- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Prime-time Jacksons

She’s been a Playboy centerfold, had her own psychic hot line and was a star on the recent reality flop “Armed & Famous,” which was put out to pasture after its first five episodes.

Now, La Toya Jackson is morphing into the role of talent scout along with her slightly more famous brothers Tito and Jermaine.

The trio, all members of the singing Jackson dynasty, will team up as judges for an upcoming “American Idol”-style singing competition on CBS to find the next big thing in singing siblings, MediaWeek.com reports. According to industry trade publications, eight episodes of the as-yet-unnamed project will be produced.

Producers on the series include veteran TV producer Stu Schreiberg, whose credits include the upcoming “Food Network Awards,” an edition of the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” and the 2006 special “Unpredictable” with Jamie Foxx on NBC.

Mr. Foxx also will be involved with the Jackson project along with producing partners Marcus King and Greg Shelton, MediaWeek.com says.

PBS amends Burns’ doc

PBS promised yesterday to amend Ken Burns’ upcoming documentary series on World War II to include stories about Latino veterans after activists complained that he ignored their contributions to the American effort, Associated Press reports.

Mr. Burns also has agreed to hire a Latino producer to help create the additional content, PBS said.

The 14-hour documentary, “The War,” is scheduled to premiere in September. PBS is hoping it becomes as popular as Mr. Burns’ “The Civil War” was a decade ago.

The change represents “a big victory for the Latino community,” said Marta Garcia, head of the New York chapter of the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

Smith biopic cast

Now that we know the identity of the father of the late Anna Nicole Smith’s infant daughter, we can move on to other matters — such as who will portray the former Playboy model and Trimspa pitchwoman in an upcoming biopic.

That honor goes to Willa Ford, a former contestant on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” reports Zap2it.com.

The film will cover Miss Smith’s life from age 17 through her death in February at 39, Variety says. That means it will pack in her time as a successful model; her marriage to aged oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall; her subsequent ups and downs; the death of her son, Daniel; the birth of her daughter, Dannielynn; and her own death.

Direct-to-video veteran Keoni Waxman (“The Highwayman,” “The Suspect”) will direct the movie, which will be executive-produced by Elie Samaha. The film’s current title is the evocative “Anna Nicole.”

It’s unclear, however, just how many of the newer developments in Miss Smith’s story the biopic will be able to include or incorporate, including Tuesday’s revelation that photographer Larry Birkhead is Dannielynn’s daddy.

While “Anna Nicole” would be the first feature to capitalize on the whirlwind of publicity following Miss Smith’s death, NBC’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” will rip large parts of the story from the headlines for a May episode featuring Kristy Swanson.

Miss Ford was eliminated five weeks into last fall’s third season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” She has a hit single, “I Wanna Be Bad,” and a successful debut album, “Willa Was Here.”

Stylish-Lee

The Style Network has designs on what it is calling its first “reality sitcom series” with the planned summer debut of an unscripted hybrid starring Kimora Lee Simmons, MediaWeek.com reports.

The series, currently being developed under the working title “Kimora,” will focus on the professional and family life of the 31-year-old former model and creative director of Baby Phat, the female offshoot of the urban fashion line Phat Farm. Mrs. Simmons is the former wife of hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons, who founded the Phat Farm franchise in 1992.

Style — which last year showcased a budget-wise replica of Mrs. Simmons’ elaborate closet for its makeover reality series, “My Celebrity Home” — did not shed light on the comedic element it expects to capture with Mrs. Simmons. However, the network’s Executive Vice President Salaam Coleman Smith characterized the fashionista as “refreshingly blunt, absolutely honest and outrageously entertaining — the kind of woman who knows what she wants and how to get it.”

Style also promised that viewers will become regular visitors to Mrs. Simmons’ Saddle River, N.J., estate, although it’s possible that the designer will have moved into new digs by the time the series bows this summer. In August, Russell Simmons put the 35,000-square-foot mansion on the market for a reported $23.8 million.

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

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