Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle TV Eye

By Margaret Moser

JUNE 29, 1998:  Vacation this year was dandy. I avoided the office (mostly), got a lot of cleaning done, wrote a lot, and watched videos but very little TV.

I did, however, finally see The X-Files movie, though not until Saturday, due to a miscalculation on Weezer's part that led to a Keystone Kops scenario of us flying around town to theatres only to find sold-out shows or wrong times. It's my personal belief that he spent too much time looking for Jennifer Love Hewitt photos to use when he was writing this column, and it scrambled his little mind. (One more week of vacation for me and you would have seen Jennifer Lopez's butt, I swear.) A good dose of Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully seemed to cure him though. And no, they didn't kiss. Weezer and I, who have actually dressed as Scully and Mulder for Halloween, loved the film. And it opened at #1.

My vacation from watching TV didn't keep me out of the gossip loop or from looking ahead to what's the fall season is bringing us. The top-rated ER is jostling some cast members around, though George Clooney is officially leaving his role as Dr. Doug Ross in the NBC medical drama after the 1998-99 season. Speculation has been that Noah Wyle's role as John Carter will be expanded since his contract takes him through the 1999-2000 season. The question then will be: What will happen next season in the rollercoaster romance between Ross and head nurse Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies)? Clooney seems to have scored himself a sweet deal with the network his agreement gives him the opportunity to executive produce a series as well as two made-for-TV movies but not necessarily to star in them. Not much question for Maria Bello, whose character Dr. Anna Del Amico will only appear on a few shows next season before being written out. Bello has a few irons in the fire with upcoming films roles, including starring opposite Mel Gibson in Payback, and with Ben Stiller in Permanent Midnight later this year... I have always liked Cybill Shepherd because she seems like a good Texas girl even if she isn't really. When CBS cancelled her show Cybill, she wasted little time in setting up her next project, an autobiography for HarperCollins tentatively titled Cybill Disobedience and I'm guessing it will be quite the dishy little tome. Shepherd kickstarted her career as the enormously popular model for Cover Girl cosmetics. Her first film role was as Jacy Farrow in The Last Picture Show and she parlayed it into a successful acting career that included the oh-so-Eighties Moonlighting series. Along the way, she's dallied with the likes of Elvis Presley, directors Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese, and Orson Welles. Look for particularly juicy stuff about Moonlighting co-star Bruce Willis, who is currently trying to explain his way out of that Louis Farrakhan flap... Fans of slick Sixties series The Avengers already know the film starring Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes is slated to hit the summer screens this year. With that in mind, A&E Home Video is releasing two boxed sets of the original TV series, which starred Patrick Macnee as John Steed and Diana Rigg as Emma Peel. Any fans of the Scully-and-Mulder school of sexual tension in a work relationship will appreciate the same of Steed and Peel, somewhat more stylized given Emma Peel's penchant for black leather bodysuits. To celebrate the video release, A&E has scheduled on August 15 a marathon showing of The Avengers series. A fan of the series since its original broadcast, this no doubt fires up speculation about the film future of another Sixties Brit-cult classic series, The Prisoner, starring Patrick McGoohan... It won't be coming to us on the big screen but that's probably good: Payne is the American version of Fawlty Towers, the enormously successful Seventies British comedy series that starred John Cleese and Prunella Scales and is often seen locally on KLRU. CBS has cast John Larroquette in the Cleese role and JoBeth Williams in Scales', but the network is asking for only eight episodes of the series and, in a great show of faith not only for Payne but its other new shows, is setting it as a mid-season replacement. I think John Larroquette is a fine actor and comic, and deserves better than a half-hearted vote of confidence... The news that Rick Schroder is joining the cast of NBC's NYPD Blue to replace Jimmy Smits has given more than a few people pause, but I am guessing that Schroder must have given a pretty spectacular reading to step into Smits' shoes. Smits, after all, had to replace David Caruso. No truth to the rumor that Caruso and Ginger Spice are forming a support group for Performers with an Overinflated Sense of Value... At ABC, the chance of that Bette Midler sitcom has just dropped to zero. No details except that Carsey-Werner, the production company packaging the show, says that Midler might star in a TV series but not this season. Or on ABC. Sounds like negotiations got very unpleasant somewhere... He's back! Garry Shandling is back! But not on The Larry Sanders Show. No, Shandling goes to the big screen with Warren Beatty in Town and Country, also starring Goldie Hawn, Andie MacDowell, and Diane Keaton just the kind of names Larry Sanders would have killed for. Of course, this really explains Beatty's brief appearance in the final episode of The Larry Sanders Show, where Larry runs after Beatty in the studio parking lot, begging him to appear on the shows "to say goodbye." "Why?" asks a poker-faced Beatty before putting the car into reverse and driving off, "when I can say goodbye here?"

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