Today's News: Our Take


Joss Whedon's long-rumored Firefly feature film is finally airborne. Universal has officially green-lighted the project, which will be released under the title Serenity and pick up six months after the short-lived Fox series left off. The show's original crew — headed by Nathan Fillion — all will be back for the flick. Filming begins in June for a 2005 release. read more


The February sweeps ratings race doesn't end until tonight but the winners are already being crowned. CBS cruised to an easy victory among total viewers while NBC led comfortably in adults 18-49. ABC ranked third in viewers, followed by Fox, which posted a 23 percent decline over last year when Joe Millionaire was all the rage. UPN and the WB tied for fifth with 3.9 million viewers, but America's Next Top Model-fueled UPN was up 7 percent while the WB was off 10 percent. Paging Felicity... read more


TBS is developing reality versions of Gilligan's Island and Sex and the City. Set to premiere later this year, the Island project will feature a real-life skipper, first mate, millionaire couple, movie star, Kansas farm girl and a professor working together to get off a remote island. The Sex show, meanwhile, will be hosted by Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell and follow "four single girls on a hunt for Mr. Right, or Mr. Right Now, in New York City." read more


Playwright Neil Simon received a kidney transplant Tuesday courtesy of his friend and longtime press rep Bill Evans. "Everything is excellent," Simon's wife, Elaine, tells the New York Times. read more


The Walt Disney Co. has quietly removed a life-size statue of Mickey Mouse costumed as Janet Jackson from a display at Walt Disney World in Orlando. The statue was one of 75 celebrity-inspired pieces unveiled at Walt Disney World last fall to celebrate Mickey's 75th birthday. "Considering all the controversy it drew, we talked it over for a couple of days and decided it would be best to replace hers with a new one," a Disney rep told the Orlando Sentinel. read more


Fox will kick off the 2004 baseball season in prime time on Friday, April 16, with a rematch between legendary rivals the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox... Hip-hop superstar Missy Elliott is teaming up with UPN on a reality show that's being described as the rap equivalent of American Idol... Spider-Man 2 doesn't open until July 2, but Sony Pictures is already developing a third Spidey flick to be released in 2007, Variety reports... Boyz N the Hood's John Singleton is in talks to develop and direct Luke Cage, a superhero drama based on Marvel Comics' first black crime-fighter. read more


ABC is talking to producer David E. Kelley about creating a new legal series that could replace his long-running Practice next fall. Current Practice attorney James Spader is the front-runner to headline such a show, which ABC chief Lloyd Braun says would "share some of the same bloodlines as The Practice" — but would not be a spin-off, per se. Speaking of The Practice, TV Guide Online has learned that Marla Sokoloff — who was part of last season's mass cast exodus — will reprise her role as office assistant Lucy Hatcher next month for a multi-episode arc. read more


Chris Rock is producing a comedy pilot for Fox that is loosely based on his experience growing up "on the nicest block in the ghetto," according to The Hollywood Reporter. The network has also tapped Andy Richter to play the father of quintuplets in an untitled sitcom pilot. Meanwhile, Lord of the Rings hobbit Dominic Monaghan will play one of several castaways in Lost, an ABC drama pilot created by Alias mastermind J.J. Abrams. read more


Justin Timberlake spent last week shadowing Associated Press reporter Bob Porterfield as research for his upcoming big-screen debut as a journalist in Edison. "I thought he was sharp," says Porterfield. "He seemed attentive and interested in learning this stuff. He has a real interest in developing his part. He took quite a few notes." read more


Clay Aiken's father, Vernon Grissom, died Friday at the age of 68. Aiken, who has been estranged from his birth father for many years, did not attend the funeral Monday. read more

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