By Nicholas Fonseca
November 07, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST


WHAT IS IT? A Meet the Press for film geeks, Shootout pairs Uberproducer Peter Guber and Variety editor Peter Bart for a lively Hollywood point-counterpoint. WHY WE WATCH If we’re going to subject ourselves to a Sunday-morning middle-aged-male paunchapalooza, we’d prefer one free of spineless politicos and shouting spin doctors. That’s why Guber and Bart’s cranky intelligence refreshes: They boldly challenge director Peter Jackson’s $20 million payday for a King Kong remake, compare the critic-proof Mystic River to ”a night in rehab,” and prod their guests to speak with unusual candor. In the first episode, Edward Norton bemoans his fellow thesps’ ”lemming-like willingness” to play along with the year-end awards-show glut; minutes earlier, Fox Filmed Entertainment chief Tom Rothman reveals the budget for Fight Club ($55 million), heretofore an industry no-no. All this, plus the early weekend box office returns, makes viewers feel thismuchcloser to being true Tinseltown insiders without ever having to leave their couches. — Nicholas Fonseca