Today's News: Our Take


American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken has topped the list of the Ten Best-Mannered People of 2003, as chosen by the National League of Junior Cotillions. Oprah Winfrey came in second, followed by Gen. Tommy Franks, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and injured surfer Bethany Hamilton. read more


Speaking of American Idol, Fox has tapped Elton John to perform at the World Idol results show on Jan. 1. The performance portion airs Christmas night, but I'll probably be off enjoying my new portable MP3 player. (Santa, you promised.) read more


Another American Idol alum has conquered the album charts. This time it's second-season champ Ruben Studdard, whose debut CD, Soulful, bowed at No. 1 with sales of 416,500 copies. Despite the strong start, Studdard failed to best the first-week sales of runner-up Clay Aiken's debut Measure of a Man — which moved 613,000 copies. The Velvet Teddy Bear did, however, top Idol's inaugural winner Kelly Clarkson, whose CD Thankful sold 297,000 copies last May. What does all this mean? Clay is #1, Ruben is #2, Kelly is #3 and Justin is wondering where it all went so wrong. read more


Clint Eastwood's wrenching drama Mystic River and the feel-good indie In America topped the nominees for the 2003 Critics' Choice Awards, chosen by members of the Broadcast Film Critics Assn. Both films, which landed a combined 15 nods, will vie for best picture alongside Big Fish, Cold Mountain, Finding Nemo, The Last Samurai, Lord of the Rings, Lost in Translation, Master and Commander and Seabiscuit. Winners will be announced Jan. 10. read more


Jason Priestley has signed on for seven episodes of Fox's struggling drama Tru Calling. The 90210 grad will play Jack Harper, a new forensic attendant who will work alongside Tru (Eliza Dushku). He'll debut during February sweeps. read more


A Virginia Beach man is suing Sony Pictures claiming the studio illegally based the 2001 J.Lo romantic comedy The Wedding Planner on a screenplay he wrote. Jeffery R. Ballard is seeking unspecified damages and a share of profits from the movie. Meanwhile, sources tell TV Guide Online that if what Ballard says is true, there's a chance he could be the worst screenwriter on the planet. read more

Wild Child to KO The O.C.

In tonight's episode of Fox's The O.C. (airing at 9 pm/ET, not that we really need to tell you that!), the Cohen clan suffers a shock. Does Ryan smile? Does Sandy pluck? Does Seth shut up? Nope. Kirsten's incorrigible kid sister swings into town. "Hailey is a rebellious wild child," her portrayer, Amanda Righetti, tells TV Guide Online. "She's a freeloader living off Dad's money."

In other words, she's Paris Hilton! "Yeah, I guess you could sort of view her like that," the actress reluctantly agrees. "She kind of does her own thing [and makes a habit of] involving herself with people she shouldn't be involved with."

Sounds like our kinda gal. So, although Righetti is only scheduled to appear on the hit soap through the end of next month, there's every chance that she'll be back again. She certainly deserves a break! A year ago, she headlined the Fox pilot No Place Like Home (from the creators of Party of Five read more


Robin Williams entertained American and Australian troops at the Baghdad International Airport on Tuesday during a U.S. military show that also featured actress Shannon Tweed, wrestler Kurt Angle and stock car driver Mike Wallace. "I'm looking at a group of heavily armed people here," Williams joked. "I'm telling myself, 'If you're not funny, it's a problem.'" read more


USA Network is developing Affairs to Remember, a six-hour limited series that will explore the anatomy of an affair.... Showtime has signed comic Christopher Titus to turn his one-man show, Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding, into a one-hour comedy special to air next year.... Tim Allen will headline Disney's upcoming remake of The Shaggy Dog, about a man who occasionally morphs into a sheepdog. read more

Survivor Sandra's Surprise Win

Earning the title of Sole Survivor is no mean feat. Doing so without having a single vote cast against you during any Tribal Council is even more impressive. But Survivor: Pearl Islands winner Sandra Diaz-Twine made it all look like a piece of cake. Still, she was pretty surprised by her landslide six-to-one victory over Boy Scout troop leader Lill in Sunday's finale.

"It was crazy because I didn't expect it," Diaz-Twine tells TV Guide Online. "I didn't worry about the money. I thought, 'I'm going to get $100,000 [for the runner-up's prize]. I can pay my bills and buy a car, and by then, I'll be at zip.' And then, for [Survivor] to give me the GMC Envoy too, that was great. Now, I don't even have to buy a car. I can't wait to roll!

"Even with the [jury's] line of questioning and comments," she enthuses, "I still thought, 'Just because they jump all over Lill doesn't mean they won't give her their vote.' I had said in one episo read more

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