Plus, ''Law & Order'' will use product placement, Tool rules, and more

By Gary Susman
May 29, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Madonna: Frank Micelotta/Image Direct

MATERIAL WITNESS Can’t score tickets to see Madonna this summer? You can catch her live on HBO on August 26. ”Madonna Live: The Drowned World Tour” will be shot in Auburn Hills in her home state of Michigan. It’s the singer’s first concert for the cable channel since her ”Girlie Show” tour eight years ago. Meanwhile, Madonna has also rereleased her first three albums, ”Madonna” (1983), ”Like a Virgin” (1984), and ”True Blue” (1986), each with additional rare dance mixes. From a world historical perspective, that’s nearly 20 years before Christina Aguilera boasted about losing her virginity.

PLANTED EVIDENCE Think TV is an art form and not just a delivery system for advertising? Think again. When reruns of ”Law & Order” move to TNT next month, watch for bits of product placement to be digitally inserted into the show — say, as a logo on a cop’s coffee cup, or in newly present soda cans and vending machines. It’s a technique that’s been used on arena billboards during sports broadcasts and sparingly in first run prime time shows (”Seven Days” tried it once two years ago). TNT and computer graphics firm Princeton Video Image have told Advertising Age magazine that they’re going ahead with the placement plan, although series producer Dick Wolf denies that an agreement is in place.

In any case, ”Forrest Gump”ing the images into the footage should be less obtrusive than the live product placement in reality series like ”Survivor” and the upcoming ”The Runner,” where blatant live plugs are worked into the contest action. Plus, the same footage can be sold to different virtual advertisers each time the show is rebroadcast. It’s all a way of foiling viewers accustomed to switching channels during commercials or skipping them via TiVo. At least advertisers aren’t changing the dialogue yet: ”In the criminal justice system, there are two separate yet equally important groups: the Pepsi drinkers, and the Coke drinkers…”

TOOL TIME Long awaited releases by long silent acts stormed the Billboard top 10 this week. Debuting at No. 1 was Tool with ”Lateralus,” their first CD in five years, selling 555,225 copies, according to SoundScan. Missy Elliott‘s ”Miss E… So Addictive,” her first record in two years, bowed at No. 2 (251,400 units). After a five year absence, Weezer returned with their self titled album, which debuted at No. 4 (215,275 sold). R.E.M.‘s ”Reveal,” their first CD since 1998, opened at No. 6, and Depeche Mode‘s ”Exciter” put them back on the charts after four years, landing at No. 8.

Destiny’s Child‘s ”Survivor” was pushed to No. 3 (221,875 units) after spending its first two weeks at No. 1. Janet Jackson‘s ”All For You” slipped to No. 5 (149,950 sold). The rest of the top 10 discs were: ”NOW That’s What I Call Music! Vol. 6” (No. 7), Paul McCartney and Wings‘ ”Wingspan” (No. 9, a drop of seven places from its opening last week), and the ”Moulin Rouge” soundtrack (No. 10, a drop of five places). Watch for Tool’s triumph to be short lived, since Staind‘s ”Break the Cycle” may take the top slot next week.

HORSE PLAY Singers Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney were aquitted yesterday of charges stemming from a scuffle with a deputy over a police horse last summer in Orchard Park, N.Y. McGraw’s wife, Faith Hill, was seen wiping away a tear as the verdict was read at the courthouse. Guess she can breathe easy now.

BIRTHDAY BOY Bob Dylan turns 60 today. So feature writers, you can finally stop writing about him for a while.

BARBIE DOLLS If you thought ”Popstars” was too intellectually taxing, get ready for ”Search for a Supermodel.” (Well, don’t look in the kitchen.) A homegrown version of the hit Australian reality series is making its way to American TV. Of course, in the Aussie version, the aspiring models must have had little trouble surviving in the Outback on a few grains of rice.

REEL DEALS Ben Affleck is in talks to star in ”Surviving Christmas,” to shoot before Christmas 2001. He’d play a lonely guy who crashes the yuletide celebration of the family now living in his childhood home. It should be no sweat; after all, he survived ”Reindeer Games”

”ER”’s Eriq La Salle will make his feature directing debut in a different kind of hospital. In June, he’s shooting ”Crazy as Hell,” about a filmmaker shooting a documentary about mental patients, one of whom claims to be the devil. Based on Jeremy Leven’s novel ”Satan,” it will star fellow NBC stalwarts Michael Beach and Steven Weber

Propaganda Films is poised to make a big screen adapatation of ”Helter Skelter,” the book by former Los Angeles District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi about his prosecution of the Manson Family murders that was made into a 1976 TV movie starring Steve Railsback. Bugliosi will serve as executive producer on the new film. Here’s a stunt casting idea: Why not Marilyn Manson as Charlie?

PASSING NOTES Whitman Mayo, who played Grady Wilson on ”Sanford and Son” and briefly in his own spinoff, ”Grady,” died on Tuesday. The 70 year old lived in Fayetteville, Ga., and had spent the last few years teaching drama at Clark Atlanta University and hosting Turner South’s TV series ”Liars and Legends.”