Today's News: Our Take


GOOD NIGHT, JOHNNY

Late-night legend Johnny Carson, who lulled America to sleep for nearly 30 years as host of NBC's Tonight Show, died Sunday of emphysema at his Malibu, Calif., home. He was 79. "Mr. Carson passed away peacefully early Sunday morning," his nephew, Jeff Sotzing, told The Associated Press. "He was surrounded by his family, whose loss will be immeasurable." The news caught the showbiz world off guard. "Like the rest of the country, I'm stunned," Oprah Winfrey told reporters gathered at the Television Critics Assoc. winter press tour in Los Angeles. "He's one of the greats of our time." In a statement, Carson's Tonight Show sidekick Ed McMahon said, "[Johnny was] like a brother to me... [We] created a friendship which was professional, family-like and one of respect and great admiration." After doing his final show on May 22, 1992, Carson vanished from the public eye. His absence only seemed to elevate his status as a TV icon. "One of the things I a read more

TROUBLED LIFE

It looks like ABC's angsty teen soap life as we know it is knocking on death's door. At press tour Sunday, network head Steve McPherson conceded that the show's prospects looked bleak, although he stopped short of uttering the dreaded C-word. "We're really frustrated," he sighed. "We feel like we've failed in terms of getting that show an audience. We really want to make sure we've exhausted every possibility before we officially say it's gone. But it's not looking good." Meanwhile, McPherson couldn't confirm whether life's remaining unaired episodes would ever see the light of day. read more

YOU'RE HITCHED!

Hoping the third time's the charm, Apprentice star Donald Trump married model Melania Knauss Saturday in a lavish, star-studded ceremony in Palm Beach, Fla. The 400 or so guests included morning TV personalities (Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, Kelly Ripa, Regis Philbin), singers (Billy Joel, Tony Bennett), current and future reality stars (Simon Cowell, Mark Burnett, Kathy Hilton) and one outta control freebie queen (Star Jones Reynolds). read more

IN RELATED NEWS...

Punk'd prankster Ashton Kutcher is producing a new reality series for WB that promises to answer the age-old question: Can a looks-challenged nerd and a hot chick fall in love? Titled Beauty and the Geek, the show follows seven seemingly mismatched couples as they go through a series of mating competitions. "We're in the middle of shooting it right now," Kutcher told me at WB's TCA press tour party Saturday night. "It's funny and intriguing." But more importantly, really, really, really mean. read more

PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS

Martin Sheen confirmed at the TCA winter press tour this morning that he is near a deal to return to The West Wing for the first half of next season — through the end of President Bartlet's second term. Potential Bartlet successors Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda are also slated to return for the seventh season, although exec producer John Wells has yet to decide which will become the next president. Meanwhile, Home Improvement's Patricia Richardson is joining the cast as Alda's campaign manager. read more

CNN Hires Court TV Diva


It's hard to imagine that Nancy Grace has ever met a defendant she didn't think was guilty. Fair and balanced she's not, and the prosecutor-turned-Court TV legal commentator (and victims' rights advocate) freely admits it.

"I've never pretended that I do not have an opinion," she says. "And people who pretend they don't are deceiving you." Now Grace is expanding her pulpit, with a book this spring (Objection!, written with TV Guide contributor Diane Clehane) and, starting Feb. 21, her own nightly show on CNN Headline News.

After successfully filling in for Larry King the past few years, Grace will lead a new lineup of programs aimed at bringing appointment viewers to CNN's ratings-deprived sister channel. Though she promises the series will include opposing views, she cautions, "Can I help it if they're wrong? No, I can't."


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BABY NEWS

Married Melrose Place alums Sydney and Matt — aka Laura Leighton of ABC's upcoming Eyes and Desperate Housewives' Doug Savant— are expecting their second child in June. The couple share a 4-year-old son, Jack, and Savant has two older daughters from a previous marriage, Arianna, 13 and Madeline, 11. read more

Invisible Man Reappears


When he signed up to appear in the Sci Fi Channel flick Larva (premiering Saturday at 9 pm/ET), leading man Vincent Ventresca knew that the feature's creatures were likely to steal scenes from him. "They do kind of upstage me," he admits to TV Guide Online with a chuckle. "They're not like worms, that's for sure!"

Luckily, the Complete Savages regular was fine with ceding the spotlight to the monsters' mashing. "My biggest fear going into this project was that it wouldn't seem suspenseful, because it would seem so ridiculous. But everyone really committed to what was at stake, and consequently, it works. I'm really proud of it."

Needless to say, the onetime Invisible Man star is not among those performers who turn up their noses at fantastical fare. "I've always just wanted to be a part of something that ultimately seemed like it mattered, and that's what's so great about a sci-fi audience," he explains. "It matters to them!

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CENTER CUT

It's the news we've been waiting for, folks: CBS has finally stuck a fork in the turkey that is Center of the Universe. In spite of Les Moonves' rousing endorsement at press tour last summer, the network has pulled the John Goodman stinker from its schedule, effective immediately. King of Queens reruns will air in its place until Yes, Dear takes over the Wednesday 9:30 pm/ET time slot beginning Feb. 16. I never thought I'd say this but, "Welcome back, Yes, Dear! I'll never take you for granted again!" read more

Abusive Racer Apologizes


With a 15 percent popularity rating at CBS.com, it's safe to say that Jonathan and Victoria are the least-liked duo to ever run The Amazing Race (Tuesdays, 9 pm/ET). As a result, few fans shed tears when the married entrepreneurs from California were Philiminated on this week's episode. Here, these two try to explain their combative behavior on the race, and insist there's more to their relationship than meets the eye.

TV Guide Online: Jonathan, you've said that you planned to be this season's villain. Think you accomplished that a bit too effectively?
Jonathan:
Absolutely. I didn't know what it was going to look like, and I didn't know how much work it was going to be. I have to say that I apologize if I ever offended anybody, because it wasn't what I intended to do. CBS turned the story line toward Victoria and I when, in actuality, I went in there to terrorize everybody else. I didn't know what it was going to look like when I dec read more

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