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November 2006 Archives

Truer Than Fiction

November 28, 2006 4:52 PM

You gotta hand it to those merry pranksters at the New York Post’s Page Six who today report that Baywatch actress Pamela Anderson has just filed for divorce from new hubs Kid Rock because he exploded at her at a screening of the movie she is now starring in, the box office hit “Borat. ”

In that flick, Anderson is literally the driving obsession of Sasha Baron Cohen, a make-believe Eastern European documentary producer who comes to America and falls in love with her after seeing “Baywatch” reruns. He subsequently travels by car from New York to Los Angeles to meet and marry her. I loved it.

But Page 6 reports that Anderson’s husband did not, calling her a slut, demanding to know why she made that movie. In defense of Anderson, something I never expected to do in my life, she was great and spurned Sasha’s advances in the film.

But tell that to poor Kid Rock who just couldn’t handle a dose of very funny fiction. Thanks Page Six, this is one for the “You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up” file. And in La La land, such a scene can only boost her up-and-down career. Any bets that she’ll soon have her own reality-based TV show?

In Memory of John M. Higgins

November 21, 2006 2:50 PM

I got the bad news this morning that my friend and long time colleague B&C’s buiness editor John M, Higgins had just died, felled by a massive heart attack. Higgins was one of those people who was simply bigger than life and under that gruff exterior was the heart of a gentle lion.

Knowing him for 16 years, I found him to be a complex human being. His language on phone calls to sources was so gruff that when he worked for me at Multichannel News, I established a cuss can in the news room. Uttering the f--- word resulted in a 25 cent fee. One day Higgins just crammed a $10 bill in the can, glowering at me, saying that should cover him for awhile.

Higgins, 45, was also a consummate gentleman, always opening doors for women or hailing cabs for them, or escorting them back to their hotels after late evening functions. Actually, he was the kind of guy you would want to be in a fox hole with, knowing that he would look out after your welfare as well as his own hide.

I was broken hearted when he resigned from Multichannel News to take the job at B&C. With his usual aplomb, he gave me a dozen long-stemmed black roses on his last day. However we remained friends over the years and I always respected his finely honed journalistic skills. I loved reporting a story with him, me being good cop, him, obviously bad cop.

Higgins also had a macabre sense of humor. When his own mother passed on several years ago, he showed me a sympathy card that someone had hastily sent, expressing condolences for the death of a pet rather than his mother. The card cracked him up.

Cable industry executives feared a call from Higgins. One cable executive said getting a call from Higgins was like getting a call from “60 Minutes.” Yes, he was tough, but fair and always right on the mark.

Today, is indeed a day of collective mourning for our friend Higgins. I’ve been on the phone all day with his numerous friends now in mourning, all sharing stories about our strong-willed friend. And if you want to share yours, I invite you to comment here and give our pal the strong sendoff he deserves.

He would expect nothing less. He loved being the center of attention, and we loved him for being such a true friend.

Did Fox Hinder 1st Amendment by Caving on OJ?

November 20, 2006 6:06 PM

This afternoon, News Corp.-owned Fox canceled its two-part special featuring OJ Simpson, “If I Did It,” which was to air Nov. 27 and 29. The show would have promoted the subsequent Nov. 30 release of his book by another News Corp. division, Regan Book.

There’s been a lot of public backlash, here, and everywhere about the ethics of this project. Fox axed the project after a dozen or so Fox affiliates refused to air the special, and after sister network Fox News Channel’s anchor Bill O’Reilly publicly chimed in, threatening to boycott products sold by any advertisers who sponsored the project. Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera was equally adamant about the sensibilities involved here.

After all of this hubris on the part of News Corp., two questions remain: Was this really just a publicity stunt on the part of its Fox broadcast network? I doubt it. Fox, like P.T. Barnum, believed in never underestimating the intelligence of the masses. Wrong this time!

The second question is, and it came up in my previous blog: Should Fox stick to its guns and air and publish the OJ stuff in the name of the First Amendment? Rembember, OJ was acquitted. The glove did not fit.

