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Entertainment Today: Showbiz news

By United Press International   |   May 22, 2002 at 3:29 AM
NBC RACES TO THE TOP

Riding a wave of viewer interest fueled by "Friends," "Fear Factor" and "Law & Order" -- and capitalizing on the strong performance of the Winter Olympics -- NBC finished the 2001-02 TV season in first place.

The Peacock network beat second-place Fox by 33 percent among adults 18-49 -- the widest margin in the history of the people meter system Nielsen uses to measure audiences. CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves congratulated NBC, but pointed out that if you don't count NBC's Olympics numbers, his network finished first among all viewers.

With the May sweeps ending on Tuesday night, NBC had a lock on sweeps wins in both adults 18-49 and total viewers. CBS will finish the sweeps in second place among adults 18-49.

ABC will finish the sweeps in third place overall, but in fourth place -- behind Fox -- among viewers 18-49.

NBC had the highest rated telecast of the May sweeps with the eighth season finale of "Friends," which attracted 34.9 million viewers.


ROSIE'S FAREWELL

Rosie O'Donnell is putting her Emmy-winning daytime TV talk show to bed after six years after Wednesday's episode -- but don't expect her to stop talking.

In an interview with the New York Daily News, O'Donnell called herself "an Irish loudmouth" and promised that she will continue to speak out on issues -- in much the way she has done during the run of her show.

When "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" debuted in 1996, she made it her mission to give viewers a warmer, more positive experience than they got from the more confrontational shows like "Geraldo," "Sally Jessy Raphael" and "Jerry Springer." Her show was a hit right out of the gate.

Along the way, O'Donnell also managed to use the show as a forum to promote values she cared about on such issues as guns, breast cancer and adoption. Eventually, she came out as a lesbian, and used the publicity around the event to campaign for changes in the Florida law prohibiting gays and lesbians from adopting children.

She found herself at the center of other controversies -- such as her on-set clash with actor Tom Selleck over the National Rifle Association's position on gun laws. The resulting flap led to the dissolution of O'Donnell's role as a spokeswoman for Kmart.

"I learned if you live your life on TV, you're bound to say stupid things," she told the News, "but you have to roll with the flow." It surprised me that I was being so public when I was most vulnerable, like after the shootings at Columbine or the attack on the World Trade Center."

O'Donnell is just as happy to jump off the merry-go-round.

"I have enough money and I'm done," she said. "I want to be able to take my kids to school instead of having to get up and get into show mode."

O'Donnell said she does not have a plan for the future, but she figures she will maintain a public profile.

"I've got a big mouth and it's hard to keep it shut," she said.


MORE TALK

Rosie O'Donnell's departure from the daytime TV schedule creates an opportunity for other talk shows to compete for second place behind "Oprah."

The Walt Disney Co.'s Buena Vista Television will go with "The Wayne Brady Show" -- hosted by the multi-talented Brady, who is best known for his work on Drew Carey's comedy improv show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" Producers are cooking up a blend of celebrity interviews, music and comedy that should remind veteran talk show viewers of the old Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin shows.

Warner Bros. Domestic Television -- which distributed "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" -- will try its luck with a new show hosted by Caroline Rhea. The former co-star of "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" has been a frequent substitute host for O'Donnell.

Buena Vista is also developing a talk show for Ellen DeGeneres, expected to be ready for the fall of 2003.


FIGURES DON'T LIE?

"Spider-Man" opens with $114.8 million, beating the record $90 million set last November by "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" -- but what do these numbers really mean?

ABCNews.com analyzed the numbers to take into account more than just the sheer number of dollars spent on tickets for the biggest box-office this of all time and found out that "Gone With the Wind" is actually the biggest hit of all time.

U.S. moviegoers are certainly spending more money than ever, but tickets are also way more pricey than ever -- so contemporary movies are logging gargantuan grosses even though they're not attracting as many warm bottoms as the big hits did in the old days.

The ABC analysis is based on figures provided by the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co. When you adjust for inflation and count tickets sold, not just grosses, the result is a roster of blockbusters that looks very different from the list you get just going by sheer dollars.

For example, on the dollars-only list, "Titanic" is No. 1 -- and apparently untouchable -- with $600.8 million at the U.S. box office. On the adjusted list, James Cameron's maritime disaster epic is No. 6 with an inflation adjusted gross of $755.8 million and a head count of 129.2 paying customers.

On a dollars-only chart, "Gone With the Wind" shows a total gross of $198.7 million. But on the inflation adjusted list the Civil War epic shows a gross of $1.2 billion and a head count of 202 million.

"Star Wars" -- the 1977 original -- is No. 2 on the inflation-adjusted list, followed by "The Sound of Music" with 142.4 million tickets sold and a gross of $830.3 million. "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" -- No. 2 on the sheer dollars list -- is only No. 17 on the inflation-adjusted list.

The rest of the Top 10 are "E.T. The Extraterrestrial," "The Ten Commandments," "Jaws," "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "101 Dalmatians" and "The Empire Strikes Back."


OBIE AWARDS

They don't talk about "winners" at the Obies, but if they did they would say that Tony Kushner's play "Homebody/Kabul" was the big winner at the 47th Annual Obie Awards, presented Monday night in New York.

Kushner took home a playwriting award, and Bill Camp and Linda Emond were honored for their performances in the play -- an examination of the culture clash that results when a brilliant but eccentric English woman disappears in the capital of Afghanistan, and her husband and daughter go looking for her.

"Topdog/Underdog" -- Suzan-Lori Parks' tale of two brothers named Lincoln and Booth on a journey of self-discovery -- and "(sic)" -- Melissa James Gibson's comedy about three young neighbors in a New York apartment building -- took two Obies apiece.

Jeffrey Wright won and acting Obie and George C. Wolfe won a directing award for "Topdog/Underdog." Gibson won a writing award for "(sic)," and the production was also honored for its set design, by Louisa Thompson.

Other acting Obies were presented to the cast of "Talk," Christopher Donahue of "Monster." Raul Esparza of "Tick, Tick ... Boom!" and Martha Plimpton of "Hobson's Choice." Mary Zimmerman also picked up a directing award for "Metamorphoses."

Elaine Stritch was honored with a special citation for "Elaine Stritch at Liberty," and veteran playwright Caryl Churchill ("Cloud Nine," "Top Girls") was honored with a special award for sustained achievement.

© 2002 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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