spokesman said his network was sticking with its plans to air its two-part miniseries, “Pope John Paul II,” Dec. 4 and December 7.

The dilemma for CBS proves once again that advance publicity can be a mixed blessing in the TV business, where rival networks occasionally race similar big-event projects to the screen. In June, NBC dropped its ballyhooed plans for a miniseries about the September 11 attacks based on the official 9/11 Commission Report when it became clear that ABC was determined to be first with a lower-profile movie of its own.

The two-hour ABC movie about the pope stars relatively little-known actor Thomas Kretschmann, whose big-screen credits include supporting roles in 2002’s “The Pianist” and an upcoming “King Kong” remake, as Pope John Paul.

The CBS film features a better-known cast, led by Oscar winner Jon Voight in the title role, and was written under the guidance of the Vatican, which also granted producers access to obtain exclusive footage in and around St. Peter’s Square.

Last month, CBS boasted of its plans for a special advance screening of its production at the Vatican for John Paul’s successor, Pope Benedict XVI.

Still, neither ABC nor CBS can claim the first American TV dramatization of John Paul’s life. A film about his early years, “Karol: A Man Who Became Pope,” aired on the Hallmark Channel in August.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports.

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