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April 2005 Archives

He's Retiring but Still Riding the Bike for Discovery

April 25, 2005 12:00 AM

Tour de France champion cyclist Lance Armstrong announced his retirement last week, just eight months after his team signed a three-year $15 million-a-year deal with Discovery Channel. Does that mean Discovery got the short end of the deal? Not according to company executives. Discovery had a separate deal with Mr. Armstrong with a commitment to do one more Tour de France in the next two years. He will retire from professional racing after this year's Tour de France in July. But that doesn't mean he'll totally retire from cycling, according to an exec. He said Mr. Armstrong will still ride and he will likely try to break the hour record in cycling. Discovery will also use Mr. Armstrong as on-air talent for health and fitness programs. Discovery said its overall cycling efforts are for the long term and that its sponsorship of the team is to foster Discovery's European network marketing efforts through a number of the team's European cycling athletes. In a statement, the company said: "We will miss watching him compete on the bike, but we look forward to working more closely with him off the bike."

-WAYNE FRIEDMAN



Major League Pitchers

The mad pitchers at City Lights Television are at it again. The producers of AMC's "Film Fakers" and "Insider Training" on FitTV are planning to pitch some 96 show ideas to 60 networks in 10 weeks. Last year they sold seven shows in a similar marathon, and they hope to beat that number this time around, said David Noll, president of City Lights Television. This year they're pitching "Cult 45," in which the hosts try to join 45 different cults; "CubiCOOL," a makeover show for people's office spaces; and "100 Exes," featuring a photographer looking to take nude pictures of former girlfriends for a coffee-table book. "It's kind of racy, but networks want racier things now," he said. Another show would examine the roots and usage of the F-word. "We want to be known as people with different, imaginative ideas," Mr. Noll said. "Yes, you have to thrive on rejection. We hate when people just ignore you."

-JON LAFAYETTE



Cleaning Up Their Act

Although the Motion Picture Association of America may spend much of its time trying to help studios hang on to their possessions in its fight against piracy, the organization had a banner year last year figuring out how to properly throw things away.

MPAA hit pause on its antipiracy brigade in honor of Earth Day last week while it informed reporters that the entertainment industry recycled more than 68 percent of its solid waste last year, or more than 20,000 tons, up from 50 percent in 2003. That made 2004 a record year for the MPAA's Solid Waste Task Force, because members stepped up efforts to inform employees on ways to recycle, said Kori Bernards, spokeswoman for the MPAA.

That includes printing on the backside of scripts, using mugs rather than paper cups in the office, using metal scaffolding instead of wood platforms on movie and TV sets and reducing the power consumption of computers by using the sleep mode. "Small things like that go a long way to ensuring we not waste paper and [do] recycle," Ms. Bernards said.

Studios in the task force include Fox Studios, The Walt Disney Co., Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and the West Coast broadcast and production centers of ABC and CBS. -DAISY WHITNEY

Can't Pull the Wool Over His Eyes

April 18, 2005 12:00 AM

Funnyman Mel Brooks, currently mounting a movie version of his hit Broadway musical "The Producers," already has a shelf full of Emmys and other awards. But his recent Daytime Emmy nomination as Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program for voicing Wiley the Sheep in PBS Kids' "Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks" is special because he is doing it for his granddaughter Samantha, who lives in New York with his son Eddie and daughter-in-law Sarah. "She's just getting old enough to really appreciate Piggley Winks," Mr. Brooks said for the show's electronic press kit. "And I know she's gonna point out Wiley and tell all her friends, 'That's my crazy grandpa. That's my grandpa. He's that crazy sheep. He's that crazy nutty sheep. He's Wiley, you know.' So, I mean, that's one of the real reasons I'm doing it-to make Samantha a happy little granddaughter." --ALEX BEN BLOCK



What Scared Sci Fi?

For two seasons on the Sci Fi Channel series "Scare Tactics," hosts like Stephen Baldwin have unleashed elaborate horror- and sci-fi-inspired pranks on unsuspecting victims. Average ratings were down only slightly this year from its first season-from 1.1 million viewers in 2003 to 1 million viewers in 2004. On basic cable, that should have earned it a renewal. Instead, the series has been canceled. One insider said Sci Fi, whose ownership shifted under the NBC Universal umbrella last year, lowered the ax partly due to liability concerns. The network and producers were hit with a lawsuit for a first-season stunt in which an attack by "aliens" sent a prank victim running into the California desert. Producer Hallock Healey Entertainment would not comment, while a Sci Fi spokesperson insisted the network wasn't, well, scared off.

--JAMES HIBBERD



A Hero's Always Welcome

An arctic chill hits the northeastern United States, making the job of firefighter even more difficult and dangerous. Motorists are trapped by flood waters in Austin, Texas. A medical aircraft is downed in the Rocky Mountains by a storm. Those are just some of the stories featured in The Weather Channel's new series "Heroes of the Storm," which honors men and women who place themselves in danger to help others escape from it. On April 21 meteorologists Jim Cantore and Alexandra Steele will host a live broadcast from Washington to present an award to the nominee who gets the most votes from viewers on the channel's Web site. To promote the show, last week the Weather Channel Heroes hit the streets of New York to perform common acts of daily heroism, such as opening doors and hailing cabs. They even delivered hero sandwiches to firefighters to show appreciation for the risks they take every day.

