FOX YANKS GAY REALITY SHOW
The Fox TV network has aborted its plans to air a reality show in which two straight men pretended to be gay after it was previewed to members of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. The show, Seriously, Dude, I'm Gay, generated controversy two weeks ago when Fox issued a press release referring to the theme of the show as "a heterosexual male's worst nightmare." Fox later apologized. But, as it turns out, the contestants on the show themselves refer to their experience as their "worst nightmare" and went on to complain that they had been "trapped in gay hell." In a statement on Friday GLAAD executive director Joan Garry said: "Fox deserves a lot of credit for doing the right thing here. They offered us an advance copy of the show and were incredibly responsive to our grave concerns. They worked with us to schedule a meeting and preempted that meeting with a decision to shelve the show."
TIME WARNER CHIEF PREDICTS NETS MAY OUTSOURCE NEWS FROM CNN
Calling rival Fox News Channel "talk TV," Time Warner Chairman Richard Parsons has maintained that CNN, CNN Headline News and the CNN website together reach "over 50 percent more people than Fox News every month." In an interview with the Multichannel News website, Parsons acknowledged that Fox beats CNN in the ratings because of "destination shows" like The O'Reilly Factor, which keeps people tuned into the channel for an hour, while CNN viewers generally tune in for 10-20 minutes. "So, we realize one of the challenges we have at CNN is that we've got to get that larger audience to stay with us a little longer," he said, "and it has to do with the quality of the programming, the nature of the program. But we are going to keep it fundamentally a news channel as opposed to talk TV." Parsons also predicted that he would not be surprised to see one of the major broadcast networks eventually "decide that they're going out of the business of producing their own news, and they're going to essentially turn to outsourcing" from CNN. Such a development would hearken back to ABC's early years, when news footage was provided by Telenews, jointly owned by Hearst and MGM.
MARTHA MAY ASK COURT TO LET HER WORK WITH POOR WOMEN
Martha Stewart plans to ask the judge in her case to allow her to serve her sentence for obstruction of justice by working with underprivileged women to help them start businesses, Newsweek reports in its current issue. The magazine cited a letter to Judge Miriam Cedarbaum from Maria Otero, head of the New York-based Women's Venture Fund, which teaches low-income women how to become entrepreneurs. In it, Otero explains how Stewart, who who began with a small catering business and turned it into a $250-million enterprise, could act as a powerful example to underprivileged women. A spokesperson for Stewart declined to comment on the report.
NBC NEWS CHIEF SAYS DATELINE'S GETTING A BAD RAP
NBC News President Neal Shapiro has again defended the decision to devote more than five hours of the NBC newsmagazine Dateline this month to the season finale of The Apprentice and the series finales of Friends and Frasier. In an interview with the Associated Press, Shapiro pointed out that Dateline had previously devoted hour-long shows to the series finales of Cheers and Seinfeld and suggested that if the farewell shows that generated so much to-do by the critics this month had not happened within weeks of one another, no one would have paid them any attention. Moreover, Shapiro added, "The audience certainly watched. ... There's no doubt about that. The ratings speak for themselves."
BRITAIN PLANS TO JUNK JUNK-FOOD ADS
Hoping to halt the obesity trend among British children that has already developed into an epidemic among American children, the British government is expected to ban advertisements for junk food during TV programs aimed at kids, the London Sunday Telegraph reported. The newspaper said that an official announcement of the ban, which will chiefly affect ads for fast-food outlets, candy and soft drinks, will be made at the Labor Party's annual conference in Brighton in September. But Martin Paterson of the British Food and Drink Federation was quoted as saying that such bans have also been implemented in other countries without any effect. "It would also be a devastating blow to the quality of children's television. They need the money from advertising to make programs," he added.
