Today's News: Our Take


TROUBLE IN NELLYVILLE

A Missouri casino faces a possible $50,000 fine for allegedly giving rapper Nelly special treatment when it allowed him to bet more than the legal limit. The President Casino in St. Louis hosted a late-night birthday party last November for the "Hot in Herre" crooner and his posse. Nelly publicist Juliette Harris insists her client didn't intentionally break the rules. read more

FriendsPlease let the Joey spin-off...

Friends Please let the Joey spin-off be good because Matt LeBlanc has become a great comic actor. I was a Matthew Perry fanatic for many seasons, but Chandler's excessive sarcasm has taken its toll on me over the years. Does everything have to be ironic? Does cynicism have to pepper every observation? Maybe it's me getting older, but I now prefer Joey's gentle humor over Chandler's copious one-liners. Joey's stint on Pyramid last week and his hilarious attempts at speaking French tonight give me hope that Joey will do just fine on his own next season. He has gone from a dim-witted cad to a clueless but good-intentioned teddy bear, and it's been fun to watch his character evolve. That said, please tell me I'm not the only one who could give a hairy rat's you-know-what whether Ross and Rachel end up together. There are only, what, five new episodes of the series left and the season doesn't end until May, so qui read more

RATINGS ROUND-UP

Buoyed by best-ever ratings for CSI, Without a Trace and Cold Case, CBS won the Nielsen derby last week with an average 14.2 million total viewers. NBC led among adults 18-49, thanks to season-high numbers from Friends and Fear Factor. American Idol-fueled Fox, meanwhile, finished a strong second in that demo and third among total viewers. Where does all this leave ABC? In desperate need of a hit. read more

AMERICA'S NEXT TOP BOXER

Survivor guru Mark Burnett is teaming up with DreamWorks and Sylvester Stallone to develop a reality show that goes in search of the next boxing superstar. Burnett hopes to launch a new boxing organization in conjunction with the show in January 2005. read more

GENDER BENDER

Chris O'Donnell, who recently inked a deal to headline the CBS sitcom pilot Westerbergs, is getting an early tryout on the network's freshman comedy Two and a Half Men. On the March 1 episode, the former Practice lady-killer will play a female-to-male transsexual from Charlie's past. For more on this, pick up the current issue of TV Guide magazine. read more

HOME RUN

Grammy winner Norah Jones' second album, Feels Like Home, sold a whopping 1.02 million copies during its first week in stores. It was the best debut since the summer of 2001, when 'N Sync's Celebrity moved 1.9 million units in its opening week. Jones' blockbuster haul overshadowed a strong debut by rapper Kanye West, whose well-received College Dropout entered Billboard's album chart at No. 2 with 441,000 copies sold. read more

SOUR NOTE

History was made on American Idol last night when, for the first time ever, two seemingly tone-deaf performers advanced to the finals round. Matthew Rogers and Camile Velasco — also known as the lesser of eight evils — received more than half of America's votes, securing for each a spot in Idol's final 12. They join last week's winners, Fantasia Barrino and Diana DeGarmo. read more

Survivor's Jenna M. on Quitting

In a memorable Survivor: All Stars twist, 22-year-old Jenna Morasca made the tough decision to leave the game. She felt the need to see her mother, who'd been battling breast cancer and had taken a turn for the worse. Sadly, Morasca's mother passed away just eight days after she returned home. Here, TV Guide Online talks to this Survivor: The Amazon winner about quitting the game, fellow castaway reactions and — just to keep the mood light — Richard Hatch's nudity.

TV Guide Online: Were you pleased with how your last episode turned out?
Jenna Morasca: Yeah. I was really impressed. I think it really, really got across the emotions that we all were feeling that day. The kind of somber sadness and emotions like, "Yeah, we're playing a game, but this read more

'TIS THE SEASON

Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher and Debra Messing have signed on to voice characters in Open Season, Sony Pictures' first computer-animated flick. The story centers around a domesticated grizzly bear (Lawrence) and a mule deer (Kutcher) who are stranded in the woods during hunting season. Messing plays the forest ranger who comes to their rescue. There's no word if the actress' real-life pregnancy will be worked into the plot. read more

WHERE THERE'S SMOKE

Johnny Depp's smoke-free performance in Pirates of the Caribbean earned him a Pink Lung at the ninth annual Hackademy Awards, which are handed out by the American Lung Association. Diane Keaton, however, was given a Black Lung for her gratuitous puffing in Something's Gotta Give. In addition to discolored teeth and bad breath, she'll receive a lifetime supply of Shards O' Glass Freeze Pops. read more

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