ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT REPORTS FROM THE TIMES, NEWS SERVICES AND THE NATION’S PRESS.
‘Survivor’ Wins: Facing its first “Friends” rerun Thursday, CBS’ “Survivor: The Australian Outback” pulled in the biggest audience since its post-Super Bowl launch, attracting an estimated 31.3 million viewers. CBS also premiered the new crime drama “Big Apple,” which averaged a so-so 12.2 million viewers. A hastily scheduled original episode of “ER,” put on to counter “Big Apple,” more than doubled that audience. Thursday’s “Survivor” was unusual in that there was no tribal council. The ritual was canceled after contestant Michael Skupin suffered severe burns causing him to leave the game. Producer Mark Burnett said that the cameraman would have been fired had he tried to intervene. “The cameraman’s job is to keep shooting. That’s all he’s there for,” he said. Though there was more graphic footage of the accident, he added, it “has no place in the 8 o’clock hour” . . . In other “Survivor” news, a federal judge on Thursday dismissed the lawsuit filed by Richard Hatch, winner of the series’ first installment, against Rhode Island child welfare authorities who took custody of his 10-year-old son for about a month after charging Hatch with child abuse. A separate civil lawsuit Hatch filed against the Middletown police is pending.
KPCC-FM Shuffle: KPCC-FM (89.3) has expanded its local programming and revamped its weekend schedule. Ira Glass’ “This American Life” will now be heard Fridays at 7 p.m. (as well as Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.) and NPR programs “Living on Earth” (4-5 p.m.) and “Selected Shorts” (9-10 p.m.) join the Saturday roster. The station is dropping “The World,” “Only a Game,” and “Fresh Air Weekend.” Larry Mantle’s “Air Talk” will air weekdays from 7-9 p.m., followed by a rebroadcast of “Talk of the City,” then Terry Gross’ “Fresh Air” at 10 p.m..
The Marshall Mathers Movie?: Eminem, who walked off with three Grammys last week, is eyeing a move to the silver screen. The Detroit rapper, born Marshall Bruce Mathers III, has two potential film deals percolating--one a supernatural thriller pairing him with rapper DMX and the other a biography chronicling Eminem’s own life, Daily Variety reports. Hollywood has been eager to tap the mercurial performer who had the best-selling album of 2000. Meanwhile, Eminem’s on-again, off-again marriage is off again. Two months after he and his wife Kim reportedly reconciled for the sake of their daughter, she filed for divorce Thursday in Macomb County, Mich., Circuit Court. “This is a marriage that apparently just isn’t going to work,” said her attorney, Robert Z. Feldstein.
And the Winner Is . . . : Two of Hollywood’s top young stars, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, gave their own version of a film studio “green light” to unknown writer-director Pete Jones Thursday, naming him the winner of a screenwriting contest conducted on their Web site. As part of the prize, Miramax Films will provide Jones, a 31-year-old production assistant, with a $1-million production budget to film his script “Stolen Summer,” which the company plans to release theatrically next year. Miramax Television will document the process in a 13-episode series expected to air on HBO in early 2002. Executives from Miramax and HBO, as well as “Good Will Hunting” co-producer Chris Moore, participated in the selection process, choosing from 7,000 entries.
Cutting Edge: The USC School of Cinema-Television inaugurated a $25-million, state-of-the-art digital technology center Thursday night. Gov. Gray Davis joined top Hollywood directors and producers at the unveiling of the 35,000-square-foot facility, the largest of its kind. Named after director Robert Zemeckis (“Cast Away,” “Forrest Gump”), who donated $5 million to begin construction, the school was built in 18 months and houses 3 sound stages, several editing laboratories, digital screening rooms and a visual effects studio. Other donors include directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg ($2 million each), music impresario David Geffen ($1 million) director Ron Howard ($750,000) and screenwriter John Wells ($500,000). “Digital technology is the most important leap forward in the motion picture industry since the days of sound,” Zemeckis said. “I hope this is a place where students can learn to harness the power of this phenomenal form of storytelling.”
The cable network TV Land and the city of Minneapolis will dedicate a life-sized bronze sculpture of Mary Richards--the groundbreaking and career-minded protagonist of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show"--in the fall of this year. The piece will stand on the spot where Moore’s character tossed her tam skyward in the opening sequence of the sitcom. . . . For the first time, KCOP-TV will place digital cameras at the finish line of Sunday’s Los Angeles Marathon so that participants can view and download the footage free of charge from its Web site: www.kcop.tv. Race results will also be instantaneous because computer chips are being attached to the shoelaces of each runner. . . . Due to illness, Sunday’s Ahn Trio concert at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium has been canceled. Tickets will be honored for the rescheduled date ( 793-4191). . . . CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond,” NBC’s “Will & Grace” and HBO’s “Sex and the City” will vie for funniest television series honors while “Almost Famous,” “Best in Show” and “Meet the Parents” are up for funniest motion picture at the 15th annual American Comedy Awards, taking place April 22 at Universal Studios Hollywood and being shown April 25 on Comedy Central. . . . During the 53rd annual Writers Guild Awards on Sunday, Betty Comden and Adolph Green will be presented with the Screen Laurel Award, the guild’s highest screenwriting honor. Among their credits: “Singin’ in the Rain” and “On the Town.”