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


Kidman Wows Critics: Film actress Nicole Kidman won rave reviews in her London stage debut Wednesday, playing five characters in David Hare's new play, "The Blue Room." "The night is above all a personal triumph for Miss Kidman, an actress who, if you ask me, is totally wasted in movies," Christopher Tookey wrote in the Daily Mail. The Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer called Kidman "achingly beautiful" and "bewitchingly adorable," and described the two-person play about five couples and their sex lives as "pure theatrical Viagra." The Evening Standard's Nicholas de Jongh admired her "neatly provocative performances," and the Guardian's Michael Billington declared: "She is not just a star; she genuinely delivers the goods." The play, which opened at Covent Garden's Donmar Warehouse with Kidman's husband, Tom Cruise, watching from backstage, is expected to go on to New York.


Talking Her Way to the Bank: Oprah Winfrey looks assured of keeping her position near the top of the wealthiest entertainers list, thanks to a new deal with syndicator King World that will keep "The Oprah Winfrey Show" going through the 2001-2002 TV season. Winfrey had previously agreed to continue the talk show through 1999-2000; the usually tight-lipped King World was so happy with the extension that it even announced Oprah's take from the deal--a minimum of $150 million.

A&E;'s Own Home Run: A day before the baseball season ends Sunday, cable's A&E; will present a "Biography" installment focusing on home-run sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. The one hour program, Saturday at 9 p.m., will include interviews with sports journalists, commentators and historians, plus coaches and the players' family members and childhood friends.

'Pfeiffer' Protest: Declaring "there is no compromise," about 250 protesters--led by Brotherhood Crusade President Danny Bakewell Sr. and NAACP Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch president Billie Green--paraded in front of Paramount Studios on Thursday in opposition to UPN's new comedy, "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer." The picketers said they were offended by the show, which is about a black butler and advisor to President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. The protesters say they want the comedy--which is scheduled to premiere Oct. 5--to be yanked from UPN's schedule because it depicts slavery in a humorous light; they say the network and series sponsors will face additional protests if the show airs. UPN on Thursday placed ads in several black newspapers defending the series, saying a "great deal of misinformation has been spread about the show." Bakewell said he planned to voice his demands to UPN executives in a meeting next Wednesday. UPN has not yet agreed to a meeting and declined further comment.

KCBS Move: KCBS-TV Channel 2 Vice President and General Manager John Culliton abruptly resigned from the station Thursday. No reason for Culliton's departure was given, although insiders indicated that he was forced out by CBS management. Culliton, who joined KCBS in July 1996, was credited with improving morale at the station and with instituting features such as "Special Assignment" and "What's Right With Southern California." News director Larry Perret and director of sales Terry Dunning will serve as interim general managers.


If all goes well in the White House in the coming year, Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones will be among those joining the Clintons in celebrating the millennium. Spokesmen for both Hollywood bigwigs confirmed that the pair have been asked by the First Couple to take part in a big Washington bash, though both said that only "preliminary" discussions had taken place, and no details have been decided. . . . Tom Snyder had to vamp through the last half of his CBS late-night show Wednesday when country music star Waylon Jennings left the show, unannounced, before his scheduled interview. Snyder joked about interviewing his staff, then filled the time by taking calls. Representatives for Jennings couldn't be reached. . . . NBC's "NewsRadio" received a ratings boost from Wednesday's farewell episode to the late Phil Hartman, which drew 13.3 million viewers, the show's largest audience since January. CBS won the night with the Country Music Assn. Awards, despite strong ratings performances by the season openers of ABC's "Dharma & Greg" and NBC's "Law & Order." . . . Nathan Lane, a former Tony Awards host and current sitcom star (NBC's new "Encore! Encore!"), will emcee Theatre LA's annual Ovation Awards ceremony on Nov. 16 at the Shubert Theatre. Nominations are expected to be announced Monday. . . . KABC-AM (790) host Marc "Mr. KABC" Germain's show has been trimmed back two hours, airing from 9-10 p.m. to make way for more of syndicated host Art Bell, who can now be heard from 10 p.m.-3 a.m.

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