Today's News: Our Take


IN RARE FORM

David Letterman returned to CBS's Late Show last night after a five-week medical leave and wasted no time cracking wise about the war in Iraq. "Thirty days it took me to get over the shingles — and according to [Secretary of Defense] Donald Rumsfeld that's right on schedule," he joked. read more

OH, HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN

Further proof that Peter Arnett's career is on its last legs: The embattled war correspondent — fired by NBC and National Geographic Explorer for remarks he made to state-run Iraqi TV over the weekend — has accepted a job writing photo captions for US Weekly. I kid. I kid. Seriously, the embattled journalist has been hired by London's Daily Mirror tabloid, which, let's face it, is pretty sad. read more

COLLATERAL DAMAGE

Madonna can no longer justify airing her new video "American Life." The queen of pop has decided not to release the controversial anti-war clip — scheduled to debut Friday on VH1 — out of respect for the men and women fighting overseas in Iraq. read more

Meet Hollywood's New It Guy


Be afraid, David E. Kelley. Be very afraid. Out of Harvard for just five years, playwright Samuel Baum already has two series in the works — and, just for good measure, a feature film, too.

First up for the scribe — a handsome palooka who looks like he ought to be auditioning to play bashful hunks on Aaron Spelling soaps — is the WB's youthful MacGyver update, with Gilmore Girls sweetheart Jared Padalecki as Clay, the nephew of Richard Dean Anderson's character from ABC's 1985-92 hit, and original executive producer Henry Winkler on board once again. "It's been an excruciating writing process for me," Baum tells TV Guid read more

FAREWELL

Acclaimed character actor Michael Jeter, best known for his Emmy-winning role as an inept assistant football coach on CBS's Evening Shade, died over the weekend at his Hollywood Hills home. He was 50. The cause of death was not immediately known, but Jeter was HIV-positive. read more

MULDER'S BACK

David Duchovny has joined the cast of Connie and Carla, the upcoming big fat buddy comedy starring Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette. Duchovny will play Vardalos's love interest, which isn't going to sit well with Scully. read more

WHAT WERE YOU THINKING, DAWG?

Corey, Corey, Corey. American Idol execs beat viewers to the punch on Monday and gave finalist Corey Clark the hook. The expulsion followed yesterday's TheSmokingGun.com report that revealed the 22-year-old bad boy was arrested last October after a disturbance in his family's Topeka, Kans., home — an incident he failed to report to Idol producers. Fox released a statement saying a background check missed the arrest because the police report misspelled Clark's first name. "We regret the error," the statement went on, "but the only thing we can do is learn from the incident, continue to improve the background-check process and move on." Clark is the third Idol contestant to get the boot for hiding a skeleton in his closet — but probably not the last. read more

THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN ON CNN

In related news, Fox News reporter Geraldo Rivera is facing his biggest career crisis since he exited Al Capone's vault with nothing but cheerios and a smurf keychain. The Pentagon has apparently asked Rivera to leave Iraq for broadcasting confidential tactical information. According to USA Today, during a live broadcast over the weekend, Rivera drew a map in the sand indicating the position of the Army's 101st Airborne Division and where it was going. For his part, Rivera blames NBC, his former employer, for stirring up the controversy. read more

THIS MAKES US SAD

Alias badass Jennifer Garner and her actor-hubby Scott Foley (A.U.S.A.) have separated, a rep for the couple confirms. The duo — who met on the Felicity set in 1998 — tied the knot in October 2000. Well, this explains why Garner was escorted to the Oscars last month by best friend Katie Gage and not Foley. At the time, their flak insisted "everything was fine" with the lovebirds. In the publicist's defense, I'm sure she feels really bad about lying to us. read more

State Star Parodies Condoleezza Rice?


Lynn Whitfield, best known for her sizzling, Emmy-winning performance in The Josephine Baker Story, had a rude awakening when she took on the role of Chris Rock's political adviser in Head of State. As a stern Washington insider, she had to dress matronly and act painfully restrained in the face of Rock's hilarity.

"I believe they saw the character of Debra Lassiter to be rather large and oratorical," the 49-year-old actress tells TV Guide Online. "[But] I saw her as a dominatrix! Politics were her paddle, and she was going to spank everybody into shape, and then they'd be happy. [Rock] didn't want all of my vision, but it got me the gig!"

To her surprise, the part came with an unconventional order from first-time director Rock. "I told the costum read more

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