- The Washington Times - Monday, May 22, 2006

Hung hangs on

Memo to William Hung: You can only stretch 15 minutes of fame for so long.

The off-key balladeer who made us chuckle on “American Idol” was crowned “Artichoke King” by the tiny town of Castroville in Monterey County, Calif. over the weekend, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Hung, 23, butchered Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs” on the Fox singing competition a few seasons back, earning instant fame for his comical warbling.

On Sunday, he appeared in the Castroville Artichoke Festival and performed “Surfin’ USA” and “Achy Breaky Heart” for the crowd.

Marilyn Monroe was the first “Artichoke Queen” at the 1947 Castroville Artichoke Festival. The event features an artichoke eating contest, music and plenty of artichokes for sale.

Awarding the reality TV reject-turned-recording artist the title was an attention-getting gimmick, Cheryl Della-Mora, the festival’s arts and crafts director, said.

“We’ve already gotten a lot of exposure from it,” she said.

Heavy spring rains dampened artichoke production by as much as 20 percent, but local growers said there will be more than enough. Monterey County growers sold more than $48 million worth of artichokes in 2004, the latest year for which data is available.

Out with a bang

NBC’s “Will & Grace” and Fox’s “That ‘70’s Show” limped into their final seasons but enjoyed a sudden rush of viewers during their finales last week, Reuters news agency reports.

“Will & Grace,” starring Eric McCormack and Debra Messing, closed its eight-season run on top with 18.4 million viewers in Thursday’s 9 p.m. hour, according to Nielsen Media Research. The numbers, the show’s highest in more than two years, also boosted “ER” — which followed at 10 p.m. — to its highest ratings of the season, with 16.6 million viewers.

The “W&G;” finale also was the first program to beat, albeit by a hair, an original episode of CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” among adults in the 18 to 49 demographic in two years, since the series finale of another long-running NBC sitcom, “Frasier,” in May 2004.

The final episode of “That ‘70s Show” (9.3 million viewers) delivered the eight-year-old sitcom’s largest audience by a wide margin in more than a season. Still, it was topped by the “Will & Grace: Say Goodnight Gracie” clip show (with 12.9 million viewers) in the 8 to 9 p.m. time slot that preceded “W&G;’s” finale.

Country’s finest

The Dixie Chicks might be swearing off country music these days, but plenty of hard-core fans beg to differ.

They’re certain to tune in for tonight’s 41st annual Academy of Country Music Awards airing live from Las Vegas at 8.

The telecast, hosted by Reba McEntire, will feature performances by country music superstars Rascal Flatts, 2005 “American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney and Big & Rich among others.

All the right ‘Moves’

It’s been a while since Jennifer Lopez had to dance for her supper, but now the hoofer turned megastar wants us to see the dancer’s life from the ground up.

MTV has green-lighted the star’s new “Moves,” a reality series centering on the lives of dancers working to make it in the business, Reuters reports.

The dancer-actress-singer is executive producing “Moves” with Simon Fields, a partner in Nuyorican, her production company. She also played an integral role in selecting and auditioning the dancers, and will make cameo appearances throughout the season.

Six dancers were chosen for the eight-episode series, which is scheduled to premiere later this year, People magazine reports on its Web site.

“Moves” will follow the dancers and tell their interconnected stories as they work to achieve their dreams, showcasing such aspects as their struggle to pay rent and the excitement of dancing for 30,000 screaming fans.

Miss Lopez, who began her career as a “Fly Girl” dancer on Fox’s “In Living Color” in the early 1990s, says she understands the dancing world.

“These dancers have dedicated their lives to this, and honestly, the glory is not always there,” she says. “It’s something they do only out of love. It’s a tough life, and I want to show that struggle.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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