Today's News: Our Take


David Letterman, who was sidelined from CBS's Late Show for a month due to shingles, has been dealt another major blow: His cue card guy Tony Mendez (known to viewers as "Big Ink") has quit for personal reasons. "He informed us that he wanted to move on," exec producer Rob Burnett told Variety. read more


Broadway star Harvey Fierstein, who's earning raves for his gender-bending role as mom Edna Turnblad in the musical Hairspray, is taking his drag act to the small screen. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fierstein has signed a deal with Touchstone and ABC to play a Roseanne-esque matriarch in a new, untitled family sitcom. The project is being produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the duo behind Chicago. read more


NBC's America's Most Talented Kid is shaping up to be TV's next big reality hit. Friday's telecast drew 11.2 million viewers and beat CBS's faltering Star Search. read more


I'm going to refrain from overloading today's box office report with too many telephone puns and just report the fax: Colin Farrell's new thriller Phone Booth, which was put on hold as a result of last fall's real-life sniper crisis, got a ringing endorsement from moviegoers over the weekend, dialing up $15 million to debut at No. 1. Amanda Bynes's teen flick What a Girl Wants opened in second place with $12.1 million, followed by Vin Diesel's latest action saga A Man Apart (No. 3 with $11.2 million). Last weekend's top movie, Head of State, dropped to fourth place with $8.8 million. read more


It's beauty tool time for Tim Allen. The Home Improvement alum has inked a deal to headline In the Pink, a big-screen comedy about a corporate playboy who loses his cushy job and turns to selling Mary Kay cosmetics. It's based on the book The Rise and Fall of Ted Turner. I kid. read more


NBC newsman David Bloom, who was one of 600 journalists embedded with U.S. and British forces in Iraq, died over the weekend while covering the war. He was 39. Bloom's death was not combat-related; he died after suffering a blood clot possibly caused by immobility. Colleagues reported that Bloom had complained of leg pain from sitting in one position for hours in a tank. On Sunday's weekend edition of Today, where Bloom served as co-anchor opposite Soledad O'Brien, a solemn Matt Lauer and Katie Couric joined O'Brien in paying tribute to their fallen colleague. "He was a dedicated, tenacious and talented reporter," said O'Brien. "He died doing what he loved, and doing what he did best." Bloom is survived by his wife, Melanie, and three daughters. read more


Russell Crowe is officially off the market. The Oscar winner married girlfriend Danielle Spencer at his country ranch in Australia earlier today. The lavish ceremony coincided with Crowe's 39th birthday and my friend Jill's baby shower. read more


Exhibitors in Hong Kong are reporting that movie attendance has fallen off 30-50 percent since the outbreak of SARS two weeks ago. For those in the dark, SARS is more commonly known as Swept Away. read more

Soap Diva Works Herself Into a Lather

Louise Shaffer had spent years playing the basket cases and bitches that made soap opera fans tune in tomorrow, but she never really understood the power of a cliffhanger until she was faced with one of her own. Shortly after Random House purchased her glorious Southern gothic, The Three Miss Margarets (in bookstores now), the actress-turned-author found herself on pins and needles, desperate to find out what happens next. Would critics like it? Would readers buy it? And what would she do if they didn't?

"I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop," she admits to TV Guide Online. "But I'm trying not to. This whole process has been so blessed so far that I find myself feeling almost — I'm afraid to say it — confident. And that really scares the hell out of me. If I think things will work out, the universe is sure to strike me with permanent writer's block."

Of course, Shaffer is just being dramatic, worrying so. After all, i read more

Seven Silly Questions for Cookie Monster

Sesame Street launches its 34th season Monday on PBS (check local listings), and with all that's going on in the world, it's not a moment too soon. Once again, producers have recruited some big names as upcoming guests, including First Lady Laura Bush, Natalie Portman, Wayne Brady, Diane Sawyer, Nick and Aaron Carter, and Sheryl Crow. But for our money, the real star on this block remains a certain dessert-obsessed rascal named Cookie Monster. So, in honor of the show's return, we asked Cookie if he would feast on our Seven Silly Questions. And to our delight, he threw us a few crumbs — and then some.

TV Guide Online: What's your favorite kind of cookie?
Cookie Monster:
Oh, that tough question! Me love all cookie! Chocolate chip, oatmeal, pecan sandy. Me equal-op read more

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