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.



Steve Susskind Took a Big Bite Out of Life

March 21, 2005 12:00 AM

He was thrilled that it might be a recurring role. Instead, veteran character actor Steve Susskind's appearance in the "Stand by Your Man" episode of ABC's new comedy "Jake in Progress" marked his final TV performance. Mr. Susskind died Jan. 21 at age 62 in an auto accident in L.A. Last week more than 450 of his friends joined his widow, actress Ann Walker, for a memorial in Beverly Hills. Voice-over actor Thom Sharp introduced pals, who told colorful stories that traced Mr. Susskind's life growing up in Forest Hills, N.Y., to his start in showbiz as part of a popular '60s singing group The Roomates ("Glory of Love"). He moved to L.A. in 1980 and became a master at doing ethnic voices, especially a Greek accent, in more than 1,000 TV and radio commercials and movie trailers. He had recurring roles on shows such as "NewsRadio" and "Married ... With Children," did numerous guest shots on shows like "Will & Grace" and "Frasier," and assayed a cult role as Harold Hatcher in "Friday the 13th Part III." "He was just a lovable, wonderful guy who enjoyed a good cigar and a drink," recalled his wife, who is taking over his seats on the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists national and local boards. --ALEX BEN BLOCK

'The Grist and the Glitz'

That's the crew of the KTLA-TV "Morning News" on the L.A. station's new high-tech news set, which was unveiled last week as part of the station's rebranding. The indie now wants to be known as KTLA WB, without mention of its position at Channel 5 on the VHF dial. "Today we're competing with many channels, on broadcast and cable," explained Vinnie Malcolm, the Tribune station's VP and general manager. "ESPN doesn't say 'ESPN 4', '5' or '6.'" The news set was built from the ground up at a cost of just under $400,000. Asked whether it would help ratings, Mr. Malcolm said, "Hopefully, it will help, but more importantly, it is about getting up to speed with the latest equipment, look and feel, and to help motivate our employees to produce better products." The new mark over the name, which looks a bit like the Nike swoosh, symbolizes a halo over the City of Angels. It is broken to represent L.A. as a "city of curves and contours, from the beaches to the mountains," said Mr. Malcolm. And it is broken because "a full circle graphically won't project well on-air and in print," explained KTLA's Director of Creative Services Jymm Adams, who oversaw the project. "There are no palm trees or shots of the beach," added Mr. Malcolm, "because we aren't tourists. We wanted to project the grist and the glitz, the whole thing. It's for people who live here every day." --ALEX BEN BLOCK

Indecent Wait

If you've been waiting for the National Association of Broadcasters to unveil its voluntary industry guidelines to deal with government concerns about indecency, plan to wait even longer. It was expected that the plan would be announced at the NAB convention in Las Vegas next month. Instead, it has been put on hold to give the NAB board additional time to weigh in on the subject. An NAB task force has been studying the concept since last April, in response to a request from former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell and others to adopt a formal programming code. But industry sources said the NAB task force has been focusing instead on the development of a set of less rigid "best practices" principles. Gary Chapman, co-chairman of the NAB task force and chairman and CEO of LIN Television, said the task force wants the entire industry to sign on to the voluntary compliance initiative-including the Big 4 TV networks, which are not NAB members. The hope among boosters of the initiative is that it will pre-empt the perceived need for beefed-up indecency legislation. "We believe it's in the best interests of both the radio and TV industries to have self-regulation instead of government regulation," Mr. Chapman said. An NAB spokesman declined comment. --DOUG HALONEN

'Idol' Magnet

Last week must have been a busy one for Fox. "American Idol" contestant Mario Vazquez, the judges' and audience favorite, shocked his growing number of fans when he abruptly left the No. 1-rated musical reality show with little explanation. Was it because he has a record coming out, which would disqualify him? Was it because he wanted out of the mandatory management contract all contestants sign? Whatever it was, Mr. Vazquez should keep in mind that even the most talented singers can easily be replaced. Take the magnetized tracking board Fox handed out at an "Idol" finalists party two weeks ago, which featured playing pieces of each contestant that viewers at home can use to track their progress. Just days after Mr. Vazquez split, Fox sent out a replacement magnetized playing piece featuring Nikko Smith, who was restored to the finals competition in Mr. Vazquez's place. Be warned, Mr. Vazquez-Blink thinks falling out of favor with your fans is as easy as falling off a magnetized chart board. --CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA