These "shahs" find the good (if chaotic) life in California

In Michigan, I've had a first-hand view of a vibrant Arab-American community.

In Lansing, where I live, that's mainly the Lebanese; they've been the area's leading lawyers, developers, business people and (a bit of a detour here) contemporary dancers. Elsewhere, people from other Middle East countries have thrived; you couldn't tell that, however, by what you see on TV.

So "Shahs of Sunset" -- which starts its second season Dec. 2 -- is refreshing. Sure, it has all the excesses of other reality shows; it focuses on conflict and chaos, on parties where people drink too much and say way too much. For all of its flaws, however, it does lets us meet some Arab-Americans (Persian, in this case) in the midst fo passionate lives. Here's the story I sent to papers:


On the surface – a rather glitzy
surface – “Shahs of Sunset” is like other reality shows.

It has big parties, big hair, sometimes
big fights. Pretty people (with some ugly moments) live well.

These are young Persian-Americans in
California; many of their parents arrived from Iran with money and
advantages. Still, Mike Shouhed said, some didn't.

“My father came here in his early
20s,” he said. “He didn't know the language, didn't know the
culture …. But he worked 18-20 hours a day to build something for
his family.”

Already an electrical engineer, he
built his own business and moved the family to Beverly Hills. For
Shouhed, that meant going to the real high school that's
fictionalized in “90210” and “Beverly Hills, 90210.” Life was
almost too easy. “I call myself a cultural bad boy,” he said.

He dated a lot and didn't study that
much. But charm (and knowing people with wealth) can suffice.

Shouhed sold real estate in Los
Angeles, then moved Las Vegas. “I didn't know a soul,” he said.
“I was a Persian Jew in a town” where that was rare.

He brokered some deals (linking Persian
money in Los Angeles with Vegas real estate), made some big profits
“and then the bottom fell out” of Vegas real estate. He retreated
to Los Angeles.

That's where “Shahs of Sunset”
finds him, a former “bad boy”who seems to have matured at 34.”I'm
like the Phil Jackson on the show,” Shouhed said. “I'm like the
Zen master.”

Jackson was the basketball coach who
soothed eccentric superstars. Now the show is filled with people, all
in their 30s, who are bright, spontaneous and unusual; they are:

– Reza Karahan, a real-estate agent
who's openly gay, is quick and clever. “Persian dinner parties are
kind of like Persian history,” he says in the season-opener. “It
starts really beautifully and then it always goes South.”

– Mercees Javid (known as MJ) is a
successful real-estate agent with an oft-disapproving mom.

– Golnesa Gharachedaghi (GG) does
less. “We've been brought up to be go-getters,” Shouhed said.
“You're expected to start a business or get educated or get
married. She hasn't done any of those.”

– Asa Soltan Rahmati is definitely a
go-getter. Her family left Iran with nothing, she said; now she's
scrambling to finance her Venice home and her “Persian pop
princess” career, The key to Persian life, she said last year, is
passion. “We're old-school. There's the love of friends and family.
(But) we can be obsessive about some things.”

– Lily Ghalichi, the newcomer for the
second season. She has a law-degree and a long-time boyfriend in
Houston, both ignored for now. A rail-thin beauty, Ghalichi has
started a bikini company.

– Shouhed, suddenly the mellow one.
“I catch myself being the Reza-whisperer, calming him down.”

Those two have gone on to start a
business together, he said, “to bring some real, shah-like pizazz.”
Also, Shouhed has started a serious romance with a woman who is
neither Persian nor Jewish.

“In our culture, you tend to know
everyone's lineage and know who they are,” he said. “Dating
outside your culture, outside your religion is discouraged.” It's
also the stuff of reality TV.

– Shahs of Sunset, 10 p.m. Sundays,

– Dec. 2 season-opener reruns at
12:32 a.m.; its preceded by reruns, 2-8 p.m.

– More reruns are 2-7 p.m. Tuesday,
Dec. 4, and then the next weekend – Friday at 6 p.m. and midnight;
Saturday, 6-8 p.m.; Sunday (Dec. 9) at 7 p.m.



Drake Bell: A fairly fun life, a fairly odd movie

Amid a wash of so-so Christmas movies, a few manage to stand out. One is "A Fairly Odd Christmas," which airs four times this week. It has the offbeat look and feel of a cartoon-like tale that's not a cartoon; kids will like it, but grown-ups will also find some surprising moments. Here's the story I sent to papers about its star:



Many generations seem to careen through
Drake Bell's life.

