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Olympics to Face Stiff Ratings Competition; "Project Runway" Competitors Face Off at Fashion Week; Harrison Ford Dishes on New Film, Reprising Indy

Aired February 10, 2006 - 19:00:00   ET


A.J. HAMMER, CO-HOST: I`m A.J. Hammer.
SIBILA VARGAS, CO-HOST: And I`m Sibila Vargas. TV`s only live entertainment news show starts right now.


HAMMER (voice-over): On SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, will the Winter Olympics get the cold shoulder? Tonight, for the first time ever, the Olympics, vulnerable, competing with some of your favorite shows. Can Simon and Paula skate past Sasha and Michelle? SHOWBIZ TONIGHT asks will viewers tune in for Torino?

Plus, cheaper cable. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT has the stunning new way you might be able to cut a lot off your cable bill. But not everyone`s happy about it. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT investigates this TV tussle.

And is a celebrity couple reuniting? Tonight, the amazing steps one guy is taking to win back his girl. Will it work?

VIRGINIA MADSEN, ACTRESS: I know Ken. And Ken is a gay man.

HAMMER: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT finds out if there will be a happy ending for this doll duo.

PAULA ABDUL, JUDGE, "AMERICAN IDOL": Hi, I`m Paula Abdul. And if it happened today, it`s on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


HAMMER: Hello, I`m A.J. Hammer, live in New York City.

VARGAS: And I`m Sibila Vargas.

It`s game time, Winter Olympics game time. The opening ceremonies kicked off in Torino, Italy, today.

HAMMER: With no small amount of fanfare, by the way. And NBC is going to be showing more than 400 big hours of competition on all of its networks.

But wait, let met tell you about the real competition that we here at SHOWBIZ TONIGHT just can`t wait to see. We`re talking about "American Idol" versus the Olympics, "Dancing with the Stars" versus the Olympics. Because if you think the other TV networks are going to roll over is and play dead, think again.


HAMMER (voice-over): As NBC gears up to broadcast the thrill of victory in the 2006 winter games in Torino, will the network find itself facing the agony of defeat in the ratings.

For 18 nights this month the Olympics events air on NBC, FOX, CBS, and ABC are throwing their best shows against the games, leaving networks to wage an all-out shoot-out for viewers.

It used to be that other networks didn`t dare schedule new programming against the juggernaut that is the winter games. But SHOWBIZ TONIGHT can tell you that`s not the case this year.

CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA, "TELEVISIONWEEK": But to suggest that networks are going to close up shop because of the Olympics just isn`t true anymore.

HAMMER: For one, this month is an all-important sweeps ratings period, when networks set advertising rates. So they literally can`t forward to sit out the games.

And because the games are overseas this year and airing on a tape delay in the U.S., everyone`s expecting fewer viewers for this year`s games than the Salt Lake City games four years ago.

JAMES BUFALINO, SENIOR EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: The Olympic games have kind of reached their peak in the past. And now I don`t think there`s really that much buzz about the Winter Olympics.

HAMMER: And other networks are smelling blood in the water. CBS plans to air brand new episodes of "Survivor" opposite the games. ABC is putting on brand new episodes of "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives."

And FOX is airing brand new episodes of its hits "24," "House," and its biggest weapon of all. Ready? "American Idol," TV`s most popular show, will face off against the winter games five times this month. And some think "American Idol" will be the first series in eight years to outrate the games.

BUFALINO: I wouldn`t be surprised at all if "American Idol" beats the Olympics. I think people, they have a long time to watch the Olympics. It`s going to play out over a month. And they`ll still tune in to -- for "Idol" on a weekly basis.

HAMMER: And fire up your DVRs and VCRs for a big showdown on February 23.

RYAN SEACREST, HOST, "AMERICAN IDOL": The votes have been counted.

HAMMER: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT can report FOX is airing a special Thursday live edition of "American Idol" when two women and two men will be sent home. That will air directly opposite the biggest night of the Olympics, the women`s figure skating finals.

LISOTTA: Figure skating is the most popular sport in the Olympics, whether summer or winter. So it`s a big gutsy move by FOX to put its most important show up against what is arguably one of the biggest sports events of the year.

HAMMER: To make matters more interesting that night, ABC is airing the finale of the hit reality show "Dancing with the Stars."

But with all the stiff competition, don`t count out the Olympic Games. Remember, the average night of Olympic coverage gets more viewers that anything else on television right now. Except of course, for...


HAMMER: Still, the games offer a majestic international spectacle of top-level competition, in addition to what many of its TV competitors offer: lots of drama.

LISOTTA: You don`t know what the drama`s going to be. Think about what happened in `94 with Nancy Kerrigan and Tanya Harding. It`s very difficult to predict in a sporting event like this that there`s not going to be some almost made for Hollywood kind of story that`s going to take people by storm.

There are no names right now that two weeks from now will be household names across this country.

HAMMER: So this year`s winter games may emerge as a true reality show. As dramatic as anything else on TV. Or it could be taken down by another kind of reality show. Either way, it`s going to be one competitive TV month. Let the games begin.


HAMMER: Well, NBC isn`t airing all of the Olympics. The network is spreading out its coverage through all of its channels. That includes MSNBC, CNBC, and the USA Network.

Well, for the first time, Sheryl Crow is talking about her breakup with cycling champion Lance Armstrong, and we`ve got a sneak preview.

