The Naked Truth aired from September 1995 until June 1998 on ABC and NBC.
Nora ( Tea Leoni)was a highly principled political photojournalist, a woman of so many principles that when she found out her rich husband Leland was cheating on her, she turned down a 7 figure divorce settlement in order to start anew, on her own terms. He promptly blackballed her at every reputable newspaper in the country. Out of money and out of work, Nora was forced to become a celebrity-chaser for the sleazy tabloid The Comet. According to one co-worker, it was the " fastest descent into the gutter" he'd ever seen. Her new colleagues were a rowdy bunch: Nicky ( Jonathan Penner), was the worldly and experienced hunky photographer with no principles at all; Camilla ( Holland Taylor), the tyranicle editor; and Chloe ( Amy Ryan), her stepdaughter and her chatty new best friend. Bobo, T.J.( Darryl Sivad) Carmine, and Stupid Dave ( Mark Roberts) were fellow paparazzi. Despite her misgivings, Nora adapted and there were celebrity gags galore.
In January 1997 The Comet changed hands, with chubby Les ( George Wendt) taking over as editor-in-chief. He knew nothing about publishing, having previously been in the family business, Polonsky Meats, but fancied himself the next Ben Bradlee. Nora switched to writing an advice column, " Nora Knows," while office oddball Dave was delighted to be covering pets and babies, dapper T.J. was made fashion editor and Camilla-to her disgust-was demoted to reporter. Mary Tyler Moore and George Segal appeared occasionally that season as Nora's parents Catherine and Fred.
In the fall, Camilla defected to the rival tabloid The National Inquisitor to become editor-in-chief, taking Nora and Dave with her. Dave ( formerly Stupid Dave) was made managing editor. Their new co-workers included eccentric photographer Bradley( Chris Elliott), phographer Suji( Amy Hill), fastidious head of research Harris ( Jim Rash), and handsome reporter Jake ( Tom Verica), who was both a rival and potential love interest for Nora.
An Article from The New York Times
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK;For TV's Single Women, Cats and Odd Friends
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: October 4, 1995
Behold the 35-year-old female as perceived by television executives. Coveted by advertisers, she dominates the very soul of network prime-time entertainment, especially in the laugh-choked land of sitcoms. It's a landscape littered with unattached young women in their 20's and 30's, who, determined to have it all, pursue assorted careers while juggling romantic possibilities who generally get stalled in the category of just friends. Friends. Now there's an idea for a series.
Take NBC's "Caroline in the City," given the gold-ring Thursday slot between "Seinfeld" and "E.R." Caroline is a successful Manhattan-based cartoonist played by Lea Thompson ("Back to the Future"). She is surrounded by the usual sitcom suspects. There's the droll next-door neighbor (Amy Pietz), who seems to spend most of her time partying. There's her maybe-yes, maybe-no boyfriend (Eric Lutes), the twice-divorced head of the greeting-card company that uses Caroline's designs. There's her new colorist (Malcolm Gets), the essence of acerbity. And bucking the dog trend on sitcoms, there's a cat.
Produced by Fred Barron and Marco Pennette, whose first team effort was "Dave's World," "Caroline in the City" has a neat professional gloss. Ms. Thompson manages to be pert, a sitcom requirement ever since "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," even while maneuvering through leaden lines like, "Even though I left Wisconsin and don't have any children. . . ." The Gets character almost walks off with the show with a combination of biting sarcasm and underlying loneliness. And, of course, there are pop-culture references to spare. In one episode, Wayne Newton, "Melrose Place" and Bea Arthur were squeezed in before the opening credits.
In "The Naked Truth" (Wednesdays at 9:30 P.M. on ABC), Tea Leoni is Nora Wilde, a photojournalist who has just divorced her millionaire socialite husband without even demanding alimony. A mistake. Ex-husband has her blackballed in the establishment press and poor Nora is forced to take a job with The Comet, a weekly tabloid specializing in shots of everything from Macaulay Culkin eating Chee-tos in filthy underwear to a potato resembling Liza Minnelli. "The Naked Truth" offers a madcap defense for those legions of workers who have had to make career compromises, not least serious writers reduced to churning out sitcoms.
