BOOK MARKER Move over, Oprah: Jennifer Aniston is pushing books too. In the opening scene of Friends’ Oct. 30 episode, Aniston’s Rachel snubs ex-boyfriend Ross (David Schwimmer) by pointedly burying her nose in the Gen-X travelogue Anthem: An American Road Story. The prominent plug was courtesy of Aniston, who’s a friend of Anthem coauthor Kristin Hahn. ”What I love about Anthem is that it chronicles the road adventures of two women,” says the actress. ”It’s inspiring to see women in the driver’s seat.” While Hahn isn’t expecting a huge sales boost (”People care more about Rachel’s hair than what she’s reading,” says the author), Aniston says the tome will continue to be a must-read on Must See TV. Figures the actress, ”It takes Rachel a lot longer than a week to read a book.”
KID TESTED Not since Shirley Partridge rocked with her bell-bottomed brood have single mothers been so hip on TV. Less than a year after Tom Cruise fell for Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire, Hollywood seems to have sexy solo mamas on its mind. On Beverly Hills, 90210, Steve (Ian Ziering) has fallen for Carly (Hilary Swank) and her 6-year-old son; Dr. Greene (Anthony Edwards) is romancing working mom Cynthia (Mariska Hargitay) on ER; Party of Five’s Bailey (Scott Wolf) is courting mother-of-one Annie (Paige Turco); and proving that the mommy track can merge with lesbian chic, Ellen DeGeneres is smitten with single mom Lisa Darr on Ellen. Says Party executive producer Amy Lippman: ”When you list what would make a good mate these days, ‘loves my child’ is a qualification.” Who knew family values could be such a turn-on? — Jessica Shaw
GREAT SCOT At a recent performance of Chicago’s famed Second City improv troupe, surprised audience members were treated to a decidedly improvised cameo. The group was performing a sketch in which a Scottish father urges his son to wear a kilt when Braveheart himself strode on stage. ”You have the knees for it,” said an unbilled Mel Gibson. Turns out that the star, who was in town filming the upcoming Payback, had been watching the show and went backstage during intermission, where he was persuaded by the cast to appear in the skit. Gibson then stuck around and performed in several improv sessions. No bare-butt scenes, however.