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‘Providence’ Seizes the ‘Date’

It’s nice to know that even TV characters can do desperate things for love. In an intriguing cross-genre dabble, the Dec. 14 episode of the NBC drama Providence will feature Paula Cale’s relationship-challenged Joanie — sister of Melina Kanakaredes’ Sydney — appearing on the syndicated romantic reality series Blind Date for some unholy match-rimony. (A portion of the show will be shot in Blind Date-style video, complete with snarky pop-up commentary.) ”All the writers here just love Blind Date,” explains Providence executive producer Ann Hamilton, ”and we were joking that Joanie should go on Blind Date. We thought it’d be great if it really could be Blind Date and not just a fake setup, and the Blind Date people were like, ‘Great! We’ll help you out. You can use our car! You can use [host] Roger Lodge. Here’s the set!”’ Sounds like the normally tame drama made the most of the opportunity. ”I’m making out with two different guys, I’m milking a cow, I’m riding an electronic bull, and I’m in a Jacuzzi in a bikini on national television,” enthuses Cale. ”It’s going to be fantastic.” If not, there’s always Elimidate Deluxe.

No Laughing Matter

Making sitcoms has become a serious business in post-Sept. 11 Hollywood. For one thing, it’s no longer possible for John Q. Public to line up outside a television studio’s door waiting to catch a taping of, say, Everybody Loves Raymond or Friends. Security concerns have prompted sitcoms to rely solely on organizations that round up specially screened groups from military bases or colleges to fill the studio bleachers. Not that anyone’s complaining. ”Our first show back [after Sept. 11] was the best audience we’ve ever had,” says Yes, Dear executive producer Greg Garcia. ”People were looking forward to getting out of the house and laughing.” But things got downright scary on The WB’s Off Centre set last month, when a suspicious powder was found in (no joke) the make-up room, forcing a temporary shutdown of the freshman comedy. That was Burbank’s fifth anthrax scare that day, says Off Centre executive producer Danny Zuker, who never believed it was the real deal anyway. ”We’re just this little show on The WB. You have to be a dumb terrorist to hit us. ER is right next door, for chrissakes.”

AND SO ON…Alas, there’s no Laverne & Shirley revival in the works, but Penny Marshall is the latest celeb to consider a return to the small screen (though it’s her hope to primarily direct a series and just occasionally star, says one network suit). Other TV-job-seeking celebs who clearly haven’t learned a lesson from Bette Midler are Alec and Billy Baldwin, Chevy Chase, Whoopi Goldberg, and Andie MacDowell, who insists that her show be taped near her North Carolina home. Hmmm, maybe she should just do a guest stint on North Carolina-based Dawson’s Creek.

Blind Date
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