News, Sept. 23: Ben and Jen Really Over?, Calif. Candidates Appear on Leno, Schwarzenegger Airs New Political Commercials, More…

Top Story: Affleck & Lopez Playing the Media?

Hollywood couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez could be pulling the wool over the media’s eyes. According to reports in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Associated Press, the celebrity duo was spotted Monday at the Liberty County Courthouse in a southeast Georgia town, and “looked totally together, smiling and happy,” a deputy registrar at the courthouse told the Journal-Constitution, just weeks after canceling their impending nuptials in California. Although a Liberty County sheriff told AP Affleck stopped to ask about a gun permit, the reason the two were at the courthouse is still up for speculation. The couple recently purchased a home together on Georgia’s Hampton Island.

Leno Welcomes Calif. Candidates

Ninety of the 135 candidates running for governor of California in the recall election made an appearance Monday on NBC’s The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. “Welcome to California, now under the division of Ringling Bros., ladies and gentlemen,” Leno said as he ushered in the eclectic group to his 300-seat NBC studio for the taping of the program, The Associated Press reports. During the taping, Leno gave each candidate 10 seconds to say what he or she would do to improve California–only they had to all answer at the same time. The talk show host also poked fun at candidate Kurt Rightmyer, who identifies himself as a “middleweight sumo wrestler,” who said his platform was to cut out the fat from the budget so he can eat it. The show also featured actor Robert Downey Jr., who labeled the recall election as “a sick, pathetic circus”–then announced he was running. Leno gently let Downey know that could be a problem because of “two words: convicted felon.”

Schwarzenegger Begins Campaign Commercials

More on the election: Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger began running separate television commercials Tuesday criticizing Gov. Gray Davis’ current term as well as the problem of illegal immigrants obtaining drivers’ licenses and the influence Indian tribes have over California politics, City News reports. The commercial criticizes the casinos for being allowed not to pay taxes and the heavy campaign contributions they offer. The Davis campaign issued a statement saying that every governor since 1959 has had at least one term with spending growth greater than Davis’ and employment is rising, City News reports.

Beckhams Say Marriage Is Just Fine

Contrary to rumors that the fairy-tale marriage between soccer superstar David Beckham and former Spice Girl Victoria is on the rocks, a statement released by the couple Sunday affirmed their “marriage is not in crisis,” AP reports. British tabloid News of the World speculated tensions were brewing between the two since Beckham moved to Spain to play for the Real Madrid soccer team and Victoria is reported to have been reluctant to relocate to Madrid full time. “Since we first met, our careers have always meant we have spent time apart. This is not a reflection on the strength of our marriage and we are very much enjoying our new life in Spain,” the couple’s statement said. “We are extremely happy together as a family. Our only difficulty has been finding a house in Madrid that meets our needs.”

Hepburn’s N.Y. Home Up for Sale

The New York City townhouse owned by the late Katharine Hepburn went up for sale Monday with a hefty $4.95 million prize tag attached, Reuters reports. Hepburn bought the four-story townhouse in the Turtle Bay Gardens section of Manhattan in 1937 after renting it for six years, Halstead Property, the broker handling the sale, told Reuters. The 96-year-old Hepburn died in June in her family home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

TV Profanity on the Rise

A new study put out by the watchdog group the Parents Television Council says swearing on television has increased on all the major networks, AP reports. The council said it studied all primetime entertainment series from a two-week period in 1998, 2000 and 2002 and found a jump in profanity on “virtually every network” and in every time slot. They are asking the TV industry to “get serious about reducing the flood of vulgarity. … Barring that, the [Federal Communications Commission] needs to get serious about enforcing broadcast decency laws,” AP reports.

Role Call: ER Gets New Blood, Gibson Rides With Motorcycle Gang, John Waters’ Shame

Actors Nicholas D’Agosto and Rossif Sutherland, Donald Sutherland‘s son, are joining the cast of NBC’s ER, as recurring characters. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the show is trying to rejuvenate the ratings as it goes into its 10th season…Meanwhile, Mel Gibson, having completed his controversial religious film The Passion, is looking to star in a project about an infamous motorcycle gang. Variety reports Gibson is in negotiations to star in Under and Alone, an action drama based on the true story of ATF undercover agent Billy Queen, who infiltrated the notorious and violent Mongols Motorcycle Club…Eclectic director John Waters‘ new film A Dirty Shame was bought by Fine Line Features and begins shooting Sept. 24. According to the studio’s press release, the film will star Tracey Ullman as a blue-collar convenience store owner who suffers a concussion and experiences carnal lust she cannot control. The comedy also stars Chris Isaak, Johnny Knoxville and Selma Blair.