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TV Note: VH1 stages a cabaret at Liza Minnelli's home

Monday, July 29, 2002

What good is sitting alone in your room ... if no one is there to watch?

Liza Minnelli and new husband David Gest will be staging a "Cabaret" at their house -- and you're invited.

Trying to imitate the ratings magic of sister channel MTV's "The Osbournes," VH1 is offering its own version of a celebrity home invasion television series, with Minnelli and Gest in their Manhattan penthouse.

"It's an intimate evening at our house, kind of like our wedding," Gest quipped, referring to their lavish, celebrity-studded March nuptials that included 15 bridesmaids.

At a news conference Thursday, the Academy Award-winning actress, who said she was more nervous about meeting reporters than opening her home to the public, looked trim and healthy in clingy black slacks, blouse and long jacket.

The couple's show will emphasize music, with Minnelli singing solo and joining entertainer-friends in duets, Gest said. It's set to begin in October.

While no performers are confirmed, he suggested they would include such musically diverse artists as Mary J. Blige, Alan Jackson, Dr. Dre, Al Green and Barry White.

Minnelli, 56, and Gest, 48, said they are willing to open up their kitchen, dining room and music room.

"I won't let anybody into the bedroom or the bathroom," Minnelli said.

Gest said the show will not resemble "The Osbournes," the series that peers into the daily lives of aging rocker Ozzy Osbourne, wife Sharon and two of their children.

"We love the Osbournes. I think they're fantastic. ... It's not the Osbournes," Gest said of his show, which he described as more of a musical jam with dinner thrown in.

The couple didn't detail the show's format or describe how much time they would spend singing, talking or eating.

Minnelli and Gest, who produces concerts and television specials, attracted a flurry of attention with their marriage. They fielded several questions Thursday about their relationship.

"It's quite a trip being married to this man. David has an energy I find fascinating," Minnelli said.

Noting they've known each other for a year, Gest said, "I'd say we're more happy now than the first day we met."

Asked about the scrutiny of their relationship and comic digs taken by "Saturday Night Live" and others, Gest replied: "That goes with the territory. We laugh at it."

(Lynn Elber, Associated Press)

PBS defends HIV Muppet

The head of PBS won't rule out the appearance of an HIV-positive Muppet on "Sesame Street," saying the show's approach will reflect the virus' impact on U.S. children.

An HIV-positive character will join South Africa's version of the show in September, and some federal lawmakers had grown alarmed by the possibility of such a character joining the U.S. show, questioning whether it was age appropriate.

PBS president Pat Mitchell told the Television Critics Association on Friday that the South African character grew from the needs of that country, where millions of children are affected by AIDS.

She and the show's producers had previously said no HIV-positive character was planned in the U.S. version.

South Africa's "Takalani Sesame" is one of several locally produced versions of the children's program, which premiered in the United States in 1969.

Its new HIV-positive Muppet character was created at the urging of the South African government to educate children about AIDS.

Some 4.7 million South Africans -- one in nine -- are HIV positive, more people than in any other country.

(L.E.)

'Osbournes' lawsuit

A producer has sued Ozzy Osbourne and the rock musician's wife, claiming the couple stole the idea for their hit MTV reality series "The Osbournes" from him.

Plaintiff Gary Binkow said he met on several occasions with the couple and executives from Miramax TV between 1999 and 2000 to discuss "a real-life docu-sitcom" about their family, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The court papers include what Binkow said was a copy of his original treatment of the proposed series from January 2000, registered with the Writers Guild of America, The Hollywood Reporter reported Friday. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for breach of contract and fraud.

Lisa Vega, a spokeswoman for the family, said previously published reports have made it clear that Binkow was not the show's creator. MTV was not named in the lawsuit.

Binkow is executive producer of "Neverland," a movie starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet that's being shot in London.

A second season of the popular show is set to begin shooting in a few weeks, with Sharon Osbourne beginning chemotherapy for cancer that she recently learned had spread beyond her colon.

(Associated Press)

Leaving 'Boston Public'

When Fox's Monday night drama "Boston Public" returns Oct. 21 with new episodes, several characters will be gone.

One-armed teacher's aide Meredith Peters (Kathy Baker) isn't yet slated to reappear, and teacher Lauren Davis (Jessalyn Gilsig) and office aide Louisa Fenn (Rashida Jones) will disappear entirely.

In their place, several new characters will be added. Zach Fisher (Jon Abrahams) is a new science teacher who once attended Winslow High. Cara DeLizia ("So Weird") returns as Marcie, a student who will work as a student aide to Principal Harper (Chi McBride). Joey McIntyre, a former member of New Kids on the Block, will appear in the first three episodes as a teacher closer in age and attitude to the students than to his fellow teachers.

(Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor)

Another PBS 'House'

In addition to next year's British-made "Manor House," PBS will produce "Colonial House" in the United States for 2004. "Colonial" will follow families who will live in the style of 17th-century Americans.

PBS also may air the British "1940s House" this fall.

(R.O.)

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