- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Jay’s big payday

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Jay Leno has signed a new deal with NBC that will keep him at the helm of “The Tonight Show” through at least 2009.

The new contract is said to be worth more than $100 million to Mr. Leno over the life of the deal. The host’s most recent contract, a five-year pact signed in January 2001, had been set to expire at the end of next year.

Sources said the deal calls for Mr. Leno to pull in about $25 million to $27 million per year, a significant bump from his previous salary, estimated to be about $18 million per year. Mr. Leno, 53, has frequently said he does not touch his “Tonight Show” money, opting instead to live on earnings from his stand-up gigs. It was unclear whether Mr. Leno’s new contract takes effect immediately.

Mr. Leno has been the undisputed ratings champ in late-night since the mid-1990s after taking the “Tonight Show” reins from Johnny Carson in 1992. “Tonight Show” generates about $100 million in annual profits for NBC, according to a report in the February edition of Fortune magazine.

“Tonight Show” averages about 6 million viewers each week, compared to about 4 million for CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman.” Mr. Letterman, however, is believed still to pull in a slightly fatter paycheck, with an annual salary estimated at $31.5 million

Green animation

Seth Green, who provided the voice of Chris on “The Family Guy,” is getting deeper into the animation business.

The actor is developing an animated series for the Cartoon Network, Reuters News Agency reports.

The cable channel has ordered 20 episodes of the untitled project, a stop-motion cartoon that depicts iconic toys acting out satirical vignettes. For instance, superhero action figures could be shown struggling to co-exist in a scenario lampooning MTV’s “The Real World.”

“It’s like ‘Saturday Night Live’ with toys instead of actors,” Mr. Green told Reuters.

Mr. Green, whose movie and TV credits range from “Party Monster” to the short-lived “Greg the Bunny,” created and produced the series with Matthew Senreich, editorial director of Wizard Entertainment magazine.

Mr. Green and Mr. Senreich will write the series with Doug Goldstein and Tom Roots. The pair most recently collaborated on the Internet-based entertainment series “Sweet J Presents” on Sony’s Screenblast.com.

The series is scheduled to join Cartoon’s late-night animation block Adult Swim in October.

That block has been very, very good to Mr. Green’s “Family Guy.” The edgy animated sitcom drew tepid ratings on Fox and was canceled two years ago. The show has been given a second life thanks to its rating success on the Cartoon Network and massive sales of its episodes on DVD. New episodes are going into production and may air on both the Cartoon Network and Fox.

Mr. Green, currently co-starring in “Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed,” next appears in Paramount’s “Without a Paddle.”

Front and center

Internet Movie Database

“The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening finally will make a guest appearance on his massively popular show — some 15 seasons after its debut.

While a host of celebrities have appeared on the hit cartoon, Mr. Groening has taken a back seat, but will be seen in an episode airing Sunday evening at 8 on Fox.

“The writers wrote it in as a goof. I thought, ‘I’ll show them. I’ll do it’,” Mr. Groening says.

Mr. Groening, who plays himself in the episode, will be introduced as the creator of the cartoon “Futurama.” He insists he couldn’t be identified as the creator of the show on “The Simpsons” because “the whole universe would implode.”

New pal for ‘Joey’

E! Online

FBI stoolie Adriana La Cerva is ready to sing … the praises of NBC’s “Joey.”

Drea de Matteo of “The Sopranos” fame has been tapped to star as Matt LeBlanc’s on-screen sister in the upcoming “Friends” spinoff.

The sitcom will revolve around the relationship between East Coast transplant Joey Tribbiani and his high-strung sis, Gina, a hairdresser and single mom to whiz kid Michael.

Best known for her “Sopranos” stint as mob moll Adriana, Miss de Matteo’s character has enjoyed some compelling screen time since becoming a government informant last season.

According to TV insiders, Miss de Matteo’s new role on “Joey” won’t interfere with her contractual obligations to the mobster series’ sixth and final season.

Compiled by Christian Toto and Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff and wire reports.

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