Today's News: Our Take


SOUR NOTE

The mother of tin-eared American Idol crooner John Stevens is coming to her son's defense. According to Entertainment Tonight, Lynn Stevens went to Idol producers after she heard a radio deejay tell his listeners not to worry about John because, at his first concert, "somebody will take him out." That prompted Idol exec producer Nigel Lythgoe to do a little PR for the poor fella. "I can't believe, really, what's happening to America," he told ET. "This 16-year-old came on this show and bought into the fact that if you like him, you pick up a telephone and vote for him. He, nor his family, ever bought into the fact that America would turn like this on somebody. And it's totally unfair." Speaking of unfair... read more

MIXED REACTION

P. Diddy — oops, forgive me, Sean Combs — received lukewarm reviews for his stage debut in the Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun, which opened Monday night right down the street from my cramped studio apartment. The New York Times called his portrayal of Walter Lee Younger not "fully developed," while Variety said the Monster's Ball thesp "is simply not up to the role's considerable demands." The New York Daily News, however, said Combs "showed plenty of stage presence," even if "he does not project the turmoil inside the character." Despite the mixed reviews, advance ticket sales have raked in $2.5 million. The show's limited run ends July 11. read more

CASTING ABOUT

Oscar winner Charlize Theron is in talks to star in Jinx, Universal's in-the-works adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis' bounty-hunter-themed comic book. Queen Latifah, meanwhile, has signed on to headline a remake of the 1950 comedy Last Holiday. The original starred Alec Guinness. read more

STORK REPORT

Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden gave birth to twins last Thursday in New York. The 44-year-old actress and her hubby, Thaddaeus Scheel, had a boy, Hudson Harden Scheel, and a girl, Julitta Dee Harden Scheel. They also have a 5-year-old daughter, Eulala. read more

IN DEFENSE OF JEN

Sir Elton John is weighing in on Jennifer Hudson's shocking ouster from American Idol last week, calling the whole thing "incredibly racist." John — who rubbed elbows with Hudson and Co. earlier this month as an AI special guest — says "the three people I was really impressed with, and they just happened to be black, young female singers, and they all seem to be landing in the bottom three." No word yet on what Eltie thought of Camile Velasco's ghastly cover of his "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," but I hear he's mulling a lawsuit. read more

COSTLY FRIENDS

NBC will fetch roughly $2 million per 30 seconds of commercial time for Friends' May 6 finale, a record for a sitcom. The previous benchmark — $1.7 million — was set by Seinfeld's 1998 swan song, which attracted nearly 80 million viewers. Meanwhile, as previously reported right here, Friends' one-hour capper will be available on DVD on May 11. Well, now we've got some scoop about the extras! In addition to the broadcast version of the episode, the special disc will also feature a DVD-only version with extra unaired footage, in addition to the hitcom's 1994 pilot episode. read more

SHORT CUTS

The Beastie Boys have been tapped to perform at the 2004 MTV Movie Awards, which will tape June 5 and air June 10... Cable giant Comcast withdrew its unsolicited $48.4 billion bid to buy Walt Disney Co. on Wednesday after the Mouse House refused to open negotiations (Zzzzz.....) read more

HONORING THE FALLEN

On Friday's Nightline, Ted Koppel will read aloud the names of the 523 American servicemen and women killed in combat in Iraq since the start of the war. Each name will be accompanied by a photograph. "[This] is our way of reminding our viewers — whether they agree with the war or not — that... those who have been killed have names and faces," says exec producer Leroy Sievers. read more

MORE TROUBLE FOR CBS

Mohamed al Fayed, the father of Princess Diana's late boyfriend, Dodi, is suing CBS for emotional distress caused by last week's 48 Hours, which showed a photo of the dying Princess immediately after the August 1997 accident in Paris. CBS says the suit is "meritless and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves." read more

PAGING ANGELINA JOLIE...

Mel Gibson's Icon Productions is developing a feature that kinda sounds like a lesbian Braveheart. According to Variety, the pic centers on Boudica, the 9th-century diva who led Britain against Roman conquerors and was posthumously named Britain's first queen. To friends, she was known simply as Xena. read more

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