Last Friday, Crow and Armstrong announced that they had called off their wedding. On Monday`s "Ellen," Crow opens up about the breakup, after singing a song about unconditional love. It`s called "Always on Your Side." It comes from her latest album, "Wildflower," which she has said Armstrong inspired. Take a look.


ELLEN DEGENERES, TALK SHOW HOST: And that must be hard with the news last week. I think everybody was really sad to hear about you and Lance. And it must be really hard to do a song like that when you`re...

SHERYL CROW, SINGER: Well, you know. You know how it is. You live your life in the public eye.

But I`ll tell you what. It is really cool that people have just been spectacularly kind. And it`s cool to get to sing a song like that. I know that other people have experienced it. And you know, life`s so full. Just take it one day at a time.

DEGENERES: Well, yes. And it`s really hard, too, because -- and it`s a good thing that we`re friends. Because it`s hard to do shows like this. Because, you know, at a time like this.

And I know, of all people, what it feels like to have to, you know, worry about everybody watching everything happening. So I won`t do that to you. But I know that when you`re ready to date, we`re going to find you somebody.

CROW: I`m telling you. All my friends say I have to get right back on the bike. And I keep saying maybe not a bike.


HAMMER: Poor word choice. For the whole interview with Sheryl Crow, watch Monday`s "Ellen."

VARGAS: Tonight marks the very last light of New York`s much acclaimed Fashion Week, and SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s special "Fashion Frenzy" coverage.

I`ve been on the ground and in the tents all week, interviewing some of the top designers in the business, but today was a very different story, as some design novices took their creations to the runway.

I`m talking about the contestants of Bravo`s hit TV show "Project Runway." Under a veil of secrecy, today was their final competition in front of a panel of celebrity judges, and SHOWBIZ TONIGHT was right there.


VARGAS (voice-over): It looks like the backstage of any old fashion show: models getting made up and designers making their last-minute touches on their collections.

SANTINO RICE, "PROJECT RUNWAY" CONTESTANT: I`m excited. And I`m ready to show my collection.

VARGAS: But there`s something very different about this show.

CLOE DAO, "PROJECT RUNWAY" CONTESTANT: Right now it`s just about pure work. And I haven`t slept in two days. So I`m talking like -- but it`s OK.

VARGAS: These are the final contestants of the Bravo reality show "Project Runway." And this is their big debut to the fashion world.

KARA JANX, "PROJECT RUNWAY" CONTESTANT: Happy nerves mean everything. But it`s just -- I feel very confident right now. And I`m very excited to do this.

VARGAS: Excited maybe. But they`re not only showing their collection for the first time. They`re dealing with all the other headaches of a fashion show, like swarms of media.

DANIEL VOSOVIC, "PROJECT RUNWAY" CONTESTANT: It can become a bit overwhelming. But I made it this far. And I`m not about to wimp out because of nerves.

VARGAS: Nerves are just part of it because they also have to answer to this woman: supermodel Heidi Klum and her entourage of judges, including designer Michael Kors, "Elle" fashion director Nina Garcia and guest judge Debra Messing.

DEBRA MESSING, ACTRESS: They`re very talented designers. They`re here for a reason.

VARGAS: Santino Rice, Cloe Dao, Daniel Vosovic and Kara Janx, all competing against each other for the judges` top vote. Except, one of them shouldn`t be here.

Heidi Klum tells SHOWBIZ TONIGHT really only three of these designers are actually competing on "Project Runway."

KLUM: We showed four designers, because we couldn`t give away who the final three are. We have to do a little trick in television, because that episode has not aired yet.

VARGAS: All right, so you want to see the clothes? SHOWBIZ TONIGHT has your sneak peek. From Daniel. From Chloe. From Santino, and Kara. Four incredible fashion lines. Needless to say, the fashionistas were impressed.

But the question is, were the judges? Since this is a taping for the show`s finale, which airs in a few weeks, they were pretty tight lipped about their picks. But SHOWBIZ TONIGHT got a little out of them.

MESSING: I don`t feel like I can speak too specifically. But, I will say that I thought it was really thrilling to see, I mean, some of them more than others really pulled off an entire collection. There was really a cohesiveness to what they -- the story they were trying to tell.

VARGAS: And Heidi Klum tells us there`s no doubt who the winner is, in her mind.

HEIDI KLUM, SUPERMODEL: I have my favorite picked already.


VARGAS: And you can see Heidi and the other judges` final designers` pick on Bravo. That`s coming up March 8.

And I haven`t watched the show that often. But I`ll tell you, I do have a favorite already.

HAMMER: You do?


HAMMER: Can you tell us who it is?

VARGAS: I can`t.

HAMMER: So this was your first time ever covering Fashion Week here in New York, wasn`t it?

VARGAS: Yes. Yes, it sure was.

HAMMER: You did a fine job. Did you have a great time?

VARGAS: I had a fabulous time. I had no idea what to expect, what the whole experience was going to be like. But to meet Oscar De La Renta and to meet Carmen Marc Valvo, two of the designers that I really love. I haven`t worn Oscar De La Renta, but I have worn Carmen Marc Valvo. A little bit less expensive. And it was nice to meet them in person.

HAMMER: Now you`re a seasoned pro. So we`ll send you back next year.

And you`re up.

VARGAS: First it was the shocking Iraq attack on Bob Woodruff. And now "World News Tonight" needs to replace Elizabeth Vargas. The stunning announcement from the ABC anchor coming up.

