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Stars flock to telethon

'America' to be broadcasted on all six networks

Celebs including Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts and Will Smith have been added to the roster of talent expected to appear on the unprecedented TV telethon “America: A Tribute to Heroes” this Friday.

The Big Four webs have firmed up plans to produce and telecast the two-hour affair, which will air commercial free on Friday at 9 p.m. (Daily Variety, Sept. 18). “America” will air live in the Eastern and Central time zones and tape delayed in the Pacific and Mountain regions.

Weblets WB and UPN are expected to announce today that they will also pre-empt programming to air the special. Fox, WB and UPN — which usually sign off at 10 p.m. — asked and received permission from affiliates to extend primetime for the night. UPN will hand the 8 p.m. hour back to affiliates.

Never before has a single program been “road-blocked” on all six nets. A large contingent of cable networks will also air the special. Already confirmed on board are Lifetime, E!, FX, MTV, SoapNet, National Geographic Channel and Fox Movie Channel, as well as Spanish lingo web Telemundo. Other cablers, including TNT and USA, will decide today whether to join.

Major star cluster

Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Jim Carrey and Bruce Springsteen were previously expected to appear on “America”; they’re all now confirmed. Also joining the special are Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, the Dixie Chicks, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Faith Hill, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Tom Petty, Paul Simon, Robin Williams, Stevie Wonder and Neil Young.

The Big Four nets will also supply two celebs per web: Appearing from CBS will be Amy Brenneman and Ray Romano; from ABC, Dennis Franz and Sela Ward; from NBC, Kelsey Grammer and Conan O’Brien; and from Fox, Calista Flockhart and Jane Kaczmarek.

As expected, the Big Four nets will underwrite the show’s costs, and all money raised will go toward relief efforts relating to last week’s terrorist attacks.

“America” will originate from both New York and Los Angeles. Due to security concerns, event organizers were hesitant to announce where the show will be produced; participants won’t find out until the day of the show.

With “America” set for Friday, the WB must now reschedule its Friday night season premieres for a second time. The Frog net originally planned to bow “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” “Maybe It’s Me,” “Reba” and “Raising Dad” on Sept. 14, until President Bush declared a National Day of Remembrance.

The WB pushed those premieres to this Friday — and will now have to push them again, although execs haven’t yet decided whether the sitcoms will launch on Sept. 28, where they’d go up against premieres on the major webs.

In other programming notes:

  • TNT announced that it will now air a previously scheduled John Lennon tribute special live from Radio City Music Hall on Oct. 2.

    “Come Together: A Night for John Lennon’s Words and Music” will take a new tone in light of the tragedies in New York and Washington. Kevin Spacey will host, while Alanis Morrisette, Cyndi Lauper, Dave Matthews, Lou Reid, Nelly Furtado, Seal and Stone Temple Pilots will perform.

    “Come Together” had originally been scheduled to tape on Sept. 20 for broadcast on Oct. 9.

  • NBC has pushed the season premiere of “Third Watch” back another week, to Monday, Oct. 15, due to production problems.

(John Dempsey in New York contributed to this report.)

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