Today's News: Our Take


BIG CATCH

Alias mastermind J.J. Abrams has tapped Orlando Jones to star opposite Greg Grunberg in The Catch, the bounty-hunter drama he has in development at ABC. read more

LIAR, LIAR

Yep, Ashton Kutcher punk'd us. Four months after he swore his MTV prank-a-thon, Punk'd, was history, MTV announced today — April Fool's Day — that the show would kick off its third season on April 25. An MTV rep confirms that the closing notice Kutcher posted in December was merely a joke. Alright, the WB: It's your turn to come clean about Angel's so-called "cancellation." You got us good with that one. read more

SEND IN THE CLONES

Fox is firing up yet another Apprentice clone. Following Wednesday's announcement that the network is developing an Apprentice-esque reality show featuring legal eagles, Fox has greenlit production of Branson's Big Adventure, an hourlong unscripted series in which colorful billionaire (and Virgin CEO) Richard Branson will search for "an extraordinary individual who has the right stuff to follow in his footsteps," says Fox reality guru Mike Darnell. What do you want to bet this "epic journey around the world" makes a pit stop at Branson's private island, which was recently featured on the Today show's annual "Where in the World Is Matt Lauer?" special? What do you say, $20? Do I hear $40? read more

MORE DO'H PLEASE

All's quiet on the set of Fox's The Simpsons. According to Variety, voice actors Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Hank Azaria (Moe, Apu), Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Julie Kavner (Marge) and Nancy Cartwright (Bart) have not shown up for the last two script readings because of a contract dispute with Fox. The six cast members allegedly want their $125,000-per-episode salary bumped up to $360,000. That noise you hear is 600 cases of Duff Beer being wheeled into Fox's executive suite. read more

IT'S THAT TIME AGAIN

Fox's 24 notched some of its best ratings of the season Tuesday — fitting considering it was one of its best episodes ever. The serial thriller, which returned from a monthlong hiatus, attracted 11.8 million viewers — well above its season average. In other Fox news, how freakin' fierce was Linda Lavin last night on The O.C.? Welcome to the Emmy race, bi.., er, Nana! read more

My Wife Kids There is nothing...

My Wife & Kids
There is nothing worse than watching a mediocre sitcom when you're already feeling under the weather. At least with a good comedy, you get a few healthy chuckles in between the hacking coughs. This one just had me begging for the NyQuil to kick in. Michael hires Calvin to work at the trucking company, where the simple giant proceeds to throw people around, tear doors off cars and devour bacon sandwiches. This is not funny. In the real world, he would be considered a threat to himself and others. Here, it's just a threat to this show ever being more than something to be endured until...

American Idol
Now I know I'm coming down with something, because I could swear I just saw Jennifer Hudson in the bottom three. Again. With LaToya London, no less! No, it must be the fever. Which, I swear, spiked during that awful Ford commercial. Or maybe it was the sight of Simon's stretchy club-freak shirt. I read more

MOVE OVER, WICKER...

Former Pier 1 pitchwoman Kirstie Alley is in final negotiations to play Ricki Lake's mother in an untitled CBS comedy pilot, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The potential series centers on a young widow raising her two kids with the help of her mom. Fellow Cheers alum Shelley Long, meanwhile, has been tapped to replace Beverly D'Angelo in an untitled NBC sitcom pilot about the relationship between an adult son and his newly divorced dad. Long will play the mother. read more

Survivor's Colby Acts Up

He may have lost out on Survivor's $1 million booty — twice — but Colby Donaldson still has that winning smile to fall back on. In fact, the hunky Texan has parlayed those good looks into an acting career, recently landing a memorable guest stint on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm. In the episode, the 29-year-old — playing himself — got into a heated debate with a Holocaust survivor about whose experience was worse. TV Guide Online caught up with Jerri Manthey's rival to chat about landing the plum gig, his acting aspirations and Hollywood's reality prejudice.

TVGO: How did you end up on Curb?
Colby Donaldson:
I went in and auditioned with a bunch of other guys and was lucky enough to get it. They originally had thrown the part out there as a fictitious character from Survivor. Once I got the job, we shot it and my name was Steve or Andy or something like that, and Larry called me up and said, "This is ridic read more

Barbershop Star's Drug Drama


Blue-eyed hottie Michael Ealy has made a living playing characters on the wrong side of the law. In addition to the convicted felon he channeled in both Barbershop flicks, the 30-year-old actor portrays a young man driven into a seedy world of drugs and murder in the disturbing new film Never Die Alone. "It is repugnant and repulsive and it is relentless," Ealy says of the latter flick. "It is hard to look at."

So much so that he advised his mother not to see it — advice she failed to heed. "I spoke to my mom and she said she saw it at a sneak preview," he sighs. "She just said three words, 'Foul, foul, foul.' Then she had to go back to her prayer meeting. I'm probably in trouble.

"My mom listens to gospel," he continues. "This is not gospel. This is a world that my mom worked hard to keep me from. I can't imagine her watching me exist in this world. It has got to be difficult for her to separate me as acto read more

RECORD BOW

Usher's new CD, Confessions, is poised to enter Billboard's album chart at No. 1 with first-week sales of 1.1 million copies. If those numbers hold up, Confessions would rank as the best album debut since 2001 and a record for an R&B artist. It also would eclipse Norah Jones' Feels like Home, which sold more than 1 million copies in its first week in stores last month. read more

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