Redford goes the distance

Matthew Perry and NBC talk sitcom

ROBERT REDFORD appeared in all his golden glory the other eve to celebrate his longtime pal, Dr. Tom Rees and the 50th anniversary of the African Medical & Research Foundation at Cipriani 23rd. Redford won lots of laughs from the podium as he praised Dr. Rees. He sat through the entire dinner charming, greeting, and chatting with guests who besieged his table. I don’t think he got a chance to have even a bite to eat. He’s still a real star. And an unusual one.

IS IT POSSIBLE to deliver one shred of good news in the matter of Britney Spears? Yes, actually. It’s a long shot, everything considered, but here goes, anyway. Matthew Perry is said to be “attached” to an NBC sitcom tentatively titled “Occasional Wife,” about a guy who persuades a young woman — “a wacky artist” — to pretend to be his wife, the better for his career. (Yes, if it sounds familiar, it was a short-lived 1966 series. And the “pretend to be involved for professional reasons” plot was also the basis of the Jennifer Aniston bigscreen comedy, “Picture Perfect.”) Some high-ups at NBC think Britney Spears has the right quality to play the free-spirited girl who helps Perry put over his charade. Is Britney marketable as a sitcom star? One NBC honcho said, “There’s something about her that just connects with the audience, and they want her to succeed now in spite of her adversity.” This remark was uttered before Britney’s charming bodyguard crawled out to say the falling pop star took drugs in front of her children, and revealed other salacious bits of nastiness. Maybe somewhere down the road, there’s salvation for Britney in the form of a TV series?

HBO’s post-Emmy party at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center was extended 45 minutes beyond closing. Those who lingered had the fun of seeing Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa hop onstage with Jeremy Piven and Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie. The mayor played a drum set. … HBO’s new heads of programming, Richard Plepler and Mike Lombardo, have added four new series to the lineup: “True Blood,” a vampire show starring Anna Paquin, “In Treatment,” which has Gabriel Bryne as a therapist (produced by Mark Wahlberg), “12 Miles of Bad Road,” a dramedy from Linda Bloodworth-Thomason starring Lily Tomlin, and an American version of the popular U.K. show, “Little Britain.”

(Email Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com)

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