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Smits’ New Series Tackling Arizona Immigration Controversy

Jimmy Smits' forthcoming "Outlaw" series isn't wasting any time getting into controversial territory. "We are taking head on Arizona headlines in immigration reform," reports series co-star David Ramsey.

He reports that the team is shooting its third episode (including the pilot) of the NBC drama now. "We are talking about immigration reform in a very interesting way. Garza has some interesting opinions on it," he adds of Smits' character, a Supreme Court justice who leaves the bench and goes back to practicing law as an attorney on high-profile cases.

Ramsey doesn't want to spill details on the episode — nor on an episode already in the pipeline that has to do with gay rights. But he does make clear, "Some weeks you'll see a more conservative view, and some weeks, a more liberal view. Ultimately, what Jimmy's character wants is to get to what is just. He was led to leave the Supreme Court because the system didn't work, whether conservative or liberal."

He acknowledges, "Yes, there's an element of fantasy in having a Supreme Court justice come down from his lofty position and work for the little guy — but I think the audience will forgive that and buy into the dream."

The show marks the fourth time that Ramsey and Smits have worked together. There were their memorable "Dexter" characters as a pot-smoking informant and a homicidal assistant DA, respectively. There was Ramsey's term as a campaign aide for Smits' presidential run on "The West Wing." They're both in the current big-screen "Mother and Child." And now, Ramsey is a liberal attorney who's a longtime family friend of Smits' and who becomes part of his dream team of lawyers.

"You can't do better than working with Jimmy," notes Ramsey. He recalls meeting on "Outlaw" with Smits, creator John Eisendrath and the other producers: "The chemistry between us was great in the room when I walked in, and someone said, 'Well, this is a no-brainer.'"

CHANGE OF HART: So now it's Mary Hart following in the wake of fellow longtime TV stalwarts Oprah Winfrey and Larry King — as she announced last week that she's departing her on-air post of 29 years, "Entertainment Tonight."

The news was a little surprising, since it was just a few months ago that Hart told us, "In the last year and a half, I've realized I'm not ready to call it quits."

She went on, "I'm still having so much fun. I love running into Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, Sandra Bullock, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. When you know people through the years, there's a comfort level in your interactions, and that's fun. In a sense, we've matured together. And I enjoy working with the people I see on a daily basis. There are a handful of us who've been there all the way — Leonard (Maltin) and myself, and some of the people behind the scenes."

Hart, who turns 60 in November, did confess she sometimes misses the days when it was "all about the movie stars" in today's reality TV-packed entertainment world. However, she insisted she enjoyed the good trade-offs of expanding the range of "ET." She pointed out that 2008 brought her one of "the most exciting times I've ever had on the show in terms of interviews, and they weren't movie stars — they were Michelle and Barack Obama. For me, it's really a wonderful mix of things. ... When I'm tired of it, I'll quit. "

Plans call for Hart to hang up her "ET" mic at the end of this coming season — and you'd better believe they'll be milking her goodbye year for all it's worth. As for her replacement, let's just hope it's not Piers Morgan.

LOOKING BAD: One thing you can say about Fox's upcoming "Raising Hope" is the show does not fall into the category of having a low-income family in what appear to be upscale living quarters. In fact, the "Hope" clan's digs even feature a big pile of junk stored in the living room. Most of the shooting is done on studio lot sets, but there is a real-world house used for street shots. As cast member Cloris Leachman puts it, "They had to find the right crappy house to go with what we're doing."

Leachman, who has been having a ball playing weird Maw Maw on the show, has a big-screen chiller with Tara Reid, "The Fields," coming up next year — with an official website just launched. As for whether the "Last Picture Show" Oscar winner has a preference for drama or comedy, she says, "My preference is for good stuff with good people."

THE VIDEOLAND VIEW: What accounts for the resounding failure of Tony Robbins' "Breakthrough" reality show that seemed to have so much going for it? Well put together (by a producing team of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and "Biggest Loser" veterans) and inspiring, it deserved a better fate than being pulled by NBC after two low-rated outings. But then again, it's hard for some of us to understand the ongoing appeal of "Wipeout," which beat Robbins' show handily — a show in which people get knocked off oversized obstacle courses into the water again, and again, and again, and again, and again and....

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


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