Today's News: Our Take


SURVIVOR WAR GETS UGLY

With its Thursday night line-up preparing for a face-off with CBS's Survivor: The Australian Outback beginning next month, NBC is pulling its weak freshman comedy, The Weber Show, off the air during February sweeps, Variety reports. Although the network has not named a replacement, there's talk that episodes of Frasier may follow Friends at 8:30 pm. Insiders were buzzing that viewers would watch Friends at 8 pm, and then flock to CBS at 8:30 to catch the second, more interesting half of Survivor (when the crucial votes are cast). But with NBC apparently prepared to pull out its big guns, TV's most hotly contested battle just got a lot more interesting. read more

SANTA'S NOT COMING THIS YEAR

Disney has postponed production of its sequel to 1994's The Santa Clause due to script problems. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the follow-up to the hit Tim Allen film was slated to go before the cameras in the spring for a November release. But the delay now leaves the studio without one of its major holiday films this year. read more

SEVEN-MONTH ITCH

After seven months of marriage, former Ally McBeal/Melrose Place star Courtney Thorne-Smith has separated from her hubby, scientist Andrew Conrad, Reuters reports. "Andy and I have mutually decided to separate," the actress said. "There are no third parties involved. We remain good friends and will share custody of our dogs." The couple tied the knot on June 2, 2000, in Hawaii. Last month, Thorne-Smith revealed in US Weekly that the pressure to be thin led her to quit Ally McBeal last season. "I started under-eating, over-exercising, pushing myself too hard and brutalizing my immune system," she said. "The amount of time I spent thinking about food and being upset and my body was insane." read more

The Grammy Buzz Begins!


After slugging it out with Everlast, Christina Aguilera, 'N Sync, Backstreet Boys, his estranged wife, his mother, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Insane Clown Posse and Canada, Eminem is now taking on Beck, Radiohead, Paul Simon and Steely Dan. Unlike the notorious rapper's other donnybrooks, however, this celebrity deathmatch will go down on national television during the 43rd annual Grammy Awards, which will be broadcast Feb. 21 on CBS (nominations were announced Wednesday in Los Angeles). The five combatants — an eclectic bunch, to say the least — will duke it out for Album of the Year honors. As usual, the controversial category has music insiders buzzing.

"No matter who wins, it will be a surprise," Rolling Stone music editor Joe Levy tells TV Guide Online. "Although Eminem's record is excellent and, to say the least, provocative, it's also offensive to many. Ea read more

MODEL SURVIVOR

Speaking of Survivor, former Palau Tigan Greg Buis — famous for inventing the coconut phone and drooling over fellow castaway-cum-movie-star Colleen Haskell — has signed on with T Management, the modeling agency owned by Donald Trump. "He's your all-American boy with sex appeal," agency president Annie Veltrie tells USA Today. read more

PHOENIX IN LOVE WITH DANES

Claire Danes will have someone to fall in love with in the upcoming romantic pic It's All About Love. Joaquin Phoenix — an Oscar shoo-in for his work in Gladiator — has been cast opposite the actress in Danish director Thomas Vinterberg's follow-up to The Celebration, Variety reports. Filming begins in April. read more

EARLY LOOK AT SURVIVOR SEQUEL

CBS's The Early Show this morning gave its viewers a sneak peek at Survivor: The Australian Outback, featuring interviews with the 16 contestants that make up the Ogakor and Kucha tribes (the aboriginal names for crocodile and kangaroo). An attitude alert is already being issued for 28-year-old Kucha member Kimmie, who wasted no time dissing her trailblazing predecessors. "You're not going to see me eating barbecue rats, you're not going to see me eating cans of dog food," she insisted. "I mean, it's 39 days — if you have no self control... then you've got to reevaluate yourself and look in the mirror." (Forgive her, she's from Long Island.) For more on Survivor: The Australian Outback, check out Insider. read more

Cate Blanchett's Horror Story


While preparing for her role as a deep-South clairvoyant in The Gift, Cate Blanchett received some strange advice from a real-life fortune teller: Hire some protection and don't commit to any boozy movie roles.

"It was nothing really bad," the Australian native tells TV Guide Online. "[She] said I'm going to need two bodyguards — but that hasn't come to fruition yet, touch wood. And she said not to do any films where I played an alcoholic."

Blanchett, who had no previous experience with psychics, joined director Sam Raimi in visiting several L.A. fortune tellers prior to the film's shoot. "I didn't talk about being an actor at all, and after 15 minutes they were basically sounding like the trades," jokes the Elizabeth star. "I think they assume whoever comes in for a reading must be an actor wanting to know if they're going to make money."

Also helping Blanchett get into character for the psychological thriller (opening wide Jan. 19) was read more

Willem Dafoe: Bad to the Bone?


Despite his Golden Globe-nominated performance as a demon-cum-actor in Shadow of a Vampire, and his in-progress stint as the Green Goblin in Spider-Man, Willem Dafoe says he's not too worried about being branded as a big-screen bogeyman.

"It is very hard not to get typecast as a villain, and I think the studios generally think of me in those terms," Dafoe admits to TV Guide Online. "They've got a much narrower vision of how they see me, as opposed to the independent world."

Considering that Dafoe plays a priest in his next two films — Edges of the Lord with Haley Joel Osment and Pavilion of Women (based on Pearl Buck's novel) — Hollywood may be poised to pigeonhole him as a man of the cloth. But if his eerily comic turn in Vampire (opening wide Jan. 26) lands him an Oscar, Dafoe's status as Tinseltown's go-to ghoul will be all but cemented.

Dafoe plays Max Schreck, the actor whose role in th read more

SMITH TO DROP SUIT

A day after being awarded $475 million from a U.S. bankruptcy court, former Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith says she may drop a separate lawsuit seeking half of her late 90-year-old hubby's $1.6 billion oil fortune, Reuters reports. read more

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