IS THE world ready for "Extreme Makeover: Pope Edition"?
Or would it be more "Queer Eye for the Papal Guy"?
Franco Zeffirelli hopes so.
The 84-year-old filmmaker ("Romeo and Juliet") and opera director, would like to make over what he called Pope Benedict XVI's "cold" image and his "showy" clothes, the Turin daily La Stampa reported Saturday.
Coming after the media-savvy Pope John Paul II, "Benedict XVI still has a cold way of communicating, little suited to what is happening around him," Zeffirelli said in La Stampa.
"Even his wardrobe needs to be revised," he added. "These are not times of high-tailored church wear." Instead, his vestments should reflect "sobriety," the director said. "The papal vestments have been done over to be too sumptuous and showy."
Whoa. If Franco Zeffirelli is complaining you're too showy . . .
John Paul II, often spontaneous and sometimes outdoorsy, had little use for fancy papal attire. But Benedict has taken to wearing some eye-stopping outfits in his public appearances, including a red velvet cape trimmed with ermine, a fur-trimmed stocking cap that some first mistook for a Santa Claus hat, and bright red Prada loafers.
Zeffirelli, who has directed ceremonies at the Vatican, even though he is openly gay and has often received criticism from religious leaders for his so-called blasphemous take on Biblical stories, sounded eager to be an image consultant for Benedict.
"If they give me an official supervisory role, I would dedicate myself to it full time," Zeffirelli said. "There is a great need for it."
Writers strike update
Faced with the indefinite suspension of negotiations, the union representing striking Hollywood writers told its members Saturday it would try to deal directly with Hollywood studios and production companies and bypass the umbrella organization been representing them.
Talks broke off Dec. 7 after the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which reps the studios, insisted it would not bargain further unless the Writers Guild of America dropped proposals that included the authority to unionize writers on reality shows and animation projects.
(The key issue remains compensation for content streamed or downloaded over the Internet.)
While the guild still hoped the AMPTP would return to the bargaining table, the union added it had decided to approach production companies individually and would begin doing so today.
"We want to do everything in our power to move negotiations forward and end this devastating strike," the guild said in a letter signed by chief negotiator John Bowman and others.
One independent company, David Letterman's Worldwide Pants, indicated it was willing to negotiate individually.
Letterman and show executive producer Rob Burnett are both members of the WGA.
"Worldwide Pants has always been a writer-friendly company," Burnett said in a statement.
World Entertainment News Network reports Will Smith isn't merely the world's No. 1 box office star, he's also saving the world's environment one toilet paper square at a time.
Flush with cash, Smith has purchased several state-of-the-art commodes from Japan, which eliminate the need for toilet paper by spraying behinds with blasts of air and water.
"It's a gift from heaven, believe me," said Smith.
"People think it's all about suction and that they're going to have their insides removed by this marvel of modern engineering - but it doesn't suck, it blows.
"Not everyone can handle this thing emotionally," Smith added, "so I've made sure I also have a few normal toilets in my house."
* "Entourage" star Adrian Grenier, a native Brooklynite, returned home Friday with his mother and uncle to volunteer at Neighbors Together Soup Kitchen in the Brownsville section of the borough.
"It's so important to give back during the holidays and throughout the year, and I wanted to do my part by helping people here in Brooklyn," Grenier said in a statement. "It isn't right that millions of families suffer from hunger and worry about getting their next meal. We all need to help in whatever way we can."
Kevin Bacon participated in a similar event this month. "I was shocked to see so many empty shelves in the Food Bank for New York City," he said.
* "Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek plans to spend the holidays at home with his family as he recovers from a heart attack.
"I'm truly overwhelmed by the great show of support and compassion expressed in the past few days to me, my family and my co-workers," Trebek said Saturday after his release from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in a statement relayed by "Jeopardy" publicist Jeff Ritter.
"Even though I know 'Jeopardy' is a very popular program, I was still surprised at the number of people who took time from their schedules to call or send a note of encouragement," Trebek said.
* UsMagazine.com reports that Jessica Simpson's latest big-screen attempt, "Blonde Ambition," is strictly small screen, and will be released direct- to-DVD on Jan. 22.
Jess seems to be as big a curse to movies as she is to Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks.
Wherefore art thou Romo?
* Larry Marino's national Talk Radio Network call-in show tackled the Geno's Steaks "Speak English" situation yesterday and after a half hour of calls and numerous repetitions, Joey Vento should be happy to know he now owns a shop that sells . . .
* Celine Dion received 11 standing ovations yesterday as she finished her Las Vegas run.
Amazingly, she held the same note through all eleven. *
Daily News staffer David Preston, wire services and Baird Jones contributed to this report.
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