Top Story: We Were Punk'd! Kutcher Resurrects MTV Series
The joke's on us, apparently--unless this is just Ashton Kutcher's April Fool's Day stunt. Just four months after Kutcher ended his hit MTV prankster series Punk'd, the music cabler announced Thursday that Punk'd will return to its slate next month for a third season, with eight episodes already in production. Reuters reports MTV had no explanation for Kutcher's change of heart but said it was grateful for the return of its highest-rated series. The 25-year-old actor had announced his decision to nix a third season of Punk'd in December. "We have had an incredible time doing the show and have decided to stick with the old adage of 'leave 'em wanting more,"' Kutcher had said in a statement. At the time, TV pundits suspected Kutcher's announcement was a ruse aimed at throwing off celebrities, who were catching on that they were being pranked too early in the game.
Stern Pulls April Fools Prank
Kutcher wasn't the only one having fun on Apr. 1. Radio shock jock Howard Stern got in on the joke and "got" his listeners, pretending his show had been yanked off the air for good. Fans tuned in Thursday morning to hear New York's WXRK Radio's General Manager Tom Chiusano reading a statement saying the show was taken off the air because of government pressure, adding, "While we're sorry to end the Howard Stern Show, we promise quality programming in the future." After the message, two deejays played about an hour of insipid music interspersed with banal banter. Listeners nationwide immediately started calling in to complain until Stern and sidekick Robin Quivers finally announced it was a hoax. Stern's show has come under fire recently, with Clear Channel Communications dropping the controversial radio show from six stations for indecent content.
Jackson Not Expected at Hearing
Prosecutors and lawyers in Michael Jackson's child molestation case prepared for a preliminary hearing Friday to determine whether there was enough evidence to try the pop oddity. But the 45-year-old singer, who was busy promoting AIDS awareness in Washington, was not expected to show up at the proceedings in Santa Maria, Calif., where his lawyers and prosecutors and are expected to discuss procedural issues with Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville, who was invited to testify to the grand jury. According to Reuters, media lawyers will be present at the hearing to make a case for more access to court documents, including search warrants.
Nets Balk at Jackson TV Pitch
Speaking of Michael Jackson, the self-proclaimed "King of Pop" seems to be losing his allure with TV networks. According to Variety, Jackson's managers have approached several networks about the idea of a Jackson TV special built around videotape footage from the singer's trip this week to Washington as well as some of Jackson's meetings with his inner circle of advisers, but the early responses have been less than enthusiastic. Jackson, who is charged with molesting a boy under the age of 14, would also agree to sit down for a seven- to 10-minute interview, although topics covered by the gag order in Jackson's criminal case would be off limits. Insiders tell Variety the asking price for a package deal: $3 million.
John Belushi Gets a Star, Posthumously
The late John Belushi, known for his comic genius on Saturday Night Live and in films such as Animal House and The Blues Brothers, was honored posthumously Thursday with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, AP reports. Those in attendance included Belushi's brother, actor James Belushi, his widow, Judy Belushi-Pisano; and close friend Dan Aykroyd. Belushi died in 1982 from a drug overdose. He was 33.
SAG Moves Back Awards Telecast
The 11th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will be held three weeks earlier next year, on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2005 at the Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center, Variety reports. After years of steady growth, ratings for this year's SAG awards telecast dropped 31 percent when compared with 2003's telecast, and lost more than 1.5 million overall viewers. That ratings decline was attributed to the show airing during the cutthroat Nielsen sweeps week, but by airing on a less competitive Saturday evening in 2005, the telecast is unlikely to face such stiff competition from rival networks. A complete calendar for the 11th annual SAG Awards will be released later this year.
Spears Postpones Another Concert
The hobbled Britney Spears had to postpone her concert in Cleveland, Ohio, Thursday, AP reports, her third postponement since injuring her knee while performing in Illinois. The rescheduled date is now June 29.
Cash's Stepdaughter Jailed
Carlene Carter, stepdaughter of Johnny Cash and daughter of country singers June Carter Cash and Carl Smith, has been jailed in Tenn., authorities told AP Thursday, although it was unclear why the country singer was in custody. Carter was charged in December 2002 with identity theft to obtain prescription drugs. A court hearing in the case is set for April 12 and if convicted, she faces two to twelve years in prison, AP reports.
Role Call: 3001 Cast Gears Up
Saturday Night Live regular Maya Rudolph and Punk'd prankster Dax Shepard are in negotiations to join Luke Wilson in the comedy 3001, directed by Beavis and Butt-Head creator Mike Judge. According to the Hollywood Reporter, 3001 centers on Joe Bowers (Wilson), an average American who is selected for a top-secret hibernation program that finds him waking up and living among a society 10 centuries in the future. He finds that civilization is so dumbed-down that he is the most intelligent person alive. Rudolph would will play a prostitute, and Shepard a defense attorney with a perpetually glazed look who becomes Bowers' court-appointed attorney.
