The good, bad and the ugly on the tube this past week:
Alexander's finger lickin' good
Ex-Seinfeld star Jason Alexander appeared Sunday in the first of a series of new commercials for fast-food restaurant KFC. Good for him. While Alexander's raking in the bucks for the new national campaign--and starring in his own new sitcom, ABC's Bob Patterson, in the fall--his former Seinfeld cohorts seem to have vanished from the tube altogether.
Michael Richards made a half-hearted attempt last fall with his own new sitcom, but it appears he's taken the cancellation of that show to heart, lying low. Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been planning a sitcom of her own, but can't seem to get it off the ground. Good ol' Jerry shows up now and then for talk show interviews--and has been toying with the idea of a new sitcom, as well-but just don't expect to see him on the small screen anytime soon.
At least Alexander's got his head on straight: even if his sitcom fails, as Richards' did in 2000, he's got a steady paycheck from the Colonel in his pocket.
The "Becker" bailout
So there's a new trend on the sets of TV's most-watched shows. Nope, it's not this "reality" business. It's not this gameshow craze either. It's a revolution among supporting cast members, and it's getting out of hand. On Wednesday, five supporting actors on CBS' hit show Becker were curiously absent from the first script read-through of the fall season, claiming they were all sick. The actors--Hattie Winston, Terry Farrell, Alex Desert, Shawnee Smith and Saverio Guerra--appeared to be protesting their contracts with Paramount TV, demanding a drastic pay hike, according to the actors' reps.
This tactic was used to perfection earlier this summer by four members of NBC's The West Wing. Four Emmy-nominated actors: Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer and Bradley Whitford. Each more than doubled their salaries. However, the Becker five are not Emmy nominees. They are not recognizable. I could have spelled his or her names incorrectly and nobody would know the difference. Wise up, guys. Go to work.
A hipper Charlie Rose?
You hear the words Charlie Rose and instantly an image pops into your head. Nice suits, nice hair, a dramatic black backdrop, a dramatic politician sitting across the table. But Charlie's not as stiff as you'd think these days. On Tuesday, while interviewing talk show host/comedian Bill Maher, Rose passionately argued in favor of the Internet and all of its uses, while the usually hip Maher admitted he has no use for the Web at all--and doesn't even know how to use it. So the next time you see a fairly liberal Democrat in your next chatroom, well, ya just never know....
There was a time when watching a syndicated show on F/X meant you were watching Aaron Spelling drivel. Not anymore. The network recently announced that it has secured exclusive cable runs of three of TV's biggest shows: The Practice, Ally McBeal and Buffy. Score one for the little guys. The three shows begin running on Sept. 24.
New timeslot for "Big Brother II"
CBS will change timeslots for its struggling series Big Brother II: from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Eye Network execs attributed the move to the show's controversial content--including a knife-wielding incident that got one houseguest booted off the show--in an effort to keep younger viewers from seeing such occurrences. Very compassionate. However, earlier this year, when Survivor was airing (at 8 p.m., mind you), we saw pigs slaughtered, babes in bikinis and heard the word bitch about 80 times an episode. Is CBS really that concerned that Big Brother II's corrupting the minds of youngsters--or is this a last-ditch effort to attempt to better the show's flaccid ratings?
Wednesday night, the scent of aerosol filled the skies above New York City. The '80s had returned. As MTV celebrated its 20th anniversary on the tube, rockers such as Billy Idol and Bon Jovi cranked out their old-school hits to an adoring crowd. When's the last time you saw a group of fortysomethings chanting the lyrics to "Rebel Yell" and "You Give Love A Bad Name"? By Thursday morning, these audience members likely returned to their law offices and accountants' cubicles, but for a couple hours, they shed two decades of aging and adulthood. It was surreal, but strangely poignant.
The woman who accused Don Johnson of groping her in January at a San Francisco sushi bar filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Nash Bridges star, The Associated Press reports. The unidentified woman's lawsuit accuses Johnson of sexual battery, assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and asks for monetary damages. Prosecutors refused in early May to file criminal charges against Johnson, who has said that there is no merit to the woman's accusations.
Next stop, the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. The city announced Thursday that it will rename the airport in honor of Armstrong on Aug. 2, two days before the legendary jazz musician would have turned 100, Reuters reports. The Federal Aviation Administration said that this is most likely the first major U.S. airport to be named after a black musician.
Looks like Jay Leno will never be able to go home again. A developer plans to tear down the Tonight Show host's Massachusetts childhood home to make way for a $2.6 million, five-bedroom house, AP reports. Leno said he would not have sold the 1950s home in Andover had he known developer Todd Wacome's intentions.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and former South African President Nelson Mandela teamed up Thursday to raise awareness of the Special Olympics. They took a ferry from Cape Town harbor to Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years as a prisoner of a former apartheid regime, to light a Special Olympics torch, AP reports.
Watch out Ann-Margret, here comes Carmen Electra. The former Mrs. Dennis Rodman will become a Las Vegas mainstay after signing a two-year deal to star in her own show at the Aladdin hotel-casino, AP reports. The former Baywatch star will perform 12 shows a week, beginning next year.
