Walters to get bumped in July
ABC is planning to bump 20/20 with Barbara Walters from Fridays to Wednesdays beginning July 25, rather than in September as previously indicated, the New York Daily News reported Wednesday. Curiously, it will be replaced for several weeks by the ABC magazine spin-off 20/20 Downtown, according to the newspaper. (Downtown is due to return to the air on June 11 in its old Monday-night time period.) In September, the drama Once and Again will move into the 10 p.m. Friday slot. Walters has previously expressed her dismay over the network's decision to move her program, which has been a fixture in the Friday time period for 15 years.
Nude news cut on "GMA"
Plans to air an interview with "body paint artist" Filippo Ioco and present some of his models on Good Morning America were abruptly canceled at the last moment last Wednesday following objections by GMA co-host Charles Gibson, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. The newspaper said Gibson voiced concern about the segment at a meeting prior to the show and that producer Shelly Ross and co-anchor Diane Sawyer concurred. Ross told the Post that she had agreed to book Ioco on the show after she had seen a segment of the syndicated Ripley's Believe It or Not!, featuring Ioco and his models, in which viewers said they could not tell that the models were not wearing real bikinis. "But you know what?" Ross told the Post, "You could tell the difference a little bit." Ioco said that he was told about a half hour before airtime that he and his models were off the show because "some senator did something in Washington" that had to be covered instead.
"The young" and the clearest
CBS, which already produces 17 of its 18 primetime dramas and comedies in the high-definition format -- more than any other network -- said Tuesday that it will also begin producing the daytime soap The Young and the Restless in HDTV. The first Y&R episode in the HDTV format is due to air on June 27.
was "Survivor" producer a friend of Rudy?
An additional examination of the deposition given by former Survivor contestant Dirk Been in connection with the lawsuit filed by the producers of the reality series against another contestant, Stacey Stillman, suggests that producer Mark Burnett was a longtime friend of Rudy Boesch, another contestant, and advised Boesch on how best to play the game. In the deposition, Been commented: "[Rudy] just said, 'Hey, me and Burnett, we're friends.' He said it to me privately and he said it to the group. It's not something Rudy tried to hide or was ashamed of in any way." News reports said on Tuesday that Burnett and Boesch met in 1996 when Boesch was part of a Navy Seals team that competed on Burnett's Eco-Challenge series, which airs on the Discovery Channel. Been also indicated during the deposition that Burnett advised Boesch on strategy during the Survivor contest. Following the Survivor series, Boesch was hired by Burnett to host his next reality series, Combat Missions, set to debut on the USA Network in the fall.
New, improved "big brother" returning in July
CBS, which drew respectable, if not the phenomenal ratings it had hoped for when it ran its original Big Brother series last season, announced Tuesday that it will bring back the reality game show on July 5 -- with a "new, improved format." Instead of airing the series six nights a week for a half-hour a night as it did then, the network will now carry it on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for one hour each night. Instead of 10 contestants, there'll be twelve. Even the music is being tweaked. Washington Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes, writing in Wednesday edition, began describing some of the format changes, then interrupted herself in mid-description with the comment, "Oh, forget it, you don't need to know what's going on. It's a peep show, OK?"
Shower scene may get "Big Brother" contestant fired
Penny Ellis, a contestant on the British version of Big Brother may lose her job as a teacher after she was seen momentarily nude as she stepped from a shower on the TV show. Headmistress Cauther Tooley of the Sarah Bonnell School in Stratford told the BBC, "If she chooses to behave in a lewd manner, she will have made the choice to leave the school." She added, however, that she had not seen the controversial scene herself. "I've only heard about it. I understand that it was an accident and the towel slipped." Britain's Channel 4 network, which carries the reality series, later broadcast an apology for showing the bathroom scene.
A memorable Memorial Day
With outstanding ticket sales for Disney's Pearl Harbor, DreamWorks' Shrek, and Universal's The Mummy Returns, the Memorial Day weekend produced a memorable box-office record of $186 million, beating last year's record of $184.6 million, according to The Associated Press. But unlike last year, when five films competed strongly at the box office (headed by Mission: Impossible 2, which grossed 71.8 million), the top three this past holiday weekend accounted for 80 percent of the total gate. "It's really the strength of this handful of films that opened within the last few weeks that propelled this record-breaking weekend," Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian told AP Tuesday.
Could "Pearl Harbor" have earned $100 million?
Leading the box office was Pearl Harbor with $75.2 million. Although some analysts had forecast last week that the film would become the first to top the $100-million mark in its debut, Disney officials pointed out that given its three-hour running time, such a feat would have been impossible. The studio claimed that the film played to sell-out crowds everywhere. "What greater compliment to a filmmaker [than] to know his show is sold out show after show after show," Disney distribution chief Chuck Viane told Bloomberg News. But, as New York Daily News critic Jack Mathews pointed out Wednesday: "Multiplexes are not limited to how many theaters they can use. You can be sure that if lines are around the block, screens will be added to accommodate them." Mathews estimated that, while Disney claimed the movie was "officially" showing on 3,214 screens, the actual number was more like 6,000 (a figure that might explain the poor showing of all but the top films). Solomon Smith Barney entertainment analyst released a report Tuesday predicting that Pearl Harbor will eventually gross between $200 million and $250 million domestically.
The top 10 films over the four-day Memorial Day weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Pearl Harbor, Disney, $75.2 million, ($75.2 million); 2. Shrek, DreamWorks, $55.2 million, ($111.8 million); 3. The Mummy Returns, Universal, $19 million, ($170.7 million); 4. A Knight's Tale, Sony, $9.1 million, ($44.3 million); 5. Angel Eyes, Warner Bros., $6.2 million, ($18.5 million); 6. Bridget Jones's Diary, Miramax, $4.2 million, ($62.4 million); 7. Along Came a Spider, Paramount, $2.1 million, ($70.6 million); 8. Memento, Newmarket, $2 million, ($14.5 million); 9. Spy Kids, Miramax, $1.3 million, ($105.2 million); 10. Blow, New Line, $1.24 million, ($51.6 million)..
