• The power of a Facebook petition helped land four-time prime-time Emmy champ Betty White the hosting gig on "Saturday Night Live" this weekend. Last year, the Emmy Awards eliminated the individual performance in a variety series category. "SNL" hosts were eligible instead in the guest acting races, and Tina Fey and Justin Timberlake both won for their stellar turns at the helm of this late-night staple. White won the guest actress in a comedy series race back in 1996 for playing an exaggerated version of herself on "The John Larroquette Show." The last four of her 16 Emmy nominations have been for guesting on both comedy and drama series. With White's career red-hot, she is also guesting on the May 19 finale of freshman hit "The Middle" as the less-than-kindly librarian who stands between Brick (Atticus Shaffer) and promotion to third grade.
• Even though this year's nominees for the Tony Awards were just announced Tuesday and we are still more than five weeks away from the kudos being awarded, there is already a front-runner for next year's best actor in a play prize. Oscar winner Al Pacino is playing Shylock in a production of "The Merchant of Venice" this summer in the renowned Shakespeare in the Park series put on by the Public Theatre. And, as Andrew Gans reports, two Broadway powerhouse producers -- Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel -- have invested in this non-profit production with an eye to transferring it to the rialto in the fall. Pacino is a two-time Tony champ, winning the featured actor in a play award for "Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie" in 1969 and the lead actor race in 1977 for "The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel." PLAYBILL
• Quentin Tarantino is to head the jury at the 67th Venice Film Festival which runs for 11 days beginning Sept. 1. This is the Oscar champ's first time working with this fest in an mainstream capacity. He did preside over the 2004 Cannes jury that awarded Michael Moore's documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" the Golden Palm. The top prize at Venice is the Golden Lion which went last year to "Lebanon." While that film did not figure in the Oscars, Colin Firth ("A Single Man") did parlay his Venice win into a best actor nomination at the Academy Awards. Two years ago, the top pic at Venice was "The Wrestler," which earned Oscar nods for Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei. The only Golden Lion winner to compete as a best picture nominee at the Oscars in the past decade was "Brokeback Mountain" in 2005. LA BIENNALE
• Tom Selleck nabbed an Emmy nomination for best actor in a TV movie for "Jesse Stone: Sea Change" back in 2007; he lost to Robert Duvall for "Broken Trail." That was the fourth time he portrayed Robert B. Parker's creation -- a former big-city cop living in a small Massachusetts town. On Sunday, Selleck returns with the sixth entry in the franchise. In a wide-ranging interview with Megan Walsh-Boyle, Selleck says, "I couldn’t be prouder of the Jesse Stone series and, in this case, 'No Remorse.' Each one gets better. The seventh is already filmed and in the can — it’s called 'Innocents Lost.' The thing I’m so proud of is they look like feature films and they play like feature films." Selleck remains the only Emmy champ to win while hosting the kudocast. He pulled this double duty back in 1984 when he won on his third of five consecutive nominations for "Magnum, P.I." TV GUIDE
• Howard Gordon, an executive producer of "24," warns fans not to expect a happy ending for the character Jack Bauer played by Emmy champ Kiefer Sutherland. As per this report from Maria Elena Fernandez, Gordon said, "One thing we tried and didn't work was a happily-ever-after for Jack. What he's done -- forget about the last eight
seasons -- but in these last six episodes ... leaves him, once again, in
a very morally compromised place, morally, ethically and
emotionally. This show is a tragedy, and to give Jack a happy ending
just didn't feel authentic." SHOW TRACKER
• Newly-tapped Emmys host Jimmy Fallon told Alicia Rancillo he wants to keep the kudocast classy. The late-night talk show host recalled, "watching the Emmys
while growing up with his mother, who would dress up in a gown and give
fake acceptance speeches. He wants to make watching the telecast an event for
which people will host watch parties in their own homes." AP
• "The Amazing Race"
host Phil Keoghan promises "a very tense finish" as the sixteenth edition of the show wraps up Sunday on CBS. "The Amazing Race" has won all seven Emmy Awards handed out for best reality competition series. Chatting to Derrik J. Lang, Keoghan revealed, "The thing about the last leg is we really want to make it as fair as possible for all the teams." While the Emmy-nominated host won't say who won, "he does believe that the show's fans are rooting for the beloved professional bull riders to win and that the ending isn't necessarily happy for
everyone. Keoghan foreshadowed that Upton and Horne are confronted by
another team at the mat." AP
• Nina Arianda and Bill Heck have won the Clarence Derwent award for most promising female and
male performers on the New York theater scene. Arianda starred in the acclaimed two-hander "Venus in Fur" while Heck is finishing up a run in the nine-hour Horton Foote trilogy "The Orphans' Home Cycle." Established by Derwent, the president of Actors Equity, in 1945, these kudos have gone to such notables as Annette Bening, Kristin
Chenoweth, Morgan Freeman, Allison Janney, and Christopher Walken. And past Tony contender Helen Stenborg and current Tony nominee Stephen McKinley Henderson have won the Richard Seff prizes awarded to stage vets for their performances in "Vigil" and "Fences" respectively. This year's judges were Joe Dziemianowicz (Daily News); Adam Feldman (Time Out NY); Susan Haskins (Theatre Talk); Harry Haun (Playbill); Michael
Kuchwara (AP); and David Rosenberg (Back Stage). PLAYBILL
Top photo: Kristen Wiig and Betty White on the set of "SNL." Credit: NBC
Middle photo: Tom Selleck in "No Remorse." Credit: CBS
Bottom photo: "The Amazing Race" logo. Credit: CBS
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