Today's News: Our Take


NBC STRIKES WHILE IRON IS HOT

Law & Order creator Dick Wolf inked a 13-episode deal with NBC for an unscripted prime-time drama described as L.A. Law meets The Real World. According to Variety, Trial and Error will follow the professional and personal lives of five first-year assistant district attorneys. And with no scripts or actors, Trial and Error — which is slated for next season — will be unaffected by the impending actors and writers strikes. read more

SHORT CUTS

Rumors persist that anti-gay rapper Eminem will perform a duet with gay pop superstar Elton John at the Grammy Awards on Feb. 21... Fox's Temptation Island drew 18.2 million viewers Wednesday, its largest audience yet. Meanwhile, according to the Los Angeles Times, Fox refused to run an ad for a female contraceptive spermicide during the show, saying it would only accept contraceptive ads if the product's purpose was disease protection... Billy Campbell, star of ABC's Once and Again, is in talks to star opposite Jennifer Lopez in the suspense drama Enough, Variety reports. — Michael Ausiello read more

SURVIVOR WINS ROUND ONE

The Great TV Battle of 2001 got underway Thursday night and Survivor: The Australian Outback has taken an early lead. The second episode of CBS's reality phenom — featuring Kel's swan song — attracted 29.4 million viewers, compared to 22 million for the expanded Friends. Despite the loss, NBC's top-rated sitcom held up much better than expected, say insiders. In fact, despite Survivor and a strong performance by CBS's relocated C.S.I., NBC — powered by Will & Grace and ER — managed to win the night overall. "I don't begrudge anybody else success as long as we have success," Jeff Zucker, NBC's entertainment president, told The Associated Press. "The institution of read more

LIVE LEAK?

Speculation is intensifying that Regis Philbin will name his new Live co-host Monday, and as reported yesterday, the smart money is on All My Children actress Kelly Ripa winning the coveted gig. Adding fuel to the fire: The New York Post reports that Live's producer, Disney, has obtained the rights to a new Web site domain named livewithregisandkelly.com. Disney reportedly officially registered the Web site name on Jan. 10. read more

DOWNEY RETURNS

Robert Downey Jr. was back to work on the set of Fox's Ally McBeal this week to tape an additional episode, although the actor's rep told the Los Angeles Times that there was no "official... commitment" that he will stick around longer. On Monday, the Golden Globe winner was given until Feb. 21 to iron out a plea bargain on drug charges stemming from his Thanksgiving weekend arrest in Palm Springs. read more

DUDE GAL GETS ALIAS

Jennifer Garner of Dude, Where's My Car? fame has been cast as the lead in Alias, the ABC pilot from Felicity co-creator and executive producer J.J. Abrams. Garner will play a young spy who leads a double life. read more

OLDER FREAKS AND GEEKS

ABC has ordered a comedy pilot from Freaks and Geeks executive producer Judd Apatow, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The as-yet-untitled project is being described as a semiautobiographical comedy that centers on two aspiring twentysomething writers-actors-comedians trying to make sense of their post-college lives. read more

Emma Thompson: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow


To play a cancer victim in HBO's upcoming adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit, Oscar-winner Emma Thompson decided to go the Method route and took a machete to her mane. But the celeb scoffs at the notion that her new 'do afforded her any sort of anonymity. "Anonymity?" she deadpans. "A bald woman?"

Thompson can laugh about it now, but the actress-writer — who chose Wit as her first project since giving birth to Gaia Romilly Wise in Dec. 1999 — admits to TV Guide Online that she suffered from some pre-chop jitters. "I was slightly worried about my daughter, so we cut my hair in front of her," says the Brit, whose beau, Greg Wise, was cast in the role of barber. "We were outside in the garden, so it looked like a pair of badgers had kind of fought to death on the lawn."

Despite the elaborate production, Thompson says that Gaia had little reaction to mom morphing into a skinhead before her eyes. "[She] didn't th read more

Will's Loverboy Returns


After three seasons sans a man, is Will Truman — the eligible gay bachelor that Eric McCormack plays on Will &amp Gracefinally landing a boyfriend? And of all people, could it be Patrick Dempsey, that adorable geek from such '80s romps as Can't Buy Me Love and Loverboy?

"I'm at the height of my heterosexuality on my honeymoon in Bora Bora and I get a call saying, 'Would you be interested in doing Will &amp Grace?,'" the actor tells TV Guide Online. "I thought, 'This is really risky.'"

But Dempsey took a gamble — and got back on our radar — by guest-starring as Matt, the TV sportscaster who browsed Will while shopping at Banana Republic last November. And he's back for two more episodes starting tonight. "I go on my first date with Will," he previews. "But [there's trouble when] I'm not upfront about my sexuality with my bosses because I'm af read more

Aretha Franklin: Keepin' It Real


If you've ever wondered what a typical day in the life of a living legend was like, just ask the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin.

"I get up and I watch the soaps — The Young &amp the Restless and The Bold &amp the Beautiful — and I scream at the TV for about half an hour at what I don't like," reveals the 17-time Grammy winning artist. "And then I get something on the stove, something cooking... [I do] a little clean up, and kick back and relax if I don't have work to do."

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous it's not, but don't interpret Franklin's down-home existence to mean she takes her "Living Legend" status lightly. "It's certainly the highest compliment that one can be paid," admits the first female Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, who adds that the title does not put any added pressure on her. "I'm very much appreciative. I love it — it feels good."

Well, Franklin will be living like a superstar on April 10, w read more

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