--ALEX BEN BLOCK

Fox Does Its Best to Stack the Competition

April 11, 2005 12:00 AM

Pamela Anderson gets the joke-and so does Fox, which marketed the debut of her new show, "Stacked," in New York by unleashing a street team of a half-dozen curvy models wearing tight T-shirts and pushing around library carts stacked with, well, "Stacked" shirts. The show's title refers to a bookstore where the buxom star's character works. It's also the word Fox printed in pink across the chest of 2,000 T-shirts it gave away March 31 and April 1 in Manhattan. The stunt was timed to coincide with appearances by the former "Baywatch" beauty for a new charity endeavor. Joe Earley, Fox's executive VP of publicity, corporate communications and creative services, said the network is selective about the shows it supports with street team stunts. "Stacked" was a good candidate in part because of its debut April 13, at a time when competitors are gearing up for May sweeps. The show also is "definitely one where it can be attention-getting," he added. "Pamela Anderson is a huge star and she makes noise wherever she goes." The models showed up at all of Ms. Anderson's appearances and caused a stir of their own. They required police protection at one point and inspired an invitation for a tour of the New York Stock Exchange.--MELISSA GREGO



Women Like Daytime Cable

A new poll shows that one out of every three women watches more daytime cable than she did two years ago. According to E-Poll Women in Daytime, the 1,000-plus regular daytime watchers queried said cable offered them more variety and more interesting shows. The poll indicated that women who watch daytime tend to turn to specific channels or programs immediately as opposed to channel-surfing. Not all women behave the same, however. E-Poll founder and CEO Gerry Philpott said his research showed women 18 to 24 look for a channel first, while women over 25 search for programs. "Basically, we see a stronger network identification in younger viewers and stronger program identification in older viewers," Mr. Philpott said. --CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA



The News About CNN's Boss

In his day job, Jonathan Klein is president of CNN/US, with oversight of programming, editorial tone and the network's strategic direction. When he can find the time, which isn't often these days, he turns to his other job after hours-putting the finishing touches on his latest feature film screenplay, called "The Pinnacle." He said last week it is an action-adventure techno-thriller about "five friends who band together to save the world." He admitted he is already past his deadline with Jerry Bruckheimer's production comp-any. Before joining CNN, Mr. Klein sold five screenplays. The only one that was produced was "Buffalo Soldiers," which ran on TNT. --ALEX BEN BLOCK

Too Busy to Slow Down

April 4, 2005 12:00 AM

When he left William Morris in December, Sam Haskell thought he would take it easy. Instead, he's been busier than ever on what he called his "world tour" of breakfasts, lunches and dinners with friends, potential collaborators and possible employers (not other agencies, since he is still under a WMA noncompete restriction). He has also spent time with his two teenage children and worked on charitable projects such as a trip to his native Mississippi to raise funds for a performing arts center at Ole Miss. (He's shown in front of William Faulkner's house, with his wife, Mary, and England's Prince Edward.) Mostly he has been helping his wife of 23 years promote her first album for adults, called "Inspired: Standards-Good for the Soul." It crosses over both jazz and Christian markets, offering interpretations of classics such as "Just in Time" and "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and the first recording of "Try," a song written by Dolly Parton. There is also a duet with "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Patricia Heaton on "For Good," from the musical "Wicked." Mary has been on a whirlwind promo tour that has included "The Tony Danza Show" and "Good Day Live." Mr. Haskell will also be with Mary this week as she performs in Bentonville, Ark., at Wal-Mart's district managers retreat. Mr. Haskell has put off any plans to enter public service or run for office for now, while he looks for his next act in showbiz. "I'm loving having all my friends convince me not to retire," he said. "It's been great." --ALEX BEN BLOCK



Desperate for a Good Wine

While Stephen McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment, is busy choosing shows for the fall schedule, he has also been helping create a new cabernet sauvignon called Promise for release in 2007, along with Rich Frank of The Firm, who co-owns the Frank Family vineyard Winston Hill, in Rutherford, Calif. While the limited-production wine won't be ready until 2007, it is being introduced June 4 at the annual Auction Napa Valley. The winner gets more than a fine wine. Mr. Frank and Mr. McPherson have joined with actress Teri Hatcher and others to create a unique package. The prize is a suite at the Four Seasons, use of a limo, a world-class dinner at Norman's on Sunset in Hollwood with chef Norman Van Aken, cases of Frank Family wines and a walk-on part in ABC's hit series "Desperate Housewives." Blink will drink to that. --ALEX BEN BLOCK



TV Doc Witness in Jackson Case

Dr. Stan Katz helps women rebuild their lives as staff psychologist on NBC Universal's syndicated strip "Starting Over," but last week he was a media celebrity for a different reason. Dr. Katz testified at the Michael Jackson trial in Santa Maria, Calif. He was the psychologist who first evaluated the boy who alleges Mr. Jackson abused him. Dr. Katz also filed the initial report to authorities. Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville would not allow Dr. Katz to testify about the credibility of the accusation or whether a molestation took place. He was asked to talk about when he spoke with the boy and his mother, and what he told child welfare authorities. While the trial continues, Dr. Katz is off once again to promote "Starting Over," which was renewed last week for another season. --CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA