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ABC puts faith and hope in new Ford-Ripa sitcom

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

HOLLYWOOD -- OK, this is confusing, so stick with me a minute. In the new ABC sitcom "Hope & Faith," Faith Ford plays Hope and Kelly Ripa stars as Faith.

"We're confused, too," confessed series creator Joanna Johnson. "We have a jar in the writers' room and every time you say 'Faith' when you mean 'Hope,' you have to put a dollar in, and I've already lost about $50."

Ford said the show was not written with her in mind, so the character names are a coincidence.

The series focuses on two sisters, Hope (Ford), the suburban mother, and Faith (Ripa), a fired soap star. Hope is organized, Faith is a mess.

"Normally, on a soap opera you're not dead until you as a person are dead, and even that can be negotiated," said Ripa, who starred on the daytime soap "All My Children" for more than a decade. "We do something innovative. When you die on a soap opera, you're killed and brought back as your evil twin. My character's evil twin kills her and then kills herself. This is groundbreaking! Expect to see this pop up on all the shows."

Ripa's "Children" character is away in California, but she doesn't rule out returning to the daytime soap. And she'll continue to host "Live with Regis and Kelly." ("Hope & Faith" will tape in New York, as does "Live.")

"[Regis] has been wonderful the entire time," Ripa said. "He likes to play the gruff guy who is constantly goading me on the air, but he's been great. I'm hoping he'll do a cameo once in a while on this show. I'm hoping he'll play the sleazy agent down the road."

Ford, who doesn't have children, said she wanted to play a mom because she's naturally mothering and saw it as an escape. Ripa, who has three children, dismissed any notions of her as uber-mom.

"Children are a lot like pancakes," she said. "You sort of ruin the first one and get better at it the second time. By the third one, you get to flip it over at just the right time. I think we sort of gravitated toward roles that aren't necessarily what we are."

After filming the pilot, producers decided to recast the role of Hope's husband, hiring Ted McGinley for the part. McGinley is patron saint of www.jumptheshark.com and he's noted for bringing down shows, most recently CBS's short-lived sitcom "Charlie Lawrence."

"I'm hoping it takes me 10 years to kill this one," McGinley said.

"That is such a horrible thing!" said Ford, new to the jump the shark concept.

"Now you're [wondering], 'Why'd they cast him!?' " McGinley teased.

"Hope & Faith" is part of ABC's revival of the TGIF -- Thank Goodness It's Funny -- Friday night lineup, airing at 9 p.m. this fall.

Setting the bar (too) high

One of the producers on The WB's new sitcom "All About the Andersons" has ambition, if nothing else. The sitcom stars Anthony Anderson -- recently seen alongside a marsupial in "Kangaroo Jack" -- as a single dad and aspiring actor who moves home with his young son, much to the dismay of his father (John Amos).

Amos, who left "Good Times" in the '70s over concerns about the depiction of African Americans on television, said he was attracted to "Andersons" when executive producer Marco Pennette assured him, "I would like to do August Wilson."

"I thought that was a pretty lofty aspiration," Amos said, "in view of the fact that the man has won a couple of Pulitzers and we're doing 22-minute sitcoms."

Having seen "Andersons," which includes a misunderstanding that leads to Anderson being pursued by police in a low-speed highway chase, I feel comfortable saying anyone who expects to see an August Wilson-type play on TV each week will be disappointed.

'Angel' returns

Contrary to statements by WB executives in May, "Angel" executive producer Joss Whedon says, actress Charisma Carpenter may appear on the drama series again. Though she's no longer a series regular, Whedon said, he wants Carpenter to return to give closure to her character's story. Carpenter's Cordelia ended the season in May in a coma.

"That's what we want, but it's dependent on her schedule," Whedon said Sunday at a WB party. "We know what we want to do; it's just a question of when to do it."

"Angel," which has decent WB-sized ratings in original episodes but doesn't perform well in reruns, won a late renewal reprieve in May. The end of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," from which "Angel" was spun off, helped "Angel's" case.

"With the departure of 'Buffy,' we thought we had a great opportunity to grow the show," said WB Entertainment president Jordan Levin. To that end, executives asked Whedon to write more self-contained stories.

