ANNOUNCED: Ending speculation over whether he would or wouldn’t, Lance Armstrong, 33, will try for his seventh straight win in the Tour de France, his Discovery Channel team announced on its Web site Wednesday. “I am excited to get back on the bike and start racing, although my condition is far from perfect,” Armstrong said. The statement also says Armstrong will begin his season with the Paris-Nice stage race in March, then race in the Tour of Flanders in early April before defending his title at the Tour de Georgia in the U.S. later that month.
COMPLAINED: Criticizing the show that made her a household name, the first season’s Apprentice diva Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth says the NBC reality show has stereotyped her and other black contestants. “Once you start looking at how all the black men are lazy and laid-back and nonassertive and non-aggressive and all the black women are quite the opposite, I think there is a pattern,” she said Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. Executive producer Mark Burnett was quick to fire back, saying: “How insulting to other African-Americans. What African-American man have we shown to be lazy? None of them. Kwame (Jackson) almost won the whole thing.”
CAST: Will Smith, currently riding high on Hitch, and director Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) are set to make Tonight He Comes, about a superhero with wayward ways, says the Hollywood Reporter. Smoking and drinking, the “hero” finds redemption in the arms of a married woman. In other news of Smith, 36, Billboard reports that his new album, Lost and Found (to be released March 29), will feature Snoop Dogg, Mary J Blige and Timbaland.
RETIRED: George Michael said farewell to the world of pop music on Wednesday at the Berlin Film Festival, following a screening of a candid documentary about him, George Michael: A Different Story. “(Pop music) is just dead as far as I am concerned,” the singer, 41, tells Reuters, adding: “I have got to find ways to make music and enjoy it the way I used to. … Perhaps it will mean writing for other people. I have an ambition to write a truly contemporary musical, not necessarily even for the stage, but for the screen.”
RELEASED: Singer Billy Joel, 55, was released from an undisclosed New York hospital Saturday after being treated for stomach pain, says his publicist, Claire Mercuri. He reportedly had checked himself in for tests after suffering severe stomach pains.
ADDED: The roster of presenters at the 77th annual Oscar ceremony on Feb. 27 now includes latest additions Drew Barrymore, Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced. Chris Rock will host the show, which will air on ABC. Previously announced presenters include Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry, Martin Scorsese, Robin Williams and Penelope Cruz.
SCHEDULED: Although HBO’s Mob hit The Sopranos will not return for its sixth, and presumably final, season until next year, the fifth-season DVD collection has had its release date moved up, to June 7, in anticipation of Father’s Day sales. New York’s Daily News also reports that the pay-cable network is planning a “super-premium collector’s edition” of the late series Sex and the City for Christmas 2005.
UPDATED: Proving that nothing is sacred, Warner Bros. has unveiled a new look for six of its classic Loony Tunes stars: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, the Tasmanian Devil and Bugs’s squeeze Lola Bunny. Gone are their soft edges, replaced by angular features and spiky claws as well as super powers. These will be put to use in the new fall Saturday morning TV show Loonatics, on the WB network. “This is a kids show intended for kids today who are growing up in the Internet age … of technology (and) hip, cool animation,” Warner Bros. animation president Sander Schwartz tells the New York Post. Th-th-that’s all folks!