The Insider

Mar 26, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Changing destination of `Mir’

“Destination De-orbit?” When the Soviet-era Mir space station went into a descending orbit and crashed last week, an apparent reworking on Mark Burnett’s “Destination Mir” reality series project for NBC next season became inevitable. In fact, Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Entertainment, said with a chuckle that “The titling of `Destination Mir’ now becomes `Destination Space.”’ Mr. Zucker also said Mr. Burnett, creator of CBS’s hit “Survivor” reality franchise, is working with Russian space program and private-sector rocket executives to pursue a reality series in which at least 16 contestants train for a space shot aboard a Soyuz space capsule.

`Bloomers’ TV role looms for Reynolds

Burt Reynolds, who was last seen on series TV in CBS’s “Evening Shade” (1990-94), is said by production sources to be close to signing to star in CBS `s “Late Bloomers,” a pilot comedy project about middle-aged men kibitzing over their lives and loves. Mr. Reynolds, who turned 65 on Feb. 11, is being represented by L.A. talent agency power International Creative Management, which is handling his negotiations with Michael Ovitz’s Artists Television Group (series producer of “Late Bloomers”). A CBS spokesman was unaware of any pending deal with Mr. Reynolds, and ATG reps were unreachable for comment.

Doing a stand-up job at The WB

The WB’s unholy den of pranksters, led by CEO Jamie Kellner and President and Chief Operating Officer Jed Petrick, may have actually been one-upped in the gotcha department by ad agency buyer Tom Decabia. Mr. Decabia, executive vice president of national broadcast at Schulman/Advanswers New York, originally became an unsuspecting victim after Mr. Kellner requested that the ad executive meet with his “problem nephew,” who was looking for a job in the advertising industry.

Unbeknownst to him, Mr. Decabia was caught on a hidden camera falling prey to upcoming stand-up comedian Jamie Kennedy, who had tricked Mr. Decabia into believing he was a chain-smoking, scattered-brained rich kid who never held a “real job” in his life. At one point, Mr. Kennedy-who has an alternative-comedy pilot in development at The WB-was debating the merits of doing product placement of Taco Bell’s chalupas in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Along with Mr. Decabia, Zenith Media’s Peggy Green and Initiative Media’s Tim Spengler also fell victim to the joke-a showing of which had ad execs at The WB’s pre-upfront presentation last week rolling with laughter. Mr. Decabia later said he could get fired for being caught on tape; at that point, Mr. Petrick offered to personally apologize to the ad exec’s bosses. “It was great to finally have the last laugh on Jed,” recalled Mr. Decabia, who stopped Mr. Petrick from delivering the unneeded mea culpa.

FCC reform: no background briefings

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell has launched his much-ballyhooed reform of the agency by quietly axing the FCC’s routine of giving reporters background briefings on issues before votes. A spokesman said the FCC, however, planned to “accomplish the same goal through a variety of communications and information dissemination vehicles.”

Paul Allen: sports czar

Although it may not be the same ballpark as Rupert Murdoch’s 1997 purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers, TechTV owner Paul Allen has joined the distinguished ranks of media moguls who have made financial investment in sports teams. But in baseball parlance, this deal has to be categorized as somewhere below “minor league.” Tech TV, Mr. Allen’s San Francisco-based cable channel, is the official sponsor of the Mill Valley, Calif., Little League. In exchange for its $3,000 sponsorship fee, which pays for the team’s uniforms, Tech TV will derive certain promotional benefits: Ballplayers on Tech TV’s Mill Valley team will now sport a black-and-gold Tech TV logo on their uniform jersey sleeves.

Court TV’s hidden $30 billion marketing budget

While most media company marketing budgets are feeling the pinch of a soft economy, Court TV says it’s able to reap huge promotional benefits without spending an extra dime. How? Court TV executives say they will be the indirect beneficiaries of $30 billion worth of law-themed media spending this year. Court TV Chairman Henry Schleiff says that every dollar spent on news coverage or promotion of law-and-order-themed media is a dollar toward promoting Court TV’s own message. “We’re just really beginning to be the beneficiary of it more and more,” he said. “If you pick up today’s paper, any newspaper in any community you live in, or if you turn on today’s TV news or go to the movies and see `Traffic’ or `Erin Brockovich,’ you are going to be inundated [with] some crime story about crime and justice. And we, Court TV, are the only network that has this kind of programming 24 hours a day.”