SHREK WINS; TOMORROW MAKES WAVES
The Day After Tomorrow made a big splash at the nation's box office over the weekend, but it was unable to dislodge Shrek 2 from the number-one spot. According to studio estimates the DreamWorks animated feature took in an estimated $73.1 million (the biggest second-week total in history), while the 20th Century Fox disaster movie opened with $70 million. Still, the figures were a lot closer than analysts had predicted. They were also a lot fatter -- by at least 25 percent. Indeed the overall box office appeared certain to establish a record when receipts are counted for the four-day weekend, set last year with $201.8 million, as Bruce Almighty, starring Jim Carrey, opened with $85.7 million, and The Matrix Reloaded took in $45.6 million. The two top films this year earned more than that in just three days. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Shrek 2, $73.1 million; 2. The Day After Tomorrow, $70 million; 3. Troy, $11.5 million; 4. Raising Helen, $11.2 million; 5. Soul Plane, $5.7 million; 6. Van Helsing, $4.9 million; 7. Mean Girls, $4.9 million; 8. Man on Fire, $1.9 million; 9. 13 Going on 30, $1 million; 10. Super Size Me, $1 million.
TOMORROW SWEEPS OVER OVERSEAS BOX OFFICE
The Day After Tomorrow also had simultaneous openings in 102 other countries where it took in an additional $82.1 million, making its $152.1 million worldwide total the best opening for a non-sequel ever. Still, there were several disappointments. the $5.7 million take for MGM's Soul Plane was considered the equivalent of a crash-and-burn. Troy's total was 52 percent lower than last week's. And Van Helsing's was 54 percent lower. On the other hand, in limited release, MGM's Saved! opened in 20 theaters with $328,000, which augurs well for its planned expansion on June 11.
MICHAEL OVITZ HAS DISAPPEARED
Onetime superagent Michael Ovitz has virtually disappeared from the Hollywood scene, Daily Variety editor Peter Bart observes in a column published on the trade paper's website today (Monday). Although Bart says that he was able to reach Ovitz by telephone, the former Hollywood kingpin refused an on-the-record interview. Bart writes: "Ovitz's vanishing act is all the more astonishing when you consider the fact that he is only 57 years old, and that his hyperactive nature dictates that he always be the center of the action. This is a man who created and destroyed careers, who merged giant companies." Bart traces Ovitz's fall to his 2002 interview with Vanity Fair, in which Ovitz warned of a "gay Mafia" in Hollywood and lashed out at Disney chief Michael Eisner and former colleagues at CAA. Bart says that he had earlier offered to allow Ovitz to vent his wrath in Variety, telling him: "If you say these things to Vanity Fair, they'll kill you. If you want to do an interview in Variety, I will see to it that your direct quotes will be read back to you so you can verify their accuracy. You can't, of course, read the article ahead of time." Bart adds: "In seeking out his story, was I trying to protect Ovitz from himself? I suppose so, on one level. But more importantly, it dismays me to watch someone that talented publicly self-destruct."
MOORE FILMED INTERVIEW WITH BERG
Michael Moore filmed an interview with slain American businessman Nicholas Berg in Arlington, VA last December in which Berg discussed his concern for his safety before going to Iraq, Berg's family said Saturday. Moore confirmed that he had shot the interview for his award-winning documentary Fahrenheit 911 but said he would not make it public. He did send a copy of the interview to the family. Berg's brother David complimented Moore for handling the situation with "dignity, respect and discipline." He told the Associated Press: ""Michael Moore has really been a total class act with this whole thing. ... He could have sold this to the media or stuck it in his movie."
LUCAS REVISING FIRST STAR WARS PICS?
Rumors are spreading on Star Wars fan sites on the Internet that George Lucas is making numerous changes to his original three films prior to their release as "the Star Wars Trilogy" on DVD on Sept. 21. According to Video Store magazine the changes include digitally changing the faces of at least two characters to make them gibe with those in the recent films. Steve Sansweet, head of fan relations for LucasFilm, described the set as versions of the films "as George Lucas sees them today." Some fans have expressed disappointment that the original films, as they were presented theatrically, will not be available on DVD.
WARNER'S DISTRIBUTES SPY WARE TO U.K. THEATERS
Warner Bros. has sent night-vision monoculars to every theater in the U.K. showing the new Harry Potter film, The Prisoner of Azkaban, which opens today (Monday). Theater ushers have been instructed to use the devices to scan the audiences for anyone attempting to use a camcorder to record the movie from the screen. One theater manager told Britain's Guardian newspaper: "I've never known a company to go to such lengths to protect a film."