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Meredith Vieira Looks Ahead

Meredith Vieira, who kicks off her ninth season of the syndicated weekday version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" on Sept. 13, is making no predictions as to where she'll be next year at this time.

Her contracts with both "Millionaire" and "Today" are in their final year, and as the charming, erudite Vieira puts it, "I can't imagine how I will feel in a year. I'm not there yet. I never look ahead, but, much as I love my work, a part of me looks at how hard I've worked and realizes I'd like to spend more time at home."

Her son Ben is a senior in college, son Gabriel, 19, is in his sophomore year in a university and 17-year-old daughter Lily is a senior in high school, and Vieira feels that "Next year, when the kids are all gone from home, I'd love to be able to be more flexible with my time ... I work two kinds of crazy jobs now with (a) lot of tension and the fact is I actually like solitude — and sitting with my husband enjoying a bottle of wine isn't all that bad." She'd also like to spend more time doing another of her favorite things: exercising.

Says Vieira, "I love running, racing, anything outside. I was training for the New York marathon. but tore my hamstring and just hope I'll be in shape to run the race in November."

Her legs are currently getting a test as she tapes the new season of "Millionaire" that, among its many changes, calls for an end of the legendary Hot Seat, with Vieira and contestants standing for the length of the program. She is gung-ho about the new format.

"I can interact with the contestants more when we're standing. I ... like being able to move around the stage."

The fact she tapes five shows a day — 15 shows a week — might lead some to assume the new format is a physical grind for her, but she says, "I could also find a seat if I were tired, but it hasn't been happening."

TAKE TWO: Nikki Weiss and Jill Goldstein of Showtime's "The Real L Word" are marveling at what Weiss terms "the very fortunate alignment of the universe that this is really happening right now" — that is, the lifting of California's gay marriage ban. As followers of the Showtime reality show are aware, Weiss and Goldstein have been pouring their energies into planning for their October nuptials despite Proposition 8.

"We became the wedding story of the show. It's sweet and endearing," says Goldstein, who first met Weiss when the two were kids at summer camp. They met again as adults, and sparks soon ignited.

Their desire is to keep their Malibu ceremony "intimate, small and memorable," she tells us, with around 80 guests and no TV cameras. However, with the huge attention that's now coming their way and interest from new friends like Rosie O'Donnell, it's easy to imagine how quickly it could turn into a giant media event if they allow it.

As it is, one of the qualms the couple have had about "The Real L Word" is that they're seen "talking more about the materialistic aspects of the wedding than the meaning of it," as Goldstein puts it. Both work in the entertainment industry, and she points out, "Nikki and I have more dimension and depth to who we are. We work very hard, but you just see us planning and spending; you don't see us earning."

Still, they feel the positives in giving viewers a chance to get to know the six gay women on the show outweigh any of their misgivings.

THE INDUSTRY EYE: A late September production start outside Tampa, Fla., has been set for "Dolphin Tale," the Warner Bros. movie that's already a crowd pleaser simply by re-teaming Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman. It's the third feature for the two stars, whose chemistry sparks onscreen — but it's far removed from their gritty "Kiss the Girls" or "High Crimes." The new film is based on a true story and has Judd as the mother of a boy who forms a bond with an injured dolphin, and Freeman as a dolphin expert. Their journey leads them to development of prosthetics that benefit humankind as well as dolphins. Charlie Martin Smith directs and Harry Connick Jr. also stars.

Interesting casting notice for Adam Sandler's forthcoming "Jack and Jill" — for body doubles for the star: age range 20-40, Caucasian, medium build, broad shoulders, one male and one female and each has to resemble Sandler. We can only imagine what those casting sessions for the female look-alike must be like. Sandler is playing twins in the comedy to be directed by Dennis Dugan.

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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