TelevisionWeek's Blink page is an industry must-read, taking a sardonic look at happenings across the television business. This wry coverage is extended online and updated throughout the week.



August 2004 Archives

Hard Roll for the Dice

August 30, 2004 12:00 AM

"Hickory, dickory, dock/The Diceman is in for a shock/His reality-show plan/ Mistress, wife and rude, crude man/In cable land hasn't a shot."

Foul-mouthed comic Andrew Dice Clay wants to revive his career by starring in a reality show featuring his wife, his kids and his mistress, according to New York Daily News gossips Rush & Molloy. But so far, his efforts appear to be coming up snake eyes. TVWeek did a nonscientific poll of the usual and not-so-usual suspects in the cable realm and interest in Dice was minimal. Reasons include his way-low profile, his paucity of Ozzy Osbourne-style cuddly-geezer qualities and the difficulty of packaging the Diceman's swinging idea of married life in the era of "The Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica." Even the networks that only now are seeing the wisdom in aiming high and seeking the next version of poker, not poke-her, say: "He's not the right flavor for us." "Misogyny," sniffed an exec at a cable net that has developed hits, "is not cool."

-Michele Greppi

House Race Revs Up

Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., who serves on the House telecommunications subcommittee and is known by industry representatives for his expertise on copyright issues, is said to be in a an uncomfortably tight re-election fight this year, against Republican Kevin Triplett, a former NASCAR executive. Rep. Boucher, who has amassed a campaign war chest that's more than twice as large as his opponent's, told TVWeek he doesn't feel threatened. "We do not view this as a serious race," said Rep. Boucher. An industry source warned, however, that "NASCAR is bigger than copyright in Abingdon," one of the larger towns in Rep. Boucher's largely rural Virginia district. "[Mr. Triplett] could give him a real race," the source said. n

-Doug Halonen

Macho Men Show a Feminine Side

These ladies are actually macho men who thought they were entering a competition to find the all-American man, based on physical challenges. Instead, they're starring in "He's a Lady," a new reality series premiering Oct. 12 on TBS that requires they be made over as women for a chance to win $250,000. Over six episodes competitors have their bodies shaved and must learn to wear a bra and be a supermodel and a bridesmaid and walk in women's shoes while living in a place called The Doll House. In reality, six are married and the others all have girlfriends, before whom they will be required to perform tasks while dressed in drag. It ends with a beauty pageant. Judges include Morgan Fairchild and John Salley. So is this "Straight Guys Learn to Cross-Dress"? "It's more of a fish-out-of-water theme," said a TBS spokesperson, who described it as more "Tootsie" than "The Birdcage."

-Alex Ben Block

Who's Not Suing Whom?

August 23, 2004 12:00 AM

The legal punch-out between boxing reality shows "The Contender" and "The Next Great Champ" will continue despite a judge's refusal to issue a temporary restraining order to stop Fox Broadcasting from airing "Champ" as scheduled Sept. 10. Fox was sued in California Superior Court along with Endemol USA and Lock & Key by "Contender" producers DreamWorks Television and Mark Burnett Productions. What is surprising is who isn't involved. The "Contender" faction didn't name Golden Boy Promotions, "Champ" host Oscar De La Hoya's company. And NBC didn't join with the "Contender" producers. In a statement, NBC said the lawsuit "raises serious issues" and praised the court's decision to set a hearing date. NBC has been publicly critical of "Champ," but considering Endemol USA produces the network's hit "Fear Factor," it's hardly surprising it isn't part of the suit. A DreamWorks spokesman said Golden Boy was left off because, "We focus on those who want to air the broadcast." It might also be that DreamWorks doesn't want to make unnecessary waves with popular boxer Mr. De La Hoya, who may have other projects in mind someday. Even in a tough fight, it's good to hold some punches.

--Christopher Lisotta

Interactive 'Millionaire'

Buena Vista's hit syndicated series "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," hosted by Meredith Vieira, is going the way of "Super Millionaire" and tinkering with its lifelines in hopes of replicating the success "Jeopardy!" found after its rule changes. For the new season, "Millionaire" is adding a fourth lifeline called Switch the Question, allowing contestants to skip a difficult question if they have already answered the first 10 (of 15). If used, that question is replaced. "We added an extra lifeline to give contestants further incentive to go for the higher dollar values on the show," explained executive producer Michael Davies, "ensuring more dramatic, high-stakes moments in the game." The even bigger news, per the producers, is what they are calling a "groundbreaking expansion" of the Ask the Audience lifeline. Contestants will now receive answers not only from the studio audience but also from millions of AOL Instant Messenger users (you don't have to be an AOL member to use its IM feature). Once the lifeline is triggered, an IM will go out to those who add the "MillionaireIM" screen name to their buddy list, so they will be able to answer in real time. This makes it the only syndie series incorporating a real-time interactive element.

