Buy what you will

Friends series finale on DVD
TV on DVD is exploding — and the timing is perfect for devoted fans.
The shows involved include Friends, which went out with a whimper last Thursday after 10 years of phenomenal ratings, and Frasier, which signs off this Thursday after 11 successful seasons, a ratings fade setting in only recently.
In a precedent-setting move that could shake up the industry, Warner Home Video is rushing out a DVD of Friends: The Series Finale on Tuesday. Love it or hate it, it’s here.
Here is a guide to what else is in stores already, and coming soon, for selected shows on DVD:
Friends (1994-2004): Besides the Finale disc, the four-disc box set Friends: The Complete Seventh Season arrived Apr. 6 with the 23 episodes from 2000-01 plus bonus materials such as new footage, a gag reel and three episode commentaries. Also available: A new mega-box set of all seven years to date, as well as the past releases, year-by-year. These are better for devotees than earlier Best Of Friends DVDs.
Frasier (1993-2004): The four-disc box set Frasier: The Complete Third season arrives May 25 with the 24 episodes from 1995-96 plus decent extras including a conversation with Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce. The release pattern for the complete season sets has been slow so far but, with the show going, going, gone, it could speed up.
Cheers (1982-1993): As well as being a sitcom legend itself, it’s the show that launched Frasier. Cheers: The Complete Third Season arrives May 25 with the 25 episodes from 1984-85 plus bonuses, including the introduction of Frasier Crane.
The X-Files (1993-2002): It’s a wrap with the seven-disc box set The X-Files: The Complete Ninth Season, out tomorrow. It has the 19 episodes from 2001-02 and the usual strong extras that distinguish the X-Files season sets, including three new documentaries on the search for the Truth.
This ninth was obviously the worst season for the cult show but you have to buy it to complete the set — and it does have its moments, especially in the two-hour finale.
Survivor (2000-??): The five-disc box set Survivor: The Complete First Season is due on Tuesday and includes the earlier lame disc, The Greatest And Most Outrageous Moments from Season 1. Why anyone would want to see any of this again mystifies me but, based on e-mails and Web sites, true fans are eager to revisit every last minute of the reality show that launched a plague of locusts in this genre.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003): The six-disc box set Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Complete Sixth Season is out with the 22 sassy, moody and often sensationalistic episodes from this penultimate season. Buffy returned from heaven and the daring musical Once More With Feeling was staged. There is a strong lineup of extras, including a behind-the-scenes session on the making of the musical.
Have Gun — Will Travel (1957-1963): A blast from the past, western style. The six-disc, box set Have Gun — Will Travel: The Complete First Season is out Tuesday with the first 39 episodes. For boys who grew up in this era, Richard Boone as Paladin was our man of action on TV.
The elegant San Francisan would work as detective, bodyguard, bounty hunter, courier or gunslinger. Extras in the set are limited to production notes, bios and plot info.
The B&W episodes are decently restored for their visuals, but sound is sometimes muffled, which is not surprising for a vintage series.


Good for her! (I love her!)

Amber Wins ‘Survivor,’ and a Fiance
NEW YORK – Not a bad night for “Survivor” contestant Amber Brkich: an engagement ring and a $1 million prize.And all on national television. The conclusion to “Survivor All-Stars” felt more like “The Bachelor” when one of the two final contestants, “Boston Rob” Mariano, pulled out a ring and proposed to Brkich.
Since she wore a shirt proclaiming, “I (heart) Rob,” the answer wasn’t in much doubt.
Then she won bragging rights for the rest of their lives. When host Jeff Probst counted the votes before a live audience in Madison Square Garden, Brkich, of Beaver, Pa., beat Mariano by a 4-3 vote.
“We didn’t even care who was going to win,” Brkich said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We knew we both had each other for the rest of our lives.”
She revealed the two had talked about marriage in the months between the end of the game an Sunday’s live vote-counting.
“But I had no idea he was going to do it in front of millions of people,” she said.
It was a wild ending to the nation’s most popular reality TV game. “Survivor” has been a consistent Top Ten performer in the Nielsen Media Research ratings, and this spring’s edition brought back some of the memorable characters from past games.
Two other contestants, Rupert Boneham, of Indianapolis and Jenna Lewis, of New Hampshire, were voted off during Sunday’s two-hour season finale before Mariano and Brkich were left as the final two contestants.
Mariano, known for his swaggering demeanor and ever-present Boston Red Sox cap, largely controlled the game with his machinations. And he essentially won his fiancee the million dollars: in the second-to-last tribal council, he voted Lewis off and kept Brkich.
Would she have been wearing his ring if Mariano had voted the other way?
“Probably we would have had a long talk,” she said.
Mariano’s take-no-prisoners style during the game earned him his share of enemies. The final tribal council brought one contestant to tears as she described how he betrayed her, and led another to pull away his hand after offering a shake.
“You sold out your values, you sold out your character, you sold out your friends for a stack of greenbacks,” one vanquished contestant, Lex van den Berghe, told Mariano. “I hope it was worth it.”
Another former contestant, Jerri Manthey, was booed by the Madison Square Garden audience (and Dan at home) on Sunday when she criticized “Survivor” for playing games with people’s emotional lives for the sake of entertainment.
Other former competitors said it was just a game.
Brkich said Mariano’s style got him all the way to the finals, but may have eventually done him in.
“I knew he was going to take all the bullets,” she said.
CBS also announced ó in an “American Idol” twist ó that it was calling on fans of the show to vote one of the losing 17 contestants of “Survivor All-Stars” a second million-dollar prize. That prize will be awarded on a live show Thursday.



