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March 1997

Geoffrey Rush and Frances McDormand
Archive Photos

3
Finally, a wise programming decision. ABC rebuffs Roseanne's request for a 10th season. The network cited high production costs and flagging ratings. The final episode of Roseanne will air in May.
4
A New York judge takes control of Macaulay Culkin's $17-million bankroll away from his bickering, bankrupt parents and gives it to Macaulay's accountant.
Australian pianist David Helfgott, whose emotionally troubled life was dramatized in the Oscar-nominated film Shine, performs at Boston's Symphony Hall, his first U.S. recital. Helfgott is embraced by his audience, though critics skewer his performance.
The Motion Picture Association of America announces that the average cost of making and marketing a film is nearly $60 million, a 148 percent increase over the past 10 years.
5
CBS announces it has purchased a 22 percent stake in on-line sports service SportsLine USA. CBS bought into the Internet site in exchange for advertising, promotion and programming for the next five years. The network can increase its share in the service to 33 percent if it forks over more cash. The deal has been valued at $100 million.
6
Whoopi Goldberg joins the Broadway cast of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, as the wily comic Pseudolus, a role previously inhabited by Nathan Lane, Zero Mostel and Phil Silvers.
Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) introduces a bill that would require broadcasters to develop and use a specific content-based ratings system that would replace the 2-month-old general system now in place.
ER gets a five-week break while Law & Order takes over the prized timeslot. NBC executives said they pulled the top-rated show because fans were ticked off last year with a string of March repeats and to reward Law & Order for its solid, long-term success.
In a move to season a successor to ABC News president Roone Arledge, ABC creates the position of chairman, names Arledge to the post and shifts David Westin from president of ABC Television Network to president of ABC News.
9
New York-based rapper Notorious B.I.G., whose real name is Christopher Wallace, is gunned down after leaving a party celebrating the Soul Train Music Awards in Los Angeles. He was 24 years old and leaves a 5-month-old son. The murder recalls the September 1996 fatal shooting of Tupac Shakur, and many suspect Wallace's death is linked to the bitter rivalry between East Coast and West Coast rappers.
11
Former Beatle Paul McCartney is knighted at Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II. McCartney dedicates his knighthood to former bandmates George Harrison, Ringo Starr and the late John Lennon.
Denise Brown, Nicole Brown Simpson's sister, lands a $1-million book deal with Reganbooks, a subsidiary of HarperCollins. Denise Brown plans to write about her sister.
12
Big Bird plans a big trip east, the Far East, that is. Children's Television Workshop and Shanghai Television announce that Sesame Street will debut in China in early 1998. Big Bird, Ernie, Bert and Cookie Monster will star with other characters yet to be developed.
Broadway unveils a cast of fresh faces and new costumes in the revamped 10th-anniversary production of Les Misérables, following last fall's mass firing of cast members.
13
Los Angeles police, acting on a tip, arrest Russian émigré Mikhail Markhasev and charge him with the murder of Ennis Cosby, Bill Cosby's son. Ennis Cosby was killed on January 16, 1997 while changing a tire on a California freeway.
CBS wins the bidding war for Bryant Gumbel. For a sum between $5 million and $7 million a year, Gumbel will anchor a prime-time newsmagazine, host three entertainment specials and develop syndicated programs through his newly formed partnership with CBS's syndication arm, Eyemark.
17
CNN starts broadcasting from Cuba, the first time in 28 years an American news outlet has set up shop on the island.
18
Foo Fighters welcome new drummer Taylor Hawkins (most recently with Alanis Morrissette's band). Hawkins joins the group following William Goldsmith's resignation to pursue a “variety of other musical interests.”
19
The war goes on. In an interview with Larry King at the National Cable Television Association convention, Ted Turner said of Rupert Murdoch's death, “I'm not wishing for it, I'm hoping for it.”
Howard Stern leads an impromptu rap summit on his radio show. Guests include Chubb Rock, Luther Campbell, Boo-Ya Tribe, Grandmaster Mele-Mel, Grandmaster Kay and Daz from Tha Dogg Pound. Rock denies the existence of any East Coast-West Coast rap rivalry, calling it a media invention.
20
Walt Disney chairman Michael Eisner announces he will write, with Tony Schwartz, a book about his business and personal experiences. Eisner will not receive an advance, and he will set up a scholarship fund with royalties from sales.
In an intense bidding auction, Warner Books pays more than $1 million for the memoirs of a 98-year-old great grandmother. Jessie Lee Brown Foveaux wrote The Life of Jessie Lee Brown From Birth Up to 80 longhand and finished it nearly 20 years ago. Foveaux first came to attention when the Wall Street Journal ran a story about her and family-history writing.
21
Rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg (Calvin Broadus) is placed on three years probation after pleading guilty to a 1993 weapons possession charge. Broadus is also ordered to record anti-violence public-service messages and pay a $1,000 fine.
22
Fargo sweeps the Independent Spirit Awards, capturing Best Picture, Actor (William Macy), Actress (Frances McDormand), Screenplay and Cinematography Awards. Normally the anti-Oscar, this year's Indie Awards boasts the star power and media attention usually reserved for the Academy Awards.
Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard ends its Broadway run after almost 2 1/2 years (977 performances). Despite its popularity, the extravagant production ($13 million) is deemed a financial failure.
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Liar Liar becomes the highest grossing March film, bringing in $32 million on its opening weekend. It's just what the doctor ordered after Carrey's disastrous last outing, The Cable Guy.
24
The English Patient cleans up at the 69th Academy Awards, taking nine Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress. Fargo's Frances McDormand wins Best Actress honors, while Shine's Geoffrey Rush gets the Best Oscar nod. It was a big night for indies, but not so great for ABC, which broadcast the ceremony. The show was the worst-rated Oscarcast in 11 years, drawing a 24.7 rating (each rating point represents 970,000 households using television).
Demi Moore and Striptease also sweep, but not the Oscars. At the annual Razzies, the awards recognizing the year's worst in film, Striptease “wins” Worst Picture, Worst Actress, Worst Screen Couple, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay and Worst Song.
25
In a speech urging sponsors to retreat from the coming-out episode of Ellen, Rev. Jerry Falwell refers to Ellen DeGeneres as Ellen “DeGenerate.”
Pop superstar Michael Jackson reveals the name of his new son. The child, Prince Michael Junior, is named after Michael's grandfather and great-grandfather.
27
Word on the street is that Melrose Place is losing a few occupants. Courtney Thorne-Smith, Grant Show and Marcia Cross are bowing out after the current season to pursue other projects.
28
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington names Robert Pinsky as Poet Laureate. The two-year post pays $35,000 a year and requires that the Laureate organize literary programs, poetry readings and discussions.
29
Referring to last week's mass suicide of 39 Heaven's Gate cult members, the ever-tasteful Ted Turner says, “It's a good way to get rid of a few nuts.”
31
CBS debuts its new cable channel, Eye on the People. The station features news and entertainment programming based on, you guessed it, people. Two shows include 60 Minutes More and 48 Hours Later, both follow-ups of the broadcast network's programs.

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February 1997The Year in Entertainment: 1997April 1997

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