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February 2005 Archives

Desperate to See Whom in Bra and Panties?

February 28, 2005 12:00 AM

Desperate to See Whom in Bra and Panties?

That's Felicity Huffman putting her hand over Marc Cherry's mouth. He's the creator and exec producer of ABC's red-hot hit "Desperate Housewives," on which Ms. Huffman plays Lynette Scavo. They were among the featured panelists in a recent tribute to the show at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in North Hollywood, Calif. Ms. Huffman was asked by emcee Leeza Gibbons about Ms. Huffman's comment that it was nice to be the "least sexy" of the housewives. "Yeah, that's me," said Ms. Huffman, who is married to actor William H. Macy. That brought a quick retort from Marcia Cross, who said, "That's not true." Then Eva Longoria piped up: "Not true. She's going to be in panties and bra soon." Which caused Ms. Huffman to exclaim, "Oh, God," and Mr. Cherry to ask the audience: "Do you want her to have a nude scene?" That brought applause, cheers and Ms. Huffman's hand over his mouth as she addressed the audience: "I have to take a poll as well. Would you like to see Marc in bra and panties?" That brought laughter. She added: "I'll do it when he does it." Mr. Cherry cut in: "See, the difference here ..." Ms. Huffman cut in: "Is that I work for him." That made Mr. Cherry smile and say: "Yeah, there you go." --ALEX BEN BLOCK

Afterward Award

Now that the Golden Globe and Academy Awards are behind us, get ready for the Actors Hall of Fame, which wants to raise the bar for how performers' skills are recognized. A nonprofit based in New York, its mission is to honor actors and their craft in a more substantial way, said founder and Chairman Rusty Citron, a showbiz vet who has been a studio exec, producer and marketer. Mr. Citron recognizes this may be an odd time to launch more kudocasts. "Award shows' ratings," he acknowledged, "are not on the high end of the bell curve." But he wants to combat that trend. Mr. Citron hopes to televise annual induction ceremonies and develop a reality show and other series and specials around the concept. The first group of honorees, announced last year, included legends such as Fred Astaire, Lillian Gish and acting coach Constantine Stanislavski. The 2005 inductees, to be announced later this year, will be more contemporary. --CHARLEY DANIELS

Billion Laughs

"The Simpsons" writer Don Payne drew big laughs at the 57th Annual Writers Guild Awards in Hollywood, where he was honored for the episode "Fraudcast News," about a media mogul who uses his control over a powerful news outlet to promote his right-wing agenda. It was an obvious reference to Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp., which controls Fox Broadcasting, which airs "The Simpsons." Mr. Payne then added: "I want to thank Rupert Murdoch for not having me killed." That made us Blink, so we called for reaction. "`The Simpsons' writers and creators have often had fun at the expense of their corporate masters," responded Mr. Murdoch's spokesman. "As long as it makes good, entertaining television, it's never been a problem." He noted Mr. Murdoch voiced an episode in 1999 in which he referred to himself as a "billionaire tyrant." Mr. Murdoch's participation, the spokesman added, "shows the spirit in which he takes the show." --ALEX BEN BLOCK

Comcast Works Through Its Gridiron Envy

February 21, 2005 12:00 AM

Football is played mostly outdoors, right? Then it must make sense to put it on the Outdoor Life Network, right? That is what Comcast is contemplating, according to an industry source. Comcast, which owns OLN, wants to get into the game by securing either the new NFL package of eight games on Thursday and Saturday or one of two Sunday night packages, both currently held by Disney/ABC's ESPN. One Comcast plan is to put the games on OLN, now best known as the home of bike racing, bull riding and fishing. Sources said Comcast has crunched ESPN's advertising numbers, but with just 62 million subscribers, OLN will have to get more subscribers and up its license fee. To do that, they said, Comcast is considering offering equity stakes in the network to other multiple system operators that otherwise might complain about another high-priced sports network. Comcast and OLN officials declined to comment. A Time Warner Cable spokesperson said, "We are aware of Comcast's desire to get the NFL games."