Nora worries, "I'm getting sucked into the tabloid mindset; I'm losing track of my entire moral center." Welcome to the club, most viewers are likely to respond. Meanwhile, Holland Taylor is wickedly delicious as Nora's boss, a elegantly snooty women with an unerring nose for scandal and trash. Guest stars give Nora an opportunity to focus on real celebrities. Anna Nicole Smith, the former Playboy model, figured in one episode that involved a gynecologist's office and a urine sample. Tom Hanks popped up in another show in a brief bit about an embarrassingly stuck zipper. Why? Well, "The Naked Truth" is created by Chris Thompson whose previous credits include "Bosom Buddies." That was the 1980 series in which Mr. Hanks, spending much of his time in drag, got an early career boost.
On CBS's "Bonnie Hunt Show" (Fridays at 8:30 P.M.) Bonnie Hunt plays Bonnie Kelly, a television reporter who leaves Wisconsin -- is anybody left in that state? -- for a job with a big station in Chicago. The executive producers are Ms. Hunt, Rob Burnett and David Letterman. Ms. Hunt and Mr. Letterman's production company also collaborated on the short-lived series "The Building." Maybe this time.
The thing about this Bonnie is that she is not only charmingly funny but also very nice. Going for a job interview, she wears what she calls a conservative, Catholic outfit. Bombarded with phone calls from her fretting mother, she is unfailingly patient, at one point asking Mom, "Could you say a prayer for me?" Bonnie is surrounded, mostly at work, with the typical collection of friends that apparently constitutes a family in today's noncommittal world. The show's nifty gimmick: when Bonnie goes out on a story, the interviews are with real people and are not scripted. Chatting with schoolchildren, for instance, Ms. Hunt warmly comes into her own.
Children of their own? Not for these television women of the 90's, at least not yet. Only Nora on "The Naked Truth" comes close, corresponding with a kid named Manuel in Latin America. "Oh, you mean the one you bought from Sally Struthers?" asks her friend. I'm sure I heard "Father Knows Best" and "The Donna Reed Show" turning over in their syndication graves.
THE NAKED TRUTH ABC, 9:30 P.M. Wednesdays
CAROLINE IN THE CITY NBC, 9:30 P.M. Thursdays
THE BONNIE HUNT SHOW CBS, 8:30 P.M. Fridays
A Review from Entertainment Weekly
Published on November 3, 1995
A Review from Entertainment Weekly
O TELL THE 'TRUTH'...
...ABC'S 'THE NAKED TRUTH' LACKS THE BARE ESSENTIALS OF CLEVER WRITING AND A COLORFUL CAST. BUT TAA LEONI, AS A GONZO TABLOID SHUTTERBUG, GETS TO FLASH HER COMEDIC TALENTS.
By Ken Tucker
Although she's playing a character with, so far, very little character, and starring in a sitcom that, so far, has shown scant sign of sustained excellence, Tea Leoni's work in THE NAKED TRUTH (ABC, Wednesdays, 9:30-10 p.m.) is nonetheless one of the great pleasures of the new television season. There has rarely been a TV actor as attractive as Leoni who's also so heedless of her attractiveness -- which, of course, ends up only making her seem that much more attractive.
Playing Nora Wilde, a tabloid paparazzo with grander goals, Leoni literally throws herself into her work: Nora jumps through windows, gets thrown out of cars, and is trampled by rabid colleagues in search of a hot celebrity photo or quote. The role requires a performer willing to engage in go-for-broke slapstick, and Leoni is a one-woman Laverne & Shirley. She's so breathtakingly plucky, you want to applaud even when the scene for which she's going broke seems pretty lame.
The Naked Truth has a solid sitcom concept at its core. When it premiered, we were told that Nora Wilde was a hoity-toity socialite married to a very rich man (we've since met the guy, played with notable stiffness by Michael York). They divorced over his philandering, and Nora had such an uncommon sense of honor that she refused to take any money in the settlement. Left only with her party-girl wardrobe, the onetime journalist (a running joke is that Nora is constantly reminding people she was, long ago, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize) takes the only job she can find: with The Weekly Comet, a supermarket rag that runs headlines like I Had Sex With Bigfoot. (See? I told you the show's writing wasn't very funny.)
At the Comet, her boss is veteran character actor Holland Taylor, the only performer who can hold the screen with Leoni. The rest of the cast -- including Jonathan Penner as a fellow photographer, Amy Ryan as Nora's stepdaughter, and Jack Blessing as Nora's landlord -- are utter ciphers, and not through any fault of the actors; it's as if the writers don't know what to do with these characters. (The show recently acknowledged this by implication, building nearly an entire episode around just Leoni and Taylor slapsticking around in a morgue while trying to snap a photo of a dead celebrity.) It often seems as if most of the writers' creativity has gone into cooking up new sniggers about sex; a subplot about the existence of Elvis Presley's frozen sperm must have set a new prime-time record for tawdry euphemisms.