The Doctor is in, but only online. The BBC will transmit the first new Doctor Who adventure since 1996 on Friday via the sci-fi's show's official Web site at www.bbc.co.uk. Doctor Who last appeared in a TV movie that aired on Fox in the United States. Sylvester McCoy, the seventh actor to portray the Timelord, returns for Death Comes to Time.
If you thought NBC's Spy TV was merely a reality series, think again. The hidden-camera show "plays much more like a comedy, Variety quotes NBC entertainment president Jeff Zucker as saying. One practical joke included a man who, thinking he is going out to test a new car, begs to be let out of the car as he is taken on a terrifying high-speed drive through city streets.
Kirk Douglas has lent his support to a campaign to save the Indian Hills Theater, which houses the country's largest Cinerama screen, AP reports. Methodist Health Systems, which bought the recently closed theater, plans to demolish it and build a parking lot in its place. Renovations would be too costly, Methodist Health Systems said. Douglas joins Janet Leigh and film critic Leonard Maltin in trying to save the theater, one of three left in the country that can still show Cinerama films.
Christy Turlington, the 31-year-old supermodel who currently appears on anti-smoking commercials, has been diagnosed with emphysema, The Associated Press reports. The model told reporters that she was diagnosed after undergoing a lung scan in New York.
She said she smoked up to a pack a day from ages 13 to 26. She later became an anti-smoking activist after her father’s death from lung cancer in 1997.
DOUGLAS, ZETA-JONES SPEAK: The happy newlyweds have finally spoken. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones sat with reporters Sunday to explain the details of their wedding two weeks ago, Reuters reports. So why was only one photographer allowed into the ceremony, which reportedly cost $1.5 million to $2 million?
Douglas says it was “the best way to control the media blitz.”
The couple has been secluded in their Manhattan digs with their 4-month-old son Dylan since they exchanged vows Nov. 18 at New York’s Plaza Hotel.
Zeta-Jones, however, could not confirm the exact cost of the wedding, saying that Douglas had not told her how much was actually spent. She also said she hadn’t received the bill for her reported $250,000 Christian Lacroix gown, so she didn’t know the cost of the dress, either.
POET GWENDOLYN BROOKS DIES: Gwendolyn Brooks, the Chicago poet who became the first black person to win a Pulitzer Prize, died Sunday, Reuters reports. She was 83.
Considered one of the most influential poets of her time, Brooks published “A Street in Bronzeville,” her first of 20 books, in 1945. Five years later she won a Pulitzer Prizer for her poem “Annie Allen.”
``At a time when racism was so rampant, Gwendolyn Brooks was almost like a literary Joe Louis,'' Sterling Plumpp, a professor in the departments of African-American Studies and English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune. ``At a time when black people were being clubbed into submission because of their race, it was her eloquence in her poetry that got many African-Americans to look at their community, and to see their minds as something of great worth,'' he added.
Brooks died in her home in south Chicago surrounded by friends and family. She is survived by a son, Henry Blakely III; and one grandson. Services are pending.
Perennial single guy Jerry Seinfeld finally threw in the towel Christmas Day, wedding public-relations executive Jessica Sklar in a small, hush-hush ceremony in New York City.
It is the first marriage for Seinfeld, 45; the second (in 18 months) for Sklar, 28. The bride's initial husband-and-wife teamup (with theater scion Eric Nederlander) ended when she started dating Seinfeld weeks after she returned from her 1998 honeymoon.
Seinfeld is, of course, best known for his long-running self-titled TV sitcom, "Seinfeld." Sklar is best known for dating Seinfeld.
According to the New York Post, some 40 guests watched the couple exchange their vows at a traditional Jewish service. Not among those 40 guests: the groom's ex-"Seinfeld" cohorts Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Michael Richards.
Comedian George Wallace served as best man. In the New York Daily News, Wallace described his toast to the newlyweds as "very dark and burnt."
No word on honeymoon plans.
OBITUARY: Curtis Mayfield, who composed the seminal score for the 1972 blaxploitation classic, "Superfly," died today at an Atlanta hospital. He was 57.
Mayfield had been paralyzed since 1990, when he was struck on stage by a lighting rig. In declining health, the songwriter/performer was considered too ill to attend his induction this past January in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In addition to his work for "Superfly," Mayfield's catalog of hits included: "What's Going On" (recorded by Marvin Gaye) and "Say It Loud--I'm Black and I'm Proud" (made famous by James Brown).
MORE TROUBLE: Sometime-actor/always-in-trouble Dennis Rodman ("Double Team") was arrested Dec. 22 in Southern California on suspicion of drunken driving.
The ex-basketball star remains free on $2,500 bail. He was booked in Costa Mesa, Calif., after being stopped by police for allegedly not wearing a seat belt. Rodman's problems mounted when, according to authorities, he failed a field sobriety test. Cops were said have been tipped off to Rodman's reputedly tipsy behavior by security officials at a local restaurant/bar.
This is Rodman's third arrest in four months. Charges in the previous three cases--including a Miami Beach catfight with ex-wife Carmen Electra--were either dropped or not pursued.
Rodman was last seen on a basketball court in April with the Los Angeles Lakers. He will next be seen on the movie (or straight-to-video) screen in "Cutaway," with Tom Berenger.