Today's News: Our Take


SHORT CUTS

All in the Family creator Norman Lear will pen several upcoming episodes of South Park... Chris Rock received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Wednesday... Justin Timberlake has been tapped to host CBS's March 25 Celine Dion special, "Celine in Las Vegas... Opening Night Live." read more

YOO-HOO...

Michael Jackson will have to start cutting back on his plastic surgery expenses. A jury decided Thursday that the baby dangler owes a concert promoter $5.3 million for backing out of two millennium concerts on New Year's Eve 1999. The $21 million breach-of-contract trial made headlines when Jackson took to the witness stand and revealed to the world that his nose had disappeared. read more

JOHN WALSH TO THE RESCUE!

America's Most Wanted claimed another major victory Wednesday. The long-running Fox series is being credited with helping rescue missing Salt Lake City teen Elizabeth Smart, who was found alive after a tipster recognized alleged kidnapper Brian David Mitchell's scary mug from AMW. Host John Walsh appeared on NBC's Today show this morning to discuss the capture, but mostly used the opportunity to plug his freshman yakker The John Walsh Show. read more

Buffy Spinoff: Willow the Vampire Slayer?


With Sarah Michelle Gellar preparing to dust her last blood-suckers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Eliza Dushku committed to the Fox pilot Heroine, who ever will protect viewers from things that go bump in the night? Our chosen one is Alyson Hannigan, aka the wickedly funny witch Willow. And series creator Joss Whedon just might agree with us, too. "The concept sounds cool," he admits to TV Guide Online.

However, that's not the reason that Whedon is crossing over the powerful wiccan from UPN's Buffy to its sister show on Wednesday's read more

THE PLOT THICKENS...

A Los Angeles judge ruled Thursday that Robert Blake must stand trial on charges of murdering his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. The judge set bail for the 69-year-old Baretta star at $1.5 million, although Blake's not expected to come up with the cash until next week. The actor's handyman-bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, was also ordered to stand trial on a conspiracy count. read more

IT'S NOT A LIE IF YOU BELIEVE IT...

Geri Halliwell is taking a page from Anne Heche's memoirs. The ex-Spice Girl (and current "coach" on ABC's All American Girl) told London's Sun tabloid that she once had a brief encounter with another woman, but denies she is a lesbian. "I had a little lesbian thing," she said. "It was just a drunken moment." But enough about Spice World. read more

PIVOTAL PROCEDURE

Christopher Reeve may be ditching that respirator soon. As part of an experimental procedure, doctors have implanted electrodes in the paralyzed actor's diaphragm in an effort to get him breathing on his own. The procedure is also expected to improve Reeve's speaking ability. read more

LOOK OUT, BEN

Jennifer Lopez has been tapped to star opposite Richard Gere in Miramax's upcoming remake of the 1996 Japanese comedy Shall We Dance?. As we reported Wednesday, the film centers around a man (Gere) who takes ballroom dancing lessons to impress his beautiful young teacher (Lopez). read more

RECOUNT, ANYONE?

This is just depressing: Colorful crooner Vanessa Olivarez became the first of 12 finalists booted off of American Idol Wednesday night. The 21-year-old Atlantan — who sang "You Keep Me Hanging On" during Tuesday's performance edition — may have been hurt by that diva-esque banter she was forced to recite to host Ryan Seacrest just prior to the commerical break. (He later tried to fix things, but the damage was done.) On the bright side, loathsome prima donna Julia DeMato ranked among the bottom three — which means it won't be long before she packs up her bad attitude and heads back to Brookfield, Conn. In other Idol news, season one champ Kelly Clarkson will perform on next Tuesday's show. read more

DISTRICT STAR DIES

Tony-winning actress Lynne Thigpen, who played Ella Farmer on CBS's The District, died suddenly Wednesday night at her home in Los Angeles. She was 54. The cause of death was not immediately known. "I'm in shock," says District star Craig T. Nelson. "She was a wonderful actress and a friend." Thigpen won a Tony Award for her role in the Broadway production of An American Daughter. She'll also be seen in the upcoming Jack Nicholson-Adam Sandler film Anger Management. read more

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