Today's News: Our Take


BETTER THAN NORMAL BOW

The debut of John Goodman's new Fox comedy, Normal, Ohio, got off to a decent start Wednesday night. The sitcom — featuring the former Roseanne star as a gay dad — attracted 12.17 million viewers, second only to ABC's Who Wants to be a Millionaire. What's more, Normal finished first in the adults 18-49 demographic and retained 95% of its Halloween-themed Simpsons lead-in in that bracket. Meanwhile, the series premiere of Fox's much-hyped Wall Street soap The Street crashed and burned at 9 pm, coming in fourth place among total viewers (7.26 million). read more

BIG TREAT FOR THE SMITH'S

Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith welcomed the birth of their second child, daughter Willow Camille Reign Smith, on Halloween. The baby was born in Los Angeles and weighed 6 lbs., 10 oz. The couple have a two-year-old son, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith. read more

KATHIE LEE BANNED FROM REGIS

Kathie Lee Gifford, who is currently pushing her new CD, Heart of a Woman, has been forbidden from appearing or running commercial spots on the newly christened Live with Regis. "We need to gain some physical and commercial separation from Kathie Lee during the search for her replacement," says Tom Kane, president of New York's WABC-TV, which produces the show. "We can all see a day when she'll appear on the show again as a guest and when her commercial endeavors are promoted during the show, but only after we've been able to reestablish ourselves with a new co-host." The Kathie Lee ban comes a week after Gifford appeared on NBC's Today — in direct competition with her former show. When asked by Matt Lauer if she had any plans to drop into Live to promote her CD, she replied, "I'd love to, but I think they got a little angry when we booked the Today show so soon." But in an appearance on last night's Late Show with David L read more

ALLY CASTING COUP #3

Yet another film star is making tracks to Fox's resurgent Ally McBeal. Taye Diggs (How Stella Got Her Groove Back) will appear in six episodes beginning in February as a possible love interest for Lisa Nicole Carson. "I heard he was a fan of the show, so I invited him down to the set. He had a blast," Ally producer Pamela Wisne tells USA Today. "Fortunately, it was a day we were filming bar scenes, which are very fun days." In addition to Diggs, Robert Downey Jr. has begun a 10-episode Ally stint and Anne Heche kicks off a three-episode arc in January. read more

COLE OFFERS HOUSTON HELP

Natalie Cole, who once struggled with a drug problem, fears that Whitney Houston may be headed down a similar path, and is reaching out to the troubled pop diva. "I think she is isolated, and it's going to take a small miracle to be able to cut through some of this stuff," Cole tells Access Hollywood. "I guess [that is] kind of protecting her with good intentions, but she needs to be saved. The only thing I always say to Whitney is, 'Call me. You know my number.'" read more

DISNEY NABS SNL DUO

Saturday Night Live writer Matt Piedmont and star Will Ferrell have sold an action-comedy pitch to the Walt Disney Co., The Hollywood Reporter says. The "Untitled Will Ferrell Project" features the comedian as a hard-nosed cop in the '70s who lands in a coma after being gunned down by a pimp. He wakes up in the present day to hunt down his attacker — only to discover that the one-time pimp is now the largest crime boss in Los Angeles. Well, it beats Ladies Man 2. read more

Smith Takes His Hits as Ali


If Will Smith is looking a bit diesel these days (as evidenced by his bulked-up, 217-pound frame), it's because for the past six months he's been preparing for his role as titular boxing great Muhammad Ali in director Michael Mann's upcoming Ali biopic. Listening to Smith recount his intensive training regimen, the question arises: Did the wannabe contender suffer any injuries in the ring?

"Oh, only injuries!" Smith tells TV Guide Online with a hearty laugh. "But it's all part of being a boxer. We've created a real training atmosphere."

Adding realism to his prep work were visits by Ali himself; The Greatest's onetime trainer, Angelo Dundee; and Sugar Ray Leonard. "Sugar Ray came into the gym, and we sparred a little bit," Smith shares, adding that the onetime Olympic champion still has the right moves. "You can't hit him! He's never where you throw your fist. He's so fast."

As the actor masters his jabs and hooks, read more

The Simpsons Endorses Al Gore


George W. Bush may want to make a last-minute campaign stop in Springfield, USA. This Sunday's season premiere of The Simpsons (8 pm, Fox) contains a blink-and-you-miss-it pro-Al Gore reference. During Bart's trademark chalkboard sequence in the show's opening, the proud underachiever writes: "I will not plant subliminal messagores."

Simpsons executive producer Mike Scully makes no apologies for the blatant display of political partisanship. "To be honest, the staff does lean toward Al Gore," he tells TV Guide Online. "I don't want to speak for everyone who works for The Simpsons, but there are many people on the writing staff who can't believe that this election is as close as it is."

What effect Bart's endorsement has on the undecided vote remains to be seen, but Scully admits that the timing of the plug was carefully thought out. "We read more

Chris Isaak's Wicked Game Plan


Chris Isaak's upcoming self-titled Showtime series may not be grabbing as many headlines as the network's other new offering, the gay-themed Queer As Folk, but the rock star/actor promises that it will be no less racy.

"I haven't seen Queer As Folk, so it's hard to tell, but I do make love to a different man and woman in each episode," Isaak deadpans to TV Guide Online. "Actually, our show is very subdued and laid back. I play a comedian who lives in New York, and I have kind of a wacky guy who lives across the hall from me."

All joking aside, The Chris Isaak Show — which is slated to debut in the spring and promises to offer viewers a behind-the-scenes peek into the rock music scene — does in fact share something in common with Seinfeld: Both shows are loosely based on the life of its lead. "I play myself, except on TV I'm nicer," Isaak says. "They make me a nice, caring guy. I don't say things that are politically incorrect or read more

PITT'S STILL GOT IT

Married life apparently has not dampened Brad Pitt's sex appeal. The 36-year-old actor — who wed Friends star Jennifer Aniston in August — has been named People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive again. He's the first person to be honored with that title twice. (He hasn't been this sexy since 1995.) Last year's winner was Richard Gere. The Nov. 13 issue also recognizes 16 other sexy men, including 72-year-old Survivor windbag Rudy Boesch. read more

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