Sure, he's a young guy who has three
Kids Choice awards and a fun Christmas movie on Nickelodeon His
tastes, however, often veer into the past.

His first car was a 1966 Mustang; his
current one is a '61 Galaxie. His music is classic rock, learned
first-hand from Roger Daltrey and Brian Setzer. Even his film tastes
are vintage. “I'm a huge silent-movie fan,” he said. “You
should see my posters at home.”

So another passion seems to fit in
logically: “I love Christmas,” said Bell, 26. “It's nostalgic;
it's all the old movies and songs.”

And now he has a fairly odd film of his
own. “A Fairly Odd Christmas” is the second live-action
adaptation of “The Fairly OddParents,” a Nickelodeon cartoon
about a 10-year-old Timmy Turner and his his fairy godparents.

Bell was already 15 when “OddParents
debuted, but he became a fan. “It always has jokes that go right
past the kids,” he said. “That keeps it fresh for the parents who
are watching.”

When the series concluded last year, it
tried a non-cartoon with a twist: Timmy (Bell) was grown up, but
clinging his 5th-grade persona.

Now the second movie changes that.
Timmy is fine with adulthood and Tootie (Daniella Monet, 23) is his
girlfriend. Life is good, until he almost ruins Christmas.

All of this required lots of
make-believe, as the actors relate to things – flitting fairies,
raging gingerbread men – that would be added later. Even the
elements are fake: “It's fun to be stomping through the snow in
Vancouver in the summer,” Bell said.

Large chunks of his life have been
pleasant. He started doing TV roles at 8, became a Nickelodeon
regular (first on “The Amanda Show,” then on “Drake &
Josh”) at 13, was taught guitar by Daltrey for a movie at 15. Now
he's working on an album produced by Setzer, of Stray Cats fame.

He's been too busy to match family
skills. Bell can't play baseball as well as his cousin (Heath Bell
has 153 big-league saves) or pool as well as his mom (Robin Dodson
won two world championships).

“I love pool and I play pretty much
every day,” he said. “I'll think I'm getting pretty good. Then
she comes in; it's rack 'em up, clear the table; rack 'em up, clear
the table; rack ….”

And she does it without special effects
or fairy godparents.

– “A Fairly Odd Christmas,”

– 7 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 29), 8 p.m.
Friday, noon and 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec 2; also, 8 p.m. Dec. 7


TV's plan for the next month: Christmas, Christmas, more Christmas


TV is in its new phase now: Thanksgiving is gone; a cascade of Christmas shows is coming.

Here's a list of many of them. Please remember to read the blogs that preceded this; they view the end of "iCarly" today (Friday), the beginning of "Marvin, Marvin" (Saturday) and Della Reese's film "Christmas Angel" (Saturday and Sunday). Meanwhile, here's the Christmas TV list I sent to papers:



Over the next month, none of us can
spend much time decking the halls or making joyful noises. There are
Christmas TV shows – LOTS of them – that need to be watched.

Like Christmas shopping, this season
starts the day after Thanksgiving, with sheer overkill. From then on,
our TV's will be stuffed with cartoons, concerts, movies and more.

The broadcast networks have always had
some holiday shows and cable networks have had more. Often, that was
dominated by ABC Family's "25 Days of Christmas.”

And now? ABC Family still uses the “25 Days”
title, but this year it will be Christmas-crazy for 33 days. The
difference is that others – especially Hallmark and Lifetime –
also obsess on new holiday films.

The extensive listing here is still
only part of the holiday mountain. Some details weren't yet
available; PBS specials vary by station.

Still, it's a start. You can make your
viewing plans now – and cut back on plans for anything else.

Classic cartoons … the best

– “How the Grinch Stole
Christmas,” 8 p.m. Nov. 27, ABC; also, Dec. 18 and 25. Dr. Seuss
and cartoon king Chuck Jones link brilliantly.

– “A Charlie Brown Christmas
Carol,” 8 p.m. Nov. 28, ABC; also, Dec.20, Sweet and subtle, this
brings rich emotion. Rounding out the hour is a Prep & Landing
short, “Operation Secret Santa.”

Classic cartoons … the rest

– “Frosty the Snowman” and
“Frosty Returns,” 8 and 8:30 p.m. Nov. 23, CBS.

– “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,”
8-9 p.m. Dec. 4, CBS.

