Today's News: Our Take


It's official: NBC announced at today's Television Critics Assoc. press tour in Hollywood that it has signed a deal with Matt LeBlanc to headline a Friends spinoff, to debut in September 2004. Joey will likely take over the Thursday/8 pm timeslot soon to be vacated by Friends. LeBlanc's lucrative new pact also includes a two-picture movie deal with Warner Bros., the studio behind Friends and its spinoff. Also announced at press tour: NBC plans a dishy behind-the-scenes movie on Charlie's Angels, which aired on ABC from 1976-1981. The Peacock skewered another Alphabet classic, Three's Company, with a tell-all telepic back in May. (For TV Guide critic Matt Roush's reaction to Joey, click here.) read more


Steven Eckholdt, who most recently starred opposite Nia Vardalos in CBS's My Big Fat Greek Life, has landed a much steadier gig: The actor is joining the cast of NBC's The West Wing as the husband of President Jed Bartlet's eldest daughter (played by X-Files alum Annabeth Gish). read more


Oscar-winner and former NRA head Charlton Heston, who currently suffers from Alzheimer's disease, was awarded the Medal of Freedom on Wednesday by President Bush... The Bad Boys II soundtrack entered Billboard's album chart at No. 1 with sales of 324,000 copies. read more


Tennis great Serena Williams is causing a racket on the small screen. Williams will play a reformed gang member on parole in an Oct. 1 episode of the Showtime drama Street Time. The show's producers created the role specifically for her, so she better not screw it up. read more


With that whole Spike Lee mess a distant memory, cable channel TNN will officially become Spike TV on Aug. 11. To celebrate the occasion, a one-hour premiere party — taped at the Playboy Mansion and featuring appearances by Pamela Anderson, Kelsey Grammer and Carmen Electra — will air that day. read more


Sorry guys, King of Queens hottie Leah Remini is off the market. She married actor/musician Angelo Pagan in Las Vegas on Saturday, in front of 150 guests. The very merry 33-year-old actress got engaged last Christmas Eve. read more


Nicole Kidman has dropped out of Lars von Trier's Manderlay, the second movie in the planned U.S.A. trilogy; the first, Dogville, debuted at this year's Cannes Film Festival. According to Variety, her exit was caused by a scheduling conflict. read more

Amistad Stud's Tomb Talk

You'll recall Djimon Hounsou from his affecting turn in 1997's slavery drama, Amistad. Listening to the West Africa native's soft, sophisticated speech patterns, it's hard to believe his story of how he taught himself English. Hounsou — who plays Angelina Jolie's interpreter in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (opening Friday) — insists he owes his fluency to television.

"I watched a lot of documentaries," says the 39-year-old ex-model. "I liked watching anything about nature and learning about scientific stuff — Discovery, the Learning Channel, the History Channel. They have nice diction."

Hounsou landed on the other side of the language divide while filming Tomb Raider in a remote region of Kenya. Members of the Pokot tribe, many of whom h read more


Break out the bong, gang: Cheech & Chong are reuniting after 20 years. According to The Hollywood Reporter, famed comedy duo Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong are developing a new film project at New Line Cinema. read more

Will Smith Saves UPN's Day

UPN is mired in last place in the ratings, its viewership is off 18 percent from last season, and, with the exception of America's Next Top Model, none of its new or returning shows are generating any audible buzz. In spite of all this, the network's portion of the Television Critics Assoc. press tour in Hollywood, Calif., on Tuesday wasn't nearly as pathetic as it should have been. Much of the credit for that belongs to the exec producers behind the new sitcom All of UsWill and Jada Pinkett Smith. The movie-star couple showed up to plug their latest pet project, and turned what could have been a standard-issue TCA panel into a rollicking hour of live theater. It proved the old adage true: The only thing a network needs to turn its press tour around is one hit session. Here's a read more

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