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May 29, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Leahy likely to take Senate Judiciary chair

The path is now clear for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to head the Senate Judiciary Committee because Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., will not vie for the chairmanship. As Senate Democrats prepare to assume power in the upper chamber, Sen. Biden has indicated he’ll head the Foreign Relations Committee and won’t compete for Judiciary’s top position, to be vacated by GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. Sen. Leahy is viewed as a strong supporter of rural interests, which should bode well for television systems and cable providers operating in rural areas as well as satellite television systems, which can usually reach the most out-of-the-way customers.

Revamped ‘Big Brother’ to premiere this summer: The second edition of the hour-long reality series “Big Brother,” with “Rescue 911” creator Arnold Shapiro being brought aboard in a major revamping of the show, has been set for a Thursday (8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. ET) premiere on July 5. As expected, Mr. Shapiro, an Emmy- and Academy Award-winning executive producer, is introducing several dramatic changes to the format of “Big Brother,” which first debuted on CBS last summer.

Each week, Thursday’s edition of “Big Brother” will be a live one-hour broadcast, which will again be hosted by CBS News reporter Julie Chen and will feature the eviction of one houseguest. There will also be Tuesday and Saturday airings of edited versions of the show. Unlike last summer, when there were up to six weekly airings, the reduced number of airings is intended to “develop episodes that are very dramatic, emotional and compelling,” said Mr. Shapiro, whose crew will have more time to edit and highlight major events taking place in the house.

Some of the creative changes that will be made to the show and to the look of the “Big Brother” house — built on CBS’s Studio City, Calif., lot — include:

— There will be 12 houseguests vs. last year’s 10.

— Houseguests will evict each other, vs. last year, when the viewing audience got to vote by phone for banishment.

— The competitions on every show will be relevant to living in the house, and the results will affect the houseguests’ quality of life (e.g., food rewards, living conditions, etc.).

— The male and female houseguests will share bedrooms.

— There will not be a studio audience during the live show.

— The house will be 2,400 square feet, compared with last year’s 1,800 square feet.

— The interior of house will have a new look, including more eclectic furnishings.

— A basketball hoop replaces the chicken coop.

Although the original run of “Big Brother” helped generally to improve CBS’s young demographic ratings position, it was often drubbed by TV critics for lacking drama, given that some of the more controversial and interesting contestants were voted off early. Additionally, some daily games and challenges were often characterized as borderline mundane or meaningless.

“The changes to the format of the series — plus some surprises to be revealed once the show begins — will definitely shake up the ‘Big Brother’ house, creating greater competition, drama and unpredictability,” Mr. Shapiro pledged in a prepared statement.

This time around, CBS is going to outfit the house with 38 cameras and 62 microphones on a 24-hour basis. It is likely CBS will continue to offer around-the-clock video streaming, similar to last summer, but a CBS representative said it will announce soon whether America Online or another Internet service provider will come aboard as partner.

One by one, the houseguests will be evicted. At the end of the series, the last houseguest will receive the grand prize of $500,000. The series finale episode will be broadcast in mid-September.

“Big Brother” is produced by Arnold Shapiro Productions in association with Endemol Entertainment. Allison Grodner is serving as co-executive producer with Mr. Shapiro, while Lisa Levenson and Don Wollman are supervising producers.

Sports hot over holiday weekend: With the end of the traditional 2000-01 season and an influx of repeat programming, original sports programming highlighted the ratings for the Memorial Day weekend on the broadcast networks. Fox’s first prime-time presentation of NASCAR racing ended up in victory lane, winning Sunday evening with a 4.5 rating/16 share average in the key adults 18 to 49 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research’s preliminary fast affiliate data.

Airing from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. (ET), “NASCAR 2001: Coca-Cola 600” also came in third in households (5.6/11) and total viewers (9.8 million). Compared with Fox’s perennially top-ranked Sunday evening lineup of scripted shows (including “The Simpsons,” “Malcolm in the Middle” and “The X-Files”), Fox’s special NASCAR presentation was off 29 percent in adults 18 to 49, 21 percent in households and 19 percent in total viewers from last week’s comparable time periods.

However, fast affiliate ratings often don’t fairly account for live evening airings, particularly sporting events, where the ratings typically fluctuate greatly once final national numbers are released — as they will be later this afternoon. Nevertheless, Fox’s NASCAR dominated in the adults 18 to 49 demo Sunday, winning against the first hour of NBC’s “National Geographic: Pearl Harbor” documentary (4.5/16 vs. 3.8/12) from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.

On Friday, May 25, NBC’s Game 3 telecast of the Los Angeles Lakers win over the visiting San Antonio Spurs took over the 9 p.m.-to-11 p.m. (ET) portion of prime time in adults 18 to 49 (3.2/11), adults 18 to 34 (3.0/11) and men 25 to 54 (4.1/13). Overall, the NBA telecast posted a third-ranked 5.4/11 in households and 7.7 million viewers for the closing two-hour span of prime time.

Indianapolis 500 ratings up this year: ABC’s Sunday (11 a.m. to 4 p.m., ET) telecast of the Indianapolis 500 registered a 5.3/14 share household average in Nielsen Media Research’s metered markets, marking healthy increases from the 2000 and 1999 editions of the premier event of the Indy car racing circuit. Ratings for the 2001 edition of the Indy 500 tallied 18 percent higher than the 2000 race at the Old Brickyard, where last year’s contest (11 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.) had some viewers defecting during a three-hour rain delay (noon to 3 p.m.) before the restart of the race.

The racing portion of the telecast (excluding the pre- and post-race activities) posted a 5.8/15 average, 7 percent and 9 percent higher than the 2000 (5.4/13) and 1999 races (5.3/16), respectively.

Tribune moves up ‘City Guys’ launch date: With Federal Communications Commission educational guidelines in mind, Tribune Entertainment has opted to shift “City Guys” from a 2002 launch to this fall. The syndicator has already declared the off-net young-adult comedy strip a “firm go” for the new season with an 80 percent clearance, including sales to the Tribune stations and Sinclair Broadcasting, Emmis Broadcasting, Acme Communications and Granite Broadcasting stations. Tribune’s WPIX-TV, New York, and KTLA-TV, Los Angeles, will carry the series in the top two markets.

Tribune Entertainment has also acquired distribution rights to 26 episodes of half-hour animated children’s program “Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century” from The WB.

Mauldin to manage Miami stations: CBS-owned WFOR-TV, Miami, General Manager Steve Mauldin has added general manager of sister station UPN affiliate WBFS-TV, Miami, to his duties. Bill Ballard, who was the general manager of WBFS, will now be in charge of special projects. WBFS is one of the Paramount stations that CBS acquired, giving the station group duopolies in six cities, including Miami.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications