BALTIMORE (AP) – HBO has renewed its Baltimore-based drama, “The Wire,” for a fourth season.

Shooting will begin later this year, with the debut set for 2006, Carolyn Strauss, president of HBO Entertainment, said Thursday.

Strauss said it was the power of series creator David Simon’s writing that ultimately won another season for “The Wire.”

“As always happens with David, he works extremely hard constructing a story. Last weekend, he presented us with a really potent, complex and interesting story for the fourth season, and we all looked at it and said, “There’s just no way we can say no to this. It’s just too good.”‘

Simon said each season has been thematically distinct, focusing in turn on the drug war, unionized labor and local politics. The fourth season will address the public school system.

“This is basically going to be the beginning of a new arc,” he said. “The thing that we tried to convince HBO was that there was more to be said about the American city. It’s gratifying to have the opportunity to continue to explore this urban universe that we created.”

He added: “While we only got the order for one season, the feeling is that if we execute well on season four, we’ll be back for another.”

On the Net:

LONDON (AP) – Jerry Springer will host a daytime talk show on British television for a monthlong run in May or June.

The morning show will fill the slot vacated by “Trisha,” a long-running talk show, commercial network ITV said Thursday.

ITV said the new show would be tamer than Springer’s U.S. program, famous for its raucous audiences and raunchy topics such as “Pregnant by a Transsexual” and “I Married a Horse.”

“British audiences are probably not quite as excitable as Americans so I don’t think there will be fights breaking out – although you never can tell,” a spokeswoman said on customary condition of anonymity.

Springer, 61, was born in Britain and moved to the United States as a child.

On the Net:

LONDON (AP) – Four decades after she defied gravity as “Mary Poppins,” Julie Andrews flew into London to see how the magical nanny fares onstage.

Andrews, who shot to fame with her Oscar-winning turn in the 1964 Disney film, attended a charity performance of the Poppins stage musical at London’s Prince Edward Theatre.

Laura Michelle Kelly, the show’s 23-year-old star, last month called Andrews “my absolute hero” and said she was nervous about meeting the 69-year-old actress.

Andrews went on to star as Maria von Trapp in 1965’s “The Sound of Music.” She was made a dame – the female equivalent of a knight – by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999 and has homes in Switzerland and the United States.

The big-budget collaboration between Walt Disney Co. and mega-producer Cameron Mackintosh draws on P.L. Travers’ original 1930s children’s books as well as Disney’s musical film. It has won rave reviews and took two trophies at last month’s Laurence Olivier Awards.

Thursday’s performance, a benefit for several charities including tsunami relief efforts, was attended by celebrities including Elle Macpherson and Elizabeth Hurley.

NEW YORK (AP) – March Madness has led Ashley Judd to a new role – guest newspaper columnist.

The 36-year-old actress – and rabid University of Kentucky fan – is writing a column for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., during the NCAA tournament.

“She knows the game,” Mike Johnson, deputy managing editor of the Herald-Leader, told The Associated Press on Thursday. “Everybody knows or understands that she’s a big Kentucky fan. She often comes to Lexington for games. It’s not unusual for her to attend the NCAA tournament games.”

Judd’s first story appeared Thursday, while she was in South Africa visiting Nelson Mandela. (The Wildcats survived a scare Thursday afternoon from Eastern Kentucky University, winning 72-64.)

Of UK’s chances of winning the tournament, Judd wrote: “I am an optimist, however, and I always believe,” then listed the keys to the Wildcats’ play to “take us out of the first round and on to the round of 16. By then, I will be back from praying a blessing on Mandela’s noble head to watch my Cats.”

If Kentucky keeps winning, the Herald-Leader hopes Judd will contribute a column each day the team plays. In place of payment, the newspaper will make a contribution to a charity of her choice.

Judd’s screen credits include “A Time to Kill,” “Double Jeopardy” and 2004’s “De-Lovely.”

On the Net:

NEW YORK (AP) – Joss Whedon, creator of the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV series, has been signed by Silver Pictures to write and direct the “Wonder Woman” movie, based on the DC Comics character.

“We are excited about working with Joss,” Jeff Robinov, president of production, Warner Bros. Pictures, said in a statement Thursday. “His work on “Buffy’ makes him uniquely qualified to handle the Wonder Woman character.”

Whedon described Wonder Woman as “the most iconic female heroine of our time.”

“But in a way, no one has met her yet,” he said. “What I love most about icons is finding out what’s behind them, exploring the price of their power.”

Whedon also created the “Buffy” spin-off series, “Angel.” He is completing post-production on “Serenity,” which he wrote and directed based on his TV series “Firefly.”

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Ian Brown, former singer for the Stone Roses, was briefly detained for allegedly attacking a fan who jumped onstage during a concert and beating a bouncer who intervened, police said.

Brown, 42, was released after questioning Tuesday night and won’t be charged, police said. Investigators were having a tough time sorting through conflicting descriptions of the melee.

Shortly after taking the stage at the Great American Music Hall, witnesses said Brown started and stopped his old band’s hit “Made of Stone” three times. He threw a microphone at a sound engineer and another into the balcony, according to witnesses.

“It was a very unprofessional way to act,” said Leah Matanky, a club publicist.

An unidentified man climbed onto the stage and attacked Brown, who joined his bandmates in beating and kicking the man, witnesses said. Security guards dragged the man from the stage, but the singer and band members continued attacking him, witnesses and managers said.

When guard Gavin Baskett tried to stop Brown, the singer pushed him away, and the band attacked him, witnesses said. Several told police that Brown participated in the attack. Baskett was treated at a hospital and released.

Brown’s publicist, Sioux Zimmerman, said the performer had no way of knowing who the guard was because he had come from behind.

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