News, Oct. 16: NBC Pulls “Coupling” From November Sweeps, Conan O’Brien Has Baby Girl, Student Sets “Jeopardy!” Record, More…

Top Story: NBC Pulls Coupling From November Sweeps

Unfortunately for NBC, TV viewers aren’t tuning in to the US version of BBC sitcom Coupling, a show the network had touted as a possible successor to Friends, now in its ninth and final season. NBC has benched Coupling twice in October, including tonight. The network will instead air a repeat of Tuesday’s Whoopi episode, which featured a face-to-face encounter between Whoopi Goldberg‘s character and President Bush (played by impersonator Steve Bridges). Coupling will again be pulled Oct. 30 to make room for three super-sized editions of Friends, Scrubs and Will & Grace on the opening night of the November sweeps. According to Reuters, the interrupted run of the Coupling has raised questions from media analysts about whether NBC is considering moving the show to a different time slot or pulling the plug altogether. NBC, however, said it has made no decisions about the future of Coupling and has yet to set its November schedule.

Conan O’Brien and Wife Have Baby Girl

Late Night host Conan O’Brien, 40, and his wife, Liza, are the parents of a new baby daughter, Reuters reports. According to NBC, Neve O’Brien, the couple’s first child, was born Tuesday evening in New York. O’Brien, who was chosen to replace David Letterman in the 12:35 slot following Jay Leno‘s The Tonight Show in 1993, is scheduled to return to the air on Thursday.

Donna Summer Pens Autobiography

Donna Summer, who has had a bevy of hits including the 1976 single “Love To Love You Baby,” is releasing an autobiography titled Ordinary Girl: The Journey (Villard Books) in which she discusses a suicide attempt, bouts of bedwetting, witnessing a murder on the streets of Boston as a young girl, moving to Germany for seven years to perform in the musical Hair, and the rumor about her really being a man. The book, which hit bookstores Tuesday, is being released along with a greatest hits album that contains three new songs.

Penn Sate Student Sets Jeopardy! Record

A part-time Penn State student became the first Jeopardy! contestant to return for a record-setting sixth appearance, The Associated Press reports. Sean Ryan, 31, won his sixth round of Jeopardy! in an episode that aired Wednesday night, taking home $17,999 and bringing his six-day total to $123,797. The show previously had limited contestants to five appearances, with the opportunity to return for the annual Tournament of Champions, but lifted that restriction this summer. Ryan will return to Jeopardy! Thursday to try to add to his winnings.

Baseball Helps Fox Take Weekly Ratings Crown

Exciting baseball playoffs in big markets including Chicago and Boston propelled the Fox network to victory in television ratings. According to Nielsen Media Research, Fox came in first with an average 13 million viewers, followed by CBS (12.5 million), NBC (9.3 million) and ABC (9 million). For the week of Oct. 6-12, the top 10 shows were: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS), Friends (NBC), ER (NBC), Survivor: Pearl Islands (CBS), Major League Baseball LCS: Boston at N.Y. Yankees or Florida at Chicago (Fox), CSI: Miami (CBS), Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS), 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter (ABC), Law & Order (NBC), Without a Trace (CBS).

Showtime Tackles Jayson Blair TV Biopic

The Showtime network is planning a television film about disgraced former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair, who built and ultimately destroyed his career by fabricating stories. According to Reuters, the dark comedy, tentatively titled The Jayson Blair Project, is being eyed for a premiere sometime in 2004, with Jon Maas on board to pen the script, but no casting decisions have been made. The project will be based on articles by former Newsweek reporter Seth Mnookin, who recently left the magazine to write a book about The Times for Random House.

Revolution Pacts With Harry Knowles

Revolution Studios is negotiating a deal with online critic Harry Knowles, better known for his movie gossip Web site Ain’t It Cool News, to come on board as the producer of Ghost Town, an original comedy he pitched. According to Variety, the project is the first step on what is expected be a multiple-film arrangement with the studio. The arrangement is considered unusual because Knowles writes about the industry on his site, which flaunts every piece of gossip he can dig up about upcoming movies. But Knowles tells Variety he expects a backlash from his readers: “They’re going to hate it,” he said. “When anything good happens to me, there is a collective outburst of unfettered jealousy and anger.”

Caterpillar Has Beef With George of the Jungle

Bulldozer maker Caterpillar Inc. claims in a lawsuit filed late Tuesday in Federal Court in Peoria, Illinois, that Walt Disney Co.’s straight-to-DVD movie George of the Jungle 2 infringes on its trademarks. Peoria-based Caterpillar alleges the film, about the unlucky jungle man battling “bulldozing bullies,” puts them in a bad light. Disney told Reuters they respected Caterpillar but added that the suit was groundless. “We expect the audience will view these sequences for their comedic value and not take them seriously,” a spokesman said. The home video is set for released Oct. 21.

Role Call: Nispel Becomes Expendable

Marcus Nispel, whose feature directorial debut The Texas Chainsaw Massacre opens Friday, is in talks to helm Warner Bros. Pictures big-budget pic The Expendables. According to Variety, The Expendables is described as a Dirty Dozen-like drama inspired by a real-life program at California’s Chino prison in which convicts are taught diving skills that can provide them with lucrative salvage and ship-repair careers following their parole.