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Sopranos' actress joins 'Joey' series as star's sister

| Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Drea de Matteo has landed one of the highest-profile pilot gigs of the development season. The "Sopranos" co-star will play Joey Tribbiani's sister in NBC's "Joey," a spinoff of departing favorite "Friends."

The New York-born actress will play Gina, a high-strung Los Angeles-based hairdresser. The spinoff finds Joey (LeBlanc) departing the Big Apple to continue his acting career in the City of Angels, where he has to move in with his 20-year-old nephew who just happens to be an actual rocket scientist.

De Matteo is in her fifth season of work as Adriana La Cerva on HBO's Emmy-winning mob drama. Her character, the long-suffering girlfriend of Michael Imperioli's Christopher, has spent much of the past two seasons as a reluctant FBI informant.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, de Matteo's addition to the "Joey" cast will have no impact on her role in the 10-episode final season of "The Sopranos," which isn't expected to start shooting before early next year.

Sources: Jerry Orbach leaving 'Law & Order'

It may be time for a less stressful job for Detective Lennie Briscoe.

Veteran "Law & Order" actor Jerry Orbach is likely to leave the hit NBC drama after this season, his 12th as Briscoe, according to industry sources last week.

Orbach may not venture too far professionally: he's reportedly in line for a job in the fourth installment of the crime franchise, "Law & Order: Trial By Jury."

That series is expected to join "Law & Order," "Law & Order: SVU" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" on the NBC schedule next fall.

Schedue changes at ABC, Fox

To put it in parlance that Stephen King might understand, ABC views Wednesday night at 10 p.m. as a haunted house and if any show can occupy that time slot for a full year, it'll win a big prize. Well, relatively early in its run, King's "Kingdom Hospital" has sped away from that haunted house crying. After an impressive premiere and rapidly decreasing viewership, ABC has shipped the medical ghost story to an even greater graveyard on Thursday.

"Kingdom Hospital" will move from Wednesday nights, where it has been regularly crushed by NBC's "Law & Order" to Thursday nights at 9 p.m. where it can be regularly crushed by NBC's "The Apprentice" and CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

Starting April 14 (the week after the two-hour premiere of "The Bachelor"), ABC will shift "Extreme Makeover" to Wednesdays at 10 p.m. Although the personal transformation show has been soundly beaten on Thursday nights, its average viewership of nearly 7.7 million viewers against tougher competition shows the potential to outdo anything ABC has programmed in the slot this season.

In other scheduling moves, Fox is swapping Friday night dramedy "Wonderfalls" and Thursday night reality entry "Forever Eden" for a one-week test run this week. That will put "Wonderfalls" at 9 p.m. Thursday and "Forever Eden" at 9 p.m. Friday.

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