Today's News: Our Take


THEIR INK DON'T STINK

The 2002 Humanitas Awards — $25,000 prizes for screenwriters whose works "enrich as well as entertain" — have been doled out: In film, Iris scribes Richard Eyre and Charles Wood won for their Alzheimer's disease drama starring Judi Dench as novelist Iris Murdoch. HBO's The Laramie Project docudrama about Matthew Shepard won the cable TV category. In other TV kudos, Kirk Ellis won for his ABC Anne Frank miniseries, while episodes of The Practice, Scrubs and read more

HE WENT TO EXTREMES

As expected, Billy Joel checked out of a Connecticut substance abuse and psychiatric hospital Wednesday after a 10-day stay for reported alcohol abuse. He tells People magazine that he entered the facility as a Father's Day present to Alexa, his 16-year-old daughter with ex-wife Christie Brinkley. "I told my daughter I recognized I was having a problem," he said, adding that he was depressed because an upper respiratory infection forced him to pull out of his recent concert tour with Elton John. "I've been touring for 30 years and only had to cancel a handful of shows in my life, so I took this really hard." read more

SHORT CUTS

DreamWorks has announced a June 18, 2004 release date for Shrek 2... The Peacock has recruited Rob Lowe (The West Wing) to host Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular (airing 9-10:30 pm/ET on Independence Day). read more

HIS (ADOPTED) HOMETOWN

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will perform live on the boardwalk in Asbury Park, N.J., on NBC's Today show July 30. Springsteen will sing several songs from The Rising, his first studio album with E Street in 18 years. Katie Couric and Matt Lauer will anchor that day's entire show from Springsteen's adopted hometown. Speaking of Couric, major props go to the Today hostess for more than holding her own Wednesday opposite conservative hellraiser Ann Coulter. read more

HE REALLY MEANS IT

Luciano Pavarotti plans to rest his pipes for good. The opera legend announced Tuesday on CNN's Connie Chung Tonight that he will retire on his 70th birthday, Oct. 12, 2005. "I [will] never even sing in the bathroom," he told Chung. "Not even when I'm taking the shower." Pavarotti canceled his last scheduled performance — a May date at the Metropolitan Opera — due to illness. Speaking of Chung, her new show is off to a good start: Monday's debut gave CNN its best ratings for a regular series in the 8 pm timeslot all year. read more

Vivica Got Game


There's a reason Vivica A. Fox looks natural as a pro basketball player in Juwanna Mann. The Indianapolis, Ind. native was a starting guard on her championship-winning high school team. While she now holds season tickets to watch the L.A. Lakers and WNBA Sparks, the actress admits donning her sneakers again — 20 years later — was rougher than expected.

First up, the Mann cast spent a month in b-ball training with the University of Southern California's athletic director. Next, they headed to the film's Charlotte, N.C. shooting location to train with off-season WNBA players. "That gym was called 'The Oven' because it didn't have any air conditioning," Fox tells TV Guide Online. "I sweated in places I didn't know I could sweat."

She and co-star read more

WIND BENEATH MY WINGS

Self-professed "airline geek" and licensed pilot John Travolta has signed on as ambassador-at-large for Australian airline Qantas. To help promote air travel post-Sept. 11, he'll fly his Boeing 707 on a "Spirit of Friendship Tour" around the world, making stops in 10 countries. No word on whether Qantas will pay the star for his PR services in cash or frequent-flier miles. read more

What's Tommy Lee Jones's Problem?


Tommy Lee Jones has long had a loathe-hate relationship with the press — and that was nowhere more evident than at the recent press junket for Men In Black II. During one of his many mini press conferences — affectionately known to junketeers as a roundtable — the 55-year-old Oscar winner showed little love for the seven reporters in attendance (save for TV Guide Online's Michael Ausiello, natch). But as co-star Will Smith points out, it isn't actually journalists that Jones has the problem with — it's what comes out of their mouths. "Tommy has a hard time dealing with dumb questions," he says. Well, that could very well explain why this particular quid pro quo rapidly morphed into a read more

SUPERSTAR RATINGS

Fox's American Idol: The Search for a Superstar was the top-rated show last week among viewers aged 18-49. A repeat of CSI, meanwhile, was No. 1 among total viewers. read more

Curses! Emmy Bites Buffy Again!


Buffy the Vampire Slayer has always waged an uphill battle for Emmy recognition. But now, not only does the UPN sleeper have to convince members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences that it's more than a freak show about vampires and demons and ghouls (oh my!), it apparently must also remind the Academy that it even exists! When ATAS sent out nomination ballots earlier this month, there was a glaring omission in the list of potential contenders in the drama writing category: Buffy's sublime musical episode, "Once More with Feeling," penned — punch lines, lyrics and all — by series creator Joss Whedon. What the hellmouth is going on here?

Human error was apparently to blame, but an ATAS spokesperson insists the problem has since been resolved. "We sent out a notification to the voters, which allowe read more