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HSN vet pitches herself as ultimate homemaker

If you watch the CBS reality show Wickedly Perfect at 8 p.m. tonight (WTSP-Channel 10) and think you see a familiar face, you probably do.

She's Darlene Cahill, a Pasco County resident with a vague resemblance to Congresswoman Katherine Harris.

Darlene, a longtime local actor and Home Shopping Network presenter, is one of the 12 _ make that 11, since one contestant was voted off last week _ people chosen to be in the national television competition to find "America's next great style maker."

And though the name "Martha Stewart" is never mentioned, it's obvious finding another Martha is what the Wickedly Perfect producers have in mind.

In the show, contestants are divided into two teams that compete as individuals and as a team to prove who is the most domestically creative. Each week, host Joan Lunden gives the teams a home styling challenge. There's a team project, like cooking a great meal, and an individual project, which must be a part of the team project. At the end of each episode, three judges (chef Bobby Flay, Sex and the City writer Candace Bushnell and makeover artist David Evangelista) choose a winning team and, from that team, a winning individual. That person gets a nifty prize _ the first week it was a four-seat pickup truck _ and all those team members continue on the show.

The judges then choose their two "least favorite" individual projects from the losing team, and the losers vote one of those two off the team.

The eventual winner gets six appearances on The Early Show, a chance to develop a lifestyle-oriented television show and a publishing deal with a division of Simon & Schuster.

Winning is a combination of skill, politics, self-promotion and a scheming drive.

The first episode saw some high drama between Darlene and fellow contestant Tom, neither of whom seemed particularly popular among the other contestants (Kimberly, the crier, called Darlene "an odd bird"), nor with the home viewers who kept a running commentary during the show (Tom "was over the top obnoxious and arrogant," wrote "peach"; Darlene was "Too aging Stepford wife for me," Lotuslander said) on the Fans of Reality TV Web site.

On the other hand, "bamabrain" wrote of Darlene, "This one's got "Contender" written all over her. She'll be the one we'll love to hate."

In the end, Darlene's potential destroyer, Tom, threw a hissy fit and was unanimously voted off the show. Another contestant will be ushered out of the luxury Connecticut estate where the action takes place tonight, another next week, and so on, until it's down to two.

Darlene got on the show through an open casting call in Los Angeles early last year. At 46, she's the senior cast member, with the rest ranging from 25 to 41.

She lives with her family in a woodsy area in south Pasco County. In 1994, she, her husband, George, and their son, Georgie, were the first performers at the defunct Angel "garden cafe" Theatre in Holiday, appearing as the magic show "Invisible, Inc." Two years ago, she was set to play the lead in Murder at the Howard Johnson's at the now-defunct Angel Cabaret Theatre, until her husband/ co-star twisted his ankle and the show was canceled.

Before that, Darlene had done everything from singing telegrams to being a ballroom dance instructor to appearing in movies.

Even though filming of Wickedly Perfect wound up in October, Darlene is forbidden by contract to talk with the media until she is either declared the winner or voted off the show.

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