Plus, Jive plans a Britney Spears Christmas, ''Dark Angel'''s ratings stay aloft, and more

By Lori Reese
Updated October 12, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT
Degrees: Lance Staedler

LEGALESE Poor guys. First 98 Degrees had to deal with the ignominy of a measly No. 2 debut for their second album, ”Revelation.” And now they’re getting sued. Management company Top 40 Entertainment has filed a $25 million suit against the body temperature pop group, claiming the band backed out of a deal too soon. According to the plaintiffs, 98 Degrees were ice cold until the company’s principal officer, Paris D’Jon, helped build them into an international act. Then the group abandoned their contract in 1999, nearly two years before it was supposed to expire. 98 Degrees’ lawyer, John J. Rosenberg, says the peach fuzz collective had every right to seek new management. ”The band’s view is that they had more than ample grounds to terminate Mr. D’Jon and Top 40 as their manager,” Rosenberg told the Associated Press. Right. Maybe Top 40 was trying to get the boys to sell out.

SAY IT AIN’T SO If the tabloids have their way, the relationship between Sean ”Puffy” Combs and Jennifer Lopez may be over. After weathering the turmoil following Puffy’s arrest for gun possession the two have decided to call it quits, reports British rock mag Q. Q cited a UK tabloid as saying that the pair had reached an impasse over Puff Daddys infidelity. ”I’ve always suspected Puffy’s had a roving eye — but catching him was the last straw,” the tab quoted Lopez as saying. Of course reporters for British tabloids have a rep for finding celebrity quotes in the strangest places — their personal computers, their editors’ wish lists, their pints at the local pub. In fact, Puffy’s publicist called to say the rumor is totally unfounded.

SOAP BOX World Wrestling Federation Chief Vince McMahon is taking an unlikely path these days: the high road. The brains behind UPN’s ”SmackDown!” rallied Hollywood to fight governmental pressure to cleanse their products of sex and violence and cease marketing R rated fare to teens yesterday at the Hollywood Radio & Television Society Newsmaker Luncheon. ”If you can’t market it, you won’t write it and you won’t make it,” McMahon reasoned. ”If you really want to protect the children, you need to protect their First Amendment Rights. If you don’t, you’re mortgaging in so many ways what those who preceded you build.” Gee. Free speech couldn’t have found a more reputable proponent.

X-MAS Jive Records has answered the world’s fervid squeals and prayers for a very bubblegummy Christmas. The track list for the top teen pop label’s ”Platinum Christmas” (due out Nov. 14) album has at last emerged: Britney Spears sings a festive song entitled ”My Only Wish (This Year),” while ‘N Sync croons ”I Don’t Want to Spend One More Christmas Without You.” The album also features songs by the Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston, Dido, and other chart toppers. Of course, we would very much appreciate it if the collective would band together for a Yuletide song of thanks entitled, ”God Bless All the Little Cogs in the World’s Pop Publicity Machine.”

RATINGS ABC‘s new offerings ”The Geena Davis Show” and the medical drama ”Gideon’s Crossing” helped it win the Tuesday night ratings battle, but Fox‘s sci-fi bimbo show ”Dark Angel” remains the big story of the week. The alphabet defeated the No. 2 net CBS by 26 percent, with 17.96 million total prime time viewers. But ”Dark Angel” was the top rated in the most coveted demo of men aged 18 to 49. Overall, some 13.4 million people tuned in for the second episode. Was that the one in which Jessica Alba’s character, Max, goes undercover as a scantily clad prostitute? Oh no. That creative plot twist happened in the pilot.

AWARDS Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro join the illustrious company of such writers as V.S. Naipaul and Norman Mailer who have been considered but rejected for the Nobel Prize in Literature today. This year the Swedish Academy’s $1.3 million honor goes to China’s Gao Xingjian, author of the novels ”Soul Mountain” and ”One Man’s Bible”…. Meanwhile, it looks like the National Book Awards, to be announced Nov. 15, will go to more established writers than they have for the past few years. Susan Sontag, Joyce Carol Oates, Francine Prose, and Jacques Barzun are among the nominees.