Entertainment Today: Show-biz news

By United Press International   |   Oct. 15, 2001 at 4:45 AM   |   0 comments

ABC DOING THE TUESDAY SHUFFLE

ABC-TV is handing "NYPD Blue" a better time slot than it had before on the new primetime schedule, in an effort to cure its Tuesday night ratings blues.

The network announced a major overhaul of its Tuesday schedule -- canceling Joan Cusack's half-hour comedy "What About Joan" and moving "Bob Patterson" to Wednesdays at 9:30 following "The Drew Carey Show." Jason Alexander's low-rated freshman comedy has been a major ratings disappointment for the network, failing to compete with "Frasier" on NBC.

The moves mean Tuesdays will feature just one hour of comedy and two hours of drama on ABC.

After Nov. 6 -- when "NYPD Blue" begins its ninth season with a special two-hour episode -- the schedule will feature "Dharma and Greg" at 8 p.m., "Spin City" at 8:30, and "Blue" at 9 p.m. Network executives said that would provide the strongest possible lead-in to "Blue" creator Steven Bochco's new drama "Philly."

The move means "NYPD Blue" will not be up against NBC's police drama "Law & Order" on Wednesdays at 10 p.m., as originally scheduled. Bochco told Daily Variety he is thrilled by the change.

"It seems to me it's a win-win-win situation," he said. "For 'NYPD Blue' to not have to compete with 'Law & Order' is huge. It's not that we don't have competition now -- 'Frasier' is there -- but at the very least, there's a clear choice."

Bochco suggested that "Blue" would improve ABC's ratings at 9 p.m. and give "Philly" a better chance to connect with viewers.

"Bob Patterson" will still be on Tuesday next week, but will switch time slots with "Spin City" and move to Wednesdays on Oct. 24.

Tuesday night is not ABC's only ratings problem. The network's weekly primetime ratings are down more than 20 percent from the first two weeks of the 2000-01 season.

(Thanks to UPI Hollywood Reporter Pat Nason)


COMEDY IS WHAT THE NATION NEEDS

Following last month's terror attacks, a cross-section of entertainers immediately decided to stage pro-America concerts and fundraisers. Among those jumping on the bandwagon, some of the country's best-known comedians.

But how do you put together a funny act in the wake of a true tragedy? Well, according to the Los Angeles Times, some of the nation's best funnymen -- including Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby and Chris Rock -- were "right on the mark" when they put together the recent "Stand-Up for New York" benefit. The publication says the event raised nearly $2 million.

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani opened the show, telling the audience: "I'm here to give you permission to laugh ... if you don't I'll have you arrested."

(Thanks to UPI Feature Reporter Dennis Daily)


SUSAN LUCCI

Susan Lucci is topping her long career in television, which includes a long-deferred Emmy Award for best actress in a daytime soap, with a career in another area of entertainment -- cabaret.

Lucci got a taste for singing by pinch-hitting as Annie Oakley in the Broadway revival of "Annie Get Your Gun" for the month of December 1999. She made her nightclub debut as the opening act for Regis Philbin at Atlantic City Resorts last May.

Now she's appearing at Feinstein's at the Regency, one of Manhattan's top showcases for cabaret talent. Her show includes "They Say It's Wonderful" from Irving Berlin's "Annie Get Your Gun," George and Ira Gershwin's "Come Rain or Come Shine," Jerome Kern's "Can't Help Lovin' dat Man," Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing," Harold Arlen's "That Old Black Magic" and Stephen Sondheim's "Not While I'm Around."

Lucci's publicist says she's scheduling more nightclub performances for the current season, and she's still taking singing lessons.


'XANADU'

Former "Caroline in the City" star Amy Pietz is trying her hand at producing with a kitschy stage version of the 1980 movie musical "Xanadu."

The film --- described by Daily Variety as "stupendously bad" --- starred Olivia Newton-John as a muse assigned to inspire a roller-boogie artist.

But Pietz calls it "the last great escapist movie made." She and her husband, actor Kenneth Alan Williams, have undertaken to present the stage version -- celebrating pre-AIDS, post-Jimmy Carter, late disco America in the early 1980s. She called it a glorious time in American life, exemplified by "roller skates, leg warmers (and) satin pants."

"Xanadu Live" premiered in Los Angeles last Thursday night, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit both the American Cancer Society's breast cancer programs and Equity Actor's Fight AIDS.

The production has Newton-John's blessing. "I am thrilled that after 20 years 'Xanadu' is being celebrated live on stage," said the singer. "And I am moved that they have chosen to benefit a cause that is close to my heart."

Newton-John is a breast cancer survivor.


OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN

Olivia Newton-John -- currently promoting her new greatest hits CD -- says she would take part in a proposed sequel to "Grease," but only if everyone from the original cast, including John Travolta, comes along for the ride.

The subject came up last month when ABC-TV announced a deal with Paramount Network Television to produce a musical update of the 1978 feature in which Newton-John starred with Travolta, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway and Didi Conn.

(Of course, there was already a sequel, "Grease 2" in 1982, but it didn't amount to much.)

The new project, which is expected to air sometime in 2002, will be set in 1979 -- 20 years after cool guy Danny Zuko (Travolta) and foreign exchange student Sandy Olsen (Newton-John) found love at Rydell High.

But Newton-John told UPI she would only participate on one condition.

"I would be interested if John (Travolta) does it," she said. "It would have to be everyone or it wouldn't be worthwhile."

Newton-John said talk of a sequel actually began while the original movie was still fresh in the can. "We talked about doing a sequel 20 years ago," she said. "Looks like now maybe is the time."

No one involved with the movie at the time knew that "Grease" would become a classic, but Newton-John said the cast and crew had a good feeling about it.

"We just did it," she said. "We had no comprehension. But it had amazing energy and a great feel to it, so there was no reason why it wouldn't do well."

It did well enough to stand at No. 46 on the all-time list of U.S. blockbusters.

Meanwhile, Newton-John's new CD -- "Magic: The Very Best Of Olivia Newton-John" -- contains 21 digitally remastered selections, 20 of which hit the Top 40. It also contains the 1990's dance club hit, "The Grease Megamix."

(Thanks to UPI Hollywood Reporter Pat Nason)


BOX OFFICE

Denzel Washington's "Training Day" topped the nation's box office for a second weekend.

The Warner Bros. drama, starring Washington as a renegade narcotics detective, edged MGM's opening of "Bandits," an offbeat comedy with Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton as bank robbers.

Disney's opening of "Corky Romano," a comedy with Chris Kattan as a misplaced mobster, came in third -- followed by Miramax's second weekend of "Serendipity" and Fox's third weekend of "Don't Say a Word."

Rounding out the top 10 were "Iron Monkey," "Zoolander," "Joy Ride," "Max Keeble's Big Move," and "Hearts in Atlantis."

© 2001 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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