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News Roundup: Kutcher, MTV launch new show

Plus: ”Seventh Heaven,” ”Wedding Bells,” ”Black Donnellys” get the ax, FX picks up Glenn Close drama, Rip Torn to play Josh Harnett’s father in ”August,” and more…

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Ashton Kutcher
Dave Hogan/Getty Images

Kutcher doing new reality gameshow for MTV
With Punk’d in its final season, Ashton Kutcher and MTV have teamed up for a new reality gameshow pilot, 3 Kings. Based on a British show of the same name, 3 Kings has masked contestants compete in challenges from three categories (speed, skill, and pain) in attempts to challenge and dethrone a reigning king. (In the British pilot, one challenge had contestants tossing items at a bull until the bull chased them out of the ring.) It is expected that celebrities will appear as some of the contestants, perhaps even Kutcher himself. The show is being produced by RDF USA (Wife Swap) and Kutcher’s Katalyst Films. Kutcher also recently landed a reality gameshow pilot at CBS, Game Show in my Head. (Variety)

Seventh Heaven, Wedding Bells, Black Donnellys get axed
Seventh Heaven, which first aired on the WB in 1996 before getting new life on the CW late last year, will air a series-ending, hour-long episode on May 13. In May of last year, Heaven‘s 10th-season finale aired on WB and was considered the series closer, having wrapped up loose ends and delivering the highest ratings in two years. But the CW ordered a new season, which debuted in September 2006. Seventh Heaven is averaging 3.4 million total viewers and a 1.3 rating in the network’s target demo of adults 18-34. Separately, David E. Kelley’s The Wedding Bells will end after its seventh episode. The show started off strong, premiering after American Idol, but faded fast when it moved to its regular Friday night slot, recently drawing just 4.5 million viewers and a 1.5 rating/5 share in adults 18-49. Finally, NBC has cancelled its new series The Black Donnellys to make way for its new reality series The Real Wedding Crashers, which is set to debut on April 23, after Heroes. (Hollywood Reporter/Variety)

FX picks up Glenn Close legal drama
FX has ordered 13 episodes of Damages, a new legal drama starring Glenn Close. The show starts production in May and will premiere this summer. Close stars as Patty Hewes, one of America’s foremost litigators going after corporate titans. FX Networks president John Landgraf describes Damages as ”a legal show that never goes into the courtroom.” FX is reportedly encouraged by ratings for new series Dirt, which stars Courteney Cox, for which the network is expected to make a decision on a second season in two to six weeks. (Hollywood Reporter)

Scott, Torn join Harnett in August
Adam Scott (Knocked Up) and Rip Torn have signed on to appear with Josh Harnett and Naomie Harris in Austin Chick’s indie feature August. The story is about an aggressive, young dot-com entrepreneur (Hartnett) struggling when the bottom of the market falls out in the weeks leading to Sept. 11. Scott will play Harnett’s brother and Torn will play his father. Hartnett, David Guy Levy, Elisa Pugliese of 57th and Irving Prods., and Clara Markowicz of Original Media will produce with Original’s Charlie Corwin. Pugliese’s 57th and Irving Prods are financing the movie, and CAA is handling domestic sale. (Hollywood Reporter)

Jordan to direct Heart-Shaped Box for Warner
Neil Jordan (Breakfast on Pluto, The Brave One) will rewrite and direct Heart-Shaped Box, an adaptation of the horror novel by Stephen King’s son Joe Hill, for Warner Bros. Pictures with Akiva Goldsman producing. The book is about a rock star obsessed with the occult who is forced to confront the ghost of the person who formerly owned a suit he’s purchased. (Hollywood Reporter)

MTV launching new music video game
MTV has teamed with Harmonix to launch Rock Band, a new music video game to be distributed by Electronic Arts for Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360. Last year, MTV bought the Harmonix-developed Guitar Hero game for $175 million. Rock Band lets gamers simulate playing guitar, bass, or drums or sing lead vocal to famous rock songs. In addition to a guitar/bass controller, the game will include drum kit controller and microphone. MTV has already cleared rights with major labels to use songs from their libraries and is now working out deals with individual artists. The game will also include an online component enabling users to compete with other Internet gamers and download new songs. Activision now owns rights to Guitar Hero and hopes to release a third installment of the game in time for Christmas, the same time Rock Band is expected to release. (Variety)

ITV, NBC team for musical quiz show
The UK’s ITV and NBC are working to create separate versions of The Great American Singing Bee, a musical quiz show from producers Phil Gurin (Weakest Link) and Bob Horowitz (Battle of the Network Reality Stars). The show will have contestants ”sing in the blanks” when presented with partial song lyrics. (Variety)

Spike moving forward with MANswers
Spike has approved nine episodes of new gameshow MANswers, described as a show about ”barstool curiosities.” The series will ask contestants offbeat and candid questions likely to be talked about in a bar late at night, such as: how long can a man survive on beer alone, and, what is the best organ to eat if you’re a cannibal? MANswers will debut this fall. (Variety)

Crime shows best at retaining viewers
Crime and punishment TV programs have the highest viewer retention rate during commercial breaks, according to a recent study from Magna Global. Shows like CSI or Law & Order indexed highest of all genres, retaining 95 percent of their viewers through all commercial breaks. Ads during crime procedurals were also the least likely to be skipped during DVR playback. The study also found that retention doesn’t always correlate to ratings, as shows with huge ratings, like American Idol and Grey’s Anatomy lost viewers during commercials more often than lower rated crime shows. (Variety)

EMI drops DRM for Apple’s iTunes
EMI has become the first major label to drop antipiracy Digital Rights Management software from music it releases over Apple’s iTunes. DRM software has been used on iTunes since 2002. It limits the number of times a user can copy a downloaded track. EMI is also adding higher quality versions of tracks to iTunes available for $1.29, compared to $0.99 for traditional quality songs. Both moves are aimed at making iTunes’ digital music catalog even more competitive with CDs. EMI’s Beatles catalog, which has never been available digitally, is not included in the deal. (Variety)

European Union files charges against record labels, Apple
The European Commission has sent formal charges to major record companies and Apple Inc. saying their digital music sales violate EU rules against restricting competition. European consumers are only able to purchase music from Apple iTunes stores in their country of residence, sparking a complaint in 2005 by the British consumer group Which?, which said that purchasers in France and Germany paid only 99 euro cents ($1.32) for each song they download, compared to 79 British pence ($1.56) paid by those living in the UK. Apple says its attempt to launch a single, pan-European store was blocked by legal restrictions. (Reuters)

Pearl Jam confirms Lollapalooza date
Pearl Jam confirmed that it will appear at the last date of this summer’s three-day Lollapalooza festival in Chicago as the headliner for the final night (Aug. 5). The band will embark on a three-week European tour starting June 8 in Lisbon, but the Chicago appearance is the only scheduled U.S. date in 2007. The rest of the Lollapalooza lineup will be announced on April 12. Early bird tickets are already on sale for $165 at the Lollapalooza website. (Billboard)

IN THE GOSSIPS

Page Six: Director Robert Rodriguez’s affair with Rose McGowan (and his wife of 16 years finding out about it) may have been behind a hiatus in the shooting of Grindhouse.

Rush & Molloy: Chris Rock agrees to a paternity test in response to Kali Bowyer, a 35-year-old freelance journalist, filing a paternity action last month.