Fox cancels ''Ally McBeal.'' Plus, news about Robert Urich, ''Spider-Man,'' Ashanti, Eminem, Pet Shop Boys, Russell Crowe, Ridley Scott, Johnny Depp, Benjamin Bratt, Noah Wyle, Tyrese, Biggie Smalls, and others
Calista Flockhart, Ally McBeal
Credit: Ally McBeal: FOX

TUBE TALK Say farewell to dancing babies, the unisex bathroom, and the crooning of Vonda Shepard (the female Michael Bolton). After five years, Fox is canceling ”Ally McBeal.” The show, which made a star out of a little-known Broadway actress named Calista Flockhart, had once drawn praise, controversy, and viewers for its take on a neurotic, relationship-bungling career woman with a vivid fantasy life. In 1999, it became the only hour-long show ever to win an Emmy for Best Comedy Series. But the show’s ratings and creativity had been slipping for a long time, despite the stunt casting of numerous musical guest stars (Jon Bon Jovi, Mariah Carey, Elton John, Barry Manilow). The failure of even the Friend-ly help of this week’s guest star Matthew Perry to lift the show out of the ratings basement was the last straw. Ally’s heart had been broken by one mismatched beau too many; the latest was Alex Michel, the real-life swain of ”The Bachelor,” the ABC show that has been clobbering the Fox series in recent weeks.

There were reportedly tears on the set when the news came down yesterday. Series creator David E. Kelley, who once predicted that the characters were too quirky to provide more than five years worth of story ideas, said in a statement, ”It’s sad to say goodbye to something you love, even when perhaps it is time.” Don’t cry for Kelley, however. He’s developing a pilot for Fox that is seen as a likely ”Ally” replacement. It’s also about women lawyers, but this time there are three of them, and they live in San Francisco, not Boston. First, though, Kelley has to write ”Ally”’s series finale episode, which will air May 20….

Robert Urich‘s death this week means that one of his last projects, a TV movie called ”Not in Our House,” will probably never air. In the film, completed a year ago, Urich starred opposite Meredith Baxter and played against type as a dad who commits incest. CBS now thinks viewers won’t want to see him in such an unsympathetic role. ”It may never see the light of day,” CBS chief Leslie Moonves said Tuesday…

Not getting enough ”Spider-Man” in your morning diet? ABC Family channel plans a three-day marathon of ”Spider-Man” cartoons, drawing from the various animated Spidey series that have aired over the last four decades. There will be a dozen episodes in all, airing in two-hour blocks on the mornings of May 25, 26, and 27. That’s some three weeks after the release of the live-action ”Spider-Man” theatrical feature. Why the delay? Memorial Day is a historically strong weekend for basic-cable events, ABC Family spokesman David Gardner tells ”By that point, kids are out of school and getting back into the habit of watching morning cartoons.” So pour yourselves a big bowl of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs, kids, and enjoy….

When the third season of Lifetime’s medical drama ”Strong Medicine” starts in July, star Janine Turner‘s doctor character will try to start a family. In real life, Turner is leaving the show for her own family reasons. ”Because I am a single mother, I felt the need to spend more time with my daughter and now we can be with our extended family in Texas,” she said in a statement. Replacing her will be former ”Home Improvement” star Patricia Richardson.

SOUND BITES Not only does the unstoppable Ashanti have an unprecedented hold on the top two spots on Billboard’s singles chart (her ”Foolish” is No. 1, and her duet with Fat Joe, ”What’s Luv?,” is No. 2), but she also rules the album chart for a a second week. Her sold 246,000 copies, according to SoundScan. Celine Dion‘s ”A New Day Has Come” (225,650 sold) had to settle for second place, but the album has already gone platinum (sales of 1 million) after just three weeks. Compilation ”NOW That’s What I Call Music! Vol 9” was in third place with sales of 143,050. Debuting at No. 4, the Goo Goo Dolls‘ ”Gutterflower” sold 101,300. Tweet‘s ”Southern Hummingbird” slipped two spots to No. 5 (93,125 units).

Still in the top 10 was the ”O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack, at No. 6. Another soundtrack, ”The Scorpion King,” was No. 7, though it should get a boost after the movie opens tomorrow. Climbing back into the top 10 was Shakira‘s ”Laundry Service” (No. 8), while Pink‘s ”M!ssundaztood” was No. 9. Debuting at No. 10 was Neil Young‘s ”Are You Passionate?”…

A New Day Has Come
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