- The Washington Times - Monday, April 25, 2005

‘Grace’ful extension

NBC’s “Will & Grace” will return for an eighth and likely final season this fall after some last-minute negotiations, Reuters News Agency reports.

The Emmy-winning show’s stars — Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally — secured significant salary bumps in the one-year deals that were hammered out late Friday. Each of the actors, according to Reuters, will pocket $13 million to $15 million for the 2005-06 season, or about $600,000 per episode, compared with fees currently estimated at $400,000 per episode.

This season marks the first time all four actors have drawn equal paychecks, a tip to the star power of supporting players Mr. Hayes and Miss Mullally.

Not bad considering the show is a shell of its former stellar self and heavily reliant on silly celebrity cameos.

NBC has ordered at least 24 new episodes of the NBC Universal-produced series, plus a highlights clip show, apparently in anticipation of a series finale in spring 2006.

‘Desperate’ rebuttal

The cast of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” is battling back against the cover story in the new Vanity Fair magazine, which depicts the actresses as a petty, bickering bunch.

Felicity Huffman, one of the lead actresses on the hit show (seen Sundays at 9 p.m.), said the cast mates are friends on and off the set despite what the magazine indicates, Reuters News Agency reports.

“We’re all friends. We all get along. I love going to work,” Miss Huffman, who plays Lynette Scavo, told Reuters.

There had been talk of tension among the cast, which reportedly boiled over at a group cover shoot for Vanity Fair when Marcia Cross stormed off the set. The incident was chronicled by the magazine’s writer Ned Zeman.

“I have to tip my hat off to [Mr. Zeman] because it’s a tempest in a teapot,” Miss Huffman said.

The actress said she also has been baffled by the slew of stories citing discord among the show’s five female stars, who also include Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria and Nicollette Sheridan.

“People have been waiting and have been wanting us to fight from the beginning,” Miss Huffman said. “Why do they think there’s going to be a catfight? I don’t get it.”

Miss Huffman said she, Miss Longoria and Miss Cross have tea regularly and also go on “serious shopping forays” when off the set.

“Desperate Housewives” — along with the freshman dramas “Lost” and “Grey’s Anatomy” — have helped reverse the once sagging fortunes of ABC, the TV division of the Walt Disney Co.

Bleeping ‘Hollywood’

The heated debate over whether third parties can censor seedy material in movies gets the documentary treatment tonight on AMC.

“Bleep: Censoring Hollywood?” airing at 10, examines both sides of the issue. Movie sanitizers claim they’re responding to a need for more wholesome mainstream movies by snipping R-rated content from existing films. Hollywood artists, however, say that the practice amounts to censoring their work.

Tonight’s AMC special, produced by ABC News Productions, watches the fight play out in Hollywood studios, the Directors Guild and home entertainment companies. It also asks concerned parents about the practice.

Final ‘Break’

A pair of fledgling female golfers square off in tonight’s season finale of the Golf Channel’s “The Big Break III” reality contest.

After nine weeks of physical and mental challenges, golfers Pam and Danielle will settle things once and for all at 9 p.m.

The winner goes to the LPGA Tour, and the loser gets to see her rival on television.

Bonkers for Grossman

Playwright-performer Julianne Grossman has turned the heads of NBC executives with her one-woman show, “From Bonkers to Botox.”

NBC Universal TV Studio will work with Miss Grossman to develop a comedy series project based on “Bonkers,” Reuters reports.

Written, produced and performed by Miss Grossman, the show is a dark comedy that chronicles a young woman’s three suicide attempts and as many hospitalizations in various psychiatric wards.

Sounds like the kind of dark material better suited for cable, but perhaps NBC is trying to shake up its moribund lineup with edgier fare.

After debuting in April 2004 at the Stella Adler Studio Theatre in Hollywood, “Bonkers” was featured at this year’s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo., where it caught the eye of NBC Universal TV comedy executive Renate Radford.

Miss Grossman is set to write the half-hour project, which is slated for inclusion in next year’s program development cycle.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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