Today's News: Our Take


WHO'S WATCHING ELLIE?

Andy Richter even beat Julia Louis-Dreyfus's new NBC sitcom Watching Ellie, which saw its audience dip to 9.5 million viewers in its fourth week. In a related note, the New York Daily News reports that NBC will pull Ellie after two more airings — saving the remaining episodes for next season. That move reportedly had always been planned. read more

SHORT CUTS

R&B superstar Alicia Keys and veteran rockers the Isley Brothers were the big winners at Wednesday's 16th annual Soul Train Music Awards, picking up three awards apiece. The ceremony will air in syndication later this month... Nicolas Cage has signed on to star in Neil LaBute's upcoming remake of the 1973 British cult thriller The Wicker Man... Emmy winner Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street) has been cast in CBS's drama pilot Hack... Comedy Central has signed a deal to run next-day repeats of Late Night with Conan O'Brien beginning Sept. 3. read more

RICHTER SCALE

The premiere of Fox's Andy Richter Controls the Universe got a decent sampling Tuesday night. The well-reviewed single-camera comedy averaged 9.7 million viewers and easily won its 8:30 pm/ET timeslot in all key demos. read more

MOUNTAIN (WO)MEN

Best actress Oscar contenders Nicole Kidman and Renée Zellweger are in talks to star in Anthony Minghella's upcoming Civil War saga Cold Mountain. Jude Law also is ironing out a deal to come on board the project. The film is based on Charles Frazier's best-selling novel about a wounded soldier struggling to make it home to his sweetheart. read more

PAT ON THE BACK

Comedian Paula Poundstone — who pleaded no contest last year to a felony count of child endangerment — passed her latest progress report hearing with flying colors on Wednesday. A judge praised Poundstone for following the terms of her probation by attending AA meetings and regular counseling sessions. Her next probation review is slated for June 5. read more

SICK BAY

Former Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson has undergone outpatient treatment at UCLA Medical Center for hepatitis C. The 34-year-old actress claims she contracted the potentially fatal disease by sharing a tattoo needle with her ex, Tommy Lee. "He never disclosed it to me during our marriage," she alleges. Lee, however, says he tested negative for the virus on Tuesday. The couple are currently embroiled in a custody battle over their two children. "Her actions... are a clear attack on Tommy," says Lee's rep, "and hopefully she will realize that she is only doing more harm to her children and herself by trying to use the media as a tool to hurt Tommy and their two boys." read more

OSCAR WATCH

Paul McCartney will perform his Oscar-nominated song "Vanilla Sky" at the 74th Academy Awards Sunday night, it was announced Wednesday. Meanwhile, John Travolta has been added as a presenter. read more

FEMBOT ALERT!

Crikey! Today show sweetheart Katie Couric will make a cameo appearance in Austin Powers 3 (opening July 26). "I play a prison guard," she tells Access Hollywood, "and one tough prison guard at that." Oh, behave! read more

THEIR NAME IS NBC, AND THEY HAVE A PROBLEM

NBC has quit liquor advertising cold turkey. Under pressure from Congress and health advocates, the Peacock network announced Wednesday that it is backing out of its controversial plan to become the first broadcast network to run hard liquor commercials. read more

FROM FRIENDS TO FRIEND

Rumor has it that NBC is toying with the idea of a Friends spin-off centered around Matt LeBlanc's endearingly dimwitted alter ego, Joey. According to the New York Post, Joey would debut in fall 2003, the season after Friends goes off the air. What does NBC have to say about all this? Responds a network rep: "There are no discussions whatsoever." read more

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