--Chris Pursell

Nips and Tucks

Jillian Barberie and Dorothy Lucey have been replaced as Steve Edwards' sidekicks on Fox's national morning show "Good Day Live" by onetime "The View" gabber Debbie Matenopoulos and former "Extra" anchor Arthel Neville, but the unpredictable Ms. Barberie just keeps making us Blink. Two weeks ago she said on-air that her pal Pamela Anderson signed to appear on four episodes of the red-hot FX drama "Nip/Tuck." A flurry of phone calls later, spokespersons for FX and Ms. Anderson said the famously enhanced actress was "absolutely not" cast. Then last Thursday Ms. Barberie repeated her claim on the local show "Good Day L.A." Another flurry of calls ... and it's still not true. Why does Ms. Barberie keep announcing this phantom casting? A station rep wouldn't comment. Ms. Barberie's publicist said, "That's just Jillian. She says what she knows or hears." Even if it may not be true.

--James Hibberd

Win One for the Seniors

August 16, 2004 12:00 AM

When Doris Roberts was starting her career during the Golden Age of live television, she remembers, shows often included older sidekick characters who added comic relief. These days, she said sadly, TV usually caters to the young viewers advertisers covet by casting young characters. "Isn't that insane?" said Ms. Roberts, who plays Marie Barone on "Everybody Loves Raymond." "Yet in less than 20 years [the United States] will have the oldest population in the history of the world. People forget that." Not Ms. Roberts, who has testified before Congress about ageism in Hollywood. "Why should anyone tell us that because we are over 45 we're finished?" Ms. Roberts said. "Would you do that to Picasso or Einstein?" On Sept. 19, Ms. Roberts could win an impressive fourth Emmy in a row. If she does, she knows how she will dedicate her victory. "I think it makes a great statement against ageism," she said, "and that's why I want to win." "Raymond" will enter its final season this fall despite Ms. Roberts' pleas for the show to continue. "I'm really sad," she said. "I think it still has a lot of life." And so does the 70-something performer, who will also be seen in the upcoming indie films "Lucky 13" with Jami Gertz and "I Can See You.com" with Beau Bridges.

--Alex Ben Block

Mr. Insta-quote

The reality is that few in Hollywood feel free to talk about hot-button issues. It might anger a competitor, who next week could be a collaborator. Instead, a few fearless journalists and analysts are frequently quoted. One of the most popular for the past two decades has been Larry Gerbrandt. Then earlier this year his position at Kagan World Media was downsized out of existence. Now he has resurfaced as senior associate at AlixPartners, a global financial advisory firm involved in broadcast, broadband and multicasting. "The Holy Grail-converging the broadband connection with the TV-will find new life," Mr. Gerbrandt predicts, "with video delivered using IP over broadband to the next generation of flat-panel displays, laptops and plasma screens scattered throughout homes connected by high-speed wireless networks."

--Alex Ben Block

Will It Be NBC-USA Supremacy?

August 2, 2004 12:00 AM

"The Bourne Supremacy," a critical and box office hit starring Matt Damon, opened with an impressive $52.5 million in ticket sales its first three days. The movie may be a thriller full of twists and turns, but the destination of TV rights is hardly a mystery, if you listen to execs at some of the cable networks that ordinarily would be bidders. The film was released by Universal Pictures, now part of the NBC family along with USA Network, which already has the rights to "The Bourne Identity." "You do the math," said the head of acquisitions for one major cable network, insisting that the second movie would go to a combination of NBC and USA. Any deal would have to be done in a way to avoid claims of favoritism, since various rights holders besides the studio are involved. A USA spokesman said the network had not bought the film as of press time. "There's no deal yet," insisted a Universal spokesman. "We're talking to a lot of people."


Remembering Coach V

This picture of the late Jim Valvano dates back to his years as coach at North Carolina State, where his team won the national championship in 1983, one of its eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament during his 19 seasons as coach. He went on to work as a broadcaster for ESPN and ABC before contracting a form of cancer called metastatic adenocarcinoma, which claimed his life in 1993. In his final year he created the V Foundation for Cancer Research, which to date has raised more than $40 million. Now ESPN is holding its first-ever national fund-raiser so sports fans can support the fight against cancer. The kickoff is on ESPN's anniversary, Sept. 7, which is being designated as Show Your Spirit Day. Fans are asked to wear their favorite team apparel and donate to the cause. More info is available at www.jimmyv.org.


Life Imitating Art?

The timing couldn't have been stranger. Just days after Russell Simmon's appearance before TV critics to hype his new Court TV series "Hip Hop Justice," which examines whether law enforcement unjustly targets the hip-hop community, his wife, Kimora, was arrested in Saddle River, N.J., on charges of reckless driving, tailgating, having a broken taillight and possessing a small amount of pot. Mr. Simmons has been a vocal opponent of New York State's harsh drug laws regarding marijuana. He was at the Democratic convention when he learned of his wife's arrest.

The 46-year-old Def Jam founder told reporters that authorities went overboard by handcuffing his wife and taking her to jail. Mrs. Simmons is a former model who has a recurring role on UPN's "America's Next Top Model" and currently appears nearly nude on a Times Square advertising billboard. Could her bust become the subject of an upcoming episode? Mr. Simmons told AllHipHop.com that it is unlikely his family would be featured on the show under any circumstances.

However, look out law enforcement. Mr. Simmons' security cameras caught much of the incident on tape.