- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2008

Phil, Mrs. film in D.C.

Dr. Phil McGraw and his wife, Robin, are returning to host TNT’s “Christmas in Washington” special, set to air Dec. 17 at 8 p.m. on the cable network.

The program, which will be taped at the National Building Museum, will feature a lineup of both Washington and entertainment heavy hitters - including President Bush and first lady Laura Bush, Tony winner and “The West Wing” cast member Kristin Chenoweth, rising singing star Julianne Hough, the Christian group Casting Crowns (not to be confused with Counting Crows), and the a cappella group Straight No Chaser, Broadcastingcable.com reports.

The show will benefit the Children’s National Medical Center, B&C; said.

An ‘Idol’ first

For the first time, Fox is using a former “American Idol” winner to promote a new season of its monster hit.

Reigning “Idol” David Cook has filmed a promotional spot for the show that will begin airing this week, Fox marketing chief Joe Earley told TVWeek.

Mr. Earley said the ad begins with the singer about to go onstage to perform his new single, “Light On.” After rewinding through images of his current life - limos, parties, paparazzi - Mr. Cook is seen lying in bed, dreaming about how his “Idol” voyage began.

Viewers then see clips from Mr. Cook’s appearances on the show, including “Idol” judge Paula Abdul asking him, “Are you the next ‘American Idol’?”

“He then steps onstage, and when he starts singing, you get that rush,” Mr. Earley said.

Fox began running the spots during Thanksgiving weekend, TVWeek said. The benefit for Mr. Cook, of course, is promotion for his new album, which was released Nov. 18. Overall, the singer’s self-titled debut sold 279,578 units during its first week, says Zap2it.com, citing data from Nielsen SoundScan.

Mr. Cook is the first former “Idol” contestant to cut a promo for the show, but he might not be the last.

“We’re looking at doing some spots with some other past ‘Idol’ contestants,” Mr. Earley said.

“American Idol” returns for its eighth season on Jan. 13.

‘Housewives’ score

It was a happy reunion for the five Atlanta housewives from the Bravo reality series.

“The Real Housewives of Atlanta: Watch What Happens” reunion special Nov. 25 drew 2.8 million total viewers, 2.1 million of them in the adults 18-to-49 demographic, the Hollywood Reporter says.

The special beat the series’ highly rated Nov. 18 season finale by 27 percent in total viewers and 22 percent in adults 18 to 49 to rank as the highest-rated telecast to date for the “Real Housewives” franchise.

It also marked the first time a Bravo docuseries cracked the 2-million-viewer mark among adults in the same coveted demographic.

After the special, the season four premiere of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” launched with 1.9 million total viewers and 1.4 million adults ages 18 to 49, THR says.

Food and family

A clueless-in-the-kitchen daughter will learn how to cook manicotti, braciole and tiramisu from her mother when “Mom’s Cooking” debuts today at 11 a.m. on cable’s Lifetime Networks.

“Do we really need another cooking show?” you might be asking.

Point taken.

“Mom’s Cooking,” however, has a good concept. Family recipes carry with them nostalgia and a sense of belonging that’s hard to rival. Moreover, seeing clueless daughters from New York to Atlanta learn from proud and emotional mothers can be touching - and, as it turns out, educational.

Of course, as with all reality TV, there are some ridiculous scenes. What’s with the ubiquitous running, for example? A mad dash to the grocery store, perhaps? Running, apparently, is a mandatory component for all reality TV - whether it’s “The Biggest Loser” or, in this case, “Mom’s Cooking.”

The running aside, though, this cooking show is big on good old-fashioned basics. It presents easy-to-follow techniques and a little tenderness as mother and daughter bond over a pot of gravy (the Italian-American kind) or that Southern favorite, crispy fried okra.

Twenty episodes of the show have been produced and will air in back-to-back installments (at 11 and 11:30 a.m.) through Friday.

Holiday watch

Shrek the Halls (8 p.m., ABC) - It’s Christmas Eve, and everyone is filled with holiday cheer - except Shrek. Things soon go from glum to merry, though, when Donkey, Puss in Boots, Gingerbread Man and the rest of the gang show up. Mike Myers voices the role of our favorite green ogre, and other celebrity voices reprise their roles - Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas.

cWritten and compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse and Gabriella Boston from staff, Web and wire reports

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