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Producer With a Purpose

September 6, 2004 12:00 AM

Actor and producer Drew Barrymore is best known for her work in feature films, but this political season, Ms. Barrymore feels so strongly about the need for young people to vote that she is taking her new documentary to cable television. MTV has bought the 43-minute film, "The Best Place to Start" (working title), an unscripted look at the current political system. In the documentary, Ms. Barrymore interviews people ranging from former Democratic presidential hopeful Gen. Wesley Clark to Sen. Hillary Clinton to "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart. Made with her own money outside the auspices of her feature production company Flower Films, "Best Place" was shot over several months at the beginning of 2004. The film, which MTV plans to air Sept. 21, is designed to encourage young voters to get involved in politics and, most of all, to vote. Imagine the action on Election Day if everyone who went to see "Charlie's Angels" went to the polls.

-Christopher Lisotta

Not a Fine Day

Who is championing the sternest crackdown on indecency at the Federal Communications Commission? Some Republican ultraconservative? No, this week's winner is Democratic Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, who thinks $550,000 in fines for Janet Jackson's Super Bowl breast flash (TelevisionWeek, Aug. 23) isn't hefty enough. The Republican-dominated FCC is expected to announce as soon as this week fines of $27,500 for each of the network's 20 owned-and-operated TV stations. Mr. Adelstein, according to a well-placed agency source, thinks penalties should be extended to all of CBS's 219 affiliates to establish a credible deterrent. He believes "It would be totally inadequate to levy a fine [$550,000] that comes to only a few seconds of Super Bowl ad time," said the source, who added that Mr. Adelstein will officially register his views with a partial dissent from the majority's decision. CBS, meanwhile, is still expected to appeal the fines, which it contends are unfair, since the network didn't plan or want the "wardrobe malfunction."

-Doug Halonen

Advertisers 'Fired' Up

DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group reportedly declined to renew its sponsorship of NBC's hit reality show "The Apprentice" for a second season after being asked to buy a product placement and ad package worth $25 million. Now a number of major brands have made buys but not at the level the network and producer Mark Burnett initially sought. Media executives said P&G and Visa USA will spend $10 million to $12 million each. For that, advertisers get one or two spots in each hour-long episode. PepsiCo is spending far less, some $3 million to $4 million, according to sources. Companies doing placements in the first of two editions of "The Apprentice" scheduled to run in the 2004-05 broadcast season, starting with the premiere Sept. 9, include Procter & Gamble's Crest brand, Mattel, PepsiCo, Visa USA, Levi Strauss & Co., Cunard Line Ltd., Mars and Delta Air Lines. Spokesmen for Visa USA and Pepsi declined comment. Calls to P&G and Mr. Burnett's company were not returned by press time. An NBC spokeswoman would not confirm ad buy details.

-Wayne Friedman

Next: Spitballs at 20 Paces?

Talk about playing "Hardball." MSNBC talk host Chris Matthews' coverage of the Republican National Convention began with a physical attack and ended with a U.S. senator challenging him to a duel. It made us Blink, but Mr. Matthews seemed bemused by it all late last week. It started Aug. 31, during a live TV interview in a public park in New York, when a man in a black hood (like those U.S. forces used on Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison) flung himself on Mr. Matthews, chanting, "Remember Abu Ghraib." Security quickly pulled the man away, and Mr. Matthews recovered in time to invite viewers back after a break to MSNBC, "Where all the action is." "Who knows what danger that guy posed?" Mr. Matthews said later. "He was definitely looking for a quick `Shock and Awe' of his own." Then on Sept. 1, Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.), following his keynote speech at the GOP gathering, took offense when Mr. Matthews questioned some of his comments about Sen. John Kerry's record on defense. "I challenged him [about his comment]," said Mr. Matthews, "that Sen. Kerry was offering to build all of the U.S. defense posture with spitballs." The senator became so angry he retorted: "I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel." Mr. Matthews later called Sen. Miller's behavior "bizarre," then noted that the next day the senator said he had planned the confrontation. "He said things on [the Don Imus radio show] the next morning that he's been planning to do this, or get me, because of something I had done in an earlier interview I had with somebody. He had been planning this. Kind of odd to admit it." A call to Sen. Miller's office for comment wasn't returned by press time.

-Alex Ben Block