Today's News: Our Take


YO!

How's Matt LeBlanc doin' this morning? Not too shabby, considering the respectable debut Joey made Thursday night. His heavily hyped Friends spin-off averaged nearly 18 million new friends, easily outpacing ABC's NFL Opening Kickoff and CBS's Big Brother 5. But compared to last year's Friends opener, Joey was off by 6.6 million viewers. The show's real test will come next Thursday when it goes head-to-head with Survivor: Vanuatu. Meanwhile, The Apprentice lost some business from last season. The 90-minute premiere drew 14.3 million viewers, roughly 4 million fewer than Omarosa and Co. attracted in their debut. In related news.... read more

IT'S SO BASIC

Scottish filmmaker Michael Caton-Jones (City by the Sea) is in talks to direct Sharon Stone in MGM's problem-plagued Basic Instinct sequel. It's still not known who will play Stone's leading man, although the role is expected to go to an actor who's looking to sabotage his career. read more

GRUMPY HAS LEFT THE BUILDING

Michael Eisner's two-decade reign at the Walt Disney Co. is coming to an end. The embattled CEO announced Friday that he will step down when his contract expires in September 2006. A successor has not yet been named. read more

THIS IS SUPER

Is Smallville big enough for two Lois Lanes? We'll find out when big-screen Lois, Margot Kidder, guest-stars in the Sept. 22 season premiere — the same episode that marks the arrival of teenage Lois Lane (Erica Durance). Kidder will play Bridgette Crosby, an emissary to Dr. Swann. Unfortunately, Kidder's Superman costar, Christopher Reeve, who originated the role of the mysterious doc, will not appear with her in the episode. But exec producer Miles Millar doesn't rule out a reunion later this season. "That's definitely something we'd like to do," he tells TV Guide Online. read more

FAB FIZZLE

The public has apparently had its fill of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Ratings are down a staggering 40 percent compared to a year ago and Tuesday's episode attracted just 804,000 viewers age 25-54 — a record low. Translation: Don't be surprised to see Jai Rodriguez taking in the culture behind the counter at Starbucks. read more

OUT OF WORK

On last night's Apprentice premiere, Donald Trump fired 32-year-old businessman Rob after he failed to get excited about a toy called, um, Crustacean Nation. If you've got any questions for the underachiever, e-mail them to me ASAP. You may as well send me questions for Stacie J. Manigault-Stallworth, too, because that lunachick's gonna be next to go. read more

SHORT CUTS

Lions Gate is reportedly planning to re-release Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 in theaters on Sept. 24.... USA Network has picked up The Dead Zone for a fourth season. read more

LIFE EXTENDED

The Surreal Life producers are developing a series for this season's breakout screwballs Flava Flav and Brigitte Nielsen, Variety reports. Meanwhile, VH1 has given the go-ahead for a fourth season of the has-been romp. Monday's third season premiere attracted 1.7 million viewers, ranking as VH1's highest-rated original series debut on record. read more

PAGING SHOWTIME...

A CBS spokesman confirms that the network has scrapped plans to air a Madonna concert special this fall. "She wanted to do a two-and-a-half-hour-plus commercial-free format," says a network rep, "and we wanted a two-hour format with commercials." In related news, TV Guide Online has learned that the Eye Network has again postponed the new season of The Amazing Race — this time until late October. "We want to give a little more space between the finale of Race 5 and the premiere of Race 6," says the rep. "We think the audience likes the breather." On the bright side, John Goodman's heinous new sitcom Center of the Universe will debut as scheduled on Sept. 29. Phew. read more

JUST TWO GOOD OL' BOYS

Resident Jackass Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott have been cast as Luke and Bo Duke in the big-screen remake of The Dukes of Hazzard. Jessica Simpson, meanwhile, is reportedly up for the role of Daisy Duke. Unless, of course, Ashlee decides she wants it. read more

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