WELCOME MATT: NBC offered an advance screening of the entire pilot episode of Joey to advertisers and TV journalists on Monday – and the crowd laughed plenty of times, while several critics chimed in with their positive reactions. Joey, of course, stars Matt LeBlanc reprising his Friends role as the big-hearted, if empty-headed aspiring actor Joey Tribbiani. Clearly, the network believes in Joey. The only time in recent memory that entire pilots were previewed was for The Cosby Show and The Golden Girls.
WHITNEY’S WILL: Whitney Houston, 40, will embark on a European concert tour this summer with Natalie Cole and Houston’s cousin Dionne Warwick, 63. “It starts in Germany in July,” Cole, 54, told Access Hollywood. She also said Houston is on the road to recovery after beginning treatment at a drug rehab center in March. “She’s doing really great. She’s a strong woman, and she has a great desire to really get healthy and get well, so I’m just really happy for her.”
RAY RUNS: CBS announced that it has closed the deal to keep its top-rated comedy, Everybody Loves Raymond, for a ninth (albeit final) season this fall. Series star Ray Romano, 46, is the highest-paid sitcom star on TV, reportedly earning between $1.7 million and $2 million per episode this past season. “Our decision had nothing to do with money for Ray or me,” series creator and executive producer Phil Rosenthal said. “Emotionally, we never want the show to end, but everything must.”
JIMMY JOLTS: During last weekend’s Saturday Night Live season finale (hosted by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen), Jimmy Fallon, 29, signed off from his Weekend Update anchor chair with a surprise announcement: “This is my last show. Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow.” Fallon, who had been with the series since 1998, had a contract that expired, said reports. He will next be seen in the movie Taxi, costarring Queen Latifah and due later this year.
ROY ROARS: Roy Horn made his first public appearance since his October 2003 mauling by a tiger, appearing via satellite at NBC’s presentation of its fall lineup. Horn, 59, sported eyeglasses and a short haircut and didn’t move his left arm during the interview, in which he discussed the new computer-animated series Father of the Pride – about the lions he once performed with. Afterwards, Conan O’Brien, live on stage, told the crowd: “He’s been horribly mauled – let’s make a show about it! … He might die! … We know! … If that show works, they’re going to make another show – about Billy Joel’s car!”