Today's News: Our Take


PAGING CAMILE VELASCO...

The WB has quietly wrapped production on Superstar USA, a bizarre version of American Idol that tosses out great singers while rewarding the William Hungs of the world. But in typical reality fashion, the contestants are not in on the joke. In fact, the judges must keep a straight face when they heap praise on tone-deaf singers and send truly gifted crooners home. "These people believe they're the next pop superstar, even though they're horrible singers," exec producer Mike Fleiss (The Bachelor) tells Variety. "This is about people who are clearly delusional and watching them butcher song after song." That is just plain cruel. I love it! read more

G'DAY INDEED

Oscar winner Nicole Kidman earned an estimated $18.6 million last year, making her Australia's richest entertainer, according to Business Review Weekly. Singer John Farnham (who?) came in at No. 2, followed by rockers AC/DC, children's entertainment group The Wiggles (again, who?) and Master and Commander director Peter Weir. read more

YOU'RE HIRED!

On Thursday's finale of The Apprentice, Donald Trump dropped the big H-bomb on 32-year-old self-made entrepreneur Bill Rancic. The hunky Chicago native beat out 29-year-old Harvard grad Kwame Jackson, who, in the end, failed to overcome a huge handicap in Oma-rosa. "I think Omarosa set him back," Trump conceded to TV Guide Online just moments after the show ended. "It certainly didn't help him." Rancic, meanwhile, accepted a $250,000-a-year job heading up a Trump-owned skyscraper in the Windy City. "Today is a great day for entrepreneurs around the country," he said following his big win. "This is something I've wanted since I was 10 years-old." That's all well and good, but who is he romancing? Amy? Bachelor babe Jen Schefft? "I'm single and dating," is all he would say — for now at least. Speaking of which, if you have any burning questions for Bill or Kwame, please e-mail them to me via the link at the bottom read more

IDOL SHOCKER

American Idol voters sentenced jailhouse rocker Jon Peter Lewis to life without a record contract last night. The 24-year-old reluctant pen salesman became the fifth finalist ousted from Fox's modern-day Gong Show. Seven contestants remain, including eventual winner Fantasia Barrino. read more

American Idol For the first —...

American Idol
For the first — and probably only — time ever, can I say that I like George Bush. Thanks to whatever he was bumbling about last night, I got a performance show rather than the usual vote-off harshness to keep me warm tonight. And the kids turned it out! The movie theme could have been a train wreck. After all, there are too many Kenny Loggins and Irene Cara tunes running loose out there. Just imagining LaToya London strapped with "Danger Zone" gave me the shingles. As did the sight of Quentin Tarantino at the judges' table. That man is downright creepy. But he was on hand to help out with the theme competition — and pitch Kill Bill: Vol. 2 — which is fine. No ears were sliced off in the making of his guest appearance. And my girl LaToya, she brought it, wrapped it and gave us "Somewhere" from West Side Story like nobody's biz. Even better was Fantaseee-ia's "Summertime." And read more

MUST-SEE TV?

Can The Passion of the Christ play on TV? The question — first posed in TV Guide magazine's March 27 issue — is the hot topic in Hollywood now that Mel Gibson has quietly begun shopping the violent epic to TV outlets, including the Big Four broadcast networks, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Complicating matters is the fact that Gibson is demanding that the film run in its entirety, meaning completely unedited, and be followed by 1990's Bird on a Wire. read more

THE FORCE IS WITH HIM

Ewan McGregor is embarking on a round-the-world motorcycle trip with fellow actor Charley Boorman. The three-month pilgrimage, which will be the basis for a documentary, is slated to begin this week in London and conclude in New York City in July. The adventure-seeking pair will travel by road the entire time, except for a train trip under the English Channel, a short flight across the Bering Strait and a weeklong Carnival cruise from London to New York City. read more

LAST CHANCE AT LOVE

NBC has set a May 31 airdate for The One That Got Away, a one-episode reality show in which seven single women fight over South Carolina bachelor Skipper Kress. The twist? All the gals were once involved with him. read more

HBO's Strip Show Stirs Debate


"This movie is going to raise holy hell, and I may never work again," says director Sidney Lumet of HBO's Strip Search, a provocative drama about civil liberties in the post-9/11 era that airs April 27. The story cross-cuts between two degrading interrogations: In China, an American student (Maggie Gyllenhaal) gets grilled about her political activities, while in the U.S., an FBI agent (Glenn Close) gives a Saudi scholar (Bruno Lastra) the third degree. Now here's the kicker: Both sequences use the exact same script, implicitly equating the countries' treatment of suspects.

The filmmakers maintain they're simply taking dramatic license to tell a cautionary tale. "Am I saying we're a totalitarian country? No," says writer Tom Fontana. "Am I saying we could become one? Absolutely."

Such contentions have already stirred controversy among conservative watchdogs. "The premise is preposterous and insulting," says Media Research read more

THE SAGA CONTINUES...

A new child-abuse claim is being dangled before Michael Jackson. According to reports, Los Angeles police are investigating a month-old allegation involving a person who claims to have been victimized by the former King of Pop in the late 1980s. The individual's age and sex were not disclosed. Jackson is currently charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent (read: Jesus Juice) to a minor in a separate case. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for April 30. read more

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