Today's News: Our Take


THRILLING RATINGS

Nielsen estimates that more than 18 million viewers watched Ed Bradley's exclusive sit-down with Michael Jackson on Sunday's 60 Minutes. But not everyone apparently liked what they saw: On Monday, Jacko's chief spokesman, Stuart Backerman, resigned citing "strategic differences" with other members of the embattled pop star's camp. read more

MISTER ROGERS REMEMBERED

PBS will air a documentary on TV icon Fred Rogers titled Fred Rogers: America's Favorite Neighbor on New Year's Day at 9:30 pm/ET. Rogers died last February at 74. read more

A LITTLE CASTING NEWS

Relative newcomer Erin Cottrell (Guiding Light, Legally Blonde 2) has been cast as Caroline Ingalls in ABC's upcoming miniseries update of Little House on the Prairie. Karen Grassle played the role in the 1970s series. read more

LITERARY VET PASSES

Author-screenwriter John Gregory Dunne died of a heart attack on Tuesday, just as he and wife Joan Didion were sitting down to dinner. He was 71. Beloved members of Manhattan's literary scene, Dunne and Didion co-wrote screenplays for films like A Star Is Born (the Barbra Streisand remake) and True Confessions, co-starring Robert DeNiro and Robert Duvall. Dunne was also the brother of crime writer Dominick Dunne, who hosts Court TV's Power, Privilege and Justice. read more

The Simple Life In case you spent...

The Simple Life
In case you spent the past month under a rock (or, you know, were actually doing something productive with your time) last night's Simple Life mini-marathon gave you the chance to catch up on the latest reality-TV sensation. Thrill as Paris Hilton struggles to drive stick (no, not that way!). Laugh at Nicole Richie's cockamamie story about her "dead cat." Roll your eyes when the duo deliberately leave their fresh-baked pies on the ground in open view of a hungry dog. Sympathize with the Leding family for having to put up with these two airheads for an hour, let alone 30 days. But above all, Cringe in terror at the thought of the planned Fox/Hilton sequel project.

8 Simple Rules...
Now that James Garner has been upgraded from guest star to regular cast member, perhaps the writers will give him some better jokes. The veteran actor has proven his co read more

IN LIEU OF A GIFT...

Here's some "TV News" scoop from the current issue of TV Guide magazine (on sale now): Brendan Fraser and Tara Reid are headed back to Scrubs during February sweeps for the first birthday party of Dr. Cox's son. Fraser and Reid play the kid's uncle and aunt — just in case you forgot. read more

HOME-WARD BOUND

Earl Hindman — the Taylor family's fenced-in neighbor, Wilson Wilson, on Home Improvement — passed away yesterday at the age of 61. The funnyman can still be seen today in syndicated reruns of the sitcom as well as on SoapNet's rebroadcasts of the 1970s soap opera Ryan's Hope, where he played sad-sack second banana Bob Reid. read more

Vanessa Williams' Boomtown Farewell


Apparently, NBC has saved the best for last. This weekend, the Peacock network will air the final four episodes of Boomtown, its critically acclaimed but prematurely canceled cop drama. (Three episodes air on Saturday, 8-11 pm/ET; one on Sunday at 10 pm/ET). Each features Vanessa Williams, who plays Det. Katherine Pierce. We interviewed the former Miss America, before Boomtown was officially axed earlier this year, to ask all about her eclectic life.

TV Guide Online: For Detective Pierce's first episode, you had to chase a perp up two flights of stairs, down a hall and up more stairs. How hard was it to shoot that scene, take after take?
Williams:
It wasn't too bad. I'm in good shape for a 40-year-old woman, fortunately. So I didn't get too winded.

TVGO: When you say you're in shape, how many flights read more

Jon Cryer Still Thinks Pink


You'd think Jon Cryer would be in a celebratory mood. After starring in four failed sitcoms, he has finally landed a prime-time hit with Two and a Half Men (Mondays at 9:30 pm/ET). But the 38-year-old former brat packer — he was Duckie in Pretty in Pink — won't break out the champagne just yet. Heck, he won't even settle into his trailer. "Let's just say, I don't decorate my dressing rooms," he says with a wink. "Not until the second season."

TV Guide Online: Love you on Two & a Half Men. But love you more in Pretty in Pink. It's one of my favorite movies ever!
Cryer:
Thank you.

TVGO: So, I've got to ask. Duckie — a blessing or a curse?
Cryer:
Oh, definitely a blessing. A lot of people have a lot of affection for him. And his predilection for mismatched prints has allowed me to wear mismatched clothing for the rest of my life and say, "It's an homage!"

TVGO: Speaking of clothes read more

Sean Astin: From Hobbit to He-Man


A funny thing happened after Sean Astin wrapped his grueling two-year Lord of the Rings tour of duty: He lightened up — mentally and physically — for his role in the Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore comedy 50 First Dates (due out in February).

"I lost a lot of weight and am in much better shape," he tells TV Guide Online of his Dates gig, which has him playing Barrymore's gym-rat brother. "[My character's] doing splits all the time and push-ups and jumping jacks and lifting things. He's supposed to be this incredibly muscle-bound guy, but I'm not really that muscle-bound, so it is a joke on that level, too."

After spending so much time wearing dusty cloaks and donning hairy foot prosthetics for Rings, Astin also relished the opportunity to go completely over-the-top with his character's look. "He wears workout clothes with silly parachute pants," the 32-year-old says with a laugh. "And the tan that [ read more

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