Today's News: Our Take


HBO's Strip Show Stirs Debate


"This movie is going to raise holy hell, and I may never work again," says director Sidney Lumet of HBO's Strip Search, a provocative drama about civil liberties in the post-9/11 era that airs April 27. The story cross-cuts between two degrading interrogations: In China, an American student (Maggie Gyllenhaal) gets grilled about her political activities, while in the U.S., an FBI agent (Glenn Close) gives a Saudi scholar (Bruno Lastra) the third degree. Now here's the kicker: Both sequences use the exact same script, implicitly equating the countries' treatment of suspects.

The filmmakers maintain they're simply taking dramatic license to tell a cautionary tale. "Am I saying we're a totalitarian country? No," says writer Tom Fontana. "Am I saying we could become one? Absolutely."

Such contentions have already stirred controversy among conservative watchdogs. "The premise is preposterous and insulting," says Media Research read more

LAST CHANCE AT LOVE

NBC has set a May 31 airdate for The One That Got Away, a one-episode reality show in which seven single women fight over South Carolina bachelor Skipper Kress. The twist? All the gals were once involved with him. read more

TRUE LIES

For months, Donald Trump has been calling The Apprentice the "No. 1 show on television." Well, it's no longer a lie. Last week, the hair-impaired mogul's NBC reality show ranked as the top-rated program among adults 18-49. American Idol finished a close second, but came out on top among total viewers. read more

LEGENDARY HONOR

The Library of Congress will honor Dolly Parton with the Living Legend Award tonight in Washington, D.C. The ceremony will air in May on cable's Great American Country channel. Past recipients include Johnny Cash, Steven Spielberg and Bob Hope. read more

LIL' KIM TAKES THE RAP

Risqué rapper Lil' Kim has been indicted on eight felony counts of perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. She's accused of lying — during three grand-jury appearances she made last year — about the February 2001 shootout she witnessed outside Manhattan radio station WQHT. At the time, Lil' Kim and her posse were reportedly involved in a dispute with her rival rapper, Foxy Brown. read more

THE SAGA CONTINUES...

A new child-abuse claim is being dangled before Michael Jackson. According to reports, Los Angeles police are investigating a month-old allegation involving a person who claims to have been victimized by the former King of Pop in the late 1980s. The individual's age and sex were not disclosed. Jackson is currently charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent (read: Jesus Juice) to a minor in a separate case. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for April 30. read more

HEAD-TURNING DEVELOPMENT

Warner Bros. is redoing its upcoming Exorcist prequel with a new cast, a tweaked script and a new director in Renny Harlin, Variety reports. The initial prequel — directed by Paul Schrader and starring Gabriel Mann — apparently came up short on scares. Harlin's spookier flick will hit theaters on August 20, but in an unprecedented move, the studio may release both versions simultaneously on DVD. read more

PLUM PART

Emmy-winning thesp Christopher Plummer has been cast as Boston's controversial Cardinal Bernard Law in Our Fathers, Showtime's upcoming TV movie about the Catholic Church's sexual-abuse scandal. The telepic, which will begin production in June, is based on Newsweek writer David France's book. read more

MUST-SEE TV?

Can The Passion of the Christ play on TV? The question — first posed in TV Guide magazine's March 27 issue — is the hot topic in Hollywood now that Mel Gibson has quietly begun shopping the violent epic to TV outlets, including the Big Four broadcast networks, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Complicating matters is the fact that Gibson is demanding that the film run in its entirety, meaning completely unedited, and be followed by 1990's Bird on a Wire. read more

THE FORCE IS WITH HIM

Ewan McGregor is embarking on a round-the-world motorcycle trip with fellow actor Charley Boorman. The three-month pilgrimage, which will be the basis for a documentary, is slated to begin this week in London and conclude in New York City in July. The adventure-seeking pair will travel by road the entire time, except for a train trip under the English Channel, a short flight across the Bering Strait and a weeklong Carnival cruise from London to New York City. read more

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