News, Jan. 9: Kutcher Is MTV’s “New Best Friend,” Osbourne Cancels British Tour, O’Donnell Plans Gay Bahamian Cruise, More…

Top Story: Ashton Kutcher Gets New Best Friend

Just weeks after it was announced the hit hidden-camera show Punk’d was leaving the airwaves, MTV plans to launch a new series starring, once again, Ashton Kutcher. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the new show, My New Best Friend, will be similar to Punk’d, which featured Kutcher playing practical jokes on celebrity friends. In Friends, based on a British series of the same name, contestants can win a substantial cash prize by convincing friends and/or family that they have a new best friend (actually an improv actor handpicked by the show’s producers). The catch is that this person, whom the friends/family have never met, makes the challenge more difficult by behaving inappropriately. Kutcher will co-executive produce the show, developed by his Katalyst Films company, but is not expected to be an on-air personality. The news is a welcome relief for MTV, which was caught off guard when Kutcher canceled Punk’d after only two seasons because he felt the series had run its course. No airdate for My New Best Friend has been set.

Osbourne Cancels British Tour

Ozzy Osbourne has canceled an upcoming 20-date tour of Britain in order to fully recover from his accident on a quad bike last month, The Associated Press reports. “I am deeply disappointed, but it’s out of my control,” Osbourne said in a written statement Friday. “Right now I need to concentrate on my recovery and unfortunately this is something I cannot rush.” The tour was due to kick off Feb. 15 at London’s Wembley Arena, but the former Black Sabbath frontman said he was looking forward to performing again “when the doctors tell me I am fit and ready.” Osbourne, 55, was seriously injured Dec. 8 after crashing an all-terrain vehicle at his estate in Buckinghamshire, southern England and spent a week on a ventilator.

O’Donnell Plans Gay Cruise to Bahamas

Former talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell announced plans Thursday for what is billed as “the first gay cruise with family values,” Reutters reports. O’Donnell said the first offering from R Family Vacations would be a weeklong cruise on the new Norwegian Dawn cruise liner, which will depart New York for the Bahamas on July 11. On the cruise, passengers will be able to attend discussion groups on adoption, artificial insemination, surrogacy, and other topics of particular interest to gay and lesbian parents. O’Donnell founded the company with her partner Kelli Carpenter and Gregg Kaminsky, formerly of gay travel agency Atlantis.

Gandolfini Conflicted About Sopranos‘ Role

During HBO’s presentation at the winter press tour of the Television Critics Association in Hollywood, The Soprano star James Gandolfini said has mixed feelings about playing mob boss Tony Soprano. “I’m not ready to say goodbye to the character, but I’m not going to miss him,” he said. “Having gone through something similar personally, it was difficult having to dredge those things up. Sometimes it was very hard to do some of those scenes,” Gandolfini, whose real-life marriage ended in divorce in December 2002, said. Earlier this week, Gandolfini revealed he was engaged to a woman he met on the set of the 2001 comedy, The Mexican. The Sopranos returns to HBO for 10 more episodes starting March 7.

Bourne Identity Top-Renting Home Video of 2003

According to year-end figures issued Thursday, the spy thriller The Bourne Identity, which stars Matt Damon as a amnesiac CIA assassin on the run, was the top-renting U.S. home video of 2003. Rentrack Corp., which tracks point-of-retail data for the industry, said the combined revenues from DVD and VHS rentals of The Bourne Identity–released on video last January–totaled nearly $79.2 million for the year, Reuters reports. Director Steven Spielberg‘s con-artist caper Catch Me If You Can, which was released on video in May 2003, came in at No. 2 with rental revenues of $75.5 million, followed by M. Night Shyamalan‘s crop circle sci-fi thriller Signs, which placed third in the rankings with rentals totaling more than $74.9 million since its video release in January 2003.

Wayne Brady Canceled

The Wayne Brady Show, which earned two Daytime Emmy Awards last year, has been canceled. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the show, which has been averaging a lowly 1.0 rating this season, will remain in production through May and will continue to air for the balance of its second season. The future of The Wayne Brady Show had been in jeopardy for several months now, especially since its Disney-owned syndicator, Buena Vista Television, committed to a new daytime show hosted by Tony Danza to debut in the fall. This week also saw the cancellation of Crossing Over with John Edward, now in its third season, due to low ratings.

Role Call: Jackson in Miss Castaway, Hauser Enters Cave

Strange, but true: Michael Jackson is in a movie titled Miss Castaway, about a group of beauty pageant contestants who crash-land on a deserted island and find Noah’s Ark. According to the AP, Jackson plays a force sent by the pope in a beam of light to dispense wisdom to the stranded women. The film also stars Joe Millionaire Evan Marriott. No word on when or how the movie will be released … 2 Fast 2 Furious villain Cole Hauser is set to star in the horror thriller Cave for Screen Gems. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film revolves around a group of cave explorers who get trapped in a cave during a deep-sea ocean dive and mysteriously mutate into primeval beings. The project will be a directorial debut for Bruce Hunt, who helmed the second and third units on The Matrix and The Matrix Revolutions.