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Jon Stewart hosting 2008 Oscars

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Jon Stewart
Rick Rowell

Stewart asked back to Oscars
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is bringing back Jon Stewart as host of this year’s Oscars ceremony. AMPAS made the announcement on Wednesday (Sept. 12). The ceremony will be produced by Gil Cates, who was also the producer when Stewart hosted in 2006. The Daily Show host toned down his trademark political humor for the 2006 broadcast, which drew just 38.9 million viewers, compared to the 39.9 million drawn by this year?s ceremony, which was hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, and the 42.1 million who watched Chris Rock host in 2005. None of the recent hosts have been able to touch the 55 million who watched Billy Crystal host in 1998, when Titanic swept the awards. The 80th annual Academy Awards ceremony will take place at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood on Feb. 24, 2008 and air on ABC. (AP via Yahoo!)

Norton, Pitt reunite for Play
The Fight Club duo of Edward Norton and Brad Pitt will reunite on screen for Universal Pictures’ adaptation of the British miniseries State of Play. Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) is directing from a script written by Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom). Norton will play a congressman whose career is threatened by an investigation into the death of his mistress. Pitt plays a politico-turned-journalist whose integrity is compromised when he oversees his newspaper’s investigation into the murder and develops a relationship with the pol’s estranged wife. Shooting is scheduled to start in November. Norton will begin shooting State of Play days after he wraps The Incredible Hulk for Marvel Studios, which Universal will release on June 13. (Variety)

Kanye West beating 50 Cent in early sales
Kanye West’s album Graduation is predicted to sell about 575,000-700,000 units, based on early store sales reports, while 50 Cent’s Curtis is being projected in the 500,000-600,000 range. Both records were released Tuesday (Sept. 11). Kenny Chesney’s Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates, also released Tuesday, is projected to arrive the 400,000-550,000 range. 50 Cent had told SOHH.com that he would quit recording new records if his new G-Unit/Interscope album was outsold by West’s Def Jam set. (Billboard)

Weak ratings for HBO’s Tell Me and Curb
Sunday’s series premiere for Tell Me You Love Me drew just 910,000 total viewers, 53 percent below HBO’s average for the previous four weeks in that time period. The launch was also much softer than previous series premieres: John From Cincinnati (3.4 million on June 10 of this year); Big Love (4.56 million on March 12, 2006); Rome (3.8 million on Aug. 28, 2005); Deadwood (5.79 million on March 21, 2004). However, those other HBO series premieres came off strong lead-ins, where Tell Me came off of a poorly-rated Sopranos rerun (only 519,000 total viewers). Tell Me was followed by the sixth-season premiere of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which managed only 1.17 million viewers, the lowest season-premiere number ever for the Larry David comedy. (Variety)

Lucas, Brody tapped for Death in Love
Josh Lucas (Poseidon, Glory Road) and Adam Brody (The O.C.) will star in the drama Death in Love, which Boaz Yakin (Remember the Titans) is directing from his own script. Jacqueline Bisset and Lukas Haas already have been cast. The story is about the personal struggles of two brothers (Lucas and Haas). Bisset plays Haas’ character’s mother; Brody plays a scam artist who works Lucas’ character. (Hollywood Reporter)

Weinsteins buy latest Living Dead sequel
Weinstein Co. has purchased North American and Mexican rights to George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead for $2 to $2.5 million. Several offers were made on the latest sequel to Romero’s 1968 horror classic Night of the Living Dead, including some for video-only distribution. The Weinstein deal includes a theatrical commitment. The movie, which premiered Saturday at Toronto and reportedly spooked crowds, was written and directed by Romero, produced by Peter Grunwald, Art Spigel, Sam Englebardt, and Ara Katz, and executive produced by Dan Fireman, John Harrison, and Steve Barnett. (Hollywood Reporter)

TMZ leads syndication debuts
The new half-hour entertainment news magazine show TMZ scored the highest ratings of Monday’s first-run syndication debuts, drawing an average of a 2.0 household rating/4 share. Last year’s top-rated first-run syndicated show, Rachael Ray, averaged a 2.8/9 in its September 2006 debut. The Jerry Spriner spin-off talk show Steve Wilkos followed TMZ with an average of 1.1/4. Merv Griffin’s Crosswords averaged a 1.0/3, and Judge David Young, which airs mostly in daytime, drew a 0.9/3. (Hollywood Reporter)

Couric hits new ratings lows with Middle East trip
The CBS Evening News With Katie Couric averaged 5.4 million viewers last week, the show’s lowest ratings on record since the current ratings system took effect in 1987, despite the anchor marking her first anniversary in the job with a trip to Iraq and Syria. CBS News president Sean McManus said earlier this month that he was ”extremely pleased” with the quality of the show, which has recently abandoned some of Couric’s experimental segments and returned to a more traditional format. ABC’s 2007 ratings leader, World News With Charles Gibson, beat NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams by just 24,000 viewers last week, 7.8 million to 7.78 million. (Reuters/Hollywood Reporter)

Jazz fusion keyboardist Zawinul dies at 75
Keyboardist Joe Zawinul, who helped shape jazz fusion with his band Weather Report, died of skin cancer in his native city of Vienna on Tuesday (Sept. 11) at 75. The musician was voted best keyboardist 30 times by music magazine Down Beat‘s critics’ poll. He played on and helped compose Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew album in 1970, and formed the Weather Report with saxophonist Wayne Shorter that same year. Weather Report recorded 17 albums before breaking up in 1985. After Weather Report, Zawinul spent the next 20 years fronting the Zawinul Syndicate. (Reuters)

CELEBRITY NEWS

AP via Yahoo!: Hip-hop artist Trick Daddy was arrested on Tuesday for disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest after a fight at a strip club in Miami.

Page Six: Networks have determined that the TV commercial for the new fragrance from Sean ”Diddy” Combs — called Unforgivable — are too racy to air without edits. The offending footage includes Diddy putting his hands under the dress of Jessica Gomez and a scene with another woman holding Gomez’s breast and pulling down her underwear. Combs has so far refused to edit his commercial.

People.com: MTV responded to Kanye West’s claims that he will never work with the network again because of his treatment at the VMAs. An MTV statement read: ”MTV has a long and collaborative relationship with Kanye and we hope and look forward to continuing that meaningful relationship…. Kanye West is a visionary performer and he didn’t let his fans down at this year’s VMAs. From his incredible renditions of ‘Stronger’ and ‘The Good Life,’ to the spectacular aerial shots from his multi-level suite, which made for one of the grandest visuals of the night, the audience feedback on MTV.com has been overwhelming. In fact, he is the only artist to have three performances ranked in the top 15 on MTV.com.”

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