Michael Peck

Poppy Montgomery's Blonde Ambition

Just about every actress fantasizes about playing screen legend Marilyn Monroe, and for Poppy Montgomery, that dream came true — until she saw herself in a mirror. "I felt like a drag queen," Montgomery, who plays the American icon in CBS's upcoming four-hour miniseries, Blonde, said at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif. "I was like, 'Oh, my God, this is awful.'"

CBS's Blonde — which is slated to air during May sweeps — is sure to prompt as much discussion as the Joyce Carol Oates fictional Monroe biography on which it's based. Also starring Ann-Margret, Home Improvement's Patricia Richardson, Kirstie Alley and Patrick Dempsey, the story follows young Norma Jean Baker from her difficult childhood to the mega-stardom and drug addiction that ultimately dragged her down.

However, it's anyone's guess whether Montgomery herself will have worked up the nerve read more

CSI Star's Dry Spell

Starring roles in movies like To Live and Die in L.A. and Manhunter plus an array of TV and theatrical work may have briefly grabbed the attention of some of William Petersen's Chicago-area relatives, but it wasn't until CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation took to the air that the actor's extended family really began to follow his career.

But as Petersen explains, he's been hard-pressed to answer his clan's most frequently asked CSI-related question: "'Are you going to have sex?'" The actor, whose forensics officer Gil Grissom spends more time in the lab than between the sheets on the Golden Globe-nominated drama, told laughing attendees of the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif., "I don't know. He is a nerd. I don't know if nerds have sex or not."

Their lusty read more

Oh, Brother — Not Again

Despite soft ratings and possibly the worst reviews in television history, last summer's reality experiment, Big Brother, wasn't the big letdown the media portrayed it to be, insists CBS. In fact, network execs are considering a second go-round of the house-arrest game — especially since it doesn't have to do Survivor numbers to turn a profit.

"I'm not going to accept that Big Brother didn't do so well," CBS honcho Leslie Moonves said at the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. "Big Brother did just fine and, in fact, improved our summer ratings and our summer demographics. And, frankly, the last episode of Big Brother beat the Olympics, so by any stretch of the imagination, that's doing well."

Fair enough, if you're just crunching the numbers, but isn't there room for improvement?

"I don't think it was cast very well, to tell you the truth," Moonves conceded. "I think when you compare the cast of read more

New Survivors: Bigger, Badder, Better Looking

Those tuning into CBS's Survivor: The Australian Outback after Super Bowl XXXV on Jan. 28 are sure to notice many of the new crew are, um, a little easier on the eyes. But as executive producer Mark Burnett and host Jeff Probst told attendees of the Television Critics Association's press tour in Pasadena, Calif., looks can kill. In fact, the latest batch of contestants to vie for the $1 million prize would give the scheming champ from Palau Tiga more than a run for his money.

"Where the first group were virgins, everybody here came to play," Burnett said of the new 16, who had the benefit of watching the first game and seeing which strategies paid off. "Richard Hatch would get eaten alive by this group."

Just how tough are they? To hear the show creator tell it, most are in it for the blood, not the money ? and the aim in choosing them was to find people who'd play the game even if it wasn't on TV. Still, both Burnett and Probst were stunn read more

Nikki Cox Figures It Out

The curvaceous Nikki Cox freely admits that the way she fills her clothes often overshadows her acting ability, but she's pragmatic enough to be grateful for the good genes.

"I'm not oblivious to the fact that quite often that's what's gotten me in the door," the actress, who headlines the upcoming WB comedy, Nikki, noted at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, CA. "You bring what you do to the table and hopefully people get past it. It's just a goofy figure, you know, and it doesn't last. So hopefully I bring something more to the game."

