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Waiting to Exhale: While the rest of the country is shakin’ to the Macarena, the women of NBC are getting down with the Macanudo. Yes, Hollywood’s fad du jour has made its way into the Thursday-night canon, as the toking troika of Courteney Cox, Brooke Shields, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus lit up cigars on the season premieres of Friends, Suddenly Susan, and Seinfeld. Conspiracy or coincidence? The latter, says NBC. The network insists that the three segments — Monica pining for her stogie-smoking ex (Tom Selleck) on Friends, Shields’ Susan lighting up on her big night out with a girlfriend, and Elaine’s Corona-chewing display of power at the workplace — simply reflect the stogie-feminization trend. (Check out Demi Moore on the fall cover of Cigar Aficionado.) ”We’re famous for our theme nights,” acknowledges an NBC spokesman, ”but women smoking cigars wasn’t an intentional one.”

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: After the dousing he received last time out, the idea of Kevin Costner making another postapocalyptic movie should feel like oil and Waterworld. Nevertheless, Costner’s first directing job since the Oscar- winning Dances With Wolves will be The Postman, a futuristic story about ”a drifter who masquerades as a 21st-century mail carrier,” says Jim Wilson, Costner’s partner in TIG Productions. Producer Steve Tisch (Forrest Gump) promises that the movie will differ from other grim views of the future. ”It’s very optimistic,” says Tisch. ”There’s no high tech and hardware in this one.” Tisch also promises that despite the inevitable confusion it will cause with the Oscar-nominated Il Postino, the movie’s title will not change. Warner Bros. will ”mount an aggressive campaign that will clearly differentiate the films,” says Tisch. Costner’s special delivery is planned for late ’97.

A Puzzler: Is NBC singling out The Single Guy? It sure looks that way. First, the sitcom starring Jonathan Silverman was left out of a Must See TV promotional jigsaw puzzle that was sent to the media in early September, although it featured the casts of all of the network’s other Thursday-night shows. Then, last week, a press release trumpeting the ratings of the network’s Must See lineup — including Friends, Suddenly Susan, and ER — also made no mention of the Unattached One. An insider at the network insists the slights were unintentional. ”The puzzle was just an unfortunate oversight,” he says, adding that the press release, which was later revised to include Guy, usually lists only ”highlights from the evening.” Silverman doesn’t seem worried. ”It was a faux pas on NBC’s end,” says Jim Broutman, the actor’s spokesman and Guy publicist. ”From my understanding, everybody at the network is very happy with the new cast and the direction in which the show is going.”

Mincing Words: In Extreme Measures, Gene Hackman not only plays a doctor, he gets paid like one, too. Starring along with Hugh Grant in the Elizabeth Hurley-produced thriller, Hackman earned a reported $4 million for his shift as a nasty neurologist — a role that’s slimmer than a scalpel. Though that’s $2 million less than he normally receives, the acting veteran’s total on-screen time is just 22 minutes. Do the math and that means Hackman earned $181,818 for every minute of screen time! And no, none of his scenes ended up on the cutting-room floor. According to Hackman’s spokesman, the role was written as it appears. ”It’s a supporting role. He did it in three weeks.” That’s $1.33 million a week, for those keeping count. And he doesn’t even have to pay for malpractice insurance.

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