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Hugh Grant and Liz Hurley separate

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Hugh Grant, Elizabeth Hurley
Alastair Grant/AP

SPLIT British journos and fans of HughGrant , 39, and Liz Hurley, 35, collapsed into a melancholic state with the announcement yesterday that the titillating tabloid favorites would be separating. The couple, who met on the set of a Spanish film in 1987, have been a reliable photo-op at celebrity gatherings since they appeared at the premiere of Grant’s 1994 film ”Four Weddings and a Funeral,” with Hurley scandalously clad in a Versace dress barely held together with gold safety pins. British papers speculate that while chemistry between the two has long fizzled, the couple has kept up appearances in the interest of maintaining a glamour quotient beneficial to their jobs.

FINISHED Frontman Billy Corgan announced that the Smashing Pumpkins will split for good at the end of this year. The band has survived the heroin overdose of touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin, the departure of bassist and founding member D’Arcy Wretzky and, finally, tumbling sales, to perform artful music that has run increasingly counter to industry trends over the last 11 years. Corgan told L.A.’s KROQ radio that the group has known that their recent release ”MACHINA/the machines of God” would be their last since the time of its recording. Fighting the good fight against the Britneys (read Britney Spears-types) of the world has become too wearying, he added.

EXIT Guitarist Noel Gallagher abruptly walked out of the sassy Manchester band Oasis‘s world tour yesterday reportedly because of a spat with his famously bloke-ish bro, Liam Gallagher. No official reason was given for the departure, which has forced cancellation of the French leg of their tour. Noel told GQ magazine that he would need a good reason for him to return to the road after this year’s tour, prompting rampant speculation that the band is on the verge of splitting.

COURTS Charges against Pretenders lead singer Chrissie Hynde for her March arrest for protesting Gap leather goods will be dismissed if she stays out of trouble for the next six months, a judge told her yesterday. Hynde appeared yesterday in Manhattan’s criminal court with three other members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

CABLE DEALS Tom Hanks will direct one of 10 episodes in the $110 million original HBO WWII miniseries, ”Band of Brothers.” Hanks, who will helm the No. 5 show, ”Cross Roads,” is exec-producing the series with Stephen Spielberg. ”Richard III” ‘s Richard Loncraine, ”Field of Dreams” ‘ Phil Alden Robinson and ”Hard Rain”’s Mikael Salomon will also direct episodes…. Showtime greenlit 17 episodes of The Chris Isaak Show, featuring a ”Behind the Music”-esque look at the ”Wicked Game” singer’s career. Isaak will exec-produce.

TV NEWS NBC may bring back ”Freaks and Geeks” for one night this summer, though it remains doubtful that the network will renew the series, whose cancellation prompted protests from thousands of fans who empathize with the show’s painfully awkward high school-aged characters. NBC Entertainment pres Garth Ancier announced that a three-episode ”Freak”-fest is planned for sometime in July or August. He neglected to add that those who love unpopular people make for unpopular demographics…. As the sweeps season reaches its frantic peak, ABC has proclaimed itself the winner. Though the network is leading May sweeps only by a fraction, it expects to win because of extra episodes of ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” which are yet to air.

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