"Last season was basically a 22-hour episode," Whedon acknowledged. "We started the show saying we'll be stand-alone, and then, I don't want to say we failed so much as decided that wasn't what we were really interested in. Now that we have an almost unwieldy cast, we can do stand-alone episodes but still have character resonance in them."

James Marsters, who played the vampire Spike on "Buffy," will join "Angel" in the first episode, but Whedon wouldn't explain how the character, killed in the "Buffy" finale, will be resurrected, except to say the amulet he held during his demise will play a role in Spike's revival.

"The second episode deals with what the hell he's doing there," Whedon said. "In the old version of the show, we might have stretched that out for a lot of episodes. In the new version of the show, by the end of that [episode] you'll know why he's there and, more importantly, what part he plays in the ensemble."

Now that Team Angel will be working for its former nemesis, the evil law firm Wolfram & Hart, it will vacate its hotel base and move into "swank new apartments."

"The [hotel] lobby was beautiful, but eventually it was a giant room with all of our people standing around talking, and our writers would just want to kill themselves trying to find a new way to do that," Whedon said of the pending set changes.

A new character, who "might just be a little bit sexy," will join the show as a go-between at Wolfram & Hart. Characters from "Buffy" and "Angel" episodes past, including conniving Lilah, may return, but the only one confirmed so far is the ditzy vampire Harmony.

Scoring 'Smallville'

One of the best moves in the second season of "Smallville" was the decision to use the John Williams "Superman" theme in key mythology-building scenes of the series. Executive producer Alfred Gough said producers got lucky they could afford to use the theme.

"It was recorded in England and it was much easier to get because you don't have to pay as much in royalties," Gough said. "If it was recorded in L.A., you have to pay every musician who worked on it. That's why so many movie scores are recorded overseas. That was a lucky break for us. We said, 'Be prepared to do the version that won't get you sued.'"

In addition to continuing to grow the mythology of young Clark Kent's story, Gough said, the third season will first have to clean up the mess from the season finale, which showed a red Kryptonite-influenced Clark (Tom Welling) riding a motorcycle to Metropolis. Season three will pick up three months later and will introduce a character from the comics, Morgan Edge, leader of the Metropolis Intergang crime syndicate.

Unlikely as it may seem, Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) will apparently survive the season finale plane crash.

"Most people don't survive tornadoes either," Gough said, referring to the first season finale.

Although there has been talk of introducing young Bruce Wayne, Gough said that might not happen because Warner Bros. plans another "Batman" film.

Wannabe reporter Chloe (Alison Mack) will continue her business dalliance with evil Lionel Luthor (John Glover).

"She made a deal with the devil out of anger, and we'll see her having to grapple with that," Gough said. "She wants to get out of it and gets pulled back in. You'll see how Lionel turns the screws on her."

'Everwood' update

In the "Everwood" season finale, it appeared Colin (Mike Erwin) may not have survived the surgery performed by Doc Brown (Treat Williams), but Erwin looked positively healthy at The WB party Sunday night. Erwin wouldn't comment on whether or not he returns to the show, but former cast members aren't usually invited to these shindigs.

Series creator Greg Berlanti said the new season will introduce several new characters, including Dr. Abbott's sister, who returns from the Far East where she studied acupuncture. She becomes the third doctor in Everwood, Colo.

The Browns hire a 20-year-old babysitter for Delia. Ephram (Gregory Smith) will develop a crush on the nanny. Neither of the new roles has been cast yet.

"If last year was about grieving, I think this year's a lot about healing," Berlanti said.

Music series

"Everwood" stars Gregory Smith and Emily VanCamp host The WB's "Pepsi Smash," a one-hour summer music series premiering tomorrow at 9 p.m. Evanescence, Monica, The Black Eyed Peas and The Ataris will perform in the first broadcast.

"Smash" will have rotating hosts. Future episodes will be hosted by Jessica Biel ("7th Heaven"), Alyson Hannigan ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer") and Gabrielle Union ("Bad Boys II").

Post-Gazette TV editor Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association summer press tour. You can reach him at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com .

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