Tuned In: Star Jones unveils new look in promoting new talk show

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Star Jones came to Turner networks' press tour presentation yesterday to promote her new Court TV talk show, "Star Jones" (3 p.m. weekdays, premiering Aug. 20), but she wasn't willing to discuss the obvious: Her new appearance.

Slimmed down and sleeked up, Jones was more than happy to tout her new show -- she says it will be about the intersection of law, entertainment, politics and pop culture; it will have entertainment value; it will be a dialogue with the audience, not a monologue; blah, blah, blah -- and she said she'd used the past year since she was dropped from "The View" to reflect.

"Getting fired will make a person want to learn a little bit about themselves, OK?" she said. "Just like every other person who gets a pink slip, after you're all upset, you look at why you got the pink slip."

She didn't want to discuss all the turmoil on "The View" in the year since her departure ("Barbara Walters gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to go on and do television that I really wanted to do, so I'm not going to do anything that damages that warm feeling"), though she was willing to say the show needs a new African-American panelist.

"You need to make it look like the fabric of society and not just look that way from the outside, but feel that way from the inside with a permanent person of color who is a professional," Jones said.

And she did say of former "View" host Rosie O'Donnell, "I think she is one of the smartest people I've seen on television. She knows how to make you all talk about her."

But she didn't want to discuss her new look. She acknowledged that "over the last four years you all have watched me change so much on television. You've seen me gain a whole person and lose a whole person"

So why not discuss it?

"I know that people are curious," she said, "and I think it does a service to our audience to really explain it, and in the coming month I think I will have answered every question."

And why not start here?

"There would be one reporter who would be very annoyed with me," Jones said.

Then the guessing game began: Did she promise an interview to Barbara Walters?

"She didn't ask," Jones said.

Larry King?

"Absolutely not," Jones said.

Finally, after much browbeating from reporters, Jones fessed up. She wrote about her experiences over the past four years for an article that will be the cover of Glamour magazine.

One reporter asked how Jones would handle a guest who refused to answer an obvious question. Jones offered an amusing reply, saying, "I hope to handle it with the same sort of gentleness as you've handled me."

Oh, and as for her name, Jones said, "I'm always gonna be Star Jones Reynolds. Star Jones is the prosecutor, journalist, talk show host who tells it like it is. Star Jones Reynolds makes dinner for her husband every night, and she's the wife. I'm the working woman."

HBO's graphic new series

The network's sex-filled new drama "Tell Me You Love Me," premiering Sept. 9, explores several couples in therapy and shows them in their most intimate moments, including graphic sex scenes, which appear to show penetration, oral sex and actress Sonya Walger ("Lost") masturbating her on-screen husband (Adam Scott).

In an era post-"Shortbus," last year's film that featured actors performing the sex acts depicted by their characters on-screen, asking how "Tell Me ..." was made is absolutely legit. But producers kept dodging those questions while hypocritically proclaiming the show's honesty.

After the news conference, creator Cynthia Mort continued to dance around the "real or fake?" question, assuring that the question would linger.

"They are actors first, and they will not ask anything of themselves, nor will I ask anything of them that they are uncomfortable doing," Mort said -- which isn't exactly a denial, especially to the ears of people who think Hollywood is Sodom and Gomorrah. Finally, she said, "No, they are actors."

And with that, it seems reasonably certain that the actors did not engage in the sex acts depicted on screen.

Mort would not discuss specifics of how the realism in the sex scenes was achieved (prosthetics, perhaps?), but she did say, "Sonya is not going to put her hands in a place that they shouldn't be."

Channel surfing

Discovery Home will be re-christened Planet Green with a focus on the environment. ... Showtime announced a new comedy series, "The United States of Tara," about a mother with multiple personality syndrome that Showtime Entertainment president Robert Greenblatt called " 'Weeds' meets 'Sybil.'" ... E! will air a reality show starring recording artist Snoop Dogg and his family, noting, "turns out this dog is totally domesticated."

Post-Gazette TV editor Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association summer press tour. You may reach him at rowen@post-gazette.com .


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