A scene on The WB's teen-targeted drama Dawson's Creek will show two gay teens locked in an extended kiss Wednesday night, USA Today reported today Monday. "I timed it," Scott Seomin of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) told the newspaper. "It's like a 5 1/2-second mouth-to-mouth kiss. We haven't seen anything like this before on network TV." The episode is certain to arouse anger among numerous religious and pro-family activists. Heather Cirmo of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., told the newspaper that the episode will do a disservice to "impressionable teens who have questions about their sexuality by promoting a myth that homosexuality is something you're born with."
NBC FINALLY MAKES GOOD ON ITS PROMISE TO BUYERS
NBC finally scored a 4.5 rating Saturday night, the precise number that it guaranteed advertisers for its XFL football games. However, it pulled the number with a repeat of the James Bond movie Goldeneye.The movie peaked at 10:30 p.m. with a 5.4/10. Last week, the championship XFL contest averaged only a 2.5/5. The highest numbers for the night were scored by CBS's The District, which earned an 8.8/13 in the 10:00 p.m. hour and helped CBS win the night.
MURDOCH SEEN PULLING OFF DEAL TO BUY DIRECTV
Contrary to earlier reports, News Corp's proposal to take over Hughes Electronics' DirecTV will not be put to a vote of the General Motors board at its regular meeting Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. GM is the parent company of Hughes. Nevertheless, the newspaper said, top GM officials are continuing to meet with News Corp execs, including Chairman Rupert Murdoch, and are expected to recommend that the board approve Murdoch's latest proposal. Citing a "highly placed source," the Times said that a deal for DirecTV to be incorporated into Murdoch's Sky Global Network could come together in the next month.
BACARDI KNOCKING DOWN BARRIERS TO TV BOOZE ADS
Bacardi is expected to slice a large rip in the broadcast and cable industry's self-imposed ban on liquor advertising when it launches a sexy ad for its Disaronno Originale Amaretto liqueur on several cable outlets this week, the Wall Street Journal reported today Monday. The newspaper said that among the cable outlets carrying the spot will be Viacom's VHI, AOL Time Warner's TBC networks, and Comedy Central, jointly owned by Viacom and AOL Time Warner. In most instances, the ads, part of a $1.1-million cable marketing campaign, will run not on the networks themselves, the WSJ observed, but as local spots during station breaks in large markets, thereby circumventing anti-liquor policies by the nets.
BBC PLANS TO AIR LIVE INTERVIEWS WITH EXECUTION WITNESSES
As part of its plan to broadcast a documentary, The Oklahoma Bomber, in Britain on May 16, the day set for Timothy McVeigh's execution, the BBC will air live interviews with relatives of his victims after they have witnessed him being put to death, the London Independent on Sunday reported. The plans have sparked outrage by opponents of the death penalty in Britain. Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, told the newspaper: "It disgusts me and I think it's a gross misuse of public funds. What makes it so shocking is that it's the BBC, which has a reputation for probity and ethical conduct." But David Belton, who was assigned to produce the live inserts for the documentary, replied, "We want to know if witnessing the execution has been a cathartic experience for the relatives, if it has helped them in the healing process. This is a legitimate question to ask, and it's in the public interest."
BRITISH MINISERIES LIKELY TO INFURIATE VIEWERS
Britain's commercial Channel 4 is bracing for a barrage of criticism when it airs the two-part miniseries Men Only on June 3 and 4, the London Sunday Times reported. The drama depicts upper middle-class men engaging in an assortment of amoral conduct and includes a graphic scene of a nurse being raped by three men, including a doctor, after being drugged with a horse tranquilizer. According to the Sunday Times, the men display little, if any, remorse afterwards. The drama, which was bought by Channel 4 two years ago, had originally been scheduled to air earlier this year, the newspaper said, and some executives of the network have questioned whether it should air at all. But Tessa Ross, head of drama programming for Channel 4, told the Sunday Times that she is "happy for Men Only to go out."
