Production has begun on "Geppetto," an original two-hour musical that will air as part of "The Wonderful World of Disney" sometime during the upcoming TV season.
The really good news is that this updating of the tale of Pinocchio features a score by composer Stephen Schwartz, whose credits include "The Prince of Egypt," "Pocahontas" and "Godspell."The sort of strange news is that Drew Carey stars as the title character, the woodcutter who has always wanted a boy. But if you saw Carey in the season finale of his sitcom singing and dancing his way through "Brotherhood of Man" (from "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"), you know this could be a coup.
The cast also includes Julia Louis-Dreyfus ("Seinfeld") as the Blue Fairy; Brent Spiner ("Star Trek: The Next Generation") as the unscrupulous puppeteer Stromboli; Rene Auberjonois ("Star Trek: Deep Space Nine") as bizarre inventor Professor Buonragazzo; and R&B star Usher as The Ringleader, an evil denizen of Pleasure Island. The role of Pinocchio is being played by 9-year-old Seth Adkins ("First Do No Harm").
Given that there aren't many big-screen, live-action musicals anymore, television is the last resort for this art form.
FAMILY AFFAIR: Forget the Baldwins, the Carradines and the Bridges. How about the latest acting dynasty, the Toms?
Who, you ask? (I can just hear you.)
Well, there's Heather Tom, a longtime member of the "Young & the Restless" cast who recently won an Emmy for her portrayal of Victoria Newman.
There's her sister, Nicholle Tom, who just wrapped up six seasons playing Maggie on the sitcom "The Nanny."
And now there's their little brother, David Tom, who is joining the "Y&R" cast as Billy Abbott in early July. Although they're real-life siblings, the characters played by David and Heather aren't related on the show.
(Well, Billy Abbott's much-older half-brother, Jack, used to be married to Victoria's mother, Nikki ... but that's a whole different story.)
LIFE IMITATES ART: Candice Bergen, who spent a decade doing fictional interviews as the fictional Murphy Brown, will be doing the real thing before long.
She has signed to host a talk/interview show on the forthcoming cable network Oxygen. The title? Would you believe "Exhale"?
Oxygen, which is aimed at women viewers, is scheduled to launch on Feb. 2, 2000. It was founded by former Nickelodeon and ABC Cable chief Geraldine Laybourne, who has brought aboard as partners Oprah Winfrey and sitcom producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner (whose shows range from "Cosby" to "Roseanne" to "Grace Under Fire").
"Exhale" is tentatively slated for Monday-Thursday at 8 p.m. MT -- although it hasn't been decided whether it will run 30 or 60 minutes. It will not, however, be your typical talk/entertainment show -- it will be more along the lines of Charlie Rose's serious interview program.
VIRTUAL JAY: NBC's "Tonight Show" is adding a computer-generated "Virtual Jay" Leno to its Web site as well as putting the thing on air. Shades of Max Headroom.
Gee, given the stiffness Leno still portrays doing interviews on "Tonight" one would have thought that he was already "Virtual Jay."
BELIEVE: The fabulous Cher is kicks off her first tour in eight years this week in Arizona and, unfortunately, she's not coming to Utah. Except on pay cable, that is.
HBO has announced that it will air "Cher: Live in Concert from Las Vegas at the MGM Grand" on Sunday, Aug. 29.
QUOTABLE: NBC newswoman Maria Shriver, when accepting a Peabody Award for a story she did for "Dateline," said, "I haven't been this excited since I learned how to spell Schwarzenegger correctly."
(Shriver, of course, is Mrs. Arnold Schwarzenegger.)