Scrabble, charades, Boggle, and more are big in the entertainment world

Maybe Oprah isn’t the most powerful name in Hollywood. Maybe it’s really…Milton Bradley. Yes, board games and other family fare are Tinseltown’s new favorite pastime. On any given weekend night, you’ll find an elite corps enjoying cribbage, Scrabble, and other forms of all-American fun. ”These games started as this dorky thing for people who were losers and didn’t have anything to do on a Saturday night,” explains charades diva Kristen Johnston (3rd Rock From the Sun). ”It’s not just some stupid thing, though. It’s seriously adrenaline city.”

A natural pick for anyone who spends an inordinate amount of time with a computer, dictionary, and thesaurus, it’s the gag writer’s game of choice. ”We have our own rules — it can count as a word if it makes everyone laugh,” says wordsmith Jon Zack, who regularly matches wits with Viva Variety writers Tom Lennon and Ben Garant, director Michael Jann (working on New Line’s Dairy Queens), and actor Ken Marino (Men Behaving Badly). ”La Donut Bar didn’t count, but El Donut Bar did. And it was triple letter.”

CHARADES Since playing Celebrity would be too egocentric even for actors, there’s nothing like this classic party diversion. Kristen Johnston, William H. Macy, Helen Hunt, Hank Azaria, Brooke Shields, and ABC’s Jamie Tarses regularly gather for a night of acting sans a read-through, a costar, or a trip to the makeup chair. ”The best part is when someone comes in a Prada skirt and Gucci pumps thinking it’s gonna be a hot party,” Johnston says. ”In a half hour their fake boobs are bouncing and they’re spitting, salivating psychopaths.”

CRIBBAGE For the exec, writer, or actor who prefers a more cerebral approach to conquering an opponent, this two-player-strategy card game can be played in person or on the computer. Unsure if a role in The Practice was in the cards, actress Camryn Manheim challenged series creator David E. Kelley to a match. She nabbed the role.

BOARD-GAME NIGHT For twentysomething execs who came of age in the ”do not pass go” era. The star attractions are board games Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly, Sorry!, Life, Candy Land, and Operation. And for those players unwilling to leave the edge at the office, Boggle showdowns get the green light. Ironically, despite Hollywood’s hot-to-trot image, one game never makes it out of the box. ”Everyone brings Twister, in case things get crazy,” says one exec. ”But no one ever plays.”