Today's News: Our Take


TICK TOCK...

Time's up for two stars of 24. Penny Johnson Jerald and Sarah Wynter — whose respective roles as Sherry Palmer and Kate Warner were pivotal last season — will not be returning as series regulars for Day Three this fall, TV Guide Online has learned. A Fox spokesman refused to confirm the demotions, but did caution that "it would be a mistake to infer from an actor's contract status what their participation in the show next year will be. For example, Xander Berkeley (George Mason) was hired as a series regular last year but his character was killed off in episode 15." Yeah, that sucked for him. read more

BADA-BLING BLING

It's official: The Sopranos will live on for a sixth season. HBO confirms that a deal has been reached with series creator David Chase for an additional season, to begin production in early 2005. The sixth (and final?) season will consist of 10 episodes instead of the traditional 13 and will likely debut in the fall of 2005. Earlier this month, Chase said that he was toying with the idea of extending the mob drama's upcoming fifth season beyond the standard 13-episode cycle because he found himself with a sudden story surplus. However, HBO apparently talked him into doing an extra season instead. According to the New York Times, the prospect of a lucrative syndication deal may have been a factor; a sixth season will leave HBO with 75 episodes of the show — enough to sell into syndication. read more

SPLITSVILLE

ABC's rising late-night star Jimmy Kimmel is a bachelor once again. His wife, Gina Kimmel, filed for divorce Monday citing irreconcilable differences. She's requesting joint legal custody of their two young children, Katherine and Kevin. The couple separated last fall. read more

BUCKLE UP

After years of diplomacy, HBO has finally convinced the City of New York to allow for the return of Taxicab Confessions, Variety reports. Shooting on the new episodes will begin in July. read more

FUNNY GUY

Ben Affleck is in discussions to star in two upcoming comedies — Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and Sex Talk. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ghosts centers on a bachelor who attends his brother's wedding and is visited by the spirits of his past flames. Sex Talk, meanwhile, is about a reporter who uses sports strategy to help couples solve problems with their sex lives. read more

End of the Rainbow?


Butterfly in the sky, Reading Rainbow's demise looms nigh! The cash-poor PBS series — which has turned couch potato kids into budding bookworms since 1983 — soon may have to stop making original episodes. "It's a shame that a show this good, needed and beloved is facing extinction," sighs executive producer and host LeVar Burton, who first sounded the S.O.S. at last month's Daytime Emmys, where he accepted the show's eighth trophy for Outstanding Children's Series.

The problem? Corporate sponsors have abandoned the program as they tighten their belts in tough times. And unlike other children's shows, Rainbow lacks any lucrative merchandising deals to help pay its own production costs. "Kids buy Barney dolls and pajamas, and some portion of that comes back to us," says PBS programming chief John F. Wilson. "We've never done a LeVar Burton plush doll, but maybe it's time!" read more

SCOOBY GANG EXPANDS

Ruben Studdard has made his first bad career move. The American Idol champ has agreed to make a singing cameo in Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, which is currently shooting in Vancouver. A Warner Bros. rep confirms that Studdard will play himself in the bit, so expect heavy perspiration. read more

SHORT CUTS

British babe Kate Beckinsale (Pearl Harbor) is engaged to filmmaker Len Wiseman, the director of her upcoming vampire pic Underworld... Talking head-turned-New Age guru John Tesh has settled a copyright infringement lawsuit that claimed lyrics to his song "God in the Stairwell" were taken from a Sept. 11 poem written by a Missouri woman. read more

What Scares Shannen Doherty?


As host of Sci Fi's guiltiest pleasure, Scare Tactics (which returns with new episodes Friday at 10 ET), Shannen Doherty is an accomplice to all manner of terrifying pranks. So she can't be entirely surprised by our first question: What would really freak her out?

"It would have to be something to do with water or sharks," she admits, perhaps foolishly, to TV Guide Online. "I'm petrified of sharks. Petrified. Like, I know I'm going to get eaten one day."

Aha! Now we've given the altered-reality prankathon's producers the info they need to spook their star. Yet for some reason, the Beverly Hills, 90210 and Charmed actress isn't quaking in her boots. What gives? "I don't think they'd do that to me," she says. "If you pulled a prank on me with a shark, I'd probably have read more

Guy Pearce: The Nose Knows


Nicole Kidman isn't the only Aussie actor with a penchant for prosthetics. Just as she did in The Hours, Guy Pearce donned a synthetic schnozzola for his new movie, The Hard Word (now in limited release). He plays Dale, a wily, incarcerated bankrobber plotting a big caper Down Under. To get into this role, he really needed to feel ugly.

"I definitely didn't want him to look pretty at all," Pearce, 35, tells TV Guide Online. "While I was doing The Time Machine, I was also putting together the character for The Hard Word, and there was lots of prosthetic stuff happening on set. So I paid them to make a gelatin addition to my nose, ended up taking the whole kit home to Australia, and said, 'Oh, by the way, I' read more

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