Comedian, Actor Alan King Dies at 76
NEW YORK – For comedian Alan King, nobody was out of bounds when it came to humor. Not even a sitting queen. Once, after performing for Queen Elizabeth II in London, the comedian was introduced to Britain’s monarch. “How do you do, Mr. King?” she asked him. “How do you do, Mrs. Queen?” he replied.
“She stared at me, and then Prince Philip laughed,” King recalled. “Thank God Prince Philip laughed.”
King, whose cutting wisecracks about suburbia, marriage and modern life struck a chord both with the blue bloods and those with blue collars, died Sunday. He was 76.
Comedian Jerry Stiller, who knew King for more than 50 years, said King was “in touch with what was happening with the world, which is what made him so funny.”
“He always talked about the annoyances of life,” Stiller said. “He was like a Jewish Will Rogers.”
King, who also was host of the New York Friars Club’s celebrity roasts, died at a Manhattan hospital, said a son, Robert King. He died of lung cancer, his assistant Miriam Rothstein said.
King appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” dozens of times and he played supporting roles in more than 20 films including “Bye Bye Braverman,” “I, the Jury,” “The Anderson Tapes,” “Lovesick,” “Bonfire of the Vanities,” “Casino” and “Rush Hour 2.”
He also produced several films, including “Memories of Me,” “Wolfen” and “Cattle Annie and Little Britches,” and the 1997 television series “The College of Comedy With Alan King.”
He said he was working strip joints and seedy nightclubs in the early 1950s when he had a revelation while watching a performance by another young comedian, Danny Thomas.
“Danny actually talked to his audience,” he recalled in a 1991 interview. “And I realized I never talked to my audience. I talked at ’em, around ’em and over ’em, but not to ’em. I felt the response they had for him. I said to myself, ‘This guy is doing something, and I better start doing it.'”
King, who until then had been using worn out one-liners, found his new material at home, after his wife persuaded him to forsake his native Manhattan, believing the suburban atmosphere of the Forest Hills sections of Queens would provide a better environment for their children.
Soon he was joking of seeing people moving from the city to the suburbs “in covered wagons, with mink stoles hanging out the back.”
His rantings about suburbia, just as America was embracing it, struck a chord with the public and soon he was appearing regularly on the Sullivan show, Garry Moore’s variety show and “The Tonight Show.”
Bookings poured in, and he toured with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra, played New York’s showcase Paramount theater and performed at top nightclubs around the country.
King appeared in a handful of films in the late 1950s, including “The Girl He Left Behind,” “Miracle in the Rain” and “Hit the Deck,” although he didn’t care for his roles. “I was always the sergeant from Brooklyn named Kowalski,” he once complained.
He also appeared on Broadway in “Guys and Dolls” and “The Impossible Years,” and produced the Broadway plays “The Lion in Winter” and “Something Different.”
He wrote the humor books “Anyone Who Owns His Own Home Deserves One” (1962) and “Help! I’m a Prisoner in a Chinese Bakery” (1964).
Born Irwin Alan Kniberg, he grew up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and in Brooklyn.
“Both of them were tough neighborhoods, but I was a pretty tough kid,” he recalled in 1964. “I had an answer for everything. … I fought back with humor.”
He married Jeanette Sprung in 1947 ó “”Marriage is nature’s way of keeping us from fighting with strangers,” he once cracked ó and they had three children, Robert, Andrew and Elaine Ray. When King was at the height of his career, he faced one son’s drug addiction and said he realized he had neglected his family.
“It’s not easy being a father,” he said, “but I’ve been allowed a comeback.”
He spent more time at home and his son conquered his addiction.
“Now everyone kisses,” he said. “We show our affections.”


