What employment crisis? Peterman is everywhere


As the summer TV season starts, we get a burst of new shows and new people ... including a double helping of Melissa Peterman. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By MIKE HUGHES

For Melissa Peterman, this is a summer
of overemployment bliss. She's:

– Wrapping up one job: She hosts “Bet
on Your Baby,” which ends its eight-week ABC run Saturday.

– Starting two more. On Wednesdays,
she co-stars in “Baby Daddy” as a young grandmother, then hosts
the new “Dancing Fools.”

None of this is particularly in her
expertise. At 41, she knows a little about babies – her son is 7
and nothing about grandkids. Her knowledge of dancing is up to
debate.

“I'd like to say I've got some
moves,” Peterman said. “Other people say I've got three moves.”

That's enough; “Dancing Fools” has
some pro-quality, in-studio dancing, plus lots of goofy moves on
video and the Internet. “Everyone likes to put a camera on
themselves,” Peterman said. “It's a good thing that when I was 13
or 14, there weren't any cameras showing me dancing.”

She grew up as a typical Minnesotan,
ready to try the world.

Bill Bauer, the stand-up comedian, has
called Minneapolis people the perfect comedy audience – smart
enough to get the joke, polite enough to shrug if it fails. These are
people Peterman grew up with in the suburb of Burnsville, including
her parents. “They go to the theater, go to concerts; they read a
lot.”

Peterman – now 5-foot-10 and
broad-shouldered – didn't fit the teeny images popularized on
either coast. She remembers “wanting to be the tiny, petite girl
that the guys would come by and throw in the air …. I was
definitely a tall girl who tried to be short.”

But this was Minnesota, the land of
Paul Bunyan, where size is respected. Also, being called “giraffe”
and “Yeti” helped mold her. “I realized humor was my best
defense.”

Humor helped when theater was one of
her majors at Mankato State University and when her first major job
involved doing more than 600 performances of “Tony n' Tina's
Wedding,” in Minnesota. Then came improvisational comedy and TV.

Her size blocked some jobs – “I
didn't get a lot of roles that required me to be saved” – but led
to others. Peterman did the six seasons of “Reba,” playing Reba
McEntire's husband's brash mistress.

When CMT (formerly Country Music
Television) set its first situation comedy, “Working Class,” she
had the central role. “It had to be someone who was incredibly
funny, strong and sexy,” said Jill Cargerman, that show's producer.
CMT's Brad Johnson called Peterman “endlessly talented.”

Those talents include stand-up comedy.
Accustomed to a 199-seat theater, Peterman found herself in
18,000-seat arenas, opening for McEntire. “It was just fun watching
her every night.”

Now she gets to do some of everything.
She's a comedy actress on “Baby Daddy,” playing the mom of two
handsome guys whose lives changed when one suddenly had a baby to
raise. She's also a host of many shows, using her improv skills to
adapt. “You realize that you're not really in charge.”

Fate – dancing fools and foolish
babies and such – rules. Peterman simply savors her overemployment.

Melissa Peterman's everywher

– “Baby Daddy” and “Dancing
Fools,” 8:30 and 9 p.m. Wednesdays, ABC Family; rerunning (with
“Fools” first) at 8 and 8:30 p.m. Fridays.

– May 29 is the season-opener of
“Daddy” and the debut of “Fools.” Those first episodes also
rerun at 10 and 10:30 p.m. May 29 and 6:30 and 7 p.m. May 30.

– More: “Bet on Your Baby” has
its last episode at 8 p.m. Saturday; “TheSinging Bee” reruns
occasionally on CMT

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