Music … the best

– “CMA Country Christmas,” 9-11
p.m. Dec. 20, ABC; also, Dec. 22. The night includes people from pop
(Colbie Callait), soul (John Legend) and classical (Katherine
Jenkins), plus crossover stars Keith Urban and Lady Antebellum.
Mostly, though, it's pure country – Martina McBride, Scotty
McCreery, Dierks Bentley, Sugarland (Jennifer Nettles hosts), Little
Big Town and The Band Perry.

Music … the rest

– “Christmas at Rockefeller
Center,” 8 p.m. Nov. 28, NBC. Along with the tree-lighting, music
is from Mariah Carey, CeeLo Green, Trace Adkins, Rod Stewart,
Victoria Justice, Chris Mann and Il Volo.

– “CeeLo's Magic Moment,” 8 p.m.
Nov. 30, TV Guide Network; repeats often, starting 4 p.m. Dec. 1.
noon Dec. 2, 8 p.m. Dec. 3. Includes Muppets, Rod Stewart, Eric
Benet, “Voice” singers.

– “Blake Shelton's Not-So-Family
Christmas,”10 p.m. Dec.3, NBC; also, 9 p.m. Dec. 14. Shelton
includes his wife (Miranda Lambert), his “Voice” colleague
(Christina Aguilera) and Kelly Clarkson and Reba McEntire; also, Jay
Leno and Larry the Cable Guy.

– More: Details on several are
pending; also, PBS times vary in each market.

New cartoons … the best

– “It's a SpongeBob Christmas,”
9:30 p.m. Nov. 23, CBS. There's a dark wit that may be too much for
younger kids, but grown-ups will like it. A song wisely implores:
“Don't Be a Jerk, It's Christmas.”

New cartoons … the rest

– “Jingle & Bell's Christmas
Star,” 8 p.m. Nov. 23, Hallmark.

– “The Looney Tunes Show Christmas
Special,” 7:30 p.m. Dec.4, Cartoon.

Cartoon reruns … the best

– “Prep & Landing” and “Prep
& Landing: Naughty and Nice,” 8 and 8:30 p.m. Dec. 9, ABC;
also, 4:30-5:30 p.m. Dec. 18 and 10-11 a.m. Dec. 22, ABC Family. Back
on ABC, the first reruns at 8 p.m. Dec. 24, the second at 8 p.m. Dec.

Cartoons reruns … the rest

– “Grandma Got Run Over by a
Reindeer,” 8 p.m. Nov. 23, CW.

– “Jingle All the Way,” 8:30 p.m.
Nov. 23, Hallmark.

– “The Happy Elf,” 9-10 p.m. Nov.
23, CW.

– “Hoops & Yoyo Ruin
Christmas,” 9 p.m. Nov. 23, CBS.

– “Shrek the Halls,” 8:30 p.m.
Nov. 27, ABC; also, 8:30 p.m. Dec. 18.

– “The Flight Before Christmas,”
8-9 p.m. Dec. 8, CBS.

– “The Year Without Santa Claus,”
8-9 p.m., ABC Family; also, 7 p.m. Dec. 14, 1 p.m. Dec.16, 4 p.m.
Dec. 22.

– “Santa Claus is Comin' to Town,”
8-9 p.m.Dec. 11, ABC; then ABC Family, 8 p.m. Dec. 14, 11 p.m. Dec.
15, 2 p.m. Dec. 16, 5 p.m. Dec.22.

– “Yes, Virginia” and “The Elf
on the Shelf,” 9 and 9:30 p.m. Dec. 14, CBS.

– “Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas,”
8:30 p.m. Dec. 17, Fox.

– “I Want a Dog For Christmas,
Charlie Brown,” 8-9 p.m. Dec. 20, ABC.

– “A Chipmunk Christmas,” 8:30
p.m. Dec.22, ABC.

– ALSO: Blocks of reruns on ABC
Family, 7-8:30 a.m. Dec. 1-2; 5-8 p.m., Dec. 3; 4:30-8 p.m. Dec.4;
4-6 p.m., Dec. 6; 7-8 a.m. Dec. 9; 5-9 p.m. Dec. 10; 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Dec. 15; 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Dec. 18; 7-10 a.m. Dec. 22; 11 a.m. to
6 p.m. Dec. 22; 7-8:30 a.m. Dec. 23.

Christmas Carol … the best

– “Mickey's Christmas Carol,”
5:30 p.m. Dec.4, ABC Family; also, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10; 11 a.m. Dec. 22

Christmas Carol … the rest

– Jim Carrey version (2009). 8 p.m.
Dec. 6, ABC Family; also, 5 p.m. Dec.7; 4 p.m. Dec. 15; 3 p.m. Dec.
16; 9 p.m.Dec. 19; 7 p.m. Dec.20; 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Dec. 25.

