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‘3rd Rock’ pokes fun at NASA news

GOOD MORNING: I couldn’t believe my ears as I listened to Wednesday afternoon’s NASA briefing from Washington. Dan Goldin, NASA administrator, said, “We may see the first evidence that life might have existed beyond the confines of this small planet, the third rock from the sun.” Goldin admitted, “It’s an unbelievable day, it’s very exciting for me and I hope you feel the same excitement that I feel.” I did — and I’m sure everyone else did, even moreso here in showbizland. I immediately called Tom Werner, whose Carsey-Werner company produces NBC’s “Third Rock From the Sun.” He hadn’t heard the NASA confab and the plug for the series, but he immediately got the transcript. I then talked to Bonnie Turner, who exec produces the series with husband (of 20 years) Terry Turner. Her first response was, of course comedic: “All that money we gave to NASA paid off!” Seriously, folks, the show’s writers immediately set to work. By late afternoon Wednesday, they added a scene showing the alien Solomon family (John Lithgow, French Stewart, Kristen Johnston and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) watching the NASA press briefing and Goldin’s statement, to which Lithgow says to his family, “The next time we have a picnic on another planet — clean up!” The scene will be in the season opener, which airs Sept. 22, 8 p.m. For this seg, directed by Robert Berlinger, Dennis Rodman guests as an alien pal of Lithgow’s. He will appear in two scenes. I asked Bonnie Turner what color will his hair be. “He asked me if leopard spots would be OK. I said ‘Sure.’ ” Rodman is available to the TV troupe only six hours today, as he’s off to Korea chores …”Third Rock” feels that Rodman’s guestint will lead to a plethora of personality “alien” guestints. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Bob Dole wants to be one (guest),” said Turner. “After all he is an alien.” You recall, the GOP candidate who has his sights set on the White House, said “Independence Day” was the kind of movie Hollywood should make!?! And talking about that film, one seg of “Third Rock” will show the Solomon family going to see ‘ID4″ and complaining the movie gives aliens a bad name. Ha! George Takei of “Star Trek” will guest as an alien, natch, on this seg. And in keeping with the political times, Al Franken will guest on another “Rock” seg themed on the aliens denouncing the democratic election process, saying what fools these mortals be who would want to run for office. Hmmm. Who is really crazy around here, anyway?

GOT AN EMMY? — UNIVERSAL TV’S ad in Wednesday’s Daily Variety, saluting Angela Lansbury by taking off on the celeb “Got Milk” campaign, was the idea of Greg Meidel, chairman of MCA’s TV Group, Angela tells me. “They had other ideas (for an ad) — a hard sell like “12th year, 264 segments, highest –, etc. etc.’ But I thought this (milk ad) was charming: light and frothy, you should pardon the expression,” she laughed. The ever-charming Lansbury is in the middle of recording the six Jerry Herman songs for her “Mrs. Santa Claus,” a two-hour Hallmark, Robert Halmi-Corymore special directed by Terry Hughes, and exec produced by Lansbury’s son David Shaw. Charles Durning plays Santa Claus, Michael Jeeter is Arvo the head elf, Terrence Mann is Tavish, who runs the sweatshop worked by kids in 1910 N.Y. It will be filmed entirely here — yup, snow in August in the Valley. And Angela is costumed in beautiful Bob Mackie creations. She and husband Peter Shaw celebrate their 47th wedding anni Aug. 12, first day of shooting the special, which CBS airs Dec. 8. After the shoot, the Shaws head to their home in Ireland, return to N.Y. In Gotham she chairs the Oct. 28 Costume Ball of the Acting Company, and Nov. 17 is honored by AMFAR … Connie Stevens is playing Pamela Anderson’s mom on “Baywatch.” Stevens, no stranger to the sand and sea (“Hawaiian Eye,” “Back to the Beach”) plays a down-and-out alumna of Las Vegas; Pam bails her out of her troubles. Stevens, Shelley Winters and Gloria Goldsmith were surprise birthday partied by Diane Ladd at the Ladd home, where guests were told to come as “The Child Within”; some did, as they played games like “Pin the Tail on the Donkey,” etc. Comedics were furnished by Red Buttons, Jan Murray, Buddy Hackett. Others included Jerry Vale, Laura Dern (Diane’s daughter), Joely and Tricia Fisher (Connie’s daughters), Karen Black, Lainie Kazan, Bonny Bruckheimer, Peter Mark Richman and Martin Landau.

“LENNY BRUCE: SWEAR TO TELL THE TRUTH,” Bob Weide’s docu narrated by David Steinberg, screens tonight at the CAA theater. Guest of honor is Bruce’s mother Sally Marr, in her first public appearance since undergoing double bypass surgery last December on the eve of her 89th birthday. Weide’s first feature as writer-producer, “Mother Night” will be released by Fine Line Nov. 1. It stars Nick Nolte, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Sheryl Lee and Kirsten Dunst. And Weide’s winding his script of “The Giver” for Jeff Bridges who will star and produce … Catherine Mary Stewart and Dick Allerton welcomed son Connor McKay A. July 29 in N.Y.

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