That’s a dicier question, especially today, when we see some of our long assumed and now taken for granted liberties now under assail with the Patriot Act. I earlier asked if Fox should air this project. Now I’m asking if News Corp., the parent company, in the end, further curtail our rights to Free Speech? I’m not sure, would appreciate the feedback.

Should Fox Air OJ Special?

November 16, 2006 2:08 PM

On Nov. 27 and 29 Fox will air a two-part special featuring OJ Simpson whose book “If I Did It,” goes on sale Nov. 30. Publisher Judith Regan will interview OJ who was acquitted in 1995 of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her boyfriend Ron Goldman. The book discusses how he would have gone about murdering them, if in fact he had.

Distraught family members appeared this morning on “Good Morning America,” charging that Fox and Regan Books, both owned by News Corp., were “promoting the wrongdoing of criminals.” Well, let’s not forget, he was not proven guilty, but I, too, think it’s audacious of him and News Corp. to stir up such painful memories for the families, especially during the holidays.

All this in the name of sweeps month? God, I have to wonder how low TV will stoop next, all in the name of ratings. I’m sure advertisers will boycott this special en masse, and I’ll be there with them.

How about you?

Midlife Crisis Morphs Into Middlescence

November 15, 2006 2:25 PM

Woke up already feeling spryer today, now that I’m in my “middlescence,” a new term from research and author Ken Dychtwald to describe 40- to 59-year-olds and their decidedly upbeat approach to life, according to a Media Post article.

That gem—and most welcome addition to the demographic lexicon—came out at a press conference at which TV Land President Larry Jones said the network will now focus its programming soley on baby boomers. Dychtward’s consultancy firm Age Way, along with Harris Interactive, in research for TV Land found that boomers are becoming frustrated with programmers and advertisers who continue to cater to younger audiences. No kidding.

So consider yourself in your middlescence if you’ve made your mark and maintain a rosy outlook about the future. And nix that now-passe phrase “midlife crisis” from your vocabulary today. And at the next cocktail party, impress your boomer pals by dropping the word middlescence into the chatter, rather than lamenting your truly arthritic joints.

Unleashed & Unvarnished on High-Def

November 14, 2006 6:51 PM

Unfortunately, I won’t be among HDNet’s 4 million subs to see how former CBS anchor Dan Rather fares tonight on his maiden voyage of “Dan Rather Reports.” But that’s only because I don’t have a high-def TV set. I would watch if I did.

Now this might tick off Mark Cuban who owns HDNet. And, if it does, who cares? He’s rich, famous and young, and I am none of the above. But I think it’s rather cruel to subject a 75-year-old man to the uber-scrutiny of high-def cameras that show all. No amount of Botox or pancake makeup can hide the assaults of gravity on aging human beings, and Mr. Rather is either a very brave or desperate man to subject himself to this ordeal, especially with so few eyeballs presently watching. I worry that more people will tune in to see how he looks rather than to hear what he actually says.

High-def, I agree, is great for sports, indeed a mesmerizing experience to watch jocks sweating, spitting, scowling and scratching before your very eyes. But for news? Aside from the voyeuristic sideshow of seeing how Rather comes off on high-def, actually what I most want is to hear, and not necessarily see, is if Rather lives up to his own hype. And if he does, here’s a suggestion to Cuban: Rename the show “Dan Rather Unleashed & Unvarnished.”

In commenting for a Reuters report about the state of U.S. journalism, Rather said, “In some ways, we, and I include myself in this, have lost our guts. We need a spine transplant.” And I agree. But I guess I’ll never know because I can’t hear or see the show for now. So let me know if you watch tonight, and weigh in here with your comments. A lot of us want to know.

Court TV to ‘Out’ Turkeys

November 9, 2006 5:43 PM

The annual pre-Thanksgiving Food Drive is not going well at Court TV, according to a widely distributed e-mail from an employee who now threatens to “out” the names of the colleagues who work on various floors who have made no contributions if donations don’t pick up before the November 19th deadline.

