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Dare we peek inside Anna's world?

It's questionable whether viewers will tune in tonight to watch the super-rich, super-blond, super-strange Anna Nicole Smith.

By ERIC DEGGANS, Times TV Critic

© St. Petersburg Times
published August 4, 2002


She's barely coherent, a little dense and famous mostly for being famous.

And now onetime Playboy model, stripper and billionaire trophy wife Anna Nicole Smith shares another characteristic with newly crowned MTV star Ozzy Osbourne:

Her very own reality TV show.

Calling her "America's most outrageous girl next door," E! Entertainment Television tonight unveils The Anna Nicole Show, a program it admits is inspired by MTV's reality hit The Osbournes. Producers spent months dogging the zaftig model and occasional B-movie actor to assemble a 13-episode series under the slogan: "It isn't supposed to be funny. It just is."

Predictably, critics weren't provided a review copy of the show's debut (rarely taken as a signal that producers think their show is really good). Video clips presented on E!'s Web site offer shots of Smith in tight jeans or cleavage-revealing blouses, bending into suggestive poses while mumbling double-entendres.

Producers have said even they can't tell when Smith (real name: Vickie Lynn Marshall) is kidding with her spaced-out, intellectually challenged persona (one video clip shows her struggling to pronounce the word "cabana").

Certainly, Smith's appearance before TV critics in early July did little to clear up the confusion. She confessed "I don't know" to questions about what her greatest talent is and what viewers might see when her program debuts.

The show's real-life "characters" will include her lawyer Howard K. Stern (no, not the radio shock jock), purple-haired assistant Kim Walthers and teenage son Daniel.

Still embroiled in a lawsuit over the billion-dollar fortune of now-deceased husband/oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall (he died in 1995 at age 90 after they'd been married about 14 months), Smith has told numerous interviewers that she hasn't had sex in years and rarely leaves her home.

So what will viewers see tonight? "My life is funny," she told reporters in July, clutching her Prozac-popping poodle, Sugar Pie. "There's things that happen to me all the time and it just is funny."

Okaaaay. No wonder a litany of other vacuous celebrities, including Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and oddball newlyweds Liza Minnelli and David Gest, are begging for reality shows.

Despite visions of Osbournes-like success, many of these copycats are doomed to fail, mostly because notables with such carefully managed public images as Combs and Minnelli could never let their hair down enough to provide the kind of unvarnished bumbling that made Ozzy's show a phenomenon. (Can you imagine super-sharp Combs chasing around a pet dog that pukes over everything?)

So, in honor of Smith's new venture, here are a few celebs who might make more worthy reality TV subjects. More than a washed-up stage singer or publicity-hungry pop star, these are people that viewers might actually enjoy spending some serious couch potato time with.

ROB LOWE: Our cameras follow the onetime St. Elmo's Fire star as he faces the career hara-kiri initiated by his decision to leave NBC's powerhouse political hit The West Wing -- the role of a lifetime for a guy who has appeared in Wayne's World and Tommy Boy. Watch as casting agents and producers fail to return his telephone calls, he loses his favorite table at Morton's and is forced into the ultimate degradation: auditioning for Atomic Train II.

MICHAEL JACKSON: Frightening as it might be to see the King of Pop first thing in the morning or watching TV in his underwear, this show would reveal once and for all just how deep the psychoses of a multimillionaire who sleeps in an oxygen chamber can go.

JANET JACKSON: Might help prove that she and brother Michael are not, in fact, the same person. Or that they are.

MARTHA STEWART: Admit it. You want to know if her bedsheets really are as crisp as they look on the TV show; if she really does eat that green tomato and leek frittata shown in the magazine; and if she really is the anal-retentive cyborg who smiles back at you from Kmart commercials and Early Show segments. One episode where she kicks off her shoes with a bowl of Chee-tos in front of a TV blaring Jerry Springer reruns would make it all worthwhile.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Just in case that pretzel thing happens again.

-- Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

AT A GLANCE

The Anna Nicole Show debuts at 10 tonight on E! Entertainment Television.

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