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Keeping Up with the Lings

While the daily lives of Sacramento born globe-trotting sisters Lisa Ling and Laura Ling would make for a potent reality TV show in the style of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, E! Entertainment has decided to go in a different direction in this case, hiring on Laura as exclusive new host and contributor to their hour-long program E! Investigates. New York Times media columnist Brian Stelter broke the news, which was then quickly picked up by the likes of TV Guide, The Hollywood Reporter and TV Squad.

“The folks at E! approached me several months ago,” Laura told FishbowlLA exclusively this morning via e-mail after returning from the doctor’s office where she watched four-month-old daughter Li get vaccine shots. “I’d [also] had some informal conversations with other outlets.”

On the one hand, this has to be a bitter pill for Current TV, the cable TV network for whom Ling was reporting at the time of her apprehension on the China-North Korea border in the early morning hours of March 17th, 2009. The new E! show sounds a lot like the old Vanguard program, albeit with more of a domestic focus, and even the way the San Francisco based network quietly blogged in late January about Ling’s decision to leave her post there as Vice President spoke volumes.

On the other hand, Ling’s hiring is a real coup for Comcast Entertainment Group head Ted Harbert, who now has a most unexpected pair of thirtysomething female on-air bookends: the ribald, freewheeling Chelsea Handler and the hard-charging, methodical Ling. I can already envision the lively conversation when Laura sits down for her de facto Chelsea Lately chat prior to the show’s debut; as long as Ling has no plans for a hard-hitting expose about the working conditions at the Polish distilleries of Belvedere vodka, everything between these should be just fine.

Ling confirms that her inaugural December 8th episode about teenage suicide will touch on the recent tragic death of unethically outed Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi.

“We’d been in production on the teen suicide episode for weeks when the Clementi tragedy happened,” Ling recalls. “In fact, I was in Miami, getting ready to interview a young woman who had attempted suicide when the news about Clementi hit the airwaves.  It just goes to show how serious the issue is.  Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds.”

“We will also be featuring the parents, siblings and friends of teen suicide victims, as well as suicide survivors themselves,” she adds. “We’ll cover how young people can get help and how friends, peers and parents can support those who might be depressed or contemplating suicide.”

Sister Lisa meanwhile is currently busy putting together initial episodes for her upcoming new series on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Inside with Lisa Ling”.

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