AOL TIME WARNER SETS SIGHTS (AND SITES) ON EUROPE
Seeking to expand its cable and Internet broadband operations into Europe, AOL Time Warner is in talks about forming an alliance with the British cable operator NTL, published reports said Monday.
OPTIMISM RISES OVER POSSIBLE WGA-PRODUCERS DEAL
Film and TV producers spent the weekend at the negotiating table with negotiators for the Writers Guild of America hoping to avert a strike following the expiration of the current labor contract at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. WGA officials have indicated that they are willing to agree to an extension of the current contract on a day-to-day basis if progress in the talks is being made. They have not yet taken a strike-authorization vote, which is required before a strike can begin. Monday's Los Angeles Times quoted labor and industry executives who have been in contact with the two sides as saying that they expect a deal this week.
REPORTER PUBLISHER SAYS NEWSMAN "LOST HIS OBJECTIVITY"
The publisher of the Hollywood Reporter has defended his decision to kill a story by his labor reporter that accused the trade paper's gossip columnist of accepting favors from two movie producers. Robert J. Dowling said in a statement on Friday that he spiked the story by reporter David Robb "because I felt that, over the course of time, he had lost his objectivity on this issue and was no longer adhering to The Hollywood Reporter's standards of journalistic, ethical and professional conduct." Robb subsequently resigned. Meanwhile, the trade paper reported Monday that the Screen Actors Guild has initiated an audit of gossip columnist George Christy's film credits as part of the guild's routine investigation of individuals who it believes might be defrauding its pension and health plan.
CLOONEY TO RETURN AS BATMAN?
George Clooney is expected to fulfill a deal with Warner Bros. to portray Batman a second time, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported today. The newspaper quoted Darren Aronofsky, who has been tapped to direct the upcoming Batman: Year One, as saying: "George Clooney is going to be back as Batman in the movie. There are no major casting changes." Clooney was critical of his own performance as Batman in 1997's Batman and Robin, joining many reviewers in rapping the movie, which fell far short of studio expectations at the box office.
WEALTHY SINGER TO INVEST IN SCOTTISH MOVIE STUDIO
Former Eurythmics member Dave Stewart has decided to make a substantial investment in an $8-million film studio in Inverness, Scotland, the London Sunday Times reported. The studio, which is due to have a fiber-optic link to Stewart's multimedia company, the Hospital, in London, is likely to become the first film studio in Scotland. It is also being backed by James Cosmo, who costarred in Braveheart with Mel Gibson. "It won't be Hollywood, but it will be a proper working studio," Cosmo told the Sunday Times. Named Highland Studios, the facility sill reportedly have two main sound stages, one 15,000 square feet; the other 8,000 square feet. Plans by a rival group including Sean Connery to build a studio near Edinburgh have stalled, the newspaper said.
Looks like Whoopi Goldberg's single again.
The Oscar-winning thespian turned "Hollywood Square" queen has split with her boyfriend of five years, actor Frank Langella, today's Daily Variety says.
The two have been an item since the mid-1990s when they met on the set of one of Goldberg's cinematic opuses: "Eddie" (the one where she plays the limo driver who -- oh, my! -- gets hired to coach basketball's New York Knicks! Hee, hee.)
Goldberg's last high-profile romance was with "Cheers" star turned "Becker" guy Ted Danson. That one hit the skids shortly after Danson's black-faced tribute to Goldberg at a Friar's Club Roast in 1993.
Though Goldberg, 50, and Langella, 60, never wed, Variety says the ex-couple intends to stay "close friends" just like real-live Hollywood husbands and wives who haul each other into divorce court.
CODA: Dennis Danell, a guitarist for the Southern California-bred punk band Social Distortion ("Ball and Chain"), died Tuesday of natural causes, the group's Time Bomb Recordings says. Some reports peg the cause of death as an aneurysm. Danell was 38. In a statement, Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness said: "I am saddened beyond any possible form of expression." The band's roots date back to 1979.
