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.



November 2006 Archives

What's a Mother to Do When Children Misbehave?

November 27, 2006 12:00 AM

After a day off, Barbara Walters slipped into her increasingly frequent role of Mama Bear on "The View" to declare an end to another kerfuffle started by one of the ABC daytime show's co-hosts. This one flared after "View" newbie Rosie O'Donnell said that Kelly Ripa, co-host of "Live With Regis and Kelly," had gone all homophobic on Clay Aiken by saying, "I don't know where your hands have been" after he clamped his hand over her mouth mid-interview Nov. 17 on "Live." Ms. O'Donnell said Ms. Ripa wouldn't have made that comment to a straight or cute man, thus effectively outing Mr. Aiken, who has steadfastly refused to answer rumors that he is gay. Ms. Ripa called in to "The View" while it was on the air Tuesday protesting that Ms. O'Donnell knows she is not homophobic and explaining the remark was a reference to Mr. Aiken's having spent the commercial break shaking hands with the live audience in cold and flu season. Ms. Walters declared both Ms. O'Donnell and Ms. Ripa "one of the kindest and most sensitive people in the world," and revealed that the two have talked further off the air. Then Ms. Walters briskly made her final declaration on the subject: "All is well with the world and all is well with them." If Blink were Ms. Ripa, it would take a lot more than that. -Michele Greppi

The Writing's on the Dashboard

There was nothing funny about what Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans, but comedians have been continuing to help raise money for the Queen City ever since the Comic Relief concert appeared on TBS and HBO on Nov. 18. At the show, Ford Motor Co. donated $50,000 and a new Ford Fusion that last week was being auctioned off on eBay. Bidders beware: The car is slightly used-a constellation of stars including Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Ray Romano, Sarah Silverman, Jeffrey Tambor, Bill Maher, Roseanne Barr, James Denton, Fred Willard, Bo Derek and the cast of "Entourage" have autographed the interior. As of Wednesday, the high bid was $23,545. The auction was scheduled to close Friday at 5 p.m. (PT). -Jon Lafayette

Breaking the Ice

Henry Schleiff has always been known as a bit of a funster, much more so than the stodgy confines of his former Court TV gig would suggest. In his new role as president and CEO of Crown

Media Holdings, parent of the wholesome and warmhearted Hallmark Channel, perennial man-about-town Mr. Schleiff never one to miss a photo opportunity-has a bit more latitude to cut

up. Here he gathers with a few other dignified chief executives (one of whom looks to be a real stiff) at a recent whitetie-and-tails affair in New York's Central Park to promote the Hallmark Channel's Thanksgiving holiday telecast of "March of the Penguins." Looks like a case of happy feet to Blink. -Tom Gilbert

Who Thought of It First?

November 13, 2006 12:00 AM

It is a small, small world, after all. Both "Good Morning America's" Diane Sawyer and "Today's" Matt Lauer reported live from the Old City of Jerusalem last Friday morning. Ms. Sawyer's appearance was for the second installment of "GMA's" long-promoted series revealing the seven wonders of the modern world. "Weekend GMA" anchor Bill Weir was in Tibet at the stunning Potola Palace the day before, after an adventure-filled train ride from Beijing. Mr. Lauer had, like Ms. Sawyer, flown to Israel Thursday. His trip was to kick off a three-part series on the world's religions. While "Today" executive producer Jim Bell said he was not surprised to see Ms. Sawyer in Jerusalem, where one of her stops was the Wailing Wall, he denied Mr. Lauer's trip was designed to blunt the impact of Ms. Sawyer's trip. He told Blink that "Today's" series had first been on the calendar last spring, when Mr. Lauer went to Cannes and Istanbul to do a story on "The Da Vinci Code." He said Mr. Lauer was to have gone on to Jerusalem, among other locations, to work on the religions series, but "GE security asked us to reconsider." That pushed it from the May sweeps schedule to the November sweeps lineup, Mr. Bell said. Pfffft! responded "GMA," which is mounting another attempt to overtake "Today" as the No. 1 morning show. (When Ms. Sawyer landed an exclusive post-rehab interview with Mel Gibson, "Today" pulled all of its national ads after 7:30 a.m. With no national ads, the later-and less-watched-half-hours were not rated by Nielsen Media Research, a move that cost "Today" ad revenue but allowed the NBC morning show to brag that even up against the Gibson get, it had higher ratings.) "In Jerusalem and Beijing, they showed up looking for permits months after we'd applied for ours," Jim Murphy, new senior executive producer of "GMA," said last week. He and Mr. Bell exchanged tart comments:

"To me it's just another example of [`GMA'] following," Mr. Bell said. "It's, `Where in the World is "GMA" today?"'