That refreshing lack of ego was evident across the panel, and no more so than when co-star Nick von Esmarch, who plays Cox's aspiring wrestler husband, was asked if being on network TV might overinflate his ego. "All my friends were worried that I might get a big head and think I'm all great," said the actor, who was selling video games before landing this role. "But when you're on a lower level. read more

Comic Says Yes to Comeback

When NBC pulled stand-up comic Mike O'Malley out of obscurity and gave him his own show, many thought him the luckiest man alive. Of course, that changed when the sitcom ? appropriately titled, The Mike O'Malley Show ? was quickly axed and the comedian recorded one of the fastest celebrity nosedives in history. But did the funnyman let the show's failure get him down? You bet he did!

"I don't think I had any idea how much it would hurt when it went so spectacularly wrong [and was] canceled after two episodes," O'Malley, who appears in CBS's upcoming sitcom Yes, Dear (Mondays, 8:30 pm/ET), told attendees of the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, CA. "I think that it may not have hurt so much had my name not been on the show. Because then whenever it was written about or mentioned in the same breath as other shows that were canceled, you feel this wince of, 'Oh, that's my name again associated with this flop.' "

For her part, read more

Sex and the Mature Woman

Judging Amy's Tyne Daly is no fresh-faced WB babe ? and that suits her just fine. Fact is, she rather enjoys playing Maxine Gray, mother to the titular Amy (Amy Brenneman) on the hit CBS drama, since she's portraying a mature woman who's independent and ? gasp! — still has an active sex life.

"Sex after 60 seems to be quite interesting to people," the actress told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, CA. "It's certainly interesting to me. I also am interested in a woman at any stage of the game being a whole unto herself and not having to rely on a man's arm and other parts of his anatomy to validate her."

The former Cagney & Lacey star, who has amassed five Emmys during her career, was just nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her Amy role. But don't be fooled by Daly's enviable statue collection: She never gets tired of the attention.

"No, no, because wh read more

Muniz Is Mr. Popular

He may only have one season under his belt as the star of Fox's Malcolm in the Middle, but already young Frankie Muniz is learning about one of fame's most enduring conundrums: separating your real friends from your fake ones.

"I went back [home] to New Jersey and saw them for pretty much the first time since the show was on, and it was so wild," Muniz told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, CA. "It was like I didn't even know some of them. Because a lot of kids that never used to hang out with me used me as a show-and-tell. They'd bring me over to their friend's house [and go], 'Look, look who's my friend!' So it was sort of weird."

The actor stressed, however, that his fair-weather pals "were really cool. They didn't even really make a big deal out of it. They like me because I'm Frankie, not because I'm Malcolm."

And just in case anyone's worried about the effects of his early success spoiling him, Muniz insisted tha read more

Titus Slams Titus

Christopher Titus has this message for those few critics who panned his self-titled Fox comedy: You failed to mention several obvious weak points.

"Has anyone else noticed that we, basically, blatantly ripped off the HBO series Oz with our structure? Anybody?" he asked reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, CA. "I mean, except we're a lot funnier and no prison rape scenes... yet. [Also], we have opening titles that look like they were thrown together in a garage in Van Nuys in about four hours. They were, except it took two hours."

Titus can afford to sit back and crack wise since his dark-horse sitcom is a certified smash. In fact, the comic was in such a good mood at the press tour that he prepared a list of responses skewering the by-the-book answers writers usually hear from stars. "Hey, man, you know what? Myself, the cast and the crew ? we're really just like a family... that only sees each other at work... where we're be read more

The Truth Behind the X-Files Feud

X-Files star David Duchovny may have sufficiently repaired his post-lawsuit relationship with series creator Chris Carter (he agreed to return for 11 episodes next season), but to Carter, the thinking behind the suit remains an X-file of its own.

"I still [have] yet to understand, truly, what it is I was accused of doing and have it articulated to me in any kind of understandable way," Carter told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, CA. "There's still a little bit of a mystery to me, but lawsuits are mysterious and I'm happy just to move on and try to do the good work that we've done together." (For the record, Duchovny's suit essentially accused Carter and Fox of cutting a sweetheart deal to sell X-Files rerun rights to sister network FX for a lower-than-market-value price, thus cheating Duchovny out of his share of a potentially higher-priced deal with someone else.)

Carter fielded ? and artfully dodged ? man read more

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