It's a family-TV Friday night (slim pickin's for grown-ups). The Disney Channel offers the film "Buffalo Dreams" (8 p.m. EST), about two mountain-biking teenage boys from different backgrounds (one's a Native American) who forge a friendship, and A&E brings you "Stars on Ice 2005" (9 p.m. EST).
Poor Michael ... literally? An alternative explanation for Michael Jackson's back problem, which resulted in him shuffling into court late and in his pajamas Thursday, the day his young accuser took the stand to detail the lewd acts he says Jackson performed on him? A deep psychic pain brought on by incipient poverty. Several sources have told Fox News gossip Roger Friedman that Jackson is borderline suicidal after learning that he's so low on ready cash, he can't even pay his Neverland staffers, many of whom are expected to walk off the job soon. Some staffers, not having been paid in two weeks, are said to have already left. Jackson was reportedly fully informed of the dire state of his finances on Wednesday night, just hours before he told his lawyers he'd tripped and injured his back while dressing. Said one source, "Michael is most terrified of people thinking he's broke. And now there's proof of it." Good thing he made it into court in time to hold onto that $3 million bail. Tina Brown, on the other hand, thinks Jackson's antics -- all his strange behavior over the years -- may be part of a big publicity stunt, that he's really quite sane and deeply savvy, and wonders, "What if the whole persona is a scam under the heading of The Emperor's New Nose?" (Fox News, CNN, N.Y. Post, Washington Post)
Martha's millions ... er, billion: Martha Stewart may have been fitted with the lightweight electronic ankle bracelet that will allow the court to track her whereabouts during her five months of house arrest Thursday, but she might also want to buy herself a showier sort of bauble to celebrate her inclusion, for the first time ever, on Forbes magazine's annual list of billionaires. Stewart's spot on the list, which tallies the net worth of the world's wealthiest as of Feb. 11, reflects the ascent of her stock during her five months of incarceration in Alderson, W.Va. Since her release from prison, her company's stock has sunk 25 percent, and thus her own net worth has decreased. "Her stock started to rise phenomenally while she was in jail," the list's editor, Luisa Kroll, commented. "Today, she's probably worth closer to $800 million ... Maybe she should go back into prison. She seems to have been doing better there." Click here to check out the Forbes billionaire list. (Forbes, N.Y. Post, N.Y. Daily News)
Dark force: Will the next "Star Wars" installment be too harsh for the kiddies? George Lucas tells "60 Minutes" that "Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith," due in May, which includes Anakin Skywalker's transformation into Darth Vader, "is much more dark ... more emotional" than previous "Star Wars" films. Also, he says, the film, which may get a PG-13 rating, "ends in hell." "I don't think I would take a 5- or 6-year-old to this," Lucas says. "It's way too strong." (N.Y. Daily News)
Also: Jon Stewart had to bail his wife, veterinary technician Tracey McShane, out of jail Thursday, after she was arrested in New York for driving with a suspended license. According to the "Daily Show" host's spokesman, "She wasn't speeding. But the police discovered that she had a suspended license. She didn't even realize it. She paid a ticket last week. But apparently her check hadn't been processed." (Rush and Molloy) ... Alan Cumming and Neve Campbell, stars of the new remake of "Reefer Madness," are seen toking up in the May issue of High Times -- and they weren't just faking it for the cameras. A rep for the magazine insists, "They were definitely smoking pot." (Rush and Molloy) ... Boy George has alienated not just Madonna but also Rosie O'Donnell and Elton John by dissing them in an interview in the London Times. Madonna's rep was moved to wonder, "Does he ever have anything nice to say about anyone?" (Page Six) ... Flacks for both Bruce Willis and Lindsay Lohan deny that they had anything more than a "purely professional" conversation at a party after the opening of his new movie, "Hostage." (Page Six) ... Tara Reid is suing Sky Las Vegas Condominiums Inc. to stop it from using an ad referring to her inadvertent breast flash at P.Diddy's birthday party in November. She says the ad, which appeared in Vegas magazine and carried the caption "Dear Tara Reid, Come Let It All Hang Out," "caused her humiliation, embarrassment, hurt feelings, mental anguish and suffering." (Reuters) ... Frank Rich is moving back to the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times. (N.Y. Times) ... Paris Hilton has filed to trademark the phrase "That's Hot" to use on "clothing accessories; handbags; backpacks; lunchboxes; umbrellas; shoelaces; badges; patches; artificial flowers; hair ornaments and accessory kits containing hair ornaments; ornamental novelty pins; ornamental novelty buttons; jewelry boxes; picture frames; mirrors; hair grooming accessories; combs; brushes," as well as "temporary tattoos; trading cards; checkbook covers; pens; pencils; pencil sharpeners; erasers; coasters; postcards; autograph books; binders; school and office supplies" and lots and lots of other things, too. (USTPO via Verbose Coma)
-- Amy Reiter