News Column

The Wichita Eagle Denise Neil column

November 30, 2013

YellowBrix

Nov. 30--As Wichitans, it is our duty to give anything our hometown star Kirstie Alley does a chance -- whether it's dancing with stars, putting up holiday decor on Douglas or starring a new television series.

At 9 p.m. on Wednesday, we'll have another chance when the first of 12 episodes of Alley's new sitcom, "Kirstie," airs on TV Land, cable Channel 48 in Wichita.

And trust me -- she makes it pretty easy.

The new show stars Alley as Madison Banks, a Broadway star whose 26-year-old son, given up for adoption at birth, finds her after his adoptive parents die. He's sloppy and droopy, works in a doughnut shop and has few aspirations. She's glamorous and perfectly made up, lives in a fancy New York City brownstone and stars in a new hit Broadway show. You see where this is headed.

The cast also includes Alley's former "Cheers" castmate Rhea Perlman as her assistant and "Seinfeld" star Michael Richards as her Kramer-esque driver.

The show also will feature a parade of guest stars, including Alley's friend and "Look Who's Talking" co-star John Travolta. "Cheers" castmate George Wendt will make an appearance, as will stars such as Kristin Chenoweth,who plays Banks' Broadway understudy, Cloris Leachman and Kathy Griffin.

Alley, 62, said in a recent interview that she has little in common with her new character.

"I'm not a night person, I've never done Broadway," Alley said. "I don't drink. I don't carouse around at night." Alley loves kids and animals; Banks does not.

But Alley borrowed two aspects of her personal life for the sitcom. One of the early episodes is set at Christmas, with the characters wearing matching reindeer pajamas.

"One of the traditions that we wrote into the script was everybody wearing the same pajamas on Christmas Eve, which gets about the same reaction in my house: ?Oh my God, Mom. Why? Why?' But now that the kids have gotten older -- my daughter is 19, my son is 21 -- it's almost become so kitschy that they don't care. They surrendered. So last Christmas we were all sock monkeys. That's what we were supposed to be in the show, but we couldn't find the same sock monkey costume so we went with the reindeer."

She and Banks also share a love of interior design, and Alley made sure her character has a gorgeous home.

Alley's love of big, old houses led her to buy a home in the College Hill neighborhood.

"I have got more than one house," she said. "I am very lucky. The only investment I ever made was in real estate. My houses are very homey and very comfortable, even when they are big. I tend to like old houses that have beautiful craftsmanship."

TV Land sent The Eagle a press kit that included a DVD with three of the early episodes, and I watched them all. Alley looks great, and although it took me a little while to warm to the show, I did find myself laughing out loud several times. My overall feeling was that the actors, especially Alley and Richards, are far too talented for the material they've been given on "Kirstie," but they make the most of it. For every awkward, moan-worthy joke, there's an Alley food fight or karaoke scene or a peek at the best parts of Richard's former Kramer character that makes up for it.

But I will continue to watch it, and not just because Alley was born in Wichita. We owe her because she's still one of us. She's a star who's from here and who also still lives here -- at least part of the time. It's not the least bit unusual to see her in the aisles of a Wichita grocery store, stopping by a local restaurant or emerging from the backstage of an Intrust Bank Arena concert, her posse of well-dressed local friends in tow.

We know she lives in the old Inn at the Park on Douglas, which she decorates prettily for the holidays. We recognize her white SUV. Seeing her around town is no big thing. Oh. There she is. Hey, Kirstie. Just another Wednesday night.

Now, we all have an excuse to spend our next 12 Wednesday nights in her company.

___

(c)2013 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.)

Visit The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.) at www.kansas.com

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