Today's News: Our Take


A near riot broke out in Harrison, NJ, when HBO cut short a cattle call for its organized-crime drama, The Sopranos, when the crowd swelled to more than 14,000 — doubling the town's population. Aspiring mobsters, many wearing suits and skintight T-shirts, responded to a casting notice put out by producers looking for Italian-American-looking men and women to appear on the hit show, nominated last week for 18 Emmys. read more


Former Dynasty vixen Joan Collins, who once posed for Playboy, turned down an offer to appear as temptress Mrs. Robinson in the London stage version of The Graduate because she didn't want to appear nude, the Sunday Express reported. On July 31, Jerry Hall takes over the role currently being played by Kathleen Turner. — Michael Ausiello and Michael Peck read more


Survivor 2: The Australian Outback, the much-anticipated follow-up to Survivor 1: CBS's Summer Cash Cow, will debut immediately following next year's Super Bowl XXXV, network president/CEO, Leslie Moonves, confirmed to reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, CA. Four weeks into the contestant search, some 6,200 fame-seekers already have sent in applications (it took producers 13 weeks to gather that many the first time around). Also on the Survivor front, CBS plans to air an hour-long "town hall meeting" featuring all 16 contestants right after the Aug. 23 two-hour finale. In other press tour news, CBS announced that Roseanne's Sara Gilbert is joining CBS's fall sitcom Welcome to New York as star Christine Baranski's new assistant. read more


Apparently, there is someone out there who isn't gagging at Julie Chen's stomach-turning performance as host of CBS's reality tale Big Brother. And lucky for the Early Show newsreader, this particular fan also happens to be the head of the network. "Julie Chen, I think, has had a very, very difficult job," Leslie Moonves, CBS's president/CEO, told reporters at the TCA press tour. In particular, Moonves defended Chen's convoluted interview with ousted roomie and former New Black Panther, William. "When William came out of this house, she was dealing with, really, a twofold situation," he said. "Her main job is to find out about the experience of being in the house and being voted out of the house. She then had to shift into what was more of a pure news story on the basis of what was published on the front cover of the New York Daily News [the paper revealed William's ties to hatemonger Khalid Abdul Muhammad]. "It was a very difficult assignment. read more


Barbara Walters has canceled a scheduled interview with O.J. Simpson on her ABC talk show The View, it was announced on today's program. "Although it is the nature of The View to encourage differing opinions among cast members, there was more serious concern about Mr. Simpson's appearance," read a network press release. "There was also concern from members of the production staff." Simpson was to promote his new Web site, read more


The freaks of X-Men were no match for the star power of Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, as the duo's supernatural thriller, What Lies Beneath, debuted at the top of the box office heap, scaring up an otherworldly $30.1 million. Last week's champ, X-Men, slipped to second with $23.7 million, but saw its receipts plummet an alarming 56 percent. Pokémon: The Movie 2000 opened in third place with $21.5 million. Rounding out the top five were Scary Movie ($14.9 million) and The Perfect Storm ($9.5 million). The Jason Biggs/Mena Suvari romantic comedy, Loser, tied with The Patriot for seventh place, pulling in $6.1 million. read more


The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has rescinded Henry Winkler's Emmy nomination for Outstanding Comedy Guest Actor for his appearance on NBC's late sitcom Battery Park after learning that the episode aired after the May 31 cutoff date. William H. Macy received the nomination in his place for his stint on ABC's Sports Night. It's not all bad news for the Fonz, however: The actor gets to keep his other nomination for his guest-starring turn on ABC's The Practice. read more

Will the West Win?

Can the president of the United States take on the mob? That's the question all of Hollywood is asking in the wake of yesterday's Emmy nominations, which awarded NBC's White House drama The West Wing and HB0's mob hit The Sopranos 18 nominations apiece.

"It's a total horse race," offers TV Guide critic Matt Roush, adding that he's hard-pressed to name a favorite. "The Sopranos should have won last year, so it is probably positioned to win this year. As it is, the Emmys institutionally are slow to the draw in terms of acknowledging new programs." Tom O'Neil, author of The Emmys (Perigee Books), says West Wing is going to be tough to beat. "It's a classic Emmy show," he says. "It is well written and appeals to a more mature demographic."

Even West Wing nominee John Spencer admits that he's a fan of the competition. "I love The Sopranos," the actor told Access Hollywood. "I probably shouldn't say that read more

Emmy's Comedy Surprises

When it comes to comedy, Emmy loves Sex and Raymond, but her favorites are Will & Grace. The NBC comedy about a straight girl and her gay best friend got a major boost as it heads into its new prime Thursday time slot: It nabbed 11 Emmy nominations, the most of any comedy series.

Debra Messing, who scored her first nod as neurotic New Yorker Grace, was watching the announcements live on TV. "She's incredibly excited," noted her publicist, Betsy Boudreau, adding that the actress was more pumped for her co-stars Eric McCormack, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes, all of whom were recognized. "Obviously they're so supportive of one another. This is a huge thing for them."

Following Will & Grace with nine nominations each were CBS's Everybody Loves Raymond, NBC's Emmy stalwart, Frasier, and HBO's no-strings-attached romp Sex and the City. Sex star and Lead Comedy Actress nominee Sar read more

Buffy Breaks Through

After years of being bitten by Emmy voters, WB's Buffy the Vampire Slayer scared up its first major nomination this year for Drama Series Writing. Ironically, the episode singled out, "Hush," written (and directed) by series creator Joss Whedon, featured very little dialogue; the story centered around the residents of Sunnydale being robbed of their ability to speak.

"I was a little surprised that it got the writing nod because there was so little talking in it," Whedon tells TV Guide Online. "As a script, it was really scary and difficult to write. And actually to direct ? because I had such a great crew ? that was easier. Doing the concept, being alone in my house going, 'This will never work, I'm going to fail,' that was harder. In a way I'm more proud of the script even in the finished product."

Realizing that "Hush" deserved special attention, 20th Century Fox put considerable promotional muscle behind the installment. "They sent [the tape] out in a ver read more

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