The starter flag Nick Lachey waved at a NASCAR race this month was real, but it might as well have symbolic: The estranged husband of Jessica Simpson is off and running.
Five days after jointly announcing his uncoupling from Simpson, Lachey has committed to star in a sitcom for the WB, the network confirmed Monday.
As first relayed in the Hollywood Reporter, the proposed series is about a baseball player (Lachey) and his new bride (no actress yet announced). In the trade paper, creator Danny Jacobson (Mad About You) calls the show "a romantic comedy under the microscope."
The premise hearkens back to the 1985 Neil Simon-penned big-screen comedy The Slugger's Wife, as well as Lachey and Simpson's own MTV reality series, Newlyweds. As things turned out, Newlyweds documented a lasting marriage about as well as The Slugger's Wife wooed moviegoers, which is to say both struck out.
After a year of rumors and denials, Lachey, 32, and Simpson, 25, exacted revenge on the media by dropping the other shoe--with a thud--on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. In a joint statement, the couple said they had "decided to part ways."
If the announcement wrecked reporters' vacations, it apparently didn't do damage to Simpson's holiday weekend. Sister Ashlee Simpson is quoted as telling Star magazine that her Daisy Duke-playing kin was "doing great."
"We all had a great Thanksgiving, all the family was together and we had a wonderful time," Ashlee Simpson said on Saturday, per the Star. (It's worth noting the tabloid has had a decidedly upbeat take on the Lachey-Simpson saga of late, reporting on the day of the couple's split that the two were not only together, but pregnant.)
In any case, Ashlee Simpson told Star that "Jessica's breakup from Nick" wasn't even broached at the family gathering.
For his part, Lachey didn't appear to be mulling the parting of ways in the days leading up to the official end of Nick & Jessica, the first couple of pop.
According to the Miami Herald, the singer of the on-hiatus 98 Degrees was spied at local sushi hotspot Nobu "with six chicks--none of whom were his, uh, wife." Lachey was in town for work--the flag-waving bit at the Ford 400 on Nov. 20. The high-speed weekend also included stops, however brief, at a Larry Flynt-Ron Jeremy bash and a NASCAR bash at Miami Beach's Hibiscus Island, People.com reported. Lachey's posse, the Website said, included A.J. DiScala, estranged husband of The Sopranos' Jamie-Lynn Sigler, and his brother (and fellow boy-band mate), Drew Lachey.
Lachey followed up his fun-in-the-sun weekend with a solo appearance at the American Music Awards on Nov. 22. The split was made official the next day.
Professionally, Lachey has been looking to establish himself as a solo artist for a couple of years, an effort that included the bargain-bin find SoulO. Last year, to greater effect, he appeared on six episodes of Charmed, and announced a deal with MTV for his own reality series. While nothing has come of the MTV project (a network spokeswoman didn't return a call Monday seeking comment on its status), the Charmed gig seemingly charmed network executives. In September, Daily Variety reported, Lachey and the WB inked a development deal.
Simpson, meanwhile, is at work on her latest album, due out in Spring 2006. Its (apt) title: And the Band Plays On.
And due on DVD on Dec. 6, the third season of Newlyweds, featuring "the last and final episode of Nick and Jessica's married life." But not to worry, the press release of Nov. 18 reminds fans, thanks to the two-disc set "the honeymoon isn't over!"
Except when it's over.