I saw, and liked, “Mean Girls.” It was fun!

‘Van Helsing’ Wins Box Office Over Olsens
LOS ANGELES – Dracula, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein stomped the Olsen twins in the first major box-office contest of the summer blockbuster season. The monster-hunting adventure “Van Helsing,” starring Hugh Jackman as a creature slayer, opened at No. 1 with $54.2 million.
Mary-Kate and Ashley’s comedy “New York Minute,” a major test of the direct-to-video starlets’ theatrical prowess as they near age 18, debuted in fourth place with $6.2 million ó a weak showing compared to the popularity of other recent teen comedies like “13 Going on 30” and “Mean Girls.”
“Mean Girls” fell to second place in its second week with $14 million, while Denzel Washington’s “Man on Fire” continued its robust run with $7.9 million in its third week, raising its total to $56 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
“Van Helsing” also earned $53 million internationally after opening simultaneously in 41 countries, according to Universal Pictures, which released the movie.
The first-weekend ticket sales landed between director Stephen Sommers’ two previous monster smashes ó “The Mummy,” which had $43.3 million in 1999, and “The Mummy Returns,” which had $68.1 million in 2001.
The movie received a huge franchise push from Universal, accompanied by a “Van Helsing” video game, an animated DVD prequel “Van Helsing: The London Assignment” and a “Van Helsing”-themed haunted house attraction at Universal Studios theme park.
“It’s celebration time,” said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal.
“New York Minute” failed to build an older teen following on top of the Olsens’ core fan base of very young children. About 80 percent of the tickets went to girls under the age of 11, said Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., which released the comedy.
With more big-budget movies on the way, there’s a tense road ahead for most studios as costs have risen dramatically over the previously alarming $100-million budgets of yore.
“Van Helsing” cost about $160 million to produce and is the first of many movies this summer that approach or cross that budget threshold, from “Spider-Man 2” and the ancient epic “Troy” to “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” and the weather run-amok disaster film “The Day After Tomorrow.”
The rising costs are risk for studios, since most summer films have only one shot at recouping a portion of their investment before fading away amid the competition. Most of the movies will have to wait until their home video releases to begin showing a profit.
“This is the opening salvo in the summer movie sweepstakes,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations Co. “The summer season is the season of the opening weekend. You have to make your mark right then at the beginning, because the next weekend audiences are going to be looking for the next big thing.”
Here are the estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. “Van Helsing,” $54.2 million.
2. “Mean Girls,” $14 million.
3. “Man on Fire,” $7.9 million.
4. “New York Minute,” $6.2 million.
5. “13 Going on 30,” $5.5 million.
6. “Laws of Attraction,” $3.5 million.
7. “Kill Bill ó Vol. 2,” $3 million.
8. “Godsend,” $2.7 million.
9. “Envy,” $2.6 million.
10. “The Punisher,” $1.2 million.


I’d watch it live if they aired it!

Letterman to Tape Show at 4 A.m.
NEW YORK – David Letterman will be staying up very late ó or getting up really early ó to tape a show next week at 4 a.m.
“We thought it would be cool, just something different to try,” said Rob Burnett, the “Late Show” executive producer. “We’ve been doing the show for so long that anytime you can come up with something new it makes it interesting for us.”
The show that airs on Friday, May 14 will be taped early that morning. Typically, Letterman tapes his Friday show on Thursday evening.
The other days of the week, Letterman tapes his show about six hours before it is aired on CBS.
The show will probably set up remote cameras, perhaps in Times Square, and show other street scenes. “The city is always interesting, but particularly interesting at 4 a.m.,” Burnett said.
The show hasn’t announced what night-owl celebrity guests will join them.
Burnett joked that the staffer who thought of the 4 a.m. taping has since been fired.


I was surprised to see that they killed Sloan and then brought him back…oh wait! That was on “ALIAS.” Oops!

