Plus, ''3rd Rock'' is canceled, Denzel Washington will direct, and more

By Sandra P. Angulo
Updated April 09, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Sopranos: Barry Wetcher

LEGAL BRIEF A Chicago based Italian American legal group filed suit Thursday against the producers of HBO’s mob show ”The Sopranos.” The American Italian Defense Association announced in a press conference Thursday that it seeks no money or content changes to the show. The group, Reuters reports, wants the Cook County court to proclaim that the series violates the Illinois Constitution’s guarantee of individual dignity.

”We’re looking for a vindication of our reputation,” said Theodore Grippo, chairman of the association. ”We realize that we can’t stop the free speech rights of TimeWarner. We’re not looking for money. We want a moral victory here, we want to balance things.” Time Warner Entertainment, which is named in the suit, is a division of AOL Time Warner (’s parent company). The company issued a statement saying: ”We are very proud of ‘The Sopranos.’ We’re hardly alone in our assessment that the show is an extraordinary artistic achievement.”

The Association says that they may orchestrate a boycott of ”The Sopranos” in the future. ”I personally would love to see them do away with the show,” Gruppo said. ”I think it’s bad for America. We’re having children shooting each other in schools, and we have a program that is deifying and romanticizing the shooting of people in the head.” If the court does rule that the show’s depiction of Italians is forbidden by the state constitution, Gruppo said the group will take the ruling to AOL Time Warner’s shareholders, asking them why their company would produce such a depraved, constitution violating, series. Two words: amazing ratings.

SO LONG, FAREWELL After six seasons, it’s finally time for the ”3rd Rock From the Sun” crew to head back to outer space. NBC programming execs announced Thursday that the sitcom about four aliens sent to Earth to learn about human behavior, has been canceled. ”We’re grateful to the ‘3rd Rock’ producers and the out of this world cast who provided NBC with so many seasons of sheer lunacy,” said NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker. ”Their loopy and creative humor will make this one of the classic series of the 1990s.” Despite mediocre ratings (and reviews) the past couple of years, ”3rd Rock” earned 29 Emmy nominations and won eight awards throughout its 138 episode run.

The series, which has been on hiatus since Feb. 27, will return to NBC on April 17, when it will start airing its final six episodes. Since it had been speculated the show would get the axe, the season finale was shot like a series finale. The final episode, which begins with the aliens (John Lithgow, French Stewart, Kristen Johnson, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) getting a command to return to their home planet, will air May 22 and will feature British comedian John Cleese and a special performance of ”Fly Me to the Moon” from Elvis Costello.

SO SORRY MTV apologized Thursday to two teenage girls who were — brace yourselves — sprayed with human feces during the taping of a variety show called ”Dude, This Sucks.” The two 14 year old girls are suing MTV in Los Angeles Superior Court, Reuters reports, for emotional distress, negligence, and battery due to the incident, which took place during the network’s ”Snowed In” weekend festival last January in Big Bear, Calif. Monique Garcia and Kelli Sloat said they were asked to stand close to the stage during the show’s taping and were not warned that men billed as ”Shower Rangers” would start raining Mr. Hankies on the stage.

”This was a terrible incident. It was unintended and we regret that it happened,” Brian Graden, MTV’s president of programming, told the press. ”The footage from the show, part of a pilot taped on remote location, has never and will never air. We are sorry if these women were hurt.” Gloria Allred, the girls’ attorney, says Garcia and Sloat were ushered next to the stage by staff members. Then, they watched as the show’s crew covered camera equipment with plastic tarps before the ”Rangers” took stage. Not exactly something Gallagher would’ve done.

REEL DEAL Oscar winner Denzel Washington has gotten a greenlight from Fox Searchlight for his directorial debut. The as yet untitled film follows the story of an aspiring screenwriter who was once a security guard on the Sony studio lot. Washington has been trying to direct this project, according to Variety, since before his Academy nominated turn in ”The Hurricane.” Washington, who has expressed interest in playing a supporting character, will start production after the possible writers’ and actors’ strikes.

CASTING Patrick Fugit (”Almost Famous”) has finally chosen his follow up to Cameron Crowe‘s autobiographical tale: ”White Oleander.” Adapted from the best selling Janet Fitch novel, ”White Oleander” stars Michelle Pfeiffer and Renée Zellweger. Director Peter Kosminsky (”Wuthering Heights”) begins shooting in mid- May.

Michael Michele is trading in her green scrubs to play a woman in blue. The ”ER” costar will play a sergeant opposite Kurt Russell, Scott Speedman, and Ving Rhames in MGM’s police drama ”The Plague Season.” Ron Shelton (”Tin Cup”) will start production later this month.

Stockard Channing (”The West Wing”) is in final talks to play a veteran broadcast journalist in the romantic comedy ”Life, or Something Like It,” starring Angelina Jolie. The film focuses on an unhappy young reporter (Jolie) who interviews a homeless psychic for a puff piece about predicting football scores, only to hear that she has days to live. Stephen Herek (”101 Dalmatians”) will direct ”Life,” which begins filming next week.

Eric Stoltz and Anthony LaPaglia, who recently costarred in ”The House of Mirth,” will reteam in ”Happy Hour” for writer – director Mike Bencivenga. Davis Entertainment Classics is producing the drama about two close friends. The film starts shooting this June in Boston.

3rd Rock From the Sun

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