The Writers Guild of America gave parting gifts to “Sex and the City” in the form of two nominations for the guild’s 57th annual awards.

Two episodes from the show’s final run early this year – “The Ick Factor” and “Splat!” – earned nominations in the episodic comedy category. Julie Rottenberg and Elisa Zuritsky wrote the former episode, in which Steve and Miranda (David Eigenberg and Cynthia Nixon) get married and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) discovers she has breast cancer. Jenny Bicks and Cindy Chupack collaborated on “Splat!,” which finds Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) heading to Paris.

“The West Wing” also picked up two nominations for episodic drama, for episodes written by Debora Cahn (“The Supremes”) and John Sacret Young and Josh Singer (last season’s finale, “Memorial Day”). The “Long Term Parking” episode of “The Sopranos,” which won writer Terence Winter an Emmy in September, and last season’s premiere of “Six Feet Under,” written by Craig Wright, were also nominated.

“The Simpsons” dominated the animation category, earning four of the five nominations. Cartoon Network’s “Justice League” snapped up the other.

Winners will be announced at the WGA Awards on Feb. 19.

‘Swap’ producers sue Fox’s ‘Spouses’

The producers of ABC’s “Wife Swap” are suing Fox, claiming its show “Trading Spouses” is a “blatant and wholesale copycat” of the ABC series.

RDF Media, which produces “Wife Swap” in both the United States and the United Kingdom, filed the federal suit Wednesday against Fox and production company Rocket Science Laboratories, which produces “Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy.” RDF is seeking at least $18 million in damages, according to several news reports.

“‘Trading Spouses’ more aptly might be entitled “Trading Copyrights’ (or perhaps “Copyright Swap’), given that defendants’ series is nothing more than a blatant and wholesale copycat of RDF Media’s original, innovative and highly successful “Wife Swap’ series,” the suit reads.

Fox isn’t commenting on the suit.

RDF’s legal action rekindles the debate over whether unscripted-TV formats are fair game. Fox won a legal challenge earlier this year when courts refused to block the airing of its boxing series “The Next Great Champ” following a suit by producers of NBC’s “The Contender,” a boxing show that was announced before “Champ” but isn’t premiering until February. The legal win didn’t help “Champ” in the ratings; it averaged fewer than 5 million viewers in four airings and was later shunted off to Fox Sports Net.

ABC announced in fall 2003 that it was picking up an American version of “Wife Swap.” The show was originally slated for a summer 2004 premiere, but the network later decided to make it part of the fall lineup. Not long after that, Fox announced “Trading Spouses.”

The similarity of the two shows, in which mothers from two families trade lives with one another for a period of time, hasn’t really hurt either one in the ratings. “Wife Swap” averages 10.2 million viewers for week in the competitive 10 p.m. EST Wednesday timeslot. “Trading Spouses” brings in 7.9 million viewers for Fox.

Oscars to honor filmmaker Lumet

LOS ANGELES – Filmmaker Sidney Lumet has been tapped to receive an honorary award at the upcoming 77th Academy Awards in February. The honor was voted on by the Academy’s Board of Governors in recognition of his “brilliant services to screenwriters, performers and the art of the motion picture.”

“Lumet is one of the most important film directors in the history of American cinema,” says Academy President Frank Pierson, “and his work has left an indelible mark on both audiences and the history of film itself.”

Known as an actor’s director, Lumet was born in Philadelphia and grew up acting at New York’s Yiddish Art Theater until the ’50s.

before taking to directing television projects.

His feature debut, 1957’s “12 Angry Men” earned him his first Oscar nomination for directing.

He’s received four additional nominations, three for directing – “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975), “Network” (1976) and “The Verdict” (1982) – and another for adapted screenplay for 1981’s “Prince of the City.”­

His other notable film credits include “Running on Empty,” “The Wiz,” “Equus,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” “Serpico,” “Fail-Safe,” “The Pawnbroker” and “Long Day’s Journey into Night.” He recently returned to his acting roots with a brief appearance in “The Manchurian Candidate” remake playing a political pundit.

The honorary Oscar and the other Academy Awards honoring the outstanding film achievements of 2004 will be telecast from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on Feb. 27.



“EARTHSEA’ WASHES UP STRONG RATINGS FOR SCI FI

December has once again proven to be the magic month for the Sci Fi Channel’s big-ticket miniseries.

The cable network’s latest offering, “Legend of Earthsea,” drew an average of 3.68 million viewers over its two nights, continuing a string of successful end-of-the-year offerings that also includes the Emmy-winning “Taken” and “Battlestar Galactica.”

Based on two books by Ursula K. Le Guin, “Legend of Earthsea” tells the story of a young wizard (Shawn Ashmore, “X2”) who embarks on a quest to save the land of Earthsea from tyranny. Danny Glover, Isabella Rossellini and Kristin Kreuk (“Smallville”) also star.

The four-hour miniseries debuted Monday to an audience of about 3.44 million people, second on all of cable for the night (behind Spike TV’s “WWE Raw”). The conclusion on Tuesday improved to just over 3.9 million viewers, and its household rating of 3.4 was the best for any Sci Fi program this year (the premiere of “Stargate: Atlantis” had 4.2 million viewers but only a 3.2 rating).

Its success also breaks a recent string of Sci Fi minis that have failed to live up to the likes of “Taken,” which drew more than 5 million people, and “Battlestar Galactica,” which brought in more than 4 million and is scheduled to become a weekly series in January. The five-hour “Five Days to Midnight” averaged only 1.7 million viewers in June. October’s “Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars” also failed to crack the 2 million-viewer mark.



(c) 2004, Zap2it.com.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-12-16-04 1558EST


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