Today's News: Our Take


THAT '70S PACT

This is no Punk'd stunt, folks: Ashton Kutcher has signed a new deal with That '70s Show that will keep him stuck in the Me Decade through the 2004-05 season, according to The Hollywood Reporter. His '70s extension comes as a bit of a surprise considering A) his film career is taking off, B) he's Hollywood's new It boy, and C) um, er... I can't think of another reason! If you have any ideas, please e-mail me at the link at the bottom of this page. read more

MIDDLE GROUND

The U.S. heartland is getting its own cable network. The America Channel launches in the spring and will focus on life between New York and Los Angeles. Among the shows in America's pipeline: Road Trip, about twentysomethings driving cross-country, and Occupational Hazard, in which folks try out an unusual job for a day. Rumored to be in development: Big Cities are the Coolest!, a series in which people in Middle America dream of someday moving to New York or Los Angeles. read more

FAREWELL, BUDDY

Famed TV actor Buddy Ebsen, best known for his roles as mountaineer Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies and aging P.I. Barnaby Jones, died Sunday at the age of 95. Ebsen — who also co-starred in Breakfast at Tiffany's and on the TV series Davy Crockett — had been hospitalized in Torrance, Calif., since late June for an undisclosed illness. Ebsen's passing comes two days after the death of another entertainment giant, R&B crooner Barry White. The Grammy-winning soul legend — who provided sexual healing to millions of couples with songs such as "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" and "I've Got So Much to Give" — died Friday after being in poor health for years. He was 58. read more

RISE AND SHINE

Arnold Schwarzenegger promised he'd be back, and by golly, the aging cyborg wasn't joshing! Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines debuted atop the box office with $44 million over the July 4 holiday weekend ($72.5 million since opening Tuesday). Although the well reviewed sequel opened at the low end of expectations — industry analysts predicted a $55 million bow — T3 nonetheless represented a personal best for Schwarzenegger. Legally Blonde 2: Red, White &#038 Blonde snapped up the No. 2 spot with a so-so $22.9 million ($39.2 million since Wednesday). That marked Reese Witherspoon's second-best opening ever, behind Sweet Home Alabama's $35.6 million haul. Rounding out the top five: read more

BILL'S NEW SIDEKICK

Soledad O'Brien made her highly touted CNN debut today opposite Bill Hemmer on American Morning. The cable network celebrated the former NBC newswoman's arrival by hiding her behind a WOPR-sized laptop, which was positioned smack-dab in front of her on the anchor desk. Ironically, the computer was there to make everyone look smarter. read more

COMING UP NECKS

Expect some fresh blood on Angel next season. In addition to Buffy the Vampire Slayer's James Marsters crossing over, the show is looking to cast a new female character who will work at Wolfram & Hart, and — natch — possibly be a romantic interest for one of the show's main men. An Angel rep, however, insists that the new addition will not be a replacement for ex-leading lady Charisma Carpenter, who could make an appearance or two next season. read more

HE'S SO OVER JOEY

Former Dawson's Creek star James Van Der Beek married longtime girlfriend, actress Heather McComb Saturday in Malibu, Calif. The private beachfront ceremony culminated in a spectacular fireworks display. read more

BECKER'S BACK

More good news for Becker fans, if there is such a thing. The sitcom, which only a few weeks ago received a formal midseason pick-up from CBS, has now scored a spot on the network's fall schedule. Becker will air Wednesdays at 9:30 pm/ET following Monday transplant The King of Queens. Originally, the network had slotted the new Robert Klein- Judith Light family comedy The Stones at 9:30 pm/ET. That show now gets bumped to midseason. read more

MUSIC WORLD MOURNS

R&B crooner Barry White, best known for such sex-drenched tunes as "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe," "I'm Gonna Love You, Just a Little More Baby" and "Love's Theme," died Friday. He was 58. The soul legend — who was in poor health for years — suffered a stroke in September and had been hospitalized ever since. Despite a career that spanned four decades, White picked up his first two Grammys in 1999 for his final studio album, Staying Power. read more

NYPD Blue Creator Tackles Marriage


Producer Stephen Bochco is thinking inside the box for his upcoming HBO series Marriage, which chronicles the state of one couple's union six years in. "All of the action takes place within the bedroom and the bathroom [of a New York City apartment]," says Bochco, "which is where relationships really do their heavy lifting."

Slated to debut in 2004, Marriage stars Brit thesp Jonathan Cake and ex-Presidio Med doc Julianne Nicholson as husband and wife. "They're both real successful New York professionals: he's a doctor and she's an attorney," explains Bochco, who's hoping for his first small-screen hit since NYPD Blue arrived on the scene a decade ago. "It's a really good, strong marri read more

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