Today's News: Our Take


DIRTY POP

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

GOOD BUSINESS

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

H-A-S--B-E-E-N

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

ACCIDENT REPORT

Former Head of the Class pupil Robin Givens struck and critically injured an 89-year-old pedestrian with her SUV Wednesday in Miami. Maria Antonia Alcover was crossing a busy intersection during rush hour when Mike Tyson's ex plowed into her. Givens — who was issued a traffic summons — is not expected to face any criminal charges. Alcover, meanwhile, remains in critical but stable condition. read more

THE GOOD WORD

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

RUNWAY HIT

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

SIDELINED

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

GET OUT!

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

R.I.P.

ABC has laid Karen Sisco to rest. The network — which was set to relaunch the critically praised-yet-ratings challenged freshman drama in March — has axed the show altogether. According to The Hollywood Reporter, ABC brass were unhappy with the creative direction of the scripts and scrapped plans to give the show a second shot. Threat Matrix, meanwhile, remains on the air. Go figure. read more

REMEMBERED

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

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