– “Christmas Carol” marathon –
including the 1984 (George C. Scott) and 1938 films – goes from 8
p.m. to 2:45 a.m., Dec.16-18, AMC.

New movies … the best

– “Christmas With Holly,” 9 p.m.
Dec. 9, ABC. From the classy “Hallmark Hall of Fame” franchise,
an OK, feel-good story is brightened by pretty people in a pretty,
island setting.

New movies … the rest

– “Love at the Christmas Table,”
7 p.m. Nov. 25, Lifetime.

– “It's Christmas, Carol,” 9 p.m.
Nov. 23, Hallmark; also, 8 p.m. Nov. 28.

– “The March Sisters at Christmas,”
8 p.m. Nov. 23, Lifetime; also, 8 p.m. Nov.30. The “Little Women”
characters move to modern times. (The 1949 “Little Women” is 8
p.m. ET Dec. 9 on Turner Classic movies.)

– “Christmas Angel,” 7. 9 and 11
p.m. Nov. 24-25, GMC (formerly Gospel Music Channel).

– “Home Alone: The Holiday Heist,”
8 p.m. Nov. 25, ABC Family. The fifth film in the series has a boy
again rigging his house. This time, he thinks he's facing ghosts. The
original is at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. that day, then reruns 7 p.m. Dec.
5; 9 p.m. Dec. 10; 5 p.m. Dec.11; 11 a.m. Dec. 16; 8 p.m. Dec. 18; 5
p.m. Dec.19; 9 p.m. Dec. 24; 7 p.m. Dec. 25.

– “Hitched for the Holidays,” 8
p.m. Nov. 25, Hallmark; repeats 8 p.m., Nov. 30.

– “A Golden Christmas,” 9 p.m.
Nov. 25, Ion. It's the third annual romance, with golden retrievers
as the continuing element. The first rerun at 5 and 7 p.m.

– “A Bride For Christmas,” 8 p.m.
Dec. 1, Hallmark.

--”A Star for Christmas” and “A
Christmas Wedding Date,” 7 and 9 p.m. Dec. 2, Ion.

– “The Christmas Consultant: and
“Finding Mrs.Clause,” 7 and 9 p.m. Dec. 2, Lifetime.

– “The Christmas Heart,” 8 p.m.
Dec. 2, Hallmark.

– “Come Dance With Me,” 8 p.m.
Dec. 8, Hallmark.

– “12 Disasters of Christmas,” 9
p.m., Dec. 8, Syfy. Don't expect feel-good here. It turns out that
the Mayan predictions are coming true, one day at a time.

– “Anything But Christmas,” 7
p.m. Dec.9, Ion.

– “The Mistle-Tones,” 8 p.m.,
Dec. 9, ABC Family. Also, 5 p.m. Dec. 13; 3 p.m. Dec. 20.

– “Help For the Holidays,” 8 p.m.
Dec. 9, Hallmark.

– “Baby's First Christmas,” 8
p.m., Dec. 15, Hallmark.

– “Christmas Twister,” 9 p.m.,
Dc. 16, Ion. It's another holiday disaster, this one non-Mayan.

TV-movie reruns … the best

– “Snow” and Snowglobe,” 8 a.m.
to noon Dec. 9, ABC Family.

– “Santa Baby” and “Santa Baby
2,” noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 9, ABC Family. Also, 1-5 p.m. Dec. 21.

(We won't list other TV-movie reruns,
which are omnipresent.)

Theatrical (originally shown in
theaters) movies … the best

– “It's a Wonderful Life ”
(1946), 8-11 p.m. Dec.1, NBC; also, Dec. 24

– “Elf” (2003), 8 and 10 p.m.
Dec. 1, ABC Family; also, 5 p.m. Dec. 2, 8 p.m. Dec.4, 10 p.m. Dec.6.
Then 8-10 p.m. Dec. 15, CBS.

Theatrical movies … the rest

– “The Family Man” (2000), 3-6
p.m. Dec. 1, ABC Family; 2-5 p.m. Dec. 19.

– “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”
(2000), 7 and 9:30 p.m. Dec. 2, ABC Family; also, 7 p.m. Dec.17; 7
p.m. Dec. 23. Then 8:30-11 p.m. Dec. 25, ABC.

