ANCHORED: Ex-Fox After Breakfast host Tom Bergeron will be named Charles Gibson's designated substitute anchor on Good Morning America, a spokesman for the show said Thursday. It's the first time Gibson has had a permanent back-up, making Bergeron appear to be a possible heir to the throne. Gibson has been rumored to be on the way out for months.
MORNING TV ADD: Here's why Charles Gibson and everyone at GMA is on the hot seat: NBC's Today widened its ratings lead over the ABC show last week--in spite of the debut of Joan Lunden's successor, Lisa McRee. The margin of victory--Today's 5.0 to GMA's 3.5--was actually the fourth largest ever for the Peacock network in the a.m.-news game.
MEA CULPA: CBS News' president is still apologizing for dropping the ball on coverage of the night of Princess Diana's death. Andrew Heyward told a national meeting of TV and radio news directors Wednesday that CBS headquarters in New York will be now staffed round-the-clock with correspondents.
DIANA ADD: Two more photographers have offered French authorities their version of what happened the night of Diana's fatal car crash. Ten shutterbugs are already under formal investigation for their roles in the accident.
DOUBLE DUTY: If practice makes perfect, ER's special live episode--scheduled for September 25--should be really good by the time it airs on the West Coast. That's because the cast is going to do the show twice--once live for the Eastern time zone; once live for the Pacific time zone.
TRAVOLTA'S CAUSE: Actor John Travolta testified before a federal commission in Washington, D.C., on Thursday about the plight of Germans suffering religious persecution. Travolta told officials how his films have been met with boycotts in the nation because he is a Scientologist.
BOOK 'EM: America's Most Wanted host John Walsh sticks it to the cops who worked the murder investigation of his son, Adam, in his new book, Tears of Rage. Walsh accuses the police of botching the case and making a conviction impossible.
CREATIVE PROPERTY: A Los Angeles screenwriter has dropped his legal bid to keep Fox's new sci-fi series, The Visitor, off the air--reportedly settling a lawsuit with the network. The scribe accused Fox of basing the show on a ripped-off idea. The Visitor, starring John Corbett, is set to premiere Friday.
NOOOOOO! "Yesssss!" man Marv Albert saw the latest bid to have his sexual assault case tossed out of court go down in flames Thursday. The trial for the NBC sportscaster is scheduled to begin Monday.
REPRIEVE: Farm Aid 1997 has been saved. The Willie Nelson-sponsored benefit concert, which canceled its upcoming show in Dallas due to weak ticket sales, will take its act on the road to Chicago's New World Music Center, the organization confirmed Thursday. Same day (October 4), same acts (including Beck and the Dave Matthews Band).
MARTIN TALKS BACK: Martin Lawrence's camp is taking exception to reports that a judge Wednesday ordered the comic to continue a drug-rehab program, as part of the terms for his no-contest plea to a battery charge. The program is "not" for substance abuse, says the actor's publicity firm. Rather, Lawrence is participating in an unspecified "medically supervised or medically approved treatment program."
DEFENDING VIRGINITY: Priscilla Presley will have her day in court--set now for next May 4--against one of Elvis's old Army buddies who claimed he bedded the former Miss Beaulieu before she wed the King in 1967. She's suing Lavern Grant for $10 million; he's countersuing for $5 million--claiming 'Cilla defamed him by saying he tried to rape her in the 1950s.
UP CHUCK: A Dallas man, under court order to quit impersonating Chuck Norris in a series of car-dealership ads, is fighting back against the tough-guy TV star. A billboard went up in Big D Wednesday, decrying: "Thanks to Chuck Norris, I am an unemployed commercial actor." Norris' spokesman called the stunt "outrageous."
KEN 'N' BARBI: Wiseguy guy Ken Wahl has wed one of the Barbi Twins. The 40-year-old actor exchanged vows with pin-up Shane Barbi, 33, Wednesday. Wahl was presumably clean and sober for the ceremony--Shane told reporters she wouldn't marry him "until he finished an alcohol rehabilitation program."
NEW METHOD: Marlon Brando has finally been wooed into the endorsement field. The acting legend will lend his voice--maybe his face--to spots for United Airlines, according to published reports Thursday. But don't expect to catch them on the air, unless you get cable in Latin America, Asia or Europe.
RE-ANIMATOR: Chuck Jones, the famed director of just about every classic Warner Bros. 'toon, has signed a new consulting deal with his old studio. The agreement is being called "long term." Jones turns 85 on Sunday.
HIGH TECH: An ABC executive assured a U.S. Senate panel Wednesday that the network has not abandoned HDTV, or high-definition television. The TV industry has been given billions of dollars of free airwaves to get the much-vaunted broadcast technology on the air. ABC recently seemed to pull back from its commitment, saying it planned to keep some of its stations equipped for regular old video transmissions.
FAMILY AFFAIR: The Matthaus of Hollywood--actor Walter, wife Carol and their director son, Charles--were scheduled to be presented Thursday with the American Film Institute's first-ever Platinum Circle Award. The honor is reserved for families that play the entertainment game as a team sport.
LIVING ARTS: Like a vampire, the National Endowment for the Arts is hard to kill. In spite of being put in the cross-hairs by Republican lawmaker Jesse Helms of North Carolina, the arts agency survived a U.S. Senate vote Wednesday that would have gutted its funding.
LIGHTING UP: Country wunderkind LeAnn Rimes has the number-one album in the land, a collection of covers featuring the moldy, Debbie Boone nugget, "You Light Up My Life." It's her third chart-topper in the past year.
NEW BEGINNING: Miramax Film's Bob and Harvey Weinstein want to be known for more than the art of the deal. The indie movie kings, who've bet big and won on titles like Pulp Fiction and The Crying Game, say they plan to establish Act 2--"something that gives back," says Harvey.
OBITUARY: Georges Guetary, an Egyptian-born singer who costarred with Gene Kelly in the musical classic An American in Paris, was buried in France Thursday. Guetary suffered a fatal heart attack last weekend. He was 82.
REMEMBERING RED: Hollywood is paying tribute to legendary funnyman Red Skelton, who died Wednesday at age 84. Said fellow great Bob Hope: "Red was a comic genius...[My wife] and I have lost a dear friend...and our favorite clown."