IT’S ON ABC News has decided that it will air portions of Leonardo DiCaprio’s much-criticized environmental chat with President Clinton during the network’s Earth Day special on April 22. News chief David Westin told Variety’s Army Archerd that ”it was always our intent to try to bring the message [of Earth Day] to the younger generation of TV viewers.” Along those lines, next year’s special may feature MC Babs Walters kickin’ it with Sisqo in his phat solar crib.
CASTING Kevin Spacey will star in and produce an untitled comedy about a theater director who has to cast a Hollywood star to get his play off the ground. The film is now being rewritten by playwright Wendy Wasserstein, who probably knows whereof she writes.
BIG SHOW ”The Sopranos” not only got the series’ best numbers for Sunday night’s season finale, but also earned HBO’s best ratings for any of its original series. The whack-a-mole episode received a 17.6 in homes with HBO (around 9 million viewers), up from the 12.6 of last season’s final show. It’s also the pay network’s best ratings since its ”Titanic” premiere last April, which received an 18.3. But then again, a lot more people slept with the fishes in that one.
NO TUNE Old-school Aerosmith fans have been robbed of a new chance to accuse the band of selling out. The band recorded another syrupy ballad by Diane Warren (who wrote ”I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”), called ”Painted On My Heart,” for the upcoming Nicolas Cage movie ”Gone in 60 Seconds,” but it won’t be released and the music supervisors are looking for someone else to perform it, according to MTV News. Insiders say that there were probably financial issues or a label dispute over who would release the soundtrack. There are no plans to make the Aerosmith tune public, but perhaps some day it will appear on a compilation album called ”Stuff We Would Have Sneered at During the ‘Toys in the Attic’ Years.”
BACKING OUT Aaron Eckhart (”Erin Brockovich”) has dropped out of the Jennifer Lopez romance ”Angel Eyes” after a rewrite dramatically changed his role of a man who falls in love with a police officer (Lopez) after his wife and child are killed. Production is set to start next month, so producers are scrambling to find somebody with that rare quality of pathos, humor, AND fearlessness over kissing Lopez on screen and having Puff Daddy come after his ass.
AXED Looks like all those mental patients in ABC’s ”Wonderland” had good reason to be paranoid: The network has yanked the psychiatric drama after only two airings, replacing it with ”20/20 Downtown.” The first week’s episode showed promise, ratings-wise, but the second was slammed by a new episode of ”ER.” And in TV, unlike in obsessive-compulsive disorders, there are no third chances.
RAMPING UP Comedy Central has announced that starting this summer it will air original programming five nights a week. (If this preempts my weekly appointment viewing of ”Heaven Help Us,” there will be hell to pay.) Joining such staples as ”The Daily Show” and ”Win Ben Stein’s Money” will be the game show ”Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush” and the British comedy ”League of Gentlemen.”
LAWSUITS Robert Urich has filed a breach of contract suit against Castle Rock, claiming it canceled his 1995 series ”Lazarus Man” before its second season and didn’t compensate him after he revealed he was being treated for cancer, according to Variety. According to Urich, his contract was pay-or-play, which meant he should have been paid for a second year even if the show didn’t air; when he told the studio in July 1996 that he needed treatment, Castle Rock shut down production and allegedly didn’t pay him. He’s looking for $1.47 million in damages, the amount he says he’s owed. A Castle Rock rep told Variety, ”We are unaware of the filing of this lawsuit. If such a lawsuit has been filed, we will respond”…. Eleven minority employees of Fox Sports Net have joined to file a $25 million lawsuit, claiming the cable network fosters racial discrimination. ”Over the past three years, African-American and Latina stage crew members and other personnel working on Stage B of Fox Sports News… have, as a group, not been treated the same as their white colleagues,” reads the suit. ”Each of these allegations has been fully investigated, and every one of these claims of discrimination is completely without merit,” a Fox rep told the Hollywood Reporter.