'REN & STIMPY' RETURNING?
"The Ren & Stimpy Show" -- the cartoon series that helped establish Nickelodeon -- is reportedly going back into production.
Citing industry sources, TV Guide reported that TNN has ordered new episodes and has obtained rights to 52 episodes of the show that ran from 1991 to 1995.
Ren was a hyperactive Chihuahua. Stimpy was his carefree pal, a cat with kitty litter for brains. Together they shared unusual, often repulsive adventures -- usually involving bodily functions.
TNN is expected to bring back series creator John Kricfalusi -- who left Nickelodeon in 1992 after one battle too many over content. The battleground was "Man's Best Friend" -- an episode that Nickelodeon refused to air in which a new character, George Liquor, puts Ren and Stimpy through a sadistic training course, leading Ren to beat George to a pulp.
"It's one of the most violent and hilarious things ever done," said Billy West, who did the voice of Stimpy and took over as Ren after Kricfalusi took off. "Now that the show's on a channel not aimed at kids, it may finally be seen."
TNN sources told TV Guide the network plans to run the episode, as well as restore deleted footage to other episodes. A TNN spokesman confirmed that the cable network is in talks about doing new episodes, but would not provide details.
The network is planning a primetime animation block, to premiere early next year. Plans call for the block to feature "Gary the Rat," with Kelsey Grammer doing the voice of a lawyer who becomes a 6-foot rodent, and Stan Lee's "Stripperella," with Pam Anderson voicing a stripper who becomes a superhero on her own time.
HUNT, ROBBINS IN 9-11 PLAY
Helen Hunt ("Mad About You," "As Good as It Gets") and Tim Robbins ("The Shawshank Redemption") will co-star in Anne Nelson's one-act play, "The Guys," at the Actors' Gang Theater in Hollywood from July 10-28.
The play is account of a New York City fire captain who lost eight men in the tragedy and gets help from an editor in writing the eulogies he is to deliver at their funerals. Nelson, a journalism professor, based the play on her own experience of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York.
It has been playing off-Broadway with Bill Irwin ("Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "Sesame Street") and Amy Irving ("Traffic," "Crossing Delancey") currently starring. Both productions will feature changing celebrity casts during their runs.
Plans call for a movie version of the play, starring Sigourney Weaver ("Alien," "Ghostbusters") and Anthony LaPaglia ("Road to Perdition," "Lantana").
SAMMY ON BROADWAY
It's to be called "Mr. Bojangles." Smith reported it will deal with the controversies, successes and reversals of Davis' life, but will mainly celebrate his phenomenal showmanship. Finding actors to play Davis at various stages of his life may prove a formidable challenge.
Smith also reported that Tony-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell ("Ragtime") will play Don Quixote and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio ("The Perfect Storm," "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves") will play Aldonza when "Man of La Mancha" is revived on Broadway in November. Ernie Sabella -- best known as the voice of Pumba in "The Lion King" -- will play Don Quixote's trusty pal, Sancho Panza.
STARS LINE UP FOR SONGWRITERS HALL INDUCTION
Organizers announced Thursday that Trisha Yearwood, Brian McKnight, Rufus Wainwright, Paul Williams, Joel Grey and Jimmy Webb will be among the presenters and performers at this year's induction ceremonies for The National Academy of Popular Music/Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Hal David, chairman/CEO of the academy, said more artists will be added to the June 13 show in New York.
The organization is also honoring Carole King with its Johnny Mercer Award. The Hitmaker Award is being presented to Garth Brooks and the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award will be given to Stevie Wonder.
Among other honors, George M. Cohan's "You¹re A Grand Old Flag" is being recognized with the Towering Song Award.
This year's inductees into the hall of fame join a roster that already includes Burt Bacharach, James Brown, Jim Croce, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Elton John, Curtis Mayfield, Bernie Taupin, James Taylor, Brian Wilson and Stevie Wonder.
FRANKENHEIMER IN SICK BAY
Four-time Emmy-winning director John Frankenheimer has pulled out of production on "Exorcist 4:1" -- a prequel to "The Exorcist" -- so he can begin physical therapy following back surgery two weeks ago.
No new director has been named for the project, which is scheduled to begin shooting in early September. The cast includes Liam Neeson ("K-19: The Widowmaker," "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace") and Gabriel Mann ("Buffalo Soldiers," "Summer Catch").
Frankenheimer has been nominated for 12 Emmys. He won directing Emmys for "Against The Wall" (1994); "The Burning Season" (1995); "Andersonville" (1996) and "George Wallace" (1998).
'BLACK' IS BACK
Universal Pictures has a deal with "Pitch Black" writer-director David Twohy to direct a sequel to the 2000 sci-fi hit, with plans calling for Vin Diesel to return as the good-bad guy Richard B. Riddick.
The Hollywood Reporter said the sequel -- titled "Riddick" -- will begin shooting by the end of the year. It's expected to provide more details about "dark and corrupted universe" featured in "Pitch Black."