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TV Note: British interviewer may jump to ABC

Monday, March 01, 2004

British celebrity interviewer Martin Bashir, whose talk with Michael Jackson was seen by 27 million people on ABC a year ago, is negotiating to come to American television.

ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider would not comment on a report in a British newspaper that Bashir had agreed to move to ABC when his contract with Granada Television expires in July. But Schneider called Bashir a talented journalist who "would be a great addition to any news organization."

Bashir's regular "Tonight" program is one of British ITV's top-rated programs.

Bashir's interview so angered Jackson that the pop star sold outtakes of their discussion to Fox, which ran a special billed as "the interview they wouldn't show you."

Two other high-profile Bashir programs, an interview with the late Princess Diana and an investigation of a scandal on the British version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," were also shown on ABC.

With Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer, ABC has been the most aggressive of American news networks in seeking celebrity interviews. But Walters announced last month that she would step down in September from "20/20," the weekly newsmagazine she has anchored for 25 years.

(David Bauder, Associated Press)

'Contender' for NBC

Sylvester Stallone is getting back into boxing -- this time finding and grooming young fighters to compete in a reality television show.

The 57-year-old star of the five "Rocky" movies will be executive producer of "The Contender," working with reality mogul Mark Burnett ("The Apprentice" and "Survivor") and Jeffrey Katzenberg, a founder of DreamWorks SKG.

Stallone and Burnett, speaking at a news conference at a Los Angeles boxing club, said the NBC series will focus on the lives of boxing hopefuls in and outside the ring. NBC executives said the show will likely air in the 2004-05 season.

" 'Rocky' wasn't about boxing; it was about the people around him who gave him reason to go on," said Stallone, who starred as the hard-luck fighter Rocky Balboa in the 1976 Best Picture Oscar winner.

The idea of the new series was hatched by Katzenberg, the former Disney executive who went on to form his own studio with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen.

The series will follow would-be boxers from training camp through challenges in the ring over 16 episodes, with the winner getting $1 million and the chance to become a professional prize fighter. The boxers will fight one another in a weekly elimination process similar to other reality shows. Producers haven't decided the weight class of the boxers yet.

Stallone said he will jump into the ring during the series and spar with some of the boxers.

Both he and Burnett expressed disenchantment with professional boxing today, saying the sport is often misrepresented on many fronts and has too many federations.

(Lynn Elber, AP)

'D.A.' subs for '20/20'

ABC will try out its limited-run series "The D.A." on Friday nights in March, giving long-running newsmagazine "20/20" a short break.

The four-week series, which intertwines prosecution and politics in the Los Angeles district attorney's office, will premiere at 10 p.m. March 19. Steven Weber ("Once and Again," "Wings") stars as the title character, politically ambitious D.A. David Franks.

The network will air Monday editions of "20/20" on March 22 and 29. It will return to its regular home April 16.

(Zap2it.com)

'Friends' reunion?

When the six stars of the exiting "Friends" sitcom were asked by Entertainment Weekly magazine -- months before the series has even ended -- whether they would be interested in a reunion, the answers split by sex.

Courteney Cox Arquette, Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow were thumbs-down on the idea.

"I think that would cheapen it," Aniston said. "Do you remember the 'Brady Bunch' reunion show? You remember the 'Happy Days' reunion show? Were they ever good? Cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap."

The three men were more open, although Matthew Perry suggested, "Talk to me in 20 years. If I'm on really hard times, maybe I'll be pitching one."

Matt LeBlanc, who's continuing with his character of Joey on a new show, said he would -- if everyone else did.

"I hate the idea of the reunion show," said David Schwimmer, "but if it meant I get to revisit the relationships and work with those writers and actors again, then that would be a good thing."

The last episode of "Friends" is scheduled to air May 6 on NBC.

(Associated Press)

Get 'Real' in Philly

Seven strangers are about to get real in Philadelphia.

Filming of MTV's "The Real World" will begin in the spring. The reality series' 15th season is scheduled to premiere in the fall. Twenty-four episodes will air.

Each season, seven strangers are picked to live together in a house and to be followed by cameras for four months.

The show debuted in New York. Previous seasons have been set in Los Angeles, London, Boston, New Orleans, Chicago, Paris and San Diego.

MTV also announced that the 13th season of "Road Rules" will send six strangers to Chile and Argentina. Production begins in February, and the first of 16 episodes will air in May.

(AP)

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