The Naked Truth is the creation of executive producer Chris Thompson. It's clear he has talent; it's just difficult to figure out what the nature of that talent is. Thompson has amassed lots of cult karma for overseeing Bosom Buddies, the 1980-82 sitcom about cross-dressing pals played by Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari (with, again in the role of boss, Holland Taylor). Buddies, a ratings mediocrity panned by critics at the time, was always funnier than its premise. As on Naked, it was the performances of the stars, not the writing or directing of the show, that made Buddies amusing. Thompson must be awfully good with actors; he seems to give them enough freedom to break out their best stuff. Hanks obviously feels some loyalty to Thompson: The biggest movie star in America made a generous cameo appearance on Naked Truth's second episode in a typically feeble subplot -- his zipper was stuck, and Nora had to help him out.
For now, The Naked Truth's plum position between Grace Under Fire and PrimeTime Live is enough to keep it high in the ratings. But there'll soon come a day when Leoni's skill, charm, and energy won't be able to keep the series aloft. Thompson had better begin to shape this show more to the advantage of its star, and fast. B
An Article from The New York Times
UP AND COMING: Tea Leoni;Playing Golf, Wearing Pearls, Taking Pratfalls
By JAMIE DIAMOND
Published: April 21, 1996
SHE HAS THE FRESH-FACED look of a 1950's Radcliffe grad: good bone structure, great shoulders, a natural athlete. Someone a fellow could go skiing with who wouldn't complain about the cold. Both gorgeous and game, Tea Leoni is the kind of girl a Philip Roth character would go crazy for.
In the new film "Flirting With Disaster," a road comedy that turns up deranged families in all the wrong places, Ms. Leoni appears with Ben Stiller, Mary Tyler Moore, Lily Tomlin, Alan Alda and Patricia Arquette. Reviewing the film in The New York Times, Janet Maslin said that Ms. Leoni "shows off a sleek resemblance to Annette Bening and fine comic style."
In the film, Ms. Leoni, 30, plays Tina Kalb, the earnest and wildly inept former dancer and adoption counselor who accompanies Mel Coplin (Mr. Stiller) on his quest to find his real parents. Needless to say, the neurotic and married Mel goes crazy over her.
Ms. Leoni's comedic style harks back to the screwball comedies of the 30's and 40's, when there were glamour pusses aplenty to take movie pratfalls. Sure, Roseanne or Whoopi Goldberg may do great falls, but Ms. Leoni falls differently. And not just because she wears high heels.
The only daughter of a corporate lawyer father and a nutritionist mother, Ms. Leoni grew up in Englewood, N.J., and New York and attended the Brearley School in New York and the Putney School in Vermont. She plays golf and wears pearls.
"I have learned in my life that the world is very shocking, and I find it funny to watch a character who is shocked by everything she comes into contact with," she says. "I've always appreciated what it feels like to try to hold your head up and maintain your grace when you are faced with something completely not what you had in mind."
She could be speaking about her career.
After dropping out of Sarah Lawrence to live on St. Croix, in the Caribbean, and then spending time on Cape Cod wind sailing and playing tennis, she auditioned for and won a leading role in a new, 1988 series based on "Charlie's Angels" that was never broadcast. The audition was done on a dare; she was so inexperienced she read aloud the stage direction ("beat") -- and managed to hold up her head when everybody laughed.
"I've always admired actresses who had a certain graceful poise, like Lucy," Ms. Leoni says. "She had a dignified body language that could tell you what her mouth and hair were screaming."
Though she never took an acting class, she won small roles in movies like "Wyatt Earp" (1994) and "Bad Boys" (1995). She was also cast in two sitcoms, "Flying Blind" (which ran for one season) and this year's "Naked Truth" (now on hiatus at ABC) in which she stars as a former society wife who must support herself by working as a tabloid photographer. Ms. Leoni is happiest in those fish-out-of-water situations in which her character is hoisted by her own high-mindedness.
"I grew up in an extremely academic and intellectual atmosphere," she says. "So the idea that the power of your intellect could, should and would control the outcome of a situation is a familiar one. That does imply a bit of arrogance. But nothing is more fun than laughing at an arrogant human being having the rug pulled out from under them."