STERN TALK? Can't anybody just quit anymore? Does everybody have to talk about how they're thinking of quitting, and then talk and talk and talk about it for months, making their eventual act of quitting an anti-climax? In short: Does everybody have to be like Kathie Lee Gifford?
On the very same day the Hamlet-esque Kathie Lee finally dropped anchor on her morning talk-show gig, the equally Hamlet-esque Howard Stern told reporters that he was -- ugh -- undecided about his future on the radio.
"I have a couple months left on my contract," Stern said a press conference hyping his new FX sitcom "Son of a Beach" premiering March 14, "and I don't know what I want to do."
We hereby terminate this item until Stern decides what he wants to do.
OFF THE ROAD: It's the bus (or limo) for Eric Clapton in Britain, where the 54-year-old guitar god has been banned from driving for six months per a speeding conviction.
According to reports, Clapton was dinged by authorities for driving his Jeep at 45 mph in a 30 mph zone in October. In addition to the no-driving thing, the rocker also was ordered to pay a $569 fine.
OSCAR WATCH: "Austin Powers" star Heather Graham has been tapped to join the presenters lineup for the 72nd Annual Academy Awards on March 26 at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium.
Peanut butter and jelly aren't the only things that go together for Edward Burns. The actor-writer-director can't resist casting his latest ingenues in his latest projects.
First there was Maxine Bahns in "The Brothers McMullen" and "She's the One." Then there was the interlude with Jim Carrey's ex, Lauren Holly, in "No Looking Back." Up next: current galpal Heather Graham in his new romantic comedy "Sidewalks of New York."
The indie project, set in New York (obviously), interweaves several modern love stories. Co-stars include actor-filmmaker Stanley Tucci, "Light It Up's" Rosario Dawson and "Girl, Interrupted's" Brittany Murphy. In his standard do-it-all fashion, Burns serves as the director, writer and producer.
Daily Variety reports that shooting will begin Wednesday in Gotham.
Burns, 32, and Graham, 30, began dating in 1998.
THE CONTENDERS: "The Insider's" Michael Mann may have the skinny on the director's chair for the planned big-screen Muhammad Ali biopic.
Columbia Pictures and producer Jon Peters have met with several A-listers to direct the Will Smith-toplined project. Variety says the contenders are Mann, Spike Lee and Curtis Hanson ("L.A. Confidential").
A final decision is expected soon. The studio has been looking for a candidate since "Wild Wild West" director Barry Sonnenfeld exited last fall. The story follows the pre-Ali days when the fighter was simply an up-and-coming buck named Cassius Clay.
Mann's name comes into play just days after he earned three Oscar nominations for directing, writing and producing "The Insider." Also on Mann's list of possible projects are a few other box-office heavyweights. He's met with Brad Pitt about "Shooter," a story that follows a sniper lured out of retirement and then betrayed; and he's developing a Howard Hughes biopic with Leonardo DiCaprio. (Leo's also attached to Mann's cops-and-corruption tale "The Inside Man.") Plus, there's an epic Mann's producing with Tom Hanks about Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great -- two dead Roman leader guys.
FLOATING ON 'FEATHERS': New sensation Jude Law won't be resting on that Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for long. Variety says "The Talented Mr. Ripley" co-star has committed to the lead role in "Four Feathers," a project that begins shooting in July.
"Elizabeth's" Shekhar Kapur will be at the helm for the Paramount/Miramax co-production. The movie's a remake of the Zoltan Korda tale about a British officer who resigns before battle and is given four white feathers by his fiancŽe and friends to remind him of his cowardice.
Law's also looking to position himself as "The Good Shepherd" in an MGM pic to be directed by Robert De Niro. The actor recently read for the Erich Roth script, about a CIA agent recruited during the agency's early World War II-era days. Over time, the responsibility of being a secret agent begins to take its toll on his family life.
"Shepherd" would preoccupy the actor's time come early 2001.