Today's News: Our Take


FAREWELL, MISTER ROGERS

Children's TV icon Fred Rogers, who died Thursday of stomach cancer at the age of 74, was buried in a private ceremony in suburban Pittsburgh Saturday. In related news, I'm really bummed. 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

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

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

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

WINNING CITY

Chicago's Oscar chances got a big boost over the weekend. On Saturday, the film's first-time director, Rob Marshall, picked up the Directors Guild of America award — considered the most reliable predictor of the Oscar. (Only five times in the DGA's 50-year history has its best director not gone on to win the Oscar.) Marshall's win came as a bit of a surprise; award pundits listed Gangs of New York helmer Martin Scorsese as the sentimental favorite. (Poor Marty, always a bridesmaid... ) Meanwhile, on Sunday, the Producers Guild named Chicago the best film of 2002. 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

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

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

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

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