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Donahue Says MSNBC Trying to 'Outfox Fox'

Phil Donahue struck back at MSNBC yesterday for his firing,

suggesting the network was too quick to pull the trigger and that it might be

trying to "outfox Fox" with conservative voices, AP reports.

Donahue's political talk show, a distant third in the cable news ratings in

his time slot, was abruptly pulled from the air after Monday's show. The

program premiered July 15.

Donahue said that his show's ratings were better than anything else in

struggling MSNBC's prime- time lineup. "It took almost three years for Fox

[News Channel] to overtake CNN," Donahue said in a statement yesterday. "We had

six months." Donahue also noted that MSNBC recently hired conservative

commentator Mike Savage as host of a weekend show, and retired GOP politicians

Dick Armey and Joe Scarborough as contributors. This suggests "a strategy to

out-fox Fox," he said.

ANOTHER "JOE." Fox is set to produce another edition of "Joe Millionaire,"

reports Newsday's Verne Gay. The new show was confirmed yesterday during a

teleconference call between reporters and executives who had hoped to talk only

about Fox's big February sweeps win - aided in large measure by "Joe

Millionaire." Executives were spare with details, other than to say that it

will contain the same elements - or, as they awkwardly phrased it, "values" -

of the original. "I can't go into any details but I can tell you that we have

sort of cracked the way to it," said Gail Berman, Fox Entertainment chief. "It

will certainly not be [exactly] the same show." Separately, Berman announced

that "24" has been picked up for next season.

DAVE MISSES A NIGHT. Due to an eye infection, David Letterman did not host

last night's "Late Show." Aside from his recovery from open heart surgery in

2000, this marked Letterman's first hosting absence in more than 20 years in

late night television. Bruce Willis, who was scheduled as a guest, filled in as


J.K. ROWLING ON "SIMPSONS." "Harry Potter" author J.K.Rowling will appear

as herself in an upcoming "Simpsons" episode set in England, reports Reuters.

In the episode, Rowling will run into beer-guzzling Homer Simpson and his

family when they visit England to find a woman with whom Grandpa Simpson had a

wartime fling.

"SOPRANOS" PAY RAISES. Five key supporting players on "The Sopranos" have

re-upped for another season on the HBO hit mob drama with a substantial pay

raise, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Sources said Michael Imperioli,

Tony Sirico, Drea de Matteo, Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Robert Iler have all

renegotiated their contracts to costar on the show's upcoming fifth season with

an option for a sixth.

"BUFFY" OVER. After seven years, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" will be over at

the end of this season, said its star, Sarah Michelle Gellar. "'Buffy,' in

this incarnation, is over," Gellar told Entertainment Weekly magazine for its

March 7 issue, her eyes welling with tears. The series will wrap with a

five-part story, which will include the return of Faith, the bad-girl slayer,

and Buffy's first love, Angel.

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