STOSSEL MAY BECOME SOLE 20/20 ANCHOR
Barbara Walters indicated on Thursday that John Stossel, her co-host on ABC's 20/20, will become the sole host of the newsmagazine when she leaves it in September. In a "special note" sent via email to fans of the show, Walters said: "Let me share with you something else I told [my staff]. 20/20 will continue with my partner John Stossel in the anchor chair, with the full support and resources of ABC News." She added: "You may even see me drop by from time to time." Stossel's elevation will likely alter the complexion of the long-running program. In recent interviews to promote his new book, Give Me a Break (the same title as his featured commentary on the program), Stossel has complained about having to fight with liberal editors and producers to get features that reflect his libertarian philosophy on the air, and he has remarked that "where I work at ABC, people say conservative the way people say child molester."
REEFER MADNESS TO BECOME SHOWTIME MOVIE
Reefer Madness , Broadway's send-up of the 1936 film of the same name, has been set for a transformation on television. Showtime announced Thursday that it will begin shooting the TV version in April, with an air date likely early next year. In an interview with today's (Friday) Hollywood Reporter, writer Kevin Murphy acknowledged that only a pay-TV channel could present the racy spoof. "We don't have the restrictions on where we can go for humor that we would have had on broadcast television," he said.
SYNERGY STRIKES OUT: NEWS CORP SELLS DODGERS
Ending a generally unsuccessful effort to achieve "synergy" with a Major League Baseball club, Fox Entertainment Group, a unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, announced Thursday that baseball commissioners had approved its sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers to real estate developer Frank McCourt for $430 million. When Murdoch took over the team in 1997, some club owners worried that with his deep pockets, he would spend heavily to land star players, thereby inflating the costs of personnel higher than ever. In McCourt's case, the opposite has been true, with some commentators pointing out that the Dodgers acquisition was highly leveraged and that McCourt may not be able to offer top players the multi-million-dollar contracts to which they have become accustomed. McCourt, who was introduced at a news conference Thursday by Dodgers announcer Vin Scully (arguably the club's most valuable employee), maintained that he will be able to spend what is necessary to revive the club's fortunes. "This is a terrific transaction that is good for baseball, good for the city of Los Angeles and, most importantly, good for Dodger fans," he said.
BBC CHIEF WOULD HAVE BEEN FIRED, SAY REPORTS
Greg Dyke, who resigned Thursday as director general of the BBC, agreed to step down only after it became apparent that if he did not, he would be fired by the BBC's board of governors, published reports in the U.K. said today (Friday). Even after his resignation, Dyke was refusing to go along with the new BBC chairman's "unreserved apology" to the Tony Blair government. Dyke said in a BBC interview, "I couldn't quite work out what they were apologizing for." He also maintained that he did not "necessarily accept the findings of Lord Hutton," the British law lord who had concluded that a controversial BBC report was unfounded and called the corporation's editorial oversight "defective." The report had quoted a source as saying that the Blair government had ordered that an intelligence report about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction be "sexed up" in order to make the case for war. Returning to the BBC to bid his staff farewell, Dyke was given what Britain's Guardian newspaper described as "a hero's welcome." He told them: "I may have made mistakes but what we have been trying to do is defend the independence and integrity of our journalism." Meanwhile, Mark Byford, who has been appointed the BBC's acting director general, said today that he will launch an internal inquiry into the controversial report. At the same time News Director Richard Sambrook commented, "The BBC made mistakes and we have faced up. ... I regret misjudgments over the last eight months and accept responsibility for my part in the errors."
FOR EISNER, JOBS IS ONE BAD APPLE
Pixar's Steve Jobs said in effect Thursday that he will divorce Disney's Michael Eisner, ending a nearly 13-year marriage that has yielded an uninterrupted series of animated hits, including two Toy Story movies, A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc. and last year's Finding Nemo. In a statement that surprised analysts, most of whom had assumed that a new Disney-Pixar deal would eventually be struck, Pixar CEO Steve Jobs (who also heads Apple Computer) said that after 10 months of negotiations with Disney, "we're moving on. ... and it's a shame that Disney won't be participating in Pixar's future successes." Disney's failure to conclude a deal with Pixar was seen as a particularly severe blow to Disney Chairman Michael Eisner, who was recently assailed by Roy Disney for bungling the negotiations with Pixar. On his website, SaveDisney.com, Roy Disney posted a statement wishing Jobs and director John Lasseter his best "and I can only say that under other circumstances I believe we would still be working together on some wonderful new projects." In fact, the impact of the separation may not be felt for at least two more years, since Pixar still owes Disney two additional films under the current contract. Nevertheless, Disney stockholders appeared unconvinced by company assertions that Pixar's demands would have cost it hundreds of millions of dollars. Shares in the company fell 4.9 percent in after-hours trading on Thursday. In an interview with CBS MarketWatch, Roy Disney commented: "That's the market's judgment and that's my judgment." Nevertheless, today's Wall Street Journal observed that the collapse of the relationship means that Disney is now free to produce sequels to the Pixar hits on its own and would thereby stand to make more money on them than they would if they had to share the profits with Pixar. The newspaper quoted media analyst Jeffrey Logsdon of Harris Nesbitt Gerard as saying that Disney's earnings are "not going to be that dramatically different in terms of dollars [then] if they had kept Pixar."
MOVIE REVIEWS: THE BIG BOUNCE
Critics for the most part are giving The Big Bounce just that. The second film incarnation of an Elmore Leonard novel (the first was released in 1969 with Ryan O'Neal and Leigh Taylor-Young in the lead roles) is being faulted -- ironically, given its source material -- for its script. "The movie doesn't work," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. "It meanders and drifts and riffs." Lou Lumenick observes in the New York Post: "This is the kind of movie so laid-back it waits until the last 10 minutes to disclose most of the plot." Ty Burr in the Boston Globe calls it "all wink and no substance." Gene Seymour inNewsday figures that it's really all "an experimental film," noting, "Given the talent involved on both sides of the camera and its sturdy literary pedigree, there's no way a movie could be this doughy and airy unless it was somehow by design." A few critics find it difficult to come down too hard on the movie, however. Jamie Bernard in the New York Daily News regards it as "an opportunity to while away 88 undemanding minutes in [star Owen] Wilson's amusing company." Michael Wilmington in the Chicago Tribune even goes so far as to compare it with a frosty tropical drink -- "refreshing and icy-cool, a sinful pleasure mixed by experts." Still other critics, however, are not reluctant to pummel it. The Toronto Star's Peter Howell, for example, writes: "How bad does a movie set in Hawaii have to be to make a frozen Canadian not want to see it during the worst weather week of the winter? This bad: Given a choice between shoveling my driveway or going to see The Big Bounce again, I would choose the driveway."
MOVIE REVIEWS: YOU GOT SERVED
When critics were predicting in 2002 that the success of Chicago was likely to lead to a revival of movie musicals, it's doubtful that You Got Served was what they had in mind. The movie, which revolves around two groups of street dancers, one white, the other black, is described this way by Chris Kaltenbach in theBaltimore Sun: "As a pop-culture study of street dancers ... it's endlessly fascinating. But as a film, it's nothing, a series of dance sequences unimaginatively staged and listlessly directed, strung together with melodramatic clich