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Spotlight on news, comedy in Las Vegas

Funny business and serious business share this week’s location spotlight.

In addition to Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate, airing live on CNN, Judy Woodruff of PBS’ “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” visits Las Vegas for a week of reports. And the third annual Comedy Festival at Caesars Palace is home to three separate TBS telecasts. (More on them in a moment.)

The “Big Picture”: PBS’ “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” launches its yearlong “Big Picture,” an examination of issues driving next year’s presidential election, with a close-up of Las Vegas and Nevada.

Despite Nevada’s Jan. 19 caucuses, “There’s so much (early) attention focused on Iowa and New Hampshire,” Woodruff says. That “piqued our interest,” in part because “this is the first time you all have been in this position.”

Besides, the media “focus so much on arguments among the candidates, it’s also a wonderful opportunity for us to turn the camera around and look at the voters,” Woodruff explains.

To that end, “NewsHour” will explore issues from growth to immigration with a variety of Nevadans, from politicians to casino dealers, business and utility officials, educators, homeowners and activists. Locations range from Caesars Palace’s Bradley Ogden restaurant to the Springs Preserve, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and of course, KLVX-TV, Channel 10.

Really big shows: The Comedy Festival at Caesars Palace inspires a trio of specials for cable’s TBS: the variety cavalcade “Ellen’s Really Big Show,” hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, plus “Blue Collar Comedy: The Next Generation” (hosted by Bill Engvall) and the stand-up special “Frank Caliendo: All Over the Place.”

The 90-minute “Really Big Show” includes such Vegas headliners as Lance Burton, Barry Manilow and Wayne Newton, plus Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow, Lyle Lovett and a variety of variety acts.

“Because of Ellen being such a huge draw, we pretty much got everyone we wanted,” executive producer Michael Davies says of the guest lineup. “It’s what a variety show should be.”

Caliendo’s special, meanwhile, is strictly stand-up. As such, “it’s important to get that manic, fun energy going” for the TV audience as well as the live one, he notes.

Movie-ble feasts: TBS’ “Dinner and a Movie” also visits, with planned repasts at Paris Las Vegas’ Eiffel Tower Restaurant and Restaurant Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace. Both segments air in January, along with their respective movies.

Great fakes: The BBC’s upcoming “The Ultimate Tribute” competition for singing impersonators is scheduled to hit the Strip (and the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign) this week. The winner of the weekly British contest gets a three-month contract with the Imperial Palace’s “Legends in Concert.”

Carol Cling’s Shooting Stars column appears Mondays. Contact her at ccling@ reviewjournal.com. or (702) 383-0272.

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