- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Punk’d’ no more

Ashton Kutcher’s popular prank show “Punk’d” is ending after eight seasons on MTV, Associated Press reports.

“Punk’d” is today’s version of TV’s old “Candid Camera,” preying on young celebrities rather than regular folks. Famous victims who have had the wool pulled over their eyes include Justin Timberlake, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, and Frankie Muniz.

The final season premieres April 10, but all eight new episodes will air back to back during a “sneak peek marathon” April 7. This time around, Oscar winner Hilary Swank, former basketball great Earvin “Magic” Johnson and rock stars Nelly Furtado and Jewel fall victim to Mr. Kutcher’s pranks.

As for Mr. Kutcher, the former “That ‘70s Show” star, 29, will host a special “Punk’d Awards” on June 5.

In December 2003, Mr. Kutcher said he was pulling the plug on “Punk’d,” although speculation arose that the announcement was a trick aimed at duping a new slate of celebrity prank victims into complacency. The show returned in April of 2004.

From Gollum to genius

Andy Serkis will star as Albert Einstein in a television movie about the creation of the scientist’s theory of relativity, Reuters news agency reports.

Mr. Serkis, an English actor best known for playing Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, has been cast in “Einstein and Eddington.” Like the HBO series “Rome,” the movie is a collaboration between HBO Films and the BBC.

David Tennant, a household name in Britain with his starring role as the 10th Doctor on BBC’s long-running cult series “Doctor Who,” will co-star.

The project chronicles Einstein’s work on the theory that he began while he was a clerk at the Swiss Patent Office. After his 1905 paper on special relativity, he spent nearly a decade developing the theory of general relativity, which introduces the notion of curvature in space-time.

British scientist Sir Arthur Eddington was one of the most prominent astrophysicists in the first decades of the 20th century and the first physicist who understood Einstein’s ideas of relativity.

The men kept a correspondence while their countries squared off in World War I. Because of the military conflict, no new developments in German science were made known to the rest of the world — so it was Eddington’s 1920 article, which offered proof of the relativity theory of gravitation using data from the 1919 solar eclipse, that introduced Einstein’s theory of general relativity to the English-speaking world.

“Einstein and Eddington” was written by Peter Moffat, and Philip Martin will direct. The two worked together on “Hawking,” the BBC’s 2004 biopic of Stephen Hawking, who is considered the greatest mind in physics since Einstein. He took Einstein’s general relativity theory one step further in unifying it with quantum theory.

‘Idol’ brand expands

A television station in communist Vietnam has bought the rights to screen “Vietnam Idol,” a local version of the hit talent contest “American Idol,” Agence France-Presse reports.

Thousands of singers are expected to take a stab at fame in the spinoff, with semifinals planned for June and the final round for July, says Kieu Van Tan, head of the arts and music department at Ho Chi Minh City Television.

“Anyone can become a star on ‘Vietnam Idol,’ including you,” the show’s official Web site promises. ” ‘Vietnam Idol’ gives you support to be the brightest and the most professional onstage.”

Contestants must be age 16 to 30 to take part in the show — which will be screened on seven stations nationwide — and audience members will cast their votes using the Internet, phone calls or text messages.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance and Robyn-Denise Yourse from wire reports.

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