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Triumph of the Pill

If these walls could talk, they’d be dishin’ about sexuality. At least, that’s the topic behind HBO’s third installment of the racy telefilm franchise that depicts residents of one home tackling the same topic throughout history (previous issues were abortion and homosexuality). HBO says the project from veteran Walls producers Suzanne and Jennifer Todd is still in the development stages — no airdate’s been set — but Carrie Fisher is already chatting up her third of the trilogy. ”My story’s about the pill and how it affected the sexual revolution,” says Fisher of her script, set in the ’60s. ”Did you know that when the pill first came out you had to get a prescription and you had to be married? Isn’t that bizarre?” Not as bizarre as Sharon Stone doing the hibidy-dipidy with Ellen DeGeneres in If These Walls Could Talk 2.

Ladies in Waiting

Oprah‘s not looking to step down for at least three more years, but two talk-show hopefuls are already vying for her daytime crown this fall. Self-empowerment guru Iyanla Vanzant will make her debut on some of the same ABC-owned and -operated stations that run Winfrey, who first introduced Vanzant to television audiences. ”Right now [daytime audiences] are into personal development and that’s what Iyanla is into,” says Katz TV Group VP Bill Carroll. But don’t rule out MTV personality Ananda Lewis, whose new talk show — like Winfrey’s — is produced by King World. Lewis will show up on some WB and NBC stations (where, incidentally, another daytime throne could be up for grabs if syndie powerhouse Rosie O’Donnell bows out after next season). Says Carroll: ”King World is looking for Oprah’s potential replacement, and [Ananda] could be a younger Oprah.”

Reality Redux

Expect the broadcast nets to keep it real for at least three more seasons. CBS has already closed deals for Survivors 3 and 4: Scouts are already surveying potential sites in Africa, Asia, and South America. The Eye will also launch a second Big Brother this summer, but with a new producer to insure that we’ll see more Will Mega types and fewer Chicken Georges. ABC may dig up a sequel to The Mole, which is currently giving the net double-digit boosts in 18-34 despite zero buzz, and Fox will likely be seduced into bringing back the infidelity festival Temptation Island. Says a network exec, ”This being an extremely hot genre that appeals to a younger demo — combined with the looming writers’ strike — will push some of these shows into an early pickup.”

AND SO ON … Ally McBeal fans, you can now officially stop mourning: Robert Downey Jr. has signed up for eight more episodes. He returns as glib lawyer Larry Paul starting Feb. 26. Says Ally exec producer Bill D’Elia, ”We’re all behind him, and he knows it.” — Dan Snierson, with additional reporting by William Keck

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