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Apr 03

Jesse James

What serves as both a shield and a publicity-generating mechanism, deflects responsibility, dodges legal trouble, garners oodles of public sympathy and career comeback opportunities, and can be exploited in an unlimited, multi-platform way?

Celebrity rehab, of course!

No wonder so many are rushing to check into their favorite $24,000-75,000-a-month rehab center.

Is anyone surprised that, now that his multiple mistresses have been exposed, Jesse James has gone the sex rehab route at a facility in Arizona, trying to save his marriage to Sandra Bullock?  After all, rehab was First Stop on the Image Rebuilding Train for Tiger Woods.

Or that Charlie Sheen is already back working on a closed “Two and a Half Men” set after his three-week “preventative” rehab stint?  Being rehabilitated for something you have not done makes sense in the land of legalese, as in morals clauses in one’s contract, we guess.  Let’s hope it’s not the modern answer to the Middle Ages’ selling of indulgences in advance of the commission of sins.

Don’t get us wrong – it’s great that famous personalities like Maureen McCormick, Ben Affleck and Robert Downey, Jr., have beaten down their addiction demons with the help of rehab, and we applaud the good work that goes on at plush and not-so-plus centers alike.  But you know things have gotten out of hand when you read treatment facility websites that boast of “lush grounds, tennis court, swimming pools, and hot tubs, with great outdoor activities located just across from Malibu beach” (Passages Malibu) or  “a luxurious mountain retreat…Stunning views from each room help residents connect with their higher power” (Cirque Lodge) .

Dr. Drew Pinsky – who shows up for every celebrity rehab just as attorney Gloria Allred shows up for every wronged female celebrity legal case – is up to three celebrity rehab reality shows.  There also A&E and TLC reality shows about addicts.

Addiction as entertainment, whod’a thunk it?  We’re in a media landscape where Paddy Chayefsky’s darkly satirical lines in “Network” about an executions show becoming a huge ratings-getter don’t seem out of the realm of possibility any more.

Rory Albanese Comedy Central photo

THE VIDEOLAND VIEW:  Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” has been surprising some of its audience of late, tweaking the Obama administration and various other Democrats – which means it’s time to take a fresh look at “The Daily Show” for what it is, to hear the show’s Rory Albanese tell it.

“I think people thought we were just this left-wing group that were going after the Bush administration, but in reality we’re the wise-asses in the back of the classroom making fun of the people in charge.  At first the audience was like, ‘What are you doing?’ but Obama was screwing up a lot so it was fun to change the tone of the show.   None of us really have political allegiances,” he adds.  “We’re just thinking about how we can make things funny.”

Albanese makes things funny in his own his first Comedy Central special, airing tonight (4/2).  He tells us performing in front of his boss proved to be quite nerve-wracking.  “I was extra nervous because a lot of family and friends were there as well as a lot of co-workers. With Jon Stewart standing in the back you don’t want to bomb,” notes Albanese.

He says Stewart couldn’t have been more supportive.  “Before the show, he came by the green room to give me a pep talk. He gets comedy on every level – as a writer, as a producer, and as a performer – so to have him in my corner is unbelievable.  I work hard on his show and I work hard in standup so I never want to let him down in either.”

Leigh-Allyn Baker

OH, BABY:  The Disney Channel’s “Good Luck Charlie” launches Sunday (4/4).  Touted as more of a traditional family sitcom than a show geared towards kids alone, it has a trio of older siblings – teen stars Jason Dolley and Bridgit Mendler, and Bradley Steven Perry — taking care of their baby sister while their parents are both at work.   Series mom Leigh-Allyn Baker admits, “When I entered into this I was very cautious, wondering about working on a show with kids.  I could never have guessed how much fun it would turn out to be.  I love their energy, and it’s just like a giggle fest 24/7.’

Baker’s the mother of a baby in real life as well as on the show, and she says that when she brings son Griffin to work, her young cast mates help her with him.  “He loves them all.  I was glad I could take him,” she says.  “He was starting to be a shy baby who’d cry when people said ‘Hi’ to him.”  His teenage buddies have changed that.

Little Mia Talerico, who portrays the show’s 9-month-old title baby, “Charlie,” has met Griffin as well.  “We all joke that theirs will be the true love story from our show, this little match,” says Baker.

CASTING CORNER:  Speaking of babies, casting forces are seeing candidates for the role of the baby in “The Astral” with Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson – six-month-olds to younger-looking two-year-olds.  But stage parents, be forewarned: it’s from the creators of “Paranormal Activity” and “Saw.”

