November 12, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

TELEVISION When E! asked Wayne Newton if he wanted to star in a reality show that would have 10 performers — comedians, singers, illusionists, and whatnot — compete for a headlining gig alongside him in Vegas, ”I said yes, under two circumstances,” reports Newton. ”Number 1, I won’t do anything that maligns Las Vegas, because it’s been too kind to me. And secondly, I’m not one of these dream killers. So if we do a show where we can truly affect the talent on the show in a positive way, rather than bringing them to tears on national television, then I’d be interested.” E! said ”You betcha!” Thus The Entertainer, which premieres in January. (Sample challenge: entertaining tough crowds of sixth graders and senior citizens.) ”Rather than look at somebody and say ‘You’re fired!’ we would rather tell them what, in our opinion, would be the best way to fix what we think is wrong,” says Newton, who — this is revealing — will also guest as himself on The WB’s nicey-nice drama 7th Heaven on Nov. 29.

MOVIES C’mon! Whatever your opinion of The Village, Bryce Dallas Howard was really good in it. In new daughter-of-Ron news, the Hollywood royal will play a real royal in the history movie Mary Queen of Scots; Ridley Scott is one of the producers. Hey, good sign: Katharine Hepburn played the beheaded Mary too!

BOOKS Dr. Lecter is returning, Cla-reeece, in Behind the Mask, the fourth Hannibal the Cannibal book from Silence of the Lambs author Thomas Harris, set for fall 2005. And, yes, the movie deal’s already in place, but, no, Anthony Hopkins won’t be playing the man-eater again, because this one’s a prequel! ”It begins with Hannibal as a very young child, like 6 or 7, and ends with him in his early 20s,” reports Mort Janklow, Harris’ agent. ”Everyone wonders, how did this guy come to be the person who can sit and play the Goldberg Variations and then go out and slit somebody’s stomach open?” It’s the first in a two-book deal with Delacorte. ”The second book,” says Janklow, ”may or may not involve Lecter. My guess? It probably won’t. The truth is he could write anything. What do you think about a Thomas Harris book about obsessive love?” Mmm, the mouth waters!

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