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Simpson earns spot on 'Divas'

NEW YORK -- Even the folks at VH1 admit they didn't really consider Jessica Simpson diva material when they put together their annual "Divas" extravaganza last year.

"At that point, she was geared a little toward a teen audience," Rick Krim, a VH1 executive vice president, said delicately. More bluntly, Simpson was widely regarded as a C-list Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera with diminishing record sales and questionable star power.

One year later, Simpson's once dull star has not only brightened -- it has exploded, ever since she and hubby Nick Lachey turned their marriage over to MTV for the hugely successful series "Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica."

Simpson's latest album, "In This Skin," a dud when it was first released last summer, is now platinum and still climbing. The couple's Sunday TV special, "The Nick & Jessica Variety Hour," was so successful that ABC ordered another for Christmas. Simpson's shooting her own ABC sitcom pilot about a not-so-bright blond celebrity named Jessica Sampson. And then there's her line of lickable perfumes debuting this month.

"The best part about life right now is watching prayers being answered. That's so amazing," said Simpson, 23.

And she finally ranks as a diva -- in VH1's eyes, anyway. She's one of the headliners at Sunday's live broadcast from Las Vegas.

"I've always watched `Divas,' and I knew I could hang with them. I knew I could do it. And I think more than anything, it's an honor to be finally respected for my voice," Simpson said.

But it's Simpson's personality -- a delightful mix of ditziness, petulance, wholesome Southern charm, and sex appeal -- that's now getting her on magazine covers.

"She had a moderately successful recording career, but as a personality, I don't think people got to see that other side of her -- that captivated people," said Krim.

Plummer to play Cardinal Law

Emmy winner Christopher Plummer will play Boston's controversial Cardinal Bernard Law in Showtime's upcoming adaptation of David French's epic book "Our Fathers: The Secret Life of the Catholic Church in an Age of Scandal."

Shortened to "Our Fathers," the original film will examine the scandals plaguing the Catholic Church from all sides, looking at the priests, the victims, the legal wrangling, and the reporters trying to uncover the stories. Many Americans first became aware of the case during the trial of a Boston-area defrocked priest, John J. Geoghan.

Law resigned in 2002 amidst uproar over the scandal.

"Christopher Plummer was our first and only choice to take on the complex role of this high-ranking Catholic Church official who became the flashpoint in Boston for a scandal that has rocked Catholicism in America and throughout the entire world," said Showtime's president, Robert Greenblatt.

Dan Curtis ("Dark Shadows") is set to direct from a script by Thomas Michael Donnelly ("A Soldier's Sweetheart").

KNIGHT RIDDER

On Boston.com

Noon: AAA car doctor John Paul answers your automotive questions.

1 p.m.: Movie critic Ty Burr dishes about the latest movie releases.

2 p.m.: Boston.com sports editor David Lefort chats about the Sox-Yanks opener.

Globe on NECN

Here's what's happening on "Around the Globe" today on NECN:

* 9:30 a.m.: "Talk of New England"

* 12:30 p.m.: "Globe at Home" -- Assistant sports editor Joe Sullivan previews the Red Sox/Yankees series.

* 4 p.m.: "Around the Globe"

* 6:30 p.m.: "New England Business Day"

* 8 p.m.: "NewsNight" Schedule is subject to change.

Talk of the dial

1 p.m. WBIX-AM (1060) -- "Dollars & Sense" with Dolores Kong. Guest: Jim Mullen, author of "My First Wedding: A Planner for Modern Couples."

7 p.m. WBZ-AM (1030) -- "The David Brudnoy Show." Guest: Leigh Montville, author of "Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero."

Other radio highlights

8 a.m. WGBH-FM (89.7) -- "Classics in the Morning." Mozart's Andante in C, K.315; Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 3 in B; Cop
land's Music for the Theatre; Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 2; Soler's Harpsichord Sonata No. 64 in G.

Noon WUMB-FM (91.9) -- "Live at Noon." Guest: Martyn Joseph.

7 p.m. WCRB-FM (102.5) -- Mozart's "Linz" Symphony; Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1; Bruch's Scottish Fantasy.

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