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August 02, 2002 05:25pm
Anna Nicole: Ready for her Close-Up
Source: E! Online
by: Mark Armstrong

She's been mired in a nasty legal battle for seven years and has been hidden inside of her house like a latter-day (and much better endowed) Brian Wilson. But now, Anna Nicole Smith is ready to bust out all over the place.

Curiosity is mounting for the Anna Nicole Show, E!'s new reality series based on the life of the voluptuous former Playboy pinup-turned-widow of a Texas oil billionaire. So far, the show, (debuting Sunday at 10 p.m.) is generating plenty of buzz, as few people have seen the premiere episode - save for Howard Stern, who predicted this week the series will be bigger than the Osbournes. (E! Online is a division of E! Networks.)

Here's the premise: Camera crews follow Smith everywhere, from the bathroom to the bowling alley to the therapist. She eats, she works out, and she's joined by her personal posse - lawyer Howard K. Stern, personal assistant Kim Walther, Smith's 16-year-old camera-shy son Daniel and her Prozac-popping miniature poodle, Sugar Pie.

As for Smith herself, the 34-year-old former stripper says the new series is helping her fight depression and move past her battle with the family of oilman J. Howard Marshall II. In March, a federal judge awarded her $88.5 million in her legal battle over the estate of her late husband. Marshall died in 1995 at age 90, just 14 months after he and Smith were married - prompting a nasty war between the buxom babe and one of Marshall's sons, E. Pierce Marshall. The case remains in litigation.

The E! series "came along at the right time," Smith tells USA Today. "I was in litigation for seven years. I was all depressed, and I lay in bed all day and gained weight. It got me out of bed and got me moving."

E! higher-ups say Smith's boob tube foray is hiding nothing, and the cameras are catching everything. The New York Post reported this week that Smith has had several naked, on-camera romps, but producers are still figuring out how the footage can be used.

"We're all about bringing our viewers closer to the celebrities. We built a business on celebrities and people's fascination with them," says Mark Sonnenberg, E!'s executive vice president of entertainment. "The Anna Nicole Show takes it to the next level. We're not just focusing on her public life, but how intriguing her private life is, when the spotlight is turned off."

And intriguing might just be an understatement. The Anna Nicole Show debuts Sunday at 10 p.m., preceded at 8 p.m. By the original E! True Hollywood Story on Smith.

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