HAMMER: And we`re asking the question, will Indy ride again? Tonight we ask Harrison Ford point black if there is going to be another "Indiana Jones" movie. Guess what he told us? Or stick around and you`ll find out. It`s the interview you`ll see only on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, next.

VARGAS: Plus, a do-over for a doll?


MADSEN: Ken is a gay man. He has been since childhood.


MADSEN: He`s got streaks in his hair, man.


VARGAS: Well, that`s what Virginia Madsen thinks. But what will Barbie have to say? Will she take her Ken back? Find out if this -- if she just wants to toy with him. Well, or if it has a storybook ending. That`s coming up. It all works.


HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. This is TV`s only live entertainment news show.

So tonight in a "SHOWBIZ Sitdown," Hollywood icon Harrison Ford. He`s hitting the big screen in "Firewall" this weekend. But will he reconnect with a role that he made famous 25 years ago?

We`ve been hearing that Ford will reprise his role as archaeologist Indiana Jones in a fourth -- that`s right, a fourth -- "Indiana Jones" film. So we had to go directly to the source to find out if it`s actually true.

Ford sat down right here to set the record straight. We spoke about Indy and his adrenaline-charged role as a blackmailed bank executive in his new film, "Firewall."


HAMMER: So Jack Stanfield.


HAMMER: This guy, it`s your basic mild mannered, hard-working computer genius in the banking industry. Finds himself in a pretty tough situation. This is a good character for you, Harrison. And it seems that it happens from time to time. You`re just doing your own thing and all of a sudden the guns and people who wish you ill.

FORD: The guy`s a computer software programmer and an executive for a large bank. And the bad guys want to steal $10 million out -- excuse me, $100 million from his bank. To do so, they take his family hostage, and they cause him to defeat his own system.


This is your plan? You think your schoolboy techie friend can hack into these servers?


HAMMER: Did it give you a little pause about how you actually keep your own money in life? Would it be safer under your mattress?

FORD: I think my business manager has it under his mattress. I don`t -- I don`t actually know anything about it.

HAMMER: And make sure you get what you`re entitled to?

FORD: Yes, I think so.

HAMMER: I know a lot of people also trying to crack the code of "Indiana Jones 4," trying to get the next one out of you. Could you, first of all, ever have imagined back then that that was going to be something that would have such continuity for such a long time in your life?

FORD: No, of course not. No, I didn`t. We didn`t even know that there would be three at that point. But I was very gratified by the success of the first one and was happy to do the others. And I`ll be very happy to do this one.

HAMMER: A lot of rumblings around on the Internet, actually, about what it`s going to be. Is Sean Connery going to be a part of it? Now, I know everyone`s been asking this. But do you have a nugget? Do you have any new -- has anything transpired in the last hour that you`ve learned? Because everybody wants to know, obviously.

FORD: No. No. No, no. I can`t really give you any hard target there. As soon as we can get it up and running. We`re all anxious to do it, Steven and George and I.

Hammer: Heading all around the world doing press for this movie. Talking to all kinds of people. And a lot of people ask the same questions. A lot of people ask different questions. What`s the one thing you wish you could talk about more that people don`t ask you about?

FORD: Well, I`d like to know a little bit about you.

HAMMER: What would you like to know? Turn the tables, why not?

FORD: I don`t know. It`s a difficult situation. And part of the problem is once you`ve given the same answer to the same question, and it is the right answer. I mean, you don`t -- after you`ve, you`ve pronounced that over and over again, 20 times, you feel like a fool. You feel like you`re lying.

HAMMER: It becomes frustrating (ph).

FORD: It becomes a lie, because it doesn`t have the, you know, the impulse that you had the first time you answered the question.

HAMMER: Sure. I feel like this has all been fresh and new.

FORD: That`s good.

HAMMER: And we appreciate you bringing that to the table.

FORD: Thank you.


HAMMER: Harrison also told me that his fame does sometimes get in the way. He says the fans are great. They treat him just fine. Apparently, these autograph Sellers give him a hard time. These are people who just chase him around town trying to get him to sign something so they can turn around and sell that. They`re always hovering around him when he`s about town.

"Firewall" is going to be in theaters today, and it`s in theaters everywhere. Check it out.

VARGAS: OK, so if you`re watching us right now, chances are that you have cable. About 70 percent of U.S. homes do. And we admit that at least some of those cable channels you get and pay for you don`t want. Well, that may all change.

Get this. A new study from the Federal Communications Commission says you could save as much as 13 percent on your cable bill if you were allowed to pay for only the channels that you want instead of those crazy packages.

We`ll have more on this stunning study a little later. But now we want to ask you in our Friday SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day. Cable TV: should you be able to buy channels a la carte? Go to and send us e-mail at We`ll read some of your thoughts later in the show.

HAMMER: Well, tonight the guy that brought us "Summer of `69" and "Have You Ever really Loved a Woman" has just become the biggest western artist to ever play Pakistan.

Last month Bryan Adams performed there to help aid children and schools devastated by the October 2005 South Asian earthquake. That disaster killed 87,000 people and left millions homeless.

Well, this afternoon I talked with Bryan, and he was in London at the time. I asked him about his efforts.


BRYAN ADAMS, MUSICIAN: When I was first asked to do it, I was quite excited myself, because I hadn`t been there. And obviously I had been to India many times. I`d performed there five times. And the idea of going to Pakistan was an interesting one for me. Because it`s another place that I hadn`t been.

