TV Eye

On Assignment With Leeza

Assignment E! With Leeza Gibbons premieres Sunday with Hollywood's Obsession With Youth (8/22, 7pm, E!). It is the first in a quarterly series dealing with behind-the-scenes Hollywood. Actresses Drew Barrymore, Cybill Shepherd, Christine Lahti, and others discuss how aging has impacted their careers. In addition, Riley Weston, the 32-year-old writer who successfully passed herself off as a 19-year-old whiz-kid in order to get a television writing job, discusses what drove her to go "undercover" and the consequences she's suffered since being outed. Weston's story was featured in an episode of 60 Minutes a few months ago, and whether Gibbons is able to leech more out of the story is unknown. Even so, it is not be missed, particularly if you missed Weston's story on 60 Minutes.

Future episodes include Celebrity Charity Connections and Runaways in Hollywood.

Goodbye, Jennifer

Foodies are mourning the loss of Jennifer Paterson, co-host of The Two Fat Ladies, the popular BBC-produced cooking show from across the pond. Paterson died of lung cancer on August 10, at the age of 71.

The Two Fat Ladies premiered in the U.S. on the Food Network, September 5, 1997, and developed an instant cult following. But the show's appeal was not limited to foodies. Paterson and co-host Clarissa Dickson Wright eventually made their way beyond the Food Network and PBS (which carries the show in syndication) to appear on such disparate programs as The Rosie O'Donnell Show and MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch. In Deathmatch, the duo was matched against another Food Network celebrity, Emeril Lagasse, who was handily subdued, buttered, stuffed, and baked.

While some food programs focus on the virtues of low-fat cooking, fine cuts of meat, pricey delicacies, or trendy cuisines, Paterson and Wright often prepared what would ordinarily be decried as "vittles." From organ meats, venison, rabbit, strange little birds bandaged in layers of bacon, and gobs of fat and cream, they created dignified, rib-sticking meals. Paterson could cook up a mess of kidneys like no one's business.

The draw of the show was the unpredictable sense of humor of the women, along with a palpable joy for life, cooking, and eating. The show opens with the duo tooling in Paterson's Triumph motorcycle, with Wright in the sidecar, commenting on their surroundings and who they will be cooking for. The other draw of the show was the easy rapport between the women. Although it appeared that they had been friends for years, they in fact only met when a BBC producer brought them together, "much like the Spice Girls," Wright said during an appearance on Regis and Kathy Lee.

Paterson and Wright had just finished filming two episodes of the new season when Paterson took ill. The episodes will be aired on the Food Network on a date and time to be announced. Whether Wright will continue as the sole host of the cooking program is unknown at press time.

A salute to Paterson was aired on the Food Network last Sunday, and like Paterson herself, it was upbeat and celebratory. A perfect way to say bon appetit, salud, and cheers. Jennifer Paterson, you will be missed.

Ally Damage Control

Ever since announcing the second helping of Ally McBeal for the fall season, a 30-minute spin-off of sorts to be called Ally, the Fox network has endured barbs and ribbing. Just what McBeal creator David E. Kelley has in mind for this mini-McBeal spin-off is anyone's guess, especially since revised explanations of what it will be keep being reissued. First, Ally was described as a show featuring material that wasn't fit into the regular series (i.e., what ended up on the cutting room floor), to which Jim Mullen of Entertainment Weekly quipped, "Note to self: Don't eat dinner at David E. Kelley's house."

The latest statement from Fox, according to an Entertainment Tonight report, says that the love lives of the characters will be the focus of the mini-McBeal, leaving the courtroom drama for the hour-long series.

Oh Puhleeze!

What is Ally McBeal if not a melodramatic tour around the belly buttons of Ally and pals as they whine over their tortured love lives, loves lost, or loves longed for? So, all that's going to be squished into 30 minutes, instead of stretched over the course of an hour, alongside the "high" drama of the court room? And why the urge to explain, refine, and redefine what the strange-sounding hybrid, Ally, will be? Seems to me the smart thing to do would be to sit back, keep quiet, and let the product speak for itself come the fall season. Who knows, maybe the mini-McBeal is the next breakthrough in television programming. Yeah, right. As always, stay tuned.

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More TV Eye
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After 10 years in print, 'TV Eye' has its series finale

Belinda Acosta, July 8, 2011

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