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.



Something to Bitch About

December 13, 2004 12:00 AM

In his musical tribute to honoree Sir Elton John during taping of the 27th Annual Kennedy Center Awards last week, Billy Joel did a rendition of Mr. John's classic song "The Bitch Is Back." However, it is unlikely that you will see that performance when CBS airs the annual honors Dec. 21. Things are a bit sensitive these days in the wake of Federal Communications Commission fines for so-called indecent programming. CBS parent Viacom recently agreed to pay a $3.5 million fine for several incidents and is still challenging a $550,00 fine levied for Janet Jackson's Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction." A CBS spokesman huffed that the network prefers to talk about the brilliance of this year's Kennedy Center honorees, who include (besides Sir Elton) Warren Beatty, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Dame Joan Sutherland and John Williams. CBS declined to comment on whether Mr. Joel's version of "The Bitch" would be included-the producers are still editing the show for content and to fit time constraints-but Blink wouldn't count on it.


TV, Not Rx

Who says TV isn't educational? On Thanksgiving Day, 15-year-old Raynita Anderson helped save the life of a newborn baby in the back of a minivan using skills learned from watching Discovery Health Channel. Ms. Anderson had just witnessed her mother's friend give birth on the way to St. John's Riverside Hospital in Yonkers, N.Y. But the umbilical cord was wrapped around the neck of the baby, who wasn't able to breathe. Luckily, Ms. Anderson's favorite show is "Babies: Special Delivery," which once featured a similar scenario. She expertly unwrapped the cord and used her shoelaces to tie it off. On the "Fox News Live" morning show, series producer LMNO Productions awarded Ms. Anderson $1,500 for her quick thinking (and presumably the great press).


The Week That Was

Things have changed in the 57 years that Arvid "Swede" Nelson has worked at station WEEK-TV in Peoria, Ill. For one thing, it was a radio station when he started. Now it broadcasts in high definition, which Mr. Nelson called "the biggest thing," along with the arrival of color. Mr. Nelson, 80, is retiring at the end of this month from his post as master control operator. (WEEK's other master control operator, Bob Swadener, is also in his 80s.) Mr. Nelson has seen a lot since he joined the station as an engineer. He's known almost everyone who has worked there. "He's not the traditional curmudgeon engineer. He comes in early and walks the halls. He has a couple of jokes to tell. So everyone knows him," said General Manager Mark DeSantis. When the station had its anniversary two years ago, Mr. Nelson was at the door, greeting folks.

Working at WEEK, Mr. Nelson met famous people. He was the audio man when President Eisenhower came for a speech, and he ran the camera when President Reagan came to town. Mr. Nelson said President Reagan "was very impressive. Once through his copy and he was ready to go."

Mr. Nelson decided to hang it up because he figures it's only a matter of time before the master control job gets automated. He'll stay in Peoria with his wife of 37 years. After years of watching only NBC shows during his 4:30 p.m.-to-12:30 a.m. shift, he's looking forward to seeing what other networks have to offer. He'll also indulge hobbies, which include amateur radio, photography and music. "I've got a thousand things I want to do."