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The time has come for Koppel to say night-night

Ted  Koppel
 (The Spokesman-Review)
Ted Koppel (The Spokesman-Review)

“Nightline” anchor Ted Koppel said Thursday he will leave ABC when his contract expires at the end of the year.

His departure comes at a time of questions about the future of the late-night news program, which has been declining in the ratings.

“Ted and I have discussed a number of options under which he might have remained at ‘Nightline’ or in some other capacity at ABC News, but Ted believes this is the right time for him to leave,” ABC News President David Westin said.

“Nightline,” which grew out of Koppel’s nightly reports on the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, formally launched in March 1980. The show is known for the depth with which it covers stories.

The broadcast’s longtime executive producer, Tom Bettag, will also leave ABC News at year’s end. He and Koppel, 65, plan to team up on future projects.

“This is exactly the opposite of Ted retiring,” Bettag said.

He’ll still make a few house calls

Noah Wyle, the only “ER” star to stay with the NBC drama for its 11-year run, will leave in May but return for four episodes in each of the next two seasons.

Wyle, a five-time Emmy nominee, said last fall that he planned to leave when his contract expired at the end of the season, but left the door open for future appearances.

His character, Dr. John Carter, will say his goodbye to colleagues at Chicago’s County General Hospital in the season finale May 19. One week earlier, Carter will reunite with his true love, Kem (Thandie Newton), in Paris.

Not-so-Fonda memories

Jane Fonda says her 1972 visit to a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun site – an incident that brought her the nickname “Hanoi Jane” – was a “betrayal” of American forces and of the “country that gave me privilege.”

“The image of Jane Fonda, ‘Barbarella,’ Henry Fonda‘s daughter … sitting on an enemy aircraft gun was a betrayal … the largest lapse of judgment that I can even imagine,” she tells “60 Minutes.”

But Fonda, whose memoir “Jane Fonda: My Life So Far” comes out next week, said she did not regret meeting with American POWs in North Vietnam or making broadcasts on Radio Hanoi.

“Our government was lying to us and men were dying because of it, and I felt I had to do anything that I could to expose the lies and help end the war,” she said.

Yeah, he’s really psyched

“American Psycho” star Christian Bale is celebrating after his wife gave birth to his first daughter Sunday night.

The star of the upcoming “Batman Begins” had tried to keep his wife’s pregnancy secret. But after the delivery, says a family friend, “He was telling everyone at the hospital about his new little girl.”

People who live in crass houses …

Tired of tabloid speculation that she’s pregnant, Britney Spears is lashing out on her Web site.

“Do you, Us Weekly, In Touch, Star and other desperate magazines, want employees who are honest, or those who are liars?” writes Spears.

“I’d like them to ask themselves the question, ‘What am I lying to myself about?’ Is it that you are 50 pounds overweight? Is it that your children aren’t making wise decisions? Or is it maybe that your husband or boyfriend is cheating on you?”

The birthday bunch

Actress Debbie Reynolds is 73. Actress Ali MacGraw is 67. Reggae singer Jimmy Cliff is 57. Jazz keyboardist Gil Scott-Heron is 56. Filmmakers Albert and Allen Hughes are 33. Actor Sam Huntington (“Jungle 2 Jungle”) is 23.


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