Today's News: Our Take


THE STATE RESTS

The prosecution made a dramatic closing argument in the gun-possession and bribery trial of Sean "Puffy" Combs on Tuesday. As he began his summation, prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos played recordings of emergency phone calls made just after Combs's associate, Jamaal "Shyne" Barrow, opened fire in a Times Square nightclub back in Dec. 1999. Admonishing jurors not to be distracted by the defendant's celebrity, Bogdanos said: "I played the tape for you as a reminder that this is not the Puff Daddy trial. This is not the Jennifer Lopez trial... It's about three people who were shot in a club a little over a year ago." The jury is expected to begin deliberating today. read more

OSCAR-WINNER EMINEM?

Producer Brian Grazer (The Nutty Professor, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas) told Access Hollywood that he has recruited rapper Eminem to star in a film similar to Prince's 1984 semiautobiographical pic Purple Rain. "It's a hip movie, loosely based on Eminem's life, growing up in Detroit — an edgy story of his life," Grazer said. read more

SPORTS KNIGHT

Actor&#150race car enthusiast Jason Priestley has been added to ABC's Indy Racing League broadcast team, the network announced today. The former star of Beverly Hills, 90210 will join anchor Bob Jenkins, analyst Larry Rice, and pit reporters Jack Arute and Vince Welch in covering all seven events this season. "We are pleased to welcome Jason to our ABC Sports auto racing family," said John Filippelli, senior vice president of production for ABC Sports. "In addition to his outstanding acting career, Jason has demonstrated a great deal of talent as a race driver. His knowledge of the sport will add color and excitement to our coverage of Indy Racing and the Indianapolis 500." The inaugural race of the 2001 season — the Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 — takes place on March 18. read more

GARTH HOOKS PILOT

Former Beverly Hills, 90210 citizen Jennie Garth is in final talks to star as a 25-year-old Ivy League grad-cum-private-eye in Spy Girl, an hourlong fact-based drama pilot for NBC, Variety reports. Meanwhile, onetime Melrose Place tenant and Ally McBeal legal eagle Courtney Thorne-Smith will play Jim Belushi's wife in the actor's upcoming ABC comedy pilot. read more

Felicity Steals Creek's Thunder


The back-from-the-brink resurgence of Felicity this fall — in terms of ratings, and some say, quality — has come at the expense of its WB lead-in, Dawson's Creek. Although the North Carolina-taped saga attracted a larger viewership than its Wednesday night cousin last fall (Felicity, currently on hiatus, returns April 18 with the first of six new episodes), there's no denying that in terms of buzz and critical acclaim, Keri Russell &#038 co. have emerged the clear winners.

In fact, many critics, in their praise of Felicity, took the opportunity to bash Creek as nothing more than its inferior Wednesday night companion. TV Guide's Matt Roush called the college drama, "By far the gem in that network's assembly line of youth-oriented serials... especially when you consider the creative decline of the WB's tiresomely se read more

SHORT CUTS

CBS is developing a miniseries about accused Russian spy Robert Hanssen... Speaking of CBS, the network won the ratings race last week on the strength of its Thursday night one-two punch of Survivor: The Australian Outback and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively... The Backstreet Boys have announced plans for a 50-date North American tour to kick off in June. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports that Eden's Crush, the all-girl group formed on the WB's reality series Popstars, will serve as the opening act of 'N Sync's summer concert tour. — Michael Ausiello with Daniel R. Coleridge read more

SPEEDY SPICE

Ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell had her driving privileges suspended after English authorities caught her going twice the speed limit. According to Reuters, the artist formerly known as Ginger Spice was handed a six-week ban and ordered to pay a 400 pound ($580) fine. The 28-year-old singer recently pleaded guilty to driving 60 mph in a 30 mph zone last October. read more

EMMYS NOT YOUNG AT HEART

Nominations for the 28th annual Daytime Emmy Awards were announced this morning in New York, and CBS's resurgent soap As the World Turns netted an earth-shattering 25 nominations, including outstanding drama series and lead actress for Martha Byrne. (Byrne tackled a dual role this year and is already pegged the favorite to win.) All My Children, also up for best soap, followed close behind with 21 nods. After being snubbed last year, Susan Lucci (Erica) made the cut this time around — likely on the strength of the acclaimed plot in which her TV daughter Bianca (played by fellow Emmy nominee Eden Riegel) came out of the closet. In an unusual twist, Lucci will face off against two of her AMC co-stars in the lead actress slot: Julia Barr (Brooke) and Marcy Walker (Liza). The ATWT and AMC juggernaut came at the expense of two Emmy stalwarts: CBS's top-rated The Young and the Restless and ABC's in decline G read more

SHORT CUTS

Country crooners Amy Grant and Vince Gill welcomed a baby girl on Monday. The little filly, whose name has not yet been announced, weighed in at 7 lbs, 9 oz... Jenny McCarthy is in talks to play a sexy 1960s crime fighting P.I. in the Fox pilot Honey Vicarro, Variety reports... Also according to the trade paper, ABC is developing a film about the life of Mae West to possibly star Dolly Parton... Sunday night ratings for the second episode of Fox's X-Files spin-off The Lone Gunmen sunk a dismal 35 percent from last week's premiere. — Daniel R. Coleridge with Michael Ausiello read more

The Brothers's Keeper


In the African-American coming-of-age dramedy The Brothers (opening March 23), Angel vamp Julie Benz represents the great white hope — operative word: white — of comedian Bill Bellamy. "His character decides to go out with a white woman because he thinks they'll be different than black women," she tells TV Guide Online, chuckling. "Boy, is he wrong! The karate instructor that I play is really cool and easy-going, but don't cross her. That's all I can say."

Although in the movie and on Angel, the femme fatale wields fists of fury, she's no Michelle Yeoh — and probably never will be. "I signed up for karate once, but I only went to three classes," she admits. "I have a big ego, and you had to bow to people who were higher belts than you [in other words, more experienced martial artists].

"When this little kid from the class before mine came up to me and went, 'I have a hi read more

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