"Dancing With the Stars" Season 28 cast announced
On Aug. 29, ABC released the first photos of the cast of Season 28 of "Dancing With the Stars." Competing for the Mirrorball Trophy will be former "The Bachelorette" star Hannah Brown, former basketball star Lamar Odom, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, former Supremes singer Mary Wilson, Fifth Harmony singer Ally Brooke, former NFL star Ray Lewis, "Queer Eye" culture expert Karamo Brown, "The Office" actress Kate Flannery, "Dawson's Creek" star James Van Der Beek, country singer Lauren Alaina, "Kenan & Kel" alum Kel Mitchell and supermodel Christie Brinkley. They'll be partnered up with professional dancers Brandon Armstrong, Lindsay Arnold, Alan Bersten, Cheryl Burke, Witney Carson, Val Chmerkovskiy, Sasha Farber, Jenna Johnson, Daniella Karagach, Keo Motsepe, Peta Murgatroyd, Pasha Pashkov, Gleb Savchenko and Emma Slater.
"The Voice" singer files sex abuse suit
According to Variety, singer Jordan Pruitt, who competed on the third season of "The Voice" in 2012, filed a lawsuit accusing her former manager, Keith Thomas, of sexually abusing her when she was just a teenager. She's also suing her former record label, Hollywood Records, and its parent company, the Walt Disney Company, for compelling her to work with Thomas and then failing to prevent the alleged abuse. She claims the label should not have allowed her to be unsupervised in the presence of the veteran Nashville producer, who works predominantly with teenage female singers, and should have known about his allegedly predatory behavior, which she says began when she was 14 and continued until a week before her 16th birthday. In the lawsuit — which Pruitt filed anonymously on Aug. 14 before publicly revealing her identity on Sept. 3 — the 28-year-old singer alleges that Thomas groomed her and her mother to gain their trust, which is how he was able to secure so much alone time with her. Eventually, he became controlling of her professional life, cut off contact between her and boys her own age and verbally abused her by putting down her looks and talents. Variety reports that Pruitt also alleges that Thomas showered her with compliments, "saying he loved her and that no one understood how 'special' their relationship was," as well as that "their love was a secret." She alleges that the abuse — Thomas took her virginity and once drugged her before abusing her, she claims — took place in a wide range of venues, including at Staples Center, on soundstages at the Warner Bros. lot, in artists' trailers, in hotel rooms and in parked cars.
Here's how "Empire" will write off Jussie Smollett's character
During an interview with TVLine that hit the Internet on Aug. 29, "Empire" showrunner Brett Mahoney elaborated on how the series will explain the absence of Jussie Smollett's on-screen alter ego, Jamal Lyon, from the upcoming sixth and final season of the musical drama, which debuts on Sept. 24. (The scandalized star was written out of the final episodes of Season 5 after he was accused of filing a false police report alleging that he'd been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack.) According to Mahoney, Jamal and his new husband, Kai, will be "taking a sabbatical" from the notoriously troubled Lyon clan following their honeymoon. "He doesn't want to be caught up in Lyon family drama, which is very much in keeping with his point of view last season — that [the family business] should be something that the family moves away from," said Mahoney. "Jamal and Kai have decided to stay in London," he added.
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Leslie Jones breaks her silence on "Saturday Night Live" exit
Leslie Jones took to Twitter on Sept. 3 to break her silence on the news that she's leaving "Saturday Night Live" after six seasons. "Yes it's true I am leaving 'Saturday Night Live.' I cannot thank NBC, the producers, writers, and amazing crew enough for making SNL my second home these last five years," she wrote. "Lorne Michaels, you've changed my life in so many ways! Thank you for being my mentor and confidant and for always having my back. You not only have my loyalty but you have my heart too! You have shown me skills I never imagined I had. I leave a better performer because of you. To the incredible cast members: I will miss working, creating and laughing with you. I will miss holding it down with Kenan [Thompson] everyday, I will miss Cecily [Strong]'s impression of me making me laugh at myself often, I will miss Kate [McKinnon]'s loving hugs and talks when I needed. And of course Colin [Jost], you porcelain-skinned Ken doll. I will miss all my cast mates!! Especially being at the table reads with them!! Everyone needs to know Leslie Jones couldn't have done any of the things I did without these people. One last thing — to the fans — you are the BEST!! Thank you for all the love and support through my SNL years. And I know you will be as excited as I am when you see some of the amazing projects and adventures that I have coming up very soon!" She concluded with a hashtag reading "I am not dead just graduating."
