Today's News: Our Take


MTV TRAGEDY

Michael Cuccione — the 16-year-old actor who played Jason "QT" McKnight on MTV's boy band spoof, 2gether — died over the weekend in Vancouver, British Columbia, of complications from respiratory failure. Cuccione had suffered from Hodgkin's disease, but his cancer was in remission. According to MTV, chemotherapy treatments were affecting his breathing and forced him to sit out of recent episodes. read more

OUT OF ORBIT

Cybill Shepherd may leave her role as host of the struggling Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, Variety reports. The show's producer, Columbia TriStar Television, reportedly is exploring a number of scenarios to save the ratings-challenged series — one of which includes Shepherd stepping down. read more

TNT'S NEW SANTA SPIN

Is America ready for a black, female Santa Claus? Well, TNT certainly hopes so. The cable network announced plans to air the original movie Call Me Claus, which stars Whoopi Goldberg as an unlikely St. Nick. Country superstar Garth Brooks is serving as an executive producer (along with Goldberg) and will also contribute songs to the film. "We want to make a modern-day It's a Wonderful Life," Brooks told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif., adding that he hopes the two-hour pic will send the message that "there is no color of Christmas, there is no sex of Christmas — it's about what's inside." Call Me Claus will premiere on TNT in December. read more

ABC REVAMPS FRIDAYS

ABC has reshuffled its Friday night line-up, moving Who Wants to Be a Millionaire from 8 to 9 pm and shifting Two Guys and a Girl and Norm to the 8 pm hour. The changes go into effect Feb. 2. read more

Dharma and... Hercules?


Kevin Sorbo is coming between Dharma and Greg. The actor — who flaunted his buffed bod as the mythical hero on Hercules: The Legendary Journey and currently battles evil on Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda — will guest-star in two February sweeps episodes of ABC's Dharma & Greg playing a hunky college professor who catches Dharma's (Jenna Elfman) wandering eye.

"It was interesting getting fluttery for another man," says Elfman, whose alter ego decides to take a college course taught by Sorbo. Are audiences ready to watch her consider cheating on Greg (Thomas Gibson)? "I know she's been sort of heroic and a lot of people admire her," she admits. "But we start having problems in our relationship because Greg is working very hard on a case, so Dharma thinks it's justified.

"She's basically a good person, so she's conflicted about her sudden attraction for her teacher," Elfm read more

Judging Amy's Big Cover-Up


Amy Brenneman will be spending a lot more time in the courtroom on CBS's Judging Amy in coming months. The show's decision not to incorporate the actress's real-life pregnancy into the show means her loose-fitting judge's robe will be called on more frequently to cover up that expanding tummy.

Still, executive producer Barbara Hall believes all the smoke and mirrors are necessary to preserve the integrity of the series — which features Brenneman as a single mom. "It's a show about a newly liberated woman starting the next phase of her life," she says. "I think putting a newborn baby into the mix would completely change that direction.

"But I knew that Amy and her husband Brad wanted to have a kid, so I was sort of expecting it," she adds. "I just kept telling myself that we had the robe and the judge's desk to bail us out."

Of course, there are some things a robe can't cover up. Amy's character i read more

SLATER, KILMER TRUST GOD

Christian Slater and Val Kilmer are in talks to star in the action/thriller In God We Trust, Variety reports. The film's plot revolves around a crew of ex-cons "who find a score that's more than they can handle." read more

Fredro's Starr-Studded Idea


Rapper Fredro Starr is about to add a new title to his credits. Aside from his acting career (his latest flick, Save the Last Dance, opened at number one at the box office this weekend) and his solo music endeavors (his new album hits stores Feb. 13), the Onyx member is now a television producer.

"I'm working on a TV show called Young, Rich and Famous with Amy Heckerling, who produced [the TV show] Clueless," Starr told TV Guide Online. "It's like Dallas meets hip-hop. You go into the lives of three rappers: A rapper like a Tupac or DMX... then you have a rapper that's kind of an Eminem type, and then you have like a Lil' Kim type. You go into their lifestyles on a daily basis."

Starr adds that he's setting his sights high when it comes to casting the roles. "I want Lil' Kim and I want Eminem. If I can't get them, I'll get somebody who resembles them." Starr also says he's excited about not only read more

JUST ROSIE

With Rosie O'Donnell on board as a partner, McCall's magazine was to be renamed Rosie's McCall's beginning with the April edition. Now comes word that the new mag will be called simply Rosie. read more

IS FRIENDS A SURVIVOR?

Now this is getting good. With CBS's eagerly anticipated Survivor: The Australian Outback preparing to do battle with Friends beginning Feb. 1, NBC has decided to expand its No. 1 comedy to 40 minutes for four weeks and fill the remaining hour with live Saturday Night Live skits. This is the first major programming move made by NBC's new entertainment president, former Today executive producer Jeff Zucker. According to USA Today, Zucker met with the cast of Friends last week and suggested expanding future episodes. The six stars reportedly will be paid extra for the additional scenes. (As if $750,000 an episode wasn't enough compensation.) read more

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