David Hochman weighs in on a ''Grinch,'' a ''Castaway,'' and some special ''Friends''

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The hottest entertainment of year 2000

January is the safest time to be an optimist: The gym is going to become my home away from home. Red meat and partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil will completely vanish from my diet. And I will never ever say another negative word about that louse Kathie Lee Gifford.

As for entertainment, the road ahead looks brighter than ever. Without even seeing a single episode, I am convinced that this year’s ”Sopranos” and ”Sex in the City” will set new standards for savvy, hip comedy. And of course, every new movie release, from ”The Talented Mr. Ripley” and ”The Beach” on down, will deliver transcendent theater-going experiences. So, before reality sets in and I start munching on partially hydrogenated Goobers at Antonio Banderas’ next directorial effort, here are my six picks for 2000’s most promising entertainment.

The Castaway (Christmas) Call it the ”Raging Bull” effect, but any time actors start losing or gaining a lot of weight for a movie, people start crying ”Oscar!” ”The Castaway” should be no exception. The Tom Hanks we know and love gets stranded on a desert island; next thing we know, he’s a rail-thin stand-in for ”Ally McBeal.” Shooting stopped on the roughly $100 million production last year so that Hanks could take several months to grow a beard and lose a considerable amount of weight. Meanwhile, adding heft to the project is director Robert Zemeckis, who’s teaming up with Hanks for the first time since ”Forrest Gump.” The film, shot in Fiji, Russia, L.A., and Hawaii, should be a visual spectacle and should read well too, since it was written by acclaimed screenwriter William Broyles Jr., who wrote ”Apollo 13.”

Survivor (Summer) Unless you’ve been hiding out in a Y2K shelter, you’ve undoubtedly heard about CBS’s real-life answer to ”Castaway.” ”Survivor” is a true survivalist show which, over the course of 13 episodes, follows the real exploits of 16 contestants from across America marooned on Pulau Tiga, an uninhabited tropical-rain-forest island off Borneo. Each contestant is only allowed to bring one item. Whoever survives the longest wins a million bucks. If that’s not great television, nothing is.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (November) Word from the set of director Ron Howard’s live-action remake of the Dr. Seuss classic is that Jim Carrey IS the Grinch. Every morning at around 4:30, Carrey begins the makeup transformation to turn himself into the crotchety humbug with ”termites in his smile” and ”garlic in his soul.” The candy-colored sets at Universal Studios, which fill several soundstages, are said to be as magical and elaborate as anything Hollywood has ever served up. On the Whoville set, for instance, there are no straight lines. Everything curves and twists in a most Seussian way. When Dr. Seuss’ widow came to the set, she reportedly cried when she saw how faithful the sets were to her late husband’s phantasmagoric visions. The film should be a real Whoot.

Oxygen Media (February) If anyone has the clout to launch an influential media colossus, it’s Oprah. And teamed up with some of the best and brightest (and most well-financed) minds in media — Geraldine Layborne, who turned around Nickelodeon and juiced ABC’s programming, and Carsey-Werner, the production talents behind ”Roseanne,” ”Third Rock,” and ”Cybill” — the women’s network should be a force to contend with. From the start, the network’s taking interesting risks. Consider just one: Candice Bergen will host a talk show that won’t have an official time limit. If she wants to pump more out of a great guest, she can just keep on rolling!

kd lang’s ”Suddenly” (late Spring) It’s been nearly three years since kd lang released an album of original music, and the silky-voiced crooner has undergone a personal transformation. She said recently that her time off — during which she bought a house, adopted a dog, and hung out with friends — has made her happier, more grounded, and more open than ever before, which translates in her music. The album is upbeat, optimistic, and full of love. It should be the perfect disc to throw in the car’s CD player on the way to the beach.

TV Finales (Fall) The biggest development this year might be the end of two of television’s biggest franchises: ”Friends” and ”X-Files,” both of which may see their finales by year’s end. Studio execs and the shows’ stars will be deciding what to do next. I just hope they have the decency to wrap up the shows neatly, leaving few questions remaining. Any ”Friends” finale certainly should resolve whether Ross and Rachel will kiss and make up, and whether Monica and Chandler will ever tie the knot, or at least have a baby. And what ever REALLY happened to that monkey? As for ”X-Files,” where to begin? After all the red herrings and the mysteries within mysteries, perhaps the best way to end the show is to answer all the questions raised at the show’s very beginning: Who really is Mulder’s father? Who is his sister? And what is the deal with all those aliens? Are they friendly? Are they just in bad moods? If the truth really is out there, let’s find out what the heck it is!

Cast Away

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 132 minutes
  • Robert Zemeckis