SCENE NOW: Daytime itinerants to Travel Channel are quite familiar with Samantha Brown, whose work surfaces in premieres and myriad encores. She's the understated host of the network's ongoing 30-part series Great Hotels, which recently gave viewers a look at Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego and the St. Regis in New York. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it. She's done it so well that Travel rewarded her with a second show, Passport to Europe With Samantha Brown, in which watchers get to explore “must sees” that aren't in the travel guide. She also supplies tips tinged with humor. After all, who wouldn't chuckle when her history lesson of Bath, England, not only dissed royal visitors but the “irony” water found there.
SCENES ELSEWHERE: A graduate of Syracuse University with a degree in musical theatre, Brown's comedic commentary has been honed from her work in numerous off-Broadway performances and as an active member of the New York sketch-comedy group Mouth. She has also played the role of Natalie in Lifetime Television's Three Blind Dates, as well as that of “Wendy Wire,” the omnipresent cable TV consumer in a commercial for former MSO Century Communications, now part of Adelphia Communications Corp.
Lisa Chappell, Bridie Carter
SCENE NOW: Chappell (Claire McLeod) and Carter (Tess Silverman McLeod) play beautiful sisters who are quite different, but must work from the same page in order to run an all-female workforce following the unexpected inheritance of their family's cattle ranch on McLeod's Daughters, airing Saturday nights at 11 p.m. on WE: Women's Entertainment. Driving herds and shearing sheep may not sound that intriguing, but dropping in a little romance and heartache ratchets up the drama at Drover's Run.
Filmed on a 135-acre ranch near Adelaide, the series premiered on Australia's Nine Network in 2001, when it was that nation's top show. WE recently acquired the second season, scheduled to start March 19, two weeks after the rookie run concludes. On March 12 and 13, viewers can relive the series or discover it for the first time, with marathon airings.
SCENES ELSEWHERE: Chappell's film credits include Jack Brown Genius and Desperate Remedies, while her Australian TV résumé also includes roles on City Life, Hercules, Shark in the Park and Gloss. She also has a theater background, with performances in such diverse productions as Hamlet, Crimes of the Heart and The Wizard of Oz.
For her part, Carter graduated from Australia's National Institute of Dramatic Art in 1994. She played the lead role in the feature film Fresh Air, while her Down Under TV work includes roles on My Husband My Killer, Going Home, Above the Law, All Saints and Simone De Beauvoir's Babies.
SCENE NOW: If your teenage kids spend their Friday nights in front of the tube, you may be familiar with the 18-year-old Collins, a native of the Toronto suburb of Thornhill. For those who aren't, she's one of the lead players in The N's Degrassi: The Next Generation, the ensemble-cast series that tracks the trials and tribulations of the teen years through the prism of fictional students at Degrassi Community School. Angst aside, the show has tackled such issues as school violence, eating disorders, safe sex, alcohol abuse and death. Collins' character, the popular and oft-times manipulative Paige Michalchuk, has been at the center of controversial episodes involving date rape and a subsequent trial. The fourth season wraps this summer, with a fifth slated to bow in the fall.
SCENES ELSWHERE: Before Degrassi, Collins was no stranger to cable. She played Brooke on Disney Channel's series In a Heartbeat, and spent two seasons on then-Fox Family Channel's I Was a Sixth Grade Alien. She also appeared as Susan Lucci's daughter in the telepic Blood on Her Hands; in Rocky Marciano, starring Jon Favreau; and with Debbie Reynolds in Virtual Mom.
SCENE NOW: Tune in collegiate action from the gridiron, hardwood or pitch and chances are you'll see Heather Cox on the sideline or providing commentary for ESPN or ESPN2.
In addition to covering regular-season games, Cox has been on the case for the women's National Collegiate Athletic Association Basketball Tournament, college football bowl games and the NCAA Women's Soccer College Cup national championship. She's also doing a little college hoops assignment work for CBS these days. And did we mention volleyball? She's been courtside for CSTV: College Sports Television's coverage of spike-and-digs and for ESPN's presentation of the women's and men's NCAA Division I National Championships.
SCENES ELSEWHERE: Where hasn't she been? Her resume not only includes stints at Black Rock, but Oxygen (Women's National Basketball Association), Turner Sports (1998 and 2001 Goodwill Games and the NBA) and FSN (volleyball and beach volleyball). This past summer, she was in Athens on NBC's Olympics team covering the volleyball and the sand sport competition. We keep hitting that V-ball thing. Cox was a player back in the day: On the pro circuit as captain of the Sacramento Stars of the National Volleyball Association from 1993-95; a member of the U.S. National Volleyball squad from 1987-95; and team captain of the University of the Pacific, which was a runner-up for the national title and fielded another Final Four participant during her run from 1998-91.
