- The Washington Times - Friday, January 16, 2009

Set for summer launch

Syndication distributor Debmar-Mercury is moving forward with a national launch of “The Wendy Williams Show” in July, Variety says.

The weekday talk show had a six-week test run last summer on Fox-owned stations in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Detroit. After being shopped around the past few months, the show has lined up clearances on stations covering 70 percent of U.S. TV households, including all the top-20 markets, Debmar-Mercury executives Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein confirmed.

Talk-show veteran Rob Dauber will return as the show’s executive producer.

Miss Williams’ show will originate from New York City, where she hosts the popular “Wendy Williams Experience” daily radio show on the R&B station WBLS-FM. Her TV program will revolve around lifestyle, plus entertainment and celebrity gossip as well as self-help advice, Variety says.

SoapNet adds ‘Erica’

Continuing its push into original series, cable’s SoapNet next month will launch “Being Erica,” Multichannel.com reports.

The series’ 13 one-hour episodes are set to premiere Feb. 19 at 10 p.m.

Delving into the quirky life of Erica Strange (played by Erin Karplunk), the series will follow a highly educated and underachieving single woman who struggles to understand why her life is heading nowhere. Enter Dr. Tom (Michael Riley), a mysterious man who is part therapist and part rogue. In each episode, Dr. Tom launches Erica back in time to a specific regret from her past, giving her the opportunity to relive and even alter her past choices in hope of changing her present.

SoapNet’s program roster includes Greg Behrendt’s “Wake Up Call,” the hockey soap “MVP” and “General Hospital: Night Shift,” a spinoff of the venerable “General Hospital.” “Southern Belles” is scheduled to premiere on the network this summer.

The new shows are designed to complement the network’s roster of soaps, including “All My Children,” “Days of Our Lives,” “One Life to Live,” “General Hospital” and “The Young and the Restless,” plus such favorite prime-time drama acquisitions as “The O.C.,” “One Tree Hill” and “Beverly Hills 90210,” Multichannel.com notes.

Weekend highlights

A few shows worth noting:

State of the Union With John King (9 a.m., Sunday, CNN) — The CNN newsman, known to millions for keeping tabs on voter trends with his giant map during the 2008 presidential race, will anchor the network’s four-hour Sunday news power block. The program will offer a blend of newsmaker interviews, political analysis, national and world affairs and cultural segments.

Desperate Housewives (9 p.m., Sunday, ABC) — The hit series celebrates its 100th episode with a segment titled “The Best Thing That Ever Could Have Happened,” which finds the residents of Wisteria Lane realizing just how much neighborhood handyman Eli Scruggs (Beau Bridges) affected their lives when he dies.

Big Love (9 p.m. Sunday, Showtime) — In an episode titled “Block Party,” the season-three premiere of this drama about a polygamous Mormon sect finds Bill (Bill Paxton) trying to persuade Jerry Flute (Robert Beltran), an American Indian businessman, to partner with him in a Mormon-friendly casino outside Salt Lake City. Meanwhile, after learning she may have a cancer recurrence, Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn) warms to the idea of Ana (Branka Katic) joining the family as the fourth “sister wife” — although the waitress is resistant to the clan’s overtures.

The United States of Tara (10 p.m. Sunday, Showtime) — After such extreme character-driven fare as “Weeds,” “Dexter” and “Californication,” the premium channel shakes up the cable landscape once more with Oscar-nominee Toni Collette (“The Sixth Sense”) in the title role of this latest black comedy. She stars as a woman with dissociative identity disorder — formerly known as multiple personality disorder — who in times of stress retreats into three different personalities. John Corbett (“Northern Exposure,” “Sex and the City”), Nate Corddry (“Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”) and Valerie Mahaffey (“The Powers That Be”) add heft to the supporting cast. The new series is created, executive-produced and written by Diablo Cody, an Oscar winner for best original screenplay for 2007’s “Juno.”

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

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