Boxed in With No Toilet Breaks

Las Vegas magician Nathan Burton is hungry enough for the big time to starve. Beginning March 9, Mr. Burton, 31, will be sealed inside a narrow Plexiglas box. For one week he will not eat or drink (except for some energy drinks, if he can find the right sponsor). The 9-foot-long, 61/2-foot-high, 3-foot-deep box won't have plumbing, but Mr. Burton will have the company of seven showgirls in full regalia who will appear on rotation in four-hour shifts. (They have to starve only enough to fit into the costumes.) The box will be suspended in front of the V Theatre at Aladdin's Desert Passage, where Mr. Burton performs. Tourists can watch and for a $5 fee have their picture taken (proceeds go to tsunami relief). It's all an illusion, right? "I am a magician," Mr. Burton said last week, "but there's no magic to this box. [Magician] David Blaine did 44 days in a box [in London], with no food or water; I'm just doing seven. But I'm doing it Las Vegas style." Mr. Burton is hoping Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel or some other TV host will carry his finale live, but there is no deal so far. If he seems familiar, the 31-year-old Mr. Burton is a contestant on E!'s "The Entertainer," the show on which singer Wayne Newton selects the next big Vegas star for a gig and a million-dollar prize. Mr. Newton must see magic in Mr. Burton. He has already signed him to a personal management contract. -- ALEX BEN BLOCK

Guitar Wedding

When George Lopez decided his TV alter ego was going to renew his vows on the air, he wanted a kick-ass band to play at the wedding ceremony. He found it in Austin, Texas, while on location shooting a feature. His film director, Robert Rodriguez, turned Mr. Lopez on to the music of the Austin-based Chicano band Del Castillo, which sings in Spanish and plays high-energy music, mixing old-school Gitano with nuevo flamenco. Brothers Rick and Mark Del Castillo, who play dual leads on classical guitar, and the rest of the group, made such an impression that Mr. Lopez invited Del Castillo and Mr. Rodriguez to appear on his show (airing Feb. 22). "These boys are on their way," said Mr. Lopez, who plays guitar himself. "I expect them to really take off this year. I hope they don't forget me."


Buster Door Down

A "wascally wabbit" looking for sponsorship? Not Bugs Bunny in this case but that notorious carrot muncher Buster Baxter, the star of PBS's kids show "Postcards From Buster." Buster ignited a firestorm in recent weeks by visiting some lesbian moms in Vermont. PBS chose this moment to announce that Sponsorship Group for Public Television and producer WGBH-TV in Boston are offering a "unique national sponsorship opportunity" combining "Buster" with another PBS kids show, "Arthur." "We recognize that Buster has received a considerable amount of press attention recently," said Suzanne Zellner, group director of national program sales and marketing for SGPTV, in an understatement. "So now is the perfect time to sponsor 'Postcards from Buster' and take advantage of his visibility in the marketplace." One PBS insider said the network has no idea whether all the controversy over Buster will help or hinder the selling of sponsorships.


The Dish on Jeri Ryan

February 14, 2005 12:00 AM

Many actors work in restaurants before they make it big, but Jeri Ryan ("Star Trek: Voyager," "Boston Public") is doing things the other way around. Last week Ms. Ryan opened Ortolan, a French restaurant in West Los Angeles, with her significant other, chef Christophe Eme, previously of chi-chi L.A. eatery L'Orangerie. Mr. Eme brings some of his signature dishes to the new space, which boasts a vertical herb garden right in the restaurant's bar. One night last week Ms. Ryan was paying close attention to her guests, providing an exemplary level of service. Blink expressed interest in a lamb dish that can be ordered only for two people. When no one else at the table wanted lamb, Ms. Ryan stepped in, agreeing to order the other half for herself. Talk about a full-service restaurant. The lamb, by the way, was delicious. --CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA

Ironic Listing

It seems the TV Guide Channel has a problem with its listings. Last week the new season of "Survivor" debuted on ... TVGC? No, but viewers with certain interactive programming guides, including TiVo, thought so. On Sunday, "Survivor: Palau" was listed as being on TVGC with the description: "A group of contestants stranded in the remote waters of the Pacific Ocean battle for a $1 million prize." But it was actually a "Survivor: Palau Preview Special," a behind-the-scenes look at the veteran reality series that premieres its 10th season on CBS next week. A TVGC rep swore it wasn't guerrilla marketing, just a mistake by Tribune Media Services, which provides listings info. But the fledging entertainment network will presumably tolerate any accidental viewership. --JAMES HIBBERD