And when we finally got there, I was welcomed like I`d been -- been there before. I`d been welcomed there like, as an artist. And you know, was obviously very familiar to them. But of course I had no idea about Pakistan. Never been to Karachi or Islamabad. Both places I went to visit when I was there, to perform at.

And we raised approximately $400,000 from the show and with sponsorships. All the money goes to well, A, the charity. And B, a lot of it went to go to the earthquake disaster area, of which two schools are going to be rebuilt. And five will be funded by this charity to pay children to go to school.


HAMMER: Well, while Bryan is out there doing some good, he just found out some good news of his own, that he`s going to be inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame this April. He is from Ontario.

VARGAS: Coming up, how your cable bill may actually go down. The stunning study that could change the way you choose your TV channels and save you lots of money. We`ll sort it all out for you live.

HAMMER: And he got us line dancing so many years ago. Now Billy Ray Cyrus is bringing his achy-breaky heart to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. He`ll be playing a TV daddy whose daughter has a big secret. Billy Ray Cyrus live in a bit.

VARGAS: Plus, can Harrison Ford`s "Firewall" fire up the box office? Or will audiences be "tickled pink" for Steve Martin`s Pink Panther"? Reviews of these new releases and more coming up on the "SHOWBIZ Guide."


HAMMER: It is time now for the "SHOWBIZ Guide," where throughout the week we help decide where to you spend your dollars on movies, music, DVDs and more.

Tonight in "People`s Picks and Pans," we`re talking about new movies that are in theaters this weekend. A little something for everyone. We`ve got "Curious George." We`ve got "The Pink Panther," and we`ve got "Firewall," all in theaters.

Here to join us and help us figure out which ones you should go see, Leah Rozen, movie critic for "People" magazine. Always good to see you, because it means Friday has arrived.


HAMMER: Well, let`s get into it with the new Harrison Ford vehicle, "Firewall." What do you think?

ROZEN: But this is a used vehicle for Harrison Ford.

HAMMER: Oh, no.

ROZEN: In that you`ve seen him do this too many times. It is a completely by the numbers action film. His family is kidnapped by the bad guys, the robbers. He`s a bank executive. They want him to steal from the bank, and he goes into action guy mode.

How does one say it delicately? He`s, you know, panting a little on those big runs. The years are catching up.

HAMMER: Does all his own stunts.

ROZEN: But it`s just -- you`ve seen this film before. Hard core action fans may like it. But anyone who`s going with big expectations that this is a great Harrison Ford movie is going to be disappointed.

HAMMER: Nice to see the lovely Virginia Madsen. A good turn for her.

ROZEN: And she is lovely in it.

HAMMER: Well, let`s move on to a film that we`ve been waiting for. I believe it was supposed to have come out last year, the old Peter Sellers classic "The Pink Panther," along with Beyonce Knowles and Steve Martin in the Peter Sellers role. What about this?

ROZEN: Steve Martin, and Kevin Kline also plays the -- his chief of police. This is, again, sort of a disappointment. It`s very broad comedy. There is nothing subtle about this. Not that there was in the original. But the original Peter Sellers played the role with such conviction. And Steve Martin, you`re aware that he`s sort of fooling around with it.

Beyonce is lovely to look at, statuesque. We`ve got to work on the acting a little.


ROZEN: So I guess I would say kids are going to really like "The Pink Panther," because you can never have enough pratfalls in a kids` movie and this one, the pratfalls are endless.

HAMMER: Despite the comedic genius of Steve Martin, still tough shoes to fill in Peter Sellers.

Well, let`s move on to something that I`ve heard is fun for the whole family, and I`m hearing there`s a big buzz among kids already to see, is "Curious George."

ROZEN: "Curious George" is delightful. You know, I don`t know that adults have to go without children. But to watch your kids enjoy this is really going to be really fun, especially smaller kids.

Curious George, the monkey, is played as if he is just this irrepressible 2-year-old. He is cute as the dickens, and I think kids are going to really like it. It`s in this gorgeous old fashioned 2D animation.

HAMMER: You can`t go wrong with the 2D monkey.

ROZEN: Or a man in the yellow suit.

HAMMER: I don`t even know what that means, Leah.

Have a nice weekend. Thank you for your insight, as always.

ROZEN: Thank you.

HAMMER: And for more "Picks and Pans," you can grab a copy of "People" magazine. You`ll find it on newsstands now.

VARGAS: Coming to a TV near you: cheaper cable? Don`t adjust your set. We`ll tell you why next.

HAMMER: Also first. "World News Tonight" co-anchor Bob Woodruff is seriously injured in Iraq. Now it looks like ABC will have to replace Elizabeth Vargas. We`ll explain what that`s about, coming up next.

VARGAS: And it`s true. A celebrity couple could actually be getting back together.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really that hex again already (ph).


VARGAS: Well, actress Virginia Madsen isn`t holding back on what she thinks about Ken. But what will Barbie say -- what will she say about his makeover? Will she take him back or will she just toy with his emotions? We`ll find out next.


HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT for a Friday night. It is 31 minutes past the hour. I`m A.J. Hammer.

VARGAS: And I`m Sibila Vargas. You`re watching TV`s only live entertainment news show.

HAMMER: How many television channels do you have, Sibila?

