CASTING The newly show-less Heather Locklear might not be unemployed for long: The Hollywood Reporter says that her agents are trying to find her a new show, and that they are in negotiations for her to join the cast of ”Spin City” next season. ”Spin”’s studio, DreamWorks TV, had no comment…. Woody Harrelson is heading to Broadway for November. He’ll star in the revival of ”Rainmaker,” about a man who promises a drought-plagued town in the 1930s that he can bring precipitation. No word yet whether the stage curtain will be made of hemp…. Usher is bringing his pipes to TV, joining Drew Carey in the ABC musical ”Gepetto,” about the life of Pinocchio told through his creator. Usher would play the lead young hooligan on Pleasure Island…. Jimmy Smits has decided to stretch in his first post-”NYPD Blue” leading role: He’s playing a detective in ”Bless the Child” — but one with a different name. His character helps a mother (Kim Basinger) trying to protect her child from devil-worshippers.
SOON TO BE FREE The woman found guilty in 1997 of extorting money from Bill Cosby, claiming that he was her father, will likely be released from jail after a federal appeals court overturned her conviction, stating that the jury wasn’t given the right instructions. Autumn Jackson, 24, is about halfway through her two year and two month sentence, but now her case must be retried in a lower court, although the prosecution team hasn’t decided whether they want to go through it again, according to the Associated Press. (Jackson’s two convicted accomplices’ sentences were also negated.) The appeals court ruled that the original judge never told the jurors that the key to a conviction was ”wrongful intent” — that is, whether or not Jackson really believed that she was his daughter. This doesn’t mean that Jackson would easily beat the rap if the case was retried: The court added that ”evidence at trial was plainly sufficient to support verdicts of guilty had the jury been properly instructed.”
SHAKEN UP Only four concerts into his 18-city tour, Coolio has canceled the rest of his shows, following a car accident Friday in which one of his tour vans (with the rapper inside) flipped over near Sacramento. Coolio suffered only minor cuts, but two members of his band were seriously injured and are still recuperating, according to MTV News. Although Coolio did play two gigs following the wreck, he decided to bag the rest of the tour because of the lingering stress. ”This is the first time in my career I have had a near-death experience,” he said in a statement. He may reschedule the dates, but no announcement has been made.
REEL DEALS Howard Stern‘s grasp on the media world is tightening: He is producing a new animated show, ”Doomsday,” and will voice at least one character. The show, which hasn’t been picked up by a network yet, follows the adventures of a family who tours a postapocalyptic world in their camper…. ABC will produce a four-hour miniseries on the life of Diana Ross. Ross herself is producing, so don’t expect too critical a look, but if you hear a grinding noise when watching it, that’s just the real-life Supremes’ teeth.
RETURN ENGAGEMENTS Things look good for Def Leppard‘s comeback. When they appeared at a San Antonio, Tex., Wal-Mart earlier this week to sign copies of their new album, “Euphoria,” around 8,000 fans turned up, according to MTV News, and police had to shut down traffic for hours…. ’80s techno band New Order will supply some new songs for Leonardo DiCaprio‘s next movie, ”The Beach.”
ON THE SLY The director of Brad Pitt‘s ”Seven Years in Tibet” revealed in an interview that part of the film was actually shot in Tibet, even though it had been forbidden by the Chinese government. About 20 minutes’ worth of footage in the film was shot by Jean-Jacques Annaud’s clandestine crew by the sacred Mount Calache and in Nepal and mixed in with other scenery shot in Argentina and Canada. ”I got a big kick out of reading that the scenery in my film didn’t bear the slightest resemblance to the real Tibet,” Annaud told the French magazine Figaro Rhone-Alpes.
PRODUCTION FRENZY VH1 must be running out of ”Behind the Music” specials: They’ve announced that they have a whopping 20 shows in development (likely to premiere between August and January), and following MTV’s lead, many are only tenuously connected to music videos. Some of the projects include: ”Back in Black,” described as ”a rock ‘n’ roll ‘Twilight Zone”’; ”Party at the Greenbergs,” a sitcom about a once-famous rock couple who hold fabulous bashes for those in the biz; and ”Pop Rocks,” a dramedy set at a music-video production company.
LAWSUIT The creator of TBS’ ”The Chimp Channel” (the all-monkey TV parody that premieres tonight) is suing its network and Warner Bros. Domestic Pay TV and a few other producing partners for firing him after he admittedly got naked and broke two liquor bottles on the show’s set. Tom Stern claims that he had permission from the powers-that-be to do what he called his ”improv comedy,” in which ”he was trying to get stuff off my chest about the wrong-headed direction the show was taking,” he told Variety. TBS et al had no comment.