Fans will get to see Reba McEntire make her long-awaited return to series television Friday night with the premiere of her sitcom “Malibu Country.”
The superstar singer/actress sees more than mere coincidence or serendipity when she considers the circumstances that brought the new project to her.
You see, it was a chance meeting on an airplane between her stepson, Brandon Blackstock, and musician/filmmaker/producer Dave Stewart — yes, the British rocker who was once half of the Eurythmics — that helped set the Oklahoma native on course for “Malibu Country.”
“They got to visiting, and he was telling Brandon about this sitcom idea he had. And he was going to pitch it to some country singers ... and Brandon said, ‘Well, how 'bout Reba McEntire?' He said, ‘Oh my gosh, that's a great idea. Oh, I wonder how I could get it to her?' And Brandon said, ‘Well, I work with Starstruck Management, I comanage Blake Shelton with my father, Narvel Blackstock.' And Dave Stewart put two and two together, and he said, ‘So I guess you could get this to Reba,'” she recalled with a laugh during an interview last fall, just after the pilot deal was announced.
McEntire, who hails from Chockie, had met with ABC executives just a month before about returning to television, and Stewart's idea for a sitcom about a newly single mother moving her children and sassy mother to California to start a new life seemed to fit her too perfectly.
“I had been looking for a sitcom ever since the ‘Reba' show ended in December of '06, and I just never found anything that really tripped my trigger until this. And I just went ‘yes!' And ABC was ready, I was ready, and here comes this script,'” she said.
“The Lord always is the one who puts everything in place for me, and He knows when I'm ready. And I couldn't ask for a better agent, tour manager, manager in the world than my heavenly father.”
“Malibu Country” premieres at 7:30 p.m. Friday on ABC and features McEntire in another eponymous role as Reba Gallagher, a once-promising country singer who put her career on hold to raise a family.
When she discovers her husband, fellow musician Bobby (Jeffrey Nordling), has been cheating on her, she opts to not stand by her man.
Instead, she packs up her two teenagers (Juliette Angelo and Justin Prentice) and her feisty mama (Lily Tomlin) and moves from Nashville to Malibu and the beach house her ex used as his love nest, which also happens to be their last remaining asset.
While Reba tries to revitalize her music career, her whole brood must adapt to the SoCal life.
“I play a country music singer. I don't know how I'm gonna pull that off. Yeah, very strange. I'll have to have some tips, some coaching,” McEntire joked during a June news conference at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, where she received the Annie Oakley Society Award.
“It's gonna be a fun TV show.”
Between her record-setting recording career and her fashion lines at Dillard's, the Country Music Hall of Famer had plenty to do before she added the new TV show to her schedule. But McEntire, 57, never quite got over the unceremonious cancellation of her first sitcom, which aired from 2001-07 on The WB, which became The CW network during the show's run.
“I was not ready to leave, absolutely not. We had lots more stories to tell on the ‘Reba' show; we were devastated. We were the No. 1 sitcom on that network. And then we went into syndication,” McEntire told me last year. “So it has had a second and third life. I mean, when I sing (the theme song) ‘I'm a Survivor' on our show, the crowd goes nuts because they do love the ‘Reba' TV show. And I thank them for that. ... It was just a great experience for all of us.”
“Reba” continues to air in repeats on ABC Family and Country Music Television. But the multimedia superstar, who also will play a sold-out concert Dec. 1 at Hard Rock Tulsa, now has a new theme song to sing, “Goodbye Looks Good on Me,” plus a hilarious new co-star in veteran comedienne Tomlin.
“She is so much fun, on and off the stage. She's a character, witty. And what a professional. She would ad-lib and stop the show — thank goodness it's on tape and we can edit — and it was just hysterical. When Lily comes on the set, everybody's like ‘what's she gonna say next?'” McEntire said with a laugh.