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December 2005 Archives

Dolled-Up Barbie

December 19, 2005 12:00 AM

Some people don't like Mattel's iconic doll Barbie because she's got everything. Those jealous types are going to be even greener with envy over her latest outfit. Last week on the sophomore season of Bravo's hit reality series "Project Runway," the show's design hopefuls were challenged to come up with an outfit for the MyScene Barbie, with the winner's design destined to grace a special edition of the doll. Nick Verreos came up with the winning design for the special-edition "Project Runway" Barbie, which is already available for pre-order on the show's Web site for $24.95. Mr. Verreos' look appears to be a hit as well with Barbie aficionados, who ordered more than 200 of the "Runway" Barbies within hours of the doll's debut. Toys R Us will stock the special Barbie sometime after Jan. 15. Christopher Lisotta

The High and the Mighty

In times of crisis, we all would like to be able to stay calm, think clearly and act quickly. Some of us are actually able to do it. On a Dec. 9 Northwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, producer and Hollywood Radio & Television Society President Andy Friendly, 54, was one of five passengers who rose to the occasion and restrained an agitated man who rushed toward the cockpit as the plane was beginning its descent. "We prepared ourselves mentally," Mr. Friendly said, describing the disruptive passenger as "obviously not in his right mind." The man, identified by authorities as Santiago Lol Tizol, a 37-year-old Mexican national, had been asking where the cockpit was, pacing the aisle and staring intently at a sleeping baby while holding a cellphone charger, prongs out. "Your mind gets filled with all these thoughts," said Mr. Friendly, who was on vacation with his wife, Pat. "God knows what his intentions were. It was pretty scary." While flight attendants tried to calm Mr. Tizol, Mr. Friendly and a passenger sitting across from him discussed what they would do if the man charged the cockpit. When Mr. Tizol ran up the aisle, Mr. Friendly and four others grabbed him, wrestled him down, bound his wrists with plastic handcuffs and tied a belt around his legs. "You think, I'm never going to be in that situation, and then there you are," Mr. Friendly said. "As a passenger you have to be ready to step up and protect that cabin." Mr. Tizol was arrested in Honolulu and charged with interfering with a flight crew. Though the start of their trip was "not exactly what we had in mind," Mr. Friendly said he and his wife enjoyed the rest of their vacation and will continue to fly

regularly. -Natalie Finn

Hours of Discovery

Discovery Channel is set to announce several multihour specials, including a documentary on the effort to save Ronald Reagan's life after he was shot in 1981. "Saving Ronald Reagan" (a working title, thankfully) will use interviews with key witnesses, archival footage and dramatizations to chronicle the surgical efforts at George Washington Hospital. Another special is a six-part series called "Perfect Disaster," which dramatizes six natural disasters in American history. The third is a three-parter called "Ultimate Egypt," a docudrama shot on location that tells the stories of three men who discovered ancient Egyptian treasures. "Egypt" will air next month, with the other projects airing later in 2006. -James Hibberd

Complications Aside, 'Life' Goes On

December 12, 2005 12:00 AM

With word last week that Nicole Richie had broken off her engagement to professional club DJ Adam Goldstein, you might think Bunim-Murray Productions and 20th Century Fox would tweak the concept for the fourth installment of the reality comedy series "The Simple Life: Til Death Do Us Part," which is due to premiere in the spring. When the latest edition of "Simple Life" was conceived, Ms. Richie and co-star Paris Hilton were still best friends, both were engaged and the show was expected to air on Fox. Now the pair are not speaking, both have broken off their engagements and the show has moved to E! But a spokesman for Bunim-Murray said the format will remain the same, with Ms. Richie and Ms. Hilton competing against each other at "wifely" tasks. Seems it takes more than a new network, busted friendships and broken engagements to alter successful reality series formats. -Christopher Lisotta

Singing Praises of 'Rollergirls'

A&E has both the rock and the roll covered in its promotional whirl for "Rollergirls," the new series premiering Jan. 2. The network has created a five-market concert tour featuring the band The Donnas, whose hit "Play My Game" is the theme song for the series. The tour started last week in Los Angeles and San Francisco and will hit New York, Chicago and Philadelphia this week. (Music fans will see "Rollergirls" clips on video screens in FYE stores Dec. 26 through Feb 4.) A&E also is sponsoring an affiliate promotion in which one viewer from each participating market wins a trip to Austin, Texas, to see a live Rollergirls roller derby match. The winners will also get roller derby lessons from the Rollergirls themselves. -Jon Lafayette

