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Spotlight on: The Anna Nicole Show

Oct 28, 2002  •  Post A Comment

She has been called busty, spacy, Twinkie-fattened and white trash. Anna Nicole Smith welters through her half-hour “reality” show each Sunday on E! Entertainment Television with a lawyer named Howard Stern, a devoted assistant named Kim, a frizzy poodle called Sugar Pie and Ms. Smith’s strangely normal 16-year old son, Daniel. And it’s E!’s top-rated show.
“Watching Anna is fascinating,” said Jeff Shore, executive producer of “The Anna Nicole Show.” “People would rather watch real life than watch a scripted series.”
Not content to spring the show on an unsuspecting public, E! promoted it on radio, in trade magazines and with a smattering of spot cable. Hot pink pop-up promos infiltrated viewers’ screens for weeks before the program’s debut in August. But TV critics, starting with the July Television Critics Association junket, generated the biggest early buzz.
“I have been to a few of these things, and I had never seen [anything like] the clamoring to talk to Anna and about Anna,” Mr. Shore said.
Talk they did, but much of what the critics said has been less than complimentary. David Bianculli of the New York Daily News called the show “a train wreck-with breasts.” Still, E! stands firmly by its decision to create a venue for the well-endowed Ms. Smith.
“The show is not for everybody, but regardless of the reason people watch, there is something there,” said E! Executive VP Mark Sonnenberg.
The show’s August debut was the 46th-most-watched program of the summer among cable and satellite subscribers, as about 3 million viewers tuned in. But it quickly went downhill. Through late September, “Anna Nicole’s” average household rating had dropped by half, to 2.1.
Even so, buoyed by the show’s ability to draw young viewers-one of the network’s prime objectives- E! last week renewed it for a 13-episode second season.