– “Christmas Vacation,” 8 p.m.
Dec. 3, ABC Family; also, 9 p.m. Dec.12; 7 p.m. Dec.13; 9 p.m. Dec.
20; 7 p.m. Dec. 21; 9 p.m. Dec. 25.

– “Fred Claus,” 10 a.m. Dec. 4,
ABC Family; also, 2:30 p.m. Dec.5; 1:30 p.m. Dec. 8; 12:30 p.m. Dec.

– “Polar Express,” 9 p.m., Dec.5,
ABC Family; also, 6p.m. Dec. 6;9 p.m., Dec. 13; 5 p.m. Dec.14; 10
p.m. Dec. 18; 7 p.m., Dec.19; 5 p.m.,Dec.23; 1 p.m., Dec.24.

– “The Santa Clause” (1994) and
“Santa Clause 3” (2006) together, 7-11 p.m. Dec.7, ABC Family;
also, 4-8 Dec. 8; 7-11 p.m. Dec. 11; 5-9 p.m. Dec. 12; then “Santa
Clause 2” (2002) joins for a triple-feature, 6 p.m. to midnight
Dec. 22; 3-9 p.m.Dec.24; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 25.

– “Miracle on 34th
Street (1947), 8 and 10:15 p.m. Dec. 9-15, AMC; also, 9:15 a.m. Dec.
24, launching a Christmas-film marathon. The 1994 remake is 12:30
p.m. Dec. 1, ABC Family; rerunning 8:30 a.m. Dec. 2; 5:30 pm. Dec.

– “Meet Me in St. Louis: (1944), 10
p.m. ET Dec. 18, as part of a holiday-musical night; it repeats at
4:30 p.m. Dec.24, surrounded by “Holiday Affair” (1950) at 3 and
“Babes of Toyland” (1934) at 6:30.

– “The Sound of Music” (1965),
7-11 p.m. Dec. 23, ABC.

– “King of Kings” (1961), 5-8
p.m. ET Dec. 25, Turner Classic Movies.



Farewell, Fred Figglehorn; now Lucas is becoming an outer-space alien

Nature abhors a vacuum, you know, and TV detests any open spaces in our day. Now it's trying to fill our free time during the long Thanksgiving weekend.

That sort of explains the flurry of stories here. Starting with this one and working backward, they deal with: Lucas Cruikshank's "Marvin, Marvin," which debuts Saturday; Della Reese and "Christmas Angel," debuting Saturday and Sunday; Miranda Cosgrove's "iCarly," ending its six-season run Friday; and the National Dog Show and other shows Thursday.

There's more coming, with a Christmas TV list. First, here's the "Marvin, Marvin" story I sent to papers:



It's a feeling that might overwhelm us
anywhere – at a new school, a new job, a new town, a new phase.
Suddenly, we feel like an outer-space alien, beamed into an alternate

Lucas Cruikshank knows that vividly. “I
felt like that in high school,” he said. “I was all alone.”

And now he's playing it in “Marvin
Marvin,” with one exception: Marvin really IS an alien.

His home planet of Klooton had evil
invaders. Now Marvin has been beamed to Earth, where he's supposed to
let no one (except his home family) know his secret.

So he really wants to seem like an
average teen-ager, which he's not. Cruikshank knows the feeling. “In
high school, I really was not in the popular group,” he said.

His early years in Columbus, Neb., were
fine, encompassed by family. He's the fourth of eight kids, with a
dad who's an engineer and a mom who's a nurse. “My family is
awesome,” he said.

He had his elementary-school friends,
but then came middle and high school, surrounded by 600 strangers.
His solution was to retreat into a young alter-ego; with two cousins,
he made videos as Fred Figglehorn, perpetually 6 and hyper, with a
sped-up voice.

Cruikshank was 14 when he created the
Fred Channel. It was reportedly the first YouTube channel with a
million subscribers, eventually reaching two million, with 900
million views.

Naturally, Hollywood beckoned. He was a
guest star on three shows (“Hannah Montana,”“iCarly,” “Supah
Ninjas”); he also made three”Fred” movies and a “Fred”

All the roles were close to Fred-land.
“I feel like no one would cast me in anything else,” he said.

This new show was created by two of his
agent's other clients. The lead character isn't a big leap,
Cruikshank granted. “He doesn't have the Fred voice, but he's
pretty over-the-top.”

The difference? “Fred did a lot of
things for attention.” Marvin tries, futilely, to avoid attention.

This is sort of a new “Mork &
Mindy,” he was told. “I didn't know what that was, (but) my mom
was such a huge fan.” Soon, he was savoring reruns of “Mork”
and “3rd Rock From the Sun.”

