Oscar winners Clint Eastwood, Ben Affleck, Renee Zellweger, Annie Lennox and Elton John have been added to the star-studded cast of NBC Universal’s tsunami benefit special, which will raise money for the American Red Cross’s relief efforts.

Nelly, never even an Oscar nominee, will join Lennox and John on the list of newly announced performers. The new trio joins previously announced musical guests including Madonna, Sheryl Crow, Lenny Kravitz, Eric Clapton, Mary J. Blige, Kenny Chesney, Brian Wilson, India.Arie, John Mayer and Gloria Estefan.

Also added to the talent for the event are Meg Ryan, Morgan Freeman and Robert Downey Jr., who will appear along with the previously announced George Clooney, Usher, Halle Berry and Uma Thurman, among others.

The concert will air at 8 p.m. EST Saturday and will be broadcast on NBC and across all its cable networks.

The PAX network, partly owned by NBC, and Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo will also air the benefit.

-Zap2it.com
HBO ratings suffering

“Sex and the City” is gone and new seasons of “Six Feet Under” and “The Sopranos” are a long way off and HBO’s ratings are beginning to show a little wear-and-tear. Sunday night’s season premiere of “Carnivale” and the series premiere of “Unscripted” got off to weak starts for the premium cable giant.

The mystical Dust Bowl drama premiered at 9 p.m. EST to only 1.8 million viewers. The Sept. 2003 first season premiere of “Carnivale” drew 5.3 million viewers. To be fair, the show’s series premiere followed an episode of “Sex and the City” and wasn’t expected to anchor the night. In addition, since that time, HBO has changed its viewer measurement standards, generally lowering numbers for its primary channel.

As tepid as the ratings for “Carnivale” were, the largely improvised Hollywood comedy “Unscripted” debuted to only 814,000 viewers at 10 p.m., according to industry trades.

-Zap2it.com

A second episode of “Unscripted” dipped even further, pulling in only 726,000. “K Street,” a political dramedy from “Unscripted” producers Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney, debuted after the 2003 “Carnivale” premiere and hooked 3.1 million, by far the largest audience in its short run.

As a better point of comparison, the premiere of this summer’s similarly themed “Entourage” drew a somewhat disappointing 1.89 million viewers in July.

Other cable networks had better starts to their week. VH1’s reality series “The Surreal Life” drew 2.3 million viewers for its Sunday premiere, making it the network’s highest rated program in four years and propelling the first episode of “Strange Love” to the network’s highest ever premiere ratings. Over on Lifetime, the Monday screening of the Debra Winger telefilm “Dawn Anna” drew a solid 4.4 million viewers.



GAROFALO VISITS “DATELAND’ FOR OXYGEN

Oxygen believes it has made a perfect match between acerbic comic Janeane Garofalo and the romantic comedy “Nadine in Dateland.” The original movie is set to premiere this spring.

Garofalo plays Nadine, the owner of a dating service that needs an overhaul. She’s so desperate to keep her business running that she’s willing to ask her mother (Swoosie Kurtz) for money. There’s a catch: In order to get mom’s money, Nadine has to prove that she can make a successful match with her old college sweetheart Adam (Brad Rowe). She enlists her best friend (Tamala Jones) in the cause.

“Janeane’s brilliant talent and comedic timing makes Nadine irresistibly loveable,” says Debby Beece, Oxygen’s programming president. “Our audience will find themselves cheering for the underdog every step of the way.”

Garofalo proved herself as an unlikely, but successful, romantic comedy lead in the feature “The Truth About Cats and Dogs.” Her other feature credits include “Reality Bites” and “Copland.”

“Nadine in Dateland” is written and directed by Amie Steir (“Zoe Loses It”) and is executive produced by John Davis (“Paycheck,” “Garfield”).



REEVE MAKES DGA TELEVISION SHORTLIST

The late Christopher Reeve has earned a Directors Guild of America nomination for his final completed project, the directorial effort “The Brooke Ellison Story.” Reeve’s helming work on the A&E movie leads the DGA’s list of nominees for outstanding directorial achievement in movies for television in 2004.

“This year marks the 40th anniversary of the first movie created expressly for television. The work of the five nominated directors exemplifies the power and strength of the art form for the past forty years – where controversial social issues and compelling personal stories are writ large for the small screen,” says DGA President Michael Apted. “I congratulate these outstanding directors for their contributions to the continuing excellence of the tradition of movies for television.”

Reeve is the only first-time nominee in the category. The “Superman” star, who died on Oct. 10, 2004, was nominated for an Emmy for his directing debut, the 1997 HBO movie “In the Gloaming.”

Reeve’s most decorated competition is probably Robert Altman, nominated for Sundance’s “Tanner on Tanner.” The recipient of the DGA’s “Lifetime Achievement” award in 1994, Altman has also been nominated for features including “The Player” and “Nashville.”

The other directors in the tough field are seven-time nominee Joseph Sargent (HBO’s “Something the Lord Made”), Stephen Hopkins (HBO’s “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”) and Lloyd Kramer (ABC’s “Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven”).

The winners will be announced at the 57th Annual DGA Awards Dinner on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2005 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.



TNT’S IN A “RUSH’

TNT is moving into episodic production on “Rush,” a new police drama from many of the people behind ABC’s short-lived “10-8.”

Created by Jorge Zamacona (“Homicide: Life on the Street,” “10-8”) and executive produced by the prolific Aaron Spelling (“10-8,” “Beverly Hills, 90210) and E. Duke Vincent (“Charmed,” “10-8”), “Rush” focuses on an undercover strike force composed of the best officers from various federal and local law enforcement agencies. Their duties include tracking down Los Angeles’ 100 most wanted criminals. Gary Cole (“Office Space,” “The West Wing”) stars, with support from Rashida Jones (“Boston Public”), Ryan Hurst (“Taken”) and Benjamin Benitez (“Tru Calling”).

In addition to greelighting “Rush,” TNT confirmed that it’s moving forward, as expected, with “The Closer.” That drama stars Kyra Sedgewick as a world-class police interrogator who goes from Atlanta to Los Angeles to head up an LAPD unit entrusted with the most sensitive murder cases. J.K. Simmons and John Tenney co-star.

Both series will produce 13 episodes and will premiere in the summer.

“We’re very pleased to be able to bring these two shows to our audience,” says Michael Wright, TNT’s senior vice president of original programming. “They are just the sort of provocative, high-quality dramas we were expecting to get when we enlisted the help of the incredibly talented people who created them, and we think they’re the perfect complement to TNT’s drama brand.”



HBO, FOX PILOTS TAKE FLIGHT

A comedy set in, of all places, Iraq, and a drama about a young woman taking over a sports agency have received pilot orders from HBO and Fox, respectively.

The HBO project comes from “SCTV” veteran Dave Thomas and Tim Hedrick, who previously worked together on ABC’s “Grace Under Fire.” It’s based on the true story of a group of U.S. Army Engineers deployed to Iraq in 2003 to search for weapons of mass destruction, according to the showbiz trade papers.

Upon arrival, though, they were sent to a remote base with no orders. The show picks up there, with the soldiers trying to find ways to occupy their time.

Thomas and Hedrick are writing the pilot and will executive produce with David Tochterman, another “Grace” alumnus.

The Fox project comes from Emmy winner Kevin Falls (“Sports Night,” “The West Wing”). It centers on a woman who inherits her father’s sports agency when he dies. He’ll executive-produce and write the 20th Century Fox TV pilot.



(c) 2005, Zap2it.com.

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