VARGAS: About 500.

HAMMER: Right. And how many channels do you actually watch on any kind of a regular basis?

VARGAS: Maybe 30, and that`s a lot.

HAMMER: And wouldn`t it be nice if you only had to pay for the ones you watch?

VARGAS: Absolutely.

HAMMER: Because the bill`s pretty big, right?

VARGAS: Very, very big.

HAMMER: Well, the FCC is now saying that should be the deal. We should have a la carte cable. Will it actually happen? How much money can we save? We`re going to get into that in just a couple of moments.

VARGAS: I would love that.

And let`s talk about Ken and Barbie. Did you know that they broke up?

HAMMER: I was not actually aware that they were one of the many celebrity couples...

VARGAS: I didn`t either.

HAMMER: I don`t know how I missed it.

VARGAS: I think we were out of loop, I guess, on that. But Ken wants Barbie back, by the way. And he`s, like, pulling out all the stops. He has a makeover now. So he`s looking good. Barbie may not be able to resist this time. He`s looking hot.

And talking about hot, let`s get to tonight`s "Hot Headlines." And we begin with baby news.

ABC "World News Tonight" co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas is pregnant. She and her husband, singer-songwriter Marc Cohn, are expecting their second child this summer. Vargas says it`s joyous news, but their immediate concern remains with the Woodruff family, as her co-anchor, Bob Woodruff, recovers from injuries from a roadside bombing in Iraq.

The actor who played the neighbor on "The Jeffersons" has died. Franklin Cover was best known for his role as Tom Willis, the Jeffersons` neighbor on the hit TV show. His film roles included "The Great Gatsby" and "Wall Street." He also did Shakespeare on stage and was on Broadway. Franklin Cover died of pneumonia; he was 77 years old.

Madonna`s Grammy performance was too hot for TV, at least in Malaysia. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT can report her opening number was cut when the Grammys aired in that country. A Malaysian official says her dance moves and her outfit were, quote, "too much of a risk." And I thought she was kind of bringing it down.

And those are tonight`s "Hot Headlines."

HAMMER: All right, here`s a question for you: Have you received your cable TV bill lately? Have you ever just taken a look at it and said, "Why the heck is this bill so much? Why is it so expensive?"

Well, here`s another question. Do you get, like, a gazillion channels? How many of them do you actually watch? Do you watch all those gazillion? Probably not.

Wouldn`t it be nice if you could just pay for the ones that you actually watch, instead of being forced to buy all of the packages and all that massive channels that you always have to have there even if you don`t see them? The FCC is now saying you should be able to do that. Cable TV companies should give you that option.

It sounds great, right? Well maybe, maybe not. Joining us live in a SHOWBIZ TONIGHT newsmaker interview, Jeannine Kenney. Jeannine is with the Consumers Union Group.

Thanks for joining us, Jeannine.


HAMMER: I can relate to this. I look at the cable bill, I say, "Well, this is an awful lot of money," although I do consider it a profession responsibility to have all of those channels. But most of them, honestly, I only see them when I`m surfing by. So what`s the deal here? How would this actually work, if it were to happen?

KENNEY: Well, there are a lot of different ways that cable operators could implement options that give consumers a lot more choice and control over their cable bills.

First, they could give them the option to choose only those channels that they actually want to watch and pay for only those channels, in addition to giving them the option of purchasing the bigger bundles for people who like to channel surf.

Or they could offer specialized tiers, like a family tier, or an arts and entertainment tier, or a sports tier. Finally, they could offer a package of the specific number of channels, say 20 or 30 channels, and allow the consumer to select which of the channels in the line-up they would like within their customized tier.

Either way you cut it, consumers will have a lot more choice than they have now, which is basically no choice.

HAMMER: Right. And when you mentioned, you know, they could perhaps order 20 or 30 channels, that seems to make sense, because I understand there was a recent survey that said something like the average viewer watches only 17 of the channels that they actually have on a regular basis. So I assume this would translate to some big savings for the consumer. What kind of money do you think we`re talking about?

KENNEY: Well, the Federal Communications Commission report found that consumers could save up to 13 percent on their cable bills. And that`s pretty significant, considering that cable bills have risen by 64 percent in the last 10 years, more than 2 1/2 times the rate of inflation.

So you`re looking at some pretty significant cost savings, also considering that consumers each year face 5, 6, 7, 8 percent increases in their bills. So a 13 percent drop is pretty big.

HAMMER: Plus you have all those fees, the franchise fee. I never understood that one. But how would they actually even decide how much to charge for each channel? I mean, that seems like it would be a difficult part of the task in making this happen.

KENNEY: Well, there are a number of different ways they could do that. For example, cable operators pay a fee to the provider of the programming and you could base the cost on that fee. But those are the kinds of details that will get worked out.

Unfortunately, we haven`t even been able to get to that step because the cable industry has so opposed giving consumers the choice that they want and that survey after survey shows they demand.

HAMMER: So it seems like we could save money, have more choice, but it also seems that possibly could be a downside to this. I mean, for me, I would see, you know, possibly the smaller channels might get squeezed out. What do you see as a downside?

KENNEY: Well, that`s certainly a myth that a number of cable companies are promoting. Actually, what the Federal Communications Commission found was that this might provide for greater channel diversity on cable systems. Right now, it`s hard for those independent niche channels to get aired if they`re not affiliated with a big media company or with a big cable company.

