PEOPLE

Dude! “Will South Park” guys ditch cable series for NBC?

Will Canada celebrate if “South Park” shuts down? Or is it to blame if Trey Parker and Matt Stone are truly considering becoming ultra-corporate and joining the peacock, as UltimateTV.com reports. The Comedy Central cartoon about foul-mouthed irreverent tykes, one of whom has a tendency to get killed in almost every episode, might end if Parker and Stone land a production deal with NBC, according to trade magazine Broadcasting & Cable. Comedy Central says it is ready to rumble with NBC’s in-house production company and ber-agent Michael Ovitz’s start-up ATG Group for the duo. NBC has reportedly offered the two a chance for a new series, more creative freedom and a lighter production load. More creative freedom than Mr. Hanky the Talking Poo and the Jesus-and-Santa Claus wrestling match?

UNDER PENALTY OF DEATH: Awards have become mighty specialized nowadays, and now the cast of “The Practice” has received one from Death Penalty Focus, a group headed by actor Mike Farrell. Given to recognize those who work against the death penalty, the awards on Tuesday recognized individuals such as Ossie Davis, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., Los Angeles Rabbi Leonard I. Beerman and Chicago Tribune reporters Judi Marriott and Martha McKinney, whose stories led to an Illinois moratorium on the death penalty. A broadcast award went to Jeff Crilley and Guy Hernandez, Fox TV reporters in Dallas. Camryn Manheim accepted the Rose Elizabeth Bird Commitment to Justice Award, named for the late California Supreme Court chief justice.

Davis, a civil rights veteran, said of the movement, “It is wonderful to see the old fires being lit. Over the rise of the hill there is light.” Feingold, who has introduced legislation to abolish the federal death penalty, said, “The death penalty teaches the appropriateness of killing. Death begets death.”

JAGGER EDGE: Mick Jagger might return to the big screen under Martin Scorsese’s direction. Says a spokeswoman for the Rolling Stone’s company, Jagged Films, “It’s an insider’s look at the music business and the Machiavellian world of hit-making I imagine Jagger will bring his own experiences to bear, but it will be a work of fiction.” No others have been cast in the film tentatively titled “The Long Play.” Jagged Films’ first completed picture won’t be starring the large-lipped one, though: It’s “Enigma,” starring Kate Winslet, about the battle to break Nazi secret codes during World War II. Oscar-winning Tom Stoppard (“Shakespeare in Love”) is collaborating on the script directed by Michael Apted (“The World Is Not Enough”).

On the medical front, Jagger’s mom, Eva, 87, has heart trouble. Her condition is serious enough to interrupt her son’s French vacation last week, when he rushed to the London hospital where she is being treated. A friend described the singer as “stunned and devastated.”

YODA MIGHT WANT TO THINK TWICE BEFORE TICKING THIS GUY OFF: Christian Bale, who can currently be seen in cinemas whacking people in the Wall Street slasher/drama “American Psycho,” is reportedly getting the lookover as the potential next Anakin Skywalker in the upcoming “Star Wars” prequel. If the buzz is true, it would be the second time Bale has taken a role expected to go to Leonardo DiCaprio, who was originally slated to star in “American Psycho” and who, until recently, was rumored to play Anakin Skywalker.

Bale refused to answer questions about it during a recent publicity tour for “American Psycho.” When the London Free Press asked if he would play Anakin Skywalker, Bale said, “You wouldn’t have heard that from me. My lips are sealed. End of subject.”

AN EYEBROW-RAISING BID OF ELEPHANTINE PROPORTIONS: The bidding went fierce, but Vintage Books sweated out the paperback rights to Dave Eggers’ best-selling “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” for $1,402,500 10 percent higher than the next bidder, Simon & Schuster. Eggers apparently took the bids all by his lonesome, having recently “parted ways” with former agent Elyse Chaney. “I’m going agentless. It was amicable … It just wasn’t my style.” The author, who is publishing the literary quarterly McSweeney’s with a few others, is taking another unusual move: refusing offers to option his book for film. “I haven’t talked with anyone about that,” he said.

Today’s People Column was compiled by Vera H-C Chan from staff and wire reports. Comments? Write to us c/o the Times, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-8099. Or call 925-943-8262, fax 925-943-8362, or e-mail spin@cctimes.com.

Milestones

Honorary doctorate received: By John Mellencamp. Indiana University will grant the singer/songwriter an honorary doctorate in musical arts May 6.

Full recovery expected: By Waylon Jennings. The 62-year-old singer underwent surgery Monday to ease the pain from peripheral vascular disease in both legs. The disease results from narrowed or clogged arteries, which slows or stops blood flow to the arms and legs. “He came through it fine,” said spokeswoman Schatzi Hageman, who did not name the hospital.

Birthdays: Bandleader Lionel Hampton (92), Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (80), bandleader Tito Puente (77), actress Nina Foch (76), singer Johnny Tillotson (61), actor George Takei (60), actor Ryan O’Neal (59), rock musician Craig Frost of Grand Funk; Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band (52), actress Jessica Lange (51), singer Luther Vandross (49), actor Denis Leary (42), actor Clint Howard (41), country singer Wade Hayes (31), actress Carmen Electra (28), actor Joey Lawrence (24).

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