Today's News: Our Take

Question: I've been thinking ...

Question: I've been thinking of Hill Street Blues lately and it is driving me nuts that I can't remember the name of my favorite character. He was played by Bruce Weitz and I think his first name was Mick, but they always called him by his last name. He was a wonderfully eccentric policeman — scruffy and tough, with a heart of gold — and received frequent phone calls from his mother. Can you help me out? I know this will continue to bother me till I find out! — Ben L.

Televisionary: That would be Det. Mick Belker, who was quick with a growl, just as willing to bite a perp as book him and, by the looks of him, not on friendly terms with a shower or razor. I'd imagine Weitz would consider it a compliment that you remember his name rather than his character's, but he did memorable work on the series. During Hill Street's January 1981 to May 1987 run on NBC, Weitz was handed an Outstanding Supporting Act read more

Question: My roommate and I ...

Question: My roommate and I have a dinner riding on this bet. I believe that one of the singers in the "Give a Little Bit" Gap commercial is Lou Reed. She disagrees. Do you know who the artists are? I realize that this isn't quite up your alley — you know all things broadcast television-wise — but do you know about the commercials? — NYC Fan

Televisionary: Y'know, Fan, normally I'd be my cranky self and take you to task for doubting my knowledge of all things television, then move onto mocking you for implying that commercials somehow exist apart from broadcast TV and for missing all the ad-related questions I've answered in this space in the past. But I only recently moved from Manhattan and I'm missing my former home something fierce these days, so I'll go easy on a fellow New Yorker.

Do you really think my hero Lou Reed, the gritty, Velvet Underground-founding poster child for rebellion, would go all corporate toadie on me read more

Question: What's the name of ...

Question: What's the name of the Dell dude in those commercials? Have I seen him in other things? — E. Honeycutt, Pittsburgh Pa.

Televisionary: Dude... Steven, the guy convincing the world to pick up a Dell in those ads, is played by Chattanooga-born, 21-year-old New York University acting major Ben Curtis. But unless you caught him in an off-off-Broadway production of Sam Shepard's Buried Child or passed him on the street, it's doubtful you've seen him in anything else.

Of course, his newfound fame may change all that and I'd be happy to tell you all about it, but my News &#038 Gossip colleagues already interviewed the lad and handled those duties quite nicely, so you can read about it here.

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Question: There is going to ...

Question: There is going to be a new show on TV called Last Call and it has Carson Daly on it. Is he leaving Total Request Live so he can do that show? — Whitney S.

Televisionary: Oh, what the heck — let's make it three New York-related questions in a row.

No, Whitney, you and the other TRL fans will still be able to clog the sidewalks of Times Square — heartthrob host Daly ain't going anywhere. However, you'll now be able to mob him in two places, since Last Call, formerly known as Later when it was hosted by Bob Costas, tapes in the same Manhattan studios as Saturday Night Live.

As I write this, the show is scheduled to premiere Jan. 7 (at 1:35 am/ET the night before this column goes up — hope you enjoyed it). Guests scheduled for tonight and the rest of this week include Gwyneth Paltrow, Suge Knight and Jon Stewart.

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Madeleine Stowe: Impostor Bride

Talk about attention-grabbing! As a married couple in Impostor, Madeleine Stowe and Gary Sinise forget foreplay and cut right to the passion, making steamy love in the sci-fi thriller's opening credits. Says Stowe: "We wanted to show that the two of us are not only married, we're very deeply in love." And how! While Stowe doesn't get much screen time, her role is crucial to Impostor's surprise ending, which she admits "was a total shock. I was reading the script and I didn't see it coming."

What she also didn't see coming was the struggle she'd face while shooting A&#38E's upcoming The Magnificent Ambersons. Feisty director Alfonso Arau (read more

Sci Fi Star: "My Child's an Alien!"

When a father swears he would slay dragons in order to protect his daughter, it's usually nothing more than a figure of speech. But should the need arise, Reno Wilson probably is better prepared to defend his castle (not to mention his princess, Deni) than your average dad, thanks to his role as tabloid photographer/ghostbuster Wes Freeland on the Sci Fi Channel series The Chronicle (airing Friday nights at 9 pm/ET).

"He's seen a lot more than I have," the actor tells TV Guide Online, "although I think we might be just about even now, 'cause I don't think anything can be wilder than witnessing the birth of your own child."

In fact, the proud pop compares the October birth to a close encounter of the most unbelievable kind. "Deni looked like a little alien when she came out," he shares with a laugh, adding that wife Coco took on a few otherworldly qualities in the delivery ro read more

Queer Execs to Critics: Folk Off!

When Showtime's Queer as Folk launches its second season Sunday night (10 pm/ET), fans of the same-sex soap opera can rest assured that the randy regulars will continue to go above and beyond... and below the belt. In fact, executive producers Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman hint at carnal delights so scandalous, they may make Melrose Place look like Walton's Mountain. QAF will be as "outrageous and controversial and politically incorrect" as ever, they promise. Adds Lipman: "We felt very strongly that when a show is successful and people really like it, [it shouldn't be screwed around with]." Ah, but while the series inarguably is a ratings smash — it's the cable network's most popular program — not every critic is convinced that it doesn't engage in its own form of backhanded gay-bashing. How do the partners respond to such a suggestion read more

Oz Jailbird Sings

As prison inmate Tobias Beecher on HBO's Oz, actor Lee Tergesen has made many viewers think twice before drinking and driving. On the jailhouse drama — whose fifth season kicks off Sunday at 10 pm/ET — yuppie lawyer Beecher is serving 15 years for killing a little girl while driving drunk. And talk about serving hard time: He's been addicted to drugs, sodomized by a neo-Nazi, had his buttocks branded with a swastika, bitten off one attacker's penis and defecated on the face of another!

"Playing Beecher can definitely be a bit of a mental challenge," Tergesen tells TV Guide Online. "I always experience sort of a hangover at the end of each season, and it can take a few weeks to get reacquainted with normal life."

What hell awaits Beecher this season? Though Tergesen won't rat out Oz's writers, he does reveal that read more

Cate Blanchett's Big Secret

Cate Blanchett, who recently gave birth to a son, Dashiell John, might have avoided the daunting physical challenges she faced in Charlotte Gray if she had confessed during filming that she was preggers. But Blanchett soldiered on, playing a Scottish woman who goes behind enemy lines to join the French Resistance in World War II.

"I didn't tell anyone at first, not even Gillian Armstrong, the director," she reveals to TV Guide Online. "It wasn't their fault, and I wanted to do my job. But it was bloody cold, the worst winter in Britain in years, and the first week we had to go through this really nasty military obstacle course."

At least Blanchett — whose performance in Bandits earned her a 2002 read more

Russell Crowe Defends His Rep

Oscar champ Russell Crowe confesses that playing real-life Nobel Prize-winning scientist John Nash in A Beautiful Mind was a bigger challenge than he anticipated. At least when he portrayed tobacco industry whistle blower Jeffrey Wigand in 1999's The Insider he had something to model his performance after. "I spent hours watching tapes of Wigand," he tells TV Guide Online, "but there was not a single piece of film — not even an audio tape — of Nash as a young man."

So, how did Crowe get inside the head of the schizophrenic Princeton mathematician? Well, he let his nails grow, natch. "I have little sausage stumps of fingers, but I'd noticed in a photo that Nash had these graceful hands with tapered fingers," he says. "I decided having longer fingernails would sort of help that image. In fact, the day read more

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