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Dennis Miller joins the NFL's TV team

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TV SPORTS In the contest to cohost ABC’s ”Monday Night Football,” the rumored contenders included the brash (Rush Limbaugh), the boss (Miami Dolphins ex-coach Jimmy Johnson), and the big-haired (Kathie Lee Gifford). But in the end, the comedian won. ”Saturday Night Live” veteran Dennis Miller, who hosts his own HBO talk show, will replace footballer Boomer Esiason in the broadcast booth — taking the same job that the legendary Howard Cosell once held. NBC producer Don Ohlmeyer — the same guy who got Norm Macdonald sacked from SNL’s Weekend Update chair — yesterday announced a major overhaul of the long-running sports show. Joining Miller will be Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts and play by play announcer Al Michaels. ESPN’s Melissa Stark and footballer Eric Dickerson will report from the sidelines. ”Football is not played in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and there’s nothing wrong with having a little fun,” Ohlmeyer says. Miller, with characteristic bluntness, added, ”I admire Don’s cojones.”

TEEN POP Britney Spears is grossed out by some of the raunchy rumors about her — including the recent British newspaper tale about an American businessman who wanted to pay her $17 million to have sex with him. ”I don’t know — maybe (reporters) just want to have something to talk about,” the singer tells the Toronto Sun. ”Like, in my video, I’ll show my belly, but there’s girls in thongs in ‘The Thong Song.’ I don’t understand. I’m 18, I’m a girl, it’s nice to feel sexy. You’re lying if you don’t. It’s part of me. It’s part of me being a girl and growing up. I feel comfortable doing it. It’s not like I walk around in hot pants.” Not in public, anyway.

REALITY TV CBS’ hit reality series ”Survivor” has provided a ratings boost for the networks ailing morning show, according to Variety. ”The Morning Show” with Bryant Gumbel and Jane Clayson now features Thursday interviews with ”Survivor’s” ousted castaways — including the most recent victim of tropical island politics, New Jersey biochemist Ramona Gray. However, the network’s appetite for reality fare has come under fire from within. ”60 Minutes” commentator Andy Rooney is blasting his bosses for hiring a CBS news employee, ”This Morning’s” Julie Chen, as an interviewer on the net’s upcoming ”Big Brother.” ”It’s wrong,” says Rooney. ”It’s a further deterioration of news standards.”

CRIME A New York City record release party for rapper and ”Shaft” costar Busta Rhymes was marred by violence Wednesday night. Two record company employees — both street team promoters for competing labels — began arguing while hanging posters outside of a Manhattan club where a party for Rhymes new album ”Anarchy” was about to get underway. Police say a 22 year old man stabbed an 18 year old man in the back and then fled. As of Thursday, the victim was listed in stable condition at St. Vincent’s Hospital, but police would not release the names or employers of either man involved in the incident. No arrests have been made.

CASTING Sharon Stone, who vamped her way to stardom in ”Basic Instinct,” has signed an ”eight figure deal” to reprise her role as the ice-pick wielding, chain-smoking, leg-uncrossing murder suspect in ”Basic Instinct 2.” Neither the original’s screenwriter, Joe Eszterhas, director Paul Verhoeven, nor costar Michael Douglas will return in the sequel to the ’92 thriller… Danny Glover, who last year blasted New York City taxi drivers who refuse to pick up African American passengers, will be getting behind the wheel himself. The actor will star in a Spike Lee-produced movie for Showtime called ”3 a.m.” ”I was not there to demonize cab drivers,” he said on the film’s New Jersey set. ”I have driven a cab. It’s a difficult job. I know.” Hmmm… could driving a cab really be more difficult than sitting on an exploding toilet in ”Lethal Weapon”?

WEDDINGS One of the Backstreet Boys is a married man: Kevin Richardson married his longtime girlfriend Kristin Willis this weekend. Richardson’s boy-bandmate (and cousin) Brian Littrell also announced his engagement earlier this year…”Titanic” director James Cameron is taking the plunge for the fifth time: He wed actress Suzy Amis, whom he met on the set of the Oscar-winning epic. Amis played the heroine’s granddaughter in the film’s contemporary storyline. The director was previously married to Sharon Williams, a former Bob’s Big Boy waitress who became the inspiration for Sarah Conner, the heroine of in two ”Terminator” films; actress Linda Hamilton, who portrayed Conner; producer Gale Ann Hurd (”Aliens,”); and ”Strange Days” director Kathryn Bigelow.

MUSIC NOTES ”Take a Bite Outta Rhyme: A Rock Tribute To Rap” has attracted some diverse talents. Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst will team with Staind on a cover of Public Enemy’s ”Bring the Noise,” while Kid Rock‘s cover has not been determined. The album, due out in October on Republic Records, will included covers of songs by N.W.A, LL Cool J, and Tone Loc… Spirituality is the focus of Song Music’s ”World Voice 2000” CD, due in September. Britney Spears, Aerosmith, 98 Degrees, and Leanne Rimes will record recitations of prayers by Pope John Paul II. The compilation album will be produced by R. Kelly, who composed the background score and wrote the title track.

FALL TV Murphy” Brown’s Faith Ford will join the cast of ABC’s returning sitcom ”Norm” starring Norm Macdonald…. Now that all six ”Friends” stars have re-upped their contracts, the sitcom’s creators and executive producers have also committed for another two seasons. ‘

WEB The producer of ”The Patriot,” ”ID4,” and ”Godzilla” has reaffirmed his love for science fiction. Dean Devlin, a partner in Centropolis Entertainment with director Roland Emmerich, announced the sale of the company’s interactive-scifi arm to SA Networks Interactive. The merger will result in a free web site called SCIFI.com, which will offer films, music and games. ”If you ask most people, they say they like scifi movies,” Devlin tells the New York Times. ”It has to start with a dream.”

RECOVERING A spokesman for Fran Drescher says ”The Nanny” star is ”doing fine” after uterine cancer surgery in Los Angeles. The actress’ condition was apparently caught early enough that she won’t need follow up treatment.

HONORS Hollywood’s Walk of Fame just got a little bit longer. The neighborhood’s Chamber of Commerce has awarded stars to 23 creative talents, including Winona Ryder, Kelsey Grammer, Randy Travis, Peter Fonda, ”Titanic”’s Gloria Stuart, and the late Bob Marley.

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