News, Dec. 24: James Garner Becomes “8 Simple Rules” Regular; CBS May Air Jackson Special; Comedian Gets Posthumous Pardon; More…

Top Story: James Garner Becomes 8 Simple Rules Regular

Touchstone TV, the producers of ABC’s 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, has signed veteran actor James Garner as a regular to its sophomore comedy. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Garner will appear in all remaining episodes of the season as Grandpa Jim, the father of Katey Sagal‘s character, the widowed Cate Hennessy. He has guest-starred in all episodes of the show to date, starting with the emotional Nov. 4 one-hour segment, the first episode without star John Ritter, who died of a heart ailment in September. His character came to support Cate and three teenage grandchildren as they dealt with the realities of becoming a single-parent family. The 75-year-old Garner, who took a fall on the set of the show last week and bruised his hip, is set to return to 8 Simple Rules Jan. 5 in an episode guest-starring David Spade, who signed on to do a multiple-episode arc.

Maverick Films Launches Screenwriting Competition

Madonna and Guy Oseary‘s Maverick Films has teamed with online script scouting service ScriptShark–a division of Baseline/Filmtracker, which is owned by Hollywood Media Corp.,’s parent company–to launch the Maverick Blueprint Screenwriting Competition. According to Variety, the grand prizewinner will receive $10,000 and a 12-month option with Maverick. The second place winner will receive $5,000 while third place will get $2,000. All three winners will also receive the opportunity to sign for management representation with Concept Entertainment. The deadline to enter the contest is Feb. 29.

CBS May Air Jackson Special

Michael Jackson Number Ones, CBS’ Michael Jackson music special that was scrapped last month when child molestation allegations against the singer surfaced, may air after all. Sources told The Hollywood Reporter Tuesday that the network is considering a January airdate for the hour-long retrospective, which was originally scheduled for Nov. 26 in conjunction with the release of Jackson‘s greatest hits album, Michael Jackson Number Ones. TV news circles were also abuzz yesterday about Jackson possibly sitting down for an interview with Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes next month.

Bruckheimer Shows Dominate Primetime Ratings

CBS’ CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Without a Trace and CSI: Miami— three different shows produced by Jerry Bruckheimer–were the three most-watched programs on prime-time television last week, giving the network a win in the week’s ratings race. Cold Case, a fourth Bruckheimer show, was ranked ninth in last week’s prime-time numbers, compiled by Nielsen Media Research. The top shows for the week of Dec. 15-21 were: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 24.7 million; Without a Trace, CBS, 19.4 million; CSI: Miami, 19.2 million; NFL Monday Night Football: Philadelphia at Miami, ABC, 18.8 million; Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 18.1 million; Two and a Half Men, CBS, 14.8 million; NFL Monday Showcase, ABC, 14.3 million; Cold Case, CBS, 14 million; Primetime Special Edition, ABC, 13.9 million.

Recording Academy Chooses Lifetime Award Recipients

Recording artists Van Cliburn, the Funk Brothers, Ella Jenkins, Sonny Rollins, Artie Shaw and Doc Watson will receive lifetime achievement awards at next year’s Grammy Awards ceremony, The Associated Press reports. Jazz producer Orrin Keepnews, songwriting duo Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and pianist/radio host Marian McPartland will receive Trustees Awards. Both recipients of the special merit awards will be officially acknowledged in a ceremony during a weeklong celebration leading up to the 46th annual Grammy Awards ceremony, set to take place Feb. 8 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The show will be telecast live on CBS.

Springsteen Top Concert Earner of 2003

Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band ruled the concert business in 2003, raking in a whopping $115.9 million for 47 concerts, including 13 stadium shows in the New York area, the AP reports. The numbers, released by the concert industry trade publication Pollstar, aren’t final yet, but editor Gary Bongiovanni predicts 2003 will be the fourth record-setting year in a row with around $2.4 billion in concert business. Bongiovanni said that’s largely because fans have accepted higher ticket prices for big-name acts, particularly veterans. Rounding out the Top Five earners for the year were Celine Dion, the Eagles, Simon & Garfunkel and the Billy JoelElton John double bill, all of which charged more than $100 per ticket on average.

Academy Award Winning Animator Dies

Academy Award winning animator Wah Ming Chang died Monday in Carmel, Calif., at the age of 86, the AP reports. Born in Honolulu, Chang moved to San Francisco in the early 1920s. Chang was instrumental in creating a stop-motion animation production of The Three Bears, and he also designed costumes for the film The King and I, created masks for Planet of the Apes and made Elizabeth Taylor‘s headdress in Cleopatra. But it was his work on the 1960 feature The Time Machine that earned him an Oscar for special effects. Chang married Glenella Taylor in 1941 in Texas, since California law at the time did not allow marriage between a Chinese and a Caucasian. Taylor, his wife of nearly 60 years, died in 1997. Chang is survived by a half-sister and several nieces and nephews.

Comedian Lenny Bruce Gets Posthumous Pardon

Comedian Lenny Bruce, who died of a drug overdose in 1966 at the age of 39, was pardoned Tuesday for a 1964 obscenity conviction over a raunchy, irreverent monologue at the Cafe Au Go Go in New York, Reuters reports. New York Gov. George Pataki issued what his office said was the first posthumous pardon in the state’s history: “Freedom of speech is one of the greatest American liberties and I hope this pardon serves as a reminder of the precious freedoms we are fighting to preserve.” A group of lawyers and comedians, including Robin Williams and The Smothers Brothers, petitioned Pataki earlier this year, saying the posthumous pardon would help set the record straight on the career of a man who helped transform comedy.

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