So we see this as opening doors to more independent niche channeling that really can then be targeted to consumers` interests, based on the kind of channels they`ve already selected, sort of a targeted marketing approach that is common place in every other industry.

HAMMER: Definitely will be an interesting story for us to continue to follow, see if it actually comes to fruition. Jeannine Kenney with the Consumer Union Group, thanks for joining us live from Washington tonight.

KENNEY: Thank you.

HAMMER: Well, this leads us to our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day." We`re asking what you think on this. Cable TV: Should you be able to buy the channels a la carte? Kind of like sushi.

Keep voting at You can also write to us at E-mails on the way at 55 past the hour.

VARGAS: And let`s get this straight. Barbie has many fabulous makeovers. She`s had a ton of to-die-for clothes. And I won`t forget the prime real estate of Malibu Dream house. I mean, who loves that house? I loved it.

But what`s this now, a new car? Leave it to the "Late Show with David Letterman" to be the first show to debut the spiffed-up ride.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW": You`re not going to believe it either.


LETTERMAN: You know the Barbie, the ma-thing with the Barbie doll?

SCHAFFER: Everybody knows Barbie.

LETTERMAN: Then they had, like, Malibu Barbie and then you had Hi-Ho Barbie.

SCHAFFER: Hi-Ho Barbie. That`s right.

LETTERMAN: Hi-Ho Barbie.


And then there was Out-Call Barbie (ph), remember?

SCHAFFER: That was my favorite.

LETTERMAN: Yes, I know it was.


Look at this. It`s Reckless Mother Barbie.



LETTERMAN: There`s the baby -- there`s Barbie in the lap, Reckless Mother Barbie and baby.



HAMMER: It seems to me that that would be dangerous even for a doll Barbie.

VARGAS: Yes, you know, that`s -- you think that was Britney Spears that...

HAMMER: No, I actually think he made that up on his own. That had nothing to do with that.

VARGAS: Right, uh-huh.

HAMMER: All right. Well, we actually have more Barbie news tonight. This is actually very exciting because she`s got her boy toy, Ken. And he`s got this whole new look.


HAMMER: He`s getting a makeover. Ken getting a makeover. Just ahead on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, we`ll show you exactly what`s going on with Ken.

Also coming up...


MARY J. BLIGE, GRAMMY-WINNING HIP-HOP MUSICIAN: Man, I felt like I was a part of the most incredible part of history in rock and roll.


VARGAS: A surprise performance from Mary J. Blige, and SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is there. We`ll tell you what she said about performing with U2 at the Grammys. That`s coming up.

HAMMER: And remember "Achy Breaky Heart," the song? Of course you do. Well, Billy Ray Cyrus is back, this time with a new TV show. And his daughter getting into the act, as well. Bill Ray Cyrus and daughter join us live, coming up next in the interview you will see only on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


VARGAS: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, TV`s only live entertainment news show. I`m Sibila Vargas.

Well, I got to tell you, it`s good to be Mary J. Blige. One of music`s biggest stars told us today that she`s having one of the biggest weeks of her life. This coming from a woman who`s got multiple Grammys, has had her name regularly glued to the top of the Billboard charts.

Just a few hours ago, she surprised New York City fashionistas by helped close out Fashion Week in style.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT was there as she took the stage in an unannounced performance during a fashion show for designer Catherine Malandrino. This coming less than 48 hours after another surprise performance at the Grammys with U2. Mary J. Blige spoke exclusively to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT backstage, and we asked her what it was like sharing the stage with Bono and the boys.


BLIGE: I felt so good, man. I felt like I was a part of the most incredible part of history in rock and roll. I mean, I was up there with the biggest rock and roll band in the world and of all times, you know?

And I just felt very humbled and kind of, like, happy that they chose -- no, not kind of -- but very happy that they chose me to be a part of their band. And they made me feel like I was a part of their band that night. And I just lifted the roof with them, whatever you all want to do, let it go, you know?


VARGAS: So two big surprise performances this week for Mary J. Blige. And when we asked her if she`s got anymore surprises in store, she said, "Only if good friends ask her," like Bono or designer Catherine Malandrino. But she also said don`t expect her to see her jumping out of any cakes either.

HAMMER: It is time now for a "Showbiz Sitdown" with country star Billy Ray Cyrus and his 13-year-old daughter, Miley. Billy is starring with Miley in a new TV show called "Hannah Montana." It has such a cool premise to it. We`ll tell you about that in a moment.

Acting, of course, only one of Billy Ray`s talents. We all know him from his smash hit, "Achy Breaky Heart." Miley and Billy Ray are joining us live here in New York City.

It`s so good to have you here. Welcome to the program.


HAMMER: You seem very excited, Miley.

M. CYRUS: I am.

BILLY RAY CYRUS, COUNTRY MUSIC STAR: Hey, A.J. It`s great to be with you.

HAMMER: Has she been buzzing all day?

B. CYRUS: Oh, she`s been working her tail off. I mean, we`ve been in New York for three days now, and it`s just been very exciting. This was her first trip to New York City.

HAMMER: It`s your very first time here? And you`ve lived in Tennessee on a ranch. You`ve now moved to Los Angeles. But here you are in New York City. So what are your impressions of our fair town?

M. CYRUS: I like it. It`s different. It`s very different than Nashville. But so is L.A., and I`m just keep going, but I love it.