Love That Discovery

For the 11th consecutive year, Discovery Channel bubbled to the top of Beta Research Corp.'s annual survey of viewer attitudes toward cable networks. Not only was Discovery ranked the favorite network among cable subscribers, but it also was named the biggest draw among noncable subscribers and the No. 1 network for average perceived value. Runners-up included ESPN (ranked No. 1 among men in most categories), History Channel, HGTV and CNN. Among midsize networks, Hallmark Channel and National Geographic Channel were the favorites. Viewers with heavy interest in video-on-demand and HD programming tended to have a high level of interest in GSN and G4. -James Hibberd

Lights! Camera! 'L Word' Action!

December 5, 2005 12:00 AM

A network has finally found a way to harness the awe-inspiring power of online fan boys who dream of a screenwriting credit. Showtime has announced it will offer fiction-writing viewers a chance to contribute to an actual episode of "The L Word." When the third season kicks off in January, fans can log on to FanLib.com and receive directions on writing and posting a scene for an upcoming show. Scenes that receive the most online votes will be cobbled together and polished to create a complete script. "The L Word" is probably the ideal series for this experiment, because much of online fan fiction involves scenarios in which female characters of popular shows have sex with each other anyway.-James Hibberd

I Want My Court TV

What happens when you take away Court TV from loyal viewers? The network recently did a research study and found that withdrawal symptoms included the urge to take Xanax and smoke cigarettes-and that was after just three days without Nancy Grace and company. The study, conducted by Latitude Research, paid folks not to watch Court TV and discovered that heavy viewers found not watching to be even more painful than they anticipated. Phone follow-up with participants elicited the following testimony: "I was a witch. Extremely moody. My husband couldn't figure out what was wrong with me," said one participant in the experiment. "My husband offered to double what I was being paid so that I could watch Court TV again," said another. -Jon Lafayette

AOL Does 'Daisy'

Daisy's not just doing America, she's doing it online. America Online will be one of the key sponsors of TBS's new comedy "Daisy Does America," which premieres Tuesday. The other sponsors are T-Mobile and Unilever. AOL and T-Mobile will get placements in the series and AOL.com will be the home for clips from past shows and upcoming episodes. AOL.com will also host "Daisy" contests. TBS will run promos urging viewers to go to AOL.com to get more "Daisy." In addition, T-Mobile and Unilever will get branded broadband and VOD programming. Under the deal, financial terms of which were not disclosed, TBS's Web site will feature links to the home pages of the three sponsors. -Jon Lafayette

The Door's Open, Dave

There's no such thing as a permanently failed relationship in Hollywood. At the Nov. 29 Power Breakfast "Laughing Matters: Comedy in Television," sponsored by TelevisionWeek and AOL Television, Doug Herzog, president of Comedy Central and Spike TV, was asked by moderator and TVWeek Editorial Director Chuck Ross about the future of Dave Chappelle's eponymous sketch show, a huge hit for Comedy Central that halted production after Mr. Chappelle walked away from the project.

"The ball's in Dave's Court," Mr. Herzog said. "We're trying to be patient."

"Does he have your money still?" asked writer and comedy creator Phil Rosenthal, one of Mr. Herzog's co-panelists, to laughs from the more than 70 attendees.

"Some," Mr. Herzog said, referring to the huge advance the network paid Mr. Chappelle. "We would love for Dave to come back. It's all about Dave."-Christopher Lisotta

Warm and Fuzzy With Karmazin

Quick! When was the last time the famously ferocious executive Mel Karmazin got a bear hug in public? Betcha can't remember-unless you saw CNBC's Nov. 30 "Mad Money: Main Event III" town hall program. The gesture seemed to catch Mr. Karmazin, now CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio, by surprise. Mr. Karmazin answered questions from the manic Jim Cramer, host of "Mad Money," about such things as why Sirius has not renewed its deal to carry Fox News Channel. Mr. Karmazin praised Fox and then said it's because he has to keep his programming costs down. Speaking of Fox News, Bill O'Reilly will offer a two-part cable-exclusive interview with soon-to-be Sirius star Howard Stern on Thursday's and Friday's "The O'Reilly Factor."-Michele Greppi