The 19th floor, where most of the drones work, so far as the best track record, contributing 23 items, including some nice cans of Progresso soup. But shame, shame on the 4th floor where the net’s top executives reside: So far a grand total of six items have been donated to the drive from the executive wings. And triple shame to the 3rd floor, occupied by the net’s on-air talent, where there’s not a single contribution in the food drop, save for one paper napkin.

True, there are 70 fewer people working at the net since Liberty Media sold its 50 percent stake in Court to Time Warner last May. Guess the hundreds who are left are so busy polishing their resumes and going off to job interviews elsewhere, that they don’t have time to schlep a can of soup to the office. Tsk, tsk, says Ms. Waggle Finger.

The Morning After

November 8, 2006 4:02 PM

The nation has a collective hangover today, induced from an overdose of TV news coverage of the midterm election where the Democrats seized control of the House and kept all of us up well beyond our normal tuck-in times. And at this writing the Dems picked up additional seats in the Senate, with only one contest in Virginia remaining uncalled.

At his news conference today President Bush looked shaken to his very core. To me, he appeared more rattled and unfocused than ever, clearly out of touch with the voters in this country. Let’s just say he isn’t having a good TVQ day, the morning after. But dammed good TV for a lot of us, I must say.

Tonight is going to be another long night in front of the TV for this nation. Beyond the bitter loss to Democrats last night, this afternoon Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced his resignation. The President said he would nominate former CIA Director Robert Gates to fill that position in the Pentagon.

You have to wonder what other shoes have yet to drop, as the campaign for the big prize in 2008 has just begun. TV newsgathering organizations didn’t miss a beat and I particularly liked how NBC made the most of its on-air talent. The Peacock brought out the big guns. Anchor Brian Williams had former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw at his side, along with Washington correspondent Tim Russert. Later both Brokaw and Russert switched over to provide commentary on MSNBC’s coverage anchored by Chris Matthews.

Meanwhile, I felt bad for CBS anchor Katie Couric who was having a bad hair day and simply didn’t look like one of the big, seasoned dogs.

What Would You ‘Rather’ Hear?

November 7, 2006 3:02 PM

Tonight former CBS anchor Dan Rather will be a guest on Comedy Central’s “Indecision 2006: Midterm Midtacular” playing straight man to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

Rather, who left CBS under a shadow of disgrace last June, promises this go-round there will be no “Ratherisms,” a term coined to describe his legendary colorful remarks, such as, “This race is hotter than a Times Square Rolex.”

The Jon Stewart special airs tonight at 11 p.m. and I’m hoping that the 75-year-old Rather won’t be able to resist his gift of gab. I don’t know about you, but at this stage of the game I don’t want any more gravitas. Aren’t you just sick of that word? I am.

Just give me a jolt of levity during this important midterm beauty pageant which is already turning out to be about just as ugly as a herd of pigs wearing lipstick.

Is the Media Overplaying Kerry's Gaffe?

November 2, 2006 6:03 PM

Yesterday Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) publicly apologized for a remark he made last Monday at Pasadena City College telling students to study hard. “If you don’t do well in school, you get stuck in Iraq.” With the Nov. 7 election now just a week away the story will just not go away.

Given the Patrician aura Sen. Kerry exudes, the very persona that contributed to him losing the presidential race two years ago, it’s hard to tell if it was a bad joke that didn’t go over, or if his remarks were a veiled insult to the Republican administration which took the country to war in Iraq, and our soldiers who are there fighting.

Of course, the Republicans are basking in his gaffe and the Democrats would do the same if the shoe were on the other foot. But is the media behaving like a terrier with a bone, unable to move on?

I was just looking at an online live poll on AOL. More than 213, 900 users responded so far today. And here’s the vote so far: 57 percent thought his remarks were a deliberate insult; 34 percent thought it was a botched joke; and the remaining 9 percent said they weren’t sure.

So my answer to my own question is, this story still has legs and the media is not in overdrive because clearly the nation cares, days later, given the interest still expressed in today’s AOL poll.