HAMMER: What`s the strangest thing you saw during your stay here in New York? There`s some freaks here, you know.


M. CYRUS: Well, mostly just all the buildings. When I`ve seen them in movies, they look a lot smaller than they do in person.

HAMMER: Pretty big.

M. CYRUS: But, yes, they`re really big.

HAMMER: All right. Well, we got you a little gift.

M. CYRUS: Oh, thank you.

HAMMER: You can open up that and a little souvenir to take home from our town. This new show, "Hannah Montana" -- and we`ll talk as you`re opening -- don`t want to take away from gift opening.

M. CYRUS: Thank you.



HAMMER: A little New York love.

B. CYRUS: Awesome, great.

M. CYRUS: Thank you.

HAMMER: Enjoy that very much. And in this new show, as I said, it`s such a cool premise. You`re playing a pop star, but the only one who knows you are the pop star are your two friends, because you have certain costumes that allow you to go and be like one of the world`s biggest pop stars, but then you are able to sort of keep your anonymity and your best friends in school know.

Billy Ray, wouldn`t that be nice? Did you ever kind of wish -- you know, you`ve seen both sides of it. Did you ever wish you could just walk off the stage, and just go about your business, and not be the star all the time?

B. CYRUS: I`ve just always loved making music, you know, and getting a chance now to work with Miley and to be a part of this show, to be a part of the Disney family, I swear, it`s the most exciting event that`s ever taken place in my career or my life. This is just incredible being a part of this thing.

And as far as me having a disguise, you know, I`m still, you know, hoping some day to be Johnny Damon.


HAMMER: Well, what do you think? You know, you play this pop star. And, of course, you know, a lot of kids grow up hoping they can one day be a pop star. It`s a very enviable position to be in.

But you have a pop star dad, something a lot of kids probably wish they have, a big-time rock and roll country star. What`s that been like? What`s the best part of having Billy Ray Cyrus as Dad?

M. CYRUS: It`s been great. I probably wouldn`t be here if it wasn`t for him, after growing up in...

HAMMER: Well, I can assure you of that, actually.

M. CYRUS: Yes, seeing him on set and seeing him singing. And once I got on a stage with him, and I just knew that`s something I wanted to do. So I really enjoy it and especially getting to work with him.

HAMMER: What`s one of the perks, though, of having, you know, a famous dad? What do you think?


You walk down the street -- well, you probably get a lot of cool stuff.

M. CYRUS: Yes, I do. I get to go a lot of -- I get to travel with him, so that`s the funnest part.

HAMMER: Did you happen to know that your song, "Achy Breaky Heart," was just on "Dancing with the Stars," one of the biggest shows...

B. CYRUS: No, I didn`t see it.

HAMMER: You didn`t know that?

B. CYRUS: I did not know that.

HAMMER: Are you learning this for me?


B. CYRUS: I`m learning this from you.

HAMMER: Maybe that means there`s a check coming your way. Are you guys fans of the reality TV?

M. CYRUS: I am. I am.

HAMMER: I`m guessing you watch "American Idol."

M. CYRUS: I do. I do. I`ve been very busy, and we tape at the same time. So my friends are taping it for me, TiVoing it.

HAMMER: OK. Any favorite shows that you sit around with the whole family and...

B. CYRUS: I`m working all the time and, you know, just always studying the scripts. And when I`m not on set with her, I`m out touring and making music and just -- I love being with the fans. And that`s one of the things that`s the funnest about this show is we tape in front of a live audience.

And so it`s the best of both worlds, getting to be with that audience, and acting at the same time, and still getting to make some music. And I don`t know if you`ve heard about her singing; she just signed a record deal with Hollywood Records...


HAMMER: Congratulations. Not a bad deal.

B. CYRUS: And she writes her own songs. She`s the real deal. She`s got some great music ahead of her. And, again, it`s just a lot of fun.

HAMMER: And as I said, this character you`re playing, Hannah Montana, one of the world`s biggest pop stars, is it somebody that you`re emulating? Because the premise is, you know, if Britney Spears were in high school but nobody knew it was Britney Spears, that`s what the deal is. So is there a pop star that you sort of looked up to, to prepare for this?

M. CYRUS: I kind of thought of Hilary Duff when I was doing this, because she actually started doing Disney at the same time as I did. And then she went off to music. So I kind of watched her concerts and saw some of the footage that she`s done and kind of took some of her styling and used it towards Hannah.

HAMMER: Billy, I`ve just got about 30 seconds left, but I understand you have some family watching you guys tonight on TV.

M. CYRUS: We do.

B. CYRUS: Yes, I think you got somebody you want to say hi to?

M. CYRUS: I would like to say hello to my pappy in Kentucky.

Hey, Pappy.

HAMMER: Everybody`s at home enjoying. Now is this your big debut here?

M. CYRUS: It is.

HAMMER: And we`re happy to have you, Miley. It`s a pleasure to meet you.

M. CYRUS: Thank you very much.

HAMMER: Billy Ray, always good to see you.

B. CYRUS: Thank you, A.J. You do such a great job on the show.

HAMMER: Thank you.

B. CYRUS: And congratulations on your success.

HAMMER: I appreciate that very much. And we look forward to your show.

M. CYRUS: Thank you.

HAMMER: It is Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus in "Hannah Montana," which makes its debut on the Disney Channel on March 24th.

