Today's News: Our Take


Producer Mary-Ellis Bunim, who along with Jonathan Murray pioneered the reality genre with the creation of MTV's The Real World, died Thursday of cancer. She was 57. Bunim's partnership with Murray also spawned such reality staples as Road Rules, Making the Band, The Real World/Road Rules Challenge and Fox's The Simple Life. "Mary-Ellis was a one-in-a-million partner and friend, and I will always treasure our incredible years of collaboration," said Murray. "Even as the family at Bunim-Murray Productions mourns her loss, we will honor her memory by remaining committed to her ideals of creativity, adventure, and excellence, both on the screen and in our lives." Bunim is survived by her daughter, Juliana. read more


UPN has ordered a third and fourth cycle of America's Next Top Model. The latest edition is scoring record ratings for the network. read more


Russell Crowe dislocated his shoulder while training for a boxing scene in his upcoming movie Cinderella Man — delaying the start of filming by a month. According to Universal, the Oscar winner — who injured the same shoulder while training for the Jodie Foster-directed drama Flora Plum — will immediately undergo arthroscopic surgery followed by physical therapy. read more


Seinfeld vet Julia Louis-Dreyfus is joining the cast of Fox's Arrested Development for a two-episode arc later this season. She'll play a blind attorney assigned to prosecute Jeffrey Tambor's jailed patriarch. As reported in the new issue of TV Guide magazine (on sale Monday), the former Watching Ellie star initially turned down the gig when — according to sources — producers wouldn't meet her salary demands. (Her manager says there were "many reasons" her client initially nixed the deal.) Arrested execs had been actively courting several big-name actresses to take over the role when word came that Louis-Dreyfus had come to her senses. read more


NBC's decision to move The Apprentice back to Thursday paid off. Last night's episode — in which Bowie Hogg became the latest contestant fired by Donald Trump — attracted 18.7 million viewers. Last Wednesday opposite American Idol, The Apprentice sank to 12 million viewers. Speaking of The Donald, the king of self-promotion will spread his wealth of knowledge in a new book, How to Get Rich, due in April — coinciding with the show's live season finale. read more


Michael Jackson has invented a new soft drink: wine-flavored Coke. According to an article in the March Vanity Fair, the newly crowned King of Soda Pop routinely drinks wine out of Coke cans so nobody knows he's drinking. The mag also says Jackson gave the young boy he's accused of molesting wine in Coke cans on a flight from Florida in February 2003. No comment from Jacko's camp. read more


Showtime gave The L Word the big "R" Thursday, renewing the sapphic soap for a second season. It was the fastest pickup in the network's history; L premiered just 11 days ago to decent reviews and solid ratings. read more


What do you get when you cross the WB's The Surreal Life with a good old-fashioned spelling bee? Fox's latest reality experiment. For three consecutive Fridays beginning Feb. 13, C-listers such as Corbin Bernsen, Brett Butler, Alice Cooper, Vincent Pastore, Eric Roberts, Meshach Taylor and George Wendt will face off in The Great American Celebrity Spelling Bee. read more


NBC has extended early 22-episode pickups to dramas Las Vegas and American Dreams for next season. The Vegas renewal was a no-brainer; the show ranks as the highest-rated new drama of the season among adults 18-49. And Dreams, though a more modest hit, remains a personal favorite of NBC president Jeff Zucker. read more


It looks like Pixar is finding itself a new partner. The animation studio behind Finding Nemo and Toy Story ended talks with the Walt Disney Co. that would have renewed one of the most lucrative movie distribution deals in Hollywood history. Mickey Mouse exec Michael Eisner nixed Pixar's final offer "because it would have cost Disney hundreds of millions of dollars." read more

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