The Insider

Aug 13, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Truth or fiction?
Disclaimer: The following isn’t true. Couldn’t possibly be. If you happen to get Neal Shapiro, the prez of NBC News, on the phone, he’d ask you what you were smoking. OK, so we’re all clear now, right? That being said, here’s what The Insider is hearing from some folks inside NBC News. No, of course we’re not going to tell you who we heard this from. This is a GOSSIP column, remember. So Brokaw goes on vacation and the heir apparent, Brian Williams, fills in for him. Only, as it turns out, Brian’s “Nightly News” ratings ain’t so good. Yeah, he wins some nights, loses some nights, and yeah it’s summer and yeah there’s no political conventions this year like there were last year, but still his ratings ain’t so good. Then, who should pop up as guest anchor but Miss Katie Couric. Miss Re-Sign Me for a Gazillion Dollars Couric. And so, our snide insiders tell us, Tom B. starts thinking, What if I retire and they give the job to Miss Everybody in America Loves Me? What’s she done to deserve my throne? They better damn well give this thing to Brian. And Tom B. is pissed. Give her GE if you have to to re-sign her, but just make sure she doesn’t mess with MY newscast. Hmm. You gotta love this item. But, of course, it couldn’t be true.
The lawsuit is out there
The widow of James Engh, a crew member of Fox’s “The X-Files” who was fatally electrocuted on the set on July 31, 2000, has decided to file a wrongful death suit against 20th Century Fox Television, Chris Carter’s Ten Thirteen Productions and other Fox units. In filing the suit July 6 in Los Angeles Superior Court, along with Christian Silver, another “X-Files” crew member who was injured during the accident, Nancy Engh appears to have had a change of heart about seeking compensatory and punitive damages for her husband’s death.
As recently as last March, when Entertainment Weekly published a feature piece on accidental deaths on film and TV sets, Ms. Engh told the magazine she had no plans to pursue a lawsuit against Fox. However, that sentiment came not long after the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health issued $41,400 in fines against the studio for various workplace safety violations.
At the time, Ms. Engh told Entertainment Weekly that Fox was “taking notice” of the Cal/OSHA findings and “making sure everything is safe,” which was reason enough for not bringing a suit. However, since Fox is still appealing the fines, sources suggest that Ms. Engh felt compelled to bring the suit to address those concerns. Said Jerome Ringler, the lead attorney representing Mr. Silver and Ms. Engh in the suit, “Evidently, [Ms. Engh] had a change of mind, but that is a matter of client confidentiality” as to the reasons behind the suit. Ms. Engh was unreachable for comment.

Court TV out front
Court TV threw a bash for the cast and crew of “NYPD Blue” at a Lower East Side restaurant last week, where “real” members of New York’s finest, including New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and the Brooklyn North detectives who were profiled on Court TV’s “Brooklyn North,” met Gordon Clapp, Esai Morales, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Henry Simmons and other “reel” detectives from “NYPD Blue,” which debuts on Court TV this fall.
Court TV’s Henry Schleiff, who knows a thing or two about publicity himself, promised The Insider that if there is a trial involving Lizzie Grubman, Court TV will cover it. Ms. Grubman is, of course, the high-profile New York PR woman-and daughter of powerful music industry attorney Allen Grubman-who recently injured several pedestrians in the Hamptons while driving her SUV in reverse, and whose alleged actions in the wake of the incident have become the talk of New York media circles. Mr. Schleiff recently sent Ms. Grubman’s business partner, Peggy Siegel, a Court TV baseball cap and a note waspishly advising her against ever putting it on backward.
Deja vu at KCBS in Los Angeles
Now that it’s official that former Los Angeles UPN affiliate KCOP-TV General Manager David Woodcock will become general manager across town at KCBS-TV Monday, the buzz is getting louder that Mr. Woodcock might bring KCOP News Director Larry Perret with him. Mr. Woodcock replaces John Severino, who let go of Mr. Perret when he was KCBS’s news director to replace him with current KCBS News Director Roger Bell. One former KCBS staffer recalls an image of Mr. Perret walking by Mr. Bell in the halls of KCBS and saying to Mr. Bell, “What are you doing here?” Mr. Bell said, “I’m replacing you.” Now the tables would turn, if Mr. Perret, who has worked at a number of the stations in the market, goes back to his old station. “Talk about a guy with nine lives,” another source said.
He’s no Sonny or Cher
“The Clint Howard Variety Show” is corrupting the Internet with TV-style celebrity talk. The show, which is featured on the CountingDown.com Web site, proudly bills itself as “The Shortest and Cheapest Variety Show in the History of Entertainment.” Episodes feature such familiar faces as punk rock guitarist Johnny Ramone and actors Andy Dick, Ron Howard and Henry Winkler. “I didn’t grow up dreaming of the day I was going to replace Sonny and Cher in the CBS fall lineup,” host Clint Howard said. And Mr. Howard apparently hasn’t let his stardom go to his head. “I’m an idiot,” he said. “I’m a hack. I’m an idiot hack!”