Ross, Rachel Together as Sitcom ‘Friends’ Ends
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – “Friends,” the smash hit U.S. sitcom about six winsome young pals who became like family to each other and millions of TV viewers, ended its 10-year NBC run on Thursday with an emotional farewell that finally left Ross in Rachel’s arms for good.
The highly promoted hour-long finale, preceded by a 60-minute “Friends” retrospective, capped weeks of media hype surrounding what became the most anticipated U.S. television event since “Seinfeld” left the General Electric Co.-owned network in 1998.
At the show’s end, Rachel, played by Jennifer Aniston, decides at the 11th hour to stay in New York with Ross (David Schwimmer’s character), rather than fly to Paris, binding the star-crossed lovers together at last as the curtain came down on American television’s top-rated comedy.
Her change of heart comes after a comically frantic race to the airport, where Ross desperately begs her to stay, only for Rachel to rebuff him and board the plane. An anguished Ross goes home to find a confessional message on his answering machine from Rachel, who unexpectedly appears in his doorway to announce, “I got off the plane.” The two kiss, embrace and pledge never to leave each other again.
The off-and-on romance between Rachel and Ross had remained one of the show’s underpinnings since the start and rivaled some of the most storied love affairs in prime-time history, ranking with Sam and Diane from “Cheers” and George Clooney and Julianna Margulies on “ER.”
Tying up another loose thread, the surrogate mother for the show’s other central couple, Monica and Chandler (who wed at the start of season eight) surprised the expectant adopting parents by giving birth to twins — a boy and a girl.
The finale concludes with moving men clearing out Monica’s apartment as she and Chandler get ready to head for their new house in the suburbs. The six friends share another round of hugs, then each solemnly leaves his or her key on the kitchen counter, departing together for one last cup of coffee.
The final original episode, expected to draw some 40 million to 50 million viewers, commanded sold-out, Super Bowl-sized advertising rates averaging $2 million for each 30-second commercial, the most ever for a sitcom.
Debuting in 1994 as a breezy comedy about attractive 20-somethings living together in Manhattan, unfettered by mortgages or kids, the show quickly caught on.
While critics lauded the series for its consistently sharp writing, a key ingredient was the chemistry among the six principals, who became nearly as close off screen as on and bargained together for higher salaries as the series grew in popularity and commercial value.
“We were like six pieces of a puzzle that just fit together,” Schwimmer said in an interview broadcast this week as part of a two-hour special edition of NBC’s “Dateline Tuesday.”
The coffee-gulping brood consisted of resident den mother Monica (Courteney Cox Arquette), wise-cracking husband Chandler (Matthew Perry), Monica’s geeky kid brother Ross (Schwimmer), pampered former rich girl Rachel (Aniston), ditsy latter-day hippie chick Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) and dopey but lovable actor Joey (Matt LeBlanc).
LeBlanc will be back in the fall as the star of his own NBC spinoff, “Joey.”


Were they dancing in the dance club?

The back of her head? Why even bother?
The only bit of Buffy the vampire slayer anyone is going to get to see for a long time is the back of her head.
For months, speculation and hopes have been running high that the Buffy character, Sarah Michelle Gellar, would make a return for the series finale of “Angel,” the supernatural series that was spun off from her harrowing show, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Now we know the answer, sort of.
On this week’s episode of “Angel,” Buffy makes a return that is so fleeting, we can’t see her face. And with good reason. It’s not Gellar.
The show’s two main characters – Angel, the vampire with a soul who fell in love with Buffy, and Spike, a longtime Buffy rival turned lover – head to Rome to find their lost love, last seen during the series finale of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” last spring.
Buffy, it seems, has moved to Italy with her younger sister, Dawn, but both may be under the influence of an evil demon called, The Immortal.
But the closest they come to finding Buffy is by being two steps behind her in a dance club.
Why bother to write Buffy into the script if they couldn’t get Gellar? Show officials declined to elaborate.
It certainly was possible to digitally insert Buffy, as “The Sopranos” did with Nancy Marchand – who played a key role as Tony Soprano’s mother – when the actress died before the cable series’ second season was finished filming.
But it appears producers want to give the show’s rabid fans – who have been pining – one last reunion.
“Angel” has only two episodes to go, before the show wraps up its five-year run.
Producers had issued a standing invitation for Gellar to return for one of the final shows – just as David Boreanaz, the actor who plays the hapless Angel, turned up briefly on “Buffy” near the end of that series last year.
But Gellar, citing a scheduling conflict with a film she was working on in Japan, said she could only make it back to the U.S. in time to appear in the series finale of “Angel.”
The show’s creator, Joss Whedon, nixed Gellar’s offer late last month.
But Buffy and crew might not be gone forever.
WB officials and Whedon are said to be mulling the possibility of a “Buffy” or “Angel” movie to air on the network in the future.


Tunes make the world go ’round!

