TV Critics Tour: Lifetime Trots Out Diverse Mix of Movies, Series


Beverly Hills, Calif.—Lifetime Television, which announced a third-season order of hit series Army Wives, will highlight its annual Stop Breast Cancer for Life campaign with an original movie Living Proof, the true story of the UCLA physician and researcher who developed the breast cancer drug Herceptin.

The telefilm will star Harry Connick, Jr. and is produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, executive producers of the Academy Award-winning film Chicago. That film' s star, Renee Zellweger, will also serve as producer of the Lifetime film, which will be cablecast in October.

Other stars committed to the film include Amanda Bynes (Hairspray), Angie Harmon (Women's Murder Club), Swoosie Kurtz (Pushing Daisies), Bernadette Peters and Regina King (Ray).

Between Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network, 40 original movies are in production, including material from John Updike, Candace Bushnell and true-crime novelist Patricia Cornwell.

Shirley Maclaine tops one of these film, Coco Chanel, due Sept. 13. Maclaine told TV critics that Audrey Hepburn advised her oncetoplay Chanel some day. Maclaine countered that Chanel was short and slumped over, but Hepburn said Maclaine had the spirit of Chanel.

Maclaine said she wore Chanel's clothes, “all knock-offs,” in her 20s. She added she liked the designer's “colorful rudeness” and her conflict between love and ambition. Maclaine added she isn't offered many biopics, but she'd love to play Georgia O'Keefe and Louise Brooks.

The telefilm starts with Chanel in her younger years, played by a newcomer, Barbora Bobulova, with a heavy French accent. But Maclaine plays the part with an American accent. Maclaine said she wouldn't have done the part if they'd demanded an accent.

“I'm not Meryl Streep,” she said simply.

And when one critic mentioned he thought Chanel was a lesbian, Maclaine countered, “just because you play the whole field doesn't mean you're a lesbian.”

Network executives said Lifetime's hit, Army Wives, which is still early in its second season, has already been picked up for a third season of 18 episodes.

Another popular series, the reality skein How to Look Good Naked, has been expanded to one-hour episodes and returns July 22. Host Carson Kressley said the longer format will really let the show delve deeper into the stories of the women featured on the show. Kressley said he really didn't know what he was doing when the show began.

“How to look good naked? A box of wine and a dimmer switch,” he quipped.

Lifetime is expanding its relationship with the former Queer Eye for the Straight Guy star: a Kressley-hosted talk show is among the six reality shows under development by the channel.

For daytime, the channel is filming Cook Yourself Thin, training a woman how to cook her favorite dishes in a more healthy way; Mom's Cooking, with daughters visiting their mother's kitchen to learn how to cook her best recipe, along with the talk show.

For primetime, The Week the Women Went is a reality competition where the wife goes away for a week of pampering while the husbands compete keeping the household together; an untitled project with P. Diddy's ex, Kim Porter, following her as she begins life as a single mom; and Love and Salsa, a docusoap about Los Angeles salsa dancers.

On the scripted side, Zadan and Meron are also developing Drop Dead Diva, about a model who dies and comes back to life as a 30-year-old attorney; and Mistresses, based on a British series of the same name.

An original comedy will also join the schedule. Rita Rocks stars Nicole Sullivan (Mad TV) as a suburban mom who tries to get her spark back by starting a garage band with friends such as her postal carrier, played by Tisha Campbell-Martin (My Wife and Kids).

The producers, Stan Zimmerman and James Berg, said they actually wrote the script for themselves 10 years ago, brushing it off and updating it occasionally. It wasn't until they heard Lifetime was looking for something to pair with the acquisition Reba that they thought they could get the series produced.

Lifetime Movie Networks hopes to replicate the success of its record-setting miniseries The Capture of the Green River Killer with new originals such as Little Girl Lost: The Delimar Vera Story scheduled Aug. 17. The channel has 18 films scheduled during the next year.

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