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Garth goes 'Country' with daughters

Jennie Garth is starting over in many ways, and she's inviting viewers along for her reboot.

The former "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "What I Like About You" star -- and ex-"Dancing With the Stars" contestant -- has been prominent in entertainment news headlines lately for her pending divorce from actor Peter Facinelli ("Twilight," "Nurse Jackie"). Paralleling the separation is her move with her three daughters to a Central California farm, detailed by Country Music Television as the unscripted series "Jennie Garth: Little Bit Country," which premieres at 9 p.m. Friday.

"I like to think of this as an 'alternate reality' show, because my life is like an alternate reality most of the time," Garth muses. "I didn't think I would be talking about my separation or my divorce, but I decided to share my experience with people because I feel I want to help other women. I want to take the secrecy out of this. We all grapple with the same issues, no matter who we are."

The framework for "Little Bit Country" was put in place some time ago, Garth explains.

"I had wanted to move out of [Los Angeles] up to where my parents were living to spend more time with my dad before he passed away. I didn't quite make it, and after he died, I still wanted to do this. I wanted to raise my girls in a normal environment, what I experienced the freedom of living in the country."

Indeed, rural living is nothing new for Garth. She and her stepsiblings were raised on an Illinois ranch before relocating to Arizona, which was where her career had its roots.

The first run at Garth's new program was, she says, "originally a show with Peter in it, then he decided he didn't want to be a part of it. Then it was a show about me doing crafts; I love to do Martha Stewart-type things. And then it was several other variations."

Now, the program also is a showcase for Garth and Facinelli's offspring -- 14-year-old Luca, 9-year-old Lola and 5-year-old Fiona.

"At first, the littlest one didn't like it," Garth reports. "It's a very small crew, but she was intimidated by people being in our space. Now she loves it! She knows the people by name and loves them and asks, 'When are they coming?' Living there is gorgeous and amazing, but it can be a little isolated, so it's nice when we get visitors."

And the "Little Bit Country"-related visitors may be inspiring Garth's eldest daughter to get increasingly serious about choosing a career. The actress allows that she wanted to keep her children out of the spotlight, "but what changed my thinking a little bit was seeing Luca develop into a beautiful young woman. She's talented, and she has a voice of her own now, and she wants to be in the arts world in some way."

Also, at its best, being a public figure can offer a young person great possibility as Garth well knows from her "90210" days as Kelly Taylor.

"It gives them opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have," she reasons. "They get to travel to different places and meet new people, rather than never going out. I'm open to it, in the respect that it's going to make them better people, not because it's going to make them rich or famous."

Especially since the divorce news came out before production was completed on "Jennie Garth: Little Bit Country," it factors into the show -- Facinelli is mentioned, though he isn't expected to appear -- but she hopes the audience will have interest beyond that.

"There are many different parts of me, and a lot of people are like that," she notes. " There are many things that make me who I am, and getting to live this side of me 2 4/7 has been the best experience."

"Whatever pushed me to move to the country when I did," Garth adds, "was some sort of internal thing to protect me from what was coming down the pike for me personally. I needed to be in a calmer, quieter place, and it cushioned me. I just needed that."