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Surf’s Up for Last Wave of New TV Shows

Prime time’s final wave of new spring TV series arrives this week, amid echoes of the dull thud that greeted most of the dozen or so new arrivals that premiered in March. The latest newcomers include the ABC dramas “Gun” and “Leaving L.A.,” which will be paired Saturday night; Fox’s “Pacific Palisades,” Aaron Spelling’s latest soap with an L.A. ZIP Code; and NBC’s “Fired Up"--the third comedy this year to get a shot in the plum time period after “Seinfeld.” Like its predecessors, “Suddenly Susan” and “The Naked Truth,” “Fired Up” features a female lead (in this case “NYPD Blue’s” Sharon Lawrence) playing a self-obsessed businesswoman who, after being fired, recruits her former secretary (Leah Remini) to join her in a new venture. These series will be getting a relatively quick look from their respective networks before the next ratings sweeps begin on April 24 and the networks begin setting their schedules for next season in May. In short, that means the new shows don’t have much time to impress network executives if they want to earn a chance at returning next season.

Rebuild It and They Will Come

It has been 16 years since Spago first opened its doors on Sunset Boulevard and quickly became the hottest dining spot in town, a place where Hollywood superstars and entertainment power-brokers rubbed shoulders with celebrity gawkers, dining on smoked salmon pizza and other creations of Austrian-born chef Wolfgang Puck. This week, Puck and his wife, Barbara Lazaroff, are putting the finishing touches on their latest showcase restaurant: Spago Beverly Hills. Located on the site of the landmark Bistro Gardens on Canon Drive, the new Spago has been almost a year in the planning. “I think many people were concerned at first [over what would replace the Bistro], but others were ecstatic that we bought it,” Lazaroff said. “Some felt it needed to be changed. Others did not. Some people are afraid of change, but life is about change. I think they are going to be pleasantly surprised.” Lazaroff, working with architect Stephen Jones, said 80% of the old structure had to be knocked down. The new restaurant features a $1-million state-of-the art kitchen, a 10-foot-high entryway, chandeliers made of handblown Murano glass, and an 8-foot-high fountain by Japanese artist Yoshikawa that has the word “passion” in 20 languages etched into the stone. “Basically, the restaurant has a visual signature of the flame,” Lazaroff said. “This is a flame of passion. Not sexual passion, but passion to inspire greatness.” The most striking features of the garden area are two 100-year-old olive trees trucked to the site at a cost of $18,000 and lifted into place with 90-foot cranes. Lazaroff said the restaurant this week will host a series of private parties, including one for investors (among them are several agents at Creative Artists Agency as well as Tom Cruise’s producing partner, Paula Wagner) as well as the work crews. On Friday, there will be a charitable event to fight multiple sclerosis and on Sunday the Blue Ribbon Committee of the Los Angeles Music Center will hold a private party. The restaurant will officially open April 14. How will Lazaroff spend the last frantic week before its opening? “The same way I have for the last year,” she said. “Living here.”

A Likely New Record for Late Rapper

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If the Notorious B.I.G.'s red-hot “Life After Death” holds onto the No. 1 position as expected when SoundScan figures are released Wednesday, it will be the first album in 10 weeks to maintain its hold on the top spot for more than one week. The run of nine different No. 1 albums in as many weeks is a SoundScan-era record. But what does it mean? “I think it’s a bad sign,” says Gary Arnold, vice president of marketing for the 272-store Best Buy chain. “It’s very disconcerting that we don’t see that kind of explosion of records, where they get to the next level of fans beyond the act’s loyal fan base. It’s a trend that we’ve seen develop over the last couple of years.” But Stan Goman, senior vice president of Tower Records, sees no reason to fret over the frequent turnover at the top of the chart. “It’s neat to have a record come out that’s really hot and in demand,” he says. “But I don’t care if it doesn’t stay at No. 1, as long as it stays in the Top 10 for a while and the label keeps pushing it.”

--Compiled by Times Staff Writers and Contributors


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