And actresses are being considered for one of the more “high concept” pilots on the boards this season is NBC’s “In My Shoes,” a body switcheroo spotlighting a short-tempered high school teacher who – thanks to the work of two guardian angels — finds herself in the form of a poor single mother.  Sounds like a variation on “Drop Dead Diva.”

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster

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Mar 09

Scott Hamilton

Scott Hamilton is conferring with surgeons “to get as many opinions as possible” before he decides what course to take with his latest physical challenge.

“In December I took a fall and tore up my shoulder so I have to have surgery. I’ve never had that happen before,” says the beloved Olympic Gold Medal-winning skating great. Having completed his latest turn as rinkside commentator for NBC last month, he reports, “With my responsibilities with the Olympics, January and February were almost gone so today was the first day I was back on the ice and my shoulder was really limiting me. I’m hoping to get it repaired this month. I can’t sleep so it’s time to get it fixed.”

If anyone can make that happen, it’s Scott, a survivor of testicular cancer and a brain tumor. He talked to this column last year about his amazing journey from pot-bellied and unhealthy shape back to performance-ready form after five years away from the ice – thanks to grueling hard work. The public will get a chance to see some of that journey tonight (3/8) on the Bio Channel’s two-hour special, “Scott Hamilton: Return to the Ice.”

“I figured if I’m going to put myself through this much agony, I might as well document it,” says the 51-year-old Hamilton with a laugh. “I never anticipated going back to skating ever, but I was letting myself fail physically. I wasn’t pushing myself to be as healthy as I could be. The first six months back were frustrating because I didn’t have anything. I was trying to get my body to get to the point where I could try stuff,” he explains, “but there were elements that were a part of this process that weren’t ever in my skating career before – fear and uncertainty. I’d go to do something and I’d almost start laughing because I couldn’t figure out how to make my body do it.”

Finally Hamilton was back to skating an hour a day and he performed for the first time at his 10th annual cancer-fundraising show “An Evening With Scott Hamilton and Friends.” Now his shoulder injury has him sidelined once again for a few months.

Jason Dolley

A LITTLE OLDER, NOT EXACTLY WISER:  

Disney Channel heartthrob Jason Dolley, 18, takes a step toward maturity with the April 4-debuting “Good Luck Charlie” – about a household in which the teenagers take care of their baby sister while the parents are away at their respective jobs.

“They’re sort of going for a ‘Full House’ kind of feeling with this show,” says Dolley, “something families can watch together. It definitely resembles a classic family sitcom. We get to have, like, family dynamic stuff that goes on. The things that come up on the show are real-life conflicts. I think it’s a balance of things that kids will like and adults will like. It’s awesome.”

Dolley, who played the mop-haired Newt Livingston on the Channel’s very broad, very kid-oriented “Corey in the House” – and goofed around in a chicken suit in its “Hatching Pete” movie last year – admits he was anxious to get back in the game. “’Corey in the House’ ended kind of abruptly and I was kind of disappointed that it was over. Working at the Disney Channel was so awesome, I was like, ‘I want to get in there and do more of that.’ Then this script came to me and it’s a more grown-up character and a more authentic show and I thought, ‘Wow, this is the best of both worlds.’”

But his new character isn’t exactly a model of responsible near-adulthood.

“P.J. is the oldest brother in the household. His heart’s in the right place, but I guess it’s like his little brother puts it: ‘He’s not very “thinky.”’ P.J. easily misses things. He’s not dumb, but he’s a little bit in his own world.”

THE SHAPE OF THINGS: Julie Benz is proud to have the body to play a stripper on “Desperate Housewives” at age 37. The former “Dexter” leading lady tells us, “I’m an exercise junkie. I also feel like, my mentality is, I embrace who I am and where I’m at. I don’t consider myself be to be extremely thin. I’m very physically fit, but I’m not like this anorexic thinness. I’ve got these thighs and I’ve got this a– and I love to eat.”

AWARD TO THE WISE: Sure, there are lots more disappointed Oscar nominees than there are winners this morning, but those illustrious nominations still mean an awful lot. Ernest Borgnine, who was selected to receive the Publicists Guild’s Special Award of Merit in recognition of his long career at the organization’s 47th Annual Awards Luncheon last week, points out, “I didn’t win the Emmy last year (for his guesting on “E.R.”). But I always feel like if you’re nominated, they’re at least thinking of you. I thought being nominated was just as good,” claims the 93-year-old Borgnine. The Oscar winner for “Marty” (1955) does go on to say, however, “I do have that big golden fella that I won and nobody can take that away from me.”

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster

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