Today's News: Our Take


CRUISE CONTROL

The Blizzard of 2003 put a big chill on the weekend box office as Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai opened slightly below expectations and a number of films suffered steep double-digit declines. According to early estimates, Samurai debuted at No. 1 with $24.4 million — far below Cruise's other recent openings, including Minority Report ($35.6 million) and Mission: Impossible II ($57.8 million). After two weeks at No. 1, The Cat in the Hat fell to No. 5 with $7.3 million — a 70 percent drop from last weekend. Other freefallers include Eddie Murphy's Haunted Mansion (No. 3 with $9.5 million; off 60 percent) and Elf (No. 4 with $8.1 millio read more

IN RELATED NEWS...

Several NBC affiliates refused to air this weekend's SNL — featuring presidential candidate Al Sharpton as host — for fear it would activate federal "equal time" provisions and force them to offer air time to the eight other Democrats running for president. Millions of Americans, meanwhile, refused to watch the show for fear it would continue to suck. read more

AIN'T IT SUSPICIOUS?

This just in: Ain't It Cool News guru Harry Knowles has more pull than the Pope. Last Tuesday, Mel Gibson cancelled a Vatican screening of his controversial flick The Passion of the Christ, claiming "the film is... weeks away from being finished." But over the weekend, Gibson screened Passion for "230 exhausted cinema-loving movie worshipers" at Knowles's fifth annual Butt-Numb-A-Thon Film Festival. In fact, the actor-filmmaker even stuck around for a 90-minute Q&A. Sounds a little fishy to me. read more

AND THEY SAID IT WOULDN'T LAST...

Reality TV's first couple, Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter, tied the knot Saturday before family, friends and Bob Guiney. The $1 million wedding — which ABC will televise Wednesday from 9-11 pm/ET — took place at the Lodge in Rancho Mirage just outside of Palm Springs, Calif. The divorce, meanwhile, is expected to take place any day now in Los Angeles Superior Court. read more

Quote of the weekend: "Did I say...

Quote of the weekend:
"Did I say one word when that boy broke my high heels playing dress-up?"
Wanda (Kellita Smith) on The Bernie Mac Show, reminding her husband of her continuing patience with their nephew and nieces.

SUNDAY

Angels in America
Talk about an overwhelming, majestic sadness. HBO might as well head up to the stage right now and collect that best miniseries Emmy. This tale of AIDS in the Reagan era, starring Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson, was incredibly (and justifiably) hyped. The superb performances, fluid direction by Mike Nichols and heightened dialogue from original playwright Tony Kushner all made this a truly unique viewing experience. It's certainly not the "feel-good movie of the year" — it's the "feel damn good about watching television" event of the season.

Undercover Christmas
I didn't c read more

EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

ABC has greenlit Empire, an eight-hour limited series described as an epic take on the fate of the Roman Empire. The $30 million project could air as early as next fall. read more

LESS OF MOORE

Mary Tyler Moore has dropped out of Neil Simon's new off-Broadway play Rose's Dilemma two weeks before its opening. Moore left the production after reportedly receiving a brusque letter in which Simon scolded her for not knowing her lines. "Mary was devastated and completely debilitated personally and professionally," says her spokesman, Mara Buxbaum. "Mary has been working tirelessly for months but feels pushed out of this production." Moore's understudy, Patricia Hodges, will take over the role. read more

Recasting Dark Shadows


Like a vampire that simply refuses to die, the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows (which ran on ABC as an afternoon serial from 1966 to '71 and, almost a decade later, was resurrected by NBC as a Friday-night fright) is being raised from the grave yet again. This time, series creator Dan Curtis has even recruited for his partner a real power player: John Wells, who, as executive producer of ER, has lots of experience with faux hemoglobin. But before the latest prime-time version sees the light of day (so to speak), the dynamic duo will have to unearth an actor with the charisma to pull off the lead role of toothsome playboy Barnabas Collins. Luckily, their friends at TV Guide Online are here to help. Our picks?

Dylan McDermott: Not only does the Practice read more

OFF TO WAR

Dylan McDermott and Julianna Margulies have been recruited to help fight the War on Terror. The former TV stars have signed on to play counterterrorism agents in The Grid, a six-hour TNT miniseries that chronicles the aftermath of a terrorist attack on London. Shooting begins early next year. read more

HAPPY [BLEEPIN'] HOLIDAYS!

Ever wonder how Ozzy Osbourne and his crazy clan celebrate the holidays? No? Well, you're going to find out anyway on Dec. 11, when MTV airs The Osbourne Family Christmas Special, a program the music network says will take "holiday specials to a bizarre new level." According to Billboard, the special will feature a number of celeb guests, including Jessica Simpson, who duets with Ozzy on "Winter Wonderland," and newlyweds Dave Navarro and Carmen Electra, who have been left in charge of baking the holiday cookies. Loveline host Adam Carolla teams with Jack to whip up the cranberry sauce (read: Jell-O shots), while Kelly belts out a rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (read: get out the ear plugs). And the show-stopper read more

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