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DEBBI FIELDS BAKES UP HER OWN TV SHOW

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Maybe having her own weekly television show will help Debbi Fields shed her grandmotherly image.

Famous as cookie queen Mrs. Fields, she's not exactly a little white-haired lady. But lots of people expect her to be."They're expecting me to be a grandmother. They expect me to have an apron on all the time," Fields said with a laugh.

Recently, she was waiting in a hotel lobby for an interview. The gentleman sent to question her looked all over the lobby before she finally introduced herself, "And he gave me a funny look and said, `I wasn't expecting you."

But the PBS series "Debbi Fields' Great American Desserts" puts a face with the name. And brings along some pretty terrific desserts, too.

It's not Fields' first TV experience - she was a regular contributed to the TV Food Network's "The Dessert Show" for a couple of years. But, because TVFN isn't available in most Utah homes, this new show is the first time locals will have a chance to see their fellow Utahn on a regular basis.

It wasn't like Fields was out pounding the pavement to try and get a TV show of her own. She was approached by the producers.

"And I said, `Gee, whiz, I've never done anything like that before.' But I had an absolute blast doing the show," she said.

Actually, she did the show and a companion book, "100 Greatest Desserts," pretty much at the same time. First came months of research, looking for the right recipes and "making them my own."

The result - "These recipes are so fool-proof, you can make them work no matter what," Fields said.

And the recipes include everything from baked Alaska to pound cakes to cobblers to pies. And, of course, plenty of cookies.

While she was teaching others how to bake, Fields was also learning how to host a TV show.

"Because I'm so new at doing it, I'm still trying to get used to talking to a camera," she said. "But it's a new opportunity for me and I love it."

The shows were all taped a couple of months ago - and at the rate of five or six a day.

"When you have five kids at home, you try to get it all in so you can come home and see the kids," she said. "If I were to do it again, I'd probably do less all at once and spread it out a bit."

There's a certain charm to being somewhat of a TV novice, however. It makes Fields seem genuine and approachable.

And while "Desserts" isn't exactly comedy, it does have a light touch.

"We want you to sit back and enjoy yourself," she said. "And, hopefully, learn something along the way.

"My No. 1 priority is letting people know that baking can be fun. I love to use baking to bring people together. It's a line to communication and to people's hearts."

Of course, communicating through television isn't always easy.

"There were tons of problems," Fields said with a laugh. "I can't tell you how many times I would struggle with my opening lines. I'd be doing just fine, and all of a sudden I'd blow it."

There were also problems with the equipment or flour would go flying. "We definitely have a Debbi's bloopers reel," she said.

And then there was that jelly roll that just wouldn't roll - so Fields made it into a triple-layer cake.

"Everything isn't perfect all the time," she said. "You just overcome your obstacles.

The show provides tips on how to salvage recipes that go somewhat wrong.

"If you're mixing something up and one extra egg falls in, do you throw the batter out? The answer is no. You just beat those two eggs in really well," Fields said.

Making things work is sort of the way she built her chain of cookie shops.

"Here I was a kid with no money, no formal educations and no job experience," Fields said. "All I had was a dream and a recipe and I built a business out of it."

"I really want to encourage people to try things. Most important, you've got to have fun."

Fields' passion for baking is not an inherited trait. "My mom didn't bake at all," she said.

As a matter of fact, her mother was not exactly a great cook.

"When I first got married, I'd boil broccoli for two hours. That was the way my mother did it," Fields said. "I thought if it was really mushy, it was done."

Fields and her four sisters learned to cook or bake almost out of necessity.

"There were five girls in our family and we all had our own specialties. I was the cookie girl," she said. "And they were also the thing I loved to eat the most."

But Fields' own daughters do share her passion for baking.

"They're so involved. They see me making recipes at home - and they love to do the tasting," she said. "The little ones are really into eating. But none of them have the passion for cleaning up."

And having the famous Mrs. Fields for a mother doesn't really faze the kids.

"I am Mom - except when they need cookies," she said with a laugh. "I'm happy to make cookies if they're for school or something. But if they're making them for friends, that comes from the heart. I tell them, `I'll help you, but you make them.' "

Her family members are also supportive about her TV show - although Fields finds it isn't easy watching herself.

"I'm so critical," she said. "When I look at myself on TV, I'm thinking, `Oh my gosh, Debbi, come on! Why did I do this or why didn't I do that?'

But, still, she loved the experience. And she wouldn't mind extending it.

"I think this is just the beginning," she said. "If this goes well, we can really expand into other areas."

LOSING PATIENCE: The new owners of CBS have clearly demonstrated that they do not have unlimited patience with their owned stations.

The Westinghouse people fired seven on-air anchors and reporters at WCBS in New York last week - two of whom were shown the door as the left the set after anchoring the 6 p.m. newscast. That followed an earlier house-cleaning at KCBS in Los Angeles.

And at the end of last week, Westinghouse fired the vice president and general manager at WBBM in Chicago.

All three stations have news operations that are far less than competitive in their markets.

Locally, KUTV-Ch. 2 is also owned by Westinghouse/CBS.

And, of course, Ch. 2 has experienced its own share of ratings troubles (although not as severe as those at the CBS station in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago).

FOR SALE - AGAIN: The television station that Utah's Bonneville International sold last year is once again on the block.

With an eye toward the fact that it was about to lose the station's CBS affiliation, Bonneville sold KIRO-TV in Seattle to the A.H. Belo Corp. Belo, which owns a string of TV stations and newspapers, converted KIRO into a UPN affiliate.

But Belo just acquired the Providence Journal Co. for the tidy little sum of $1.5 billion, creating the nation's 10th-largest broadcast group. But the combined company will own two Seattle TV stations - which is against FCC regulations - so KIRO is for sale.

So, if you've got a couple hundred million dollars . . .

VIDBITS: CBS has confirmed that "Ink" will indeed premiere on Monday, Oct. 21, at 7:30 p.m.

As you may recall, the Ted Danson-Mary Steenburgen sitcom was supposed to debut last month - but the first four episodes were scrapped and a new producer brought on because the show, well, just wasn't real good.

- The show that "Ink" is displacing on Monday nights, "Pearl," won't officially move to Wednesdays until Oct. 30.

It was supposed to go there on Oct. 23 but is being bumped by a Ross Perot infomercial.

There's no truth to reports that CBS thought Perot might be funnier than "Pearl."

- Patrick Stewart, the estimable Captain Jean-Luc Picard of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" has been cast as Captain Ahab in the upcoming USA cable miniseries of "Moby Dick."

- Fox, which keeps insisting how important news is, will air a repeat of the dog movie "Beethoven" on election night.