Only in Hollywood can a failed TV sitcom turn into an Oscar contender. Such is the case with Dear Diary. The DreamWorks production was supposed to be an ABC sitcom starring Bebe Neuwirth ("Lilith" on Cheers and Frasier), but the network didn't pick up the show and never aired the pilot.

But, buoyed by some good notices in Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide ("the best shows you'll never see"), DreamWorks--home of Oscar laureate Steven Spielberg--decided to give the show a second chance.

And some second chance it will be: a five-day showing at a Los Angeles theater over the Thanksgiving weekend, to qualify it for (yes) an Academy Award for best action short.

"Dear Diary is a film that's worthy of notice, and we're presenting it in this fashion because it deserves to be seen in a theater setting," said Jim Tharp, head of the studio's film distribution division.

A film must have a week-long theatrical run in either New York or Los Angeles to be eligible for the Academy Awards. While cable operators like HBO and Showtime routinely screen their documentaries for Oscar consideration, a DreamWorks spokeswoman said she can't recall the last time a television pilot (not to mention a failed one) got the theatrical treatment.

In any event, the TV sitcom, er, short film, tells the story of a New York magazine art director who, having just turned 40, begins keeping a diary of her life. We get to see such big-screen vignettes as Bebe bickering with her ex, Bebe meeting an old college chum, Bebe musing about growing older and Bebe shopping at Barney's.

The pilot-cum-film was written and directed by David Frankel.

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