Today's News: Our Take


HUSH MONEY

Michael Jackson shelled out more than $23 million to settle child-molestation charges brought against him in the mid-90s. According to Court TV, Jackson — who is currently battling similar allegations — set up a $15-million trust fund for the young boy and agreed to pay his parents $1.5 million apiece. He also paid $5 million to cover the family's legal fees. Jackson's camp says the confidential agreement was deliberately released to influence jurors in the current case. read more

RATINGS ROUNDUP

Fox's North Shore and The Casino got off to decent starts Monday, pulling in roughly 6 million viewers and finishing third in their time slots among adults 18-49. Meanwhile, the fourth-season premiere of HBO's Six Feet Under on Sunday attracted 4.2 million viewers, down from the 5.1 million who tuned in for Season 3's debut. And without The Sopranos as a lead-in, the season finale of Deadwood drew a below-average 3.2 million viewers. read more

MARTHA'S GOT STYLE

Reruns of Martha Stewart Living will begin airing on Style Network later this month. As previously announced, the show will go on hiatus in September while Stewart squares away her legal woes. read more

LONESOME DOVES

Tom Hanks and Julianne Moore have signed on to star in Boone's Lick, a big-screen adaptation of Larry McMurtry's Western love story, Variety reports. Lasse Hallstrom (Cider House Rules) is in talks to direct. In other movie news, actor-producer Morgan Freeman is partnering with DreamWorks to make a film about the first black armored unit to enter combat during World War II, according to The Hollywood Reporter. read more

SHORT CUTS

The five original members of Duran Duran are working on their first album together since 1983's Seven and the Ragged Tiger, The Associated Press reports... Orlando Bloom has been named Britain's sexiest actor in a new poll, beating out fellow UK thesps Sean Bean, Hugh Grant, Ewan McGregor and Jude Law... Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels has been named the recipient of the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. He'll be honored Oct. 25 in Washington, D.C. read more

DRAWING POWER

Remember that big Buffy story I teased in Tuesday's column? Turns out I can't keep a freakin' secret to save my life. As reported in the new issue of TV Guide magazine (on sale tomorrow), the animated Buffy the Vampire Slayer series is back on the drawing board — with Sarah Michelle Gellar erased from the cast. According to sources, the Chosen One opted not to reprise her title role, leading creator Joss Whedon to recruit Giselle Loren — the video-game voice of Buffy — to mouth off alongside original Scoobies Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon and Anthony Stewart Head in the pilot (which unspools for potential distributors next month). For an exclusive First Look at the Buffy toon, pick up the new issue of TV Guide read more

NOT SO LUCKY

Britney Spears' recent knee injury has forced her to scrap the second leg of her Onyx Hotel Tour. Brit has been ordered to wear a hard brace on her leg for the next 6-8 weeks, followed by two months of physical therapy and six years of singing lessons. In related news, Courtney Love has postponed her summer tour for, well, obvious reasons. read more

GAG ALERT

View hostess Star Jones and fiancé Al Scales Reynolds have created a website (starandal.com) devoted to their upcoming nuptials. The online shrine features a recap of their love story, a photo album, a selection of their favorite scriptures and enough cheese to choke a horse. Portions of the site — including the gift registry and specifics about the time and place of the ceremony — are password-protected. To crack the code, you must figure out the answer to the question, "What is Star and Al's secret to their love?" To save you some time, I already tried "a good publicist," "aversion therapy" and "rapid weight loss" — none of which worked. read more

STILL MIA

Sean "P. Diddy" Combs missed yet another performance of Broadway's A Raisin in the Sun Tuesday, reportedly ailing from food poisoning. He's been out of commission since Saturday. read more

ISN'T IT IRONIC?

Alanis Morissette, who made a career singing about her failed romances, is getting hitched. The 30-year-old Grammy winner is engaged to actor and fellow Canadian Ryan Reynolds, 27, her reps confirm. The couple have not set a date, but how ironic would it be if it ended up raining on her wedding day!?!? (I'm on fire today!) read more

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