Today's News: Our Take


SHORT CUTS

The WB has renewed Gilmore Girls for the 2004-05 season — the show's fifth. NBC, meanwhile, has ordered five additional episodes of The Tracy Morgan Show... Showtime has pulled the plug on Street Time after two seasons... Former Dog Eat Dog host Brooke Burns (aka Bruce Willis's girl-toy) has joined The Best Damn Sports Show Period as a special correspondent... Southern California's Burbank Airport was renamed Bob Hope Airport on Wednesday in honor of the late entertainer, who had parked his private plane there since 1985. read more

Rings Star Makes Merry


The global phenom surrounding the Lord of the Rings trilogy is enough of a life-altering experience for any young actor to cope with. (Action figures! Video games! Desperate fans!) But Dominic Monaghan — who plays tiny but tough hobbit Merry — says spending almost a year filming the three movies in New Zealand has really changed him as a person.

"I certainly grew up a lot on the movie set," he admits. "I arrived in New Zealand when I was 21. And now, I'm 27, [which] is just a defining point in any man's life. [Especially] to be in New Zealand, where they think completely differently from the English and the Americans, because it is a place hidden away from the rest of the world.

"I can't specifically name one thing that changed about me," Monaghan sighs. "I guess I did a kind of massive overhaul of every facet of my life." read more

KING'S RANSOM

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King grossed a record $8 million from midnight screenings Wednesday. The previous early-bird record holder was The Matrix Reloaded, which brought in $5 million during Wednesday-night previews last summer before word got out that it sucked. read more

SUPERMAN CALLS THE SHOTS

Paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve has signed on to direct an untitled computer-animated feature film about baseball, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The story — slated for release in 2005 — is set in the 1930s and revolves around a father and son and two legendary urban baseball teams. read more

SPANNING THE GLOBES

Cold Mountain is hot on Oscar's heels. Anthony Minghella's acclaimed Civil War epic nabbed a field-best eight nominations, including best picture (drama), best dramatic actress (Nicole Kidman), best dramatic actor (Jude Law), best supporting actress (Renee Zellweger) and best director (Minghella). Lost in Translation and Mystic River were next with five nods apiece. Along with Mountain and Mystic, best dramatic motion picture contenders include The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Master and Commander and Seabiscuit. Nods for best motion picture (comedy) went to Bend it Like Beckham, Big Fish, Finding Nemo, Lost in Translation and Love Actually. Among the surprises, 19-year-old Scarlett Johansson received two best actress nods (one comedy, one drama) for her work in Lost in Translation and Girl with a Pearl Earring. Winners will be announ read more

WHERE THERE'S A WILL...

CBS has given the green light to The Will, a reality series that finds family members competing for the inheritance of a wealthy relative. The show had been in development at ABC. read more

DIDDY DOES BROADWAY

Sean "P. Diddy" Combs is going legit. The rap mogul will make his Broadway debut this spring in a revival of A Raisin in the Sun. In other theater news, Richard Dreyfuss has been cast in the London production of The Producers, which is scheduled to open on Nov. 9, 2004. He'll play rapscallion Broadway producer Max, um... Nathan Lane's role. read more

CAR TROUBLE

Chrysler has pulled out as sponsor of the Lingerie Bowl after receiving complaints from customers and dealers that the pay-per-view event — slated to take place on Super Bowl Sunday — was sexist. (The contest features 14 models playing tackle football dressed in lingerie.) Organizers say the show will go on Feb. 1 despite the setback. read more

RUUUUUUUBEN!

Another American Idol alum has conquered the album charts. This time it's second-season champ Ruben Studdard, whose debut CD, Soulful, bowed at No. 1 with sales of 416,500 copies. Despite the strong start, Studdard failed to best the first-week sales of runner-up Clay Aiken's debut Measure of a Man — which moved 613,000 copies. The Velvet Teddy Bear did, however, top Idol's inaugural winner Kelly Clarkson, whose CD Thankful sold 297,000 copies last May. What does all this mean? Clay is #1, Ruben is #2, Kelly is #3 and Justin is wondering where it all went so wrong. read more

BAD DAY FOR JACKO

California prosecutors formally charged Michael Jackson with seven counts of committing lewd or lascivious acts upon a child under age 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent. The allegations involve a now-14-year-old cancer-stricken boy who Jackson allegedly invited to stay with him at his Neverland Ranch. District Attorney Tom Sneddon returned Jackson's passport to allow him to travel to London for the holidays and agreed to delay the arraignment a week to Jan. 16. read more

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