Vegas Touchback

What happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas when it airs on TV, and that is a problem for the National Football League, which prohibits ads with even a vague association to gambling on its TV partner's network or local stations just before and during the Super Bowl. Yet last week, for the second year in a row, Las Vegas marketers slipped spots under the NFL's radar by buying time on local outlets. Commercials ran on Fox stations in New York, L.A., Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston and Philadelphia. "We were approached by Fox," said Rob Dondero, exec VP of ad agency R&R Partners, whose client is the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Mr. Dondero said the "Only Vegas"-themed spots made no reference to gambling and didn't even show the Vegas strip. Instead, they featured a boxer and his trainer, who alluded to racy Las Vegas activities. Fox declined to comment. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement the league discussed the prohibition on certain ads with Fox as recently as last week. He added: "We are now looking into pinpointing the markets in which the spots ran and also at what time during the day." --WAYNE FRIEDMAN

AOL's Date with 'Desperate'

February 7, 2005 12:00 AM

As part of a marketing deal with the ABC Network, visitors to America Online beginning Feb. 14 can watch a four-minute video recap of the network's big Sunday night hit "Desperate Housewives" on Monday mornings as well as a preview of the next episode. It is additional marketing for the network and an association with a hot property for the online service. "This is another great way to give our fans a little bit more," said Bruce Gersh, senior VP of business development for ABC Entertainment. Patricia Karpas, VP and general manager of AOL Television, said the deal is a content licensing agreement with ABC for which AOL paid a fee. She did not disclose the terms. The agreement allows AOL, which typically runs recaps of 10 to 15 programs each week, to sell advertising at the beginning of the "Housewives" recap. However, for now the deal does not include any on-air promotion at the end of "Desperate Housewives" episodes, as competitor Yahoo! has at the end of NBC's "The Apprentice." That could come later. AOL also may buy ads in the show down the road, Ms. Karpas said. This isn't their first association. At the start of the current TV season, AOL made a deal to show a two-minute preview of ABC's "Alias." AOL also has a content deal with ABC News. --WAYNE FRIEDMAN

The Capitol's Not-So-Odd Couple

After Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, started the 109th Congress by reorganizing the powerful Senate Commerce Committee to significantly reduce the role of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in broadcast policy, he moved quickly to share his power with the committee's ranking Democrat. Sen. Stevens publicly identified himself and Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, as the panel's "co-chairmen." With the Republicans holding a majority in the Senate, it doesn't mean anything legally. But sources who know the lawmaker said he really does plan to share power as an affirmation of the friendship and respect the two lawmakers have for each other. They originally became close because both are World War II combat veterans and each represents one of the nation's two noncontiguous states. Over the years they have traveled the world together, identifying themselves as co-chairmen of the Defense appropriations subcommittee, an important panel that one or the other has officially chaired since 1981. "Sharing a chairmanship is nothing new to them," said Melanie Alvord, Sen. Stevens' spokeswoman. However, a Republican sharing any power with a Democrat is very unusual in the current partisan atmosphere of the Capitol.


Job of a Lifetime

The question roiling at the Lifetime network is who will replace Carole Black as president. If you believe the buzz from both the East and West coasts, her successor will be Deborah Blackwell, general manager of SoapNet, the highest-rated network among women after Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network. SoapNet is part of the Disney-ABC Television Group, while Lifetime is a joint venture of Disney and Hearst. Disney's Anne Sweeney is one of two members of the network's search committee, which was to present its short list last week. Ms. Blackwell, Lifetime and Hearst all declined comment. Ms. Blackwell, a former William Morris TV packaging agent, has made her mark at SoapNet, which she took over in June 2001, by mixing more original content with replays of daytime soaps, including a newsmag, "SoapCenter"; a bio show, "Soapography"; and a reality show, "I Wanna Be a Soapstar." --JON LAFAYETTE

Frozen Images

The rush to roll out cable boxes with built-in digital video recorders has encountered some unexpected difficulties. Consider problems faced by Comcast in at least three markets, in Pennsylvania, Michigan and California. In the San Francisco area, for instance, the company began delivering Motorola HD dual-tuner DVR 6412 cable boxes in mid-December. First, there was a shortage of boxes. Now there are reports that on as many as 10,000 units delivered to all three states, the picture freezes on the lower analog channels. Bay area Comcast spokesman Andrew Johnson said the company began hearing about the problems shortly after Christmas. Comcast swapped out bad boxes for good ones in many cases. Paul Alfieri, a spokesman for Motorola, said the company shipped nearly 1 million units and less than 1 percent are experiencing the picture freeze. He said Motorola has a software patch to fix the problem, which Comcast will download in two weeks.