While the women with plump lips or no underwear know they are sexual, and they know you know they are sexual, Ms. Leoni, who is divorced, appears unaware of her beauty. She has a drop-dead deadpan manner. Chris Thompson, who is the producer of "The Naked Truth" and also lives with Ms. Leoni, has likened her to a "dirty Disney character."
Ms. Leoni says: "I have always been able to keep a straight face and know I am provoking laughter in the room But I wasn't the funny one in the family. I wasn't the class clown. To say, here's the new comedic talent still seems very foreign to me."
And yet, as Ms. Moore notes, "She's got spunk. That was the line that Ed Asner said of me in the first episode of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show.' He said: 'You know what, kid? You've got spunk.' And I looked smug and pleased with myself. And then he said, 'I hate spunk.' "
Luckily for Ms. Leoni, the rest of the world doesn't seem to agree.
An Article from The New York Times
TV Notes;'Naked Truth' to NBC
By BILL CARTER
Published: June 26, 1996
ABC has not yet become the biggest supplier of programs to NBC, but it seems to be heading in that direction, thanks to one of ABC's own production partners, Brad Grey.
With the news yesterday that NBC had grabbed the comedy "The Naked Truth" away from ABC, no fewer than three shows co-owned by ABC and Mr. Grey's company, Brillstein-Grey Communications, will be broadcast by NBC next season, further raising the stakes in what many television industry executives now see as a blood feud between the managers of the two networks.
One senior industry executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said yesterday that NBC was "more concerned with embarrassing ABC than doing anything else."
NBC last year took "Third Rock From the Sun," which was developed and then rejected by ABC, and turned it into a hit (with NBC executives not hesitating to claim it as evidence of their superior programming skills). ABC's recruitment last week of one of NBC's program executives seems to have increased the antipathy between the networks.
Mr. Grey clearly stunned ABC this week with his decision to move "The Naked Truth," which stars Tea Leoni as a photographer for a tabloid newspaper, over to NBC after it had run for a year on ABC. He had already moved "The Jeff Foxworthy Show" to NBC from ABC this spring, and "News Radio," a third Brillstein-Grey show made in partnership with ABC, was already on NBC's schedule.
But unlike the "Foxworthy" show, which ABC had canceled before NBC picked it up, "The Naked Truth" was a show ABC wanted to retain. In fact it had made an offer, essentially the same one NBC made, for 13 new episodes. But this allowed Mr. Grey to exercise his right to move the show if ABC did not make a full 22-episode order for the coming season. Mr. Grey preferred to take "The Naked Truth" to NBC, even though it meant spurning his own partner.
"The difference between the offers was nickels and dimes," said Warren Littlefield, president of NBC Entertainment. "Brad is a charting a future for his company. This is a very good time to be at NBC. We're building assets for a lot of people."
Mr. Grey declined to return phone calls to comment, but executives familar with the situation said he had grown concerned about his ABC deal, which had been made before the network was taken over by the Walt Disney Company. Some executives believe that Disney will now try to terminate the partnership, which still has over two years to run. A corporate ABC spokesman said the company would have no comment on the "Naked Truth" decision.
NBC, meanwhile, is crowing. "We've been after Tea Leoni for a long time," said Mr. Littlefield, adding that NBC believed it could do a better job on the show, which received largely positive reviews but only middling ratings.
But he disputed the notion of a vendetta against ABC. "I don't know anything about conspiracies," he said. "Were there two shooters? Heck, I don't know. But I can't buy a show just to make a point to ABC." BILL CARTER
An Article from The New York Times
Tweaking A Show, Juggling Its Stars
By CARYN JAMES
Published: January 16, 1997
The Comet, the sleazy tabloid that was the source of hilarious satire in last year's sitcom ''The Naked Truth,'' has been revamped along with the show. The paper's new owner has the cockeyed idea that a supermarket weekly can actually tell the truth. ''Forty pages with no Elvis sightings, no Batboy, no Big Foot,'' sneers Camilla Dane (Holland Taylor), once the Comet's editor, now demoted to gossip columnist. ''Just rob America of its hope!'' Whether this change will also rob ''The Naked Truth'' of its satiric edge is an open question. What is the Comet without its trashy taste?