His own alien adventures are
continuing. At 19, Cruikshank is living in Los Angeles, a
half-continent from home. He's not dating yet – “I don't think
I'm too strong at relationships,” he said earlier this year – but
he has found new friends and places to go. “There are so many cool
places to eat here,” he said.

That's a start. Like most of us, he'll
gradually feel at home on Planet Earth.

– “Marvin, Marvin,” 8:30 p.m.
Saturdays, Nickelodeon

– Debuts Nov. 24, rerunning at 9:30
p.m. The next day (Sunday, Nov. 25), it repeats at 10:30 a.m. and
1:30 and 5:30 p.m.



Thirty years after her death sentence, Della's musical life continues

A cascade of Christmas movies and specials is headed our way soon.

That starts Friday; by then I'll have posted an elaborate list, suitable for saving (or, at least, occasioally consulting). Here's one quirk, though: Very few of the show actually refer to God or Jesus, who are sort of at the core of this whole Christmas idea.

One exception is the wonderful "A Charlie Brown Christmas," returning Nov. 28 to ABC. Another is the new "Christmas Angel," which debuts Saturday and Sunday on GMC (formerly Gospel Music Channel). Here's a story I sent to papers about Della Reese, one of the "Christmas Angel" stars:



For Della Reese, the important things
seemed pre-determined.

Her mother decided she would be a
Christian; her soul decided she would be a singer. And when she was
48, a doctor said she would soon die.

He “came to my room every day and
explained to me why I had to die,” Reese said. “He had the
statistics … and no encouragement.”

And he was wrong. At 81, Reese co-stars
in a new cable movie (“Christmas Angel”), is a pastor (at
Understanding Principles for Better Living Church in Inglewood, Cal.)
and sings “any time I can.”

She's still thriving … within
reason.”Spiritually,I'm very sound,” Reese said. “But I'm being
this way in a human body. When my back hurts, it's just as bad as
when your back hurts.”

Fans remember her playing someone with
no mortal-body concerns. “'People still stop me and tell me
'Touched By an Angel' saved their lives or changed their lives,”
she said.

Now “Touched” reruns are on cable's
GMC, which has “Christmas Angel” and calls itself “America's
Christmas Channel.” The same title could go to ABC Family or
Hallmark, but viewers don't seem to complain about the overkill.

“It's a tradition for us to just get
together and watch Christmas movies,” said Tamera Mowry-Housley,
who has a small role in the “Christmas Angel” film. “I
personally love Christmas movies.”

This one has kids convinced that an old
house – with Reese as its mysterious resident – can grant wishes.
It's an odd notion … but Reese is accustomed to life's strange

“My mother was a personal friend of
God's …. There was always a plate for Him at the table,” she
said. “Literally, a plate on th table.”

Reese recalls singing constantly “I
can hear (my mother) saying, 'Could you just be quiet for a minute?
Why don't you go out on the porch and sing?'”

She sang in her Detroit church at 6. As
a teenager, she spent three summers touring with gospel great
Mahalia Jackson, “who taught me the art of communication.”

Then came other genres. Reese became “a
top-flight interpreter of jazz, blues, R&B, gospel and
straight-ahead pop music,” Steve Huey wrote in One
song (“Don't You Know”) even reached No. 1 on Billboard's R&B
chart and No. 2 on its overall chart.

Reese expanded further, becoming an
actress and a busy figure on game shows and talk shows. She survived
divorces and two near-death experiences. One was when she
accidentally walked through a plate-glass door; the other was when
she had an aneurysm on the set of Johnny Carson's show.

That led to the doctor explaining that
she would soon die, Reese said. “The Christ that was in me would
build a barrier …. I could see (the doctor's) mouth moving, but I
couldn't hear what he was saying.”

A Canadian doctor disagreed with the
prediction and performed surgery. Now, three decades later, Reese is
still singing, talking and being part of a crowded Christmas season.

– “Christmas Angel,” 7, 9 and 11
p.m. Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 24-25), GMC (formerly Gospel Music

– Della Reese plays the mysterious
newcomer in an old house; “Angel” also has Terri Polo, Kevin
Sorbo, Tamera Mowry-Housley and young Izabela Vidovic

– Sunday showings aree preceded by a
marathon of Reese's “Touched By an Angel,” 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

– “Touched” also airs 7-9 p.m.
weekdays on GMC

– Mowry-Housley's “Sister, Sister”
is 10-11 a.m.weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays on GMC