Pop Culture News and Notes

EGG UP It may be the hottest Japanese export since Godzilla. Slated to invade America next month, Tamagotchi , the ”virtual reality pet” on a key chain, is to Japanese kids what Beanie Babies are to U.S. tots. When you hatch a Tamagotchi (loosely translated, it means ”lovable egg”), you get one of six cybercreatures that require as much round-the-clock care as an infant. If you don’t feed it four squares (by choosing a meal or snack icon) and play with it, a Tamagotchi will misbehave, get fat, or even die (since testing showed American kids were freaked by the death function, U.S. versions will simply have the neglected Tamagotchi ”return to its home planet”). Still, kids are clamoring for the high-maintenance toys. Since last November, Bandai Co. Ltd. has sold more than 1.3 million of them in Japan, thanks to collectors who want all six colors. And the word is spreading fast. The toys, which sell for under $20, will be available at FAO Schwarz in New York and San Francisco on May 1 (going to wide distribution in June), but the company is already being inundated with calls from eager parents-to-be. ”Our plan is to import as many pieces as our factory can give us,” says Bandai America spokeswoman Trish Stewart. And if the craze doesn’t catch on Stateside? Maybe they can turn them into Tickle Me Tamagotchis. — Kristen Baldwin

ON THE GREEN Despite Stephen King‘s current love affair with TV — his own adaptation of The Shining airs on ABC April 27 — King’s celebrated six-part best-seller, The Green Mile, will not end up as a miniseries. Writer-director Frank Darabont, who shepherded the Oscar-nominated adaptation of King’s Shawshank Redemption, wants to do a film version of Mile, the Depression-era prison tale. ”When I read the first installment,” says Darabont, ”I said, ‘Steve, I really want this.’ And he said ‘Okay.”’ Darabont has inked a deal with Castle Rock, and he’s already plotting his ”very faithful adaptation.” And the irony of his making Mile has not eluded him. Laughs Darabont, ”Apparently I’m determined to carve the most obscure niche in motion picture history: the Stephen King period prison movie guy.” — Anna Holmes

PASTA LA VISTA Your favorite TV show may be on the brink of cancellation — what do you do? The fan club for ABC’s Relativity, the touchy-feely drama starring Kimberly Williams and David Conrad, got downright saucy. Its members have begun sending Chef Boyardee ravioli to ABC Entertainment president Jamie Tarses with the plea ”Don’t can Relativity” (a nod to one of the characters’ passion for Raviolios). So far, the network has received about 200 cans, which will be donated to an L.A. food drive. ”It’s an encouraging and inspiring thing for Relativity as well as the canned ravioli industry,” says series creator Jason Katims. ”I don’t know what effect it’ll have, but it can only help.” The network, however, isn’t eating it up. ”It’s very clever,” notes ABC VP Jeff Bader, ”but to be honest, it’s not a very large outpouring.” Although the low-rated Relativity just got a new day and time slot (Mondays at 8 p.m.), its future won’t be decided until after the season ender April 14. Devotees refuse to throw in their napkins. ”We’re sending a balanced meal,” vows fan-club member Lara Taylor of Gulfport, Miss. ”If ravioli doesn’t work, we’re going to Oreos.”

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