May 20, 2005 08:20 AM

HIRED: Fresh from his exit this week from FOX’s That ’70s Show after a seven-year run, Topher Grace, 26, has lined up his next gig, as a villain in Spider-Man 3 with series stars Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco and the previously announced cast addition, Sideways Oscar nominee Thomas Haden Church. The movie is due for release on May 4, 2007, says the Hollywood Reporter. In other comic-book news, TV’s Frasier star Kelsey Grammer, 50, will play Beast, a giant blue-furred creature, in X-Men 3, reports Variety. That movie is due to open next May.

NARROWED: Bad news for Katie Couric and Matt Lauer, good for Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson and, apparently, a major shift in the nation’s morning viewing habits. The ratings gap between the two morning shows, NBC’s Today (the perennial No. 1) and ABC’s Good Morning America has narrowed to its slimmest margin since 1995, according to Nielsen Media Research. Today averaged 5.64 million viewers last week, with GMA at 5.60 million – a difference of only 40,000 viewers. Today, which is NBC’s most-profitable show, has won the ratings race for 492 consecutive weeks, an unparalleled record of dominance.

BARRED: CNN interviewer Larry King, called as a defense witness in the Michael Jackson child-molestation case on Thursday, was quizzed on the stand without the jury present and was later sent home without testifying. King, 71, said that the lawyer representing the mother of Jackson’s young accuser said the woman was “wacko” and “in it for the money,” reports The New York Times. Judge Rodney S. Melville called King’s testimony “hearsay.”

ADMITTED: In the paperback edition of My Life, former President Bill Clinton acknowledges that his 957-page hardcover memoir may have been too long and reveals the visions he had under the influence of anesthesia for his heart surgery last September, reports the Associated Press. “At first I saw a series of dark faces, like death masks, flying toward me and being crushed,” writes Clinton, whose paperback comes out May 31. “Then I saw circles of light with the faces of Hillary, Chelsea, and others I cared about flying toward me, then away into a bright, sun-like source.” As for the book’s girth: “Most people thought it was too long – a fair criticism. Thomas Jefferson once said that if he had had more time he could have written shorter letters,” writes Clinton, whose afterword helps make the trade paperback even longer, 969 pages.

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