Today's News: Our Take


MAGICAL DEBUT

Industry sources estimate that Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets sold more than 6 million VHS and DVD copies during its first day in stores Friday. read more

MAID TO ORDER

A $100 million lawsuit filed against actor Marlon Brando by his maid-turned-mistress has been settled. In the suit, Maria Cristina Ruiz — who is also the mother of three of his children — said Brando stopped paying her living expenses when their relationship ended in December. Details of the settlement were not disclosed. read more

FOURLORN

Fans of 24 — including yours truly and TV Guide critic Matt Roush — are fuming over an all-too-revealing promo Fox aired Wednesday teasing next week's episode. The clip showed a major character tumbling down a stairwell, apparently to his/her death. (We won't spoil it for those who were lucky enough to miss it.) For a show that prides itself on maintaining a veil of secrecy around its plotlines, the spoiler appeared to be a shocking gaffe. "24 is a series that zigs where other series zag," a network rep responds to TV Guide Online. "You can never be sure where the show is going to go, so watching every episode is critical to seeing how character plot points are actually resolved." Responds Roush: "This is acceptable only if said character doesn't actually fall down the stairwell." In other words, he/she better be dreaming! (For more from Roush on this, click here.) read more

WILL &#038 GRACE &#038 CASH

The four stars of Will &#038 Grace are finalizing a new deal that will keep them cracking gay jokes on the NBC comedy through the 2004-05 season, the sitcom's seventh. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes are due for hefty salary increases under the new pact. As for Rosario, the network has agreed to cover her transportation expenses. read more

LIFE AND STUFF

A retooled, performance-only version of Madonna's "American Life" video will have its world premiere Wednesday at 10:30 pm/ET on VH1, Billboard reports. It will air following the VH1 special Madonna Speaks, in which Madge discusses fame and the state of the world with Will & Grace's Megan Mullally. Jack is going to be so jealous. read more

AI's Rickey Smith: Lost in New York

Bad cell phone service. Militant taxi drivers. Sudden fan encounters. Those are just some of the obstacles that threatened to derail TV Guide Online's interview with American Idol's afro wig-wearin', Hercules-squealin' Rickey Smith. The native Texan — who got the boot on last Wednesday's show — phoned us yesterday morning as he was leaving his hotel in midtown Manhattan to run some errands. In the midst of all the chaos, we quizzed Rickey on such hot topics as his surprising elimination, his post-Idol plans and the answer everyone wants to know.
TV Guide Online: You gave one of your better performances last week. Were you surprised you got voted out?
Rickey Smith:
I was shocked, because... (He begins to break up.)

TVGO: I'm losing you... (And suddenly, silence.) I've lost you. (At this point, the Fox publicist puts me on hold while she attempts to reconnect with Rickey. The read more

Mexican Soap Stud's Crossover Triumph


As a Mexican soap star and pop singer, Eduardo Verastegui thought he'd have to start from the bottom to crossover to Hollywood success. Fortunately, this 28-year-old is blessed with sex appeal that makes women, men and casting agents swoon upon impact! The offers were pouring in — including one for his current movie, Chasing Papi — before he'd even learned our language.

"When I moved to Miami, I had never studied English before," Verastegui recalls. "One day, I was flying from Miami to L.A. to promote my album that I recorded. On the plane, I met Christian Kaplan, the VP of casting for 20th Century Fox. He came and asked me if I was an actor. I said, 'S&#237, yo soy actor de Mexico, muy talentoso.' Thank God he spoke a little Spanish!"

A few weeks later, he auditioned for the role of Papi's three-timing lothario, Tom&#225s. The only English he knew was lines he'd memorized from the script. "I rehearsed read more

YEP, THEY'RE MAKING IT OFFICIAL

Melissa Etheridge, 41, will marry Popular's Tammy Lynn Michaels, 28, at year's end, the rocker's rep confirms. Rumor has it that the newly-christened Spike TV is in negotiations to air the couple's wedding night live. read more

SHE'S A LOCKE

On last night's Billy Joel-themed American Idol, Kimberley Locke stole the show with her classy rendition of "New York State of Mind." And I'd like to extend special props to Locke's stylist; for once, girlfriend looked as good as she sounded. Carmen Rasmusen, meanwhile, should probably start packing her bags. She took a perfectly good ballad — "And So It Goes" — and butchered it to within an inch of its life. (But she's so damn sweet, I voted for her anyway.) Who do you think should follow in Rickey Smith's footsteps and get the hook tonight? Click here to vote in today's Idol poll. read more

SHORT CUTS

Meg Ryan and Steven Soderbergh will lead the nine-member jury at next month's Cannes Film Festival... The Today show will kick off its outdoor summer concert series Friday with a performance by Fleetwood Mac. read more