Bo Derek a good fit for new network

September 05, 2006|By Tanika White | Tanika White,Sun reporter

If you were looking to see more of Bo Derek - the actress and sex symbol who was ubiquitous in the 1970s but nowhere to be found by the mid-1980s - take heart. Starting tonight, you'll be able to see her every night of the workweek and Saturdays, too.

Derek will star in a drama series that launches tonight on MyNetworkTV, a network that emerged when struggling networks WB and UPN combinedinto CW.

The series, Fashion House (a sneak peek of the show was to air last night at 8:30), is a first for American television. Unlike other dramas that air until cancellation, Fashion House blends elements of a daytime soap opera and a prime-time miniseries to create a new format.

Similar to Spanish-language telenovelas, the one-hour drama runs for 13 weeks and then ends - for good. At the end of those 13 weeks, a new show - with a fresh story and different characters - begins.

"It's a genre that people have always taken to, the serialized drama," says Jack Abernethy, chief executive officer for Fox Television Stations Inc. and part of the MyNetworkTV executive team. "We've taken it and applied production levels that are much better than the telenovelas, much better than soap operas."

The series also has a star quality, or name recognition at the very least, that many soap operas lack.

In addition to Derek, who stars as Maria Gianni, the cutthroat fashion designer and mogul you'll love to hate, Fashion House also features Morgan Fairchild as Derek's power-hungry nemesis.

In 13 weeks, the next set of dramas - Art of Betrayal and Watch Over Me - will star Tatum O'Neal and former Miss Universe and ex-wife of Marc Anthony, Dayanara Torres, respectively.

"It's like a romance novel," Abernethy says. "When you finish one, another one begins."

Derek, fresh from filming 65 episodes of Fashion House - complete with more than 200 costume changes - believes Fashion House is the best of the network's programming.

"We've got scandals and intrigues, corporate takeovers and cheating," says Derek, 49. "I think there's a lot more to talk about the next day with your friends."

Derek - sporting straight bangs and sexy stilettos instead of cornrows and a swimsuit - was in Baltimore last week promoting the new show. She toured the Inner Harbor and declared it "beautiful."

It's not often Derek gets to Baltimore; she prefers to spend most of her time on her ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif. The closest to Charm City she's gotten since her heyday on the silver screen is Washington - which Derek frequents in her roles as a trustee of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and honorary chair of the Department of Veterans Affairs National Rehabilitation Special Events.

Derek was also recently appointed as a U.S. Secretary of State's Special Envoy for the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking - a position the horse lover uses to promote her opposition to horse meat consumption around the world.

Such civic involvement may seem a far cry from Derek's sex symbol beginnings - creating quite a stir as the buxom object of Dudley Moore's obsession in the 1979 Oscar-nominated film 10 - but Derek sees a link between the two.

"Being in a successful film as 10 was, it just opens doors for you," Derek says. "It's just how you take advantage of it. And I like to think that I have taken advantage of it. It's nice to know that I can be of help."

Derek says she has had opportunities throughout the years to participate in other television shows but refused, until now.

"I like the whole idea of this new format," Derek says, describing it as "a TV version of opening a chapter of a juicy novel every night."

"We all feel like pioneers in a way. If this catches on, we will have been the first to do it."

Derek also was attracted to Gianni's bad-girl character.

"She's completely ruthless," she says. "She will sacrifice anyone to get what she wants. She'll throw anybody under the bus."

New Dramas

In addition to Fashion House, MyNetworkTV will launch the drama Desire - about two brothers on the run from the Mafia who fall in love with the same woman.

(A sneak peek of both shows was to air last night.)

Desire will premiere at 8 tonight, and Fashion House will follow at 9:01 p.m.

MyNetworkTV is on channel 24.

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