Trump escalates Debra Messing feud after her apology
Donald Trump took to Twitter on Sept. 5 to bash Debra Messing for retweeting a story about a Baptist church in Alabama that put up a sign reading "A black vote for Trump is mental illness." On Aug. 31, the "Will & Grace" star tweeted "THANK YOU #Alabama" in response to the story, prompting the hashtag "Racist Debra Messing" to start trending on the micro-blogging platform. (She also enraged Trump when she urged The Hollywood Reporter to publish a list of bigwigs set to attend his upcoming fundraiser in Beverly Hills, which critics have likened to the McCarthy-era practice of blacklisting individuals for their political persuasions.) "Bad 'actress' Debra The Mess Messing is in hot water. She wants to create a 'Blacklist' of Trump supporters, & is being accused of McCarthyism. Is also being accused of being a Racist because of the terrible things she said about blacks and mental illness. If Roseanne Barr said what she did, even being on a much higher rated show, she would have been thrown off television. Will Fake News NBC allow a McCarthy style Racist to continue? ABC fired Roseanne. Watch the double standard!" Trump tweeted the morning after Debra returned to Twitter to apologize for the debacle. (ABC memorably gave Roseanne the boot after the conservative comedian tweeted a racist comment about former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett in mid-2018.)
Obits: Valerie Harper dies at 80, former "American Idol" contestant dies in motorcycle crash at 26
Valerie Harper died at 80 on Aug. 30. The four-time Emmy winner, who starred as Rhoda Morgenstern on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Rhoda," battled a number of illnesses in recent years. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2003, and a decade later, doctors discovered that she'd developed a rare brain cancer. In late July, the actress's husband revealed in a Facebook post that her doctors recommended that she enter hospice care but that they'd decided against following those recommendations. Sadly, she wasn't the only star we lost this week… Singer Haley Smith, who competed on Season 11 of "American Idol" in 2012, died on Aug. 31 after crashing her motorcycle in Millinocket, Maine. She was 26. Local police and Maine's Office of Chief Medical Examiner told Entertainment Weekly that they believe she "failed to negotiate a sharp turn." No other vehicles were involved in the crash.
Oprah Winfrey launching wellness arena tour in early 2020
Oprah Winfrey announced on Sept. 4 that she's launching an early 2020 arena tour dedicated to cultivating "a stronger, healthier, more abundant life — focused on what makes us feel energized, connected and empowered." According to The Associated Press, the "Oprah's 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus" tour will kick off in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Jan. 4. The media mogul is teaming up with Weight Watchers Reimagined to offer "a full-day of wellness conversations" — including a one-on-one interview with a celebrity guest — at each of nine tour stops. She'll also visit Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas, Charlotte, North Carolina, New York City, St. Paul, Minnesota, and Denver.
Official "Friends" anniversary app launches, fan photo op draws Manhattan neighborhood protest
On Sept. 5, Warner Bros. TV launched its new "Friends" app, which features "Friends"-themed photo filters, trivia games, an augmented reality scavenger hunt and recipes to recreate some of the show's most memorable dishes. The free app will also help fans track where the orange Central Perk coffee shop sofa is headed next. Speaking of which… The New York Post reported on Aug. 31 that some West Village residents have been up in arms since Warner Bros. announced plans to park a replica of the iconic couch in front of the six-story brick building in Greenwich Village that served as the exterior of the "Friends" apartment complex — a fun photo op for fans of the hit sitcom in celebration of the show's 25th anniversary. Locals are worried that the stunt will add to the foot traffic around the building, which is already a tourist attraction — especially because Warner Bros. is seeking a permit to close part of a nearby sidewalk to accommodate the photo op.
"The View" co-host Abby Huntsman weighs in on feud rumors
During a Sept. 4 interview with E! News, Abby Huntsman debunked rumors that she and her "The View" co-hosts are fighting behind the scenes, saying she was "laughing" over the feud rumors during her recent maternity leave. "I would read about stuff, and I'm like, 'I know what actually happened and what I'm reading and how false that is.' But what are you gonna do?" she said. "People always want something to write about, and they'll make a much bigger story often out of nothing. If you wanna spend time backstage with us, we're all humans; we're all women; we all have the same dreams in life; we go home to our kids." She went on to say that she often texts her co-hosts about the things going on in her life. "So the reality is, we're friends," she said. "But I'm sure this season there will be headline after headline about feuds." Concluded the former "Fox & Friends" personality, "If you're watching this now, just know that we are friends. You have moments of disagreement, but we're like a family. I come from one of seven kids — you're gonna fight sometimes. But underneath it all, you all are friends."
Hoda Kotb returns to "Today" after maternity leave
Hoda Kotb returned to the "Today" show on Sept. 3. She'd been on maternity leave for more than four months since adopting her second child, daughter Hope Catherine, in April. "It did feel like Christmas morning a little," she said of returning to the morning show. "I went to bed last night. I popped up at 3:15, and I was like, 'I get to come home!'"
"Grace and Frankie" to end after seventh season
Netflix announced on Sept. 4 that "Grace and Frankie" will end with its seventh season, at which point it will have become the streamer's longest running original series. Season 6 is set to debut in January 2020, with the 16-episode seventh season to follow.
"Riverdale" releases emotional first images from Luke Perry tribute episode
On Sept. 4, The CW released the first photos from the upcoming premiere of the fourth season of "Riverdale," which will serve as a tribute to the late Luke Perry, who died in March after suffering a stroke. One particularly heart-wrenching shot shows KJ Apa's Archie Andrews embracing his grief-stricken mother, Molly Ringwald's Mary Andrews. The "Beverly Hill, 90210" star portrayed Archie's father, Fred Andrews. The episode is set to air on Oct. 9.