- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Poker party expands

Starting next month, ESPN will deal viewers into eight original hours of coverage of the “World Series of Poker From Across the Pond — the Europe Main Event” from the Casino at the Empire in London, Multichannel.com reports.

The competition, which features 362 of the world’s top players, takes place over a six-day period, with the initial field divided into two starting days. It culminated in a final table that took more than 19 hours to complete. At stake: a first-place prize of more than $1.5 million and the highly coveted WSOP Europe Main Event bracelet.

ESPN’s coverage of the “World Series of Poker Europe” is scheduled to begin Feb. 1, a date also known as Super Sunday, at 6 p.m. An encore presentation of the first two hours on ESPN2 — co-hosted by Lon McEachern and Norman Chad — will follow at 10 p.m. The remaining six hours will air in two-hour installments on Feb. 8 and 15 and March 1, respectively, on ESPN2.

Kind of a ‘Drag’

RuPaul, the world’s most famous drag queen, is challenging a new generation of drag performers to follow in her footsteps, courtesy of a new reality series debuting Feb. 2 on Logo.

Although thousands applied, just nine will be part of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” when it debuts in the 10 p.m. slot on the Viacom/MTV cable channel. Challenges will range from photo shoots to fashion designing to real-woman makeovers to performances with RuPaul in the first music video from the drag queen’s upcoming album, “Champion.”

While “RuPaul’s Drag Race” will take a look at the outrageous world of drag, it also will reveal the courage, perseverance and humanity of nine men who have overcome and endured the hardships of a masculine-dominated society that mocks and makes fun of men who act like women, show organizers said. Not only will viewers get a bird’s-eye view of what it takes for these chameleons to transform themselves, but they also will take away the secrets of the artistry of drag.

A star-studded panel of celebrities and journalists will join RuPaul for the eight hourlong episodes. Among them: fashion journalist and best-selling author Merle Ginsberg; “Project Runway” breakout star and designer Santino Rice; designer Bob Mackie; singer Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child; actresses Lucy Lawless and Maria Conchita Alonso; Pussycat Dolls creator Robin Antin; comic Debra Wilson (“Mad TV”); model-actress Jenny Shimizu; actress Tori Spelling and her husband, actor Dean McDermott; publicist-author Howard Bragman (“Where’s My Fifteen Minutes?”); choreographer Frank Gatson; and Gordon Espine, vice president of makeup artistry for M.A.C. The judges will determine the bottom two contestants of each week.

Web push for ‘Tara’

Showtime is planning a massive publicity campaign to support its new comedy series “The United States of Tara,” Broadcastingcable.com reports.

As part of the campaign, the premiere episode of the series — which stars Oscar nominee Toni Collette (“The Sixth Sense,” “Little Miss Sunshine”) in the title role — will be available on a slew of video sites, including YouTube, TV.com, Yahoo!, FanCast and Veoh; social networking sites like Facebook; and entertainment blogs such as Gawker, Bestweekever.tv and Pink is the New Blog. It will be available in high definition on Showtime’s site and on TV.com

As part of the campaign, Showtime also will make the premiere episodes of “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” and “The L Word” available on the sites the same day they premiere on the network.

All told, the participating sites reach 170 million users, Showtime says. The network also notes that the sampling of new shows has proved an effective way to get new subscribers to the channel and increase exposure.

Though previewing new episodes online in advance of their debut on the linear channel is not new, it has not been done with the scope Showtime is pursuing. HBO premiered the first episode of season two of “Flight of the Conchords” online on Funny or Die and other sites last month, while NBC made its new fall shows available on Hulu and other sites a week before they debuted on the channel.

On tap tonight

American Idol (8, Fox) — Singer-songwriter Kara DioGuardi joins the judging panel of Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson as the ratings behemoth kicks off its eighth season with a two-hour premiere.

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

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