Compiled by Guylaine Cadorette and Kit Bowen
Major studios are loving their home video departments right about now. Variety reports DVD and VHS sales and rentals reached an all-time high of $20.3 billion in 2002--$12.1 billion sold, $8.2 billion rented. Warner Home Video (which also includes New Line Home Video) came in first, taking about 23.5 percent of home entertainment sales and rentals ($4.4 billion), with Disney Home Video (which includes Miramax and Dimension), coming in at No. 2 with 18.2 percent ($3.7 billion). Disney claimed top title in 2002, however, with Monsters, Inc. bringing in $384.8 million in DVD and VHS sales, with New Line Cinema's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring coming in second at $380.1 million and Sony Pictures' Spider-Man third with $348 million. Combined with box office grosses, movie lovers spent more than $30 billion in entertainment in 2002, making the movie biz one of the only growth industries in an otherwise slow economy.
Watch out, folks--Eminem is venturing into the rag trade. People.com reports the rapper, aka Marshall Mathers II, has signed a licensing deal with Nesi Apparel to create a sportswear label called "Shady," named after one of his other alter egos, Slim Shady. The collection should be in retail stores by late summer. How is this going to alleviate his recent lament, "I'm just getting too big for my own good"?
A man who stole 124 wedding rings in hopes of winning the heart of supermodel Claudia Schiffer was sent to a psychiatric clinic by a Berlin court Tuesday. It ruled the 32-year-old man was a danger to society after he held up a jewelry store Sept. 27 using a toy pistol and Halloween mask. Reuters reports the man told the court, "I was only thinking about Claudia Schiffer. I needed so many rings so that she could pick one out. Besides, I wasn't sure about her ring size." Well, that sounds like a valid point.
According to The Associated Press, Steven Seagal has filed a lawsuit against German landlord Edeltrud Vorderwuhlbecke, claiming the man has been trying to extort money from him to pay for alleged damages to a Berlin villa Seagal had rented from him in late 2001. According to AP the tough-guy actor says in the suit that he was not the one who damaged the property and has suffered "severe anxiety, emotional distress, humiliation and mortification," due to Vorderwuhlbecke's threats. Riiiight.
Variety reports Vivendi Universal exec Barry Diller has formally apologized to former 20th Century Fox owner Marvin Davis for derogatory remarks against the billionaire oilman at a recent media conference. Diller apparently referred to him as "fat Marvin Davis" and said "it would be a sad thing" if Davis were to take control of Vivendi Universal, for which he and a consortium of investors have bid $20 billion.
A Tennessee grand jury will decide the fate of country music singer Carlene Carter, daughter to country singers June Carter Cash and Carl Smith, who has been charged with stealing a dead man's identity to get prescription drugs. Carter was arrested Dec. 12 for taking the identity of her boyfriend, Francis Reidy III, who died in November, to get a prescription for the anti-depressant Zoloft.
Bruce Willis has signed on to play an amnesiac in the crime drama Me Again. Variety reports he'll play a man who wakes up in a hotel room with no memory and a dead body. Oops. He must figure out if he killed the guy or if he is the undercover cop assigned to take down the killer. Willis is currently wrapping the sequel The Whole Ten Yards.
The drug trade will be tackled yet again in a new movie called Rx. This time, however, the story revolves around the very legal but still complicated multibillion-dollar international pharmaceutical industry, examining the conflicts of saving lives while still making a lot of money. Laura Bickford, producer of the Oscar-winning movie Traffic, is developing the film, which has no cast or distributor yet.
Hip-hop singer Eve is making her first foray into television. The Grammy winning artist will hook up with UPN to develop and star as a New York fashion designer in a comedy being produced by Edmonds Entertainment. She recently co-starred in the feature films Barbershop and xXx.
Bassist Howie Epstein, of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, was arrested along with singer Carlene Carter after they were allegedly stopped in a stolen vehicle in Albuquerque, N.M., The Associated Press Reports. Carter, who was driving the SUV, was pulled over by a state trooper on Interstate 25 for reportedly speeding. A check of the vehicle's registration showed it had been reported stolen on March 15 in Santa Fe, N.M., AP said. Police also reportedly found 2.9 grams of heroine and drug paraphernalia inside the SUV, which Carter has said was strictly for personal use, AP said. The singer-songwriter was on her way to the airport to drop off Epstein, who was scheduled to play a concert in Scranton, Pa., on Wednesday. Carter is the stepdaughter of Johnny Cash and the daughter of June Carter Cash and Carl Smith. If there is sufficient evidence to prosecute, the case could be submitted to a grand jury.