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On the Tube: Lifetime renews 'Any Day Now'

Saturday, January 23, 1999

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

PASADENA, CALIF. -- Score one for the little guys. Or in this case, gals.

Lifetime has renewed its acclaimed drama series "Any Day Now" for a second season of 22 episodes to begin airing in July.

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Although the show's ratings are puny by broadcast standards, it's turned into a signature show for Lifetime. Annie Potts and Lorraine Toussaint star as best friends from childhood who are reunited as adults. Their '60s-era childhood exploits are acted out by young actresses in black and white sequences that have just a touch of color here and there.

If that sounds a lot like NBC's "Sisters," well, it is. But the twist with "Any Day Now" is that the show chronicles the friendship and changing nature of race relations with black and white best friends.

Series creator Nancy Miller, who grew up in the South, first tried to get the show on the air eight years ago. She even pitched it as "The Wonder Years" meets "Mississippi Burning." The networks balked, saying it was too much about girls, too much about civil rights and too much like the critically acclaimed but low-rated "I'll Fly Away."

In Miller's original conception, the series was just about the best friends as children in the 1960s, but Lifetime suggested the past and present approach.

"Now we can see where they came from and what made them the women they are," Miller said. "In the same sense, we can see where our nation was and where we are today, and how far we have to go."

While the show is on a woman's cable network, both Potts and Toussaint said they often get approached by men who appreciate the series. Both actresses said more work lies ahead if America hopes to heal the wounds of racism.

"A dear friend of mine's mother grew up working for wealthy white families in the South," Toussaint said. "And to this day, when we go visit her, she very casually refers to them as 'my white people.' And they think of her in that context, also. And she is absolutely comfortable and quite happy in that role. It's like going back in time. So things have changed and things haven't changed."

Miller said she hopes the show's dialogue on race will help create awareness and understanding without denigrating the South.

"I love the South," she said, "and one thing I was not going to do was portray the South as a bunch of country bumpkins. My parents are from there, and my parents are good people. But they were raised with wrong ideas. And they changed over the years, just like the South has changed."

SHOWTIME SHOWS: Trying to steal a page from HBO's playbook, Showtime is hoping to re-create the critical success of "Oz" and "The Larry Sanders Show" with two new hour-long series expected to debut in June.

The first show, "The Hardwood," is about a professional basketball team and will be overseen by Tom Fontana, executive producer of HBO's "Oz" and NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street." Fontana will not get an executive producer credit, rather, he'll be credited as the show's "creative guru" in the opening credits.

Joe Cacaci ("The Trials of Rosie O'Neill") and pilot writer Sean Jablonski will be on-set executive producers.

"Beggars and Choosers" goes behind the scenes of the TV business to show all the insanity of how TV shows get made and scheduled. The series was co-created by the late Brandon Tartikoff, who knew something about putting together a winning schedule as the head programmer for NBC in the 1980s.

The most impressive aspect of "Beggars" is that it will be written by novelist Peter Lefcourt, who fictionalized the Hollywood scene in his book, "The Deal."

HERE COME THE ADS: Last September Bravo quietly switched from a non-commercial network to a commercial network, a move that had been planned, according to Bravo's executive vice president, Ed Carroll.

"Bravo transitioned from a paid cable network to a basic network years ago, and this is something we knew we were eventually going to have to do," Carroll said. "One of the reasons we launched the Independent Film Channel is so that we would always have this sister network to continue to be the pristine movie environment for fans."

Bravo and IFC are both owned by Rainbow Media. That company owns AMC, too, and AMC has begun showing ads in the recent months as well.

Carroll said Bravo must sustain itself with a greater number of original productions, such as its first original miniseries, an eight-hour French co-production of "The Count of Monte Cristo." Gerard Depardieu stars as Edmond Dantes in the $20 million epic. "Monte Cristo" is in French and will air in June with English subtitles.

CNN NEWS: NPR correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault will move to CNN to become the network's Johannesburg, South Africa, bureau chief in April. She's only been with NPR since 1997, having previously spent 20 years at PBS, most recently as a correspondent for "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."

Mike Boettcher, recently based in Los Angeles for NBC News, returns to CNN as a national correspondent based in Atlanta. Boettcher worked for CNN in the early 1980s.

CNN's "NewsStand" series will join forces with Time Warner sister publication People magazine for an 11-week series tied to People's 25th anniversary issue. These editions of "NewsStand," airing between March 23 and June 1, will profile 10 of the 25 people chosen as "legends" by People magazine.

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