Actor, Writer, Producer Age 31
He’s played everything from a blind white-supremacist leader who doesn’t know he’s black to a crack addict who teaches grade-school kids about getting high. But his latest role may be the most outrageous of all: the 50 Million Dollar Man. Chappelle inked an industry-rattling deal this summer for two more seasons of his hit Comedy Central series, Chappelle’s Show, which will likely make him the richest man on basic cable. ”Right now, as we say in the Rick James sketch, it’s a celebration,” says Chappelle. ”You don’t get many moments like this.”
Last season, as more and more young men fled the tube, Show was the highest-rated series in its time slot among 18- to 34-year-old men. Which explains how Chappelle, who toiled for years shooting busted pilots and costarring in films like Half Baked, managed to negotiate such a sweet deal — tied, we should add, to his show’s phenomenal DVD sales. (Season One is this year’s No. 1 TV DVD: 1.7 million copies sold to date.)
Chappelle, who helped orchestrate a Fugees reunion for an upcoming music-and-comedy concert film, insists he’ll keep choosing projects based on ”what feels good.” But he’s still not sure exactly what to do with his newfound clout. ”Remember The Greatest American Hero, where the guy gets the supersuit but didn’t have the instruction book so he had to figure out all the powers? I’m still at that stage.”
Writer, Producer, Director Age 33
Upping Alias’ ratings has proven as challenging a mission as finding that Rambaldi device, but Abrams clearly isn’t having a problem unearthing viewers for his new ABC drama Lost. Next he’ll make the leap to the big screen, directing an obscure indie art film called Mission: Impossible 3.
Producer Age 44
The mastermind behind Survivor continues to thrive with Darwinian drama; The Apprentice is NBC’s most successful new series in total viewers since Veronica’s Closet in 1997. Next, he ventures into the scripted world with the WB sitcom Commando Nanny. Ask yourself: Could you get a sitcom on the air called Commando Nanny?
TV Host Age 45
Lots of celebs launch talk shows as a change of pace — and wind up with egg on their faces. DeGeneres, however, has deftly adapted to the daytime: She may be the No. 4 chat show, behind Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Live With Regis and Kelly, but she attracts a younger, more affluent audience than those three. Plus, she’s just signed on to play the Supreme Being in a remake of Oh, God! You don’t get more powerful than that.
Producer Age 59
He didn’t have a swashbuckling year in movies (King Arthur was no Pirates of the Caribbean), but he continued his conquest of TV. In addition to the original CSI, TV’s No. 1-rated series, CSI: NY arrested NBC’s Law & Order, and CSI: Miami debuted at No. 5. Without a Trace beat ER; Cold Case debuted in 10th place; and The Amazing Race earned its second Emmy. Movies? Who needs ‘em?