In its original incarnation on ABC, ''The Naked Truth'' was the only show to rival ''Frasier'' in its sharp wit, and critical praise was heaped on its star, Tea Leoni, as Nora Wilde. Newly divorced from a mega-millionaire, Nora was struggling to support herself as a Comet photographer, metaphorically holding her nose while spying on celebrities like Tom Hanks in compromising situations.
But while Ms. Leoni had an appealing comic ease, it was always the shrewd satire of celebrity culture that made ''The Naked Truth'' work. Its middling ratings allowed it to be snatched up by NBC, where it returns tonight in the cushy time slot between ''Seinfeld'' and ''E.R.''
The first new episode is dangerously lame, though. The show has inherited the slot that made a hit of Brooke Shields's ''Suddenly Susan'' (which is to return in several weeks at 8:30 P.M. on Thursdays), itself a bland imitation of ''The Naked Truth.'' That blandness must be contagious.
There is one indisputable bright spot in the new ''Naked Truth.'' The series has gained George Wendt of ''Cheers'' as the Comet's editor, Les Polonsky, the son of a man who made a fortune manufacturing lunch meat. Mr. Wendt can do more with a raised eyebrow or a slow look than most comic actors can manage in a whole show. His presence -- affable and brighter than he looks -- is a great asset. Les's function is to spar with Camilla, who resents taking orders from a man who once made ''spreadable salami.''
But most of the changes are not improvements. Les makes Nora responsible for ''advice columns, horoscopes and happy thoughts.'' She has been given a silly wardrobe that is meant to be funky (a suit with a blue leopard collar). And having been complimented on her slapstick abilities, Ms. Leoni plays too many scenes with rubbery legs and a brash voice, as if Nora hasn't quite learned to walk and talk. She needs to calm down. The show has also been given an annoying exaggerated laugh track.
Don't write ''The Naked Truth'' off yet, though. Next week's episode may not be hysterical, but it is promising and irreverent. Tom Arnold, playing himself, is annoyed when a Comet photographer takes his picture. He retaliates by stalking Nora and photographing her everywhere. Meanwhile, two of her colleagues, the womanizing photographer, Nick, and the pet columnist, Dave (known as Stupid Dave in the show's earlier, politically incorrect days) pretend to be gay lovers because a comic misunderstanding makes them think it's a way to get sports tickets from Les. The plot is too convoluted to explain, but falls into place perfectly on screen, a good sign.
With its farcical tone and a willingness to mock cliches, this next episode suggests that ''The Naked Truth'' hasn't sold its soul after all. There are few shows on television with a time slot secure enough to allow them to take risks. ''The Naked Truth'' has every reason to be daring rather than bland.
THE NAKED TRUTH
NBC, tonight at 9:30
(Channel 4 in New York)
Brad Grey, Bernie Brillstein, Maya Forbes and Jay Daniel, executive producers; Miriam Trogdon, co-executive producer; Scott Buck, supervising producer; Nancy Haas and Robert Cohen, producers; pilot written by Ms. Forbes and directed by Gail Mancuso. A production of Brillstein-Grey Communications.
WITH: Tea Leoni (Nora Wilde), George Wendt (Les Polonsky), Holland Taylor (Camilla Dane), Marke Robert (Dave), Darryl Sivad (T. J.) and Jonathan Penner (Nick Columbus).
An Article from The New York Times
Improving the 'Truth'
By BILL CARTER
Published: July 9, 1997
Other changes have been rampant among the new crop of shows scheduled to have their premieres in the fall, with everything from new actors to new scenes to entire new pilots. But one continuing show is about to undergo a total overhaul as well, and it isn't the first time.
The NBC comedy ''The Naked Truth,'' which was formerly an ABC comedy, is being shaken up once again.
When it grabbed the show away from ABC last fall, NBC announced that it was more savvy about how to build shows into hits. And so the series, in which the star, Tea Leoni, works for a tabloid-type magazine, shifted focus last year, its second on the air. The central character went from being a newspaper photographer to being a magazine reporter, and she was given a high-profile co-star to interact with, George Wendt, the hugely popular Norm from ''Cheers.''
Now the show plans to take Ms. Leoni out of that setting, move her to some other tabloid publication, minus Mr. Wendt and several other cast members. Not all the details are final, but one executive close to the series said the general idea was ''to get the show back closer to what it was in its first year.''
For all those interested in observing the latest reconstruction, the show has been moved to Monday nights at 9:30, starting in September. BILL CARTER
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