Giada De Laurentiis
SCENE NOW: The granddaughter of famed film producer Dino DeLaurentiis, this highly acclaimed chef's show is beginning to take off with the Nielsens for Food Network. Everyday Italian, which premieres weekends at noon, recently completed its fourth season. Building the appeal: the show, in which De Laurentiis uses everyday ingredients and homey recipes she grew up with, is now being stripped weekdays at 4:30 p.m. A fifth season is slated to bow in June. In the interim, fans can find fresh Giada in the form of a 13-city tour promoting her Everyday Italian cookbook, released by Clarkson Potter Publishers on Feb. 22, and as host of the March 13 Food Network Caters Your Wedding special, part of its “Wedding Weekend.”
SCENES ELSEWHERE: De Laurentiis attended the famed Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Paris. After toiling in a number of Los Angeles restaurants, including Wolfgang Puck's Spago, she started her own business as a private chef and caterer, and is the founder of GDL Foods.
SCENE NOW: While her free spirit and barefoot approach still shine through as one of the original designers on TLC's Trading Spaces, Gorder can now be seen on the sides of buses and other media as she touts her new gig as the host and designer of Town Haul. TLC's reality show, which got off to a good start on Jan. 22 with a 1.8 household rating in its 10 p.m. Saturday time slot. It centers on Gorder, crew and town residents revitalizing and restoring various buildings in Jeffersonville, N.Y. After a half-dozen installments in the Sullivan County hamlet, Gorder and group will head to Laurens, S.C., for restoration work over another six episodes, beginning March 5.
SCENES ELSEWHERE: Born and raised in Minneapolis, Gorder graduated from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan with a graphic design degree. An internship at MTV turned into a full-time position, but her love of design drew her to studios in Amsterdam, Barcelona and the award-winning Duffy Design in the Big Apple. Genevieve's artistic side continued to flourish and she quickly went from one-dimensional to three-dimensional graphic design, working on everything from corporate identities and packaging to fine arts and fashion. She has made frequent media appearances including the Today Show, Good Day New York, YM magazine, Lucky magazine and many more. Media work aside, her gg Studios touches many things: from a bottle of Tanqueray 10, to illustrated greeting cards and a line of blue jeans.
SCENE NOW: Vanna White she's not. Long on attitude, if short on words, Johnson plays the angry usherette on IFC game show, Ultimate Film Fanatic, now in its second season. Working with host Chris Gore, the editor of FilmThreat.com, Johnson awards movie tickets to contestants with the right answers and plane tickets home to those who crash and burn with the celebrity judges. Johnson exhibits equal parts bemused detachment and contempt in her old school theater get-up, making her interesting to watch, but one has to think there are friendlier people with whom to share Friday nights.
SCENES ELSEWHERE: Johnson's move to the movie buff crowd follows turns as an actress, stand-up comic, performance artist and playwright. Among underground cognoscenti, she's perhaps best known for her outrageous weekly show Ms. Monah's Magic Eight Ball in New York. Megan also writes a monthly column for IN Los Angeles Magazine.
SCENE NOW: On Showtime's lesbian-themed series The L Word, Kirshner plays Jenny, a talented young writer in search of her creative voice. During the first season, Jenny moved in with boyfriend Tim (Eric Mabius), but, surrounded by lesbian love and lust in Los Angeles, she was unsure about where she stands sexually. In season two, which premieres on Feb. 20, Tim's moving back to Ohio and Jenny's relationship with Gene (Tygh Runyan) disintegrates. Applying for and then turned down for entry into an exclusive writing class, Kirshner sparks with Carmen (Sarah Shahi) and sports a new short cropped coif. Sapphic sightings aside, the dramatic intrigue and personal interplay between characters and guest stars, including Camryn Manheim, Sandra Bernhard, Kelly Lynch, Gloria Steinem and Arianna Huffington, should turn up the heat — and draw more viewers — on L's second season.
SCENES ELSEWHERE: Gaining widespread attention for her portrayal as Mandy, the would-be presidential assassin on the first season of Fox's serial 24, Kirshner began her acting career at age 17, playing a clairvoyant dominatrix in Love and Human Remains. She was recently seen in the feature Century Hotel, while other film credits include Exotica, Mad City, Saturn, Anna Karenina and The Crow: City of Angels.
