Today's News: Our Take


PAGING FRENCHIE...

Fox has found a way to extend American Idol's second season by two episodes: add two more finalist slots. There will now be 12 finalists, up from last year's 10. The four remaining slots will be filled during Tuesday's wild card round. (Why not just give Kimberly Caldwell one of them now?) Speaking of Idol, what's the deal with this big "twist" that Simon said was coming up? Sources say viewers may finally get an answer to Juanita Barber's question, "What About the Children?" read more

DADA, YADA, YADA

Jerry Seinfeld's a dad again. His wife Jessica gave birth a baby boy, Julian Kal, on Saturday. The couple also have a 2-year-old daughter, Sascha. read more

AND THE WINNER IS...

It's official: Andrew Firestone, the 27-year-old great-grandson of tire entrepreneur Harvey Firestone, will be the single guy at the center of ABC's latest Bachelor. The third installment premieres March 26. read more

SIMON SAYS... YOU'RE BUSTED!

Now, we know why American Idol really disqualified semifinalist Jaered Andrews in January. Although Fox refused to explain its decision, we're guessing he got the Frenchie treatment for unseemly behavior. According to Court TV's TheSmokingGun.com, Andrews allegedly assaulted an Ohio man last November in a bar fight. (Ironically, he was out celebrating his Idol selection with pals.) After he punched 39-year-old Thomas Blakeley in the face, the man struck his head on pavement and later died. The Idol contestant — who turned himself in last Friday and is currently free on a $5,000 bail bond — has a court hearing on March 7 to face a misdemeanor assault charge. read more

WAR OF WORDS

NBC may have found a scapegoat for The West Wing's declining ratings: Martin Sheen. The show's commander in chief told the Los Angeles Times that Peacock execs "let it be known they're very uncomfortable" with his rather public opposition to a U.S.-led war against Iraq. A network spokeswoman, however, told The Associated Press that she knows of "no concern among top management at NBC regarding Mr. Sheen's stand against the war or fear that it could impact the show." Someone here is lying, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's the publicist. read more

PARENTS, PROCEED WITH CAUTION...

Sex author Madonna has signed a publishing deal with Penguin to write five children's books. The first title, The English Roses, is due out in September and is based on the adventures of a red fox and a little prince. (Get your mind out of the gutter!) read more

CRADLE ROCKS

Cradle 2 the Grave debuted at No. 1 at the box office over the weekend — despite the fact that I can't find a single person who will admit to seeing it. The martial arts flick — which got karate-chopped by critics — grossed $17.1 million. Old School held on to the No.2 position with $13.9 million, followed by the rapidly declining Daredevil, which fell from first to third with $11 million. Note to Fox: You may want to hold off on that sequel. read more

SHORT CUTS

Sam Donaldson and his scary hairdo will be staying put at ABC. The news vet had been in talks to defect to MSNBC, but those discussions have broken down... Spin City alum Charlie Sheen is returning to TV as the star of the CBS comedy pilot Two and a Half Men... Life With Bonnie star Bonnie Hunt has signed on to play the mother of 12 kids in 20th Century Fox's upcoming remake of Cheaper by the Dozen, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Steve Martin stars as her hubby. read more

NORAH, WHO?

His disappointing Grammy haul aside, Bruce Springsteen proved over the weekend that he's still the boss. Tickets to the singer's seven homecoming shows at New Jersey's Giants Stadium sold out in one day — a Ticketmaster record. The N.J. concert dates are July 15, 17, 18, 21, 24, 26 and 27. read more

Who Should Get a Surreal Life Sentence?

If you thought the ratings-hungry WB wasn't going to green-light a second season of its pseudocelebrity sleepover sleeper, The Surreal Life, we've got two words for you: Get surreal! Already, producers are casting about for B-listers to fill the bunks left vacant by Corey Feldman, M.C. Hammer, Emmanuel Lewis, Gabrielle Carteris, Brande Roderick, Vince Neil and Jerri Manthey. But before they're finished making their new home, we recommend that they review TV Guide Online's picks to rock the house. Wouldn't you agree? If these fallen stars can't help the network get more out of life, no one can.

Michael read more

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