The good-deed-doing, naughty-photo-dabbling, one-legged estranged wife of an aged pop star is among the illustrious group of C-listers that ABC has lined up for the next edition of its hit competition series "Dancing With the Stars."
Also attempting to samba their way back to the limelight: an actor who did 70 hours of community service for punching his fiancee in the head; the boxing daughter of Muhammad Ali; and Clyde the Glide.
ABC noted that "in a 'Dancing With the Stars' first," three athletes will participate in the series's fourth edition, debuting March 19.
ABC also noted that Heather Mills -- U.N. goodwill ambassador, activist for Adopt-A-Minefield, animal rights advocate, model for a German "lover's guide" and estranged wife of Paul McCartney -- will be the show's first contestant with an artificial limb. Mills lost a leg in a '93 motorcycle accident.
Former competitor Jerry Springer, who announced the contestants yesterday on ABC's infotainment show "Good Morning America," predicted Mills will be the sentimental favorite. That will probably not include Beatles fans, because her breakup from McCartney was not pretty. Last fall she was quoted as saying, "When you're vilified for doing nothing but falling in love with an icon . . . I'd rather have all of my limbs cut off, that's the God's honest truth."
Anyway, "Dancing" exec producer Conrad Green told People magazine yesterday they thought it would be "interesting" to have Mills compete "because we wanted to prove that dancing is something anyone can do."
We believe Mills's participation also marks the first time that producers of a reality competition series have cast someone with a risque past about which they knew in advance, though ABC forgot to mention that bit of precedent-setting. In '06 British tabs reported the former model had posed in various states of undress and teddy-and-whip-ishness for a 1988 German picture book. Mills called it a guidebook, according to the news reports.
Also hoping to snag the "Dancing" winner's trophy: Vincent Pastore, a.k.a. "The Sopranos' " Big Pussy, who, in summer '05, was sentenced to a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of attempted assault.
Pastore originally was charged with assault, attempted assault and harassment for allegedly attacking his ex-fiancee during an argument. He was sentenced to 70 hours of community service and six months of weekly anger management counseling.
On a brighter note, basketball Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler, a.k.a. Clyde the Glide, will compete; as will Laila Ali, personal trainer, undefeated world champion female boxer and youngest daughter of Muhammad Ali; and Olympic speed-skating champion Apolo Anton Ohno.
Since its debut in summer '05, "Dancing" has been a surprise ratings hit. Its first edition clocked nearly 17 million viewers, and its most recent edition was the second-most-watched program on TV last fall, behind only "Desperate Housewives," with an average audience of nearly 21 million and a finale crowd of nearly 28 mil. And it's surprisingly upscale for a reality series.
The boffo ratings definitely have allowed ABC to trade up in casting about for has-beens to participate.
Rounding out this edition's competitors are former "Beverly Hills, 90210" thespian Ian Ziering, former supermodel Paulina Porizkova, former "Entertainment Tonight" host Leeza Gibbons, former Miss USA (2004) Shandi Finnessey and Billy Ray Cyrus, best known for that "Achy Breaky Heart" tune you can't ever completely get out of your head no matter how hard you try and now co-star of Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana." Here's where we should mention ABC and Disney Channel are both owned by Disney.
And finally, it wouldn't be "Dancing With the Stars" without a former boy band-er -- this time it's ex-'N Sync-er Joey Fatone.
* * *
"American Idol" producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick have been hired to produce this year's Primetime Emmy Awards.
Not coincidentally, Fox network will broadcast the TV trophy show, to air live from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sept. 16.
"Star power, production values, drama, suspense, tears and euphoria, just like an 'American Idol' finale," Lythgoe said of the Emmys show. "While appreciating the traditional and maintaining the high standards of past Emmy Award ceremonies, we will also be recognizing the ever-changing landscape of today's successful television," he added in a statement, sending TV Academy members scrambling for their nitroglycerine capsules.
* * *
Two nights of "American Idol" continued to mow down the rest of the prime-time pack last week, though CBS managed to eke out a 60,000-viewer advantage over Fox.
Here's a look at the week's bull's-eyes and misses:
" 1/2 Hour News Hour."Fox News Channel's answer to Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" bagged nearly 1.48 million viewers in its unveiling Sunday at 10. That's about 80 percent more viewers than FNC has averaged in that slot in the first quarter. For comparison: "The Daily Show" averaged 1.57 million viewers Monday-Thursday.
Westminster Dog Show. An average of nearly 3 million watched James, the English springer spaniel from Fairfax Station, win best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show last Tuesday -- about 400,000 more than last year's crowd.
"Grey's Anatomy."A shockingly sex-free episode of ABC's doc drama nailed 25.8 million viewers last week. And despite the lack of action, the show beat both editions of "American Idol" among 18-to-24-year-olds -- an age bracket on everyone's minds since Nielsen began including in its stats college-age viewers living away from the nest.
"Rules of Engagement."One hundred percent of "Two and a Half Men's" audience in the 18-49 bracket that advertisers covet stuck around to watch the second episode of CBS's new sitcom "Rules of Engagement." And yet, it stars David Spade.
"Lost."In its second week back on the air, ABC's "Lost" scored its smallest audience for an original episode -- 12.8 million viewers. ABC moved the show to 10 p.m. Wednesdays to get it out of the path of Fox's "American Idol." Meanwhile, "Criminal Minds," which CBS did not move out of "Idol's" path on Wednesday nights, scored more than 15 million viewers.
"24."Fox pulled "Prison Break" in favor of two "24" episodes Monday -- presumably hoping to goose that show at 9. But the episode finished behind NBC's "Heroes" and two CBS sitcoms among viewers of all ages, and behind "Heroes" with the 18-to-49-year-olds advertisers covet. "24" had not lost in that demographic group to regular competition in the time slot since the night of the "Everybody Loves Raymond" finale in May '05.
The week's 10 most-watched programs, in order, were: Fox's Tuesday and Wednesday "American Idol" and "House"; ABC's "Grey's Anatomy"; CBS's "CSI" and "CSI: Miami"; ABC's "Desperate Housewives"; CBS's "Survivor: Fiji"; NBC's Monday "Deal or No Deal"; and CBS's "Two and a Half Men."