Today's News: Our Take


LIL' KIM TAKES THE RAP

Risqué rapper Lil' Kim pleaded not guilty to eight felony counts of perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice on Wednesday and was released on $500,000 bail. She's accused of lying — during three grand-jury appearances she made last year — about the February 2001 shootout she witnessed outside Manhattan radio station WQHT. At the time, Lil' Kim and her posse were reportedly involved in a dispute with her rival rapper, Foxy Brown. read more

YOU'RE HIRED!

On Thursday's finale of The Apprentice, Donald Trump dropped the big H-bomb on 32-year-old self-made entrepreneur Bill Rancic. The hunky Chicago native beat out 29-year-old Harvard grad Kwame Jackson, who, in the end, failed to overcome a huge handicap in Oma-rosa. "I think Omarosa set him back," Trump conceded to TV Guide Online just moments after the show ended. "It certainly didn't help him." Rancic, meanwhile, accepted a $250,000-a-year job heading up a Trump-owned skyscraper in the Windy City. "Today is a great day for entrepreneurs around the country," he said following his big win. "This is something I've wanted since I was 10 years-old." That's all well and good, but who is he romancing? Amy? Bachelor babe Jen Schefft? "I'm single and dating," is all he would say — for now at least. Speaking of which, if you have any burning questions for Bill or Kwame, please e-mail them to me via the link at the bottom read more

SHORT CUTS

Good Morning America chief Shelley Ross, whom many credit with turning the morning show around, has been named the new exec producer of Primetime Thursday... Law & Order: SVU's Mariska Hargitay — aka TV's most underrated actress — will play a cynical lawyer who defends an 18-year-old Amish woman accused of murder in the Lifetime movie Plain Truth. read more

PAGING CAMILE VELASCO...

The WB has quietly wrapped production on Superstar USA, a bizarre version of American Idol that tosses out great singers while rewarding the William Hungs of the world. But in typical reality fashion, the contestants are not in on the joke. In fact, the judges must keep a straight face when they heap praise on tone-deaf singers and send truly gifted crooners home. "These people believe they're the next pop superstar, even though they're horrible singers," exec producer Mike Fleiss (The Bachelor) tells Variety. "This is about people who are clearly delusional and watching them butcher song after song." That is just plain cruel. I love it! read more

IN RELATED NEWS...

American Idol reject William Hung's debut CD, Inspiration, sold 38,000 copies in its first week to land at No. 34 on Billboard's album chart. Usher's Confessions remained No. 1 with 463,000 copies sold, while Janet Jackson's Damita Jo dropped 61 percent to 147,000 copies for third place. read more

G'DAY INDEED

Oscar winner Nicole Kidman earned an estimated $18.6 million last year, making her Australia's richest entertainer, according to Business Review Weekly. Singer John Farnham (who?) came in at No. 2, followed by rockers AC/DC, children's entertainment group The Wiggles (again, who?) and Master and Commander director Peter Weir. read more

American Idol For the first —...

American Idol
For the first — and probably only — time ever, can I say that I like George Bush. Thanks to whatever he was bumbling about last night, I got a performance show rather than the usual vote-off harshness to keep me warm tonight. And the kids turned it out! The movie theme could have been a train wreck. After all, there are too many Kenny Loggins and Irene Cara tunes running loose out there. Just imagining LaToya London strapped with "Danger Zone" gave me the shingles. As did the sight of Quentin Tarantino at the judges' table. That man is downright creepy. But he was on hand to help out with the theme competition — and pitch Kill Bill: Vol. 2 — which is fine. No ears were sliced off in the making of his guest appearance. And my girl LaToya, she brought it, wrapped it and gave us "Somewhere" from West Side Story like nobody's biz. Even better was Fantaseee-ia's "Summertime." And read more

PRIVATE PARTS

The scandal surrounding British soccer stud David Beckham's alleged infidelity is getting personal — and we mean personal. Beckham's former assistant, Rebecca Loos, says she can prove she had an affair with Posh Spice's hubby — and she'll do just that if the issue goes to court. "There's something I know about him," she says, "an intimate part of his body that I think only women who have been in bed with him would know." (Insert requisite Bend It like Beckham joke here.) read more

IDOL SHOCKER

American Idol voters sentenced jailhouse rocker Jon Peter Lewis to life without a record contract last night. The 24-year-old reluctant pen salesman became the fifth finalist ousted from Fox's modern-day Gong Show. Seven contestants remain, including eventual winner Fantasia Barrino. read more

HBO's Strip Show Stirs Debate


"This movie is going to raise holy hell, and I may never work again," says director Sidney Lumet of HBO's Strip Search, a provocative drama about civil liberties in the post-9/11 era that airs April 27. The story cross-cuts between two degrading interrogations: In China, an American student (Maggie Gyllenhaal) gets grilled about her political activities, while in the U.S., an FBI agent (Glenn Close) gives a Saudi scholar (Bruno Lastra) the third degree. Now here's the kicker: Both sequences use the exact same script, implicitly equating the countries' treatment of suspects.

The filmmakers maintain they're simply taking dramatic license to tell a cautionary tale. "Am I saying we're a totalitarian country? No," says writer Tom Fontana. "Am I saying we could become one? Absolutely."

Such contentions have already stirred controversy among conservative watchdogs. "The premise is preposterous and insulting," says Media Research read more

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