VARGAS: Time now for some celebrity couples news about the most plastic couple in Hollywood and beyond. We`re talking, of course, about Barbie and Ken. Word on the street is that they`re getting back together just in time for Valentine`s Day and right after Ken`s makeover.

Here`s CNN`s Jeanne Moos for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We`ve all had looks we`re ashamed of. And Barbie`s boy-toy Ken is certainly no exception, be it the lavender look or mauve hair Ken.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Put a mustache on Ken or sideburns!

PHILLIP BLOCH, STYLIST: Any time he has anything with wheels on gets a little scary to me.

MOOS: Who better to give Ken a makeover than a flamboyant stylist who has dressed stars ranging from Johnny Depp to Pierce Brosnan and who readily admits he goes way back with Barbie?

BLOCH: Since we were little kids, we were like this.

MOOS: Voila, the new Ken.

BLOCH: This is his more urban, runaround look.

MOOS: Well, actually there are two new Kens, the collector`s edition in Italian jeans and leather jacket and the blonder version that will be sold in stores.


MOOS (on-screen): Is he manly enough for you?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A little bit femininey. But then...

MOOS: But when you see this one, it makes this one look like Mr. Butch.

(voice-over): The photo shows Ken`s last incarnation back when Barbie dumped him two years ago. Barbie`s being outsold in the U.S. by those pouty-lipped Bratz dolls.

So rejuvenate Barbie, critics say Mattel first announced she and Ken were splitting up. Now they`re getting back together. The head of the Bratz dolls called it stupid publicity and told "The New York Times," "Ken is not going to save Barbie."

The new ken is described as the kind of guy who does yoga, and girls like that sensitive type.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe like a Leonardo DiCaprio.

MOOS (on-screen): Ooh, Leonardo DiCaprio.

(voice-over): Well, actually, Ken`s look is Matthew McConaughey meets Orlando Bloom, according to his stylist who made it into the "New York Times" quotation of the day.

BLOCH: Oh, really? I`m the quote of the day. Wow, that`s cool.

MOOS: It was cool when we ran into Oscar-nominated actress Virginia Madsen.

VIRGINIA MADSEN, ACTRESS: Oh, my god. It`s Jeanne Moos.

MOOS (on-screen): No, it`s Ken.

MADSEN: Oh, my god, what`s happened to you, Ken? He`s come out. I know Ken, and Ken is a gay man.

MOOS: You`re sure?

MADSEN: He`s got streaks in his hair, man.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP (singing): Together with Barbie, oh, what a pair.


VARGAS: And that was CNN`s Jeanne Moos for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. You know, I don`t think he`s gay. I think he`s metrosexual.

HAMMER: The rumors have been floating around for years...

VARGAS: For years.

HAMMER: ... about Ken. Now, did you have Barbie when you were growing up?

VARGAS: I sure did.

HAMMER: Now, did that mean you had Ken, as well?

VARGAS: I did. Yes, I had Ken. And, you know, he`s fun to play with.

HAMMER: All right, Sibila. You said it, not me.

VARGAS: I mean, of course, with Barbie.


HAMMER: Maybe we should move on.


OK, there`s still time for you to sound off in our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day." Cable TV: Should you be able to buy channels a la carte?

Vote at or write us at We`ll read some of your e-mails live, next.



Throughout the show, we`ve been asking you to vote online on our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day." And I think we hit a nerve. Cable TV: Should you be able to buy channels a la carte?

Look at this vote tonight. I think this is our biggest spread ever: 98 percent of you say yes; 2 percent of you say no.

Let`s check out some of the e-mails we`ve received. We heard from Brenda in Virginia. She writes, "I`ve had that idea for years." See, this was Brenda`s idea. "It`s about time that the suits figured it out, too."

Also heard from Forrest in New Hampshire. He writes, "A la carte cable is overdue. Big companies have deliberately taken advantage of consumers with this business model"

Ninety-eight percent to two.

VARGAS: I say ditto.

HAMMER: It`s not over yet. Continue to vote by going on over to

VARGAS: Well, now it`s time to see what`s playing on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT Monday. Let`s take a look at the "Showbiz Marquee."

Marquee Guy, take it away.

MARQUEE GUY: Monday, hey, can we do lunch? Great. You`ve got a lunch date with SHOWBIZ TONIGHT and all the big Oscar nominees. That`s right; we`re all doing lunch. Yummy! And we have your invitation. Soup, salad, and the biggest stars in Hollywood, Monday.

Also Monday, get ready to make a big racket because Serena Williams is here. We love Serena, queen of the tennis world. Now she`s serving up a fashion line. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT holds court with Serena Williams Monday.

This is the Marquee Guy. And if you want net results, give me a call. I know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy...

HAMMER: Who knows a guy, who knows a guy.

So Serena Williams, only 25 years old. She is so incredibly cool. She is a fan of a Grammy-winning rock band from the other night that would totally surprise you.

VARGAS: Really? What`s that?

HAMMER: Any guesses? I`m not going to tell you. She`s going to tell us on Monday.

VARGAS: All right. Oh, that`s a tease. Now that`s what you call a tease.

HAMMER: Nice hanging out with you. Enjoy your weekend. That is it for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

VARGAS: Thank you.

HAMMER: I`m A.J. Hammer.

VARGAS: And I`m Sibila Vargas. Stay tuned for the latest from CNN Headline News.

HAMMER: That was a good tease, wasn`t it?

VARGAS: Yes, it was.


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