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''Law & Order'' staying at NBC

Plus: ”Friday Night Lights” coming back for second season, ”ER” star Linda Cardellini tapped for ”Heaven Project,” Barry Sonnenfeld in talks to direct supernatural adventure movie for Fox, and more…

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Virginia Sherwood

Law & Order staying at NBC; Criminal Intent moving to USA
NBC has picked up Law & Order for an 18th season, making it the second-longest running drama in TV history, behind the 20-year run of Gunsmoke, which aired from 1955-75. Meanwhile, Law & Order: Criminal Intent will air on the NBC-owned USA Network next season, with a second window on NBC. Last week, it was widely reported that Law & Order might wind up at TNT next season, but executive producer/creator Dick Wolf was able to come to terms over the weekend on a deal that keeps the veteran crime drama at the Peacock. So far this season, L&O has averaged a 2.7 rating/8 share in adults 18-49 and 9.0 million viewers overall in the Friday 10 p.m. time slot. (Hollywood Reporter)

NBC renews Friday Night Lights
NBC has ended weeks of speculation by granting a second season to Friday Night Lights, the critically acclaimed freshman drama that lagged in the ratings. The show’s first season only averaged a 2.3 rating/6 share and 6.1 million viewers overall, but NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly has championed the show as part the network’s ”first be best, then be first” manta. Friday‘s renewal follows NBC’s recent decision to re-up another highly-praised but low-rated show, the Tina Fey/Alec Baldwin comedy 30 Rock. The official announcement on Friday Night Lights will come during NBC’s upfront presentation on Monday. The network is expected to order a full 22-episode second season, which may air later than the 8 p.m. slot it had this season. Friday Night Lights is executive produced by Peter Berg, who wrote and directed the movie on which the show was based, as well as Jason Katims, Brian Grazer, David Nevins, and Sarah Aubrey. Kyle Chandler stars as coach Eric Taylor in the show about a small Texas town where high school football is king. (Variety)

ER‘s Cardellini tapped for Heaven Project
ER star Linda Cardellini will star opposite Paul Walker in Heaven Project, an indie drama being directed by freshman helmer John Glenn. The story is about an ex-con (Walker) who is put to death, but then wakes up in a small Oregon town where he works as a groundskeeper for a mental hospital. He is told he was given a second chance by God but has a hard time accepting that he had ever actually died. Cardellini will play the hospital’s administrator and Walker’s love interest. Production is currently underway. Cardelli next appears in CBS’ Larry McMurtry miniseries Comanche Moon. (Hollywood Reporter)

Barry Sonnenfeld in talks to direct The Box
Director Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, The Addams Family) is in talks to helm The Box for 20th Century Fox. The supernatural adventure (a contemporary take on the myth of Pandora’s box) is about a college graduate tricked into opening the mythical box who must then team with Pandora to save the world from the evil he unleashed. Sonnenfeld’s last movie was the Robin Williams family comedy RV. (Hollywood Reporter)

Purefoy set to star in movie from Greek Wedding‘s Vardalos
James Purefoy (Rome) is in negotiations to star with Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) in I Hate Valentine’s Day, a romantic comedy written by Vardalos and being directed by Nick Hurran (Little Black Book). Vardalos was nominated for an Oscar for writing Greek Wedding. Valentine’s Day is about a commitment-phobic woman who lives by a set of dating rules but is tempted to break them when she falls for a Brit who dumps her. Production is set to start in July. (Hollywood Reporter!)

MTV launching celeb rapping competition show
MTV working out a development deal for Rapping With the Stars, a reality competition show that will pair celebrities with hip-hop artists in a range of rap-oriented musical challenges with a hip-hop star serving as judge. The show is being overseen by Tony DiSanto. (Variety)

Coppola’s Youth premiering at Rome fest
Youth Without Youth, the first movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola since 1997’s The Rainmaker, will debut at the RomaCinemaFest this October. The film stars Tim Roth as an elderly professor whose apparent immortality makes him a target of the Nazis. Coppola also wrote the screenplay based on the novella by Mircea Eliade. (Hollywood Reporter)

MPAA factoring depictions of smoking into movie ratings
The Motion Picture Assn. of America is going to start factoring smoking in a film into its future movie ratings. The MPAA said that ”depictions that glamorize smoking or movies that feature pervasive smoking outside of a historic or other mitigating context may receive a higher rating.” Some critics have called for an automatic ”R” rating for any movie containing smoking, but MPAA Chairman and CEO Dan Glickman called that proposal extreme. (Variety)

Superman, Heroes win top Saturn Awards
The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films gave top honors to the movie Superman Returns and the TV show Heroes at the 33rd annual Saturn Awards on Thursday (May 10). Battlestar Galactica was named the best cable or syndicated series, and The Descent was honored as best horror movie. (Variety)


Page Six: Denise Richards denies reports that she had invited paparazzi to take photos of her with her kids during her divorce battle with Charlie Sheen.

People.com: A family member of The Hills star Jason Wahler says the actor is in rehab as part of a deal with prosecutors stemming from his arrest for assaulting two men in September 2006 with a blood alcohol level of 0.22.

Rush & Molloy: Lindsay Lohan was in rare form at Wednesday’s (May 9) Nylon magazine party — she was seen lifting up her skirt, and a photographer snapped photos of her kissing UK socialite Callum Best — but her rep insists she was not drinking.