Plus, 'South Park' is losing ground, and MTV announces its movie-award nominees

By Gary Eng Walk
Updated April 21, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

STAYING PUT Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg told the Los Angeles Times yesterday that contrary to Hollywood gossip, he will continue to keep the “S” in DreamWorks SKG and to produce movies for its movie studio division. After ”Saving Private Ryan” lost the Best Picture competition to ”Shakespeare in Love” last month at the Academy Awards — arguably the biggest upset of the night — Spielberg was reportedly upset, fueling speculation that he might take his moviemaking magic elsewhere. Spielberg’s next project is ”Minority Report,” a futuristic sci-fi thriller starring Tom Cruise.

OBITUARY Senor Wences, the Spanish-born TV ventriloquist who achieved fame by making a puppet named Johnny out of his fist, died of natural causes in New York. The entertainer also made ”’Sawright” a popular catchphrase in the ’50s and ’60s. Wences, whose real name was Wenceslao Moreno, was 103.

RENEWED CBS will renew ”Chicago Hope” for another season despite a steady decline in its ratings. Fans can thank creator David E. Kelley, the busy TV producer (”Ally McBeal,” ”The Practice”) who plans to return as ”Hope”’s executive producer and will oversee the writing of the series’ episodes next season. The medical drama has been on death watch because of an exodus of some key cast members, including Christine Lahti, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Jayne Brook, Stacy Edwards and Eric Stoltz…. Fox renewed ”Family Guy” and greenlighted at least 22 episodes of the mid-season animated comedy for the 1999-2000 season. Over the weekend, the animated show posted hearty ratings for Fox and put the network in striking distance of beating NBC in the key 18-49 demographic for the week.

GOING SOUTH? Comedy Central’s ”South Park” is off to a slow start this season. Its first two episodes have averaged 3.35 million viewers, a 43 percent drop off from the same time last season. Ratings for the show are down 67 percent with its core audience, teens. Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone still plan to release a big-screen version of the pottymouthed TV series, ”South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut,” in theaters this June.

NOMINATED Twentieth Century Fox’s ”There’s Something About Mary” tops the list of nominees for the 1999 MTV Movie Awards with eight mentions. ”Armageddon” received six nominations, while ”Lethal Weapon 4,” ”Rush Hour,” and ”Shakespeare in Love” each received four. The awards, decided by MTV viewers, will be announced in a ceremony on MTV at 9 p.m. on June 10. (additional reporting by Joe Flint)