Today's News: Our Take


SURVIVOR STILL HOT

Nielsen estimates that roughly 24 million people tuned in to Thursday's two-hour Survivor: Thailand finale to see ex-porn stud Brian Heidik win $1 million. Those numbers are down slightly from the 26 million folks who watched last spring's Survivor: Marquesas climax. 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

BIG FAT CAMPAIGN

HBO Home Video is planning a major, Valentine-themed promotional push for My Big Fat Greek Wedding's Feb. 11 release on VHS and DVD. Among the companies HBO is partnering with: FTD.com, Kay Jewelers and Modern Bride magazine. read more

FAR FROM SHABBY

A new Seattle critics' circle — Parallax View: A Film Society — has convened, and they've named Far From Heaven as 2002's best picture. The pundits also showed good taste by giving actress Maureen O'Hara their first Living Legend award. Other notable acting nods went to Daniel Day-Lewis for Gangs of New York and Bebe Neuwirth for Tadpole. read more

REALITY FUN

The FX network is turning Esquire magazine's "What It Feels Like" feature into a TV project, Variety reports. It'll either be a series or a special, and will offer first-person accounts from survivors of avalanches, shark bites and other wild experiences. read more

GUTSY MOVE

NBC clearly has high hopes for its much-buzzed-about new drug drama Kingpin. Reversing an earlier decision to debut the series in March, the Peacock network has opted to premiere the show on Feb. 2 — right at the start of sweeps. Kingpin — which temporarily takes over Boomtown's Sunday at 10 pm/ET timeslot — will air opposite ABC's Dragnet update. read more

GRIEVING

The estranged mother of conservative talk-radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger was found murdered Dec. 16 in her Beverly Hills condo. According to police, Yolanda Schlessinger, 77, had been dead for weeks. "I am horrified by the tragic circumstances of my mother's death," Schlessinger said Friday in a statement, "and so sad to learn that she died as she chose to live — alone and isolated." read more

NO SOPHOMORE SLUMP

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers towered over the competition this weekend, debuting in first place with $61.5 million. Since opening Wednesday, the well-reviewed sequel has grossed $101.5 million — a 25 percent improvement over the first film's debut haul last year. The Sandra Bullock-Hugh Grant romantic comedy Two Weeks Notice premiered at No. 2 with $14.4 million, besting J.Lo's Maid in Manhattan (No. 3 with $11 million). Martin Scorsese's highly anticipated Gangs of New York, meanwhile, landed in fourth place with $9.1 million. 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

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

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