PASADENA, Calif. -- His hair bleached surfer blond for a movie role, Will Ferrell looks nothing like George W. Bush these days. But through the use of makeup, a wig and a faux Texas twang, Ferrell has emerged as Bush's foremost chop-busting doppelganger on "Saturday Night Live" (live 11:30 p.m. tomorrow with host Charlie Sheen).
Ferrell, who also gives voice to an armless, legless animated character on The WB's midseason series "The Oblongs," said he's continuing to play Bush for the forseeable future.
"Let's just put it this way: I just put a down payment on a boat," Ferrell seemingly joked.
And despite the financial gains he'll reap from the recent election, he said he voted for Vice President Al Gore. He said his reaction to the election was similar to most of America's.
"Can you believe what's going on? We got to witness this amazing part of history and see our government at work," Ferrell said. "[Bush is] just a character I do on the show. I don't really try to go beyond taking it one day at a time."
Ferrell said he wasn't necessarily the go-to guy to play Bush, because he primarily does characters rather than impersonations, which are the forte of Darrell Hammond, who played Gore.
"This is just one character I'm doing on the show," Ferrell said. "It's the most prominent, at least for right now, and I enjoy it. But as an actor I just approach it as one of a bunch of things I've done on the show."
Ferrell said he met Bush when the president-elect taped a segment for "SNL" during the campaign.
"Initially he didn't know that I was the guy who played him," Ferrell said, "if that gives you any indication of what we are in store for for the next four years."
Ferrell said he didn't know what Bush thought of his imitation because, he joked, "he tackled me and put me in some sort of headlock. No. He just said, 'So you're rehearsing today, huh?' And then I got pushed out of the way by someone. He wrote me a little note saying he appreciated the work we've been doing. That's about it."
Ferrell questioned whether the "smartest guy of the two won, which I think is safe to say might be a consensus among people. I think he's probably drawing up plans to set up a mechanical bull in the Oval Office."
Though Bush's presidency gives Ferrell a guaranteed job for the next four years, Ferrell said it doesn't make him feel obligated to stick with the series.
" 'Saturday Night Live' is one of those situations where I don't want to be the guy who's graduated from high school two years and he's still hanging out in [the school] parking lot waiting to pick up girls," he said. "I think some people leave too early and some people stay too long. At a certain point you have to graduate, it feels like. You don't want to wear out your welcome."
In addition to his role as Dubya, Ferrell has also been filming the movie "Zoolander" with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. He described the comedy as "a campy look at the world of male models. I play an evil fashion designer."
LEAD US NOT INTO 'TEMPTATION': Fox has another embarrassment on its hands with "Temptation Island." In the series, four committed (but unmarried) couples journey to a tropical island where the men live with single women and the women live with single men. The goal is to see if any of them are tempted to stray in their relationships.
Investigators vetted the backgrounds of all participants, but failed to discover one of the couples on "Temptation Island" has a child.
"It has always been the policy of Fox Broadcasting Co. and the producers of 'Temptation Island'... that no couples with children together could participate in the show," Fox executives said in a statement. "On all checks, this couple never revealed having a child together."
The discovery was made after filming began, and the couple was immediately removed from the production. Fox executives never mentioned this controversy when meeting with reporters Sunday.
LETTERBOXED 'ER': If you were watching "ER" last night -- or any original episode since November -- you may have noticed the horizontal black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. It's called letterboxing, a format that allows viewers to see more of the action, particularly when feature films transfer to TV.
The letterboxing of "ER" was supposed to last just a few weeks, but it has continued.
"We think it's an interesting trick to use," said NBC West Coast president Scott Sassa. "It enhances the quality of the show and gives it a filmic look."
Sassa said NBC has received no reaction, positive or negative, to the practice and plans to continue letterboxing "ER" for the forseeable future.
LENO SIGNS FOR MORE: NBC has extended its contract with Jay Leno. He will continue to host "The Tonight Show" through December 2005.
FOX UPDATES: Fox will get first crack at airing "Star Wars: Episode 1 -- The Phantom Menace" on April 29 from 7 to 10 p.m. That's before the film even airs on cable or pay-per-view ... Fox has renewed "Futurama" for 18 additional episodes for the 2001-2002 television season... Actress Annabeth Gish joins the cast of "The X-Files" for a three-episode story arc beginning Feb. 25. Gish plays FBI agent Monica Reyes, who is enlisted in the search for Mulder, last seen being poked and prodded by what are presumably aliens.
DUBBA DEVELOPMENT: Because of the possibility of actors and writers strikes this summer, The WB is holding back expected midseason series "Dead Last" for fall. The series, about teen-agers in a rock band who see dead people, will have completed production of 13 episodes before the looming strike deadline.
The WB has reconnected with "Dawson's Creek" creator Kevin Williamson, who will write the pilot for "Glory Days," the story of an author who writes about his hometown and then moves back there.
As previously announced, The WB will revisit the Superman legend in "Smallville," about a teen-age Clark Kent. And a spinoff to "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch" is in development, starring Emily Hart (younger sister of "Sabrina" star Melissa Joan Hart) as Sabrina's cousin who attends a boarding school for witches.
The WB is continuing to develop a sketch comedy show for Jamie Foxx. "The Jamie Foxx Show," Foxx's current WB sitcom, has its series finale Sunday as Jamie and Fancy (Garcelle Beauvais) tie the knot.
At a previous press tour, WB entertainment president Susanne Daniels announced that producer John Wells ("ER," "Third Watch") would create his next series for the frog network. But so far, nothing's cooking.
" 'West Wing' and 'Third Watch' have taken up more of his time launching than he ever imagined," she said. "From what I understand we're next in line."
She said 2002 is the earliest a Wells-produced series will premiere on The WB.
Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.