TELEVISION

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Breaking Into TV: Los Angeles-based Latino comedy trio Culture Clash will star in its own half-hour Saturday evening variety series, starting July 31 on KTTV Channel 11. The group--composed of Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza--will rely mainly on existing repertory from its acclaimed theatrical productions including the 1990 show "A Bowl of Beings," which was televised on PBS' "Great Performances." The show, which has an initial six-episode commitment and will feature noted Latino celebrities as guests, will be taped at Los Angeles' Mayan Theatre. "Our first time out is for the local market, but we're doing this with hopes for bigger and better things," said Montoya, noting that Culture Clash will also executive produce the series and is "really being left alone" as far as content goes. The group failed with a previous pilot for Fox when its humor was criticized as being inappropriate for mainstream audiences. "This time, the constraints are such that we can still get across our message--in a point of view that is inclusive rather than exclusive," Montoya said. "We're really trying to change the face of TV, and this is a step in that direction."

* 'Jeopardy!' Suit: Publishers of "Inside Jeopardy! What Really Goes on at TV's Top Quiz Show?," the book that alleges last-minute changes are made to help female contestants do better on the game show, have sued "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek, the show itself and producer Merv Griffin Enterprises for $25 million, alleging defamation and intentional interference with its business practices. Northwest Publishing's federal court lawsuit claims that a statement from Trebek denying the book's allegations amounts to libel, slander and defamation of the company's character, and was also made with the intention of undercutting the book's sales.

LEGAL FILE

* Stooges Dispute: The Three Stooges are in the middle of a fight, but it's a legal brawl instead of the eye-poking antics that made the group famous. Relatives of Stooges Larry Fine and Curly Joe DeRita (who died Saturday) contend that the family of founding Stooge Moe Howard owes them up to $5 million in merchandising and marketing profits. A judge has temporarily barred the use of the disputed income, and will decide July 16 whether to issue a preliminary injunction. "I know that Moe would not approve of this," said Curly's widow, Jean. "He always said that he got what Larry got what Curly Joe got. Moe would turn over in his grave if he knew what they were doing." Moe's grandson Jeffrey Scott said: "If you read the complaint you get the picture that I'm an ax murderer. But (the plaintiffs are) getting paid per contract now."

* So Sorry: Mel Gibson accepted a public apology Tuesday from Britain's Daily Express tabloid for an April article suggesting he had attacked other leading film actors--including Madonna, Sharon Stone and Richard Gere--for taking "obscene" roles and being "just like porn stars." Gibson's lawyer told London's High Court that the actor did not make the remarks, which came from an interview first published in an Italian magazine. Gibson contends the original interview never took place. The Daily Express' publishers agreed to pay Gibson's legal costs in the matter.

RADIO

* O'Neill Reunion: Director Jose Quintero is reuniting with actors Jason Robards and Jack Dodson, who will re-create their original Broadway roles in a radio presentation of Eugene O'Neill's one-act play "Hughie." Quintero conceived the version, taping this week under the auspices of Bay Area Radio Drama, specifically for radio; Academy Award winner Randy Thom is the sound designer. The program will air on public radio stations in October to commemorate O'Neill's birthday and the 40th anniversary of his death.

QUICK TAKES

* MTV has confirmed earlier reports that its first foray into feature filmmaking will be "Joe's Apartment," based on John Payson's animated MTV short about a young man's effort to cope with a tiny, cockroach-filled apartment in a big, dirty city. Warner Bros. will distribute the film, which it will also fund, along with Geffen Pictures. . . . Actor Robert De Niro, promoting his film "This Boy's Life" at the 10th Annual Jerusalem Film Festival, told reporters that he is drawn to playing violent characters. "Some of these violent characters are more interesting. They go to a more extreme form of behavior," De Niro said. . . . Four armed robbers stopped a limousine carrying former 20th Century Fox executive Marvin Davis and his wife, Barbara, to a luxury hotel on the French Riviera Monday night and made off with $10-million worth of jewelry and $50,000 in cash, police in Nice said.

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