Here are the new CD Releases for Tuesday May 4, 2004:
311 TBA 311 (DVD) (Zomba)
ANDY STOCHANSKY TBA Andy Stochansky (Windham Hill)
BIG & RICH Horse of a Different name (Warner)
BOWLING FOR SOUP TBA Bowling for Soup (Zomba)
CAROLYN DAWN JOHNSON Dress Rehearsal (RCA Country)
ELAINE ELIAS TBA ELAINE ELIAS (Arista Associated Labels)
JASON MRAZ Tonight Not Again: Live at the Eagles Ballroom (CD + DVD) (Elektra)
JASON MRAZ Tonight Not Again: Live at the Eagles Ballroom (Elektra)
JIM BRICKMAN TBA Jim Brickman (Arista Associated Labels)
JUDAS PRIEST Metalogy (Box set) (Legacy/Sony)
K.D. LANG Hymns From the 49th Parallel (Warner)
KHAYREE TBA Khayree (Zomba)
R. KELLY Happy People (Zomba)
SIMON WILCOX Smart Function (SHErecords)
SLY BOOGIE TBA Sly Boogie (J Records)
THE BURNING BRIDGES TBA The Burning Bridges (V2)
THE ICARUS LINE Penance Soiree (V2)
VARIOUS ARTISTS Power of Soul (Image Entertainment)
VARIOUS ARTISTS American Idol Season 3 (RCA)
VARIOUS ARTISTS Dock Rock 3 (BMG Canada)
VARIOUS ARTISTS Groove Station 10 (BMG Canada)


Welcome back, Jodie!! I miss you!!

Jodie Foster maps ‘Flight Plan’
Jodie Foster has agreed to star in the high altitude thriller “Flight Plan,” reports.
The story involves a woman whose daughter mysteriously disappears while on a flight home to America.
German director Robert Schwentke will helm the movie.
“Flight Plan” is scheduled to begin filming at the end of the summer for release next year.

The Simpsons

This makes me happy!

‘The Simpsons’ Cast Returns to Work with More D’oh
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The actors who provide the voices for Homer, Bart and the rest of the cartoon stars of Fox TV’s “The Simpsons” will return to work this week with twice as much “D’oh” in their pockets, having won a new contract collectively valued at $33 million a year.
The agreement ended a month-long strike that had threatened to shorten the upcoming 16th season of America’s longest-running television comedy.
Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but sources familiar with the situation told Reuters on Monday that the show’s six principal cast members doubled their pay from $125,000 to $250,000 per episode.
That would boost the earnings of each actor to $5.5 million a year for a 22-episode season, a tidy sum for what amounts to a day’s work per show but is far less than the $8 million originally sought by the cast. Collectively the deal was valued at $33 million a year.
Sources said the actors also gave up their key demand for a share in profits from the show, which reportedly has generated roughly $1.5 billion in revenues for producer 20th Century Fox Television since its 1989 debut.
“We couldn’t be happier to have reached a multiyear deal with the enormously talented cast of ‘The Simpsons,”‘ the studio said in a statement. “Fans will be pleased to know that despite our recent production delay, we are optimistic that they can look forward to a full season’s episodes next year on Fox and hopefully many years to come.”
Both the studio and the Fox network are units of Fox Entertainment Group Inc., which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Ltd.
The show centers on the antics of a bald, gluttonous family man and nuclear plant worker named Homer Simpson (known for his anguished exclamation “D’oh!”), his spiky-haired misfit son, Bart, and their friends and relatives in Springfield.
The producers and cast members — Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (sister Lisa), Julie Kavner (family matriarch Marge), Hank Azaria (bartender Moe and Apu the convenience store clerk) and Harry Shearer (Homer’s tyrannical boss, Mr. Burns, and his loyal assistant Smithers) — closed their deal late Friday, a studio spokesman said.
According to entertainment trade paper Daily Variety, the final agreement was presented by the studio as a “take-it-or-leave-it” offer that expired at the end of the business day on Friday. One or two of the actors pressed their cohorts to drop their profit-participation demand and accept the deal, which they did, Variety said.
Production on “The Simpsons” had been stalled since late March, when the actors first refused to show up for script readings until a settlement was reached.
The show currently averages about 11.3 million viewers a week on Sunday nights, down from its peak ratings several years ago, but it remains a critical favorite and worldwide pop culture phenomenon seen in dozens of countries. It also is a cash cow for 20th Century Fox TV for the handsome revenues it generates in syndication.
This season, “The Simpsons” surpassed the real-life Nelson family on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” as the longest-running weekly comedy series on American TV.