Today's News: Our Take

Empty Nest Alum Returns

Empty Nest star Dinah Manoff — who played angsty Carol on The Golden Girls spinoff — is quietly making a comeback. Now she's Evelyn Rayburn, a purse-clutching Jewish mom on Fox Family's charming new dramedy, State of Grace (airing Mondays at 9 pm/ET), which debuted last week to nifty ratings.

Set in 1965 North Carolina, the series concerns a Jewish family's ties with a wealthy Southern brood via the friendship of two little girls. And while Manoff's alter ego is a fish out of water, the actress feels quite at home. "There are so few roles for Jewish women on TV," she tells TV Guide Online. "I've spent my career trying to pass as a non-Jew, because in order to work you have to be more generic American. But this speaks to my heart about people I know."

Especially refreshing, Manoff says, is not being "consigned to repeat behavior" — a sitcom trap she fell into on Empty Nest. "Though play read more

A.I.'s Hero Up for Sale

If you were one of the millions of moviegoers who experienced Steven Spielberg's mind-blowing morality tale A.I.: Artificial Intelligence over the weekend, then you no doubt have a whole new appreciation for stuffed plush — thanks to Teddy the bear, Haley Joel Osment's heroic, heartwarming supertoy. Luckily, audiences' love affair with the raspy-voiced plaything won't have to end when the credits roll: Tiger Electronics — the company behind Furby — is hoping to have Teddy dolls on store shelves by late July.

Four versions of Teddy will range in size (four to 15 inches) and price ($4.99 to $29.99), with the larger dolls uttering such phrases as, "I am robot, but I am also teddy," "You have a trusting hand, my friend" and "What's new, super friend?" (The bigger models wo read more

Jackie Collins Sounds Off!

Haven't gotten your fill of fame whores just by watching reality TV? Well then, why not tote the latest Jackie Collins novel, Hollywood Wives, The New Generation, down to the beach this summer? As always, the bestselling author says her fiction is based on real dreamers who've fallen prey to their own celebrity-fueled fantasies.

"I write about people who have nothing and want everything," Collins says. "You take a beautiful young girl: She wins the local beauty contest. She thinks, 'Why can't I be a star? I see Ren&#233e Zellweger — I'm prettier than her. Why can't I go to Hollywood and meet Jim Carrey? Why can't I meet George Clooney?' They come here and what happens is, an attractive older woman will come up to them and say, 'Do you want to sleep with movie stars? Because I can arrange that.' And that's how some of them become hookers. They're being paid to sleep with this guy that they worshipped."

Even if Collins wo read more

Sam Robards's A.I. Scare

As the son of screen legends Lauren Bacall and the late Jason Robards, Sam Robards (American Beauty, Bounce) has spent his entire life in the Hollywood spotlight. Still, the 39-year-old actor cops to being a bit starstruck on the set of Steven Spielberg's mindbending futuristic fantasy, (A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (opening today).

"I'm just a human being like everyone else — I mean, it's Steven Spielberg," he marvels. "He's running DreamWorks. He's making the movie that's [the dream] of Stanley read more

Sabrina Star Tells All

TV enchantress Beth Broderick — who plays Aunt Zelda to Melissa Joan Hart's Sabrina, the Teenage Witch — admits that she and co-star Caroline Rhea won't mind hanging up their pointy hats next year, when their six-year contracts expire.

In fact, the actresses have privately yearned to dematerialize for some time. "The first four years of Sabrina were very tough on Caroline and I," Broderick tells TV Guide Online. "The hours were quite insane and we hadn't realized that it would be marketed as such a kids' show. For us, it was a little frustrating. We thought our characters were pretty one-dimensional."

Fortunately, matters improved last year, when Sabrina left ABC for the WB — where it airs Fridays at 8 pm/ET. "Going to the WB really turned the show around for us," she says. "It's become a more positive situation. Zelda's teaching at the university [Sabrina attends], she's read more

Will &#038 Grace Star's Hissy Fit

Meow wow! Sean Hayes plays Mr. Tinkles, a petulant pussy poised for world domination in Cats &#038 Dogs (opening July 4). But wherever did he come up with his catty character's frou-frou voice?

Jokes Hayes: "Mr. Tinkles is a frustrated Shakespearean actor who never got to the stage, so he decided to take it out on the world — I know too many people like that." Actually, he confesses, "my friends and I just always goof off and do characters. Funny people hang out with funny people. We just try to make each other laugh, and this is something I came up with. [Tinkles's voice] is what we call 'refined American.'"

But seriously, folks, does Hayes — an Emmy winner as Will & Grace jokester Jack — ever fret about being typecast as an over-the-top oddball? "Is it a fear of mine?" he muses. "It was a read more

Kirsten Dunst Goes Demure

Has Kirsten Dunst revealed too much? At 18, her shapely form has clearly filled out in all the right places. But now, the actress confesses that she's had second thoughts about serving up the evidence with provocative photo spreads in mags like Details and Maxim — not to mention the daring duds she donned at the MTV Movie Awards.

"It's weird," she says, "because I'm at this place where I'm very comfortable with my own body, but I have this role model thing. I know that some kids do look up to me. Recently, I've been wondering, 'Have I been too sexy?' I think sometimes it's sexier not to show too much, and I think that's where I'm headed now.

"I'm not into showing everything in a magazine anymore," Dunst sums up. "It's like, 'What's the point?' It's not that interesting to reveal all of yourself."

While she's still willing to employ her sexuality when necessary for her art, Dunst reportedly nixed a prolonged nude scene in read more

A.I. Star Lifts Veil of Secrecy

British-born thesp Frances O'Connor may not be a household name, but that's all about to change with the Friday release of Steven Spielberg's highly anticipated futuristic drama A.I: Artificial Intelligence. In the pic, O'Connor — who starred in the 1999 Jane Austen drama Mansfield Park — adopts a robot boy (Haley Joel Osment) and finds her life turned upside down.

Personally, the thirtysomething actress doesn't believe real life will imitate A.I. art anytime soon. "I don't think we'll ever get to the point where we'll recreate people to that level," she says of Osment's eerily lifelike alter ego. "We might, but it won't be for a very long time. I read more

X-Files Heavy Lightens Up

Having played the sinister Cigarette-Smoking Man on The X-Files for seven years, William B. Davis seemed like a natural to guest star on The Outer Limits as a scientist with ethics so dubious that he doesn't think twice about experimenting on a survivor of a nuclear holocaust. Nonetheless, one teensy problem did arise from the veteran villain's casting in the "Worlds Within" episode (airing tomorrow night at 10 pm/ET on the Sci Fi Channel): The way that he approached the character, his ethics seemed — believe it or not — a little too dubious.

"I was seeing him as being committed to resolving the scientific possibilities," the actor explains to TV Guide Online, "and if lives have to collapse in the process, then lives have to collapse.

"But," he adds, "they kind of held me back a little on that. They wanted me to be upset that we were losing out [on the research opportunities in the end], but read more

Haley Joel Osment's A.I. Hurdle

The Sixth Sense wonderkid Haley Joel Osment has earned a rep as one of the most gifted child stars in Hollywood history. However, for his role as a robot boy in Steven Spielberg's haunting futuristic fairy tale A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (opening Friday), the Oscar nominee was presented with the acting challenge of a lifetime.

"It was hard not to blink, because robots always keep their eyes open," Osment tells TV Guide Online. "The trick is not to think about it a lot. After the first week, I didn't blink even after they yelled, 'Cut,' at the end of a scene."

A.I. is a collaboration between Spielberg and late filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, whose untimely death did not read more

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