Plus, Aaliyah to star in ''Matrix'' sequels, the latest legal briefs from Puffy and Robert Downey Jr., and more
Jackass, Johnny Knoxville

MISSION MTV has found at least one enemy in Congress, Sen. Joe Lieberman, (D- Conn.) After a Connecticut teenager set himself on fire Jan. 26, apparently trying to copy a stunt on ”Jackass,” the former Gore veep candidate has announced that he wants the music network to cancel, edit, or move its No. 1 program to a later hour. ”It is irresponsible for MTV to air these kinds of stunts on a program clearly popular with young teens,” the senator said in a news release. ”I recognize the program is rated for adults and comes with general disclaimers,” Lieberman continued, ”but there are some things that are so potentially dangerous and inciting, particularly to vulnerable children, that they should not be put on TV.” The 13 year old boy, Eric Lind, received second and third degree burns on his legs after he and a 14 year old friend attempted a ”Jackass” stunt. Lind is in critical condition at the Shriner’s Hospital in Boston.

MTV issued the following statement in response to the accident: ”Our thoughts are with the young man and his family and we wish him a full and speedy recovery. It is extremely clear throughout the show, through the use of written and verbal warnings, that none of the stunts featured should be tried at home. The show airs with a TV-MA rating and warnings throughout that specifically state: ‘The following show features stunts performed by professionals and/ or total idiots under very strict control and supervision. MTV and the producers insist that neither you nor anyone else attempt to recreate or perform anything you have seen on this show.”’

CASTING R&B singer/ actress Aaliyah has joined the cast of the two upcoming installments of ”The Matrix.” Aaliyah is now to Warner Bros./ Village Roadshow Productions what Gwyneth Paltrow was to Miramax. Since her debut in the Warner action pic ”Romeo Must Die,” Aaliyah has also starred in the Anne Rice adaptation ”Queen of the Damned” for the studio. Way to ‘try again’…

British comedian Rowan Atkinson (”Bean”) is in talks to play Mondavarious, the villain in Warner Bros.’ upcoming ”Scooby Doo” feature, which stars Linda Cardellini (Velma), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Daphne), Matthew Lillard (Shaggy), and Freddie Prinze Jr. (Fred). The live action movie starts shooting Feb. 13 in Australia.

Who could go from playing Satan in ”Little Nicky” to an ex- Marine in a $5.6 million foreign drama? Why, it’s Harvey Keitel, who will star in a South American feature, ”Ninguna Parte” (”Nowhere”) for Chilean novelist Luis Sepulveda‘s directorial debut. Keitel’s role as a Vietnam vet living in South America, is English speaking, although the other characters will speak Spanish. Buena suerte, Harvey.

LEGAL BRIEF The Sean ”Puffy” Combs gun possession and bribery trial started Monday. In his opening statements, prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos told the jury: ”A witness saw Sean Combs pull out a gun, he fired it by all accounts straight up.” Bogdanos added that Combs’ associate, rap star Jamal ”Shyne” Barrow, shot and injured three bystanders in a New York nightclub December 27, 1999. Combs’ lawyers claimed he did not have a gun and that the entire case is a ”starstruck, select prosecution of a superstar. ” In the end, if Combs’ is convicted of illegal gun possession (he has pleaded not guilty), he faces 15 years in prison. Barrow faces considerable more prison time for attempted murder and gun possession.

As for Robert Downey Jr., his lawyers were granted a three week delay to test the evidence found in his possession and confirm that it is cocaine. Downey’s felony drug possession case has been rescheduled for Feb. 21, although the presiding judge told both sides he hopes they can reach a plea bargain before then. If found guilty, the Golden Globe winning actor faces a maximum of four years and eight months in state prison, according to Reuters. Downey has pleaded not guilty to the charges, but his attorneys did say outside of court Monday afternoon that they would like to plea bargain.

NIELSEN SAYS CBS’ ”Survivor: The Australian Outback” attracted an impressive 43.6 million viewers, making it the second highest rated post- Super Bowl program in recent history. The highest, interestingly enough, is a 1996 episode of ”Friends,” which reeled in 52.9 million. Then again, this year’s Super Bowl was one of the lowest rated, with only 84.2 million football fans watching. Speaking of ”Friends,” the NBC juggernaut faces ”Survivor” for the first time on Thursday, when the reality show moves to its regular timeslot. Despite being second to ”Friends” in the post- Super Bowl spot, ”Survivor” 2 can claim the following records: highest entertainment program of the 2000 to 2001 season and highest teen and male viewership for a Sunday night series.

AWARDS ALERT Five more acts have agreed to perform at the Grammys Feb. 21; Eminem is STILL not among them. The roster of artists now includes R&B singer Erykah Badu; trio Destiny’s Child; country crossover legend Dolly Parton; boys wonder ‘N Sync; and multiple Grammy winner Carlos Santana. They all join Madonna and U2, who signed on last week.

TUBE NEWS Fox has made a full order (22 episodes) of David E. Kelley‘s high school drama ”Boston Public” for the 2001 to 2002 season. So far, ”Boston Public” and NBC’s ”Ed” are the only freshman shows to get picked up for next season. Sure things include CBS’ breakout crime dramas ”C.S.I.” and ”The District” and Fox’s ”Dark Angel.”

WELCOME BACK ”Seinfeld” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus has teamed up with her husband, writer- producer Brad Hall (”Brooklyn Bridge” and ”The Single Guy”) for a new sitcom. (The couple is used to working together. The two were both on ”Saturday Night Live” in the early ’80s.) The big four networks and HBO received copies of the untitled comedy Monday afternoon and reportedly have until Thursday to make a bid. The show will star Louis-Dreyfus as an up and coming performer and an ensemble of ”quirky” characters, Variety reports. But what to call this quirky pitch? How about ”Seinfeld”? (”Louis-Dreyfus” is a mouthful.)

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