Today's News: Our Take


ABC WINS WEEK TWO

Buoyed by a strong performance by The Practice on Sunday night, ABC has come out on top in the ratings during the second week of the new season. The Practice attracted just under 20 million viewers, 21 percent higher than its premiere a week earlier — helping the network win the week in total viewers. NBC, meanwhile, came out on top in the advertiser-friendly 18-49 demographic, despite disappointing ratings for its acclaimed drama Ed in its second outing. The quirky series about a lawyer with a bowling alley — which faced stiffer competition this week with the return of Touched by an Angel — saw its viewership decline by 33 percent from a week ago. read more

DEAR TORI...

Ann Landers had better watch her back. Former Beverly Hills 90210 star Tori Spelling has signed a deal with online advice provider KEEN.com to offer tips to young girls about life and stuff, for $1 per minute, reports the New York Daily News. No word on whether producer Darren Star plans to incorporate this development into his 90210 satire, Grosse Pointe. read more

Question: Who starred in the ...

Question: Who starred in the TV series Laramie in the late '50s or early '60s?

Televisionary: That'd be John Smith and Robert Fuller, pahtnuh.

Smith played Slim Sherman to Fuller's Jess Harper in the series, which ran on NBC from the 1959 to 1963. It took place in Laramie, WY, and centered on a combination ranch/stagecoach station run by the two leads.

Legendary singer-songwriter Hoagy Carmichael was on the show for a spell, playing head ranch hand Jonesy, as was veteran actress Spring Byington, who kept the men in line as housekeeper Daisy Cooper.

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Question: Oh, wise one... ...

Question: Oh, wise one... please save my sanity and tell my brother he's mean. I remember Jonathan Winters hatching out of an egg on Mork & Mindy. He says it's just another one of my dreams. Is he being stupid? — Vivian

Televisionary: Tell him I said to knock it off.

In what I believe to be one of TV's strangest and most ill-advised experiments, the producers cast Winters, a veteran comedian and hero to Mork star Robin Williams, as Mork and Mindy's son, Mearth. I don't know about you, but, merely being an occasional fan of the show, I'll admit I was freaked to see Winters as the couple's son, especially when he pulled that unsettling baby act. It wasn't amusing; it just made me feel kind of icky.

From where I sit typing, that kind of thing was a problem for the show almost from the start. Undeniably a huge hit for ABC when it launched in the fall of 1978, Mork & Mindy was a spinoff of Happy Days, a show in read more

SHORT CUTS

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani will appear as himself in the season premiere of NBC's Law & Order on Wednesday.... Kate Winslet has named her new baby girl Mia.... Famed New York Times film-and-theater critic Vincent Canby died Sunday at age 76.... CBS has ordered six episodes of Raising Kate, a drama starring Mary Stuart Masterson as a struggling, young, single mother, Variety reports.... The trade paper also reports that Warner Bros. will begin production on a live-action Scooby-Doo film in February.... According to the New York Post, staunch liberal Barbra Streisand has taped an interview with Barbara Walters to air on 20/20 on the Friday before the Nov. 7 election. — Michael Ausiello read more

Question: What happened to ...

Question: What happened to The Pretender, on NBC? I didn't see it on your fall preview, and I wasn't able to find it on nbc.com. Did they cancel it? If so, why? I didn't think it was doing that badly, and I didn't hear any news about the cancellation. Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated. — Dan

Televisionary: The bad news, Dan, is that the Pretender has indeed been cancelled, along with the rest of NBC's Saturday sci-fi "thrillogy" (Profiler, the Others). The reason? Business as usual: Bring in the ratings or out you go.

I clued a distraught reader in on its cancellation some time ago, but it's a testament to the show's rabid fan base that every day brings the same question. (I'll reserve comment on those who refrain from checking in on a weekly basis and thus missed the answer the first time around, however.)

The good news, though, is that TNT plans to produce two TV movies wrapping up the loose ends left by the ser read more

Question: I really enjoyed ...

Question: I really enjoyed the new series Dark Angel. I think Jessica Alba is beautiful, and it's about time a Latina receives the main-character role. My family and I have a bet over her ethnicity; perhaps you can help us out. What exactly is it? — L.L.

Televisionary: Dying for more details on that particular actress, L.L.? Get in line. Readers have buried me in such queries since the series debuted Oct. 3 on Fox (9 pm/ET).

Like her character, the genetically enhanced Max, the suddenly hot Alba is of mixed ethnicity. Her dad is of Mexican descent, while her mom is Danish and French. And not to get too heavy in a TV column, but I think series creators James Cameron (Titanic) and Charles Eglee (Murder One) deserve their props for the implication that genetic perfection means blending rather than the racial purity of the blond-haired, blue-eyed super-soldier that many o read more

Wil Wheaton Grows Up


With his days as a child star and a rebellious teen well behind him, former Stand by Me kid Wil Wheaton is busy reinventing himself as a comic actor.

"I've always been told by people that I'm funny and that I have a good sense of humor and that I should take some of the passion I have for serious things and apply it to comedy," says Wheaton, 28, who's been popping up lately onstage at L.A. improv spots such as ACME Comedy Theatre and Theatresports. "I took some comedy classes and workshops, and I took to it very quickly. I found that it was something not only that I enjoyed doing but that I was good at."

Comedy isn't the only thing keeping Wheaton busy — he's also raising two stepchildren, ages 9 and 11, with wife Anne. "It's always a really intense game to see who gets to play me in the Star Trek Monopoly game," jokes Wheaton, best remembered by TV audiences for his role as Cadet Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

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Buscemi Goes to Jail


Steve Buscemi says he had no intention of including real convicts as extras when he set out to direct the gritty prison drama Animal Factory, hitting theaters Friday. But the hardened criminals quickly won over the Fargo star when he went to scout locations at Pennsylvania's Holmsburg State Prison.

On his first day at the prison, Buscemi was blown away to find that virtually every inmate had seen him in the 1997 action pic Con Air. What the actor didn't realize at the time was that prison officials had screened the pic in the big house just prior to his arrival. Nevertheless, a bond was formed and the inmates were hired.

"We were really respectful of them, and certainly it was great for the actors to be able to have those guys to mix with," says Buscemi, who appears in the film alongside Willem Dafoe, Edward Furlong, Mickey Rourke, Tom Arnold and John Heard.

All of the real cons appearing in the movie are no read more

Slater For Clinton!


Christian Slater says it's high time the United States elects a female vice president. And the actor — who currently can be seen in the political drama The Contender, opposite Joan Allen and Jeff Bridges — knows just the lady for the job.

"I've met Hillary Clinton, and I find her a great example of a woman who has been able to survive a lot," Slater tells TV Guide Online. "Surviving in the political area, or any public arena, is really difficult. You either sink or swim. I think Hillary is a beautiful example of a woman who has been able to rise to the occasion."

Well, Slater is well versed in the pressures of living in a fishbowl. The actor's earlier struggles with drugs and alcohol, not to mention his numerous arrests, made headlines and earned him a reputation as a bona fide Hollywood bad boy. But that was then...

"My life has changed in so many ways that it has been kind of miraculous," marvels the 31-year-old, who earlie read more

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