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NBC will keep ''ER'' through 2004

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E/R, Anthony Edwards
Paul Drinkwater

TV WATCH NBC apparently wants to keep its Emmy-winning dramas. A day after announcing the network would pick up ”Law & Order” until 2005, the Peacock prescribed itself another three years of its top-rated series, ”ER.” Now in its sixth season, the renewal deal will extend the medical drama — in its current time slot — until 2004, its 10th season. As for the stars, Eriq LaSalle and Anthony Edwards have multimillion-dollar contracts through 2002. If they trade in their scrubs for the big screen, ”ER” will have to go on — the deal is not cast contingent.

NUDITY ALERT Hugh Hefner confirmed yesterday that he was in talks with millionaire bride Darva Conger to pose for Playboy. Although Hef didn’t say readers would definitely get a glimpse of what game-show husband Rick Rockwell missed out on, he did say: ”I’d love to make it happen,” according to Reuters.

WEDDING BELLS Ashley Judd and Scottish Indy racer Dario Franchitti are engaged, their parents said Monday in a statement. In fact, the couple, who started dating last May, have been engaged since December but were keeping it from the press. No wedding date has been announced (and why would they?). The happy news comes right as Judd’s new film ”Where the Heart Is” opens in theaters.

CASTING Benjamin Bratt (”Law & Order”) has signed on to star opposite Sandra Bullock in the FBI comedy ”Miss Congeniality” for Warner Bros. Bullock plays an undercover agent sent to participate in a beauty pageant that’s being threatened by a terrorist. Bratt, who most recently starred opposite Madonna in ”The Next Best Thing,” will be Bullock’s FBI partner…. LL Cool J is in final talks to play Whoopi Goldberg‘s son in the comedy ”Kingdom Come,” for Fox Searchlight. The film is supposed to start production in two weeks with director Doug McHenry. ”Kingdom,” follows a family headed by Goldberg who must set aside its problems to bury its unlovable patriarch.

UNCAST? Kevin Spacey said Thursday that he is not in negotiations to play Inspector Clouseau in MGM’s ”Pink Panther” remake, contrary to what a studio exec announced earlier in the week. Spacey told Reuters: ”I’m not — never signed, never been offered the role.” The Oscar winning actor did say he had two conversations about the role, and that’s it. Spacey then said if MGM wanted him to entertain the project they’d have to wait six months for him to read the script and decide.

REEL DEAL Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming will team up for the first time to direct and star in the low-budget drama ”The Anniversary Party” for Fine Line Features. Scheduled to start production in July, ”Party” will be shot on digital video, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Jane Adams, Mina Badie, Jennifer Beals, Phoebe Cates, John Hickey, Kevin Kline, Lisa Kudrow, Denis O’Hare, Gwyneth Paltrow, and John C. Reilly are all candidates for the ensemble cast. ”Party,” which ”Cabaret” stars Leigh and Cumming wrote together, chronicles the day of a thirtysomething couple’s anniversary party, which turns ugly when everyone starts playing an adult game of truth or dare.

CALIENTE! Jennifer Lopez, Cypress Hill, and Marc Anthony were among the singers honored at the 7th Annual Billboard Latin Music Awards, which were presented last night at Miami Beach’s Jackie Gleason Theater. Lopez and Anthony won Hot Latin Track of the Year for ”No Me Ames”; Cypress Hill won Rap Album of the Year for their first Spanish-language release, ”Los Grandes Exitos En Espanol”; and Ricky Martin won Best Latin Pop Track for ”Livin’ La Vida Loca.” Other winners include Enrique Iglesias (Hot Latin Track Artist of the Year) and salsa king Elvis Crespo (The Billboard Latin 50 Artist of the Year). The Telemundo Network will broadcast the ceremony Sunday night at 8 p.m.

STAR NEWS Jay Leno unveiled his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame yesterday, an early birthday present for the comedian, who turns 50 today. Leno should feel doubly honored, seeing as how his late-night rival David Letterman does not have a star. Among the stars who attended the ceremony was former late-night regular Arsenio Hall.

RECOVERED Regis Philbin announced yesterday on ”Live with Regis and Kathie Lee” that he had a blocked artery cleared on Monday, while he was on vacation, and that he stayed overnight in a New York hospital. ”I’m fine, I’m fine,” he told his cohost. Apparently, the 67-year-old had an arterectomy, the medical procedure in which doctors use a rotating shaver to clear the artery. ”That’s just the Roto-Rooter,” Philbin joked.

FAREWELL Goodnight Saigon: The long-running Cameron Mackintosh musical ”Miss Saigon” will have its final curtain call Dec. 31, after nearly 10 years and 4,063 performances on the Great White Way. The musical, which follows an American soldier’s love affair with a Vietnamese woman, opened in April 1991 with Jonathan Pryce and Lea Salonga, both of whom won Tonys for their roles. The Broadway staple has grossed more than $264 million and has been attended by almost 6 million theatergoers.

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