Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation’s press.
Planet Comedy: Producers Quincy Jones and David Salzman will link up with Laugh Factory founder Jamie Masada to open a new chain of comedy-themed restaurants throughout the United States, called the Laugh Factory Funhouse. Plans call for construction to begin in early 1997 on the first location, in Las Vegas, with Atlantic City, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles targeted for subsequent venues. Each restaurant will offer hourly comic performances, computer games, joke databases, open-mike nights and a Comedy Hall of Fame ride, filled with items from the Laugh Factory’s extensive collection of comedy artifacts. Said Masada: “This venture will take comedy into another level. It will continue to provide first-class performance talent as well as emerging talent, but it will do it in a 35,000-square-foot space that will be a combination of a fun house, a museum, a showcase for classic comic bits and a novelty place.”
Viewing ‘Stuff’: CBS has ordered “Life . . . and Stuff,” a comedy series starring Rick Reynolds inspired by his one-man stage show, as a midseason replacement. The show co-stars Pam Dawber. Meanwhile, Fox Broadcasting has ordered two other backup sitcoms for the coming season: “The Pauly Shore Show,” featuring the comic as a grown kid living with his father and his much-younger new wife; and “Secret Service Guy,” starring Judge Reinhold. CBS has also ordered “Feds,” a drama about prosecutors from “Law & Order” producer Dick Wolf, and is in discussions on another show featuring former “Dallas” star Larry Hagman.
Flames Don’t Cool: “L.A. Firefighters” executive producer Gordon Greisman responded Wednesday to Tuesday’s complaints by real L.A. firefighters about the Fox series’ depiction of fictional firefighters by saying that the series strives “wherever and whenever possible to be authentic and truthful in depicting the values, bravery and efforts of all firefighters.” Greisman noted that the series has a technical advisor and uses actual firefighters as extras, and that “with each succeeding episode we are striving to be more dramatically honest and accurate.” However, L.A. County firefighters union President Dallas Jones, who has objected to both technical discrepancies as well as the TV characters’ personal actions, said Thursday that his group won’t stop protesting until the show is either cleaned up or taken off the air. Jones is contacting fire stations nationwide asking firefighters to write the show’s sponsors and said he has already received assurances of cooperation from the international firefighters’ association and many larger union groups.
Metallica Still on Top: Lollapalooza headliner Metallica continues its reign atop the national sales charts for the second week in a row. The heavy-metal quartet’s “Load,” its first album since 1991’s “Metallica,” sold 302,000 copies in the seven-day period that ended Sunday, according to SoundScan. Others in the Top 5: The Fugees’ “The Score” (170,000), Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” (157,000), Celine Dion’s “Falling Into You” (122,000) and Tracy Chapman’s “New Beginning” (115,000). The nation’s top-selling single, for the seventh straight week, is Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “Tha Crossroads,” with 171,000 copies sold.
News at the Bowl: Distinguished American conductor Robert Shaw, 80, has been replaced for the July 9 and 11 season-opening L.A. Philharmonic/Hollywood Bowl concerts due to illness. Eliahu Inbal, former music director of Italy’s Teatro la Fenice and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, will take his place on July 9, conducting Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, while John Fiore, a frequent guest conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera and other houses, will take the podium on July 11, conducting Verdi’s Requiem. Both will be making their L.A. Philharmonic debuts. Meanwhile, the Bowl’s July 28 Sunday Sunset Concert will now feature a performance of Puccini’s “La Boheme,” commemorating the 100th anniversary of the beloved opera’s premiere. . . . In other Bowl news, “Frasier” co-star David Hyde Pierce has signed on to narrate Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” at the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra’s June 28 family concert.
Actress Laura Innes, who had a supporting role on “ER” this season as chief resident Dr. Kerry Weaver, has been promoted to a regular full-fledged cast member for the coming season. Innes recently received a best supporting actress nomination from Viewers for Quality Television for the role. . . . CBS will hold a press conference in New York today challenging Nielsen Media Research ratings numbers, particularly in late-night, sources said. The broadcast networks have been unhappy with Nielsen’s TV-ratings system and are funding a research project to develop an alternate system. . . . Barbara Walters will conduct the first television interview with convicted murderers Lyle and Erik Menendez, airing June 28 on ABC News’ “20/20.” . . . O.J. Simpson trial attorney Robert Shapiro is getting into the movie business--as executive producer of Joe Eszterhas’ Russian underworld script “Evil Empire,” which is being produced at Carolco by Mario Kassar. Eszterhas plans to rely on Shapiro’s “negotiating expertise” to deal with Russian officials and crime figures. . . . Just five days after Disney’s animated “Hunchback of Notre Dame” movie opens in theaters Friday, Disney Home Video on Wednesday will release “Topsy Turvy: The Hunchback of Notre Dame Sing Along,” featuring two songs from the movie--"Topsy Turvy” and “Out There.” The video will also include songs from “Toy Story,” “James and the Giant Peach” and other animated hits.