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Entertainment news for June 21

Tim Allen, Meryl Streep, and Conan O’Brien made the news this week

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Running Mates: On your mark…get set…go! It was a race against New York City traffic for ER hunk George Clooney and Home Improvement jokester Tim Allen, recently spotted dashing through scenes for their new movies — DreamWorks’ The Peacemaker and Disney’s Jungle2Jungle, respectively. One may be a thriller and the other a comedy, but both are full of action. As an Army lieutenant colonel chasing a terrorist, Clooney has been doing some of his own stunts, which will leave him in tip-top shape to film Batman and Robin. Not to be outdone, Allen ”has some athletic stuff,” says Jungle‘s unit publicist, including a foray into a jungle and a scene with a snake. But will their TV fans run out to see the movies when they open next year?

Cable Manners: A day of reckoning could be at hand for the cable industry. The opening of Jim Carrey’s The Cable Guy raises the issue of what we should call our local cable worker. According to one cable-company representative, there is no universally accepted term for them. ”Some pompous guys may say cable man, but most are just cable guys,” says Maria Bolden of Time Warner Cable in New York City. And what about those cable women? ”They’re also called cable techs or installers,” says Bolden. ”They’re unisex terms.” Apparently the simple but stiff-sounding cable person is not an option.

Meryl’s Choice: News that Meryl Streep will star in a movie-of-the-week (ABC’s First Do No Harm) raises two questions: (1) Does Meredith Baxter know? and (2) What’s a 10-time Academy Award nominee (and 2-time winner) doing starring in a TV flick about epilepsy? It’s not from a lack of big-screen offers: Streep, whose box office soared last year with The Bridges of Madison County, did suffer a minor setback with Before and After, but she has just completed Marvin’s Room, due this December. ”There may be a lack of choice for some people,” says Streep’s spokeswoman, ”but she’s not one of them.” So what tempted the actress, who won an Emmy for 1978’s Holocaust, back to TV? Streep took the role as a favor to her friend, writer-director Jim Abrahams, who based the story on his own son’s battle with the disorder. ”Meryl,” says her spokeswoman, ”goes with what her heart tells her to do.”

Leaving the Nest: Conan O’Brien doesn’t look like much of a coach. Yet his talk show, like Saturday Night Live in the ’70s and Late Night With David Letterman in the ’80s, has become the Triple A league of comedy. Two writers who began on O’Brien’s program are now scripting The Simpsons and Saturday Night Special. And two former scribes, currently with Seinfeld, have broken through to the big screen: Jeff Schaffer and Alec Berg, two 26-year-old Late Night alums, were snatched up by DreamWorks for a development deal. Even O’Brien sees the upside to overseeing a farm team. ”Until now I thought my show [NBC’s Late Night With Conan O’Brien] was worthless,” says the after-hours host. ”But now we’re providing a service.”