"GMA's" wonders of the world "is a big-concept thing. They came up with a small-concept thing," Mr. Murphy said. "I find it just unusual that people would tell little white lies when discussing shows about religion."

One point on which there is no doubt: Mr. Lauer's live report was accompanied by some spooky live scuffling between a man who wasn't accepting Mr. Lauer's permits to be near the West Wall of the Old City and a man with a very large gun on his belt. There were a handful of men who were visible behind Mr. Lauer and who seemed eager to get in a few licks should things escalate. They didn't. And Mr. Lauer, who never missed a beat, finished Friday-as scheduled, Mr. Bell said-from a roof overlooking the scene of the scuffle. -Michele Greppi

Guts, but No Glory, for Comedy Central

Comedy Central shocked and awed the blogosphere last week when it became the first media outlet to report that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was resigning his post. On the network's Indecider Blog, at 12:15 a.m. (ET) Wednesday, a Comedy Central blogger, citing a White House source, declared, "Rumsfeld will be out of the administration tomorrow," and gleefully added, "Suck it, Drudge!" But according to a Factiva news archive search, Comedy Central has not won over the hearts and minds of the mainstream media. Not one major publication has credited the site with breaking this worldwide news headline. "We are disappointed in the lack of acknowledgement from the mainstream media," said a Comedy Central spokesperson, who pledged the network's blogging efforts would stay the course. -James Hibberd

Honor for Harbert

The Caucus for Television Producers, Writers and Directors will honor E! Networks/ Comcast Entertainment Group President and CEO Ted Harbert with its special Chair Award at the organization's 24th annual black-tie gala, to be held Dec. 8 at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Film and television producer Tracey E. Edmonds, recently named president and chief operating officer of Our Stories Films, will also be honored with the Caucus's Diversity Award for her longtime work to uplift the black community.

-Tom Gilbert

Rather's Amusing Comedy Central Gig

November 6, 2006 12:00 AM

Former "CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather, whose colorful Dan-isms attained collectible status over his four decades of covering politics at CBS News, won't be sitting out this midterm election night. He'll sit in during the first half-hour of Comedy Central's hour of election coverage featuring "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart and "The Colbert Report's" Stephen Colbert. Titled "`Indecision 2006': The Midterm Midtacular," the show, which will be live at 11 p.m. on the East Coast and tape-delayed on the West Coast, will be, Comedy Central has promised, "unburdened by objectivity or even accuracy." However, Mr. Rather, who will launch his weekly news hour, "Dan Rather Reports," next week on Mark Cuban's HDNet, is expected to play (mostly) straight man to Mr. Stewart. They hope to discuss election results, which may be in short supply at that hour on a night chock-full of what are expected to be very tight races across the country. Scheduled to phone in during the Colbert-centric second half of "Midtacular" is politically active actor Warren Beatty. Mr. Colbert also is expected to have satellite conversations with Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Rep. Robert Wexler, the Florida Democrat who once let Mr. Colbert talk him into saying on TV that cocaine and prostitutes are fun. -Michele Greppi

Bye-Bye Bob

It's the end of an era: Bob Barker will call it quits in June after 50 years on the tube, 35 of them on CBS's "The Price Is Right." The ever-dapper Mr. Barker, who turns 83 next month, has been an astounding case of momentum for years; How many octogenarians could front a daily half-hour of unscripted TV and make it look effortless year after year? (Jack Valenti, you say? Granted, but who else?) Unfortunately, the inevitable always catches up with us. "I'm just reaching the age where the constant effort to be there and do the show physically is a lot for me," he told the Associated Press last week. "I might be able to do the show another year, but better [to leave] a year too soon than a year too late." -Tom Gilbert

A Real Game Show

In advance of the upcoming release of Activision's battle-centric "Call of Duty 3" video game, the game maker has forayed into TV production with a special episode of Spike TV's "Game Head" titled "Call of Duty 3: Challenge." The show, to be televised Friday, brings the game to life at a secret military base with a real-life military drill sergeant and 16 real-life gamers as his recruits. Each contestant is put through grueling physical and mental challenges as they compete for a grand prize package that includes a trip for two to Normandy, France, the setting of the third edition of "Call of Duty." -Tom Gilbert

Foley Funnies

Venturing into Comedy Central territory, GSN is having some fun with the Mark Foley scandal. Last week the network launched an online game called "Foley's Follies" that shows the former Florida congressman chasing pages through the Capitol as "The Stars and Stripes Forever" plays in the background. During the game, quotes from Rep. Foley's infamously inappropriate instant messages pop up on the screen. This is not GSN's first attempt to capitalize on low moments in current events with a video game: Last month it put up "So You Think You Can Drive Mel," a game in which players steer actor Mel Gibson as he tries to pick up tequila bottles while avoiding state troopers and stars of David-all set to the tune of "Hava Nagilah." -Jon Lafayette