SCENE NOW: She's a key member of Stargate Atlantis, the spinoff of Sci Fi's popular Stargate SG-1 series. Luttrell plays Teyla, the beautiful, exotic leader of a primitive alien civilization who is a valuable member of the Atlantis exploration team. Stargate Atlantis bowed last July 16 with a 3.2 household rating and some 4.2 million viewers, the best for any Sci Fi series. Hammocked at 9 p.m. between its progenitor and the series version of Battlestar Galactica, many viewers no doubt will touch down to see Teyla and the rest of the crew during the second half of Atlantis's first season as part of the network's Sci Fi Friday lineup: it bowed to a 2.1 rating and 2.6 million watchers on Jan. 21. The second season is set to blast off this summer.
SCENE ELSEWHERE: Born in Tanzania, East Africa, Luttrell's family immigrated to Canada when she was five. Trained in ballet and piano, Luttrell's stage career debut came with the Toronto production of Miss Saigon. Among her many TV credits: ER, Charmed, Touched by an Angel and the lead role of Lisette in the Anne Rice miniseries Feast of All Saints. As for movies, she was in The Impostor and indies The Aviary, House and the Genie Award-nominated Joe's So Mean To Josephine.
Kim Woodburn, Aggie MacKenzie
SCENE NOW: Talk about a couple of brave lasses. Kim Woodburn (blonde and British) and Aggie MacKenzie (bespectacled and Scottish) have sailed across the pond to do battle with some of America's dirtiest dwellings on Lifetime's How Clean Is Your House. Armed with mops, brooms and product placements aplenty, the Queens of Clean do battle with bugs, mice, leftovers that look like they hail from The Reagan administration and bathroom mold whose origins may trace to Pasteur. While turning their noses up at the filth, the pair dole out cleaning tips to viewers and doses of guilt, embarrassment and encouragement in trying to get the on-screen perpetrators to blanch themselves of their slime-filled pasts.
SCENES ELSEWHERE: It was January 2003, when Kim, overseeing the home of a sheik in England, and Aggie, following TV segment appearances on behalf of Good Housekeeping, where her duties including writing about cleaning products, auditioned in London for a potential show about cleaning remarkably filthy houses, Hence, the grime girls brought their spit and polish ways to Lifetime from the UK's Channel 4 show of the same name.
SCENE NOW: Accessible and a tad irreverent, Olson has been heading Divine Design, one of HGTV's most popular series — it consistently ranks in the network's top 10 — since June 2003. And there will be a lot more of this Canadian import on the way. Last year, she signed a five-year contract extension that makes her exclusive to the Scripps Network service, as well as its broadband and Internet plays. Beyond that, HGTV sister channel, Shop at Home, has also secured TV retailing rights. Plans also call for books under the HGTV imprint and columns syndicated via Scripps Howard News Service. For fans who feel Olson's designs are ultimately divine, she'll take viewers on a behind-the-scenes tour of how each episode is crafted from initial plans to putting the last accessory in place with a one-hour special on April 21.
SCENES ELSEWHERE: After earning a bachelor of science degree from the University of Calgary and playing volleyball for the Canadian National Team, Olson attended the school of Interior Design at Ryerson University in Toronto. She then worked for many of Canada's top interior design firms before establishing her own residential and commercial design practice, Candice Olson Design, in 1994. Launching in 2002, Divine Design With Candice Olson, was quickly brought stateside by HGTV. Since last summer, she's been a contributing editor for Woman's Day and Home magazines.
SCENE NOW: In a series that delves into the largely male world of a New York City fire house, Roth's Janet Gavin character is at the center of much of the action in FX's acclaimed Rescue Me. Playing the estranged wife of Denis Leary's Tommy Gavin, Roth peels back many layers as Janet tries to raise their three kids and form a new life with a new man. Angry and jealous sides are exposed as Janet discovers Tommy's fling with the wife of his deceased cousin. Constantly in need of more cash, Janet's manipulative powers are also on display as she leaves Gavin in an empty house as season one ends.
SCENES ELSEWHERE: Born in Woodstock, Ontario, Roth was attending college and interning at a Toronto-based ad agency when she became a model, before becoming one of Canada's top actresses. In the U.S., she first turned heads as a co-star with Sally Field in NBC's Emmy-winning miniseries, A Woman of Independent Means. She's been no stranger to cable, portraying the con artist Amy in FX's Lucky and Jocelyn in TNT's short-lived Wall Street series Bull. Other credits include: New Line Cinema's Highwaymen, Princes in Exile, Spoils of War and the recurring role of Officer Kerry Ray in CSI.