Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press.


He's Covered: Charles Hillinger, for many years The Times' roving reporter, used to write about unusual people, among them itinerant desert dweller Seldom Seen Slim--whose claim to fame was that, well, he was seldom seen. Too bad Hillinger retired before Matthew McConaughey came along. The 26-year-old Texan is being hailed as the next Paul Newman even though his performance in the Warner Bros.' adaptation of John Grisham's "A Time to Kill"--opening July 24--is his first starring role. That hasn't stopped Vanity Fair from giving the newcomer its front-page pedestal--usually reserved for the likes of Tom Cruise or Demi Moore--and proclaiming in its August issue, out next Tuesday, that the film will elevate McConaughey into "the ranks of Hollywood's A-list leading men with his stunning performance." Nor has it stopped Hollywood studios from openly vying for McConaughey's services. The Vanity Fair profile quotes the actor as saying he's just happy that he can now afford the best quality golf balls and a GMC Yukon truck "and be able to give Ol' Blue, my '90 Dodge Ram, to my brother to help him haul pipe."


Remembering the 'Doctor': ABC's "General Hospital" will turn its July 18 episode into a memorial for actor John Beradino, who played Dr. Steve Hardy from the serial's debut in 1963 until his last appearance April 23. Beradino, a former major league baseball player and "Our Gang" cast member, died of cancer on May 19. In the July 18 episode, the character Beradino played will be memorialized in the hospital chapel after he dies of a heart attack. "John Beradino and the character of Steve Hardy were inextricably linked," said Executive Producer Wendy Riche. "This memorial service is a celebration of both their lives--lives that were lived to the fullest and shared by many dear, loving friends."

Olympic Springboard: NBC will try to get a jump coming off the Summer Olympics by placing several of its comedies in their new fall time periods right after the Games conclude on Aug. 4. Repeats of "Mad About You" and "Caroline in the City" will shift to their new Tuesday slots Aug. 6, while "Wings" and "3rd Rock From the Sun" move to Wednesday and Sunday, respectively, the same week. Although those shows won't begin their new seasons until September, NBC will begin airing original episodes of "Boston Common" in its new time period after "3rd Rock" in August.

Panel Put Off: The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has again postponed a panel that was to explore the issue of television violence. The event, once scheduled for last January, will now take place early next year, when the proposal for a TV ratings system has been established, analyzing the effect of that system. The academy had discussed staging the forum this fall and inviting President Clinton and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole to attend.

MTV Adding Channel: MTV is creating a new channel designed to offer more music to a slightly older audience than the original music television station. Called M2, the channel is scheduled to launch Aug. 1, the 15th anniversary of MTV, and will be designed for the upper end of MTV's 18-to-24-year-old target audience. So far MTV has sold the new service only to satellite TV services, according to an MTV spokeswoman. Sales to cable operators won't officially begin until next week at a cable TV convention in Boston.


Shakur Suit Ends: A lawsuit filed by a limo driver who contended that rapper Tupac Shakur and his entourage beat him was dismissed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, more than a month after a private settlement was reached out of court. Driver David Deleon claimed that he was attacked when he confronted the defendants about taking drugs in the back of his vehicle at Fox TV studios after Shakur appeared on "In Living Color." Shakur admitted he was smoking marijuana but said the driver went into the trunk for what appeared to be a weapon. Shakur was arrested but not charged. A month before the settlement was reached, an arbitrator recommended that Shakur and Interscope Records, Shakur's label, pay $3,000 in compensatory damages and $50,000 in punitive damages, but that ruling was not binding, according to court records.


Having already raked in $169 million at the box office, "Mission: Impossible" will come out on video Nov. 12 at a price that Paramount promises will be aimed at volume sales. . . . UPN News 13 announced that it will eliminate the traditional practice of keeping viewers hanging for a particular story; it will offer "Video Roadmapping," graphics that will reveal the scheduled air time for upcoming reports. . . . Michael Learned has been set to re-create her "Waltons" TV series role in the CBS telefilm "A Waltons Easter". . . . Former "L.A. Law" regular Blair Underwood has joined the cast of the ABC police drama "High Incident." . . . David Gahan, 34, lead singer of Britain's Depeche Mode, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to possession of cocaine and being under its influence when he was arrested May 28 at a West Hollywood hotel. Beverly Hills Municipal Judge Charles Rubin ordered Gahan to return to court July 30 for further proceedings. Gahan told reporters he has been battling drug addiction and is getting professional help.

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