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TV Note: Formerly famous look for love on 'Star Date'

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Love may have been exciting and new when "The Love Boat" ruled Saturday nights in the 1970s and '80s.

Now, the actress who played Capt. Stubing's daughter is among the stars on the latest blind date show trying to prove it's just as exciting -- if not new -- to watch strangers struggle for small talk over Cobb salad.

Jill Whelan -- Vicki from "The Love Boat" -- is one of the celebrities on "Star Dates," which matches stars and singles with mixed results. The series premieres at 10:30 p.m. tomorrow on E! Entertainment Television.

You're thinking, another dating show?! And you're right. Between "Blind Date," "Shipmates," "Dismissed," "Elimidate," "EX-treme Dating," "Taildaters," "The 5th Wheel" and the biggest of all, "The Bachelor," there's no shortage of this genre.

You're also thinking, another celebrity reality show?! And you're right again. Between "The Osbournes," "Cribs" and "Diary" on MTV, and E!'s own "Anna Nicole Show," there's no shortage of stars willing to share the most intimate details of their lives on camera.

"Star Dates" combines the fly-on-the-wall element of those programs with the where-are-they-now nostalgia factor. Besides Whelan, Gary Coleman from "Diff'rent Strokes," Dustin Diamond from "Saved By the Bell" and Kim Fields from "The Facts of Life" go looking for love.

The first episode features Butch Patrick, who played Eddie Munster on "The Munsters" from 1964 to '66. (Without the widow's peak and pasty skin from his child actor days, you'd never recognize him -- he has wavy reddish hair and freckles.)

Now 49, Patrick splits his time between making appearances at nostalgia conventions and working as a consultant on haunted houses at Halloween. Having just gotten out of a six-year relationship, he says he's "looking for someone to fill the emptiness that I have at the moment."

He has a great time with Bachelorette No. 1, Lisa Marie Bolick. They go to a psychic bookstore together, where a tarot card reader tells them, "I get a real spiritual connection between the two of you."

That explains how they end up playing footsie in a hot tub later that night.

E!'s vice president of development, Kary McHoul, said everyone's had that kind of disastrous blind date, and that's why so many of these shows exist.

"I think it's relatable, and that's what people like, whether they're watching a mean-spirited dating show and they can laugh, or one like this where there's a twist," McHoul said.

The cable channel's talent bookers worked the phones to find actors to participate, and casting scouts searched for the regular people, who had to pass background checks.

"That was the hardest thing," McHoul said. "You don't want them to be stalkers of the celebrities."

The "greatest episode ever," she said, features Phyllis Diller and is scheduled to air Jan. 12.

Diller's first date is with a man she calls "a great big hunk," a former Marine with white hair and blue eyes. They go for dinner at her favorite restaurant, Chez Mimi in Los Angeles.

But her second date is with an actor who looks like "nothing -- a rutabaga," and discusses religion and philosophy the whole time.

But the twice-married Diller admits she didn't appear on "Star Dates" to make a love connection. She announced earlier this year that she'd no longer perform standup comedy, so she agreed to do the show for "a little exposure without taking my clothes off."

"I've got beaus," she said -- a lawyer and a Realtor. "To me it was a television job. I didn't expect to have anything on a white horse."

(Christy Lemire, Associated Press

Cancellations

ABC has pulled the plug on low-rated medical drama "MDs." "Celebrity Mole" takes over the 10 p.m. Wednesday time slot beginning Jan. 8 ... Lifetime canceled Sunday night courtroom drama "For the People" after a single season. Lifetime's "Strong Medicine" will return for a fourth season in July.

(Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor)

Live radio

WQED-FM (89.3) has several live broadcasts on tap in the next few days.

The station celebrates Bee-thoven's birthday today with a live broadcast from the Carnegie Library Department of Music. Host Stephen Baum will play works by the composer, along with a live performance by the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra. It airs from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Tonight's holiday concert by the Renaissance City Choir airs live from East Liberty Presbyterian Church, starting at 8 p.m.

And Monday's annual "Christmas Festival," featuring 10 choirs, will air from Heinz Hall Monday at 7:30 p.m.

(Adrian McCoy, for the Post-Gazette)

WTAE charity event

Channel 4's 17th annual "Project Bundle-Up Telethon" airs tonight from 8 to 11 p.m. The Salvation Army drive seeks to raise funds for warm outerwear for children and elderly in the region.

This year's hosts are Joe DeNardo, Michelle Wright and Stephen Cropper with additional Channel 4 talent making appearances.

(R.O.)

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