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''Survivor''/ ''Big Brother'' score their best ratings yet

Plus, No Doubt, Robert Downey Jr., Liz Hurley, Britney Spears and ‘N Sync, and more

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REALITY TV CBS’ ”Survivor”/ ”Big Brother” lineup scored its best ratings yet on Wednesday night, trampling two other more highbrow reality shows — the premiere of Fox’s critically acclaimed ”American High” and the three network coverage of the 2000 Republican Convention. A record 27.4 million people tuned in to watch YMCA coach Gervase get the boot, and some 17.4 mil hung around to see Jordan the stripper banished from the ”Big Brother” compound (A move that perhaps forebodes a slight ratings decline for the show.) Fox’s multi episode documentary about troubled teens in an Illinois high school attracted only 4.2 million viewers, while ABC, the only network to air a full hour of the Republican showcase has consistently won the lowest ratings of any of the big three. Maybe the GOP should consider getting Gervase on its ticket.

MOB SCENE A No Doubt performance in Arizona turned ugly this week, when a mob of 4,000 people rushed the stage. Five people, who were crushed against the stage or trampled, were injured in the incident. Three were hospitalized, according to police. No Doubt have yet to comment on the disturbance.

FREEDOM Robert Downey Jr. checked himself into rehab almost immediately after leaving jail on Wednesday. The actor, who was released on $5,000 bail, will stay in the Southern California facility until his ”parole kicks in,” according to his lawyer. Unless prosecutors appeal the decision to let Downey go, he will remain free for 40 days until he is placed on parole. The ”Wonder Boys” star has yet to begin thinking of work after prison, according to his spokesman. ”That’s not really in the realm of consciousness at this very moment,” he said. ”I think he’ll resume working as he was before he was incarcerated. His talents have always been in demand, and I see no reason for that to change.”

DENIAL Just as she denied her knowledge of a U.S. actor’s strike recently, Liz Hurley is apparently trying to set straight rumors that she thinks Hugh Grant is a bad lover. In the British gossip rag the Sun, she says, ”Hugh Grant is fantastic in bed. He always has been.” Apparently, she was miffed about a recent article in Jane magazine, in which she was quoted as saying that her lover of 13 years was dull. ”It’s just not true. I cried when I saw it,” she says in the tab. ”I reassured Hugh, who is upset, that I didn’t say those things.” Undoubtedly, many daydream prone English housewives were also happy to hear the news.

GIGS Britney Spears and ‘N Sync have more on their plates than their McDonald’s promotions. They are among the 98 artists that have signed on to perform at the Rock in Rio for a Better World festival Jan. 12 – 21, 2001. The festival, which hosts a myriad of international artists, will accommodate some 1.5 million spectators.

SPLIT Despite rumors that have been circulating over the last few days, Helen Hunt and Hank Azaria are indeed separated, but not ready for divorce, says their spokesman Stephen Huvane. ”They’ve been separated for several months now, and it’s a decision they came to together,” he said. ”And they’re still very good friends. It’s an amicable decision.” Huvane said that he had heard of no plans for divorce.

OLD TIES Marilyn Monroe wasn’t the only actress to have relations with John F. Kennedy, according to one source. In this week’s New Yorker, excerpts from a journal by the late critic Kenneth Tynan reveal that Marlene Dietrich also had a tryst with the late Prez. Tynan recalls how the German actress told him she was invited to the presidential residence for drinks, but had only 30 minutes to spare. ”It was all over sweetly and very soon,” Tynan recalls Dietrich telling him. ”And then he went to sleep. I looked at my watch and it was 6:50.” Well, to be fair, JFK WAS awfully busy…

CASTING Oscar winner Helen Hunt will join Charlize Theron in Woody Allen‘s next DreamWorks project, Variety reports. Though Allen tends to avoid revealing details of his films prior to production, sources say that the director and Hunt play the central characters in the story…. Ethan Hawke has certainly come a long way from Shakespeare. He will join Denzel Washington in the Warner Bros. cop flick ”Training Day.”

UNHOLY COW A fiberglass cow sculpted by David Lynch was rejected from a public New York art show entitled CowParade NYC 2000, according to the New York Times. When the city parks officials saw that the director’s commissioned bovine featured parts covered with a reddish bloodlike substance and a headless neck pierced with knives and forks, they promptly returned it to California without putting it on display. ”I don’t know if it’s shock art or schlock art,” a parks official told the Times. ”David Lynch should stick to his day job, making movies.” The ”Twin Peaks” creator was disappointed to be left out of the show. ”Don’t you think when people tell you you’re allowed to do whatever you want as long as it’s not sexually X rated that they should stand behind their word and show your cow?” he asked. ‘Guess this means we won’t be seeing Lynch in a Got Milk ad anytime soon, huh?