MERGER MADNESS As if Time Warner wasn’t big enough already (and EW Online should know since it’s our parent company): The media behemoth announced today that it is merging with the world’s largest Internet provider, America Online, to form AOL Time Warner, Inc. In what is being called the biggest corporate merger ever, the new company, with combined revenues of more than $30 billion and a market value of about $28.6 billion, will combine such brands and services as AOL, Time, CNN, Warner Bros., the Warner Music Group, HBO, TBS, MovieFone, and – of course – Entertainment Weekly. But it’s not a done deal yet. Although the merger was unanimously approved by each company’s board of directors, it’s still subject to approval by shareholders and government regulators. Coincidentally, news of the merger comes 10 years to the day after Time Inc, merged with Warner Bros. to form Time Warner.
DADDY DEAREST Melissa Etheridge has finally revealed that the biological father of her two children is David Crosby of Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The 38-year-old singer told Rolling Stone that she picked Crosby, 58, as a sperm donor for her partner, Julie Cypher, because ”he’s musical, which means a lot to me, and I admire his work.” Etheridge says she decided to go public because she and Cypher were sick of all the media hypothesizing, and Crosby (who is not involved with any of the parenting of his sires) said he was happy to come clean because ”maybe it’s a good thing for a lot of straight families to see that it’s not something strange.”
AWARDS The people have spoken, and man are they predictable. At last night’s People’s Choice Awards, old favorites Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, and Julia Roberts walked away winners, and the awarded movies included such hits as ”The Sixth Sense” and ”Big Daddy”. (For a complete list of winners from the broadcast, check out the CBS site.) The one unpredictable result came when an online poll for best new television comedy series named ”Stark Raving Mad” the victor, leaving it clear that the People need a good talking-to…. For the first time in the organization’s 34-year history, the National Society of Film Critics announced a tie for its best picture award, between ”Being John Malkovich” and ”Topsy-Turvy”. The films also nabbed two other awards: Mike Leigh was named best director for ”Turvy,” while ”Malkovich” writer Charlie Kaufman won for best screenplay. Acting awards went to ”The Insider”’s Russell Crowe and Christopher Plummer, ”Election”’s Reese Witherspoon, and ”Boys Don’t Cry”’s Chlöe Sevigny.
CASTING Universal didn’t waste time weeping for Jodie Foster: According to Variety, the studio is poised to offer the lead female role in ”Hannibal” to Cate Blanchett. However, she likely won’t be playing Clarice Starling; Steve Zaillian would have to change the script to give her a new character and explain away Starling’s absence. Now what possible good reason could a character have for NOT wanting to get involved with a psychopathic cannibal again? Think, Zaillian, think….
FOILED! British papers have broken the news that Scotland Yard uncovered a plot last November to kidnap Posh Spice (Victoria Beckham) and her 9-month-old son and hold them for $1.6 million in ransom. Apparently the abductors-to-be planned to nab the two while her husband, David Beckham, was playing in a soccer match, so the police put her home under surveillance. But the kidnappers never put their plan into action so no arrests were made.
IN THE WEB Sony has a new director in mind for its long-gestating ”Spider-Man” movie: Sam Raimi (”A Simple Plan”). Raimi is a big aficionado of the superarachnid, but the problem is that he’s already poised to start shooting ”The Gift” for Paramount, and Sony would need him to have Spidey ready by summer 2001. According to Variety, Sony is offering a seven-figure payment to its rival studio to have Raimi put off postproduction of ”The Gift” after shooting so he can jump right into ”Spider-Man” this spring, and finish them both afterward.
DEFECTION There was a bit of a french twist on the set of ”ER” last week when guest star Jeanne Moreau stormed off the soundstage mere hours into her first day at work for what was to be a five-episode guest stint, according to Variety. Exec producer John Wells had no comment on the differences, but whether it was the pace of the production or the taste of the set coffee that drove the 71-year-old actress out, she won’t be back and producers are now deciding whether to recast the part or just forget the story line altogether.
OUT OF THE RUNNING ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” may be winning the ratings battle in prime time, but it won’t be allowed to smash its competition when Emmy time rolls around. Due to a little-known rule, game shows are only allowed to compete in the daytime Emmys, no matter what time they’re on, so Regis will be battling against Bob Barker and Alex Trebek, instead of David Letterman and Dennis Miller in the prime-time Music, Variety, or Comedy program category. A ”Millionaire” spokesperson said that ABC petitioned for the show to be allowed to compete with the big boys since it ”has changed the face of prime-time TV,” but the Emmy committee did not bow to such aw-shucks modesty since the rule books had already been printed for this year. However, the rules might change for 2001, allowing ”Millionaire” the chance to compete just in time for its popularity to have gone the way of the Rubik’s Cube.
RE-UPPED Just because Fox relegated ”Futurama” to 7 p.m. doesn’t mean the network doesn’t have faith in it: The Matt Groening cartoon has just been renewed for the 2000-01 season.
OUT OF THE BAND Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman has left the band in the middle of their current tour, to ”pursue other musical interests,” according to a statement released by the group. He’ll be immediately replaced by Al Pitrelli, a veteran of Alice Cooper and Asia. So if you’re wondering why your ears are bleeding slightly differently, that’s why.
IN CONCERT Odetta, Phoebe Snow, and Martha Wash will join the Boys Choir of Harlem and the Tokyo String Quartet tomorrow night at Carnegie Hall for a benefit called the Sounds of a Better World Millennium Concert. The concert will have the singers teaming with youth choirs on the same songs as on its companion CD (also released tomorrow) that all center around the importance of child development.