Today's News: Our Take


FUNNY HA-HA OR FUNNY SAD?

UPN makes its share of funny faux pas. Now, we can laugh with 'em instead of at 'em as the network mines its mistakes for an outtakes special. UPN's Funky Flubs will be hosted by Tracee Ellis RossDiana's daughter and star of Girlfriends — and will air Jan. 14. read more

MUSIC WORLD MOURNS

Legendary punk rocker Joe Strummer, lead singer of The Clash, died Sunday of a heart attack at the age of 50. According to the group's record label, Strummer "died peacefully at his home" outside London. read more

YOU CAN STILL COUNT ON FRIENDS

NBC got an early Christmas present over the weekend: A 10th season of Friends. Late Friday, the network agreed to shell out $10 million an episode to keep its top-rated sitcom on the air for one more season. Of course, there's a catch: Viewers will be treated to just 18 original episodes next season, down from the usual 24. The lessened workload reportedly came at the request of leading lady Jennifer Aniston, who wants to start makin' babies with hubby Brad. Ironically, Aniston and her co-stars won't see any of the extra cash. The sextet will still earn a paltry $1 million per episode. read more

Can Renée Zellweger Really Sing?


If her older brother, Andrew, had had his way, Renée Zellweger probably wouldn't be headlining Miramax's eagerly anticipated film adaptation of the classic Broadway musical, Chicago (opening Dec. 27). "He always used to yell 'Shut up!' any time I tried to do a rendition of a Beatles song," Zellweger recalls to TV Guide Online, laughing. "I was told that I couldn't sing in the house. Anything to abuse his little sister; it was his job and he did a very good job."

Fast-forward 10 years later and Zellweger is knocking 'em dead as Chicago's merry murderess, Roxie Hart — a role that just earned her a Golden Globe nomination for best actress in a musical or comedy. How did a performer with no formal vocal or dance training wind up landing one of Hollywood's most coveted parts? Two words: Rob Marshall, the film's director.

"I needed to find a performer with that amazing range from drama to humor, from vulner read more

Nicolas Cage: Big Screen Hustler


Movie directing is in Nicolas Cage's blood. (His uncle Francis Ford Coppola did make this little flick called The Godfather...) So it was inevitable the Oscar-winning actor would want his turn behind the camera. His first filmmaking effort is Sonny (opening Dec. 27) — a dramatic story about a male prostitute (James Franco) who struggles with his trashy trade. Spicy!

"I have to say that it went surprisingly well," boasts the 38-year-old, who originally planned to star in this film 15 years ago. "In terms of the shoot itself, things seemed to fall into place rather smoothly and we were able to do it ahead of schedule and under budget because I had a great team of people."

Cynics might suspect Cage of pumping his esteemed uncle for tips. But Cage — who declines to comment on his marital split with Lisa Marie Presley, by the way — says it ain't so. In fact, he insists Coppola only got involved late in read more

Golden Globe Nods: Who Won, Who Lost


Nominations for the 60th annual Golden Globe Awards were announced on Thursday, and the big surprise was, well, that there were so few surprises. As expected, Gangs of New York, The Hours, Chicago, Adaptation and My Big Fat Greek Wedding all scored multiple nods in the major film categories. The same was true on the television side, where, for the most part, old perennials like Friends, The West Wing and The Sopranos reigned supreme. But as TV Guide critic Matt Roush points out, "It's nice that TV is invited to the party, but the Globes is really a movie event. Besides, it's hard to take any organization seriously that nominates la read more

Missy Elliott's Christmas Misdemeanor


On Dec. 25, Santa oughta leave coal in Missy Elliott's fishnet stocking. The naughty hip-hopper wasn't singing carols to the A-list stars in attendance at Motorola's annual Christmas bash in Los Angeles. No, she opted to go "ho for the holidays," performing "Work It," and other tunes from her raunch-o-rama repertoire. Naturally, we loved it!

The crowd cheered when Ludacris joined Missy on stage for an impromptu duet of "Gossip Folks." In lieu of lighters, they waved their illuminated Motorola cell phones in the air, from side to side. (That was too L.A., even for Party Boy.) A tad overzealous, 90210 grad Ian Ziering shouted: "We're gonna hear some gangster lyrics tonight!"

Other white men just trying to blend in included Seann William Scott. "Missy was great," the American Pie star grinned, just after her set. "I didn't really get to see her 'cause I was getting bump read more

Denzel's Discovery Gets Kudos


Derek Luke is no household name, but perhaps you've seen his baby face from the movie posters for Denzel Washington's directorial debut, Antwone Fisher. The newcomer recalls getting the surprise of his life when Washington personally popped into the Sony gift shop where Luke worked to say he'd won the title role!

"I saw Denzel and he called me 'Antwone,' and I tried to play it off," Luke admits. "But I just busted out crying because I felt like this Jersey boy with a dream that was finally coming true. I just broke down and fell on my knees crying, hugging him and just expressing all kinds of joy."

The role carried a lot of emotional weight for the 28-year-old actor, especially since he'd become friends with the real Antwone Fisher while they both were Sony employees. Fisher, an ex-security guard, just happened to be on hand for Washington's announcement.

"Antwone mysteriously came in [the shop] that day," says Luke. "I read more

Hugh Grant: Naughty By Nature


Remember when we knew Hugh Grant as that sweet, awkward English gent who was almost too good to get the girl? With films like Bridget Jones's Diary, About a Boy and Two Weeks Notice (opening tomorrow), it seems he wants to strike that guy from moviegoers' memories. Forget those fops from Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill — he's playing arrogant, rich womanizers now. Why? Hey, it's more fun!

"Anything devilish actors tend to like," he explains. "It's always more fun than being Mr. Goody Two Shoes, which I've done my fair share of. And let me tell you, that stuff's hard."

In case you haven't noticed, he's also rid himself of the trademark Hugh Grant stammer. "I haven't done it for years and years," he insists, "but I bet you 50 percent of critics will say I still do."

Looking back on his previous on-screen persona, Grant laughs at critics who pegged him as a copycat of classic leading men. "W read more

This Ally McBeal Blonde Had Less Fun


As Ally McBeal fans recall, Billy went platinum blonde before croaking from a brain tumor. "That's definitely a time I want to forget," his portrayer, Gil Bellows, tells TV Guide Online. "I couldn't stand the blond hair. I was excited about the change, but I thought it was an external manifestation that would disappear quickly — it was eight months of dyeing my hair every two weeks. It wasn't fun."

Bellows thinks Billy's bleach burn was symptomatic of a larger problem on David E. Kelley's now-defunct legal dramedy. "I thought the hair was pretty funny for about a week," he says. "What I loved about the show was the serious heart and all the goofy stuff. As it got goofier and goofier, though, I liked it less and less. That was my personal critique, and it seems to me tha read more

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