CASTING With "A Civil Action" opening on Christmas Day, the perpetual acting machine that is John Travolta already has three more films he's considering: "Family Man," a comedy about a driven investment banker who is able to relive his life, this time as an attentive dad; "Common Ground," an action flick about a special-operations team hunting a killer in a crowded airport; and "Battlefield Earth," based on the sci-fi novel of Scientology guru L. Ron Hubbard. Travolta had been set to star in "The Shipping News," which is now in turnaround because the director, Fred Schepisi, left due to creative differences.... Laurie Metcalf, who won three Emmys for her work on "Roseanne," will join the cast of Norm Macdonald's new ABC sitcom, "The Norm Show," about a group of social workers. (Norm Macdonald as a force for good?) The pilot shoots next week, and ABC is likely to start airing the series as a mid-season replacement.
IN THE WORKS The director of the 1984 cult sci-fi comedy "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension," W.D. Richter, is turning it into a weekly television series called "Buckaroo Banzai: Ancient Secrets and New Mysteries." Fox has commissioned a pilot script for the show, which will follow the continuing adventures of the rock star/brain surgeon and his cohorts as they battle interplanetary baddies.
COURT CASES Paul McCartney has filed a court order against a music-memorabilia collector who offered to sell him the original, handwritten lyric sheet for "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" for $550,000: McCartney is demanding the sheet be given to him, as he maintains it was stolen from him in the late 1960s.... Radio psychologist Dr. Laura Schlessinger has dropped the lawsuit against the Internet site that posted nude photos of her from the 1970s. To win her copyright infringement and invasion of privacy suit, she would have had to prove that she owned the pictures and that there was no public interest in the shots. Bill Ballance, who reportedly took the shots when he was having an affair with the then married Schlessinger, says the public deserves to see the pics because it shows that she -- who is always preaching moral behavior and fidelity -- is a hypocrite.... Andrew Lloyd Webber was cleared by a New York jury yesterday in a copyright-infringement lawsuit. A religious-music composer, Ray Repp, had charged Webber with using a passage from Repp's song "Till You" in the main theme to the hit musical "Phantom of the Opera." TODAY IN HISTORY The Who announced they were officially disbanding in 1983, five years (and two albums) after the death of drummer Keith Moon.... Novelist Jane Austen was born in 1775. More than 200 years after her birth, she became a Hollywood fave with three films based on her works: "Clueless," "Sense and Sensibility," and "Emma."