The Baltimore Sun

David Letterman's 'Great Moments' segment to end as Bush leaves office

The end of the Bush administration also marks the end of "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches," an enduring feature on David Letterman's Late Show that pokes fun at the president's vocal stumbles.

Late Show writer Tom Ruprecht may remember Tuesday as the day he was sprung - from hours spent in his office watching Bush speeches to find those magic moments.

The first "Great Moment" came on March 30, 2006; it was followed by 377 more.

"It was the gift that kept on giving," said Eric Stangel, co-head writer for Letterman.

Unhappy with Piven

The producers of Speed-the-Plow have filed a grievance with the Actors' Equity Association, the stage actors union, against Jeremy Piven for abruptly leaving the Broadway revival last month.

News of the filing was announced yesterday by lead producer Jeffrey Richards, who declined further comment. A spokeswoman for Piven in Los Angeles did not return a phone call or an e-mail seeking comment.

The actor quit the David Mamet comedy less than two months after it opened to favorable reviews. Piven's doctor said the 43-year-old actor was unable to perform because of high levels of mercury in his system, possibly caused by eating large amounts of raw fish.

Piven, appearing on ABC's Good Morning America this week, defended his departure from the play.

William H. Macy currently is playing Piven's role of an ambitious Hollywood producer in the production, which also stars Raul Esparza and Elisabeth Moss.

Deep pockets

The turmoil in the financial markets has again swept up Hollywood director Steven Spielberg.

With a charity he supported already stung in the alleged Ponzi scheme run by money manager Bernard Madoff, Spielberg is being forced to dig into his bank account to fund moviemaking because of delayed financing.

On Thursday, Spielberg paid Paramount Pictures $13.3 million, or half of a $26.5 million price tag, to buy the rights to 17 movie projects that were in development while his DreamWorks SKG studio was at Paramount, according to a DreamWorks person familiar with the company's finances.

The person, not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, spoke on condition of anonymity.

Funding delays have meant Spielberg has also had to cover half the costs of DreamWorks' approximately 60 employees since the production company broke off from Paramount in October, the person said.

Pay to play

Television networks paid more than $5 million for exclusive rights to show events surrounding President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration, including tomorrow's Lincoln Memorial concert and Tuesday night's Neighborhood Ball, where Beyonce will serenade the new first couple.

Nearly half the money, $2.5 million, will be paid by HBO. The cable network will show tomorrow's concert - featuring U2, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and others - live. It will repeat it tomorrow night.

Obama's inaugural committee said the Walt Disney Co. is paying $2 million to show the Neighborhood Ball on ABC and for a kids' concert Tuesday on the Disney Channel. MTV is paying $650,000 for a Youth Ball that will be shown worldwide.

The committee said it made the deals to ensure as many people as possible could enjoy the events for free.

NBC renews shows

Like anyone thought they were in jeopardy - but just to make things clear, NBC is renewing Tina Fey's 30 Rock for the 2009-2010 season, along with The Office and The Biggest Loser.

NBC also announced yesterday that it has set April 9 as the premiere date for Amy Poehler's new comedy, a mockumentary about local government, which is still in search of a title.

NBC is keeping the 10 p.m. Thursday time period reserved for drama as it announced that Southland, a new police drama from ER executive producer John Wells, also will make its debut at 10 p.m. April 9. NBC said ER will have three more episodes than previously announced before the show ends for good. That will push its two-hour finale to April 2.

Angela Bromstad, new president of prime-time entertainment for NBC, also told the meeting of the Television Critics Association that Heroes, now in its third season, is secure.

And, she said, the network feels "very strongly" about Life, Friday Night Lights and Lipstick Jungle.

From Sun news services

today's birthdays

Actress Betty White, 87.

Actor James Earl Jones, 78.

Former boxing champion Muhammad Ali, 67.

Actor Jim Carrey, 47.

Future first lady Michelle Obama, 45.

Actor Naveen Andrews, 40.

Rapper Kid Rock, 38.

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