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Diane Sawyer takes over ABC newscast

December 22, 2009

Sawyer starts on 'News'

Diane Sawyer was all business on a busy first day Monday as anchor of ABC News' flagship evening newscast, save for a brief salute at the end to Charles Gibson, whose retirement opened the job for her.

"For you, Charlie Gibson, I hope you had a good day and a great night," Sawyer said, a reference to Gibson's usual sign-off.

The centerpiece of the opening broadcast was Sawyer's interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, conducted over the weekend. Sawyer confronted Ahmadinejad on a supposed "smoking gun" document that tied Iran to the development of nuclear weapons. The president, who referred to Sawyer as "respectable lady," said the document was a fabrication.

ABC has deliberately downplayed the transition on "World News." Some of the minor changes promised by ABC executives, including the show's first update of on-air graphics in five years, were evident.

No mention was made that it was Sawyer's first night on the job. Her greeting: "Good evening and it is so good to be here with you tonight."

-- associated press The janitor may be your boss

The new CBS reality series "Undercover Boss" will make its debut in one of the most coveted time slots on television: right after the Super Bowl on Feb. 7.

The series follows corporate executives who slip anonymously into low-rung jobs in their companies. The first episode features the head of Waste Management as he cleans portable toilets and sifts through waste at a landfill.

The show will air on Sundays, replacing the drama "Three Rivers."

-- associated press Nefertiti's bust causes a row

Egypt will demand the return of Queen Nefertiti's bust from Germany because the diary of the archaeologist who discovered it shows that he misled authorities when it was transferred abroad, the antiquities authority said.

The diary of Ludwig Borchardt, who discovered the head in 1912, shows that he knew that the 3,400-year-old limestone bust was of Queen Nefertiti but listed it as a "painted plaster bust of a princess," the Cairo-based Supreme Council of Authority said.

German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann has said that his country's procurement of the bust was lawful and that Egypt had no grounds to demand its return. Germany refused to lend the statue to Egypt in 2007, citing its fragility.

-- bloomberg news 'Roses' subs for 'Plow' at Taper

The much-anticipated revival of David Mamet's "Speed-the-Plow" at the Mark Taper Forum has been officially taken off the schedule for the 2010 season.

Center Theatre Group had originally announced that "Speed-the-Plow" was to open the Taper's 2010 season in February. Instead, the company said Monday that a revival of Frank D. Gilroy's "The Subject Was Roses," starring Martin Sheen, Frances Conroy and Brian Geraghty, will take its place. Geraghty played a member of a military team charged with defusing explosives in the critically praised film "The Hurt Locker."

Michael Ritchie, the artistic director of Center Theatre Group, said that "Speed-the-Plow" is "probably postponed" and that the company has made no official decision yet.

When asked why "Speed-the-Plow" was pulled at such a late date, Ritchie replied: "The reason is because the opportunity to do 'The Subject Was Roses' with Martin Sheen came up."

Neil Pepe, who was slated to direct "Speed-the-Plow," will stay on to direct "The Subject Was Roses," which will open Feb. 21.

Sheen's history with Gilroy's play dates to the beginning of the actor's career. He played the role of the son in the 1964 Broadway production of the play, for which he received a Tony nomination. He also starred in the Oscar-winning 1968 film version of the drama.

For the Taper revival, Sheen will play the role of the father while Conroy will play his wife. Geraghty will play the son, a soldier who has just returned home from World War II and must contend with his parents' smothering attention.

-- David Ng Finally

Early renewal: "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" doesn't premiere for another month, but executives at the Starz channel said Monday that they have ordered a second season of 13 episodes.

Tops at auction: A chalk drawing by the Renaissance painter Raphael that sold in London this month for $47.5 million topped auction sales in 2009, beating a Matisse still-life of cowslips that made an artist record of $45.6 million.

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