Today's News: Our Take


THIS ISN'T A PRANK, FOLKS

How's this for an unbelievable stunt: Jackass: The Movie — the big-screen adaptation of the late MTV series — debuted in first place at the box office with $22.7 million. Not surprisingly, young men accounted for half of the film's audience. The Ring slipped to No. 2, but cinched its sleeper status by actually grossing nearly $4 million more than last weekend. The Naomi Watts thriller took in $18.8 million for a 10-day total of $39.7 million. Rounding out the top five: Ghost Ship (No. 3 with $11.7 million), Sweet Home Alabama (No. 4 with $6.4 million) and My Big Fat Greek Wedding (No. 5 with $6.3 million). read more

SHORT CUTS

Will & Grace's Eric McCormack hosts this weekend's Saturday Night Live with musical guest Jay-Z... Fox will release Jennifer Aniston's indie hit The Good Girl on DVD Jan. 7. Robin Williams's One Hour Photo, meanwhile, hits video stores Feb. 18. read more

SAD DAY IN HOLLYWOOD

Veteran actor Richard Harris — whose best known films include Camelot and The Field — has died at 72. He succumbed to Hodgkin's disease on Friday in a London hospital, where he had been undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Beloved for his wizardly white mane, the Irishman most recently played Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies. Over the weekend, Potter producer David Heyman told Britain's ITV News that he will reluctantly recast the role of Dumbledore in the upcoming third installment. "We will find a new Dumbledore," he said, "but there will only be one Richard Harris." For more on Harris's death, click here. read more

Buh-Bye, Buffy?


Buffy the Vampire Slayer's creator is about to drive a stake through the hearts of the show's diehard fans: According to Joss Whedon, the Chosen One and her trusty gang of Scoobies will likely call it a doomsday in May. "I'm beginning to suspect that it may be [Buffy's] last season," he tells TV Guide Online. "Nothing's official, but it's starting to feel possible. The way people are talking, there's a finality to it."

Might the folks with whom Whedon's been conferring work at A.C. Nielsen? Compared to this time last year, Buffy's ratings are off an alarming 16 percent. In fact, last week more viewers watched Buffy's bloody brilliant spinoff Angel than the mother show itself. "It had a really good seven-year run and it's time to call it quits," implores Mediaweek columnist Mar read more

Will Fox Swat Firefly?


If you haven't yet sampled Fox's gonzo space Western, Firefly, its creator, Joss Whedon, would like to make one small request: Please do... and preferably tonight at 8 pm/ET. "This week definitely matters [to the series' future]," the celebrated writer-director-producer tells TV Guide Online. "[Network prez] Sandy Grushow said to me before we ever started that this [show] is going to be a slow grow, and [the World Series] is going to hurt us, which it has. Fox has a lot of shows that are underperforming because of this weird season.

"So," he continues, "I'm not like, 'My future is assured!' But it's also not like the death knell chiming."

Far from it. In fact, Fox just commissioned three additional scripts from Whedon, the mastermind behind UPN's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its glorious WB read more

Ron Howard's Beautiful Oscar Memories


It's been seven months since Hollywood at last bestowed twin Oscars on filmmaker Ron Howard for producing and directing A Beautiful Mind, yet the experience remains a blur for the artist formerly known as Opie. "Not unlike childbirth, I don't remember much of that now," he tells TV Guide Online. "It was pretty emotionally wrenching.

"I probably feel the joy of that acknowledgement even a little more deeply today than I did immediately afterward," he adds. "At the time, there was a tremendous surge of adrenaline — and it was sustained for quite a while. Now, there's just a real sense of satisfaction that the movie was acknowledged in that way."

Award-show pundits speculated that Howard's triumph was, in part, the Academy's way of making up for lost time. During his 25-year career behind the camera, he n read more

Trace Star Haunted by Seinfeld


Without A Trace leading man Anthony LaPaglia knows a thing or two about battling NBC's Must-See TV franchise. In 1996, ABC pitted the actor's critically acclaimed series Murder One against Seinfeld on Thursday nights — a move that slowly killed the legal thriller. So, you'd think the Aussie import would be doing cartwheels over word that his new CBS missing persons drama is gradually closing in on NBC's venerable — albeit declining — ER. Instead, he seems downright blasé.

"NBC has dominated [Thursday] so much in the last eight years, that this time, there's less pressure," says LaPaglia, who plays senior FBI agent Jack Malone on Trace. "The fact that we've picked up some numbers and are doing a little better is just read more

RATINGS ROUND-UP

CSI has once again surpassed Friends as TV's most popular show. Drawing more than 30 million viewers, CBS's crime drama ranked as last week's No. 1 program and helped the Eye Network win the Nielsen derby for the fourth straight week. NBC, which had the week's No. 2 and No. 3 shows in Friends and ER, finished a narrow second with 12.3 million viewers. Still, the Peacock remained the top destination for adults 18-49. Among freshman series, CSI: Miami fared the best at No. 9. read more

SHORT CUTS

Andy Richter Controls the Universe returns to Fox's lineup Dec. 1, airing Sundays after Malcolm in the Middle... Mariah Carey's comeback album, due Dec. 10, will be titled Charmbracelet. read more

Sopranos Babe Next to Get Whacked?


Few would argue that one of the most engrossing story arcs on this season's Sopranos has been Adriana's inevitable discovery that she's been the target of an FBI undercover sting operation. The bombshell was dropped on the future mob wife during the Sept. 22 episode, when she learned that her best buddy, personal shopper Danielle, was actually a G-woman in disguise. Adriana's explosive reaction — she hurled on the FBI's conference table — is sure to rank as one of the year's most memorable TV moments.

"It was a nightmare [shooting that scene]," Drea de Matteo, Adriana's portrayer, laments to TV Guide Online. "There were a lot of things to concentrate on, like cleaning me off, cleaning off my dog, cleaning off the other characters, cleaning off the table, cleaning off my Harry Winston bracelet — which was very important."

Although the actress wouldn't reveal whether the on-camera upch read more

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