"Town and Country" is worst flop in movie history
With New Line's Town and Country virtually pulled from release after earning only $6,712,451 in four weeks, the $80-million film now ranks as the biggest flop in movie history, FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman observed Wednesday. It succeeds the 1998 Kevin Costner starrer, The Postman.
Writer wants to know how much "Roger Rabbit" really made
The author who wrote the novel on which Disney's 1988 animated feature Who Framed Roger Rabbit was based has sued the studio, demanding that it produce an accounting of merchandise revenue related to the film. In his lawsuit, novelist Gary K. Wolf does not name a monetary figure but asks only that he be permitted to audit the studio's books related to the film.
Jackie Chan to star in Hong Kong's most expensive film
Jackie Chan has announced that he will star in an epic Mandarin-language film for Hong Kong's Golden Harvest Studios. With a budget of $78 million, it will be more than twice as costly as the most expensive film previously produced in the Asian film center. Titled The Art of War, it is to be based on the 2,000-year-old writings of Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu. As reported by Screen Daily, the online edition of the British trade publication Screen International, Chan will also serve as executive producer. In addition, the actor said that he has agreed to appear in what Golden Harvest is now calling Untitled Jackie Chan Action Adventure, to be filmed in English.
U.K.'s equity prepares to negotiate with producers
The British actors' union, Equity, is sounding tougher than its American counterpart as it prepares to enter into contract-renewal talks with British film producers on Friday. In a statement, Equity, which has 36,000 members, said Tuesday: "The cream of British talent has sent a stark message to U.K. film producers -- pay us properly or face a dispute. ... If these talks fail, Equity is bound to consider escalating the dispute." The actors have indicated that when they meet with negotiators for the Producers' Alliance for Cinema and Television, they will demand what appears to be the equivalent of residual payments. Currently they receive a flat fee.
This week in TV offers something for everybody. Unfortunately it's offering it up all at the same time, so get your VCRs ready. But before we get to the actual column, we have an important fashion update. Last week, ABC's "Good Morning America" declared that dark solid shirts worn with dark solid ties underneath dark solid suits will now be officially known as the "Regis Look." So for every guy out there who just dropped a week's salary on a new suit … tough break, man. It's just not cool anymore.
George Clooney -- In his continuing efforts to apologize for "Batman & Robin," Clooney brings us another cool idea for "live" television (the "live" episode of "ER" a couple years ago was his idea, too). "Fail Safe" (9 p.m. EDT/PDT, tonight, CBS), billed as a faithful remake of the 1964 big-screen classic "Fail-Safe," is scheduled to air live (on the East Coast, anyway) in glorious, retro black-and-white. The original film was a stark nail-biter -- about what happens when an American bomber gets the wrong code and heads off to nuke Moscow. Now, today's audience undoubtedly includes a percentage of folks who don't even know where Moscow is, much less why we might want to bomb it. But the fact that the show is "live" (meaning any swear words that might slip out or accidental nudity will be broadcast) ought to add to the tension.
-- On this programming-heavy night, TNT gets a one-hour head start to win an audience for "Don Quixote" (8 p.m. EDT/PDT). John Lithgow ("3rd Rock From the Sun") seems perfectly cast as the eternal, wacky, heroic dreamer. And TNT continues its tradition of bringing real star power to its made-for-cable efforts. The first name in television fantasy epics over the past few years, Robert Halmi Sr. ("Merlin," "Gulliver's Travels," and to be kind we won't mention "The 10th Kingdom" ... oh, oops) produced and Bob Hoskins ("Noriega: God's Favorite") co-stars, along with talented beauties Isabella Rosselini and Vanessa Williams.
-- For those of you who like your televised sports viewing to be as grueling an experience as you can possible, you might try the Discovery Channel's multi-night presentation of "Eco-Challenge -- Argentina" (9 p.m. EDT/PDT, today and Monday). Fifty-two international teams of adrenaline-junkies attempt to navigate a 197-mile course designed to keep Argentinean Search and Rescue crews on their toes.
-- A&E's sometimes dull, sometimes fascinating "Biography" sounds like it's got a good one this week -- a two-hour episode profiling the cerebrally silly British comedy troupe Monty Python. If you don't know who they are, you don't need to watch and should skip down to the next paragraph. But if you are a fan: Today at 8 p.m. (EDT/PDT). (Nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more.)
-- If there's an opposite end of the documentary spectrum to Monty Python, it might be "American President," a cerebral but less-silly 10-part series profiling all 41 commanders-in-chief. PBS will air two one-hour episodes a night, starting today at 9 p.m. EDT/PDT and continuing through Thursday.
-- Somehow, that PBS documentary failed to mention the most exciting president of all -- the one who single-handedly thwarted a terrorist attempt to take over his plane, a la "Air Force One." Fortunately, CBS will cover this ground for us when they present "The American Film Institute Salute to Harrison Ford" (8 p.m. EDT/PDT, Wednesday). Expect comments and anecdotes from Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, a bunch of Hollywood stars and clips from many of the biggest films ever made crammed into this one-hour special.
-- And one other thing happening today (at 9 p.m. EDT/PDT), HBO presents the season finale of the most creative and clever show on television to fully embrace the "Regis Look," "The Sopranos."
Five-part special documenting a non-stop, 335-mile race across arid Australian outback, dense rainforest, raging rivers, steep mountains and rough ocean waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Forty-eight four-person teams from 15 countries face off in the fourth annual Eco-Challenge.