Today's News: Our Take


CAUSE AND EFFECT

If Michael Jackson's trip this week to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness of AIDS in Africa reeked of a shameless PR stunt, that's because, well, it was. According to Variety, Jacko's handlers are shopping a special to the networks featuring footage from the baby-dangler's mission on Capitol Hill. The asking price for the package, which would also include a 10-minute interview with Jacko? A cool $3 million. Not surprisingly, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox are apparently showing little interest. read more

COP OUT

NYPD Blue star Charlotte Ross, who's currently on maternity leave following the birth of her first child, son Maxwell, on March 23, will not be returning for the cop drama's 12th and final season next fall, TV Guide Online has learned. "She requested to take next year off and [series creator Steven Bochco] was kind enough to let her out [of her contract]," confirms Ross's manager hubby, Michael Goldman. "She's burnt on the character and burnt on drama and really also wanted to be a mom." That's all well and good, but what about the fact that Ross's Blue character is married and expecting a child with Dennis Franz's Andy? Producers will deal with that tricky matter next season. Says a show rep: "They haven't made a decision about it one way or the other at this read more

LIAR, LIAR

Yep, Ashton Kutcher punk'd us. Four months after he swore his MTV prank-a-thon, Punk'd, was history, MTV announced Thursday — April Fool's Day — that the show would kick off its third season on April 25. An MTV rep confirms that the closing notice Kutcher posted in December was merely a joke. Alright, WB: It's your turn to come clean about Angel's so-called "cancellation." You got us good with that one. read more

LIAR, LIAR: PART DEUX

Speaking of April Fool's jokes, Howard Stern got into the prank business himself on Thursday when fans tuned in to his morning radio show and discovered that the embattled shock jock had been replaced by the feel-good team of Cross and Lopez. The duo — who promised "fun without the filth" — aired a taped message from the station's general manager saying he had to take Stern off the air because of FCC pressure. The punking lasted about an hour before Stern returned to the airwaves. read more

QUICK CASH

The one-hour Friends finale will be available on DVD May 11 — five days after it airs on NBC, the New York Post reports. I think I'll just watch it for free. read more

TROY TRUMPED

Troy McClain, the 32-year-old country boy from Montana who never met a homespun simile he didn't like, got pink-slipped by Donald Trump on last night's episode of The Apprentice. That leaves only four mini-moguls — Kwame, Bill, Amy and Nick — to vie for the $250,000-a-year job with The Donald. If you've got questions for Troy, send them to me via the link at the bottom of this page and I will forward them to my trash icon since I interviewed him at 9:15 this morning. read more

PAGING LIZA MINNELLI...

VH1 has ordered a pilot for Gaydar, a half-hour reality series in which celeb guests grill contestants to try and figure out if they are gay or straight. Well, for starters, do they watch VH1? read more

AT LEAST SHE BEAT COLBY

Survivor: All Star's reigning diva, Jerri Manthey, became the ninth MVP to get her torch snuffed last night. An 11th-hour threat made by Boston Rob — in which he urged his rival tribemates to spare his gal-pal, Amber — sealed Manthey's fate. If you have questions for Jer, send them to me via the link at the bottom of this page and I'll forward them to my colleague, Angel Cohn, who will be speaking to her this afternoon. read more

SAVE THE DATE

After this year's Screen Actors Guild Awards suffered a huge dip in the ratings, TNT has decided to relocate the 2005 kudocast to a less-competitive Saturday evening. The Feb. 5 ceremony will also air three weeks earlier than usual. read more

PINK'S NEW ACT

Rocker Pink (aka Alecia Moore) will make her debut as a big-screen leading lady playing the late Janis Joplin in an upcoming biopic directed by Penelope Spheeris, Variety reports. "After trying to make a picture on Janis's life for 15 years, I'd call Alecia's screen test the most gratifying moment in my film career," says Spheeris. "She is the perfect age to play Janis from when she first came to California at 19 to when she died at 27." I know she's a serious actress now, but that whole Alecia thing just ain't doin' it for me. Sorry. read more

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