You can't stop the Bells! Actress-writer-director Lauralee Bell — aka Cricket on The Young and the Restless — launches the fifth installment of her wackadoo web series Family Dinner November 15 (funnyordie.com and familydinneronline.com). Previous episodes wowed us with guest stints by Phyllis Diller and Cloris Leachman. This time, Bell goes nuts with a massive cast including American Idol champ Jordin Sparks, suds-rock icon Rick Springfield, drummer Chad Smith of The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Oscar winner Shirley Jones. The last will play a musical therapist named Dr. Jones who comes to dinner intent on healing the screwed-up O'Connell clan, led by Bell's Oprah-obsessed matriarch.
"Dr. Jones tries to help the O'Connells by encouraging each of them to key into a singer or musician who gives them inspiration," says Bell. "We each have a little thought bubble and dream up a star." But none shone more brightly than Mama Partridge. "Shirley is just fantastic," gushes Bell. "And God bless her! In order to do Family Dinner she flew to L.A. from an out-of-town concert the night before, then flew out the next morning for another job. She was a dream."
Bell has clearly inherited the mogul gene from her parents, Bill and Lee Bell, creators of Y&R and The Bold and the Beautiful. "We're really kicking Family Dinner up a notch with more guest stars and making it much more attractive to advertisers," says Bell, who gives Sparks a chance to plug her new perfume, "Because of You"; ditto Smith and his new kid CD Rhythm Train. Bell is eager to expand the series and move it to TV. "We're now working with the 5D mark II camera that makes our show look fantastic. The quality is insane! I just hope we don't look too good because we're supposed to be a dorky little comedy."
Let's also hope Dr. Jones doesn't cure the dizzyingly dysfunctional O'Connells — otherwise the premise is out the window. No worries, says Bell. "Shirley's character has finally met her match. At the end, she grabs a dinner roll and makes a run for it."