The long-in-development unscripted show “The Will” finally has a premiere date on CBS, as does a competition to find a new lifestyle guru now that Martha Stewart’s in prison.

Both “The Will,” from “Bachelor” producer Mike Fleiss, and “Wickedly Perfect,” as the domestic-diva show is called, will premiere the first week of January. “Perfect” gets the plum “Survivor” spot at 8 p.m. ET Thursdays starting Jan. 6, while “The Will” will air at 8 p.m. Saturdays – a spot once intended for “The Amazing Race” – beginning Jan. 8.

Over the course of 10 episodes, “Wickedly Perfect” will follow 12 contestants who think they have the goods to become “the country’s new authority on at-home living.” Hosted by former “Good Morning America” anchor Joan Lunden, the show will offer put the contestants through a series of tests related to cooking, decorating and entertaining.

Chef/Food Network star Bobby Flay, stylist David Evangelista (“The Rosie O’Donnell Show”) and “Sex and the City” author Candace Bushnell will serve as judges. The winner will get a book deal with Atria Books (like CBS, a unit of Viacom), several appearances on CBS’s “Early Show” and a development deal for a lifestyle TV show.

The show will push the 10th edition of “Survivor” back to March.

In “The Will,” a “wealthy patriarch” will have potential heirs – family and friends included – compete for a portion of his estate (presumably because watching probate battles from beyond the grave is less satisfying). The 10 would-be heirs will compete in mental and physical challenges to determine who gets to walk away with the inheritance.

The show has kicked around in various stages of development for more than two years. ABC originally announced “The Will” for fall 2002 but never went forward. CBS announced in February that it had begun casting.


Tom Brokaw’s final broadcast as anchor of the “NBC Nightly News” was a big one, drawing the newscast’s largest audience in several years.

About 15.4 million people watched Brokaw’s last night Wednesday, according to preliminary Nielsen estimates (final numbers won’t be out until next week). That’s almost as many viewers as ABC (9.16 million) and CBS (7.25 million) drew combined with their Wednesday evening newscasts.

It was also the most-watched regular broadcast of the NBC newscast since January 1997 and on par with NBC’s prime-time election night coverage in November. “Nightly News” typically averages about 11 million viewers.

Brokaw, 64, left the “Nightly News” after 21 years as its anchor. After thanking viewers and his NBC News colleagues at the end of his final broadcast, Brokaw offered a nod to the “Greatest Generation” – the World War II generation that he’s profiled in several best-selling books.

“They weren’t perfect. No generation is but this one left a large and vital legacy of common effort to find common ground here and abroad on which to solve our most vexing problems,” Brokaw said. “They did not give up their personal beliefs and greatest passions, but they never stopped learning from each other. And, most of all, they did not give up on the idea that we’re all in this together.

“We still are, and it is in that spirit that I say thanks for all that I have learned from you. That’s been my richest reward.

“That’s “Nightly News’ for this Wednesday night. I’m Tom Brokaw; you’ll see Brian Williams here tomorrow night; and I’ll see you along the way.”

Williams, named as Brokaw’s replacement late last year, took over the anchor chair on Thursday. Brokaw isn’t completely retiring; he’ll continue to produce documentaries for NBC News.


“Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Joan of Arcadia” won the top honors at the sixth annual Family Television Awards this week.

The two CBS series were honored as best comedy and best drama at the awards ceremony Wednesday in Beverly Hills. The awards are scheduled to air Dec. 9 on The WB, with “Summerland” star Lori Loughlin serving as host.

Other winners included ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” for best reality show and “Lost” for best new series. Bernie Mac won best actor for work in his Fox series, while “Joan” star Amber Tamblyn and “Raymond’s” Doris Roberts shared the award for best actress. NBC’s Summer Olympics coverage won in the movies and specials category.

The Family Television Awards are handed out by the Association of National Advertisers, whose Family Friendly Programming Forum works to encourage networks to make family-friendly shows. The forum administers a script development fund that gives seed money to networks to develop family-oriented shows; the networks retain creative control, and if a script makes it to the pilot stage the network repays the seed money.

The forum has provided seed money for “Gilmore Girls,” “American Dreams” and “8 Simple Rules” in the past. This season, ABC’s “Complete Savages” and CBS’s now-canceled “Clubhouse” got help from the fund. None of the award winners, however, were recipients of forum money.


“Sopranos” star Michael Imperioli will step in for Jesse L. Martin on several episodes of “Law & Order” later this season, when Martin takes a break to film the movie “Rent.”

Imperioli, who won an Emmy this year for playing mob soldier Christopher Moltisanti on the HBO series, will play the nephew of Detective Joe Fontana (Dennis Farina), who’s partnered with his uncle while Martin’s Detective Ed Green is away (NBC isn’t revealing the reason for the character’s departure).

Like scores of other New York-based actors, Imperioli has guest-starred on “Law & Order,” playing a suspect in a murder case in a 1996 episode. He also appeared in Fox’s “New York Undercover,” which was created by “L&O” head man Dick Wolf.

“Dick and his team tell great New York stories and I am excited to be a part of it,” Imperioli says. “And I’m glad to be on the right side of the law.”

Martin, who originated the role of Tom Collins in the Broadway musical “Rent,” will play the character again in the film version. He says he’s grateful to Wolf and NBC for the time off to pursue a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” He’s set to return to “Law & Order” for the 2005-06 season.

“For the past six years, Jesse has been an “actor’s actor’ – an incredible performer, total professional and he is liked by everyone,” Wolf says. “He had an opportunity to reprise a career-making role that is very important to him, and we wanted to make it work.”

“The Sopranos” is scheduled to return to HBO in 2006 for its final season. Imperioli will next be seen in the ABC movie “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” airing Sunday.

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AP-NY-12-03-04 1600EST

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