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Chris Cuomo defects to CNN in wakeup call at the news channel

Chris Cuomo is leaving ABC for CNN. | AP Photo

Chris Cuomo is leaving ABC for CNN. | AP Photo

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Updated: March 2, 2013 6:49AM

Television guru Jeff Zucker, now the big boss at CNN, is wasting no time putting his stamp on the worldwide cable news network that long has struggled with sinking viewership.

In a big “get,” Zucker has lured ABC mainstay Chris Cuomo to jump to CNN — reportedly planning to team the younger brother of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo with CNN’s Erin Burnett as co-anchors of a new morning show.

Burnett has been hosting her own prime-time program on CNN, “OutFront,” since making the move from CNBC in 2011. It’s unknown who would take over the 6 p.m. slot to replace Burnett, who frankly has made little ratings impact, a malaise that is a constant on most of CNN’s evening shows.

While NBC spokesfolks continue to diss reports that ex-NBC honcho Zucker is actively working to get Ann Curry out of her multi-year contract with the peacock network, rumors continue to fly about that likelihood in the wake of Curry’s embarrassing ouster from the “Today” co-anchor slot last summer.

In other CNN shifts, longtime political contributors and married couple Mary Matalin and James Carville are out, and ditto for conservative commentator Erick Erickson of, who is moving on to Fox News Channel.

As all these changes swirl around, sources at CNN are speculating about the futures of other network news stars including the often controversial talk show host Piers Morgan, “The Situation Room” mainstay Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper, whose syndicated daytime talk show will not be back for a third season.

“Any high-profile CNN personality who is not pulling the numbers Jeff thinks they should could be in trouble,” said a longtime network exec. “Everyone here is on notice these days.”

50 CENT’S TAKE: It makes no sense. Translation: 50 Cent is dissing rapper Rick Ross, saying he suspects the apparent drive-by shooting leading Ross to crash his Rolls-Royce early Monday was “staged.”

The two rappers have long feuded, and Fitty tweeted late Monday, “Hahaha fat boy hit the building? LOL. It looks staged to me. No hole’s in da car.”

Ross has yet to respond.

REALITY RUMBLING: Bolingbrook-based Ulta Beauty firm is teaming up with Oxygen Media for a new modeling competition called “The Face.” Launching on Oxygen Feb. 12, the show will feature Ulta’s PR director and well-known Chicago personality Carrie Lannon and the firm’s trend development director, Molly Sloat.

Supermodel coaches Naomi Campbell, Karolina Kurkova and Coco Rocha will be joined by host Nigel Barker as aspiring models vie to become the face of Ulta Beauty.

BABY BEAT: Almost right after Alec Baldwin and his new wife Hilaria married last year, reports emerged that the couple are expecting their first child. The latest arose in an InTouch story Tuesday, quoting a source claiming a baby is on the way. In a two-part Twitter comment, Baldwin’s publicist Matthew Hiltzik wrote, “Our response to baby speculation over the past 18 months has remained the same — when/if @abfalecbaldwin and @Hilariabaldwin have news they want to share, they will share it. Until then, we have no comment.”

SHOWTIME! There’s an interesting new project planned by Gore Verbinski. reports the veteran filmmaker will direct and produce “Pyongyang,” a movie that’s described as a dark comedic tale, based on a graphic novel about a young animator sent to North Korea and accused of espionage. Chicago’s own Steve Conrad (“The Pursuit of Happyness”) will pen the screenplay.

† As we learn details about all the violence behind the scenes at the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, it’s intriguing that Starz is developing a drama series about a prestigious New York ballet company riddled with intrigue and dysfunction. Interestingly, the project’s producing team includes Kevin Brown, a guy with strong connections to the world of ballet. His family is made up almost entirely of former ballet dancers — the basis for a 1977 feature, the multi-Oscar nominated “The Turning Point.”

STAGE SET: Three-time Emmy winner Charles “Roc” Dutton will bring his critically acclaimed, autobiographical, one-man play “From Jail to Yale: Serving Time on Stage” to Chicago for the first time in two performances only — slated for the University of Chicago’s Logan Center, Feb. 20 and 21.

The two performances will benefit the Chicago Youth Leadership Academy, a program that exposes youth from high-risk neighborhoods to college life through a collaborative effort of the Chicago Police Department’s 3rd and 7th districts and the university’s Office of Civic Engagement.

The Dutton play relates the story of the actor’s journey from prison in Baltimore to the Yale University Drama School — and ultimately to theatrical and television success.

BIRTHDAY BIT: In case you didn’t know, the Lyric Opera’s Sir Andrew Davis has something in common with that popular “Groundhog Day” animal personality “Punxsutawney Phil.” Turns out Feb. 2 is also Sir Andrew’s birthday, and the Lyric’s music director will likely spend it prepping for the Feb. 8 opening of “Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg,” shepherding 17 principal singers, a supersized chorus of 100 (instead of the usual 48) and a 81-person orchestra in presenting Richard Wagner’s only comedy — happily an opera where nobody dies!

SEEN ON THE SCENE: The Bulls’ Taj Gibson and (separately) Joakim Noah were seen dining at Japonais. … Fighters Ryan Bader and Jon Bones Jones — also separately — made the scene at Bull & Bear the other night. … Checking out Del Frisco’s, Our Town’s latest upscale steakery in the old Esquire Theatre site, have been Billy Zane, Patrick Kane and the Charlotte Bobcats’ Brendan Haywood.

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