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Tuned In: 'Beautiful Girl' is set in a beautiful city

Thursday, October 16, 2003

By Rob Owen

The commercial for a TV movie called "Beautiful Girl" features a Miss Squirrel Hill beauty pageant. Could it be set anywhere other than Pittsburgh?

ABC Family's "Beautiful Girl," premiering at 8 p.m. Sunday, is indeed set in our fair city, but it was not filmed here.

Executive producer Greg Gugliotta, a 1990 graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, said the script was originally set in Brooklyn, but he wanted the story to have more of an "everywoman" feel and wanted something more "Anyplace, USA."

"I felt like Pittsburgh is a great city, it's metropolitan, but has the small-town kind of feel and ultimately it kind of speaks to everyone," Gugliotta said.

Marissa Jaret Winokur (Broadway's "Hairspray") stars in "Beautiful Girl" as Becca Wasserman, a full-bodied young woman who opts to compete in the ultra-thin world of beauty pageants, much to the dismay of her mother (Fran Drescher). Her fiance, Adam (Mark Consuelos), is supportive until he sees how the competition changes the woman he loves.

"It has a really great message, and that is what we love about it," Gugliotta said. "You don't have to be a size 2 and look a certain way to be beautiful. We think that will attract a really big audience."

For Pittsburghers, the greater appeal may be hearing the names of area neighborhoods. After Becca competes in the Miss Squirrel Hill pageant, she advances to the Miss Metropolitan Pittsburgh competition, where she encounters Miss Plum Boro, Miss Garfield, Miss Swissvale and Becca's nemesis, Miss Sewickley.

Gugliotta lived in Squirrel Hill during his time in Pittsburgh and helped the writers get to know the names of other area communities.

"We kind of sat down and went through how many characters were needed and what their ethnicity would be," he said. "Squirrel Hill is a very Jewish area and Becca Wasserman is Jewish, so it kind of fit perfectly."

Stock footage of Downtown Pittsburgh turns up briefly in the film, which was shot in Toronto.

"Unfortunately, on these budgets there's no way to do it in the States," Gugliotta said.

'Guardian' revelations

CBS's "The Guardian" has had a strong season so far. After going a little overboard with relationship melodrama toward the end of its second season, the show has returned to balance in year three.

The strongest episode to date, filmed partially in Donora, had the guts to introduce a racist character and then make him sympathetic, or at least pitiable.

Next week's episode, the last to feature scenes filmed locally in August, is another strong entry that offers revelations about two of the show's regular characters. On the surface, one revelation seems to contradict what viewers know from past episodes, but on reflection, it actually explains a lot about the character's personality.

Written by Rick Eid and series creator David Hollander, the hour also marks the return of Raphael Sbarge as wonderfully slimy Jake Straka, the only lawyer on TV who lives up to the real-world stereotype (does anyone on "The Practice" not wear a halo?) After being written light or not at all in early episodes this season, Jake takes center stage in this outing.

So does Pittsburgh. The city has looked beautiful in all its appearances to date but seems to get the most screen time in this episode, which features scenes shot on Seventh Street (in front of the building used as the exterior of Legal Services of Pittsburgh) and at Rock Jungle in Station Square.

Freshman renewals

New sitcoms "All of Us" and "Eve" have been given a full-season order by UPN. ... NBC has picked up an additional nine episodes of the Monday night drama "Las Vegas."

Rejoice! New edition

The TV watcher's bible, "The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows" ($27.95, Ballantine Books) by Tim Brooks and Earl Marsh, has been published in a new, updated edition.

A must-have reference for TV aficionados, it includes entries on series produced from 1946 through the 2002-03 television season.

McIntire's finale

The final installment of PCNC's "NightTalk with John McIntire" airs at 9 p.m. Friday, and the host plans two music videos. One will feature prominent Pittsburghers dancing or pretending to play instruments.

County executive candidates Jim Roddey and Dan Onorato already taped their segments. Roddey plays bongos; Onorato plays a guitar.

The finale will also feature three sets of free-for-all segments and will be taped Friday afternoon rather than airing live.

PCNC station manager Mark Barash said that with more guests than usual, it's easier to tape "NightTalk" during the day, when more people are at the station to assist with the program. He said taping the show was not done out of concern for what McIntire or his guests might say live.

"I am confident that all the people involved on that program will be good guests, and I'm absolutely confident John will treat this program with the same professionalism he has treated his seven years here," Barash said.

McIntire leaves PCNC after the station made an offer to renew his contract that would have cut him from full-time to part-time and reduced his salary.

Barash said best-of "NightTalk" episodes will air beginning next week until a new host is announced, which he expects will happen within the next two weeks.


You can reach Rob Owen at 412-263-2582 orrowen@post-gazette.com . Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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