NBC clings to a ray of hope; Matt LeBlanc looks beyond
Could this fall's much anticipated final season of Friends lead to...another season of Friends? "I don't wanna ever believe it's absolutely the end," NBC entertainment chief Jeff Zucker said July 23. "I wouldn't 100 percent put the nails in the coffin yet." Imagine the possibilities. Rachel's baby attending junior high. Ross applying for Medicaid. Only...Friends executive producers Marta Kauffman and David Crane aren't crazy about the idea. "That's sweet," Kauffman says of Zucker's plea. "But we're approaching this like it is our last season."
Those looking for extra drama can turn their attention to this year's Emmy race. For the first time all six cast members competed for Best Actor and Actress nominations. Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston got them. So everybody's cool with that, right? "Well, everyone came to my birthday party last weekend," LeBlanc, who just turned 35, tells PEOPLE. "So I think we're all good. I can picture David [Schwimmer] giving me a hard time in good fun, but we're all very supportive of each other."
The final season means the cast can do more movie roles next year. "I'm probably going into porno," cracks LeBlanc. But seriously, like the others, he'll try something different. "When you get off of a series, the actor inside wants to stretch a bit," he says.
Moonlighting for the President
Die Hard fans, brace yourselves. "We all know Bruce as a tough guy in the movies," President Bush said at a July 23 White House press conference, "The truth of the matter is he has a tender heart, and he has a tender heart for children." With that, the president appointed Willis a national spokesperson for kids in foster care. A longtime Bush supporter, Willis, 47, teamed up with First Lady Laura Bush for a public service TV ad that encourages would-be parents to consider one of the more than 130,000 foster children currently waiting to be adopted. "As a dad," says Willis, who shares custody of daughters Rumer, 13, Scout, 11, and Tallulah, 8, with ex-wife Demi Moore, 39, "I know how important it is for children to be raised in a loving home."
TV face-off: Kids vs. Mac
FOX's The Bernie Mac Show and ABC's My Wife and Kids, starring Damon Wayans, will now air at the same time next season—Wednesdays at 8 p.m. That's a programming switch that leaves Wayans upset. "It's hard enough trying to put together one successful show with an African-American family," said the actor, 41, whose two-year-old series averaged 11 million viewers a week last season. (Mac netted 9.5 million but ranked No. 1 among black viewers in its old 9 p.m. Wednesday slot.) "It's divide and conquer," argued Wayans. "One of these shows will fail. And we may lose both." Mac executive producer Larry Wilmore says the powers that be at FOX made the shift because they believed his Emmy-nominated sitcom was the strongest available to kick off the evening. "It's a big vote of confidence," Wilmore says. "Sometimes you have to compete with your buddy." Mac, 44, said Wayans called and asked him for his support. He declined, telling Wayans, "That's not my fight."
For Steel, a French Kiss
Who says the French are snobs? At a July 10 ceremony in Paris, bestselling romance novelist Danielle Steel was made an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by France's Minister of Culture and Communication for her contribution to literature. (Rank goes from Knight to Officer to Commander.) Steel, 54, author of such romances as Passion's Promise, Season of Passion and Loving, took her place among a canon of esteemed writers that includes Salman Rushdie, Isabel Allende and Margaret Atwood. "I don't write like Shakespeare," Steel said. "But I think there is a certain amount of merit to what I do."
John Walker Lindh, the Song
Chances are country rocker Steve Earle's upcoming "John Walker's Blues" won't become an American classic. The ballad takes a sympathetic look at Taliban supporter John Walker Lindh. (Sample lyrics: "I'm just an American boy.... Now they're draggin' me back, with my head in a sack, to the land of the infidel.") "It's a piece of junk," says Nashville talk-radio host Phil Valentine. But Earle, 47, defends his work. "I feel urgently American," he says. "I don't condone what [Lindh] did. Still...would I be upset if [my son] suddenly turned up fighting for the Islamic jihad? Sure...but there are circumstances."
Oops! I'm Linked Again
Another day, another Britney Spears romance rumor. This one, printed in Britain's News of the World, links the ab-fabulous pop star with Marc Terenzi, 24, of the boy band Natural. Except..."he is not dating Britney Spears," says Terenzi's rep, Glenda Robinson. (Britney's rep had no comment.) Although Terenzi and Spears, 20, did meet three years ago playing volleyball at the home of her manager, Robinson says, "I talked to Marc last night, and he said there's absolutely nothing to this." But now that you mention it, "he's a great guy," adds Robinson. "Britney would be lucky to have him."
The Beat Goes On and On and On...
Rock and roll will never die...as long as replacement parts are readily available. Exhibit A: Paul Revere & the Raiders, still going strong on the summer tour circuit with only one original member, Mr. Revere himself (there have been 40 Raiders in four decades). Other oldies but goodies still on the road, with approximate percentage of original members, include:
The Beach Boys, 20%
The Animals, 20%
The Temptations, 20%
The Who, 50%
Creedence Clearwater, 50%
The Pointer Sisters, 50%
Herman's Hermits, 20%
Grand Funk Railroad, 67%
with Dennis Miller
Dennis Miller began the year as host of HBO's Dennis Miller Live and as the loquacious color commentator on ABC's Monday Night Football. The gridiron gig ended last March when ABC replaced him with analyst John Madden. Last month HBO canceled the comedy show. Which leaves Miller, 48, in a position many Americans are finding familiar—looking for work. Scoop caught up with the comic at the MusiCares Foundation benefit in L.A.
How do you feel about Dennis Miller Live ending?
It was a good run. You don't get nine years in show business, 215 shows. I'm thankful to HBO—they bought my family's house for us. They treated me great. Everyone's got to go sometime.
What happened with Monday Night Football?
John Madden is the biggest guy in that field. There's always someone who rules a field, and he's the guy. Quite frankly, once the big guy says he wants your job, he gets your job. I'm just glad I'm getting paid for the last year.
Were you surprised?
I thought I was doing fine. I was hired for a third year. I was trying. I had never been to a game, so it was surreal for me doing Monday Night Football, and I had a fun two years. But like I said, the day I heard John Madden had left FOX, I remember thinking, 'Well, I'm gone.' That's okay, though. It was fun.
What's next for you?
I want to spend some time with my family [wife Ali, sons Holden, 12, and Marlon, 8]. I want to see some things. I want to take some time, lick my wounds a little, let it sink in and then think about what I want to do. You shouldn't do it right after you get whacked, 'cause then you're not thinking clearly. I'll take six months and then I'll be thinking clearer.
ON THE BLOCK
The way Sandra Bullock is wheeling and dealing in real estate, one wonders where she finds time for the movies. The actress, 38, owns houses in Austin, Texas; Jackson Hole, Wyo.; and Tybee Island, Ga. Last year she bought a home for $1.5 million in the Hollywood Hills, where she previously purchased at least three other properties—including a 1925 renovated Mediterranean-style house (left), which she just sold for $745,000. Says Richard Ehrlich of Westside Estate Agency: "Real estate is her passion."