- Associated Press - Sunday, March 25, 2012

Many TV shows have dispassionate origins, recycling a well-worn format or piggybacking on a trend. But the roots of “Doc McStuffins,” an animated program for children ages 2 to 7, are downright maternal.

Chris Nee, creator of the series on the Disney Channel and the new 24-hour Disney Junior channel, wanted to ease her toddler son’s experience with doctors and hospitals after he was diagnosed with asthma.

“It was me as a mom, more than as a writer first, saying, ‘What can I do to make this better for him?’ ” Ms. Nee recalled.

The result is a fanciful, music-filled show (“Wash Your Hands” is among the original songs) about Doc (voiced by Kiara Muhammad), a girl who converses with her stuffed animals and toys and treats their scratches, sniffles and whatever ails them.

Doc and her pals share tips about staying healthy and offering care and compassion to others. The show also attempts to demystify what happens in a doctor’s office to make visits less scary for its audience.

Among those in the cast: Loretta Devine as a reliably competent plush hippo named Hallie. Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”) is a guest star in the debut episode, voicing a jack-in-the-box dad who takes his son for a checkup.

Ms. Nee, who received a prestigious Humanitas Prize for an episode of Bill Cosby’s Daytime Emmy Award-winning “Little Bill,” said she intends “Doc McStuffins” to be spirited as well as heartfelt.

“It’s got a different flavor than usual in the [TV] preschool world,” she said, offering kid-friendly humor with a touch of sophistication and bold characters that Ms. Nee said harken back to those that she enjoyed on “Sesame Street” as a child.

There is, for instance, a snowman who’s a hypochondriac on the series (produced by Dublin-based Brown Bag Films and the Disney Channel).

“Kids love that character. They don’t understand the full implications, but they find it really funny,” said Ms. Nee, who sees value in aiming a bit over a young viewer’s head.

“We know kids are watching shows over and over again. Trying to create shows so that a kid gets every moment on the first viewing is shortchanging them.”

What does her muse, son Theodore, now 5, think of “Doc McStuffins”?

“He calls it his show. I’m at least trying to get him to use ‘ours,’ ” Mrs. Nee said.

R.I. disc jockey out on ‘American Idol’

Erika Van Pelt didn’t cut it on “American Idol.”

The 26-year-old disc jockey from South Kingstown, R.I., who dramatically chopped off her hair before Wednesday’s evening of Billy Joel tunes, was eliminated from the Fox singing contest. Miss Van Pelt didn’t persuade the show’s judges to rescue her from dismissal Thursday with a last-chance rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Believe In You and Me.”

“Ultimately, Ryan, no, sorry,” judge Randy Jackson told “Idol” host Ryan Seacrest when asked if she would be saved.

Miss Van Pelt, who pleased the panel Wednesday with her shorter, darker hairstyle and sultry interpretation of “New York State of Mind,” was revealed to be among the bottom three vote-getters alongside 17-year-old vocal acrobat Deandre Brackensick of San Jose, Calif., and goofy 22-year-old nonprofit organizer Heejun Han of New York.

“Idol” mentor Jimmy Iovine lashed out at 21-year-old pawnshop worker Phillip Phillips of Leesburg, Ga., for not following the advice of the show’s mentors for his performance. Mr. Iovine also admonished Mr. Han for his over-the-top take on “My Life.”

“I’m not trying to be a star,” Mr. Han said in response to the criticism. “I’m just trying to be who I am.”

The nine remaining finalists will return to the stage to perform for viewer votes Wednesday.

Disney star Hilary Duff welcomes baby boy

Hilary Duff is a new mom.

The 24-year-old actress announced the birth of her son on her website and Twitter feed Thursday.

Miss Duff wrote that she and her husband, Mike Comrie, welcomed son Luca Cruz Comrie on Tuesday night. According to the Associated Press, he weighed in at 7 pounds, 6 ounces, and is the first child for the couple, who married in 2010.

Miss Duff said she and her husband “feel like the luckiest parents in the world.”

Miss Duff gained fame as the star of Disney’s “Lizzie McGuire” and more recently had a recurring role on “Gossip Girl.”

Her husband retired as a professional hockey player earlier this year. The 31-year-old most recently played with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Musical drama ‘Smash’ gets 2nd season on NBC

NBC has smashing news for fans of “Smash.”

The network said Thursday its musical drama series has been picked up for a second season, the Associated Press reports.

“Smash” is a much-heralded blend of backstage procedural and song-and-dance numbers. It debuted last month. It is not a ratings smash but has won critical praise and a healthy-size audience averaging 7.7 million viewers.

Series stars include Debra Messing, Anjelica Huston and Katharine McPhee as players in the unrelenting world of Broadway theater.

Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie won’t join ‘X Factor’

Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie has confirmed that she was in talks to join Fox’s “The X Factor” as a judge on its second season, but said it ultimately didn’t work out, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“I know there were talks last season and this season,” Fergie told Access Hollywood. “But it’s just not - Simon [Cowell] said before [that] timing is everything and it’s not the right time for me.”

Fergie was just one of the artists who has been tossed around in reports as to whom the series will choose to fill seats on the judging panel previously filled by Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger.

That list has included Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and LeAnn Rimes. The Hollywood Reporter recently learned that Britney Spears is close to inking a deal.

Fergie said she doesn’t believe she can fulfill the requirements of the post.

“I love Simon and I love the show,” she said. “It’s just that last year, nor this year, do I have the time to commit to that sort of commitment because I would be somebody who would really throw myself into it, as I do with all my projects. … It’s just not fair to the contestants and their careers - that’s their career - to not be full in.”

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.



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