News, Feb. 5: Blake Trial Postponed Indefinitely, “’70s Show” Has One More Season, Churches Reserve Theaters for “Christ,” More…

Top Story: Blake Loses Lawyer, Trial Postponed

Robert Blake‘s murder trial has been postponed indefinitely after Blake‘s lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jr. quit the case, citing “irreconcilable differences,” AP reports. Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp canceled the jury selection that was to begin in less than two weeks and postponed the trial indefinitely following a one-hour meeting with Blake and Mesereau. Judge Schempp set a hearing date for Feb. 23, by which time Blake should have a new lawyer. Best known for his TV role as a tough talking cop on the ’70’s drama, Baretta, Blake, 70, is accused of murdering wife Bonnie Lee Bakely outside a restaurant in 2001. Spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office Sandi Gibbons said, “We had no idea this was coming. It’s like being punched in the stomach. It’s like having the rug pulled out from under us. We’re a little shell-shocked right now.” This is the third lawyer Blake has lost.

That ’70’s Show Stars To End Run Next Season

Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher will be around a little longer than originally planned, AP reports. Though Grace, 25, had made it know that this season would be his last, he has decided to stay on for one more season. Ashton Kutcher will also remain on the show though next season. The comedy has aired on Fox since 1998.

Paris Hilton May Host Pageant

Notorious party girl and now TV star Paris Hilton may host Donald Trump’s Miss USA Pageant on NBC, AP reports. Trump reportedly got the idea while Hilton’s parents were visiting his estate in Palm Beach. “”I’ve known Paris since she was a little girl. She’s a fine girl … I think she will give the pageant its highest TV ratings,” the real estate tycoon told US Weekly.

Christian Groups Behind The Passion of the Christ Opening Day

Christian groups are going so far as buying out entire theaters so people may watch Mel Gibson‘s controversial film The Passion of the Christ and then discuss its message in church, AP reports. Says Josh Baran, a public relations executive publicizing the film, “They’re going to bus them to theater. They will give assignments in many churches–go to the movie, we’re going to talk about it.” Other groups are going still further, standing in line to buy people tickets to the film, free of charge. Cory Engel, pastor of Harvest Springs Community Church in Great Falls, Montana explains, “This is a window of opportunity we have. Here’s a guy who’s putting his money into a movie that has everything to do with what we do. Churches used to communicate by having a little lecture time on Sunday morning. People don’t interact that way anymore.” The Passion of the Christ will open in 2,000 theaters on Ash Wednesday, a remarkable number considering the film is self-financed by director Gibson and all the dialog is in Aramaic and Latin. Jewish and Christian groups have expressed concern that Gibson‘s film depicts Jews as being solely responsible for the death of Jesus. “When they attack him, they attack millions of people in middle America,” said Jennifer Giroux who created a website devoted to getting people to watch the film, “We have watched films concerning the Holocaust with compassion, concern and with sorrow, and we just want to be able to watch this beautiful, beautiful movie about our faith.”

Speaking of Faith…Faith Evans To Attend Rehab Clinic

As part of an agreement wherein drug charges will be dropped, Faith Evans and her husband have agreed to complete a 13-week drug-counseling program, AP reports. Evans and her husband Todd Russow were charged with marijuana and cocaine possession and having improper license plate tags after the couple was pulled over in suburban Atlanta last month. Evans is the widow of rapper Christopher Wallace, aka Notorious B.I.G, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in 1997.

Role Call: Affleck a Brat, McGraw Goes Out On Friday

Ben Affleck has signed on to star in a new adaptation of Josephine Tey’s novel Brat Farrar, Variety reports. Affleck will play the eldest of sibling in a story of familial strife following the death of the patriarch. Affleck’s character was thought to have died as a boy, but returns to claim a portion of the deceased wealth. The 1963 novel was adapted once before in 1993 as the film, Paranoiac. Fight Club scribe Jim Ohls’ script will more closely follow the novel’s plot than the previous adaptation did…
Country singer Tim McGraw will start filming this week on a film adaptation of H. G. Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights also starring Billy Bob Thornton, AP reports. McGraw, who previously acted in the unreleased indie, Black Cloud, will play an alcoholic father who tries to relive his youthful football success through his son. The film takes place in a football-obsessed Odessa, Texas. McGraw‘s wife, Faith Hill, will be seen later this year in the remake of The Stepford Wives.