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


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


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


Ben Affleck will serve as the grand marshal of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 15, which means the actor/NASCAR fan gets to utter the traditional command, "Gentlemen, start your engines... and why exactly did I agree to do this?" In related news, at a press conference Tuesday to promote his new pic Paycheck, Affleck confirmed that his HBO reality series Project Greenlight is headed to Bravo. read more


Supermodel Heidi Klum and her Italian boyfriend Flavio Briatore are expecting their first child in the spring, reports the New York Daily News. 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


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


American Beauty thesp Mena Suvari is joining the cast of HBO's Six Feet Under, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She'll play a student attending the same art school as Claire (Lauren Ambrose) in at least six episodes. The gig reteams Suvari with SFU creator Alan Ball, who won an Oscar for penning the screenplay to American Beauty. read more

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