But comparisons to the late, great comic often signal disaster -- or desperation
Tori Spelling
Credit: Spelling: Gregg de Guire/LFI

When the WB announced that it was in talks to develop a ”Laverne & Shirley” type buddy sitcom with Tori Spelling, WB entertainment president Suzanne Daniels paid Tori the ultimate comic compliment: ”People are always talking about finding the next Lucy,” Daniels told Variety. ”I thought [Tori] had some of Lucy’s qualities. That’s when we started chasing her.” But when producers and directors start calling an actress ”the next Lucy,” it’s often a sign of trouble. Check out PBS’ documentary about the original red haired comedienne, ”Finding Lucy” (part of its American Masters series, airing Dec. 6) and then you, too, can judge whether these latter day Lucys make the grade.

Ellen DeGeneres
THE PROJECT ”Mr. Wrong” (1996)
THE COMMENT ”I see her as the next Lucy,” says Joe Roth, chairman of Disney, which produced the film (Ladies Home Journal, May 1995).
”WAAAH!”T HAPPENED Yep, it’s bad. Final gross: $12.8 million

Jenna Elfman
THE PROJECT ”Krippendorf’s Tribe” (1998)
THE COMMENT ”She is the first person in 20 years I can honestly compare to Lucille Ball,” says costar Richard Dreyfuss (Chicago Sun-Times, Feb. 22).
”WAAAH!”T HAPPENED Anthropologists hope future generations don’t judge us by it; grossed $7.5 million

Téa Leoni
THE PROJECT ABC’s and NBC’s ”The Naked Truth” (1995)
THE COMMENT ”I really think Téa is the Lucille Ball of the ’90s,” says Mary Tyler Moore, her costar in ”Flirting with Disaster” (Toronto Sun, April 2, 1996).
”WAAAH!”T HAPPENED After three struggling seasons with constantly rotating casts and one network switch, this sitcom was officially declared a baba- loser

Kirstie Alley
THE PROJECT ”Sibling Rivalry” (1990)
THE COMMENT ”Kirstie Alley doesn’t mind [director] Carl Reiner’s comparisons, certainly not when they put her in the same category as… Lucille Ball” (Toronto Star, July 22, 1990).
”WAAAH!”T HAPPENED Makes ”Veronica’s Closet” look like the golden age of Alley; final gross: $17.7 million

Shelley Long
THE PROJECT CBS’ ”Good Advice” (1993)
THE COMMENT ”Shelley’s something else…. She’s a seasoned comedienne, another Lucille Ball,” says Danny Jacobson, writer/ producer of the sitcom (Toronto Star, July 19, 1992).
”WAAAH!”T HAPPENED Better advice would have been to stay on ”Cheers”; show lasted 16 episodes

Sandra Bullock
THE PROJECT ”Miss Congeniality” (in theaters Dec. 22)
THE COMMENT ”Sandy’s got a lot of Lucille Ball in her,” says the movie’s coexecutive producer and screenwriter Marc Lawrence (EW, Aug. 18, 2000).
”WAAAH!”T HAPPENED Remains to be seen. But the trailer doesn’t exactly make you say, ”But I wanna go to the show, Ricky!”