Kevin Spacey takes the lead in ''The Shipping News'' |


Kevin Spacey takes the lead in ''The Shipping News''

Plus, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Christina Aguilera, Tim Allen, Hilary Swank, ''NYPD Blue,'' and more

Kevin Spacey

MAKING 'NEWS' Spacey is set to star in ''The Shipping News'' (Danielle Smith/AP)

CASTING Kevin Spacey has signed to take the lead in the adaptation of ”The Shipping News,” directed by ”The Cider House Rules”’ Lasse Hallström. It should be a friendly collaboration, provided Spacey doesn’t keep saying, ”Hmmm, my Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes might have done that differently”…. Sarah Michelle Gellar will star as a mysterious woman who ingratiates herself into Manhattan society in ”The It Girl”…. Christian Slater may play an escaped convict who inadvertently takes on the identity of someone slated to be killed by a bizarre hitman (Tim Allen) in ”Cletis Tout”…. Shiksa extraordinaire Mary Tyler Moore will play the Jewish matriarch (married to Elliott Gould) in the CBS sitcom pilot ”Good as Gold.” Though you’d think Rhoda would be the better choice for a Jewish mother, Mary does have some experience in this area – remember her bra-baring role as Ben Stiller’s mom in 1996’s ”Flirting With Disaster”?… And speaking of 1970s sitcom star renaissances, John Ritter will star in the TNT one-hour-drama pilot ”Breaking News,” about life at a 24-hour news station. This will be tough ground for Ritter, as there aren’t too many possible bawdy misunderstandings in plots about getting footage from Chechnya…. James Marsden (”Disturbing Behavior”) will play Greenpeace cofounder Paul Watson in ”Ocean Warrior.” Get to the theater early if you want to find a parking spot for your VW bus.

TALKING BACK Hilary Swank has responded to the criticism leveled at her by the mother of Teena Brandon, the woman Swank played in her Oscar-winning ”Boys Don’t Cry” role. JoAnn Brandon had been livid that her daughter was paid tribute by Swank in her acceptance speech, and said that ”She should not stand up there and thank my child. I get tired of people taking credit for what they don’t know.” Swank told Variety’s Army Archerd that ”It makes me sad…. [JoAnn] can’t see what Brandon has done for everyone in our society. But my heart goes out to her, to lose a daughter!”

WOMEN’S LIB Christina Aguilera has been drafted as a female representative for VH1’s upcoming male Divas concert called ”Men Strike Back.” She’ll join Sting, Backstreet Boys, Tom Jones, D’Angelo, and Enrique Iglesias. The show will tape on April 11 and air on May 18.

ANOTHER YEAR? Sources tell the Hollywood Reporter that ”NYPD Blue” has been renewed for an eighth season, although an ABC spokesperson says that it’s not official yet. But if it does come back, Andrea Thompson won’t be there, since she’s already said she’s leaving at the end of this year. That may mean more camera time for Bill Brochtrup (John the receptionist), who will get to give TWICE the dialogue-free reaction shots!

NOT A TARGET Da Brat’s life just got a little less violent. The Atlanta Police Department has figured out that the drive-by shooting at a limo that occurred in front of her apartment complex a few weeks ago had nothing to do with her, according to the Atlanta Journal-Consitution. When it first happened, the police were investigating whether it was a retaliatory strike for a March 7 scuffle when Da Brat allegedly pistol-whipped another woman at an Atlanta club. But now it has been determined that the shooting – in which five of the nine people in the fired-upon limo were injured – was just a coincidence, albeit not a very funny one. Da Brat was actually in Cancun shooting a video at the time of the incident, and has since moved out of the complex.

DISBANDED There will be no more action from Luscious Jackson. After eight years, the band has announced they are splitting up, a year after keyboardist Vivian Trimble left the group. ”We want to let our fans know that we are still good friends,” said vocalist Jill Cunniff in a statement. ”We all want to diversify what we do individually, and the band just came to its natural conclusion…. and we hope to work together again in the future.”

HONORED The Peabody Awards – considered the top honor in television – were announced Thursday, and HBO was the big winner, with six awards for such shows as ”The Sopranos” and the TV movie ”A Lesson Before Dying.” NBC got only one nod, for ”The West Wing,” ABC got three (for ”Annie,” the ”ABC 2000” New Year’s broadcast, and a ”20/20” segment), and CBS received two (for ”Having Our Say: The Delaney Sisters’ First 100 Years,’’ and a special personal award for journalist Bob Simon). Surprisingly, the UPN was not rewarded for its very special episode of ”Smackdown” that sensitively taught kids the dangers of being hit in the head with a fire extinguisher.

FORGOTTEN Turns out bad ratings are neither forgivable nor forgettable: ”Forgive and Forget” has been canceled by its studio, Twentieth Television. Robin Givens and her staff have been told that production will end today, with the last new episodes airing in May.