ABC won't let Drew Carey spoof airport security. Plus, news about Tom Green, the Muppets, ''Star Wars: Episode II,'' Alanis Morissette, Superman, ''Law & Order,'' Jude Law, and others.
Drew Carey
Credit: Drew Carey: Jukie Dennis

TUBE TALK After a week spent alienating most of its top news stars over the possibility of replacing Ted Koppel with David Letterman, ABC has started in on its sitcom talent as well. Up in arms is Drew Carey, who complains that ABC threatened to pull the plug on an upcoming episode of ”The Drew Carey Show” spoofing airline security unless script changes were made. In the episode, to be taped today, Drew’s doofus pals Oswald (Diedrich Bader) and Lewis (Ryan Stiles) get airport security guard jobs; the network’s standards and practices department insisted that the script add at least one security employee who would be portrayed as competent. ”I’ve never had a threat like that from the network,” Carey told the Los Angeles Times. ”Everybody was kind of in shock.” He told the paper that this was only the most extreme of many run-ins with ABC’s censors this season. ”If you can’t satirize authority institutions, what’s the point?” Carey backed down and changed the script, even though he doubted that viewers might have mistaken the airport plotline for documentary realism. ”I think we have a pretty good track record of not being serious on the show.”…

Even as ABC and CBS duke it out over Letterman, Fox continues to try to carve out its own space in late-night. Having failed to swipe Conan O’Brien from NBC, the network is now talking with such comics as Tom Green, D.L. Hughley, and Orlando Jones, according to The Hollywood Reporter. But the network is also considering something even rarer: developing a new star of its own instead of poaching an existing personality from somewhere else. That’s what VH1 did with its new late-night talker, ”Late World with Zach,” hosted by Zach Galifianakis, who may yet be on the air long enough for us to learn how to spell and pronounce his name….

There’s more to Fox than just luridness and exploitation. The network announced plans with Jim Henson Television to develop a new Muppet series, which would bring back Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy as well as new characters. Too bad Fox and the Muppets didn’t team up sooner; with her formidable kung fu skills, Miss Piggy would have made a fine opponent for Tonya Harding on next week’s ”Celebrity Boxing.”…

If ”The Chair” had been a contestant on ”The Chair,” it would have cracked under the pressure. The game show failed to survive the challenge of moving from Wednesdays to Mondays, where low ratings led ABC to pull the plug.

REEL DEALS ”Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones” producer Rick McCallum debuted the first extended excerpt of the film seen outside the Lucasfilm studios on Wednesday at ShoWest, the theater owners’ convention in Las Vegas. ”We didn’t want to just push the envelope, we wanted to lick it,” he said, speaking of the all-digital-film production. He also told the exhibitors, ”Those of you lucky enough to get it are going to make a shitload of money.” USA Today reported that the footage contained glimpses of a retro-futuristic cityscape, brief romantic moments between Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Padme (Natalie Portman), armies of metallic clones, and a chase scene that takes place on a factory assembly line. Best of all, while the footage featured Christensen, Portman, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jimmy Smits, it did not show Jar Jar Binks….

”John Q.” director Nick Cassavetes is poised to succeed where directors Steven Spielberg, Jim Sheridan (”In the Name of the Father”), and Martin Campbell (”The Mask of Zorro”) failed: in getting an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks‘ love story ”The Notebook” off the ground. He’s signed a deal to shoot the picture for New Line, where the project has been in development for seven years.

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