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The Naked Truth

Taped in Los Angeles by Brillstein-Grey Communications and Christopher Thompson Prods. in association with Columbia Pictures Television. Executive producers, Brad Grey, Bernie Brillstein, Chris Thompson; producer, Nancy Haas; director, Michael Lessac; writer, Chris Thompson; camera, Wayne Kennan; editor, Skip Collector; art director, Ken Johnson; sound, Leamon Gamel; music, Dan Foliart. TX:Cast: Tea Leoni, Jonathan Penner, Holland Taylor, Amy Ryan, James Lancaster, Anna Nicole Smith, Lisa Kaminir, Colleen McDermott, Christopher Darga, Mark Roberts, Darryl Sivad, Barry Diamond, Joy Rinaldi. It's from the hot Brillstein-Grey stable, there's mileage in the premise, the writing is clever, and star Tea Leoni should grow nicely into the starring role. Best of all, "The Naked Truth" has style. The days of Pulitzer nominations are clearly behind Nora. A seasoned paparazzo, Nicky (Jonathan Penner), dubs her "Ethics" and then watches "the fastest descent into the gutter" he's ever seen.

Taped in Los Angeles by Brillstein-Grey Communications and Christopher Thompson Prods. in association with Columbia Pictures Television. Executive producers, Brad Grey, Bernie Brillstein, Chris Thompson; producer, Nancy Haas; director, Michael Lessac; writer, Chris Thompson; camera, Wayne Kennan; editor, Skip Collector; art director, Ken Johnson; sound, Leamon Gamel; music, Dan Foliart. TX:Cast: Tea Leoni, Jonathan Penner, Holland Taylor, Amy Ryan, James Lancaster, Anna Nicole Smith, Lisa Kaminir, Colleen McDermott, Christopher Darga, Mark Roberts, Darryl Sivad, Barry Diamond, Joy Rinaldi. It’s from the hot Brillstein-Grey stable, there’s mileage in the premise, the writing is clever, and star Tea Leoni should grow nicely into the starring role. Best of all, “The Naked Truth” has style. The days of Pulitzer nominations are clearly behind Nora. A seasoned paparazzo, Nicky (Jonathan Penner), dubs her “Ethics” and then watches “the fastest descent into the gutter” he’s ever seen.

Nora rationalizes her new vocation and proceeds to get shots of Anna Nicole Smith in her gynecologist’s office. She’s willing and able to pursue the truth in tabloid fashion, but her short-lived dilemma will provide lots of story fodder. She’ll rise to the job even if it’s beneath her.

Episode ends with her first real assignment: shooting a potato that looks like Liza Minnelli.

Leoni displays good timing, and her performance should become more relaxed and less demonstrative. No doubt she’ll become romantically involved with the handsome Nicky, and there’s something between the two to build on. Holland Taylor is believable as the tabloid editor.

Director Michael Lessac is in fine form. Vigorous script by creator Chris Thompson features a little debate on tabloid journalism: Are paparazzi any worse than legit shutterbugs who takepictures of starving children, as Nora once did?

There’s also a strange anti-gay crack and a joke about Charlie Sheen’s penchant for prostitutes.

Though the sensibility is different, “Grace Under Fire” is the perfect lead-in.

Will producers have to broaden the material to play beyond the Hollywood/media elite? Probably not. They buy lots of tabloids in Peoria.

The Naked Truth

(Wed. (13), 9:30-10 p.m., ABC)

Production: Leoni plays Nora Wilde, ayoung photojournalist-turned-socialite who's divorcing her cheating husband, a publishing tycoon. Blowing the settlement for pride's sake, she comes away penniless and is forced to apply for a job on the Weekly Comet tabloid.

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