Friday New Shows, Fall 2001
The WB, 9-9:30 p.m.
Debuts September 14
With cheatin’ husbands, achin’ hearts, babies havin’ babies, and a Texas setting, The WB’s ”Reba” has all the ingredients of a classic country-music song. Which is perhaps why Nashville powerhouse Reba McEntire was so drawn to the show, she flew cross-country to audition for the central role of a beleaguered Lone Star State mama. ”We’re both hardheaded, strong-willed women that love and protect our family — and we don’t crumble at a crisis,” says the 46-year-old singer. ”I could relate to that.”
The fractured-family comedy follows Reba Hart, an upper-middle-class Houston homemaker and mother of three who discovers that her dentist husband of 20 years (Murphy Brown’s Christopher Rich) is ditching her for his perky — and pregnant — hygienist (Melissa Peterman). If that’s not enough to shock the neighbors, Hart’s 17-year-old daughter, Cheyenne (JoAnna Garcia), is also expecting, and is betrothed to her dim-witted boyfriend (Steve Howey) — leaving Cheyenne, as she puts it, ”like, so off the drill team.”
All this might sound more soap opera than sitcom, but McEntire hopes audiences will see ”that crises do happen, but it’s not devastating…. You gotta have a sense of humor about it.” Executive producer Allison M. Gibson (Home Improvement) plans to lighten things up by ”poking fun at some of the social mores and rules of Southern polite society,” all the while ”calling them on their own hypocrisy.”
After selling more than 45 million records and starring in everything from B movies (Tremors) to Broadway (Annie Get Your Gun), McEntire is anything but daunted by the pressure of carrying a series with her name on it — despite the numerous high-profile flops (e.g., Bette Midler’s Bette) that have gone before. ”Oh, it’s intimidating,” says the singer. ”But it’s a lot of fun and I like the challenge.” The WB, which has yet to launch a successful sitcom, echoes that go-getter sentiment. Says the netlet’s entertainment prez, Jordan Levin, ”With a strong writer and a talent like Reba who embodies the moral center of the show, you’ve got a real strong chance.” Then again, as McEntire says when describing ”Reba” ‘s philosophy, ”Life doesn’t always turn out the way you had it worked out in your mind.”