Today's News: Our Take

Question: Do you know who ...

Question: Do you know who played the oceanographer on the TV series Flipper? — Michelle, Norfolk, Va.

Televisionary: That was Swedish stunner Ulla Stromstedt, who was a junior ice-skating champ in her native country and an art student at the Sorbonne before breaking into American TV. And it was a shame she had to memorize scripted lines since what she came up with on her own was far more bizarre and fascinating (even after allowing for the slight language barrier). A sample of how her mind worked:

"I am conscientious and I want to come through tops," she told TV Guide in 1966. Flipper doesnt' really demand much of the actor, it doesn't have much to say. I think it was Voltaire who said, 'There are two types of people: the worried and the bored.' I'd rather be worried. Being an actress, I worry with a smooth face. Very often I feel like crying. I have been crying a lot because I like it. But when you cry, you ruin your face. I ha read more

Question: Can you tell me the ...

Question: Can you tell me the title and artist for the song that played at the end of the West Wing episode in which Agent Donovan (Mark Harmon) is shot? — Leslie, Hollister, Mo.

Televisionary: I can and will, especially since it's a song that keeps coming up in different versions on various shows. (The last time I wrote about it was, I believe, in reference to a Without a Trace episode.) You're looking for Jeff Buckley's version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," which is on Buckley's album Grace. (And as I've written before, a very good Rufus Wainwright take can be found, surprisingly, despite the song's racy content, on the Shrek soundtrack.

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The just-announced third installment of CSI — to be set in New York — will be spun-off from a May sweeps episode of CSI: Miami, CBS confirmed over the weekend. read more


Charlie Sheen will reunite with former Spin City co-star Heather Locklear on an upcoming episode of his CBS comedy Two and a Half Men. "She plays Alan's (Jon Cryer) divorce attorney who has no sexual boundaries and gets involved with Charlie," says exec producer Chuck Lorre."And when he breaks it off with her, she takes it out on [his brother's] settlement." That's so Amanda Woodward of her. read more


Will Smith will reprise his role as Jonny in a special one hour episode of his UPN comedy All Of Us on Feb. 17, the network announced Sunday at the Television Critics Assoc. press tour in Hollywood, Calif. UPN also unveiled plans for a summer reality show that follows Amish teenagers having their first experiences with modern conveniences such as booze, cars and Paris Hilton. read more

Revenge of the TV Nerds

Pity poor Urkel and Screech. Clearly, they were born at the wrong time. Today's TV geeks are such a far cry from the walking punch lines of yore, we're laughing with them more often than at them. And how's this for progress? Some — like Everybody Loves Raymond's unlikely newlywed, Robert Barone — even get the girl. Read on and see for yourself: The tube's new breed of geeks has made it hip to be square.

Seth Cohen, The O.C.:Though his own mom has called this green wallflower a late bloomer, it wasn't long before he put away his toy horse to sow his own wild oats. After all, in the span of a Summer (pun intended), the Chrismukkah elf went from Newport's Most Unwanted to the guy atop two — count 'em, two! — hotties' to-do lists.

Marshall J. Flinkman, read more


Turns out audiences will see a movie with the names Jen and Ben above the title. Along Came Polly — the romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Ben Stiller — debuted atop the box office with $27.6 million. That ended the four-week reign of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which slipped to No.4 with $10.2 million and a total haul of $326.8 million. Tim Burton's family fable Big Fish held steady at No.2 with $10.4 million, followed closely by the motorbike thriller Torque at No. 3 with $10.3 million. read more


Two and a Half Men received an early vote of confidence from CBS over the weekend in the form of a second season pick-up. Renewals were also issued to fellow freshman hits Joan of Arcadia, Cold Case and Navy NCIS. Les Moonves, meanwhile, confirmed to TV Guide Online that two more editions of Survivor have been ordered for next season. read more

Ben Stiller Bites Back

Ben Stiller has bad luck with his animal costars. In Meet the Parents, he chased after a sneaky cat that had defiled the ashes of a dead relative. In Along Came Polly — currently in theaters — his on-screen girlfriend, Jennifer Aniston, has a blind pet ferret that roams free in her apartment, bumping into stuff. But Polly's feisty ferret got into even more trouble off screen — the critter attacked Stiller!

"I was bitten by the ferret, but I didn't do anything, I swear," Stiller insists. "I was holding him up and he did this crazy turn-around thing. He literally attached himself to my chin and he didn't let go.

"It was a surreal thing where it's like, 'OK, the ferret is on my chin,'" he continues. "Their teeth are sharp like razors. read more


The Producers Guild of America named The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King the best movie of the year Saturday at its annual kudosfest. Last year, Chicago nabbed the Guild's top honor and then went on to win the Oscar for best picture. (You do the math.) HBO was the big winner on the TV side, with Six Feet Under and Sex and the City taking home trophies for best drama and comedy. In other awards news, Cold Mountain scored a field-best 13 nods for the annual BAFTAS — Britain's answer to the Oscars. LOTR was next with 12. read more

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